The Power of Local
February 16th 2006
As a local business owner you realize the opportunities available on the Web, but you probably do not have the time or money to invest into a full blown web presence. The obstacles and costs in building a web site keep many local businesses on the sideline.
But as a local business there is an opportunity to exploit the marketing power of the Internet at little or no cost, and it does not require a web presence.
Through email marketing you can have a direct conduit to both your customers and prospects. You may think email marketing is complicated, but that is a misconception. If you are already using email to correspond, then you are quite capable of advertising through virtual mail. In fact, if you are communicating to your customers through email, in a sense you are already marketing online.
You are probably aware that a small amount of customer communication can be very profitable, and email can generate considerable income.
All you need to do is start collecting customer emails, and send them occasional promotions or sale updates. The email advertisements do not need to be coded in html, plain text messages are quite acceptable.
So how do you start down the road to Internet marketing success?
You begin by simply collecting customer email addresses, with their permission. Permission email marketing is a requirement. It is referred to as opt-in marketing. At all stages of email marketing you MUST respect your customers and their privacy. Only when they have accepted your request to send information, should you forward email promotions.
How do You Collect Customer Emails?
You simply ask! As a local business owner you are constantly in touch with customers and prospects, either in person or on the phone. As a retail business you could have a clipboard by your register or pre-printed index cards that your customers can fill-out. As a service business you just ask for their email address when you make contact.
What's in it for Your Customers?
The opportunity to save money or be notified of special offers. People are always looking for a bargain, and through email you can keep them informed on the latest deals, in addition you can alert them to new services or products. This is very appealing. And customers will perceive this as a value added service, that makes doing business with you more appealing.
How Difficult is Email Marketing?
It is quite simple. If you email friends or family, you are quite capable of marketing through email. Initially your list will be small so you can manage it through the use of your current email client like
Microsoft Outlook. You place your customer emails in a "group," compose a message, and hit the send button. Not exactly rocket science. (Note: Make sure you use the "blind box" feature.)
But from the start, you may want to consider using a professional email management service like ConstantContact.com.
They have a service that is free for lists that are under 50. Their next level handles up to 500, and cost only $15 per month. A service like Constant Contact simplifies the management of your list. These types of services offer features like tracking, reporting, templates and customer support. In addition, they automate the process of people opting out of your list. An important factor with permission email marketing.
What Results Can You Expect?
Think about the potential profit from simply keeping your customers informed. This is not invasive advertising, but permission marketing, where your customers have willingly given their consent to receive your advertisements. It is like they are saying, "Please allow me to spend more money with your business."
If you already have a web site then you will also want to add an opt-in box. Give your site visitors an opportunity to join your promotional list.
From a marketing perspective it doesn't get anymore targeted then this. And your advertising costs are insignificant. A perfect example is a local wine store owner who works her list twice a week with special promotions. She makes a killing, and often sells out her promotional inventory through email alone.
As a local business owner there are opportunities and there are golden opportunities.
Email marketing is solid 24 karat. It's simple, direct and very profitable. And yet few local businesses are taking advantage of email marketing. Why not lead the pack.
By Fred Waters
Fred Waters is co-founder of the Local Online Marketing Association.
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