A great product or even awesome service does not necessarily guarantee customer loyalty. In this day and age where competition is rife and customers are often distracted by aggressive marketing campaigns, businesses have to make greater efforts in ensuring that customers will come back. Emails are a great way to do this.
Do I really need a mailing list?
Of course customer loyalty depends on quality products, efficient service, a convenient location and special offers. But the information technology age also requires constant interaction. Channels like social media, a regularly updated website or blog and regular emails should be an essential part of your business.
You may feel that a mailing list is outdated. To put it in perspective, these days a mailing list refers to a list of customer emails rather than postal addresses. But email is still one of the main ways that we all communicate online. While many people may be on social media, not everybody checks on updates regularly or even responds to social media messages and advertising.
However, an email often grabs our attention. This is particularly true in the day of smart phones where an email is delivered to our handsets in much the same was as an SMS. It’s difficult to ignore. Furthermore emails can be personalised to the specific customer which is more likely to elicit an action on the part of the customer.
Even if you have a business Facebook page and Twitter account, do not ignore the power of a customer mailing list.
Be careful as to how you go about compiling this list. Do not buy email addresses of consumers who you do not know and send unsolicited emails. This is in contravention of certain South African laws, in particular the new Protection of Personal Information Act of 2013 commonly referred to as the POPI Act.
If your customer chooses to join your mailing list and enters their email address voluntarily then this is acceptable. There are many companies on the internet offering mailing lists with hundreds of thousands of South African emails. Do not use these services as your emails to these consumers would be considered unsolicited emails.
Your mailing list may start off small with just a few email addresses. It may be just a handful of interested customers who want to read what you have to offer on a regular basis. With time it will grow and it is important that you constantly update your mailing list.
There are many tools on the internet to help you keep in contact with the customers on your mailing list. One of the more popular tools is Aweber. Unfortunately the service is not free. The starter package with Aweber is $19 (USD) which equates to about R220 per month.
If you are an established business then the Aweber service is definitely the way to go. It has automated subscribe and unsubscribe features which are added to every email that you send. Aweber’s system also sends emails in a manner that prevents it from being pushed into spam or junk mail folders. It ensures that customers see your emails in their inbox.
Managing Your Own List
The majority of small businesses will attempt to manage their own through an email client like Microsoft Outlook. However, Microsoft’s products are not free. If you need a free email software then you may want to look at Mozilla Thunderbird. It can store all your email addresses, compose emails and even integrate the software with your free email accounts like Gmail and Hotmail.
The key to building and managing a successful email list is to constantly update it and send regular emails to your customers. It is advisable to group your customers on the mailing list according to categories that suits your business.
For example, you may want to group customers according to gender. In this way you can send special offers about products that appeal to men only to your male customers. Other options is to group customers by location, product preferences and old customers versus new customers.
It will help you to structure your email campaign accordingly and deliver targeted emails to specific market segments. By doing this you will find that your customers may share your emails with their contacts who could be interested in your products or services.
Remember only to add the email addresses of real customers and allow them to unsubscribe from email updates if they choose to do so. Never try to scalp email addresses from bulk emails. Also learn to use the BCC box when emailing many customers at one time. Nobody likes their email address to be exposed to people who they do not know.
Types of Mailing List Communication
The first and most important rule to communicating with customers on your mailing list is to not pester them constantly. You emails should be relevant and occasional. Frequent emails like once or twice a week is a good approach but daily emails can be annoying.
Consider why you are sending an email. Is it to inform customers about special offers? Do you want to update customers about new products or services? Or maybe you want to inform customers about changes in your business and the industry as a whole?
You can broadly divide these types of emails into two categories:
- Product offers/promotions where you will inform customers about special offers, new products or the discontinuation of certain product lines.
- Newsletters where you can update your customers about your business, its products and services (not just special offers and new products) and industry news.
Product offers should only be sent at times when there are going to be either short- or long term changes in your product line and when promotions are about to be launched. These emails should not be too regular. Customers will ignore offers if you run these specials too often and may sometimes wait to buy a product until it is on promotion.
The intervals of product offer emails will vary. It may be related to certain periods of the year (seasonal), special occasions or changes in the market or supply.
Newsletters on the hand should be regular but definitely not daily. You may want to keep your customers posted on what’s new and happening in your business or the industry. Interested customers will be awaiting newsletters on a regular basis so you should not disappoint them. But sending newsletters too frequently can cause customers to ignore it.
Following Up On Emails
While you should always follow up on sales/service emails with customers on a one-on-one basis, the same does not apply to product offers or newsletters. There is a fine line between being an aggressive marketer and just plain annoying.
Do not email customers to ask them if they have seen your product offer and will be interested in buying. It may seem a little desperate to say the least. Rather send another reminder about a product offer and see if the customer responds. If not, then the customer may just not be interested at the time.
You can also consider following up through other channels like social media, an SMS or even a call only if you feel that the product offer would be relevant to the customer.
Do not follow up on email newsletters either. Rather include some of the content of one newsletter into your successive newsletters. If a client is truly interested in what you have to say then he or she will read your newsletter or follow up with you.
It is always a good idea to put up the content of your email newsletters on your website and date it accordingly. In this way customers who missed your email for whatever reason can view it on your website.
There is no right or wrong way to market your business through email. Of course contacting people who are not on your mailing list is just bordering on illegal these days. It is considered as spam and many email services will block your email address in the future.
Be selective as to when you will market your product, service or business through email. This channel of marketing is best handled in-house rather than outsourcing it to a third party who may spam on your behalf. At the end of the day, it will only harm your brand and business.
Remember to keep promotional emails casual and informative. You want it to be welcoming to the customer while relaying a message. These product offer emails should be short and to the point. Newsletter emails should only have excerpts on interesting items with links to longer articles on your website.
It is best to find an email marketing campaign that works for you and your business. There is no hard and fast rule. Much of it depends on your type of business, sector of industry and even your customer base. Try different approaches but don’t overdo email marketing.