Profitable Times Newsletter

Email Marketing Campaign

In the face of social media opportunities such as blogs, Facebook® and Twitter®, isn't email outmoded? And doesn't spam make email ineffective?

The answer to both questions is no. The proven effectiveness of email as a direct marketing tool and the constant improvement of anti-spam software means it isn't dead yet and should be a part of your marketing campaign along with social and other marketing tools. The focus of this article is on goals not technical execution. Once goals are firmly established it's easier to determine what needs to be done to get you to your objective.

A retail adage is, your best future customer is a current customer. Although museum stores may have a higher percentage of one-time customers such as tourists when compared to commercial retail, many of the rest of the museum store's customers are affected by this adage.

Email Service Providers (ESP) can be used to manage, track and evaluate email programs, but I'd like to suggest the development of a limited store-only contact list for special customers that you can manage yourself. Many of the following ideas are the same principles used in conjunction with ESPs, but the following, smaller and targeted plan can be put in place easily and produce results quickly.

What are the steps to putting together a successful email campaign?

1. Establish Goals

Typically the sharpest focus is on generating revenue, but the goals should also include relationship building and encouragement to current customers to bring in new customers. Regardless of your goals, be clear about them.

For our illustrative email campaign we will focus on keeping customers who have demonstrated support for the store coming back.

2. Identify The Target Audience

To whom are we going to send our emails?

For our campaign the target audience is an in-house list of current store customers who, because of their expenditure habits or for other reasons established by the store, are part of a group with whom we want to stay in close touch. Expenditure habits can include overall spending levels or the frequency of smaller expenditures. Those on the list could also include people of influence within the constituencies important to the museum.

3. Decide How To Build The List

Identifying whom you want on the list is one thing, collecting names and contact information is another matter.

First, let's look at what the list isn't. It isn't a list of people who live in a targeted geographical area, who may or may not even know the museum exists let alone that there is a store. It also isn't a list that automatically includes the museum's members, volunteers and staff, although many of them may 'qualify' for this select list. Instead, it's a narrow, targeted, subset of store customers whom we have invited to join or who have asked to be added to the list.

To collect names it is suggested to print good-looking cards requesting name, telephone number and street and email address, and to hand the cards to customers who meet the established criterion. When requesting permission to add the customer's name to the list, advise them of the benefits of joining the list, which may include quick notice of the arrival of new products, announcements of special store events such as book signings, demonstrations and trunk shows, and perhaps early admission to sales. At the same time, pledge to never sell, trade or use their names for any other purpose.

4. How To Use The List

You must first become comfortable with the idea that those who have given their permission to be on the list probably want, even expect, to hear from you... so don't disappoint them.

Our example list may be used:

  • As products arrive after attending MSA's Members Market, Expo and regional gift shows
  • In conjunction with the opening of special exhibits or toward the end of these exhibits to 'move' excess products
  • Just before sales
  • To announce special store events
  • Several times between November first, the yearend holidays and Kwanzaa to stimulate using the store for gift giving

5. What The Emails Look Like

  • Set up your list so that it automatically personalizes the greeting by using the recipient's name. Remember, this is a limited list of 'friends' of the store so you want to make it as personal as you reasonably can.
  • The emails that do best always include a call to action or create a sense of urgency- they are not just announcements. Use groups of words such as "limited time", "limited selection", "best selection" and other motivating phrases in the subject line. The goal is to stimulate immediate action or at least the opening of the email before it is forgotten or trashed. Make sure the subject line is not misleading.
  • If you can, make the "From" clearly identify the store to immediately raise the comfort level of the recipient.
  • Emails need to look attractive and reflect the quality and branding graphics of the museum. Subtle backgrounds, easily readable fonts and maybe a high quality picture or two should be part of each email. To reduce the length and complexity, as measured by the size of the message, links to the store's presence on the museum's website can be added to provide additional information and reflect the context of the museum. When integrated with an overall retail or institution marketing plan, which may include always highlighting a continuing education item such as a book, it becomes part of the museum's content delivery program and is less likely to be viewed as just an attempt to get money.
  • Increase the chance of evading spam filters by not using the following, especially in the subject line:
    • Free
    • $$$
    • !!!
    Also, make sure you ask those on your list to add your email address to approved addresses at their ISP (Internet Service Provider) or within their mail programs.
  • Make it easy for recipients to unsubscribe.
  • Facilitate convenient contact by including an easily identified store email address (and a telephone number and the physical address of the store) in the body or at the end of the text. Do not just rely on "Reply" as the way for people on this special list to reach you.
  • A link to recent emails can trigger, "I meant to get that" responses leading to incremental sales. And, if that item is no longer available, heightens attention to future emails so as to not miss future opportunities.
  • In every email, remind people that they gave their permission to be on the list and that the money generated online supports the institution.
  • Generally, you want to avoid sending emails on Mondays (there may be too many emails accumulated over the weekend, especially at business email addresses) and on Friday afternoons when people are focused on getting to the weekend.

6. Do It!

It's easy, cost effective and works.

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