George Robertson, CFP, CRPS, AIF

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Effective Marketing Campaigns through E-mail and Direct Mail

For most businesses, a marketing priority and even premium is placed on reaching prospective clients and communicating with current clients. Doing so succinctly and successfully requires studying and implementing the best go-to marketing communication options available. In a web-savvy world, e-mail is becoming an increasingly valuable tool with its ability to reach thousands of prospective clients at a very low cost. However, direct mail remains the more traditional, tried-and-true approach to marketing communication. Determining which is the method for you depends largely on your business and your preference with using the Internet or paper-based mailings. You may also wish to consider your customer and client base, such as whether you have permission to contact by e-mail, before deciding which method to use. A good rule of thumb-use both and track your response rates.

Online Strategies

E-mail creates an opportunity to send out personalized messages to targeted audiences, giving them the chance to take immediate action online, whether in the form of a sale or in further Internet research. Intriguing subject lines should preface e-mail communication with the goal of sparking the reader's interest while avoiding "spam triggers," such as "free," "today," "immediate," "now," etc. The recent anti-spam law means unsolicited e-mail can trigger a spam report, so it's a good idea to ensure that potential customers want to hear from you and your business. A good way to ensure this is with the use of double opt-in lists, which first require the person to sign up to receive the information, and then to again confirm they want their information added to a mailing list. Such lists can often be purchased or built over time via a company's website.

Building a website, over time, will make a company, its reputation, and its products or services known, and it can also be a great tool in learning about the viewing habits of those who visit you online. You may wish to include an online survey with your website. Answers can often help businesses gain valuable information about their target audiences and can be used to customize future communications.

One successful way of communicating with clients and customers via e-mail is by using an e-newsletter. For example, e-newsletters can provide information on new topics, can go out immediately, do not need postage, and can include information about special offers and promotions.

While e-mail can deliver advertisement and marketing copy to thousands, it is critical for a business just starting out with this form of client communication to learn who is responding to which type of contact. This is called segmentation, which is the process of tracking a reader's response to a message. If a user clicks on a link of specific interest, consider sending an automated follow-up e-mail on that subject. There are many software tools available to facilitate this process. Direct mailings, on the other hand, however "tried-and-true" they may be, do not provide this type of immediate response.

Direct Return on Investment

Similar to the low costs of sending e-mail, direct mailings can also be an economical advertising and communication form when used appropriately. It can be a great way to prospect for new customers, and if the business is well vested in its target market, and has the names and addresses of potential customers, the cost of sending out a direct mailing can be well worth the investment. This also cuts down on any time associated with ensuring your clients and customers are willing to respond to e-mail communication. Direct mailings, however, often go hand-in-hand with accompanying e-mail contact.

While there are many advantages to using direct mail, including the fact that it is a widely accepted means of advertising when compared with e-mail, current trends indicate that e-mail is also becoming a widely-used means of client communication. Regardless of how your current clients and customers hear from you and how you attract new business, the important thing to remember is that the goal is to make yourself, your brand, and your services known. Whether you use e-mail or "paper mail," doing so is an invaluable means of keeping your company's name and products in front of your customers.

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