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It's amazing how the internet craze has hit Zimbabwe. Almost everyone especially in urban areas has internet access either at the workplace, at home, on mobile phones or other related devices. Internet Service Providers now offer a variety of connections and packages as they fight to grab a fair share of the market. Time has come when companies and organisations should seriously invest time and money into understanding and utilising the internet for growths sake. As internet usage picks up, many online marketing opportunities and tools also emerge.

Some might think electronic mail (email) is only used merely for just simple communication between friends, business associates or clients. Email is a very powerful marketing tool.

Email marketing is a form of direct marketing which uses electronic mail as a means of communicating commercial or fund-raising messages to an audience. In its broadest sense, every email sent to a potential or current customer could be considered email marketing.

Email marketing can be categorised into Email Signatures, Email Flyers, Email Newsletters and Mailing Lists. A company or organisation can effectively use the 4 email marketing activities mentioned above in the following ways:

1.Email Signatures

Your email signature should be a mini-advertisement for your company.

  • Keep it as short- while providing all of the information you deem most important (four to seven lines is the accepted standard). It's important to avoid having an email signature run halfway down the page. Clients may not appreciate sifting through 15 lines to find a phone number or website address.
  • Condense information. The essentials are the sender's name, job title, company name, company website, contact information usually phone numbers and email address. Include your company logo in your email signature - it is great for branding purposes and will help recipients 'visualize' your company. Don't forget to include a closing statement, such as Sincerely or Kind Regards.
  • Remember that simple plain text is best. Skip special fonts and graphics if possible.
  • Optimize your logo or other graphics. Reduce the size and weight of graphics as they make the email heavy and may fail to pass through servers with email weight limits.
  • Include hyperlinks. These tend to drive traffic to your website and or related social networking sites or pages.

2.Email Flyers

A correspondence email, usually sent to a mailing list containing multiple email addresses, communicating commercial or fund-raising messages to clients or prospective clients. The main purpose is acquiring new customers or convincing current customers to purchase something immediately.

  • Develop Your Message. In most cases, it is like designing an ordinary flyer for print. Make a list of your company's features and benefits. Gather images or photos of your product or service to enhance and better illustrate your message.
  • Create Your Email Flyer. Email flyers resemble a small landing page for a company because they are sent out to a mailing list in html format (web page). You want to layout your flyer in a similar fashion as you would any other flyer but you can add links and click-throughs to enhance interaction. Don't forget to include your logo, photos and graphics that are important to getting your message across to your audience. At the same time you need to be cognizant of the variety of connectivity speeds in the market. Chances are, not all of your customers will have high speed internet connections so images and graphics needs to be resized to reduce weight.
  • Mass Mail Your Flyer. Name your mailing list e.g Clients List and always let the recipient identify the sender of the email flyer such as company or organization name.
  • Opt-In. Perhaps most important, the best mailing lists are always opt-in, meaning you have permission to contact the person. Always include subscription and unsubscription links.

Move away from sending plain text messages and attachments to your clients!

3.Email Newsletter

An eNewsletter is a correspondence email, usually sent to a mailing list containing multiple email addresses, that allows you to communicate with your clients orprospective clients. The content of the message may cover a broad range of topics, such news, columns, opinions and events.

HTML email messages (eNewsletters) are very popular for several reasons: they enhance your branding, they include links, images, colors, and sound, and they can be managed easily with templates.

How eNewsletters help your organisation

  • eNewsletters will give you the opportunity to remarket your company or organisation and its servicesin a modern, simple and effective way to your clients or prospective clients.
  • eNewsletters also serve as a continual and regular form of contact between you and your clients orprospective clients.
  • The end result is awareness of your spectrum of services/products, more email feedback and a larger, loyal client base.
  • Internet marketing activities are generally focused on two goals; generating feedback and enhancing the value of your brand. These are typical goals, even of traditional marketing, but on the Internet they take on an entirely new dimension.

Benefits of eNewsletters

  • HTML messages are not attachments and do not require any software to open.
  • The cost of creating and sending an eNewsletter is a fraction of the cost of a printed one.
  • By communicating with your audience and prospects on a regular basis you will ensure that your business is always 'front of mind' when they make purchasing decisions.
  • Viral - Its so easy for people to forward your message on to others, spreading further than you could alone.
  • Ease (both for you and the reader). For your marketing to be a success it has to be easy for the recipient, meaning they can easily respond to your message.
  • You can tell your target audience about your company and about products and services that meet their needs. The more they know about you, the more likely they are to try your products and use your services.
  • An eNewsletter will assist you in building and strengthening relationships with clients/customers and audience in helping to ensure they stay with you for the long term.
  • eNewsletters are fast. Their lead times are shorter than for printed materials, which means that you can be more responsive and seize opportunities as they arise (For instance, there is an important news flash, notice or story. You then don't have to wait for placing the information in newspapers and wait for them to go out on the streets. You can use an eNewsletter to send an immediate news item/ notice to clients or prospective clients so that they know what is happening quickly.
  • eNewsletters can be used to gather information from customers by encouraging interaction and dialogue. You can use this data to improve your products and services.
  • Including hyperlinks or email addresses in your eNewsletter allows people to respond instantly. In other words, eNewsletters make it easy for people to buy from you- creating room for dialogue.

Disadvantages of Email Flyers and Email Newsletters

  • Like Email templates, images may result in the blocking of emails on servers that do not permit attachments. However, this problem is rectified by liasing with your service provider so they adjust their server settings.

    4. Mailing Lists.
    A mailing list containing multiple email addresses (up to thousands) and professionally should sit on a server with mass mailing software. The email addresses can be of clients or prospective clients. When mass mailing an Email Flyer or Newsletter, the message is sent to one email address, which identifies with all addresses and there is no cc or bcc.

    With mass mailing software such as Mailman, it can manage subscriptions and unsubscriptions, senders to the mailing list, bounces and also archives your messages.

Many marketers and non-marketers share a mutual concern for doing email marketing the right way. Email promotions and offers (Email Flyers) generate immediate action such sales and inquiries whilst Email Newsletters build awareness, contribute to branding, strengthen relationships, encourage trust and cement loyalty.

by Liberty Chirove- E-Concepts Media (Pvt) Ltd. Published in The Zim Marketer, Marketing Magazine by the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe (MAZ), 3rd Edition 2012.

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