For starters, and just to make sure we’re all on the same page, what is email marketing? In a nutshell, it’s exactly what it sounds like: communicating with your customers via email. But there’s a key difference between legitimate email marketing and the pesky spam messages that end up in your junk folder. The difference is that email marketing is opt-in, or permission-based. This means that the people who are receiving your email messages have, at some point, signed up to hear from you. This is one of the key reasons why it is so effective.
But that’s not what I want to focus on today. In fact, now that we’ve gotten the basic stuff out of the way, I want to introduce you to a completely new way to look at it. Yes, email marketing will help you communicate with your customers and leads, and yes, it’s an inexpensive and efficient method of marketing. But you probably already know that. You also likely know that you can use email marketing for many methods of communication, including e-newsletters, e-flyers, e-coupons and promotions, press releases, postcards, event invitations (or e-vites), thank you notes, and so much more. But did you know email marketing has another major functionality?
Email marketing can help you get to know your customers. Just when you thought that market research and intricate customer profiling tools were reserved for big companies with huge budgets, here comes this nifty, easy-to-use and inexpensive online tool. It is like a window into the actions, preferences and behaviors of your customers and leads.
So, the big question is: How? And, as cliché as it sounds, I’m happy to say it’s easy as pie (actually, since I don’t really bake, if you’re anything like me this is going to be much, much easier than pie!) Here are the simple steps you can follow to get to know your customers via email marketing.
Step 1: Take Good Care of Your Contact List
When you ask customers or prospects to sign up for your email marketing subscriber list, the one key piece of information you must collect is their email address. If you want to make the most of email marketing, make sure you also ask for their first and last name, and other information that may be pertinent to your business. For example, if you run a sporting memorabilia store, you may want to ask for the customer’s favorite sports team(s). This way, later you’ll be able to send out targeted messages promoting merchandise from the selected sports team(s). The simple step of asking for pertinent information when the customer signs up will later help you send messages targeted to the exact interest of each customer. If you keep the information you collect in a simple Excel file, you’ll later be able to automatically upload it.
Now, you may be thinking: does targeting my customers’ interests mean I’ll have to manually sift through each customer record and separate customers by interest group? The answers is no, not if you are using a first-class email marketing software package.
Step 2: Make Good Use of Interest Groups
An interest group is a group of email subscribers who share something in common. This may be a group of people who live in the same area, wear the same shoe size, purchase from your store with the same frequency, etc. You can segment customers any way you want, or any way that makes sense for your business. By separating customers into interest groups, you can automatically send out messages to one or more specific group(s) of people.
For example, if you have segmented your customers by birthday month, you can send out a Happy Birthday email message specifically to the customers whose birthdays fall on the current month. You can even include a coupon for a freebie or a special discount on the customer’s birthday. One really cool thing about that is that the top email marketing programs can auto-fill information on an email message. So, for example, if Annie’s birthday is on April 2 and you want to send a coupon that can only be used on her birthday, the best email marketing software packages include a feature that can auto-fill information, such as, “This coupon is only valid on April 2.”
Now there are 2 key ways you would know Annie’s birthday is on April 2, or Tommy likes the Toronto Maple Leafs. The first way is the one described in Step 1: you had the foresight to ask for this pertinent information when the customer signed up for your email list. So, what if you already have a list, but you never asked for customer information at sign-up? Can you still use email marketing to get to know your customers? The answer is yes, of course.
Step 3: Make Good Use of Links In Your Email Messages
Another great way to get to know your customers through email marketing is include pertinent links in your email messages. The best programs provide you with detailed link click reports. This means that you will be able to see which customers clicked on each link in your email. How does that help you get to know their interests and preferences? Easy! Once you have chosen how to segment your customers (by shoe size, birthday month, life stage, etc, etc..), create some email content targeted to that interest group. The simplest and most straightforward method is to say something like: “Want to receive emails about stuff that’s important to you? Tell us what’s important to you”. You can then include links to options like “traveling, my kids, work, etc..” Make sure these links take the reader somewhere, even if it’s a simple ‘Thank You’ page. And, you don’t even have to be so direct. Say you run a music store. You can include links to your product pages with link text like “See what’s new in classical music” or “Click here to browse through our hard rock music selection.”
Once the email has been sent, your email marketing software will show you a detailed link click report. You will see which customers are fans of classical music, and which are fans of hard rock. Then (here comes my favorite part), you will be able to automatically turn these report results into interest groups. This means that with the simple click of a button, you will instantly have a classical music interest group, and a hard rock interest group. Next time, you can send each group emails with more of the albums that you know will interest them. And, you were able to get to know your customers that well simply by including a few pertinent links.
With these 3 simple steps, you too can get to know your customers using the simple, inexpensive and highly effective tool known as email marketing.
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