With technology at the forefront of modern communication, more and more people are turning to the Internet to stay abreast of the latest news and information. Likewise, many of today’s consumers use the Internet to find the best prices and to conduct research when they’re planning their next purchase.
Should You Use an Email Auto-Responder?
Even if the term “auto-responder” doesn’t sound familiar, you’ve probably sent messages and gotten an automatic reply within a few minutes.
Some people look at the use of an auto-responder as a way to leverage time. Ideally you want to send a personal reply to every inquiry. But if business is going well, you probably get far more emails than you can answer in a reasonable amount of time. Meanwhile, consumers seeking information may have moved on to another provider. An auto-responder lets senders know right away that you are interested in their questions and will get back to them soon.
1. Follow up. There needs to be a real live person available to follow up on problems and inquiries fairly quickly. An auto-responder buys you a little time, but if you want to make the sale, send a personal reply as soon as possible.
2. Keep it fresh. If your auto-responder includes a specific day or time when you will be at your desk, such as “I am out of my office until July 1 and will contact you as soon as I return,” be sure not only to respond on time, but also to keep your message updated. If customers call on July 3 and hear an outdated message saying you will return on July 1, they may think that you are either disorganized or too busy to give them the service they need. Auto-responders can be great tools, but use them wisely or skip them altogether.
What does this trend mean for your company? The right technology can transition any business from the outmoded idea of counting transactions to the modern strategy of cultivating relationships. If you haven’t yet embraced modern communication as a significant part of your company’s overall marketing strategy, it may be time to do so.
Perhaps one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to meld technology and marketing is email. Email campaigns, including such things as e-Newsletters, and promotions/special offers, can not only deliver big results, but are a more efficient and less intrusive option than snail mail.
Seven Key Benefits of Email Marketing
1. Branding. A well-designed campaign casts a favorable impression of your brand on each email recipient.
2. Relationship Building. Email is an effective marketing tool for not only keeping your company at the forefront with existing clientele, but for building awareness about your products and services with prospective customers. It is also useful for reaching lost customers and regaining their business.
3. Loyalty. Ensuring satisfaction beyond the initial purchase creates loyalty, which can keep customers coming back for the short term and the long term. As an added bonus, satisfied customers often refer friends and family.
4. Greater Response Rate. Email response rates, particularly for highly-targeted messages, are significantly higher than direct mail.
5. Better Return on Investment. Because there is nothing to print or mail, email marketing is less expensive than direct mail. And, because it costs just a few cents per email, as opposed to dollars per direct mail piece, you can afford to increase the size of your mailing list.
6. Timing. As the old saying goes, timing is everything. Email marketing allows your company to select the exact moment your message will be delivered.
7. Results Tracking. Some email marketing platforms enable you to track who is opening your emails and clicking the links.
Best Practices in Email Marketing
Whether you are new to the concept of email marketing or already ingrained in the process, there are a number of best practices to keep in mind for optimal success.
- Develop / Maintain a Good Email List
Collecting and maintaining email address information is essential to success. With this in mind, there should be a coordinated effort between the various departments within your family business to handle this endeavor.
- Choose a Delivery Method
Thinking about using your company’s email server or CRM platform to send emails? Think again. Content filters used by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block SPAM decrease the odds of your email reaching its intended recipient. To circumvent this, you must be added to each ISP’s white list or use an email marketing service.
- Adhere to Spam Laws
Be certain to adhere to the current spam laws, including offering the ability to opt out of receiving future mailings. Federal Trade Commission fines for noncompliance can be hefty.
- Add Value
Email marketing is permission based, meaning that recipients have the right to “opt-out” of receiving your communications. In order to retain the right to send email, you must provide something of value. Too many promotional offers can be counterproductive. Often, the best strategy is to alternate between sales-oriented and informational messages.
- Have a Strong Subject Line
Your target will decide in less than a second whether or not to open your email based on several factors, including the subject matter, the quantity of email already received and his or her own time constraints. Eliminate competition at the inbox with a clear, concise subject line. Personalization is also effective when it comes to moving your email from received to read.
- Put Creative / Branding into Perspective
Consumers are more responsive to email communications that are sent in a consistent format, so it is important to develop a template for your business that will allow you to change the content, yet maintain brand identity. That said, it is also important to apply traditional direct marketing principles, which suggest that response opportunity comes from the list (40 percent) and the offer (40 percent), with only 20 percent attributable to the creative aspects. In addition, email needs to be designed with the anticipation that many readers will view it with a mobile device.
- Set a Delivery Schedule
While it is important to keep your brand name at the forefront, too many messages can lead to opt-outs.
Structure follow-up procedures for all lead types ahead of time since each one represents a possible sales opportunity.
- Review Results
Take the time to review the results of your email campaigns on a regular basis and use that information to improve future communications.
In a technologically savvy culture where choices abound, keeping your family business in the forefront is essential. If you are not engaging in email communications to do this, you are missing out on a tremendous opportunity to cultivate relationships in a cost-effective manner.