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Connecting Your Online and Offline Customers

Your website can help drive business to your physical store, and vice versa. E-mail marketing can help.
December 5, 2005
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/81230

In today's marketplace, small businesses have an unprecedented opportunity to boost profits by reinforcing their online and offline assets with a complementary e-mail marketing strategy. We've discussed earlier how a well-designed website alone doesn't ensure online sales success (see " Customer Relationships Bring Big Profits to Small Retailers "). By the same token, business owners who market their websites and physical stores separately are missing a perfect opportunity to drive traffic to and from both. It's a marriage made in retail heaven--but only if you tie the knot.

E-mail marketing provides an easy and effective way to make sure you're first on your customers' minds when they're ready to make a purchase; whether it's driving by your storefront on the way home from work or surfing your website from their computer. The key is to make sure your brand is reinforced in both spaces--online and offline. Start thinking about how your brand fits across boundaries and how you can connect them. How do you tell your customers the different ways they can buy from you? For example:

E-mail marketing is the handshake that opens both doors and welcomes customers in.

Show Your Customers Who Loves Them Most
The most important thing is to remind the customers who love your products that you're there and ready for their business, both online and offline. E-mail marketing is the tool that keeps you top-of-mind and stimulates purchases via direct promotions and simple reminders. Here are three ways e-mail marketing can integrate online and offline business:

And Don't Forget the Data!
The other great thing about connecting your online and offline presence via e-mail is the fact that your online presence can give far richer data about what interests your customers. Say I have a sporting goods store that sells golf, tennis and ski equipment. I collect e-mail addresses in the store. If you buy from me online, I can track that you buy ski equipment, so I'm more likely to strike a chord with you if I send you ski promotions rather than golf promotions. In addition, e-mail marketing can let customers click on a quick form to "Tell us what interests you." Your online e-mail marketing capability lets you target customers' interests far better than with offline alone, ensuring more relevant communications.

Customers have different comfort levels. Some prefer to shop in a physical store. Other web-savvy ones enjoy the ability to shop online. E-mail marketing is an easy way to let your customers know they have multiple purchasing options. That increases satisfaction and loyalty. The goal is to remind them to buy from you, whether they're driving down the street, web surfing in their pajamas, or some gotta-have-it-now combo that means more sales for you. And as we all know, sales are sales--whether they come online or offline. Remind your customers you're in both places and watch your sales grow.