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E-mail Marketing: Reach out and touch Customers

Scott Woodside sells 99-cent pens alongside $9,999 pens. Now don't get me wrong, his high-end pens are lovely writing instruments. But personally, I can't imagine putting out that much cash for something I'm certain to lose within a week.

And Woodside is wise enough to know that I am not alone. The cadre of people who are fanatical enough about pens to show real interest in a $6,500, hand-painted, maki-e fountain pen is pretty tiny. So Woodside needs to make sure that once he has successfully lured such a pen aficionado to his Web site, he can find that person again, and again, and again.

On nearly every page of his Platinum Pen Store Web site, Woodside invites his visitors to join an e-mail list to receive special offers on pens, both the extraordinary and the mundane. More than a thousand folks have accepted his invitation. Each month, Woodside sends out a special pen offer. Recently he offered a Japanese pen that normally retails for $189 for $59.95 as a special deal only to the customers on his e-mail list. The response was incredible. Woodside gleefully summed up the nearly 50% response rate by saying, "We blew them out like popcorn." Not a bad response rate for a marketing campaign with no postage or printing costs to eat into revenues.

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Build your mailing lists, publish your newsletters and manage your email advertising campaigns, right from your browser.

Low cost, high response rates
While that particular campaign was exceptional, Woodside's positive results from e-mail marketing are not unique. Many small businesses are finding that e-mail marketing is one of the most effective ways to keep customers coming back to their small-business Web sites. It can also be an extremely cost-effective way to keep in closer contact with customers and build brand awareness and loyalty. As Shawn Augustson, co-founder of BusyCooks.com, puts it, "It keeps your visitors involved and informed. Just think about all the sites one visits in a day. You could easily be forgotten about. Your newsletter sort of is a little reminder that you are out there."

E-mail marketing can cost as little as pennies per message — quite a bargain compared to traditional direct mail at $1 or more per piece. Coupling that with the fact that response rates on e-mail marketing are currently very strong — Meta Group reports fulfillment rates of 5% to 15% for e-mail vs. 1% to 3% for traditional direct mail — it's easy to see why a growing number of small businesses are turning to e-mail marketing to keep them connected with their customers.

Email Generates The Lowest Cost Per Sale


Customer acquisition

Customer retention


Direct mail to rented list

Banner advertising

Email to rented list

Direct mail to house list

Email to house list

Cost per 1,000:



























Click-through rate






Purchase rate






Cost per sale






Information gathered from The Forrester Report: 
The Email Marketing Dialogue
, January 2000.
©2000 Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited.

* Delivery cost for rented lists are incorporated into list media costs. Direct mail costs and response rates sourced from the Direct Marketing Association Statistical Fact Book 1999. Banner costs and response rates are Forrester estimates.

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What follows is a selection of best practices 
culled from some e-mail marketing veterans at smaller companies.

Create a compelling e-mail communication and send it regularly
Small businesses are using a variety of ideas to develop interesting, useful and fun e-mail messages. Many businesses layout their e-mail marketing vehicles as newsletters and market them as such. A newsletter format can give a friendlier feel and do a better job of building a relationship with customers while keeping your name in front of them. Some of my favorite small-business newsletters feature one or more of the following:

·         Special offers and prices: Your newsletter might include special prices or offers, such as what Woodside offers at Platinum Pen, or what Guest Ranches of North America sends out occasionally highlighting special offers at ranches throughout the United States . Another good example is the travel newsletter published by Gorp.com, an adventure travel company co-located in New York City and Boulder , Colo. Gorp.com publishes a weekly travel newsletter with special discounts and deals on adventure trips.

·         Clever, unique information: By including information, suggestions and ideas related to your products or services, your message turns from a simple sales pitch to a resource designed to help your customers. Two good examples are the e-mail newsletters of High Country Gardens, which offers tips on key gardening tasks to do each month, and BusyCooks.com, whose weekly or daily e-mails offer recipes. (BusyCooks adds a clever viral marketing ploy, encouraging customers, at the end of each recipe, to mail it to a friend.)

·         Entice them back to your Web site: You might also "tickle" customers with hints about new information on your Web site, using the e-mail to entice them back to the site. Gorp.com's weekly "news" e-mail provides short teasers to lure people to the site each week. A recent e-mail newsletter gave a short paragraph about the best wildflower hikes in the U.S. , and then provided a link to the full article on Gorp's Web site. Gorp's chief marketing officer, Evan Moser, says his company's e-mail newsletters help increase traffic, but more importantly keep Gorp's brand top of mind. He considers the company's newsletters "a key component to our customer relationship strategy."

·         Share info about new products and services: Some small businesses use their newsletters to share information about new products and services with their existing customers.

·         Entertainment: You may want to add some light entertaining pieces to your e-mail. For example, MyGolf.com will include golf jokes — as well as about 15 other kinds of jokes — in a customized newsletter.

