Thursday, August 20, 2009

Creative Growth Strategies by Pamela Adams | Constant Contact

Email marketing is one of the most powerful marketing tools available today for professional services firms to stay in front of clients and prospects. When you add email to your marketing mix, you spend less time, money, and resources than with traditional marketing channels like direct mail or print advertising. In this article, we'll take a look at email marketing-where to start and how to make it work for you and your Firm - with a specific focus on list segmentation.

Where email marketing rises above other marketing methods is the user’s ability to deliver messages to a targeted, segmented, permission-based list of recipients. The relevance of the message to the recipient is key; email marketing allows for targeted communication to a pre-qualified, interested audience.

Using email marketing, in a few short steps, you can:

 Send great-looking, professional email newsletters, and announcements
 Build and manage your email addresses
 Communicate consistently with your customers and prospects
 Track which customers are opening your emails and what links they are clicking on

Where Should You Start?
No matter your type of business — launching an active dialogue with your customers takes just a few simple steps:

Build a list of people interested in hearing from you
Collect email addresses and request permission to send emails at every point of contact with your current and prospective customers and clients. This works in both your online and offline interactions. For example, you can add a “Join My Email List” sign-up box on your website, display a sign-up book in your store or office, and ask people you meet, such as when exchanging business cards, if they would like to join your email list.

Decide what you want to communicate
Compelling content will engage your readers and make them more likely to keep reading. Therefore, make your email campaigns useful, relevant, and interesting. It’s important to send personalized communications that address your audiences’ concerns and needs without being overly sales-oriented. This will position you as a source of valuable information, and even as an expert. You know your audience and what’s important to them – include plenty of relevant images or share an upcoming events calendar for “goings on” at your business.

Determine when you want to communicate
Developing a regular schedule will familiarize customers with the frequency of your email newsletter. Evaluate your business calendar to make sure you’re including timely information and strategizing the best time to communicate. Consistent and scheduled communication can strengthen the relationship you are trying to build.

By looking at your calendar and paying attention to the feedback and reactions from your customers, you can map out what information you want to communicate and determine the best timing. Planning your content and focus ahead of time will make it much easier for you to develop your campaign and stay on schedule.

By implementing the simple steps above, you can rest assured that your important emails are being read by your desired audience. Applying these tactics can help increase sales and provide you with the full benefits of a successful email marketing campaign.

Segment Your Customers
Not all customers are alike — what appeals to one may not interest another. Therefore, it is important that you connect your customers’ different interests to the marketing messages that you are sending. Segmenting your list of clients or targets based on their interests is an efficient way to stay out of the junk box.

By using segmentation, customers are notified only about new services, specials, and offers based on past buying patterns and what they’ve clicked on in previous newsletters. Every small business can segment its customer base at some level. Creating different email messages for different groups is a bit more work on your part, but it’s worth the extra effort when a message hits your customer’s sweet spot. Your general newsletters may appeal to most customers, but mailings that reach out to your audience segments can build even deeper relationships and drive more sales.

The tips and examples below demonstrate how to start targeting, or segmenting, your email marketing lists:

1) Start with the first touchpoint: The best time to collect information for segmenting purposes is when your prospect or customer initially joins your email list. You can easily create segmented lists by offering options with checkboxes on your sign-up form, both on your website and as part of a sign-up sheet at your business.

2) Ask for personal information: Ask for information, such as location and personal preference, to determine what's relevant to the person signing up. For example, an HR consultant might ask whether someone prefers to stay abreast of all HR-related news or simply wants news specific to their industry. That way, the consultant can create two separate lists and send HR industry news to one list and industry-specific news the other list.

3) Use online surveys: In your email newsletters, include a link to a short survey and ask for non-critical information that helps you add your customers to the appropriate segmented lists. Once you have the survey results, you can create new lists or add to existing ones based on how respondents answered questions. For example, “Are you interested in hearing about relevant industry events ands conferences?”

4) Use tracking reports: If you are using a professional email service that provides tracking reports, let the links that people click on help you understand them better. For example, take a look at the last three campaigns you sent that included links for a new business development strategy—if customers consistently click on the link; add them to your “growth strategies” distribution list.

5) Segment your list: Apply what you have learned about your clients in steps 1 through 4 and segment your email lists into groups based on whatever factors make sense for your business – it may be sales history, interests, gender, or age, for example. This enables you to target your specific messages to the group of people who will be most interested.

Overall, remember that there is a real person at the other end of each email address. Every time you create an email, ask yourself whether your email content is addressing the specific needs of your audience or whether you’re addressing only the needs of your business.

Pamela Adams is a Regional Development Director, GA for Constant Contact. She can be reached at

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