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Email Marketing System as Revenue Engine
In brief: Your email marketing system is the ecommerce powerhouse -- and should be the primary focus of ecommerce funneling activity. Despite their incredible power, email marketing systems are rarely implemented effectively. In this guide we will explore some simple but highly effective ways of integrating email marketing into your ecommerce machine.
Recap: The Three Pillars of Ecommerce Success
In the previous guide, we discussed the three pillars of a successful ecommerce company.
We also discussed the idea of driving traffic by syndicating your content fully to gain a flow of visitors as well as valuable inbound keyword links directly to your content. Now what do you do with the traffic flow? If you try to hit them up for a sale, your conversion will be low and your cost of customer acquisition extremely high. In this guide we will discuss an email-marketing centered ecommerce strategy whereby you focus on capturing visitors and segmenting them into autoresponder sequences -- and then finally into a regular newsletter flow. Your email marketing system will be the engine of sales.
Pillar #2: Visitors become Customers through your Email Marketing System
Email marketing is the art of using email technology to convert casual visitors into recurring customers. The two types of email typically used are 1) the periodic announcement (such as a weekly newsletter) and 2) the automatic responder (or "autoresponder"). Each plays a key role in our ecommerce machine.
In fact, email marketing is to ecommerce as tires are to a car. Theoretically you could drive a car without tires -- but it would not be a very pretty picture. Certainly you would not get optimal gas milage. Yet, even companies that earn substantial revenue from newsletter sales often don't quite grasp the full potential of an email-centered ecommerce model. Email marketing should be at the center of ecommerce activity -- otherwise it's like buying tires for the car but throwing them in the trunk -- and yet expecting a smoother ride.
Effective email marketing is not difficult -- but you have to be willing to wrap your head around the idea of "email centered" ecommerce.
Automatic Reponders to Segment your Visitors into Buying Paths
An autoresponder is a scheduled sequence of emails sent out automatically in response to a signup. All members of your "newsletter" should first come though an autoresponder sequence. This is because the autoresponder provides a natural method of segmenting your audience and generating an initial sale. This will become more and more obvious to you over time as you begin to exploit the full power of the autoresponder offer sequence.
We'll discuss your product stack more in the next section but for now, let's just say that you should divide your products into groups with one or more freebies associated with each group. The freebie must be something that appeals especially to people interested in the product group. For example, if you have a suite of shopping cart add-ons, the freebie might be a white paper case study of shopping cart customer retention rates. Someone desperate to get their hands on that white paper would be the your perfect prospect for shopping cart add-ons. Thus the freebie is a doorway into a focused autoresponder sequence that attempts -- through a set of special offers -- to sell the prospect some related product.
Autoresponders sequences can be chained so when a sequence ends (either by running out of emails or shortcut by a purchase) a new sequence starts. Ideally, you should sequence several related product offers from small to large (preferably ending in a subscription product). Only when the product chain is exhausted should the name finally be added to the general "newsletter" list. Remember the watershed analogy where the rainfall is collected into streams (autoresponders) and only later do the streams empty out into your reservoir (newsletter).
The Bribe, the Name Capture, the Squeeze - Capturing the Casual Visitor
Your freebie "bribe", the doorway to autoresponder membership, should be the most important advertising on your site. Only when your visitor has joined one of the autoresponders sequences should you remove the "bribes" and replace them with product ads. [tracking your subscribers] Even after your visitor has signed up, when you replace the 'freebie' advertisements for product ads -- you should initially only show ads related to the product group your visitor chose. Segmenting your visitors this way is very easy with just a small amount of scripting.
Now that you've swallowed the idea of centering your ecommerce presentation around the autoresponder offer, let's take it a step further by developing specialized landing pages who's only purpose is to 'sell' the visitor on exchanging their email address for the freebie. You've probably seen a few of these around -- they're often called "name capture" or "squeeze" pages and they look a lot like sales copy -- but they only seek your email address.
"Name capture" pages should be treated with the same seriousness as a sales landing page. Next time you run an advertising campaign, don't waste your money trying to make a sale: instead, advertise your free 'bribes', leading directly to your name capture pages. Spend as much work writing the copy as you would a normal sales-oriented landing page. Make sure to split test the page to ensure effectiveness. (See our No-Taguchi Split Testing.)
Remember that our "Content Oriented Website" gives away its content for syndication? Make sure to add links to several of your "name capture" freebie pages in each article. Make sure to use the appropriate keywords. Plan your name capture keyword ladders carefully -- just as you would any sales page you wish to promote. (The Keyword Marketing Ladder) We want to drive as much traffic as possible to the name capture pages -- and that means following basic SEO rules - see our Ecommerce SEO Checklist.
So, in brief we've got a serious of product groups, each with one or more free "bribes". The bribes are presented on slick split-tested, "name capture" pages which act as the gateway between casual visitor and segmented prospect. The autoresponder sequence presents a series of increasingly sweetened time-bound special offers and then eventually pour the customer into the general "newsletter". If all goes as planned, you've already made substantial profit from each visitor -- even covering the cost of advertising and expansion of your business. Now let's explore the "newsletter" portion of our ecommerce model -- the ever-growing gushing spring of ecommerce revenue.
Ecommerce Newsletter -- your Dependable Recurring Revenue Stream
The periodic newsletter is your ecommerce capital. The revenue you pull in each week through the newsletter mailing is not dependent on advertising or crazy shifting search engine algorithms. It is the heart of your business. We'll use the term "newsletter" but bear in mind that you do not really need to include "news". The only news most people want to hear about is special offers and special discounts. In fact, let's establish the rules for selling in a newsletter:
Because of the nature of email, everything pivots on the subject line. [subject line split testing] My experience has been that it is simply impossible to guess accurately the most effective subject line -- and a slight difference can result in many thousands of dollars difference in sales -- so always split test your subject lines, even if you have to do it manually.