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Two Ways to Make Money – Email and Social Media Marketing

The chicken or the egg?

Many Social Media pundits have stated that “email is dead.”    Social media applications like Facebook and Twitter have killed email.

With 500 million users on Facebook it may not be a stretch to understand why all the “Chicken Little’s” are going around the chicken coop yelling “the sky is falling!” on email marketing.   But Chicken Little was wrong, and so are the “experts.”

Email marketing still makes money in a relatively low cost way.   There are numerous online vendors for small and medium size businesses which offer free or low cost email marketing tools that include analytics (so you can see what works and what does not work).  I use MailChimp which promises it is always free for less than 500 email addresses, and I’m quite impressed with its abilities and the staff’s responsiveness.   One great thing about MailChimp (and a competitor, Constant Contact) is that both have recently integrated Social Media into their offers. Constant Contact announced Social Stats which tracks Facebook “Likes,” tweets, Linked In posts and such.  Social media statistics are shown on the email analytics report.  With MailChimp their social sharing tool lets you post your email marketing campaign on your social  networks with one click in your campaign dashboard.  Be careful, though.  Social Network users HATE “sales pitches” and you can destroy your credibility.   Like Constant Contact, MailChimp lets you you can track the activity on those networks, too.

I’ve mentioned Constant Contact and MailChimp which are great for small and medium size companies, as is iContact.  There are even more out there:  AWeber and Vertical Response are two more.

According to Forrester Research, email marketing is growing, not dying. 

Considering that you can email for free (MailChimp) then Forrester’s research should impress you that you can indeed make money via email marketing.  Their research shows that ROI is two to three times higher with email marketing than with any other form of direct marketing.   Two thirds of the marketing executives interviewed concurred that email marketing is the most cost-effective marketing tool they have.

So much for the death knell!

Far too often techno-geeks (and hey, I like to think that I AM one) decry the death of a technology when something new comes along.  Fact is that it takes a while to kill things off.   There are still people using land line telephones, TVs with picture tubes, and even horse buggy whips.   Direct mailers still “snail mail” catalogs.  Billboards still blight our nation’s highways.  Newspapers still get printed.

So, no, email is not dead.   When it comes to making money with technology, email (with opt-in permission so that you are not SPAMMING) is a very efficient way of communicating sales or new offerings to your customers.

Social media is a fantastic communications media, but it is not meant to be a sales tool (well, not directly).  If you pitch a sale on Facebook you are likely to get flamed and slammed.  Social media is all about conversations, and if along the way people come to hear of a great new product, and buy it — terrific!  Yet, Facebook and others are more likely to be a passive, indirect sales channel rather than an immediate one.  The only difference is an entity like Dell Outlet who may tweet a special sale on Twitter — but most of us are not Dell.   You have to be in a unique position to be able to use Twitter or Facebook as a sales platform directly.

Email marketing and social media are not an “either / or” decision of email OR social media for making money.  Email marketing is still a very strong approach for staying in touch with customers and cross-selling and up-selling into your base.  Social media is a wonderful way to stay in touch more often than you can via email (without irritating your base).  Both are complimentary if used properly, and the email marketing tools with their integration efforts can help you do that — as long as you abide by the “rules” of both email marketing and social media and enhance your customer’s experience.  Don’t over stay your welcome in either venue.

The blog is moving.  If you like the blog, please visit us at http://www.it-sme.com/blog .

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CRM and Email Marketing

Since CRM (customer relationship management) is supposed to mean any one or any system that interacts with customers one would logically think that email marketing would be an integral part of any CRM solution.

But it isn’t.

Email marketing has been around as long as email itself has.  Yet most companies who do email marketing for customer retention (up selling and cross selling) or acquisition (acquiring new customers) do so blindly using third party lists or hobbled together lists.   Some may use Templates found on Microsoft’s template section of their website.  Others use a variety of software or internet based solutions — and there same to be a plethora of them out there.

Most companies seem to use the axiom:  throw enough mud on the wall and some of it is bound to stick when sending out corporate marketing emails.

No tracking of the ROI (return on investment).  No knowing if you are “ticking off” your best customers.  No knowing how many hit the SPAM filter.  No knowing how many people get multiple emails from you (annoying them).  Bad email marketing hurts every other aspect of CRM, and does more damage than good.

This is mass emailing.  My friend, Sundeep Kapur (other wise known as the Email Yogi) has been an email marketing guru since around 1999 and he has outlined “Seven Stages of eMarketing” in a  Whitepaper – available, with just a simple request.  The first is exactly what I outlined above:  mass marketing with the hope someone, somewhere will read it.

I don’t want to “give away” everything in Sundeep’s excellent paper, but suffice it to say that email CRM isn’t any different than CRM in general — know thy customer.  You must target your existing customers and potential customers by market segment (customer segmentation), by demographics, by buying history, etc.  None of this is rocket science, but it is all hard work — that results in qualified leads that generate new customers.

The more you can customize the email to the prospect the better.  And if you can make it FUN even better still!

Customer segmentation allows you to target your email messaging.

Once you’ve created an email offer, newsletter, etc. it is a good idea to set up two separate tests with similar, but not identical, offers.  The test audiences must be the same segmentation for this to work.  Try to make an offer that requires a response (buy in) before the scroll down point (above 400 pixels in height) and if this is the first email one of those should be an opt in to get more emails from you.

Design the email using HTML and a plain text file.  If you start getting fancy with CSS or flash — even Java — many email programs won’t read it properly.

When CRM and email marketing work together it is a beautiful thing.    Email marketing can also extend into social networking (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter) via RSS and SMS.

Sundeep works for my old boss, NCR — a leader in retail and hospitality solutions.   Software solutions vary based on your own corporate needs (and budget).  RWD uses Constant Contact.  The design of emails is pretty easy, but it isn’t your standard Windows “look and feel” so there is a learning curve and difficulty if you want to copy or paste from it into another program.   They do offer a free 60 day trial, so if you are new to email marketing take a look at them and try them out.

More mid-range companies might look at Gold Lasso.   The UI is also not the easiest to use, but they do have some analytics thrown into the mix.  Also good in the mid-range and even enterprise (big) company range is ResponsysJupiterResearch awarded Responsys the highest combined score in “market suitability” and “overall business value” among all enterprise-oriented email service providers.  It also ranked high with Forrester and Gartner (in a niche category).  The Enterprise level also includes the market leader, Cheetahmail (now part of Experian).

Cheetahmail is the most entrenched, and it is very feature rich.  The UI (user interface) suffers from some of the same issues as Constant Contact and Gold Lasso.

In a future blog I’d like to delve into how well email marketing soltuions tie into legacy systems (the back end CRM, ERP and industry specific apps which hold the wealth of customer data) — both from a push and pull perspective.

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