Making the Most of E-mail Marketing

If you aren't using e-mail to market your products and services now, you soon will be. As Jim Sterne and Anthony Priori say in their new book, E-mail Marketing, "The most powerful tool for marketing, the most powerful tool for branding, the most powerful tool for direct response, and the most powerful tool for building customer relationships turns out to be plain old, ordinary e-mail. It's cheap, it's easy and everybody on the Internet has an address."

The popularity of e-mail marketing, however, is leading e-mail overload. And your prospective customers will deal with unwanted e-mails in the same way they cope with junk mail. If it isn't desired or relevant, it's trash.

The Right Attitude
Successful e-mail begins with an attitude of helpfulness and respect. And because you respect your customer, you will not send unsolicited e-mail, but will only send e-mail to people who have:

  • Signed up to receive e-mail or an e-mail newsletter from you (make sure it's strictly on the subject they signed up for);

  • Signed up to receive e-mails on your type of product via an opt-in e-mail service; or

  • Bought something from you in the past.

    Each e-mail you send must give the recipient the option to unsubscribe, simply by replying with "unsubscribe" in the header. Take care to promptly unsubscribe those who aren't interested in receiving your e-mail.

    The Right Message
    E-mail is a direct communication between you and your customer. Your message must get right to the point. Focus on the most pressing customer problem that can be solved by your product.

    Which brings us to the next step: Once you've gotten the buyer's attention with a compelling emotional appeal or a straightforward announcement of something new and useful, you will want to direct them to your Web site. As Sterne and Priori say of customers in their book, "The only thing that matters when your e-mail message shows up is getting them to open it and read it. The only thing that matters when they read your e-mail is whether they click through to your Web site and complete the desired action."

    Make the most of the subject line. Don't be clever or mysterious- -that's what spammers do. Just give readers the facts. One good example reads: "Do-it-yourself Web sites. 30 minutes; $199." Even someone who deletes your e-mail after a quick glance will have an idea what you're selling.

    The Right Format
    The most effective e-mails contain invitational copy blocks. Each block consists of a headline, a paragraph and a link. In the case of the do-it-yourself Web site company, the headline could be: "Create a Customer Web Site in Minutes."

    The paragraph gives a brief but complete description of what's being offered. In our example: "Click over to, pick the Web site design that suits your product, your brand and your industry. Pay only $199 for a professionally designed site. Get it hosted for an additional $19.95 a month. You can even use our self-contained shopping module, and start accepting credit card orders over the Web, immediately! Change the content on your site, as much as you like and whenever you like, with our Web Manager (all without knowing HTML!). Put the power of the Web to work for you- -today- -with ImageCafe."

    Note how the copy helps the prospective customers picture themselves successfully using the product. Describe what will happen. Spell out the steps. "When we come to clean your carpets, one of our friendly, highly trained cleaners will come to your door.

    They'll first do a tour of your house with you, learn exactly what you want to have done, and give you a time and cost estimate. Then our cleaning team will bring in their equipment, move the furniture, clean your carpet, and put the furniture back. The average 2000-square-foot house is competed, start to finish, in three hours."

    Customers are starving for this kind of information. No matter what they're buying, customers want to know what's going to happen to them after they say "yes." Answer their real questions: "If I take your 'desired action,' what will happen to me? How will you treat me? What will you do? What will you expect of me? What will you do if something goes wrong?"

    The key to successfully e-mail marketing is to put yourself in your customer's shoes. Know what matters to your customers. Explain how your product helps them. Send your e-mails only to the people who ask for them. Keep them short. Link to specific, relevant pages on your Web site. Tell customers exactly what you're going to do and then follow through. They will show their appreciation with their purchases and their loyalty.

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