Email deliverability is a big issue when your ability to market to online customers relies on a strong email link to them. You have a valuable product or service to offer your customers. The problem is how to get more customers to my business? A lot of your good emails are being mixed in with a lot of junk emails or “spam” and the protections customers have built are very good at blocking spam. When your email goes down with the ship, so does your profitability.
Finding out if and how spam filters or other email blocks are killing your marketing program is a big part of managing the email deliverability problem. You know from conventional marketing studies that when it comes to advertising, the amount of customers who will respond to advertising they see is small and the percentage of those customers who actually buy is even smaller. So if your advertisement reaches 10,000 customers, 1% of that group might respond. Of that 100 people, you might realize 1-5 sales. But in a marketing model, that is a successful advertising campaign.
Internet marketing complicates the formula. That is because if you send out a mass mailing email to 10,000 customers, the odds are that a tiny percentage of those emails will actually reach the customer. So if 1000 of those emails reaches the customer and the 1% rule is still valid (and it is), the chances of you getting even one new paying customer go way down. That is just not acceptable.
It might be that the answer lies in thinking outside the box. Instead of depending entirely on tricking spam filters and other ploys to actually reach the customer, a better way to approach the battle might be to think again about the path to the customers that you are using. If you think of how you go about trying to reach your customers as a road, the mass mailing method is clearly a road that has a lot of road blocks on it. The answer might not be to get over or around or remove the road blocks. The answer might be to find a new road to the customers.
That road lies in customer behavior. Think about it. If you are throwing your marketing at trying to attract the general internet population to your products and services, thousands or millions of those people will never become your customers. So your promotion to them is a waste of time. The key to any successful marketing plan is to narrow your focus to only the customers who want to buy from you.
So how do you know which of those millions of internet web surfers out there have an interest in your products and services? You know because they are already coming to your web site. This is the old “look in your own back yard” theory. The customers who are finding you online and visiting your web site, even if only for a short time have or at one time had an interest in your business. So instead of going out into the general population and trying to get everyone to be a customer, focus your energies on that smaller population who already are your customers or at least showed an internet in being your customer.
This approach to building a new path to the customer vastly improves the percentage of responses to your emails. Now in stead of sending out 10,000 mail to random email addresses to harvest maybe one sale, you may narrow your focus and send 2000 emails to people who are interested in what you do and get 50 sales from the effort.
That is just smart marketing. Instead of trying to assault 10,00 spam filters and 10,000 disinterested customers, you enter into a relationship with a smaller niche of the market. And because that smaller group of customers already knows you, your emails are welcome and will get read. Your message gets across and the customers who are ready to buy will come to you. And all because you used strategy instead of brute force to reach customers on a different road, a road that lead directly to the real customers, not one lined with obstacles and hazards.
Those Tricky Customers
Internet marketing can be a cat and mouse game with you being the cat and the customer is a very wily mouse, if they see something on your web site, they will not hesitate to sign up for a membership and even agree to receive your promotional emails. But those tricky customers have ways to dodging your email advertising so even though you think you are advertising to them, your messages are actually vanishing off the face of the earth. So we have to be just as clever as well.
Knowing how customers think is a big part of being successful in your marketing plans. Internet customers are just like customers in the old marketing model. They are curious about promotions and they want to enjoy your giveaways and dodge ongoing advertising. The cat and mouse game is to get them to want your advertisements by attaching them to things they want and get them to give you their email addresses and even to add your email identification to their preferred contacts list so your marketing emails fly right through their spam filters.
Much of what goes into web site design is making a web “place” that will draw customers to register for a “membership” or otherwise provide you with their real email address. When you develop a system that is working with actual visitors on your web site, you can then build a mailing list that is of much greater value than any list of email addresses you might buy from a mass mailing email service. Your email list is pure gold because it consists of real customers who actually had an interest in your web site and your product or service and who are likely to come back if your marketing is well done. Not only is that email contact list gold to you as a business, it is of great interest to other businesses in similar lines of business as you who will pay well to get their hands on that marketing email contacts list for the same reasons you value it.
However, those tricky customers of yours even have ways of stepping around your validation schemes and it all lies in the fact that anyone can set up as many email addresses online that they want. You know from your personal use of email that you have one or two primary email accounts, probably with your ISP that go directly to your desktop email software such as Microsoft Outlook. But most of us also set up two or three or many more other email accounts with services like HotMail, Yahoo and others. It’s easy to set up an account on these services to use for games or to register for contests.
