The hoopla over social media has eclipsed one of the oldest—and biggest—marketing opportunities of all
With so much focus on social media, it’s easy to forget the technologies that came before it. First and foremost: email marketing. It isn’t exciting, nor is it new, but we spend a significant part of our day on email and, for the most part, so do our customers.
While sites like Facebook and Twitter are the hot new thing, email still has two significant benefits over its more social counterparts.
Impressions: There is no guarantee your customers will see your blog post, tweet, status update, or digital advertisement. In a world of information overload, it is too easy for such communication to get overlooked. Email marketing is more akin to direct mail; once you have received permission to send email (more about permission shortly), your messages will almost certainly be seen by your customers.
Ownership: While sites like Facebook provide some demographic information on your customers, they make it impossible to extract personal information from the network, even when someone follows or likes your brand. (Of course, as with any social network, the rules could change at any time.) However, you and you alone own your email lists. By encouraging your customers to sign up for your mailing list in the store and online, you’re developing a marketing asset that, like your website, is fully under your control.
Now, there is one major downside to email. It is easy to abuse. When starting out, many retailers try to buy lists or borrow emails from local partners in order to jump-start their efforts. The proper way to leverage such opportunities is to ask these partners to send out an offer on your behalf asking readers to opt in to your list. Simply adding these addresses to your own list might pay off in the short run, but it will almost certainly hurt you down the road.
Sending messages to people who have not requested them leads people to mark your emails as spam, and they will automatically be sent into junk mailboxes. Much like your social networking efforts, you want to grow your following naturally and organically. You want your customers to raise their hands and opt in to your list. As tempting as it may be to dispatch your emails to as many people as possible, you will do far better by targeting a specific and interested audience.
MailChimp lets you monkey around with email marketing yourself.
You’ll have to decide whether to outsource your email marketing or do it yourself. For those looking to outsource, it’s not difficult to find someone; most marketing agencies now offer email marketing as a standard service. For those looking to take this on themselves, there are three options you may want to consider.
• Constant Contact: One of the largest and most popular DIY email service providers (ESP), Constant Contact has tools for all aspects of email marketing, including social media integration, starting at $15 dollars per month.
• MailChimp: A Constant Contact competitor (and my ESP of choice), MailChimp makes it easy to draw on existing materials like your website to create email templates. MailChimp provides excellent social media integration and offers a free option for those just starting to build their lists.
• Blue Sky Factory: Recently acquired by What Counts, this ESP is ideal for jewelers with large lists who need help developing a strategy. Blue Sky has an amazing team and is ideal for those who want to take control of their email marketing but need some hand-holding. With plans starting at $300 a month, this is best if you have an established list and are sending at least 20,000 messages a month.
No matter what you’re looking to achieve through marketing, you’re making your life harder if you don’t take advantage of email. Whether it’s sharing deals, conveying the essence of your store experience, or educating your customers, make email a priority. There is a tremendous opportunity in sending targeted, trackable messages to an audience who wants to hear from you. Make it easy for your customers to sign up. Leverage your social networks and encourage fans and friends to sign up as well. Create unique opportunities for customers who have empowered you to reach out to them directly. Give these subscribers a compelling reason to open your messages, and you’ll see email driving significant traffic to your website and to your store.