Making Your Email Campaigns Generate Revenue

Part of the Kenno's Blog series.
By Ken Brown
Editor, You Can Learn Series
November 13, 2007

Are you getting the most out of your email campaigns? Are you reaching the right people with the message they need to make a buying decision? Are you sending out enough emails to generate results? What is the proper amount of emails? Do you have the reverse problem and you are turning off your customers with too much of a good thing?

Whenever you send out emails you need to ask yourself some simple questions. Who are you sending the email to? Have they requested the email? Why are you sending the email? When should you send the email? What do you want the recipient to do when they get your email?

Why Should I Send Emails

There are many reasons to send emails. Send them to your customers after they buy to thank them for the purchase. People loved to be thanked. There is a story I read years ago about the best car salesman that ever lived, Joe Girard. He claims most of his success came from repeat sales and referrals all because he ... sent his customers thank you cards. After the purchase, after a referral, and after a question. If there is one thing I learned in my 13 years of direct mail, it is that once you gain a customer it costs less to keep that customer and help them buy again than to find a new customer. So, by thanking your customers you help raise the chance of a repeat sale.

Send emails to people who have requested an email subscription from you. This is a no brainer. They have been to your website. Obviously, they saw something they liked and now all you have to do is encourage them to come back. The more often they come back the greater your chance to get a paying customer. You have to give them a good reason to come back. Talk about what's new on your website or in your store. Do you have new equipment to help them meet their needs? Do you have new employees that can help them with their problems? Are there new federal regulations that they need to be informed about? Send them information, pictures if you can, surveys, talk about your specials, talk about new products about to be delivered, what they need to do during the current season and why they should come in to see you. Now.

Encourage Customers to Buy Something

What if a customer gets to your order form and then abandons your site? Encourage that person to come back and buy. Let them know that you know they were "this close" to buying. Maybe send them a coupon for a discount on that purchase. (Yes, some of your customers will catch on to this trick and will try to abuse it; but you can watch for this behavior.) How do you know they made it to the order form? Many sites now require an email address to get to the order form. Give them 30 minutes to come back on their own and then nudge them to come back. Try it again in 24 hours, 48 hours or 72 hours or some combination. Who knows why they hesitated right at check out. Maybe they were buying a gift for someone and that someone entered the room. Maybe they were concerned about the price and wanted to check out your competitors. They might just have had second thoughts about the purchase. Help put them in the mood with a discount or some other incentive to come back and buy right now.

Does your email just provide information or is there a Call to Action? What do I mean about a call to action? Are you giving the customer or email recipient a good reason to come back to your website or to print out your news and come into the store? I can think of about 5 companies that send me emails regularly. I get the Border's Bookstore emails weekly. They tell me about all the new books and also give me coupons worth 10 to 30% on bestsellers and CDs.

TicketMaster sends me an email once a week encouraging me to buy tickets for another popular show. The Code Project will communicate with me daily with interesting news bits. These are nothing more than a teaser headline and a well written sentence or two to draw me into the actual article on their website. John James Santangelo will send me his Motivational Mondays email. And you know I get it every Monday. Of course there is also JC Penny, Dr Dobbs, Oberweis Dairy and the local movie theater.

The Dirty Little Secret I Learned from Direct Mail

Another little bit of information I learned in direct mail. Most people have a dirty name for direct mail, it is also called junk mail. We used to hate that terminology, because our clients would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to have us create, prepare, print and mail their direct mail pieces. It wasn't junk to them. But, the secret I learned? Direct mail pieces are only junk mail if there isn't something there you want. So, if you are a guy, you probably think the mailer from JC Penny is junk mail. But, your wife probably loves it. But, you can't wait to get the latest piece from Ford, Chevy or Harley Davidson.

The same way with emails. They are only junk when you don't want them or don't see value in them. Otherwise they are like little treasures. Give each person who receives your emails good reason to believe they are receiving the keys to hidden treasure. Write the email so the person reading it believes you are talking directly to them. They don't have to know you emailed it to 500, or 5,000 or 50,000 people or more. They think they are the only one on your list.

How Often Should You Send Emails

How often should you send out emails? Should you send something out daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly or quarterly? That is a tough question to answer. You have to be able to determine the value of the email. What does it cost in time and resources to prepare it and send it? Are you adding value to the prospective customer when you send it out? Are there well written articles that the customer will read if they have the time? Articles the customer is interested in reading or might like to share with a friend. How often do you need to send the customer a discount coupon? Are the emails simple little messages to keep your name in front of them like the Motivational Mondays one line inspirational message? Or do you hire a staff of marketing and design people to put together 2 to 4 pages of hard sell material with photos? What are your business needs? I would recommend for the small business person who is running a one person to 5 person office, probably once a month is sufficient.

Follow the CAN SPAM act. If someone requests to be removed from your list, then remove them from your list. Don't play games with this. Don't say, oh they only want to be removed from the Chevy Trucks list not the Chevy cars. This is a fairly sophisticated law that you do not want to be on the wrong side of. It can cost you or your company a ton of money. So, don't spam.

Once you have your email campaigns created, then you need some kind of tracking mechanism. How do you know if your emails are producing results? You should create some process of knowing when you sent out an email and see if it generated revenue or traffic to your website or store. This can be an Excel Spreadsheet with date of email and traffic scores. Or you can add a little query string to each link in your email so you know where the traffic is coming from. Is it direct traffic or organic traffic? How do you know if you are winning the game if you aren't keeping score?

Good Luck with Your Email Campaign

I hope this will encourage you to push away from the dock and begin an email campaign with your subscription list. Start small. You don't want to make it into a big production that you can't maintain on a regular basis. There are companies out there that will help you with your subscribers and email formats and will even send them out for you. Find the right mix of technology and personalization so you can increase website traffic and see a bump in conversions.

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