Those alternate services are where tricky online customers can trap your emails and actually give you the impression that you are advertising to them when you are not. A typical ploy by internet users is to send any incoming emails that are not personal or of immediate value to a yahoo, Hotmail or other free email services. The result is that even if you harvested their email address when they signed on for a service or became a member of your web site, your advertising emails are being “dumped” into these alternative email inboxes which the customer has no intention of keeping up with.
The customer might check those email boxes every few weeks and just hit “delete all” on the inbox knowing that they don’t want to see any of those emails. And when they do that, there goes your advertising and you may never know what happened.
One way to try to bypass this problem is to make verification of email a part of the registration process. In that way, the customer has to log onto that email box to see a verification email and hit a link in that email to validate that it is a valid email address. But the final answer is to make your marketing emails so interesting and valuable to your customers that they don’t want to “dump them” into a holding tank email because they want to see what you are going to send them. And when you get to that level of relationship with a customer, you really do have a gold email list that will result in much higher sales for your online business.
Making Your Customers Feel Special
The idea of marketing to a specialized niche of very active customers and then using that base to recruit in a viral way is new to the internet but one that goes way back in the non-internet world of marketing. It is well known that if you create an elite group of dedicated customers, they will become a recruitment army for your business and become your marketing team that works for free without even knowing they are doing so.
This approach to marketing is not as focused on email communications as many of our internet marketing efforts were ten years ago. But that is a good thing for two reasons. The first reason is that dynamic marketing, meaning selling through a relationship model is far more effective and yields a higher per sale basket total as well as a much higher incidence of repeat sales than cold call selling and it is far less frustrating.
The second reason is that using email as the backbone of your sales program has become more and more problematic because of the influence of spam and spam filters which have made the free flow of marketing emails much more difficult to manage. Because spam filtering has become so aggressive and so successful, email delivery of marketing material is harder to do and takes a greater investment of time and ongoing knowledge that pulls you away from your customers and from your businesses. So the migration to dynamic selling and away from cold call and mass marketing email techniques is a natural evolution of the internet marketing model in the new century.
So the online experience of your customer takes on greater importance in your marketing plan. But you will find that devoting more time and money to building a web “place” that your customers participate in activities will be far more rewarding than any scattershot approach to email marketing could ever be even before the eruption of spam which made email delivery such a nightmare.
One way to give your customers the feel of being part of your organization is to build a specialized membership area of your web site that customers must make an extra effort to become part of. In fact, many online retailers actually charge a small fee to be part of this membership site. That is effective because the fee gives your members the sensation of being part of a closed community and the revenue is good for your cash flow.
Your customers who chose to become part of the membership area of your web site should get some special privileges and rewards for their elevated status. So you might create a discount card that creates a desire to spend more in your online store only for those customers who are part of the elite membership area. Your customers will think they are getting something very special when in fact, all you are doing is exchanging a small part of your mark up for the greater volume of sales which is always a good trade-off for you as a retailer.
One of the big values of creating a membership area is that those who populate that membership can become part of the team to make contributions to future product or service offerings. This is tremendously valuable to your development teams because the more you “pick the brains” of your customers, the more you will offer products or services that are going to be a success when they hit the market.
You will see a greater sense of brand loyalty grow out of the people who enjoy exclusive membership in the reserved area of your web site. Make it a point to make that part of the site look elegant and luxurious. Its all just graphics but in cyberspace, graphics have a reality all their own. And don’t take your eye off of the goal of using the membership area for recruitment of new customers through referrals or to take marginal customers and make them devotees as well. A few gift memberships can go a long way toward accomplishing those goals.
Draw Customers to You Through Web Events
Email delivery problems have put an urgency on the priority of changing how we communicate with customers on the internet. At one time, you may have conducted virtually all of your marketing and customer interactions via email. Not that long ago, there was a time when email was so dominant as a form of communication that we all depended on it almost exclusively because it was the only thing that was truly interactive about the internet.
Two developments in how the internet works have changed that scenario significantly. From a negative point of view, email delivery has continued to grow as a bigger and bigger problem every year. That means that more and more online merchants have struggled with how undependable email communications have become. The problem, of course, is that spam as relentlessly eroded how much anyone can depend on email except for private communications. So to avoid having to make email delivery a second career, many online merchants and retailers are looking for new and up to date modes of communication to replace email.
