feature story

marketing via e-mail
 

How to create and implement a successful e-mail marketing campaign.

by Ryan Freeman

    Ever since the Internet entered our homes in the mid-1990s, marketers have recognized the incredible potential of e-mail marketing. Compared to the cost and effort of direct mail, it’s hard not to love the idea of nearly free distribution and the ability to target your offers directly to specific customers. Here are five steps for creating an effective and profitable e-mail marketing campaign.


1. start collecting
Having a good list of e-mail addresses is foundational to your campaign. It is often true that the quality of the list is more important than its size. Even a list of 100 customers can produce good results.

     Rachael Kahne, of e-mail marketing provider MyEmma.com, suggests that neophyte e-mail marketers take advantage of “Ask Emma,” a fun and friendly FAQ service on MyEmma.com that responds to “how to” questions from small businesses. “It’s chock full of information—a good place to start,” she says.

Here are some tried-and-true methods for building your list. Start to grow your list while you work on Steps 2 through 5.

▪  Business card bowl. Place a bowl on your counter to collect business
   cards for a monthly drawing. Have a pad of paper nearby for customers
   who don’t have business cards to write their information.
▪  E-mail receipts/Delivery confirmations. All modern florist POS systems
   include the ability to send e-mail directly. Offering order confirmations is an
   excellent way to build your list, and it provides ongoing communication with
   customers and verification of their orders. Ask for e-mail addresses when
   taking orders—you’ll be surprised at how often people will eagerly give them
   to you.
▪  Subscription button. Include a button or form on your Web site inviting
   browsers to subscribe to receive e-mail offers. This is an opportunity to
   capture potential customers who may not have made their first purchases.
 

tips for marketing with e-mail
 
▪  Start by taking advantage of free trials from the e-mail
   marketing providers listed in the next sidebar.

▪  Try different approaches to discount offers: “free delivery (or
   vase, etc.)” versus “20 percent off” versus “$10 off” to find out
   what terminology will resonate best with your audience.

▪  If you feature a specific item, make sure to include a picture of
   it within your e-mail, and have that image linked to the order
   page on your site.

▪  Contact your POS provider to learn how to extract client lists
   to use for e-mail marketing. Try filtering by last order date,
   average order size, location or product purchased—there are
   many ways to target your message.
 
 


2. plan ahead

     You’ll need to have a plan in place for how you will send your e-mails; once you do, you can implement it as often as you like. Many florists use e-mail campaigns to move excess inventory by sending out short-term offers to their lists. For this to be effective, you will need to have a system for creating the e-mails, crafting the offers and alerting your staff, so they are prepared to deal with customers.

     Consistency is key to creating brand recognition in customers’ minds. Use the same e-mail template(s), so they will recognize your e-mails. Encourage customers to add your e-mail address to their address books or “safe” lists, and always use that same e-mail address when sending e-mails.

     E-mail marketing can take many forms. Weekly or monthly newsletters help you remain in contact with clients between purchases. Along with spontaneous offers, consider having a weekly special—either a coupon code or a specially created arrangement available only for that week. Implied scarcity can motivate customers to purchase. Send the e-mails around the same time each week, so your audience will become trained to look for them.

     You also will need to decide if you want to use a third-party e-mail service or handle your e-mail marketing in house. Although sending e-mail in house can be less expensive, it’s wise to check if your Internet service provider (ISP) has limits on daily or monthly e-mail volume. E-mail services offer templates, statistics and reporting, and they may be able to offer better delivery because the reputable services have strict anti-spam policies—all starting from $10 per month.
 

E-mail marketing providers
 
ConstantContact.com
 
   ▪  e-mail marketing and surveys
     ▪  lots of templates
     ▪  price based on size of list
iContact.com
 
    ▪  e-mail marketing and surveys
     ▪  lots of templates
     ▪  price based on size of list
MyEmma.com
 
    ▪  e-mail marketing
     ▪  customized templates
     ▪  price based on number of e-mails sent
Aweber.com
 
    ▪  e-mail marketing
     ▪  lots of templates
     ▪  price based on size of list

Here are features of some florist-specific POS systems and their e-mail marketing capabilities:

  ▪  FTD® Mercury™ POS
    
Integrates with ConstantContact.com, or export list to third
     party

  ▪  Teleflora Dove POS
    
Built-in e-mail marketing

  ▪  FAS (Floral Accounting Systems)
    
Built-in e-mail marketing

  ▪  FloristWare
    
Built-in e-mail marketing, or export list to third party

  ▪  MAS™ (McShan Abner Systems®)
   
 Built-in e-mail marketing, or export list to third party
 
 


3. create

     Now that you have a mailing list and a plan for sending your e-mails, it’s time to create your marketing masterpiece. A successful e-mail marketing campaign starts with the subject line. This is the first roadblock between you and prospective customers. Write a winning title, and they will open the e-mail; draft a dud, and it will be deleted without a second glance.

     Next, you need to have a compelling offer. Don’t let your readers feel like you’re wasting their time. Your message needs to grab their interest, and you need to have a follow-up component on your Web site. The goal is to move customers from opening the e-mail to reading it and taking action.

4. report
     Once your e-mail blast has been sent, how you measure success ultimately depends on the goal of the e-mail, but usually it will be to drive traffic and sales on your Web site. Measuring a few other statistics can indicate areas to improve and point out bottlenecks in the process. Some useful metrics to measure are:

▪  Open rate: how many people opened your e-mail (opens / # of e-mails
   sent)
▪  Clicks: how many readers clicked on a link in your e-mail
▪  Forwards: how many readers forwarded the offer to a friend
▪  Subscriptions: how many new readers subscribed and how many
   unsubscribed

5. lather, rinse, repeat
     The average e-mail campaign for a retailer will have an open rate of 27 percent. There is always room for improvement, and that means testing, testing and more testing.
     Mark Anderson, founder of the FloristWare POS system, touts the benefits of targeted offers. “Don’t promote a value special to customers who spend more than that on average,” he advises. “Likewise, don’t scare off your value customers with specials they could never afford.” Most POS systems will help you filter your lists as you create them, and MyEmma.com offers a “Search and Segment” feature to target different campaigns to different sections of your list.

     Another popular tactic is to test subject lines by dividing your list into segments of 20 percent, 20 percent and 60 percent. Test two subject lines on the small groups, and use the one that has the better open rate for the larger group.

     Year after year, studies by marketing agencies show that e-mail marketing is the most effective tactic for online marketing. A 2008 Forrester Research study determined e-mail marketing offers a Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) of 17.56, meaning the average sale generated by e-mail marketing is worth 17.56 times more than the cost of the e-mail. Large companies like 1-800-Flowers.com, FTD.com, Teleflora and ProFlowers invest significant time and energy in their e-mail marketing campaigns because it allows them to increase the value of their existing customer base. (Are you on their mailing lists? Why not see what the big boys are doing and learn from their experience!)

     With a little time and effort, you will be boosting your sales and customer engagement. Remember to have fun, and let your sense of humor show through. The goal is to be memorable!
 

  Ryan Freeman is a fifth-generation florist (Martin’s, the Flower People, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada), founder of FlowerChat.com, author of the “Florist SEO Blog” and a certified SEO analyst. His company, Strider Inc., provides Internet marketing services and consulting to small businesses. Contact him at ryan@striderseo.com.

 


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