Volume 45 Number 4
Creative Marketing: Build Your Email Marketing Database, One Name at a Time
As a water treatment dealer, you depend on your database to keep in touch with past customers for generating continuing business through cross-product sales and referrals.
Traditionally, you would keep customer relationships alive through two tools—the postal service and the telephone. Now, with the recent Congressional approval of a federal “Do Not Call” list, your outbound telemarketing program may be largely curtailed (see Newsreel this issue). Mailings are still very effective at maintaining business relationships, but increased mailing costs will place a limit on how often you contact customers.
How can you maintain frequency of contact with customers without phoning them or greatly increasing mailing costs? Email may be your answer. With more than 60 percent of homes on-line, email is the most popular Internet user application. In spite of increasing complaints of “spam,” email marketing is destined to grow. It’s fast, flexible and very economical. The problem of possibly offending email recipients can be overcome by following best email practices (see the March 2002 WC&P “Creative Marketing” column for a helpful list of “Email Business Guidelines” from the Direct Marketing Association.2)
What’s holding you back? For one, you probably don’t have customers’ email addresses in your present database.
David A. Alecock, vice president of TargetX, a Philadelphia-based email consulting firm, suggests a list of ways business can obtain customer email addresses. “Increasing the number of email addresses in your database can’t be accomplished overnight,” says Alecock. But, he stresses, it’s important to begin right away and involve everyone in your organization to ask for an email address in their daily interactions with customers: “Every one of these touch points is an opportunity to gain an email address for further low-cost communication and relationship building. You’ll find some customers actually prefer email over other forms of communication.”
Growing an e-database
1. Call your customers and ask them to help you update your database and ask their preferences for receiving information.
Alecock has some caveats when entering the world of email marketing: “To utilize email addresses, you’ll need to secure permission for future communication with a simple ‘opt in’ check box or notification to the recipient that their email address will be used to communicate with them. That’s not as hard as it sounds if you remind recipients upfront how they will benefit by sharing their email address with you. Communications can be faster, simpler and more relevant to customer needs then messages sent via more traditional means. Make sure you give recipients a way to ‘opt out’ of future emails, with each one you send. If you keep the information relevant, you’ll lose very few.”
Leveraging email must be taken with care to avoid offending customers who might mistake your messages for “spam.” At this point in time, purchasing outside so-called “permission-based” email lists isn’t recommended by many marketing experts. Building your own custom emailing list is much safer and offers a far better means to build a productive customer relationship and solicit referrals.
As I’ve said before in this column, the time to begin building your customer email list is now. It won’t happen overnight.
About the author
Email: The Dealers’ Perspective
“The potential for email marketing and customer service is something that interests us. We are considering it for the commercial side of our business but, at this time, not for the residential side. We have been responding to inquiries to our company website via email. But we have not ‘shot out’ emails to either existing customers or prospects.
“Recently, we have begun building an email database for existing commercial customers. This required that we first change our software to accommodate email addresses. We see email as potentially becoming a valuable customer service tool, one that might let us more efficiently remind existing customers about service and delivery appointments. Recently, we talked with a marketing consultant who offered an interesting insight.
While encouraging us to email some existing customers on a trial basis he, at the same time, cautioned against emailing new prospects for fear they might demand a constant e-dialogue after they began doing business with us. ‘Start (email) by servicing, not by marketing,’ was his advice. That’s where we’re headed.
“Another aspect of moving into email is having to change the company culture from one of 100 percent telephone contact. We found it can be a struggle to get employees previously trained to ‘pick up a phone immediately’ to instead email customers back with the information they requested via email.”
“We’re interested in the potential of email to provide a low-cost alternative to direct mail but, at this point, we have no company-wide email database; however, Fred Brunetti, a computer-savvy salesman, has been collecting customer email address for about two years. He categorizes his list—now over 200 names—by leads generated from home shows, contractors and real estate contacts. When we update our stationery and business forms in the next year, we intend to include a line for ‘email address’ toward building a company database.”
For more on e-marketing, see the following websites: