Many companies use email marketing. But in my opinion, no company uses it properly, or realises its immense potential. No-one has seemed to work out that it’s today’s catalogue, today’s shop front, and today’s sales person. Let me tell you why email marketing is the most important marketing tool you will ever have.

I am consistently amazed at the lack of personalisation in the various marketing emails I receive. And I do receive a lot of them – from iTunes right through to Virgin. When I say personalisation I don’t mean putting ‘Hi Vickie’ at the top. That really means nothing. What I mean is that the emails I receive have no relationship to my past purchase behaviour. I am totally uninterested in 90% of the products and services which are promoted to me via email, and this is simply because these companies do a terrible job of database management and CRM (customer relationship management).

Let me give you one example. I receive an email from Red Balloon Days approximately once a month, and up until recently the experiences which were highlighted in this email were from the Eastern States. Now as a WA resident, with the majority of my friends and family in this state, purchasing experiences from other states did not interest me, therefore I stopped reading the emails and lost interest. Incidentally, I did actually contact Red Balloon Days and outline this problem to them, after which they placed me in the ‘WA’ list. Why they did not do this to begin with, I am not sure.

It baffles me that I provide my contact information to a myriad of places when I’ve either requested a quote or purchased a product, yet I receive no communication from them. I recently purchased a vacuum cleaner from Harvey Norman for which I will have to buy new bags for approximately every year. At the moment, the only way I will remember to purchase new bags is if I run out. To me this is a lost opportunity – why aren’t HN emailing me every year to remind me, and at the same time telling me that I can buy them in their store? At the moment I have no incentive to go back to buy the bags, and will probably buy them over the internet. If HN spent half of their catalogue budget on a quality CRM and email program, I am certain their sales would double.

For those things that I received a quote for and ‘haven’t got around to’ or ‘haven’t got the spare money for’, an email just to ‘touch base’ or to say ‘we thought you might like to know about our new product’ might just kick me into gear.

If I consistently purchase a book by a certain author, I’d love to know when that same author has launched another book, and would probably purchase it on the spot.

Email marketing combined with an intelligent system that monitors customer purchases can be the most invaluable marketing tool you will ever have. And it can work just as well for small business – it just means you need to be actively monitoring your database and keeping on top of your customers’ purchase behaviour.

Next month I’ll be talking about the power of auto responders, thankyou pages, and other important elements when working with email marketing. Stay tuned!