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E-mail Marketing Tips for Small Business

Carrie Hill
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My recent foray into post-click marketing has me studying e-mail marketing more closely than ever. The possibilities of a great e-mail marketing strategy have been spinning in my head.

E-mail marketing isn't necessarily a function of search. Online marketing is about making money any way you can. Any well-rounded Internet marketing campaign must include a strong e-mail marketing campaign.

Search plays a role when you use PPC or organic search to grow your subscriber list. If they don't visit your site, you can't grow the list, which is primary when launching a successful e-mail marketing strategy. E-mail marketing software has become so robust in the last few years that the process of collecting your list, maintaining it, and sending out regular marketing messages is simple.

One of my favorites is ConstantContact. Their great site provides a lot of information before you sign up, and they offer a free 60-day trial with no obligation and no credit card. That's huge for me when I'm trying things out.

Some other companies with great presence and service are iContact and VerticalResponse. I'd love to hear of others you like if you're willing to share your e-mail marketing secret weapon.

Don't Buy E-mail Lists

We never want our e-mail addresses bought and sold. If they didn't sign up for your e-mail list, then they aren't a qualified customer. Buying their e-mail won't make them buy your product. Don't take shortcuts -- collect your e-mail list the honest way.

Collect and Segment Your List by Customer Location

Are your customers walk-ins or Web shoppers? Locals and Web shoppers can be given different deals and coupons.

Invitations to local events shouldn't go to Web shoppers who don't live near your store. It frustrates them when you offer deals they can't use. For example, I get in-store special offers from the Gap, but the closest Gap is 90 minutes away from me. I can't use those "in-store only" specials, so it makes me angry when I receive them.

If I signed up for your e-mail list online, send me online offers only. Don't frustrate your shoppers. The easiest way to sort by location: ask them to enter their ZIP code when they sign up.

Shoppers are Just as Important as Buyers

Ask a shopper leaving your site if they'd like updates on sales and specials. This is a great way to get them to come back and buy. If it's possible to track what item(s) they were shopping for when they left or signed up -- even better. Offer 10 percent off the item they were looking at and they're much more likely to buy from you.

Design Pages for Specific E-mail Campaigns

Bring the e-mail marketing campaign you've spent time carefully crafting onto your Web site. If your e-mail marketing ad says "40 percent off today only," then make sure that message is reinforced when they land on your site.

Add the message to every page. Design a landing page specifically for those e-mail marketing shoppers.

It's also a great idea to give them the checkout promo code in the e-mail and on every page they visit within your site. You can tack a source code onto the click-through that activates a JavaScript ad on the pages they visit that reinforces the discount -- without giving every single shopper to your site the same discount. Reward your faithful e-mail list shoppers.

Don't Push

If they bounce, that's fine. Not everyone is in a shopping mood every time they receive an e-mail from you. Try not to push with follow-ups on the same promotion.

Also, make it easy to unsubscribe, and take it one step further. Occasionally go through your list and look for users who bounce every time you e-mail them. Send them an e-mail stating you've seen they've bounced a lot, and you don't want to bother them if they aren't interested. You'll lose some, but your concern may be the tactic that gets them on board with you.

Segment Your E-mail Marketing List

Mass mailings are ineffective and aren't necessary with existing technology. It's much less effective than segmenting and catering to those segments of users.

Think about having a list for locals, Web shoppers, demographics, repeat purchasers, etc. Market to those separate lists individually. Personalized e-mail marketing is more likely to convert.

If you have multiple stores, remind users which store is closest to them. Also, offer to find out which store has the best inventory with a phone call. Send everyone who bought your best-selling product an e-mail designed to sell accessories for that product. Your ROI is sure to increase with greater segmentation.

Use Your List

Don't collect them and forget them. It takes a lot of work to get a great e-mail marketing list together, so use it when you get it dialed in. Don't overuse it -- once a month or so is great. Too much more is bothersome, unless you have the business that supports sending out new offers frequently.

Your visitors, shoppers, and buyers are a great resource. They can be your brand evangelists, your community bullhorn, and a great way to ensure continued ROI for your online and brick and mortar business. Take care of them by keeping them up to date on what's happening with your business, and they'll take care of you by becoming good friends, great customers, and excellent marketers.


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