Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bring Out The Chimp!

It doesn't have to be either-or, use both to make your efforts more successful!

An interesting article flashed across my computer screen yesterday.  It comes from The Financial Post website and deals with shoppers preferences for how they get information.  It sounds a little strange to break down a demographic group into "shoppers" and "non-shoppers" but as you probably know, there are those who like to browse, and then there are those that go shopping with a vengance generally reserved for the ancient "Beserker" warriors of Viking lore.

Here is a clip from the article:  Click here to read the entire post.
When surveyed, 35% said they were shopping due to a recently received promotion from a retailer. Of those who did not receive a promotion, 68% said they would have been more likely to visit a store if they had been given one.
“The survey findings reinforce how important promotions are in influencing consumer purchasing decisions,” said Mark Fodor, Chief Executive Officer at CrossView. “It also shows that delivery methods and consumer preferences are across the board, which means that retailers need to be able to communicate brand, product and promotional messaging consistently across channels.”
The survey was conducted by "Crossview" a company that specializes in "cross-channel commerce solutions."  Another article, this one from the Information Week website notes the importance of email marketing when it comes to enhancing your social media efforts.

Here is a clip from the article:  Click here to read the entire post.
Almost 40% of consumers consult Facebook and Twitter to complement the information, deals, and news they receive from companies via e-mail marketing, according to a new study by ExactTarget. "Consumers don't silo their engagement with brands to a single channel, instead they tend to layer marketing channels on top of one another to meet their different objectives," said Morgan Stewart, principal, ExactTarget's research and education group, in a statement. "The things that motivate consumers to go online initially dictate where and how they choose to engage with brands -- whether that be e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter."
Back To The Future:

What does this tell us as small business owners and non-profits?  First and foremost, it tells us that sometimes the older, more traditional methods of reaching potential customers are still very effective.  E-mail marketing is basically the electronic version of the direct-mail campaigns run by so many businesses "back in the day".

Most businesses have spent a lot of time building large databases of customers, potential customers, local residents and other businesses.  The question is, are they using their databases in a way that will increase traffic?  Most likely, they aren't.  This is because most businesses are still using these email databases as a simple method to send out information, notices and alerts.  This is fine, since it's a simple, cost-effective way to reach your audience.  But this strategy fails when it's not used in concert with your social media efforts.

In regards to "shoppers," some of the email phenomenon can be traced directly to organizations such as Groupon, Overstock.com and LivingSocial.  These sites send out daily or weekly emails to those in their database alerting them to the "deal of the day" or to the most recent sale on an event, service or product.

These sites can be a huge boost for any business that is featured in their daily email.  Their emails reach hundreds of thousands of individuals in cities across the world.  And while it doesn't cost anything up front to get a listing, there is always a chance you won't be accepted, and if you are, you will have to offer a fantastic deal price, a portion of which will have to go directly to the listing site.

For instance, if you offer kayak lessons at $50 an hour, you can get a listing on Groupon for $25 per hour.  This is a great deal and would likely bring in a ton of customers.  But be prepared to pay out about half of your $25 to Groupon.  So if you received a hundred purchasers through the Groupon site, that's $2,500.  Expect to get a check from Groupon for only about $1,250 or $1,500.  Still, it's a great deal for small businesses looking to be exposed to thousands of new customers who may not be aware of them otherwise.

But there are other options for your email marketing srategies, most of which don't cost a lot of money, but will require you to put some time in to make sure it's successful.

All The News That's Fit To Print!

If you've managed to get your hands on a large email database, or if you've built one up over the years, why not use that database to send out a newsletter?  Newsletters are a fantastic way to ingratiate yourself with your customers and reach out to new, potential customers in a way that is much more impactful than a simple email ever could.

If done well, a newsletter doesn't just inform recipients of your latest deal.  Sure, that's an important element, but the most effective newsletters give a behind the scenes look at your operation, praises specific customers and employees and solicits feedback.  You can offer your customers an opportunity to become more involved in your business, provide specials for returning customers and really listen to what your customers like and dislike about what you're doing.

