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Irrigation Association of New York

Email Marketing: Smart, Economical, Effective

Many contractors are discovering a budget-friendly new marketing tool to share ideas with their customers and prospects: email marketing.

You’ve probably received email newsletters or promotions from merchants, banks or non-profit organizations. They’re easily differentiated from regular e-mails because they typically contain graphics as well as text.

Done correctly, email marketing is an effective and high-impact way to deliver a message. But like any other marketing tool, it comes with both positives and pitfalls. Let’s examine both the benefits that e-mail marketing can bring to your business and also review many of the common mistakes small and medium sized companies make.

The advantages of e-mail marketing are significant.

It Builds Top-of-Mind Awareness – Staying in constant touch with your loyal customers is a reminder of your appreciation for their business. Consistent, value-added communications differentiate you from lookalikes. Customers can remember to hire YOU when they fully understand your services rather than giving the work to someone else who knocks on their door.

It Reaches Buyers Effectively – Over 80 percent of U.S. households have broadband access, so there are few left who don’t have access to e-mail at home or work. Even older Americans, like my 92-year-old friend Mrs. Williams, read and send e-mails daily. You now have the possibility to deliver your marketing messages to thousands of your customers, reaching them directly at their desks and avoiding traditional gatekeepers like receptionists and spouses who might otherwise discard your mailed message or delete your voice message.

It Amplifies –Time to remind customers to participate before a promotion ends? Need to follow-up on a letter or postcard mailing? E-mail marketing reinforces (but typically does not replace!) your sales calls, fliers, stuffers, mailers and advertisements.

It’s Trackable – You get statistics on who is opening your messages and which links are clicked. You see in an instant who has downloaded your coupons. Plus you can target those who have demonstrated click-through interest with additional follow-up. I know of no other method that provides so much feedback to the advertiser.

It Makes Micro-Marketing Cost Effective – Looking to touch a narrow segment of buyers (such as irrigation service clients who don’t have rain sensors)? Designing, printing and mailing can be cost-prohibitive. With e-mail marketing, the possibilities are almost limitless.

It Motivates Action – Well planned e-mail campaigns can capture orders or lock in service appointments. In short, e-mail marketing is something you should be doing. But let’s make sure to do it right. Bad campaigns risk being ignored by hundreds of customers, or worse, having you labeled as a spammer. So how can your e-mail marketing efforts be more effective?

Be Sure to Deliver Value Seems obvious, doesn’t it? People signed up for your e-updates because they wanted to receive information, news or promotions that would be helpful to them. They didn’t sign up for electronic junk mail, self-serving boasting or fourth-grade graphics and grammar.

Ask yourself, how can I help my audience? What things could really make a difference for them (rather than just make a difference for me)? You will kill prospects before they have a chance to blossom into customers if your communications are all about you and little about them. If you keep bombarding them with meaningless content, they’ll start opting out in droves.

Good Design Matters Remember in school when you used every color in that new box of crayons? Using every font, embellishment and clip-art graphic can make your e-communications look unprofessional. Aim for a design that is clean and readable. Remember that your graphics and grammar create an instant impression of your company’s credibility. Avoid broadcasting garbage to hundreds of your best customers.

E-mail has made us all masters of scanning for information. Make it easy for readers to find the content they need. Use powerful headlines and bullets. Get to the point quickly.

Make the Commitment You won’t receive any of the value if you don’t get started. Determine which customers are ready to opt-in to your updates. Add an e-newsletter sign-up box to your Web site. Get some professional advice on creating a plan that defines what value you can bring and how often to communicate. Start enjoying the value of this powerful new customer relationship tool.

Irrigation marketing expert Jeff Carowitz leads a landscape industry marketing agency based in Houston.. Find him on LinkedIn, contact him at 760-532-7034 or Jeff@StrategicForceMarketing.com.