In a recession, email marketing is an especially appealing way to communicate with your customers and constituents, since email marketing is less expensive and has a higher return on investment than almost any other marketing tactic. But it’s important to approach email marketing with an appropriate strategy.
The right approach for email marketing
Email marketing is best used to build and maintain relationships with people who have already expressed interest, or are existing customers, and who have specifically asked to receive email from your company or nonprofit organization. So the best way to first attract these people is through traditional advertising and promotional tactics (such as advertising), but you keep them interested with email.
I’m going to compare email marketing to dating, because I think that’s a good way to describe how it should work under the best conditions.
Think of it this way: let’s say you are single and you meet someone nice at a wedding, who is a friend of a friend. You’d love to see that person again, and you ask if that would be okay. The person smiles and says yes and offers his/her phone number. You’d feel comfortable contacting that person, wouldn’t you? Well, that’s how permission-based email works. You have tacit approval to make the next move. On the other hand, if you were lonely on Saturday night, you wouldn’t just open up the white pages and pick a name and number and call some stranger for a date, would you? That’s how SPAM works!
Now, let’s say you have a date with the dreamboat you met at the wedding. You wouldn’t ask that person to marry you on the first date, would you? Of course, not! Well, it’s the same with email. Hard-selling is not the best way to go with email marketing. You want to woo your customers or constituents, just as if you were dating. Email marketing can be used to establish your credibility and sincerity. You can provide some information of value, or something that the customer specifically asked for.
For example, Merrifield Garden Center sends me a quarterly email newsletter, which has specific seasonal tips for how to manage my lawn, control weeds, planting advice, etc. Of course, there is promotional content, too, but that is carefully embedded and the majority of the content is informative. When planning the content of your email, think: relevant, informative, entertaining to my customer. Also have that content make up 85% of your email (which should be very brief, link to external sites for in-depth content). 15% of your email content may be devoted to selling products and promotions.