By Elyse Tager, regional development director for the San Francisco Silicon Valley Region at Constant Contact
Chances are good that you have wondered about your communications strategy as an online wholesaler or retailer, and you may question whether you are communicating enough or too much. Think about how many times during the year, quarter or month a customer needs you, or your products or services, and let that be your guide to how often to reach out and touch your audience. Think of this number as a minimum and build from there. Success and profitability is all about creating loyal customers and driving interest, repeat business and referrals. Since it is roughly six to 12 times less expensive to sell to an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one, the value of customer loyalty and repeat business is just too compelling to ignore.
Communication is a critical part of any relationship. Take a lesson from small businesses that long ago grasped the dynamics and importance of building customer relationships through communication. They nurture their customers over time by learning of individual preferences and interests directly from customers through personal interaction. They then keep in touch with customers on a regular basis, ensuring their organizations remain top of mind. It takes six to seven contacts to turn a prospect into a customer, and all that contact can be expensive and time consuming. This is where email marketing becomes a critical part of any organization's marketing efforts. Email marketing enables you to proactively communicate with your existing customers instead of passively waiting for them to return to your website. With email marketing, you can solidify existing relationships and initiate new ones, and convert your one-time visitors, buyers and members into repeat business and long-term customers.
No matter how your visitors, prospects and customers found you, whether through a paid search engine placement, sponsored newsletter, banner ad, flyer or postcard, email marketing adds to your bottom line. It allows you to maximize your investment in those expensive and time consuming marketing efforts, and to improve the return on investment (ROI) of every dollar you spend to obtain new business and develop profitable customer relationships. Well executed, permission-based email marketing campaigns can have a positive impact on consumers' attitudes towards companies. According to DoubleClick, 67 percent of U.S. consumers said they liked companies that, in their opinion, did a good job with permission-based email marketing. Fifty-eight percent of consumers said they opened those companies' emails, while 53 percent said that such emails affected their personal buying decisions.
Email marketing is one of the most powerful marketing tools available today. It is easy, affordable, direct, actionable and highly effective. When you add email to your marketing mix, you spend less time, money and resources than with traditional marketing vehicles such as direct mail and print advertising. And with email marketing you can communicate more quickly, which means your time-sensitive information is disseminated in minutes, not days or weeks, and you can see the results of your efforts instantly. Email marketing is at its most effective when used in communications with your existing customers or house list, as a means of customer retention. It is an affordable way to stretch a tight marketing budget and can cost fractions of a penny per email. With a response rate five times greater than direct mail and 25 times greater than banner ads, email marketing is the most effective way to increase sales, drive traffic and develop loyalty.
Unlike direct mail, there are virtually no production, materials or postage expenses. So, with email marketing you can easily and affordably create more communications that are valued by your customers, and you can make those communications support and enhance your brand in a way that substantially differentiates your company from the competition. Your communications can include newsletters, preferred customer promotions, sale notifications, new service announcements, event invitations, holiday greetings and much more. Information and education make your customers and prospects more valuable because they are more likely to buy when they can make an informed decision. Do not force prospects to look elsewhere for the important information they need. Your email communications can gently lead a prospect through the sales process, provide important data and drive the prospect to your website for more details or to make a purchase. For example, an email newsletter is uniquely suited to accomplish the long-term goals of customer retention and loyalty, while it can still contain a call-to-action that provides short-term benefits. For most businesses, a well-educated customer uses products and services to their greatest advantage. And, guess who will be the first in line to buy when something new becomes available?
Studies show that both senders and recipients increasingly prefer email marketing, DoubleClick reports. Permission-based email is far and away the preferred method of online communication for consumers, with 75 percent of study respondents saying it is their preference and 25 percent preferring postal mail. No one chose telemarketing. Email is an easy and inexpensive way of establishing early and long lasting relationships with your prospects and customers, and the benefits of these relationships are far reaching. When you inform and educate prospects and customers, they begin to perceive you as capable of addressing their needs. Even better, they may look to you as an expert. This develops trust, opens the door to two-way communication and allows them to share their pain points with you. Using the information you gain from prospects and customers, you will be able to better serve their ongoing needs, hone your unique selling proposition and slowly close the door on your competitors. In the process, you may discover hidden sales opportunities that you may not be addressing.
The benefits derived from most types of marketing and advertising are very difficult to measure. With email marketing, however, you can easily measure the number of emails sent and opened, bounce backs and unsubscribes, as well as your click-through rates. You can also tell who opened your email, which links in your email motivated the most clicks, and more specifically, who clicked on each link. All of this useful information can help you send highly targeted campaigns to the individuals most likely to respond to your offers, thus improving your results going forward.
Elyse Tager is the regional development director for the San Francisco Silicon Valley Region at Constant Contact. She is a veteran entrepreneur and business professional who is passionate about bringing out the marketer in every small business owner, whether they are just getting started or looking to improve their approach. Having run her own small business for more than a decade, Tager understands what it means to be short on time and starved for resources. Her seminars provide a wealth of practical marketing techniques, tools and strategies to help small business owners become successful marketers and grow their business through email and social media marketing.
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