Harness the sales power of email marketing
By Joanna L. Krotz She is the co-author of the "Microsoft Small Business Kit" and runs Muse2Muse Productions (http://www.muse2muse.com/), a New York City-based custom publisher.
Got $25? That's about all you need to send 1,000
highly personalized e-mail messages to specially
selected customers. And that's both the good
news and the bad.
When done right, e-mail marketing is not
only breathtakingly affordable but also extremely
effective. Depending on your metrics (opened
messages, clickthroughs or conversion rates)
and your targets (new, existing or best customers),
e-mail marketing can yield response rates
that range from a satisfying 5 percent to
a heady 50 percent or more.
On the other hand, the cheap cost of entry
generates a sea of spam--that is, the tide
of unsolicited bulk mail messages or e-mail
marketing done wrong. Spam has obviously made
consumers wary and annoyed.
Increasingly, you must make sure to gain opt-in¡ªregistration,
prior contact or permission¡ªfrom
your recipient or customer before sending any
With that in mind, here's how to launch an
1. Define Your Goals.
No marketing can succeed with an unlimited
or shifting horizon. You must set goals that
will define your success. When it comes to
e-mail marketing, campaigns tend to get better
results when there's a clear call to action,
perhaps with the added urgency of a time-sensitive
window. Typically, e-mail marketing can:
? Announce special deals, sales or discounts.
- Invite customers to events, VIP parties,
- Offer news or information that drives performance
At the outset, carefully define what you
want from the campaign. Then focus on the
messaging and distribution that will achieve
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2. Connect with Customers.
Different designs and messages will yield
different results. The idea is to customize
batches of messages in order to emphasize
benefits that speak to specific customer needs.
Electronic tools make it much easier to segment
customers and sales leads according to key
You can quickly group customers into byte-size
market chunks of similar demographics, purchasing
history or other qualifiers by using Microsoft
Office Outlook 2003 with Business Contact
Manager. You'll find seven pre-formatted Account
reports, such as Accounts by Rating or Neglected
Or you can customize reports, and then export
those tailor-made reports into Microsoft Office
Excel 2003 for further analysis.
Should you need additional, targeted e-mail
addresses for your campaign, Business Contact
Manager integrates with the fee-based Microsoft
Sales Leads service. This service lets you:
- Use a wizard to select the most appropriate
sales leads from a database of more than 14
million businesses and over 250 million consumers.
- Purchase and download the selected leads
at a low cost (ranges from $.10 to $.50 per
lead depending on how exotic the query is).
- Import the leads directly into BCM using
the compatible BCM file format.
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3. Manage the List.
If you're developing your own campaign, first
create your mailing list. Then select the
style of your e-mail publication.
You can avoid hassles by relying on the fee-based
Microsoft List Builder service, which creates
and sends out your e-mail campaign and then
automatically tracks open and click-through
rates, as well as opt-out information for
Forrester Research reports that companies
that outsource both delivery and list management
campaigns average a 6 percent conversation
rate, compared to about 1.4 percent for internally
Don't forget to keep updating customer information.
When a new customer contacts you, create an
entry for them in Outlook 2003 with Business
Contact Manager. Business Contact Manager
enables you to consolidate all interactions
with a given customer in the Contact History
section, including e-mails, tasks, appointments,
notes, and documents. If you send out your
e-mail campaign to your Business Contacts
in Business Contact Manager, this activity
will be captured automatically in each recipient's
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4. Personalize. Personalize. Personalize.
Recent surveys indicate that recipients more
readily sign up for e-mail marketing when
offered a prize, entry in a sweepstakes or
the like. They're also more inclined to register
and input personal data when they're already
customers of the sponsoring company.
So the more you reward customers for giving
you access to personal information and the
more familiar they are with your products
or brand, the better your responses tend to
To get customer buy in, try using name-personalization
messages. Make sure you test several subject
lines, message copy and landing pages before
That $25 budget, of course, only covers the
most basic campaigns. If you want to use attention-grabbers
like video or animation or audio, costs will
rise. But you can still do quite a lot with
text and links to a Web site or special landing
Some message dos and don'ts:
- Make it short and compelling. Don't include
detailed product descriptions or windy stories
about the company's history.
- Use lots of short titles and bulleted points
or highlights, so customers can take in information
at a glance. You may want to set up a summary
at the top and jump-link to information that
follows, so users can quickly access what
- Always set up a way for customers to easily
update their information or unsubscribe.
- Check messages from time to time to make
see that the information is still timely and
up-to-date. (Need we mention proofreading?)
- Never spam¡ªnot anyone for any
- Match your format and message to your customers.
Try to include some point of difference or
attitude or special service that makes you
Finally, support your campaign. Don't simply
send out your messages and sit back. Plan
specific follow up, say, by sending automated
bounce-back replies or by integrating the
e-mail campaign with other channels, such
as phone calls or direct mail. The last thing
you want to do generate customer interest
and then be unprepared to act on it.