Email marketing involves directly marketing a commercial message to a group of people using email – and it gets the results you’d hope for. Email marketing, therefore, is a highly effective tool for driving more sales by engaging with your existing customer base with information and offers they want to receive. When properly done, email marketing is one of the most effective online marketing approaches one can use. It is estimated that, in the United States in 2011, organisations spent $1.51 billion on email marketing and that this amount is expected grow to $2.468 billion by 2016. The time is right to consider implementing email marketing in your organisation. Here are some key considerations…

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1. Familiarise yourself with email marketing.

Many people have come to associate email marketing with spamming and information about too-good-to-refuse offers, inexpensive medications, get-rich-quick schemes, and so on. This is definitely not the type of email marketing that you want to be associated with. The type of email marketing that you want to be associated with usually refers to: • Sending email messages to emhance the relationship between the sender and current or previous customers. The aim is always to encourage customer loyalty and repeat business, or • Sending email messages to acquire new customers or convince current customers to purchase something immediately, or • Adding advertisement or additional information to email messages sent by other companies to their customers.

2. Understand what email marketing involves.

There are generally considered to be three main implementations of email marketing. 1. You can create a newsletter and offer it free to potential clients when they supply you with their email addresses. You will then email interesting information, accompanied by occasional product offers. In time (when they are ready), the recipients will make a purchase. 2. You can pay a lead generation company to supply you with emails of prospects, whom you can then (occasionally) target with product offers. 3. You can purchase email lists from firms that collect them, and send offers to the owners of the emails.

3. Decide whether or not to engage in it.

Three of the main reasons for engaging in email marketing are as follows. 1. Costs. The cost of sending email through an email marketing service can be very low. Not surprisingly, organisations are reducing their spend on traditional marketing methods and using email. You don’t need extra employees, designers, or marketing analysts. You don’t need to pay for printing, postal mailing costs, phone lines, or advertising rates. 2. Effectiveness. When compared to other forms of direct marketing, the return on investment (ROI) is very high. Low costs lead to good ROI. And, when it’s done well, email marketing ROI creates good PR. Keep in mind, also, the value of email as a long-term relationship builder. 3. Measurability and flexibility. An old advertising saying goes something like, ‘I know I wasted half my advertising budget, I just don’t know which half.’ This costly cliche will not be so with email marketing. Not only does email provide immediate feedback but also data on why it worked (or didn’t), thus enabling you to adjust your marketing accordingly – and fast.

4. Be aware of the advantages.

An effective email marketing campaign can help you • to increase your sales conversion (research says that conversion can take nine visits), • to generate repeat sales (an effective email marketing campaign will increase the frequency of repeat purchases from your existing customers), • to up-sell and cross-sell products and services (think McDonalds ‘Would you like fries with that?’ as the billion-dollar up-sell), • to gain valuable feedback from your visitors (when you use email as a feedback tool you can adapt to what the market wants and improve your business even further), and • to drive web users to make offline purchases (a survey involving email users found that 59% of those surveyed said that they had made a purchase offline after receiving an email promotion). One of the biggest advantages of email marketing is its effectiveness – because it is a highly targeted advertising approach. Another advantage is that it can be personalized, for the recipients – increasing chances of conversion. So email marketing turns out to be a very cost-effective marketing approach. Sales generated tend to be more than that of pay-per-clickers who convert into buyers. The cost of sending a single email, which is almost negligible, cannot be compared to the cost of posting PPC ads. See next page for more benefits.

5. Consider the disadvantages.

Among the disadvantages associated with email marketing are these: 1. Costs. Many people believe email marketing is free, but starting any marketing campaign from scratch (even an electronic one) will cost your company money. Sending a quick email to someone may not cost you much more than Internet access, but the costs of launching an email marketing campaign add up. 2. Spam. ‘Spam’ is a common term for bulk distributed emails. People’s in-boxes get inundated with email, both solicited and unsolicited. To cut down on the amount of unwanted emails, many servers have filters in place to lessen the number of spam emails a person receives. People can further adjust their email filters to their own tastes. Your email marketing could well land in a spam folder and never get viewed. 3. Engagement. A person will often sign up to receive email solely as part of a promotion, but email marketing requires constant tweaking to keep your subscribers engaged. 4. Appearance. You may have worked to create your email marketing to look exactly the way you envisioned. Due to matters outside of your control, your design may not be received in the way you hoped, which can diminish the impact of your message.

6. Get started.

Don’t wait until you have the world’s most comprehensive email marketing system in place before initiating a campaign. Make a calendar of campaigns and stick to it. When initiating an email marketing campaign: 1. Be patient. Give the email marketing campaign time – a few months. 2. Use every opportunity to build a list – you need to have people to send your emails to. Use networking opportunities to build that list. But the general rule-of-thumb applies: unless the person wants to hear from you, do not email them. 3. Build a list respectfully. Always ensure that you ask for permission to send people information. How do you usually respond to unsolicited offers? For that reason, buying an email list may not always be a good idea.