E-mail Essentials (On Marketing by Jim Karrh)

by Jim Karrh, Ph.D  on Monday, Mar. 23, 2009 12:00 am  

Have you gotten around to launching an e-mail campaign for your business? If so, have you been satisfied with the results?

Those questions were prompted by the recent conversation I had with a friend who's in the restaurant business locally. My friend is putting together a Facebook page for the restaurant (a fine idea on its own) and was wondering about how to include e-mails in his new online efforts.

My advice – to him and you – is to first consider the purposes you can reasonably expect e-mail to serve for your business. E-mail can be a flexible, efficient tool for marketing and sales, but it isn't appropriate for everyone. As is the case with nearly any element of the marketing toolbox, e-mail should be evaluated in terms of its fit for your business without regard for its current sexiness.

Here are two categories of advice to help you evaluate e-mail and get started:

• Repeat after me: "I am not a spammer." Because you already use e-mail for business and personal communication, you probably don't need a reminder about the prevalence of "spam" (unwanted, unrequested e-mail messages). The spam that makes its way past filters into your inbox is annoying. It also eats time. Keep your e-mail user's mindset as you plan to be an e-mail sender.

Your messages won't be for everyone. I cringe when clients and friends use the term "blast" to refer to the act of sending their messages. It's easy to fall into a "blast away" strategy because the marginal costs of sending even a very large chunk of e-mail messages is so low. But a lack of discipline cannot be healed with greater message volume, and you can build a bad reputation pretty quickly in the process. Resolve that you and your team won't fall into the spamming trap.

Focus instead on the wonderful results of a solid e-mail marketing plan. Over time you should have a vibrant list with the names and addresses of people who actually care about your business and products. That's a powerful asset – and if you don't also have an additional zillion addresses of people you don't know and who won't ever give a rip about your business, then who cares?

Let's also assume that you can create significant benefits for those who read and respond to your e-mails. Although I have had to cull through many irrelevant messages in my inboxes, I have nevertheless responded to – and been pleased with – a few e-mail campaigns. I refer daily to the news updates from ArkansasBusiness.com, for example, and like you I have found other online customer programs that save money and make ordering easy.

So how do you find e-mail recipients who are likely to respond favorably to you?

• Create, and grow, your list properly. The advice I had for the Restaurant Guy was to build strategically and organically. This about quality rather than quantity.

Why not start with melding e-mail into the natural, everyday operations of your business? For example, a restaurateur could produce cards which promote this new e-mail opportunity then distribute them at the restaurant, with takeouts and leftover boxes, at catered events and at food shows. You might reward customers who make reservations – and keep them – with a special gift or offer available only via e-mail.

Linking to other online marketing communications is a rather obvious opportunity. That includes links from the Web site, Web banner ads, Facebook page and the like.

You have the options to bulk up the list quickly through buying or renting e-mail lists. The former gives you unlimited use of the e-mail addresses while the latter entitles you to limited use for a specified number of e-mail messages.

In an upcoming column, I will share best practices for writing your messages and subject lines, distributing e-mails, evaluating your results and following up in ways that lead to a healthier bottom line.                    

(Jim Karrh, Ph.D., is a Little Rock marketing consultant, speaker and trainer. E-mail him at jimkarrh@aol.com.)



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