Friday, December 19, 2008
Recently, Professor John Talbott of Indiana University in Bloomington invited me, to speak to his Retail Marketing class in the Kelley School of Business. I have been a guest lecturer in John’s classes before, but this time I invited my friend John Fell of E-mail Logic in Evanston, IL, to join me because he is simply one of the smartest guys I know when it comes to teaching small businesses how to use email to attract and retain customers.
John Fell, pictured at left with his son, Jacob (the good-looking guy on the left) knows the challenges of growing and managing a retail business. He knows because he’s been there and done it. He’s learned what works and what doesn’t.
That’s why he created E-mail Logic, a unique company that helps more than 100 small businesses use email direct marketing to keep customers coming in the door.
Between lectures at IU, I sat down with John to get his take on why email is so well-suited to the marketing needs of small businesses. Enjoy this two part series.
Joel:Why does email make so much sense for a small business?
John:Email is fast and efficient. Traditional marketing programs can take weeks or months to create and implement. Then, you wait another couple months to analyze the results in order to determine its success. Email marketing can be executed quickly with real-time results - thus, giving us immediate feedback.
Email is measurable. If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Because of the sophisticated tracking tools that we offer through ExactTarget, we are able to make good marketing decisions based on what’s working and what’s not. In addition the data collect relative to actual subscribers can be turned into information and action plans for follow-ups and closing sales.
Email is personal. It is the unique advantage that many of our retail clients have above their larger competition. Email marketing is a great way to personalize messages. Pictures of their staff in emails can go along way in reinforcing their one to one relationships.
Email promotes two-way communications. Email offers a huge advantage in that it promotes customer feedback. With just the click of a reply key, your customers can communicate directly with you. This may come in the form of compliments, questions or even problems. Either way, when they start communicating, you have a tremendous opportunity to build a loyal customer.
Email is the great equalizer for any small business to compete with the big guys. It’s low cost and high return. It’s the best way for any small business to enhance and profit from its most important asset – the relationship it has with its customers!
Joel: I often hear small business owners complain that they cannot afford the “fancy” expensive email marketing systems that big companies use. Do you feel it takes a lot of money to do effective email marketing? As a rule of thumb, what is a reasonable amount to budget to communicate by email with a customer over the course of a year?
John: Most businesses look at their marketing budget as a variable cost of sales. So the challenge as sales go down or remain stagnant is how to get the most out of a marketing budget. Because of its low cost, emails can be sent with the frequency needed to make an impact. Therefore, we encourage our clients to use email on a regular basis and make it a fixed expense. We charge our customers a monthly retainer instead of an as needed fee so that they will market regularly and not look at their retention markings cost as incremental. For many of our stores that use direct mail, we can give them a few touches a month with email for the cost of one post card that they print and send via snail mail. Any retailer that’s analyzing R.O.M.I. (return on marketing investment) knows that email is a “no-brainer”!
Check back on Monday as John and I tackle how email drives purchasing and advice for small business getting started in email marketing.