Among the smaller businesses that I work with, I often come across people who have little idea how to contact their customers by email and some are even aware that they need help to learn the skills properly:
- I love email – it is quick, low-cost, tangible, asynchronous and generates a record.
- I also hate email if it is spam, pointless or poorly presented.
Be legal and delightful
The law is the first aspect that I impress on my clients:
- The UK Data Protection Act became law in December 2003.
- A similar USA anti-spam law became law January 2004.
- These and other laws aim to stop people from sending out emails that are unwanted, distasteful or dishonest.
Then I remind my clients that customers who find your messages interesting and delightful will keep asking for more, whereas those that you annoy will close the door on you. If you take an approach that stays legal and delights, you will remain free to remind your customers what benefits you can offer.
Besides being a legal requirement, I feel that it is polite and professional to ensure that your emails say:
- who you are,
- why you are mailing and
- which valid email address your customer can contact in order to opt-out of future messages.
If you make these three aspects of the email easy for people to see, you will actually have fewer opt-outs even if the value of your message is marginal.
Only contact consenting customers
Generally you should only send marketing materials to customers who have given their prior consent to receiving your marketing messages. Unsolicited mail is only allowed in three conditions:
- If you collected your customer’s email address in the course of a sale or in negotiating a sale;
- If the products and services you promote are similar to those your customer already takes;
- If your customer gave you their email address even though they had a clear opt out (when it was collected) and if you continue to offer that opt out each time.
As you design your email message, do use the same guidance that you apply to your business letters: use plain English, state what you offer, say what benefits are available and suggest how you want your customer to respond.
Check the presentation quality of your message
And before pressing the Send button, ask yourself
- What will the recipient see when they read this?
- How does this build my business reputation?
- How will this delight my customer?
For major email campaigns, I like to email a sample message to myself, print it off and read it the following day. That way I read the email with fresh eyes so I can spot items that are ambiguous, mistaken or poorly presented.
Keep track of your messages
Finally I encourage my clients to integrate their emails into their Customer Relationship Management system. When you review your customer’s record, you want to see at a glance the sequence of emails, presentations, sales calls and closed sales for that customer.
This shows the value of a good email – it is one of several means of building and maintaining a profitable relationship with your prospects and customers.
Adrian Pepper specialises in helping small business to sharpen their marketing, increase their sales and grow their income. You can contact him through Help4You Ltd, through his website at http://www.help4you.ltd.uk or by phone +44-7773-380133. At http://feeds.feedburner.com/help4you, you can listen to his podcast for small businesses.
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