In spite of the fundamental flaws, some marketers are racing to take advantage of its potential
E-mail has created a brand-building environment for marketers. It brings profound changes on how they interact with customers faster and more frequent than the traditional direct mail. For some marketers, E-mail based marketing is one of the only media where you can see immediate results. Marketers can send out customer newsletters, special product or promotion, reminders of service requirements or warranty renewals, or announcements of special events. Some even encourage prospects and customers to send questions and suggestions. This way, real interaction with customers begins.
However in using E-mail as marketing vehicle, companies must be extra careful not to develop a reputation as a “spammer” . . . the unsolicited E-mail. Consumers accustomed to receiving junk mail in their real mailboxes are often enraged to find unsolicited marketing pitches in their email boxes. And it has gotten a bad reputation over the past few years because of these “spammers”. The used-to-be amazing tool has gotten itself in untangling the mess produced by its fine advancement. It’s just like introducing a new good product. Yet for some reason, somebody sold a bad batch of goods early on.
In spite of its fundamental flaws, some marketers are racing to take advantage of its potential. They still believe that E-mail helps injects more equity into their brands. It works faster and it’s more cost-effective: it’s like you’re running a marathon and someone gave you a ride for the first half of the race. “It shortens the time to market, does not require a lot of resources, and interested customers can respond immediately as well,” says Rey Sulit, Marketing and Business Development Manager of Infocom Technologies, Inc.
NEW TOOLS FOR NEW RULES
The Internet may seem sort of helter-skelter, but it works fast in targeting the right audience. Take a look on how fast online-placement agencies overtook its competitions in terms of recruitment and job placements. JobsDB, an interactive recruitment agency sends job openings via E-mail to its subscribers. Recruitment and selection are faster as interested applicants send their resumes and career portfolio with a just mouse click away.
No doubt Fuji Xerox realized its cost-effectiveness when they started posting event/seminars via E-mail instead of sending invitations via snail mail (think of the costs of printed invitations and post stamps). What makes it more effective is that it gives a better room for product/event description as spaces are not that limited compared to the printed materials. It is easier to get responses from the prospects. “ I don’t need to find a telephone to call them or send back my confirmation slip. It just a matter of clicking the confirmation tab and send it back again through email” says Carlos Castellon of Johnson & Johnson who often receives conference/service invitations via email.
Though E-mail based marketing isn’t widely practiced here yet, some begin to explore the potential. Infocom believes that Filipinos are becoming more tech-savvy. Establishments such as coffee shops, restaurant and even fitness centers are equipped with Wi-Fi technology as a value added service to its customers. This shows that there’s a wide market for Filipino customers who are comfortable in dealing and transacting over the internet . . . and marketers are beginning to see that.
EMAIL MARKETING HINTS & TIPS
So how do you map out a sharp marketing strategy using the email for luring customers? Remember, you’re not going after the Internet customer; you are recruiting a multichannel customer. So it is best that you lay the groundwork by differentiating yours as a legitimate strategy. The ultimate and the only irrefutable judge is the recipient. If the recipient thinks your E-mail is spam, it’s spam. Or it may as well be because the reaction and the negative impact on your reputation is the same.
- CUSTOMER PROFILING
“First, get the profile of the people you are sending the to, instead of randomly send Emails,” advices Delia Ruth Del Rosario, brand manager for Mentos. She added that if E-mails are sent without profiling the recipients first, chances are you get back junk information or no information at all. “For impulse products, the base or profile may be wider, but for other lines of business that need more consumer involvement, profiling is a number one requirement to make sure those questionnaires or promos reach the people who need information.”
- SECURE PERMISSION FROM THE PROSPECT
One company that has been successful in using this campaigns is Iomega Corporation by using permission-based marketing. Iomega ran several E-mail campaigns in the past years and always started with its registered-customer-installed base. From this select list, it mails only to those who have given them permission to send E-mail. Just like Iomega, JobsDB also makes sure to include the unsubscribe option: “If you wish to cease receiving our Job Alert, please click here to cancel your subscription.”
By targeting customers who actively agreed to receive or reject E-mail, you can avoid being blackballed on the Internet and increase your chances of getting positive responses or sales.
- GIVE THE CUSTOMER A REASON TO RESPOND
Have a clear cut idea of your special offering. Do this if you have something of value to offer (whether it’s a discount on popular products, items targeted to special interest, or a new product that certain customers might like). Use it to broadcast the news and make it clear that these offers are valid for certain duration. Others also offer powerful incentives for reading E-mail pitches such as trivia games, scavenger hunts and instant-win sweepstakes to lure customers.
- PERSONALIZE THE CONTENT
Customers are more receptive to personalized pitches. Marketers should personalize the communication in the subject line why the consumer is being contacted, in JobsDB for instance, “Dear Juan dela Cruz, your career profile matches that of a marketing management position that we are looking for.” This sends your prospects the message that you took the time to know them first before contacting them.
- OFFER SOMETHING THE CUSTOMER COULDN’T GET VIA DIRECT MAIL
Direct mail campaigns take a lot of time to plan and carry out. Because E-mail campaigns can be carried out more quickly, they can offer time sensitive information. Offer specials such as, “FREE delivery if you order online.” Remember you’re in the business of changing customers’ behavior. The Internet is a great way to move excess inventory and to test-market new style and product.
- EASY-TO-VIEW and EASY-TO-UNDERSTAND MATERIALS
The most important principle of anything you do online is that it’s fast and easy. That means, not too much graphics, and you’re not using Java or Shockwave. You should do things that are text-oriented . . . and avoid attachments. If this can’t be avoided, always give your customers the alternative choice in your selection. For example: “If this HTML message is jumbled, please login to your MyJobsDB account at the following address to set your future Job Alert message in Text Mode.”
Bear in mind that customers need to be fed with what your product or service is all about before they will decide if it is okay to go for it. “And we try not to make the e-mail be a hard sell tool for us. We just make sure it sparks interest so it doesn’t get deleted ‘immediately’,” offers Sulit.
- MEASURE THE RESULT
Whatever media mix you choose, don’t forget to measure everything. You need to know each customer’s background, their needs and wants, and count every purchase, both online and offline. If you can’t correlate customers’ cross-channel buying behaviors, you’ll never know what impact you’re having.
According to Sulit now that there are a lot of “big guns” targeting online retail marketing, innovative and informative marketing promotions is becoming the key to stand out. “We usually just think of something new to send our clients. The internet industry is pretty dynamic and provides a lot of technically good products and ideas most of the time.”
And marketers need to make decisions based on what is relevant to customers. You need to ask, ‘Who are my best customers?’ ‘Who are my worse customers?’ ‘When are they buying?’ ‘What messages will I send, and what format is the most appealing way to do that?’ When you do this, and when your customers receive 100 E-mails, yours is the one that they read. Yours is the one they respond to. Because every time they do, they think that the content of the message is timely and anticipates their needs.
If the marketer plays by all these rules, they stand to turn E-mail into one of the hottest new marketing media. But always keep in mind that your E-mail strategy is just one of the components of your branding strategies. The Internet is not a substitute for good fundamental marketing practices. Fifteen to twenty years from now, there is going to be another piece of a puzzle, another hot, new medium that is going to come along.
[published in AD EDGE MAGAZINE : November 2005]