Using e-mail to launch a product, service or company

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Thanks to its speed, ease and cost-effectiveness, e-mail marketing can be an ideal way to promote a new product, service, division or company. Julie M. Katz, an analyst with Forrester Research, and Britta Meyer, VP-marketing for Eurekster Inc., a provider of social search technologies that used e-mail to publicize its new custom video search portal, suggest these best practices.

Segment your list. Meyer wanted to send her messages out to the people who were most likely to use a video search product, so she started with her existing customer base of image search engine users, she said. She also looked at other factors. “We looked at usage of current products, how frequently they were using the products, what industries they were in, and other behavioral and demographic data points,” she said.

This is a smart strategy, Katz said. “Gauging current customer interest in different products or services is a good practice whether launching a new division or a new product,” she said. If you don't have good segmentation, Katz suggested using a survey a few weeks or months ahead of your initial marketing phase to see who might be interested in your new venture.

Build anticipation. Eurekster has a fairly short time to market, so Meyer started her messaging a few months before the video product was launched. Depending on your lead time, however, you may want to start whetting your customers' and prospects' appetites even six to 12 months ahead of time, Meyer said. “You can use that time for special offers. You can presell. You can build a list of people who are interested,” she said. Start small with a mention in your current e-mail newsletter or at the bottom of transactional e-mails and build noise as you get closer to the launch date.

Create a separate e-mail alert. The best way to market a new product or service is to create a separate e-mail dedicated just to that topic. You can ask current subscribers to sign up for an e-mail alert and add that alert to your e-mail preference center, Katz said. “Starting with a highlighted feature in your current e-mail newsletter is going to get people excited, but you want to move those people over to a separate e-mail after a short period of time so you're only addressing people with a true interest in what you're announcing,” she said.

Manage your messaging. E-mail can be a wonderful tool to help you handle the little hiccups and issues that often pop up when launching a new product, such as a release date slip or poor product reviews, Meyer said.

“It's all about managing expectations,” she said. “If you know you're going to be late, you need to reset expectations. You want to make sure you're not losing trust, so it's important to acknowledge that something isn't working or communicating how you're addressing problems.”

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