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The E-Mail Marketing Boost

E-mail marketing can reinforce your other media efforts--or stand on its own--to draw in business.

Marketing campaigns can be time consuming and costly. So how can you boost your chances of a positive ROI? Add e-mail marketing to the mix.

Think about how you acquire new customers and attract new business. Do you purchase newspaper, Yellow Pages, or other print advertising? Participate in pay-per-click or search engine marketing? Attend trade shows or business networking events? However you choose to reach new customers, your ultimate goal is to engage prospects and convince them to do business with you.

Sometimes you can convince a prospect to buy right away, but it often takes multiple contacts to bring in a new customer. E-mail marketing allows you to reconnect with those prospects immediately while leads are still hot. E-mail marketing also works within the whole spectrum of the sales cycle--letting you follow up with customers who make immediate purchases and develop relationships with prospects still in consideration mode.

How to Integrate E-Mail Into Other Marketing Activities
Most customer-acquisition marketing campaigns have a call to action that generates leads. It may be a media ad or direct-mail offer for a free consultation, an online invitation to download a free white paper, or an ad campaign asking consumers to contact your business for more information and a free quote. When the campaign is over, you look at the results and ask yourself, "Was it worth the cost?" E-mail marketing helps businesses maximize their marketing ROI by targeting leads and cultivating profitable and lasting customer relationships.

Here are three basic steps to start integrating e-mail marketing into any marketing campaign:

1. Capture their e-mail addresses. Make sure that at your initial point of interaction, in addition to collecting prospects' names and phone numbers, you also get their e-mail addresses and permission to add them to your e-mail list. Start thinking about e-mail marketing as one of the key elements to prospect follow-up. (Learn more about permissions with "Building Your E-Mail List" .)

2. Segment prospects into buckets. After gathering prospects from your marketing campaigns, separate them into buckets. These will be your targeted e-mail lists. The first bucket includes people with whom you're actively engaged in hand-to-hand sales. Send them a copy of your e-newsletter to further build your corporate credibility and underscore your expertise. Ask if they're satisfied with their purchases. Invite their feedback. Show them you appreciate their business. That way, when they're ready to buy again, they'll come back to you.

The second bucket includes people who are further out in the sales cycle--you're not engaged in active selling with them yet, but you want to develop them as prospects. Send them a series of educational mailings in addition to your e-mail newsletter. Engage them in your business with free case studies, white papers, webinars, invitations to events, complimentary consultations--things that teach them more about how to evaluate your product or service and demonstrate why they should buy from you. (Learn more about how to segment your audience .)

3. Follow up, and stay in front of customers Keep your brand in front of all your customers and prospects so when they're ready to buy, they buy from you. An e-mail newsletter is a great way to show customers all your business has to offer, demonstrate your expertise, make you look established and professional, and keep your brand top of mind. (Learn more about creating newsletter content .)

E-mail marketing works across the sales cycle, whether it's a blissfully short or more drawn-out courtship. Think of it as the booster shot that ensures the ROI from your other marketing efforts.

How to Use E-Mail if It's Your Only Marketing Effort
If you can't afford an expensive multifaceted marketing approach--you're not alone. The good news is, e-mail marketing can work for your business on its own.

For a business on a limited budget, the two most important ways to drive revenue and growth are repeat business and client referrals. Regular e-mail marketing via an e-newsletter, promotional mailings and event invitations keep your business in front of your current and prospective customers and remind them of your business.

I have a friend who's an HR consultant who e-mails a monthly HR tip. Every time she sends out her e-newsletter, her phone rings. Clients say, "Thanks for sending that, I needed you yesterday." Why didn't they call her earlier? Out of sight, out of mind. E-mail puts your name back in front of your customers and encourages repeat business.

Because e-mail is easy to forward, it's simple for your customers to refer you to their network. Everyone asks friends and associates who they can recommend to get a job done. People say "I know a great house painter" or "I have the perfect recruiter to fill that job." They promise to get you their phone number, but the contact information is back at the office--and by the time they get there, they forget. An e-mail newsletter puts you back in front of your happy customers, and they'll remember, "So-and-so needed a recruiter. I'll forward them this newsletter!"

And with your e-newsletter, you've written what you want the world to know about your business rather than relying on what associates say. Write every e-newsletter not just for your happy customers, but as though you're introducing your product or service to newcomers as well. Your e-newsletter contains great links to your content and up-to-date contact information. That sure beats your name scribbled on a piece of scrap paper. A satisfied customer hits "Forward to a Friend," and boom--referrals are out the door.

Gail Goodman is the author of Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins In a Socially Connected World (Wiley, 2012) and CEO of Waltham, Mass.-based Constant Contact Inc., a provider of email marketing, event marketing, social media marketing, local deal and online survey tools and services for small businesses, associations and nonprofits.

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