The second development is more positive and it is the WEB 2.0 evolution of the internet which has changed how the internet works. Whereas business web sites used to be nothing more than online brochures, all web sites are now migrating to the WEB 2.0 model which means web sites themselves are seats of customer communications which takes the emphasis off of email as a sole line of communication with customers.
These developments bode well for providing an escape for online merchants with the cumbersome overhead of trying to keep up with email delivery issues from month to month. But it doesn’t mean you will abandon email entirely. The one aspect of the email that has yet to be totally replaced is its ability to remind a customer of your products and services. Just having a highly interactive web site is good but internet denizens are notoriously short in the memory department and they need a reason to come back to your web site from time to time.
A web event is a great way to create excitement and to make your customers want to come to your web site at a specified time to be part of the big event. A big sale, a special speaker, a musical performance or an interview with a notable celebrity from your field of expertise is just the thing to draw people to your web site to experience something new and interesting.
The more you can get away from using email reminders and communications, the more you get away from having to worry about deliverability issues. This is especially true with a web event. If you go to the effort and expense of scheduling a big event for your users, to have email deliverability problems stall or lose your reminders resulting in a failed event would be a disaster.
So to build your clientele for the big event, promote it interactively on your web site. You can use your blog, message boards or chat rooms for promotion and create excitement. Then from each of those web site pages, take interested customers to a sign-up page for the event and do email verification of their sign up. That verification can be used to encourage those customers to add a specific email address to their preferred user’s list. Once that is in place, you have much more leverage to email your users about this and other events and drive your customers back to your web site for events, sales and for you to do your marketing dynamically and interactively, the WEB 2.0 way.
Forget Mass Mailings and Get Customers to Bring You Customers
Customer recruitment has always been a big challenge for retailers even before the internet came along. It is one thing to have a loyal community of customers who bring you business regularly week after week. But no retailer can rest on that community for two important reasons. The first reason is that you have to grow as a business in order to reach your financial goals each year. You are not in business just to get by. You are business to succeed and that means growth and that means getting new customers all the time.
The second reason is you cannot count on your existing customer base staying stable indefinitely. Customer communities have a living quality so they are always changing. Customers move away or take their services elsewhere. You face new competition and other market forces help and hurt your customer base from year to year. So to assure the ongoing health of your business both online and outside of the internet, you have to always be thinking about getting new customers.
For much of the early life of the internet, the standard way to go out and find new customers was through mass email mailing campaigns. These kinds of marketing efforts were organized by email management companies who promised to send out your marketing email to thousands of valid email addresses. So you signed on for 10,000 or 100,000 emails and the service flooded the internet with your message. The hope was that from that huge mailing you would harvest a few hundred or a few dozen new customers to add to your customer community to keep our base of revenue fresh and growing.
But it was the mass mailing phenomenon that brought us another phenomenon that has caused huge problems with using email as a marketing tool. And that phenomenon is spam. Because spam has become such an ominous problem for users, ISPs and individual internet citizens have invested heavily in spam control software which intercepts mass mailings and stops them before they reach the inbox of the customer. The outcome is email delivery problems for you, the online merchant, that are very difficult to resolve.
The good news that the era of interactive internet communities and viral marketing has opened a whole new and far more effective way for you to recruit new customers. It is a method of bringing new customers to you that has been well known to being far superior to any direct marketing strategy you could ever hope to design. It is the strategy of letting your existing customer base bring new customers to you. And you seed that process to set the wheels in motion through viral marketing methods such as giveaways and downloads that existing customers are encouraged to share freely with their friends.
There is a basic aspect of human psychology that viral marketing methods exploit heavily and that is people love to tell other people exciting things. So if you have loyal customers already, you don’t have to “recruit” them directly to spread the news about your web site and your online goods and services. You just have to excite them about a giveaway or some upcoming event. Suppose, for example, that you are going to have a famous speaker give an online symposium on a given date. By notifying your existing customers, you create a momentum of excitement that will spread in a viral fashion from those customers to others of similar interests. By making sure they know how to direct their friends and loved ones to the symposium, you can “pack out” the event and use the opportunity to recruit new customers by the dozens or by the hundreds.
This is a far more effective technique than the old mass mailing approach to customer recruitment. Getting customers through viral marketing generates excitement and capitalizes on the natural trust between friends as customers bring you, new customers. And above all, you are not generating spam and you are not wresting with email delivery problems.