The Dot-Com hype is long, long dead. And the economy is trying to shrug off a recession. Anyone who currently has a job at a technology startup is nervous. And most of the Venture Capitalists are still licking their wounds. The threat to businesses that the Internet will “change everything” carries little, if any, weight anymore. But emerging from the ashes of the dot-conomy are indications that a whole lot of people are online. Last week, the Department of Commerce released a new study showing that more than half of the nation is now online.
In September 2001, 143 million Americans (about 54 percent of the population) were using the Internet – an increase of 26 million in 13 months. According to the study, the top reason Americans go online is to check their email. In September 2001, nearly half of the population used e-mail (45.2 percent, up from 35.4 percent in 2000). Of individuals online, 84% checked email frequently. So before you write off the Web and email as not important to your company, realize that the most cost-effective marketing is to people who have already purchased something from you in the past.
The next-most cost-effective group to reach is your list of prospects – people who have expressed an interested in your company’s products and services, but for some reason, haven’t purchased anything from you. Business people should ask themselves six basic questions:
1. Does your Web site or your retail store capture email addresses from people who are interested in your products and services?
2. What have you done to follow up with these sales prospects and turn them into buyers?
3. When was the last time your company sent an opt-in email campaign to past customers?
4. Do you know the size of your email marketing database?
5. Are you treating each sale as a one-time interaction, or are you creating long-term customers?
6. Have you ever used email to get rid of overstocked inventory in a hurry?
Web sites are like retail stores – they are destination locations, and require a prospect or customer to make a conscious effort to type in a website address or get in a car to visit your store. Email is an elastic medium that reaches out to people’s email inboxes and allows you to ‘snap’ them back to your business. Many people prefer email communications rather than voicemail, or even having to meet in person. People type slower than they can speak. But an email recipient can read e-mail faster than a phone conversation or a face-to-face meeting.
Email is a lower context medium, and is mostly limited to text and graphics (audio and video are available, but 80% of the population is still on slower, dial-up Internet access). People are generally willing to read messages that seem relevant, because they can typically read them quickly and know that a lot of effort usually went into a message and is therefore a set of composed, articulate thoughts.
You typically don’t go to a newsstand to purchase all of the magazines you’re interested in reading. Magazine publishers allow readers to subscribe to the publications so that the information may be pushed to their postal mailbox each week or month. Email newsletters and information is no different. Email allows businesses to instantly push relevant content to readers at a fraction of the cost of printing and mailing paper-based information.