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Five ways to use e-mail marketing to acquire new customers

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Are you acquiring new customers to help grow your marketing program? Customer acquisition is one of the leading strategies to help increase profitability. A customer strategy survey developed by Baseline Insight indicated that the top two strategies for improving profitability in 2008 are acquiring new customers (43%) and generating more business from current customers (25%). E-mail marketing has proven to generate the fastest direct marketing return on investment; it is successfully used in both customer acquisition and retention. The following strategies can help acquire new customer using e-mail marketing: 
  • Provide subscription visibility. When formulating an acquisition plan, do not underestimate the power of a well-positioned subscription button. Making your subscription button visible will help your marketing program acquire new customers by creating interest from visitors to your e-mail or e-newsletter program. Promoting your e-mail or e-newsletter opt-in throughout your Web site’s high-traffic areas (preferably on every page of your site) will increase the visibility of your subscription button leading to increased customer acquisition. Another great tool to increase visibility is to display an example of your e-mail or e-newsletter. This allows the customer to see what they can expect when they click through to subscribe.
  • Employ e-mail onboarding programs. An e-mail onboarding program—a series of communications specifically developed to target new e-mail signups on your list—will help boost click-through rates. It is important to develop a relationship immediately after registration because the probability of a response drops dramatically after 24 hours. New signups are up to 3.7 times more likely to click on e-mails than customers already on the file, so this is the time to engage with relevant, timely and consistent messages and information. It is important to demonstrate what your company stands for because this is the honeymoon period when new readers are most open to engagement and have the highest click percentages. This period lasts up to eight e-mail blasts, unless an onboarding program is firmly in place. Once their click-rate falls, it is extremely difficult to re-engage them at the same initial level. Offering something special in your onboarding e-mails is a great way to retain these new signups/prospects. Incorporating a coupon, percentage off, free shipping, a bonus download of a white paper or a free webinar is a great method to show your appreciation and convert signups to buyers.
  • Use promotional activities to acquire new e-mail names. Promoting an e-mail marketing campaign by collaborating with other marketing channels is a great way to attract new customers. Incorporating e-mail signup with online price quotes, catalogs, pamphlets, company information, advertising and research papers provides great opportunities to acquire new customers through a variety of channels. Developing videos that highlight your company’s value proposition and/or product offerings, and then uploading the videos to networks such as YouTube and Google Videos, can provide additional visibility for your company. Using promotional activities such as free product samples as a list growth practice is particularly useful for b-to-b marketers that use a distributor network or do not have an e-commerce Web site to engage customers. Giving away free product samples is extremely effective in acquiring names because they will typically convert at a higher rate. The only drawback to providing free samples is monitoring the program. Making sure the free samples are being provided to qualified business contacts requires constant monitoring and double checking against your customer or prospect database.
  • Append e-mail addresses to an existing database. Appending your customer file with an outside e-mail list from a qualified list service vendor is a proven solution to achieving list growth, giving marketers the ability to add e-mail addresses to their customers’ mailing/postal records. This acquisition technique typically has an average net match rate of 7% to14% with existing accounts. Sending an introductory e-mail message to these new e-mail contacts will help re-establish a relationship with customers who may not be active on your list. Information present in the introductory e-mail should leverage the existing relationship, highlight the benefits of doing business with your company, set expectations on future content and e-mail frequency, and provide an option to unsubscribe from future e-mails. The goal of an introductory e-mail message is to simply request the customer’s permission to continue to receive (opt in to) e-mails from your company; and it will also help filter out customers that do not wish to receive e-mails.
  • Fine-tune your data. Spending the time and effort to fine-tune your data pays off in the long run as it will increase customer acquisition rates by eliminating nonresponsive contacts/customers. One way to assure the most accurate and reliable data is to review and merge all databases (any list or lists of contacts) that you have within the company into one central marketing database. Examples of databases include Outlook contacts; sales force automation applications such as ACT! or SFA; product literature request names, sample request names; and customer service/tech support inquiries. These ancillary sources of names can help tip the scales in your favor by adding more names into your database than you are losing through attrition. Another opportunity is by profiling your customer data with an outside resource to fill in any customer contact gaps. For example, if your customer file is lacking contacts within a certain industry, using an outside service can profile current customer, then find “like” customers and—by purchasing their e-mail addresses—provide additional opportunity to improve your program.
Kim Zinda is VP-business development and strategic marketing at Ovation Marketing (http://ovationmarketing.com). She can be reached at kimz@ovationmarketing.com.
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