Having lived through a number of other economic downturns, e-mail offers a real bright spot on the horizon this time around. Here's why I'm thankful for e-mail:
Once your e-mail system is in place, the cost of broadcasting your messages is minimal. I remember during past recessions, my clients would basically shut down all their direct marketing campaigns due to the high printing and mailing expenses. With e-mail's extremely low costs, you can continue to market to your online customers without skipping a beat.
You can continue to test offers on the cheap. You've got a whole new economic reality on your hands -- and you need to know how your customers will respond to it. With e-mail you can quickly test new offers and get an accurate read on your market in 24 hours or less.
Your design costs are minimal. You can create a template and run with it for quite a while without any major design changes. One of your in-house people can flow in the copy.
You can build your list organically -- rather than buying outside lists. And, indeed you should because outside lists get lower response rates.
You can stay in touch with your clients and maintain your credibility. With name-brand companies crashing and burning around us, customers want to know who's still standing. Your e-newsletter can get out the message that you're here and ready to do business.
You can defend your e-mail marketing efforts to upper management much more easily than other media. As I mentioned in my last column, an October report by the Direct Marketing Association revealed that e-mail's ROI (define) was $45.06 for every $1 spent, as opposed to a non-e-mail Internet marketing ROI of $19.94. E-mail provided more than double the effectiveness of other online marketing methods.
You can conduct competitive research just by looking in your inbox. Sign up for your competitor's e-mail blasts and you always have your finger on the pulse of the market. If they come out with at $10 off offer in the morning, you can beat it with a $12 discount in the afternoon.
You can give yourself a complete education on a topic without leaving your desk. Not to knock traditional MBA programs, but the information you get on ClickZ alone is the most cutting edge, client-tested knowledge out there on online marketing. Just subscribe to a few new columns and you can stay up to date without forking over tuition to go to night school.
LinkedIn updates can help you stay in touch with your business network. You may not have time to call up each of your business colleagues personally to find out how they're weathering the storm, but you can get a good idea from their messages on weekly LinkedIn updates.
You can send holiday wishes to your business associates in a click of a button. Don't wait until next month to thank your customers for their business -- send an online Thanksgiving card or a thank you note today.
On that note, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who celebrate!
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Karen Gedney, an award-winning creative director and copywriter, shared her insights as a ClickZ Experts contributor from 2000 through 2009. She was known for her successful track record of achieving high e-mail response rates for Fortune 1000 companies and leading organizations. She died Nov. 16, 2010.