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Proven Effective, Direct eMail Marketing

By Declan Dunn
Posted Friday, August 6, 2004

Remember that crazy story people told you as a kid? "If you squirrel away one penny today, two tomorrow, and keep on doubling that every day, you'll be a millionaire in no time flat!" Sure, if you just had the time. Or the pennies. But the moral of the story is simple: save your pennies while you have them.

Instead of pennies, let's talk about customers. The ones who visit your Web site and/or send you emails. Do you answer them? Do you try to make them into customers?

Most businesses online don't. They treat their Web sites as places for people to look at their products. And they throw away their inquiries-their customers-in search of new ones. They go to banner ads, try to fool the search engines, and run around like crazy trying to find new customers, ignoring the incredible value right in front of their eyes.

The moral of this story your customers while you have them. Answer their questions and follow up with them immediately. If you don't, someone else will.

Can you say, with total confidence, that your Web business is generating all the money it can now? It should be. In three years, you won't have it so easy. The big businesses are just starting to come online. Do you think a million total sites is bad now? Imagine a million more are coming. Customers will be harder to find as the marketing lists settle down. Until then, survival revolves around a simple philosophy:

"You are trying to win customers...Don't ask them to pay for your efforts to sell them."

-Claude Hopkins, My Life in Advertising

The early models of Web advertising all made the customer work. Banner ads forced customers to wait for a silly picture. Push media came and went with the ridiculous
promise (and price) of software that doesn't really work yet. Misguided Web sites splashed a pretty message on the cover, while inside they were vacant lots. Just empty promises, vague claims, and product-driven Web catalogs lying around. Picking up the old Sears catalog was a more personal experience than most Web sites. All of these made customers pay by wasting their time.

The skills outlined here don't make your customers pay for your efforts to sell them. They benefit your customers whether they buy or not. The key is in your marketing-not in Web sites, banner ads, or technology.

Set your goals: By December 1999, I would like to have a list of ____ qualified, excellent customers who help my business survive.

The Two-Step Web Sales Process
Step 1: Find out where your customers are meeting. Target your first contact and make an offer that he/she wants to read.

Step 2: Get them to your Web site or autoresponder once, show them you know what you're talking about, register them, and offer them more.

Email marketing is the most misunderstood term on the Internet. I'm not talking about bulk email or spam, where you cold-call a bunch of customers by stripping addresses and sending them a message they never requested. This is the myth of volume-that more email is better.

Bulk email is volatile; more companies will sink than swim.

You want the customer to initiate the first contact; then you can safely and securely follow up with them.

I'm also not talking about push media, where you focus on a piece of software, hoping it becomes a standard. The idea is to continually send your customers all the information and advertising you can, automatically. You spend all of your time and money developing a product, and forget to whom you should market. This is the myth of technology, that hooking onto the latest techie trick is the way to get more customers.

Push media is volatile; more companies will sink than swim.

Push media focused on the way to deliver the message; bulk email, on the address gathering. Between the two extremes is a lesson rooted in traditional direct marketing. Instead of sending out volumes of email, you want to develop specific, targeted lists. What you want to find is a targeted group of customers and integrate them into your business. Keeping in touch with them is the goal. Email is the best way to do this because it's easy, simple, and everyone checks email.

First Contact: How Do I Find My Customers?

Establishing first contact is the toughest goal of any email marketer. Where do you find your customers? How do you reach them?

Before you begin, be sure you have something free, like a special report or newsletter, to give them. Don't make them pay for working with you. Build an offer that is so appealing that people send you email. You can then safely follow up with them and test out the process.

Millions of people are online, but they are forced to organize the Internet for themselves. Sifting through search engines and Web sites is a daunting task. The goal of email marketing is to find the places where they are meeting and give them the opportunity to contact you.

The most obvious place to find prospects is at other Web sites, newsgroups, and mailing lists. This method of marketing still works, but many mailing lists and newsgroups have settled into their own series of experts. It's harder to penetrate market share this way. Customers have a tough time figuring out who is who.

It would be great to just buy a list of interested customers, as you can in direct mail. Email marketing is still in its infancy online and many of the so-called lists are not tested or even targeted. Be wary when buying access to a list; you may be buying a big spam without a target. Before buying a list, you'll want to know the following:

To whom the email was sent. A sample of the message that was sent, to see if your offer makes sense. Some idea of results generated. Is this just a list of people or of
qualified prospects?

The best means of survival is still the endorsed mailing to a group of interested customers. Find a Web site with many customers, or a product/service to which you can easily provide back-end products. Create a scenario in which you bring value to the person owning the list, and that person allows you access to his/her customers. This is one of the best ways to target your prospective customers safely. It will also add value to a list of email addresses that many businesses have, but never take advantage of.

