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The Green Sheet Online Edition

June 13, 2011 • Issue 11:06:01

How to use email marketing to boost leads

By Peggy Bekavac Olson
Strategic Marketing

Leads have been top of mind for me in recent months. Hopefully, you've seen this reflected in my previous articles and have already benefited from my ideas on lead generation, management and nurturing, as well as my pointers on direct mail marketing. Continuing in the same vein, the focus of this effort is email marketing.

Have you thought about email marketing but don't know where to begin? Do you worry that email marketing might be too technically challenging and time intensive for your payment business to handle right now? Are you stuck in a rut, comfortable clinging to familiar lead generation tactics while wanting or needing more leads?

This primer should help you get up to speed on email marketing best practices and provide practical guidelines for getting started.

Email marketing as a multipurpose tool

A form of direct marketing, email marketing takes digital promotional material and delivers it directly to prospective purchasers of your products and services via electronic mail. The objective is to get prospects to take specific actions in response to one or more calls to action contained in your email.

Email marketing is a relatively easy to use, low cost and effective method for communicating messages, promotions and pertinent information to target audiences. It can create awareness and interest in your company, products and services, as well as serve as a mechanism for generating leads. It can also enhance relationships with existing merchant customers by providing them timely information that benefits them. It can serve to up-sell and cross-sell merchants, too.

Email marketing is the electronic equivalent of direct mail marketing, so the two have much in common. However, there's one important difference and that is the issue of permission. Fundamentally, you must obtain an email address owner's permission before you send commercial email to that address.

If you don't have permission, recipients may regard your message as spam or unsolicited bulk commercial email, which can damage your own and your company's reputation or even lead to legal actions. In the long run, successful email marketing works best when it is permission-based.

Promotional email marketing generally features a specific product or service offering and some type of discount, special offer or incentive to entice prospects to take action. Calls to action can be as simple as asking email recipients to pick up the telephone, visit a website to obtain further information, schedule a sales call, see a demonstration or even apply for a merchant account.

Content email marketing typically employs a newsletter-type format. The goal is to share valuable information, insights and advice about issues and information your customers and prospects care about.

The content you provide should not be about your business and offerings; it should focus on pertinent business-related information that will help recipients solve business problems or build credibility and authority. You want prospects and customers to look forward to receiving your content. That way, when they're ready to buy, they will turn to you first.

As a marketing tactic, email marketing can be your company's sole lead generation activity or it can be combined with other efforts like cold-calling, telemarketing, advertising, events, social media and more.

Remember, the purpose of email marketing and these other marketing tactics is to fill your sales funnel or pipeline with ample leads.

Eight steps to success

So what does it take to make an email campaign successful? If you want to do it right and ensure the best results possible, make sure that you:

  1. Target the right audience: Your email audience is the single most important aspect of the email marketing campaign. It's all about the list; it will make or break your campaign. Target prospects based on the characteristics of your best and most profitable customers. Access specific email lists through associations, clubs, organizations and businesses, as well as your customer database. Beyond selecting the right audience, be sure to obtain permission to send them commercial email.

  2. Choose a respected email marketing service: There are a plethora of email marketing services. Select one that offers the right features, functionality and pricing. Top vendors like Constant Contact Inc., ExactTarget, iContact Corp. and Vertical Response Inc. make it easy to build and manage your email list. They also provide access to ready-made email template designs and image libraries and deliver email on your behalf while tracking campaign results.

  3. Create an attractive email template: The creative design of your email should fit your audience and your offer. Select a template design created by your email marketing service, or custom develop one of your own. For visual emphasis use plenty of pictures, charts and graphs. The result should be a colorful, attractive, professional email design that reflects your corporate brand image and identity.

  4. Choose your words wisely: Write directly to your email recipients, and don't get carried away with text. Your message should clearly convey the information and tips you are providing. Sell benefits, not features. Make sure your intended recipients understand what you have to offer and why they should act. Don't forget to include your company's phone number and links to appropriate pages on your website so recipients can obtain additional information.

  5. Develop an enticing offer: Don't forget the call to action. Try to make an offer recipients won't want to refuse. Entice responses by offering valuable content such as a payment processing tips sheet or information on how to increase sales. You might want to offer a free gift, a discount or even a rebate on processing fees for becoming a customer.

  6. Craft a compelling subject line: Recipients aren't looking for a reason to click your email; they're looking for a reason to delete it. To capture interest in a cluttered inbox, your subject line must be clear and concise to grab attention and express value. You have just seconds to garner enough interest to produce an opening click. Relevance and brevity are paramount.

  7. Test and analyze your results: Learn from your email campaigns. Your email marketing service provider should track important metrics like bounces, opens, clicks, forwards, opt-outs and more. This data can help you make adjustments and improvements for future email campaigns, as well as identify recipients that may be ready for sales outreach now.

  8. Repeat and follow up: Be persistent. Remember, the marketing rule of thumb is that it frequently takes up to seven "touches" involving a buyer and seller to make the sale. If you're not engaging your list in some way, via email or a combination of other marketing tactics, chances are these contacts are going to find someone else to do business with.

Now that you've learned the basics of email marketing, why not give it a try? When you put email marketing to work for your payment business, the inquiries and leads it generates can help sustain and grow your business for a long time to come. end of article

Peggy Bekavac Olson founded Strategic Marketing, a full-service marketing and communications firm specializing in financial services and electronic payment companies, after serving as Vice President of Marketing and Communications for TSYS. She can be reached at 480-706-0816 or peggyolson@smktg.com. Information about Strategic Marketing can be found at www.smktg.com.

The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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