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Email Marketing — An Affordable Advertising Opportunity

Thousands of retailers around the world are using email marketing to educate their customers, advertise their businesses and create a personal relationship with their customers, but unfortunately, thousands of other retailers are ignoring this excellent, affordable advertising medium.

Email provides an affordable, low cost way to communicate with present and future customers and to create a “personality” for their store that sets them apart from other retailers. There also are numerous firms which offer suggestions as to how to do this. www.constantcontact.com, an email service provider, includes suggestions on its web site, so you might want to check that out for additional ideas.

Why aren’t more retailers taking advantage of email marketing? Is it because they don’t know how or that they don’t think they can come up with enough interesting information on a regular basis?

This article will explain why every reader should use email marketing as well as provide lots of ideas for email content that will be easy for every retailer to use, solving one of the biggest problems—figuring out what to write.

Today virtually everyone has an email address, so your first job is to acquire email addresses from your customers. Simply ask for them. Most people will provide them, especially if you explain that you will be providing helpful DIY tips in a newsletter format—maybe explaining that it will be on a weekly or monthly basis.   One technique used by some retailers is to print up a slip explaining one’s plans and requesting the address and tucking it into every package or handing the slip to every customer. A collection box by the cash register is recommended.

The biggest problem seems to be the ability to keep generating new and interesting content. The other demands of retailing (personnel problems, inventory management, financial concerns) sometimes must take precedence over the task of writing copy for the next email.

Yet the advantages are so great that every retailer should consider using email marketing. The steps to do so are simple

  1. Firms such as Constant Contact, which operate internationally, actually will handle the mailings for retailers and at remarkably low costs. For example, a retailer can send multiple messages each month to a list of between 501 and 2,500 names for just $25 a month using Constant Contact.
  2. Email marketing lets a retailer pick his or her own items to promote, so the content can be related to seasonal or local timing.
  3. Firms such as Constant Contact also offer easy-to-modify templates so retailers do not have to “create” their own format. All they need do is import their store name, logo or store slogan if they have one, address and other contact information. They can choose their own color preferences as well as type choices.
  4. Emails offer a wonderful way to supplement and support existing advertising media such as items from direct mail circulars, or co-op advertising.
  5. It is easy to include pictures of products or store displays in emails.
  6. And what better way is there to introduce new products being added to inventory.
  7. Many retailers are using email marketing to tell people about the training they provide employees to insure always offering the best advice and service

Some retailers are now sending out weekly emails with special-offer coupon discounts. One doing that is Cole Hardware, a 4-store chain in San Francisco, which features several items each week in a Friday email. Others sometimes prefer to provide editorial content that informs customers how to solve DIY problems or encourages them to undertake d-i-y projects.

With many newspapers suffering from declining circulation and Yellow Pages being supplanted by the Internet, email marketing is an excellent marketing alternative that should be explored and utilized by every retailer.

About Bob Vereen

Bob Vereen has been an observer of and participant in the hardware/home center industry since 1950, retiring from NRHA as senior vice president but continuing to be active as an entrepreneur and journalist. He wrote a book about the postwar hardware industry called SURVIVING...in spite of everything, and continues to write for a number of international hardware magazines.

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