HINT: You can also buy lists, but be careful. I've seen random (i.e., spam) lists of customers at about five cents a name. Highly qualified lists can get up to 20-30 cents a name. It's still cheaper than direct mail, and the savings of time and headaches (for you and the customer) is considerable if you take the time to find out if this is a
good list.

You need to determine how to qualify your prospects, to narrow down whom you want to reach. Print media is perhaps the best way still to generate significant email marketing, because you can find targeted groups of customers via trade journals, newsletters, and magazines. Then use email marketing as your follow-up to their contacting you. Always mix email marketing with another form of marketing, such as
direct mail, telemarketing, or faxing. Let them hear from you outside the Web.

HINT: One way to qualify online prospects is by asking for an email address and ZIP code. I run my ZIP codes through Response Doubler, a software program that pinpoints the top two percentiles of discretionary income in the U.S. by ZIP code. I follow up all inquiries via email, and direct mail those people in the top two percentiles income-wise with my costly, direct-mail message.

Email marketing really means following up with your customer. Often the fourth or fifth contact will lead to a sale. But allow people to remove themselves from your list with the following in eery marketing email you send:

"If you would like to be removed from this list, please hit the reply button and respond with any message."

Don't ever send email to someone who asks to be removed. This is part of your qualifying process. Weed out those who are uninterested and try to build up your list to include qualified prospects only.

What you'll end up developing are lead lists (for new inquiries), and your customer list (for loyal, paying customers). The third key element is to build your remove list, all those addresses that do not want to hear from you. Many database programs exist which can compare your new inquiries to your remove list. That way you avoid sending a message to someone who doesn't want to receive it, and protect yourself from flames or possible shutdown by your ISP for sending inappropriate email.

Email marketing is a consistent and cost-effective way to follow up with your customers. You need to treat every contact as a significant lead and follow up via email. Here's how to put email marketing into profitable action:

* Build your email mailing list as your primary business asset. Separate those new inquiries, your lead list, from your steady customer list. Finally, keep a detailed remove list of all those people who don't want your messages. Many of these are available online and can help protect you from customers who would be incensed by your email marketing.

* The goal is to have your customer make first contact, and for you to follow up. Respect the wishes of your visitor; don't market to someone who doesn't want to hear
from you.

* Give them something of real value, such as a good special report or newsletter, to encourage them to contact you. If you don't give them something, you won't get
responses. Most online businesses fail to give them anything at all.

* Use email newsletters and dispatches to contact your customers. Give them enough information but not too much. How do you figure that out? Ask them and test. Don't
forget to include your ads in these, as well.

* Don't feel up to writing? Sit down with yourself, someone who sells the product or service (could be you), and an interviewer. Sell the interviewer your product or service. Record it. Transcribe it. Save it as a text-only file in a word processor. Separate the interview into smaller sections. Email it in parts. You then can email an ongoing, valuable document that includes advertising, rather than another sales letter.

* Create several follow-up letters. First contact is a free report or newsletter. Second contact means checking in to see if they have any questions, and making them a special offer. Third contact should qualify them to see if they want to explore working with you. Don't give up with one or two messages unless they ask you to.

* Send out surveys or contests; test out questionnaires. Set up interviews. The real goal is to get them to respond to your message. This is how you qualify people. Those who respond are potential customers, but keep emailing those who don't immediately respond as well.

* Explore ways to mix faxing, telemarketing, direct mail, and email to provide a diverse approach to your customer. Find the one that works best, but use email and
at least one of the other approaches to truly set you apart from the rest.

Be careful when establishing first contact with email autoresponders; some people may not understand that this email address will always send them a message. Be creative; use several steps. Follow up with a combination of autoresponders, targeted email messages, sales letters, invitations, surveys, contests, and much, much more.

EXAMPLE: A visitor to your Web site requests your free newsletter. You email it to the visitor via an autoresponder. You receive a reply. Then, using Eudora Pro or another good email program, you follow up the request with another message thanking the visitor for requesting your materials. Use this to focus your sales message outside of the initial free report or newsletter. Every two weeks you send the customer another message. Test out the best approach for you and your customers.

About the Author
Declan Dunn 6960 Ridgeway, Magalia, CA. 95954 Phone: (800) 280-9807 or (530) 873-3637 Fax: (530) 873-0192

Declan Dunn offers consultations, seminars, and training to Web businesses, developers, ISP's, and consultants. E-mail or call (530) 873-3637 with questions. All materials Copyright 1998, 1999 Michael Declan Dunn and ADNet International.All Rights Reserved.


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