In my previous article, Making Money: The Economics of Email, I discussed the customer acquisition cycle and how email marketing fits nicely into that effort, acting as the grease to speed the process along. Email has direct financial benefits, but there are also a number of other benefits that are difficult to track. For example, if your logo appears in an email, you might not see sales from people who drove right over to your store to make a purchase, but it might make your website seem more familiar to a visitor who has seen the email, and that might make her more comfortable making a purchase at a later date.
These kinds of benefits are known as soft benefits. I can tell you firsthand that soft benefits translate into financial impact, and I can also tell you that you shouldn’t spend any time or money trying to emulate the big money branding strategies you see from large companies in hopes of receiving soft benefits in return.
The right approach to soft benefits is to pay attention to them and let them happen while you’re pursuing measurable direct-response communications. The next sections explain many of the soft benefits you can derive at a low cost while you’re gaining from the more direct benefits of your email marketing strategy.
Have you ever spent a lot of time with a potential customer teaching him about your products or services, only to find out that he made a purchase from someone else? When you hang up the phone or the customer walks out the door or leaves your website, the opportunity to stay “top-of-mind” with that customer starts to diminish. The more time that elapses, the greater the likelihood that that customer will forget all about the services or products you offer.
It happens to everyone at one time or another because even people with the best intentions make purchase decisions based on being in close proximity to an offer at the precise time when they are ready to make a purchase. That’s where an effective email marketing campaign comes in: When you send professional looking email communications, you remind your audience that you exist and you’re ready to serve them when they need you.
Top-of-mind awareness also helps you gain referrals. When one of your customers gives a referral, he or she is likely to share the first few businesses that come to mind. If you’re in front of your customers with regular email communications, you’re more likely to be at the top of the list. After all, when it comes to customers with whom you have a lot of existing loyalty, email marketing is similar to you tapping them on the shoulder and saying, “Do you need my services this month?” or “Do you have any friends who might?”
Here’s a quick example of how one hotel uses email marketing to create awareness and stay top-of mind:
David Sanford, the proprietor of the Crowne Pointe Historic Inn and Spa, wanted customers to think of his hotel as a signature Provincetown, Mass., destination all year long. Competition among hotels on Cape Cod is already high due to the tourist-based, seasonal nature of the region. So David abandoned his traditional marketing approach in favor of email marketing, which enabled him to regularly reach out to customers in a timely, inexpensive way that captured Crowne Pointe’s elegant brand. He sends monthly updates about hotel, spa, and restaurant promotions to his list. As a result of his efforts, he has been able to greatly improve year-round attendance at special and promotional events.
Heightened Brand Identity
Another important marketing consideration is that your customers need to be able to distinguish you from the competition and feel confident in your ability to provide what they need. The more times someone sees your logo, business name, colors, and other identifying features of your business, the more confident he will feel that your business is legitimate.
If you’re a small business, you don’t need everyone to be able to draw your logo from memory, but you do need to make your business familiar to your audience. The best way to do that is by repeating the same brand elements in a consistent way.
Building a strong identity also increases the response rates from your other marketing efforts when you use consistent branding.
Increased Customer Loyalty
Finally, email marketing builds loyalty. Loyal customers will bypass the competition on the way to your store, office, or website, because they trust you more than they trust the competition. Customer loyalty can be built through your email communications when you communicate your desire to continue the relationship with your customers after making a purchase.
For example, compare a used-car dealer who sells you a faulty car and disappears with a used-car dealer who sells the same faulty car but sends a follow-up email asking for your feedback and is willing to correct the problem when your response points to a disrepair.
Loyalty results in more frequent purchases, bigger purchases, and other benefits that aren’t necessarily tied to the number or cost of communications you send.
There are three major takeaway points when it comes to understanding the economics of email marketing. First, email marketing is not a stand-alone marketing strategy. It works in concert with all your other marketing efforts. Second, when done right, email marketing will make all your other marketing investments more effective. Finally, email marketing is most effective in helping you stay relevant and connected with the people who already know what you have to offer.
About The Guest Author: Eric Groves is the senior vice president of Global Market Development at Constant Contact and the author of The Constant Contact Guide to Email Marketing, from which this article was adapted.