Who is your best prospect for your next sale? You existing customers! It never ceases to amaze me how local businesses neglect their current clientele. They go through considerable trouble and cost to convert prospects to customers, and I am sure they realize customers are a precious commodity. So why are they not getting the most lifetime value out of their customers? Probably because in the past it was too expensive and troublesome to keep in touch?

However, with the advent of the Internet and email, that is no longer a valid excuse. Email is an incredibly cost-effective marketing tool. It lets you stay in touch with your customers for pennies. And, if you know how to use MS Word, you can promote your products and service to your customers.

There are two steps to email marketing:

1) Build a customer list.
2) Work the list.

How do you build a customer list? You ask for it! Whenever you have contact with your customers, you ask them if you can keep in touch through email. As a restaurant, you can hand out email request cards at the tables. At retail stores, you can have sign-up lists at the checkout. If you have a web site, you can also direct them to an opt-in form on the site.

If you are going to provide customers with information that is beneficial, they will be very receptive to receiving your email. For example, you are a local wine shop and you send out emails on special buys and incredible discounts. Any wine enthusiast would be thrilled to receive that announcement. Promotional emails are relevant to just about any local retail business. Best of all they drive traffic through your door.

Email marketing can also be highly effective for local services, both for converting prospects to customers and for reminders to existing customers.

Developing Customer Relationships

Of course, customer email correspondences do not necessarily have to be sales promotions. Email is an excellent tool to brand your business and further develop customer relationships. Consider you are a local outfitter, you can send out emails on upcoming outdoor activities. You can be your customer’s resource for the local scene.

A garden center can provide information on local fauna and seasonable planting. A restaurant can offer up tasty recipes. A financial planner can send retirement planning advice. An accountant can give ongoing recommendations on tax savings.
With regular correspondence your prospects or customers will begin to identify with you. You will stay in their face, and when they are ready to make a purchase, you substantially increase the chances of getting their business.

Managing Your Email Marketing

I mentioned that email marketing is very cost effective. Actually, it can cost nothing if you want to work with your current email program, like Outlook Express. However, I would not recommend it. Instead, I would suggest you use one of the many email management services that are available. They can cost as little as $10 per month. A small price to pay when you consider the potential pay back.

These services simplify many of the email marketing functions. For example, they automate the process to opt-in or opt-out of your email list. This is important because you don’t want to aggravate your customers by receiving unwanted emails. These services also adhere to the Can Spam rules. Thus, keeping your email marketing inline with the proper etiquette.

They allow you to create professional looking emails. If you can create a Word document you can design a classy email. Many have preformatted templates, which can make a small local operation look like a significant player.

Depending on the service, they will offer other functions. For example, you can create autoresponders. These are a series of emails that are automatically sent out during a designated time-period.

As a local realtor you can offer a regular email newsletter of the area. When prospective buyers come to your web site, they can sign-up for the newsletter. Once they opt-in to your list, they can receive regular emails that highlight various neighborhoods and their charm. Alternatively, you can send a series on home buying tips. Most importantly, you are communicating regularly during that important period when the buyer is deciding whom to work with.

These email management services also allow you to segment your customers. You can email customers based on their different wants and needs, and further target your marketing.

Whenever I talk to a local business and they mention they need to start marketing on the web, I mention that it is equally important to begin to start an email campaign with existing customers. This is low-lying fruit, ripe for the picking.

If you want to increase your revenue, then you don’t want to ignore email marketing.

Author's Bio: 

Fred Waters is Co-Founder of the Local Online Marketing Association, where you can learn how to connect with profitable local customers on the Internet. Join Now and get a Free 14-day Trial.