The Email Customer Contact Cycle

Essentially, successful e-mail marketing is developed through a multi-step process-let’s just call it the e-mail customer contact cycle.

1.Acquisitions Phase. This is the hunting and gathering phase. It is the time when you identify your market, create the best offer for your business, and search for and promote to your top prospects by e-mailing to your best potential target audience. It is the time to create sales worthy copy and design that will persuade these prospects to “sign up” for whatever you have deemed your offer to be. Of course, you can acquire new e-mail addresses to add to your house list by a means other than e-mail (e.g., direct mail postcards, and radio and television ads to lead people to sign up)..

2.Testing Phase. This can be part of the acquisitions phase, of course, but should be viewed and treated as an ongoing part of your overall e-mail marketing plan. By regularly testing and retesting what works and what doesn’t as far as offers, e-mail lists, creative and other components, you will hone in on and roll out with your best efforts possible from promotion to promotion, campaign to campaign.

3.Retention Phase. After you’ve gathered your prospects, and even converted some of them into customers or clients, it’s time to develop a way to keep them. This is the most profitable side of the business because now that those prospects/customers are a part of your house list, you don’t bear the burden of often-weighty list acquisitions costs, such as outside e-mail lists. This also is the time when you build a true “relationship” with your customers by marketing to them individually, personalizing your messages, and only showcasing products [hat fit their wants and needs. By doing so, you can then ask for their endorsement of your products and services, thereby getting back to goal one-acquiring a new set of customers through the use of viral marketing and other loyalty and referral-type programs.

An e-mail campaign covers all three phases of the above cycle. And there are methods to develop and fine-tune the necessary critical steps within each phase. To acquire new customers, for instance, the lists you use should be dead-on as far as targeting goes, meaning your list research should be thorough and should be approached-at least in part-as a science.

There are hundreds of prospecting lists out there; yet a number of them are completely ineffective or are suited for only the most select niche audiences. Finding the right lists is the key to e-mail marketing success. It’s all a matter of doing your homework.

Additionally, you should be aware that in order to segment an audience properly for optimum results, you should be well versed in testing strategies. In other words, you should know the methodologies behind creating and executing tests that will identify winning promotions and campaigns you can utilize for months to come.

I also should probably note here that e-mail is not for those only willing to take “baby steps”; to truly reap all of the potential rewards that marketing with e-mail has to offer, you must plan and test aggressively. For instance, I would not recommend e-mail to those who can send out only a one-time promotion to one very small, untested list of, for example, 2,000 or fewer names.

Chances are, it’s not going to get a good response. And if that happens, what’s your gain? What can you learn? In a word: Nothing. By the same token, that doesn’t mean that you have to mail to 100,000 e-mail addresses in order to achieve success.

It simply means that you have to be a little aggressive (but smart); and at the same time, you need to be prepared to take a few hits. However, you need to make sure you have the backups in place to help leverage those hits. Those backups come from knowledge, and that knowledge comes from testing.

Creativity certainly can go a long way in executing a promotional e-mail. However, compelling copy isn’t just about laying out your features and benefits in one neat and tidy little package. It’s about the art of selling. And rhythm. And tone. It’s about giving your audience of readers all it needs to make that final buying decision.

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