Email marketing is a key communications tool in the marketing mix for small and medium sized enterprises. If you get it right, it is cost effective, targeted, personalised, measurable and good for attracting and retaining customers. In the 2008 Email Census, email was rated the second-best channel (after search engine optimisation) for return on investment Email1and1 .

Your emails should be helping to build a trusted relationship, establishing your expertise and ultimately increasing repeat and new sales. The most successful emails combine valued content with short sales and marketing messages that have links to specific ‘landing’ pages on your website for more information. Regular contact with customers will ensure that they learn about your offering ready for future purchases. However, if you get email marketing wrong it can be an enormous waste of time, damage relationships and restrict the future use of this ideal marketing channel.

Before any emails can be sent you need a database and to have an ongoing data collection activity. You should segment your database so that you can target emails to the appropriate recipients. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) reports that most companies segment into 2 or 3 separate lists.

Keep the data you collect to a minimum at first – too many questions will put people off. Start with first name, last name, company name and email address. If appropriate, add male or female tick boxes and options to specify areas of interest and options for frequency of emails.

Ideally you should offer something in return for their email address and say what they are signing up to. For example, you can offer a useful article or a voucher and state that they will receive a newsletter every month or be the first to hear about special offers about their preferred product.

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