Market it well
Most of the e-mail newsletters mentioned above do a particularly good job of marketing their newsletter — and it's paid off in large lists of qualified customers to whom they can market. I'm surprised, though, at how many small businesses market their e-mail list by saying nothing more than "join our e-mail list." It's hard to imagine that thousands of people will sign up with so little to persuade them. Here are some of the tactics the small businesses mentioned above use to encourage people to join their lists.

·         Tell them what valuable information or offers they'll get: It sounds ridiculously simple, but few small businesses tell people what their newsletter is about when asking for sign-ups. Woodside believes that, "If I just say 'sign up for my newsletter,' I won't get anybody." He promises customers an exclusive first look at special deals.

·         Include links to prior newsletters: In addition to telling readers what valuable information they'll receive, consider putting links to old newsletters so they can see what they'll be getting. High Country Gardens lays out the past months' newsletters so you can review them as part of the sign up process.

·         Give customers many chances to join: Put invitations to join your e-mail list in several places on your Web site. Make sure there is an invitation on the front page, and consider putting sign-up boxes on many pages throughout your site. Woodside counsels the extreme, "It has to be on every page." When a customer has entered his or her e-mail address for any other reason (e.g., placing an order), have a box there to allow them to join your e-mail newsletter with just one click.

·         Limit demographic questions: Make it easy to join your list. If you are using an e-mail service to manage your list, you likely will have the option of asking demographic questions of people who sign up. Remember that each question you add will reduce the number of people who sign up. It is a difficult tradeoff because demographic information can help you target messages better. The ideal solution is to limit the number of questions you ask during the sign-up process, but follow up with questions in a later e-mail that helps you target messages better. Many firms offer customers special rewards for sharing information. The benefits can range from special discounts to just the promise that future e-mails will be of more interest to them. However, customizing messages based on demographics requires a more sophisticated e-mail list service, so you may want to keep the questions during the sign-up to a bare minimum to increase your list more rapidly.

·         Sign people up offline: Allow people to sign up for your e-mail newsletter offline, as well as online. Have a list in your storefront or office where people can write their e-mail address and join.

·         Welcome them with the most recent newsletter: Each time a new customer joins your list, send a welcome e-mail that includes the most recent newsletter. Most of the e-mail list management services can be set up to do this automatically.

All of the websites sold with Identity Designs solution include the capabilities of gathering e-mail addresses into a database and allowing you to send out an e-mail or newsletter to as many of them as you want. That is why we offer the only complete solution in one affordable package. When you're ready, take us for a test drive and we will show you in 30 minutes how you can build your online empire successfully and easily without costing you an arm and a leg. To get started click here.

To use HTML or not to use HTML?
Should you create your e-mail newsletter as an HTML newsletter or as a plain text newsletter? Most of the e-mail list services allow you to send HTML messages, and by using HTML, you can add graphics and use multiple type fonts, so it will look more like a professionally printed publication. The downside to HTML e-mail is that it can annoy customers and take forever to download, especially over slow modems. Furthermore, some small businesses report that customers using America Online as their Internet service provider have been unable to read their HTML e-mails. And it's time consuming to create an HTML newsletter.

But the upside is compelling. The colors, multiple fonts and graphical possibilities with HTML e-mail can make newsletters more pleasing to the eye and much easier to scan.

The ideal solution is to offer both. Some e-mail services can identify the customer e-mail reader and send HTML or plain text messages accordingly. Alternatively, you can offer customers a choice, as Gorp.com does. But businesses with fewer resources than Gorp can muster with its 75 employees may find it too time- and resource-intensive to offer both. One solution is to start with text, and graduate to HTML as your list expands. The solution offered through Identity Designs allow for you to send out an unlimited amount of text e-mails and newsletters that can carry links to an online or HTML version of that same newsletter.

People typically think of the Web as a great way to reach new customers. But it can also be an extremely cost effective way to stay connected with your current customers. Larger businesses have been quick to capitalize on this reality. If you've ever shopped online at EToys, Macy's, or WebVan, you've undoubtedly received their colorful e-mails announcing special offers on everything from Pokemon to silk jackets to summer corn. With very little upfront investment required and such low costs per message, most small businesses would do well to follow suit and use e-mail marketing to keep in touch with their customers.

7 Ways to Legally Obtain Someone's E-mail Address

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All of the websites sold with Identity Designs solution include all of the capabilities needed to have a successful online business including the ability of gathering e-mail addresses into a database and allowing you to send out an e-mail or newsletter to as many of them as you want. Also the ability to promote yourself to most of the top search engines with one click of a button and have unlimited pages, modifications, and changes.

That is why we offer the only complete solution in one affordable package. When you're ready, take us for a test drive and we will show you in 30 minutes how you can build your online empire successfully and easily without costing you an arm and a leg. To get started click here.


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