It's important to remember, though that too much can be overwhelming to anyone receiveing your newsletter.  Timing and content are very important.  Instead of sending out a weekly newsletter that might take up a lot of your time, why not start with a bi-monthly or monthly newsletter.  You can include different content in each newsletter if you do it twice a month.  Your first offering might provide consumers with your monthly specials, a behind the scenes look, and a fun contest.  The second newsletter of the month might provide a free giveaway to a special customer or winner of the contest (along with maybe a customer profile) and a look at something new happening with your business.

Pictures are encouraged and short, simple copy is best.  Keep it to a page.  You can do this by putting the bulk of the contect in your blog or on your website, placing an opening paragraph in the newsletter and then providing a link which will take them to your website to read the entire article or for more information on the latest special.  Add a sidebar to run your contest, or provide fun, interesting facts and MAKE SURE you provide links to your Facebook, Twitter, blog and other social media platforms you're using.

Once you have the newsletter design set and the content ready to go, now you have to find a delivery system.  Certainly you can simply plug your newsletter into the body of your regular email and go from there.  But there are many email marketing programs out there you can use that will enhance your newsletter both in delivery and appearance.

For many, this means using Constant Contact.  But there are others, such as MailChimp, that do pretty much the same thing, without charging as much.  Most of these sites allow free useage up to a certain number of emails.  After that limit is reached, they start to charge.  Take some time to research the various email programs and figure out which one works best for your strategy and budget.

Alert, Alert!

One of the other effective ways to use your email database is to send out alerts or notices.  A 
local theater in Denver uses this method very effectively, regularly sending out notices for special shows, ticket deals and upcoming classes to their constituents.  But these aren't simply text emails.  They are, essentially, fully designed flyers, inserted into an email format.  They are eye-catching, informative and simple.  They provide a link to the website and are sent out on a regular basis.

This matters.  If you decide you want to use email as part of your marketing strategy, you have to make a commitment to using it more than just once or twice.  You have to send out your emails at least twice a month.  I tell clients that sending out emails once a week works best since it doesn't overwhelm the recipients and still keeps your business in front of them.

While newsletters and alerts are great to build customer loyalty, you can also use them to attract new customers.  If you offer a service or product that has mass appeal, make sure to ask your customers to forward the newsletter or alert to their friends.  You can also include video or fun photos into your emails that your customers will send to their own email list.

One of the best examples of this is Denver's Andrew Hudson's List.  What started out as a simple job email, has now grown into a full time business for Andrew, and a successful one at that.  The jobs were all quality, they were jobs that often couldn't be found in the newspaper or on other job boards and it actually placed job seekers with employers.  I heard about it from a friend who used to receive the weekly emails.  I then told others about it, who told their friends about it.  It grew quickly and suddenly became a local phenomenon.  It now comes out every Monday, offers hundreds of jobs, receives thousands upon thousands of hits weekly and has expanded into a fully developed newsletter and website.

Andrew's list was a draw because of what it was offering.  But you can do something similar with your product or service or with a fun video, podcast or photo.  Think LOLCats.  What started out as a fun site for amusing cat photos has turned into a worldwide hit and made its creator a millionaire.  Nothing complicated, just a site with photos that millions of people like to see and will forward to their friends regularly.


You can enhance your email marketing efforts by using your social media platforms to help spread the word about your alerts, as well as your newsletter.  If folks believe they will have an opportunity to catch a great deal or gain some insight they will sign up for your emails, particularly if it's free.

Post your newsletter links to your Facebook, Twitter your deals, use Foursquare to let folks know about your specials.  You can provide links to your website, but more importantly, you can get folks to sign up for your newsletter and alerts simply by asking them to.  If they see the deal you post on your Facebook, and let them know that there are other special deals available to those who sign up for your emails, they will join your network and gladly give you their email.

Remember, just like PR and social media, your email marketing efforts don't operate in a vacuum.  You get the best bang for your efforts if you use all of your tools in cooperation with each other.  Sending out your email alerts and your newsletter is effective, but it's even more effective if you follow up those efforts with postings on your social media sites.  It's a matter of numbers and the more people who are aware of your emails and newsletter, the more people who will sign up to receive them.  

Social media is a powerful tool, but it becomes almost unstoppable when paired with other effective strategies such as email marketing and impactful public relations.  So, get out there, and bring out the chimp...the mail chimp, that is.

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