The ability to use email to nurture relationships and personalize marketing messages makes the medium an important part of an online marketing strategy. Email is an inexpensive way to conduct an interactive conversation with prospects and existing customers. At the same time, the increased volume of daily email and spam filling the typical inbox can hinder the effectiveness of email, making it critical that you develop the correct approach.
Building and Managing Your Email Database
Your email database is the most important component for executing email campaigns.
All of your other marketing elements should work together to build your database. Leads generated through your website, direct mail, telemarketing, email, networking, and referrals will all contribute to the email database. Ideally, you should have the ability to capture and segment these leads based on organizational role, industry/vertical, company size, position in the sales cycle, and areas of interest.
You can supplement your database through other sources, including:
- Trade publication subscription lists
- Trade organization membership lists
- Industry associations
- List brokers
However, sending people unsolicited email, commercial or otherwise, is against the law in many countries worldwide (Bill C-28 in Canada, CAN-SPAM act in the US). You should look into building opt-in or double opt-in email databases, even if you are using third party source. After all, wouldn't you rather be talking to people who you know are interested in what you have to say?
You should assign someone in your organization the responsibility of managing your database. It should be periodically scrubbed to keep it up to date, especially as you merge additional lists into your master database. As your list gets older, some of the company information and contact names you have will become obsolete. At least once a year you should check the email addresses and key contacts. You should be able to do this through a list broker; however, maintaining the correct information for key contacts may need to be done manually over time.
You should also have a mechanism to handle those who want to “opt out” of your email or regular mailers. You will need to have a tool to run email campaigns, manage the opt-in/opt-out process, and test and measure the ongoing effectiveness of specific campaigns. webhdt email campaign software automatically handles all new signups, unsubscribes and bounces allowing you to be compliant with legislation. You can create a signup form from your web based account and place it on your website as well as a subscriber preference center where your subscribers can easily manage their own settings.
Developing Campaign Messages
The messages you develop will be a significant determining factor in the response rate you see from your email campaigns. Organizational level, knowledge of technical and business issues, and individual background of your prospects will affect the message you develop.
One of the biggest differences in your messaging will be whether you are targeting business decision makers. You should not create the same message for everyone, one-size-fits-all email campaign messages do not work.
In either case, your message should focus on the benefits of your product or solution, not the features. Your prospects will be asking, “How will your product or solution help us?” not “What does your product or solution do?”. Examples of benefits include “Cut costs by 35%,” “Increase productivity by 18%”, “Get a complete up-to-the-minute view of your sales for each store”, and “Save 15 hours a week on your billing.”
Using Electronic Newsletters
To stay in the know and at the top of your industry, you probably subscribe to several newsletter that show up in your inbox on a regular basis. Maybe you get a daily update from the Gazette or a monthly mail from one of your vendors. It could be that you get a weekly note from a thought-leader in your field who shares her expertise with people who have expressed interest.
From a marketing perspective, newsletters are a very effective tool to use to stay in touch with people who are interested in your products, business, or industry.
So why are newsletters so popular? First, it’s an easy offer to promote – it gives you a reason to capture an email address from visitors to your site who may not be ready to buy. If your newsletter is interesting and you deliver it regularly, your prospects will keep an eye out for your messages. (That is why newsletters have such a high open rate in the email-marketing spectrum!)
But newsletters take time to create, and they require a commitment on your behalf to deliver what you promise…every month. It can be hard to keep your message fresh and compelling, but if you stick with it, your business will be well rewarded.
Ask yourself these questions to see if a newsletter program will be right for your business:
- Does your business offer a complicated or expensive solution that has a sales cycle longer than 6-8 weeks?
- Is your service or solution designed to respond to an immediate need that happens infrequently?
- Does your sales team complain that their prospects are interested, but just not ready to buy…yet?
- Have you developed a product or solution that is updated regularly?
- Can past customers benefit from updates to your service or product?
- Will people be interested in what’s currently in development, even if it’s an update to existing products?
If you said yes to the above questions – or even maybe – then you should consider adding a newsletter to your marketing efforts.
Remember that anyone can sign up for your newsletter (since you will not be asking a lot of qualifying questions upfront), so you might have prospective employees, members of the press, and even your competition on the list. Keep your message compelling and high-level – and keep your offers conservative – until you are sure of who is tuned in.