Experts agree and evidence shows that profitability is all about creating loyal customers and driving repeat business. And because itâ€™s approximately ten times less expensive to sell to an existing customer than to acquire a new one, the value of customer loyalty and repeat business is just too compelling to ignore.
Communication is Paramount
The best way to get repeat business and earn customer loyalty is to grasp the dynamics and importance of building customer relationships through communication by nurturing customers over time by learning and remembering their individual preferences and interests. To do this youâ€™ll need to acquire customer information directly from customers through personal interaction and keep in touch with customers on a regular basis ensuring your business remains â€œtop of mind.â€
Since statistics show it takes multiple contacts before you can turn a prospect into a customer, traditional marketing efforts can be expensive and time consuming. Thatâ€™s where email marketing becomes a critical part of your marketing efforts.
Email Turns Prospects and Visitors into Loyal Customers
Today, email is the most widely used facet of the Internet and is part of many people’s daily routine. Email is also the primary communication medium for business around the globe since it provides a much more efficient means of communication â€“ allowing businesses to communicate quickly (which means time-sensitive information is disseminated in minutes, not days or weeks).Â In a nut shell, e-mail provides a â€œone to oneâ€ conversational marketing tool!
Proactively Communicate with Email Marketing
Email â€œmarketingâ€ is one of the most powerful marketing tools available today â€“ itâ€™s easy, affordable, direct, actionable and highly effective and it enables you to proactively communicate with existing customers and prospects instead of passively waiting for them to return to your website, visit your location(s) or call you on the phone. Studies show repeat customers spend, on average, 67 percent more than new customers. Through email marketing you can initiate new business and solidify existing relationships by converting prospects and one-time customers into repeat business and long-term customers.
With a response rate five times greater than direct mail and 25 times the response rate of banner ads adding email to your marketing mix means you will spend less time, money and resources than with traditional marketing vehicles while generating higher response rates, driving traffic, increasing sales, tracking behaviors, developing loyalty and providing better ROI on reduced marketing budgets.
Many companies are looking for ways to stretch their marketing budgets in an unsure and turbulent economy, the good news is the DMA (Direct Marketing Association) reported that in 2007 email marketing returned about $48 for every dollar invested, the highest of all the marketing channels out there!
Getting Permission â€“ The First Step to Effective Email Marketing
Evidence verifies permission-based email lists deliver better results and generate fewer unsubscribes, spam complaints and blocks. Letâ€™s review some facts: seventy-six percent of consumers will delete an unsolicited email without even reading it, compared to 2% for a permission email. Conversely, only 5% of consumers are eager or curious to read an unsolicited email as opposed to 61% with permission email. A recent study shows the majority of email recipients that open emails do so because they recognized the sender as a company they signed up with (40%) and because they recognized the sender’s name (52%).
The 2003 U.S. law regulating commercial email, popularly called CAN-SPAM, permits opt-out marketing (sending to unsolicited recipients) accompanied by the conditions that all commercial emails must have a working unsubscribe function and must include language that the message is “a promotional email” within the message. Failing to abide by CAN-SPAM rules can beget numerous complaints which in turn can lead to being blacklisted (the process by which all emails from your IP address will not be sent to any user on the ISP â€“ Internet Service Providers such as AOL, Bellsouth, Comcast, etc.). Being blacklisted means day-to-day emails to anyone sharing the same ISP as those on your email marketing list will also never receive your communications â€“ a process which can be time consuming to undo.
Abiding by CAN-SPAM laws alone does not equate to successful email marketing. CAN-SPAM just establishes legal criteria for email marketing, it doesn’t promote best practices.Â A recent study found 79% of Americans were “somewhat annoyed” to “very annoyed” by unsolicited email, even if it included an opt-out. That annoyance transfers to your product or brand, meaning there is no better way to â€œturn offâ€ your customers than to send unsolicited e-mails that are either irrelevant or still considered â€œspamâ€ by the receiver. Most e-mail programs allow the recipient to mark your e-mail as spam (even if it isnâ€™t) which means future emails from your company will never reach them.
At DockMaster, we recommend the best practices that are already serving as fundamental requirements at ISPs and corporate servers everywhere. The good news is that by holding yourself and your clients to a strict permission policy, youâ€™ll also get better results for your email marketing efforts. After all, the people who truly want to receive your emails are the people most likely to respond to them. We call this permission marketing, thus our two-word permission policy: Get permission. In practice, this means:
DO send emails to people who:
- are members of your organization
- have a relationship with your business
- bought something from you in the past 18 months
- signed up to receive your emails
- gave you an email address knowing you would use it
- buy or rent lists
- grab email addresses off websites without peopleâ€™s knowledge
- email anyone who has ever asked you not to
- share or rent your list to anyone
Rather than renting lists, we like to collect e-mail addresses from prospects and customers by simply asking them. For instance we give our customers the opportunity to sign-up for our newsletter from the home page of our website on www.dockmaster.com. If you click on the SUBSCRIBE button you will see a page like this:
Our subscribe form gives prospects and customers alike the ability to tell us about them via a short series of questions. Knowing a few key facts about our customers on signup allows us to retain that subscriber by delivering the news most relevant to them. For instance, by a customer telling us they are a â€œMarinaâ€ we can send them an email about new products for Marinas and not include them in an email announcement about a new product for Boat Builders.
Communicate More Information, More Often
Using email marketing affords you the ability to get your message to your audience affordably with relevant messages, brand appeal and the ability to measure it all. Create more communications that are valued by your customer andÂ make those communications support and enhance your brand in a way that substantially differentiates your company from the competition. Your communications can include newsletters, preferred customer promotions, sale notifications, new service announcements, event invitations, greetings and more.
Educate Your Customers
Information and education make your customers and prospects much more valuable because they are more likely to buy when they can make an informed decision. Why force prospects to look elsewhere for the important information? Your email communications can help lead a prospect through the sales process, provide important data and drive the prospect to your website for more details and/or a purchase. For example, an email newsletter is uniquely suited to accomplish the long-term goals of customer retention and loyalty, while it can still contain a call-to-action that provides a short-term benefit.
Foster Long-lasting Relationships
The benefits of establishing early and long lasting relationships with your prospects and customers are far reaching. When you inform and educate prospects and customers, they begin to perceive you as capable of addressing their needs. Good email marketing wins over consumers! Consider the following facts:
- Well-executed permission email marketing campaigns can have a positive impact on consumersâ€™ attitudes toward companies.
- 67% of US consumers said they liked companies that, in their opinion, did a good job with permission email marketing.
- 58% of consumers said they opened those companiesâ€™ emails, while 53% said that such emails affected their personal buying decisions.
Even better, they may look to you as an expert and gain trust which opens the door to two-way communication and allows them to share their views with you. Using the information you gain from your prospects and customers, you will be able to better serve their ongoing needs, hone your unique selling proposition and slowly close the door on your competitors. In the process, you may discover hidden sales opportunities that you may not currently be addressing.
Easily Measure and Improve Your Results
The benefits derived from most types of marketing and advertising are very difficult to measure. With email marketing, however, you can easily measure the number of emails sent, emails opened, bounce backs, unsubscribes and click-through rates. You can also tell who opened your email, which links in your email motivated the most clicks and, even more specifically, who clicked on each link. All of this useful information can help you send highly targeted campaigns to the individuals most likely to respond to your offer, thus improving results going forward.
In the next Marine Management Today article â€œBuilding a Successful Email Campaignâ€ weâ€™ll take you through the steps of implementing an effective email marketing communication platform including building a permission-based list of recipients, managing the list, defining relevant content in the right format, delivering the message and evaluating the results.