Gather New Leads (and Turn Them Into Customers): Email Marketing
I’m sure that I don’t have to tell you that a key to growing your business is to gather leads (prospects). The Internet is a great resource for gathering contact information from prospective clients or customers.
Get Name and Email First:
The first step in this process is to set up a mailing list of names and email addresses. People can be reluctant to provide information to businesses with which they are not familiar (and they should be). However, most people realize that they have little to lose by giving you their first names and an email address, even though they may be very hesitant to provide more information than that. But getting that little bit of information is an essential step in building trust.
Bribe Your Prospects:
It is a good idea to offer an incentive in exchange for that information that you want them to provide. A hair salon might offer a coupon for a free wash with their next cut or 25% off hair products. An attorney might offer a free consultation (which you may well offer, anyway).
Use an Auto-Responder:
Technology users (such as your web site visitors) tend to be very impatient. They want instant gratification. Consequently, you need to get back to them with their coupon immediately.
Unless you plan to stay up 24 hours, 7 days a week monitoring your email for new prospects, you need to set up an «auto-responder.»
An auto-responder is, as the name suggests, software that responds automatically whenever a prospect provides you with that name and email address. Within seconds or a minute or so, the auto responder sends an email to your new prospect—an email that you have already written (maybe months before) and have waiting in the message queue.
Often, that first email will just be a confirmation message, asking the person to click a link indicating that he or she does, in fact, want to receive information from your business. That is a precaution used in case some trickster entered the name and email address of someone else. You don’t want to be accused of sending spam (unsolicited email).
Strike a Balance In Your Email Campaign:
Once the prospects have confirmed their interest, another email can be sent immediately containing a link to a location on your site where your coupon can be printed. Alternatively, that email, itself, can serve as the coupon.
But don’t stop there! In a day or two, send out another message (already set up in your auto-responder queue) reminding them to call for an appointment to use that coupon (or whatever your incentive happens to be). Then a few days after that, send them some informative mini-article about the latest trends in hair care or the importance of having a will (or any topic that is related to your business or your target demographic). Set up a series of these informative pieces in order to get them into the habit of opening and reading your emails. Periodically, reward them with another coupon or offer to bring them into your business.
Do not use each email as an attempt to sell. Find a balance between valuable information and those offers to convert them into customers (or more frequent customers, if you will). Have this rotation and all of the emails loaded into your auto-responder in advance, and the campaign will practically run itself. You will still have the option of sending everyone on your list a simultaneous message for holiday sales or whatever campaign you happen to be running at any given time. Those simultaneous emails are called broadcasts.
Gathering Additional Information:
If you business really needs addresses or phone numbers or other information, I suggest that you wait until you have established an email relationship with your prospects for a while. Let them see that you are not abusing their email addresses. Then, provide them with another (probably bigger) incentive to go to your site to give you that additional contact data. You might offer to mail them a coupon booklet, for example (that would justify asking for the address). At this point, these newly improved prospects are moved to another auto-responder series, as they have shown a higher level of trust. Thus, they are now hotter prospects.
Expand Your Contact Channels:
Depending upon the time you or a staff member can dedicate, you may want to use related technology to communicate with your list members. You may want to use Twitter, and ask your email users to «follow» you on Twitter. Or you may want to set up a Facebook or MySpace page and ask your subscribers to become your «friend» in those spaces. You may want their cell phone number and use text messages for occasional contact. The possibilities are increasing all the time.
About Auto-Responder Options:
There are three options in using an auto-responder. They are
- Using your own hosting company via your own email account. Most companies that host web sites now offer auto-responders as part of their packages.
- Buying software that allows you to schedule messages, automatically respond to messages, etc. directly from your email account.
- Using a company that specializes in this and has the in-house software to perform the automated tasks for you (although you’re still responsible for writing the messages).