Using Search and E-mail to Acquire Customers

  |  February 2, 2009   |  Comments

By ensuring that search and e-mail activities are well timed and coordinated, online marketers can more efficiently acquire and retain customers.

Aside from deciding on which search marketing tactic to employ -- paid, organic, or both --- there are other online marketing tactics at our disposal for driving qualified traffic to a Web site and to begin building a relationship with our target audience.

Of these, e-mail marketing is one of the most well-known and used. E-mail marketing, electronic customer relationship marketing (eCRM), database marketing -- whatever you want to call it -- plays a key role in most well-honed digital marketing programs.

E-mail marketing enables you to reach out to customers or prospects with targeted communications and perhaps inspire some sort of action or dialogue with your brand or company. It's the obvious follow-up to customer lead-generation activities, including customer database building, and the perfect way to begin building a one-to-one relationship with your consumer. By asking questions in your registration form to help build a customer profile, you can attach specific attributes or behaviors to groups of consumers or even individual consumers, then customize the messaging to each group or individual. And all other things being equal, the more customized and personalized the message, the more likely it is to be read, understood, and acted on.

This is precisely why you might get e-mail from your ISP touting its latest offer to you by name ("Hey Julie!"), with imagery that reflects your demographic (young professional) and copy that highlights your loyalty ("To reward you for your ongoing commitment to us..."). Based on the profile associated with my account, I fall into a specific customer segment and therefore get messaging carefully tailored to what they think will compel me to take action.

So why is a search marketing expert writing so much about e-mail marketing? By using e-mail marketing in tandem with your search activities, you can more effectively reach out to and engage with your audience.

Just like with organic SEO (define) and paid SEM (define), certain synergies can be achieved by ensuring that search and e-mail activities are well timed and coordinated.

I came across an item in the Yahoo Search Marketing Blog awhile back that touches on this very subject -- why you should "Have Some Email with Your Search." The blog post, by Abe Mezrich, cited some key reasons it makes sense to employ both tactics, together.

Mezrich points out that the most popular online activity is e-mail, followed closely by search engine use, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. This finding alone speaks to the importance of both activities.

But the lingering question is, why do both together?

Mezrich suggests some unique ways to leverage each activity for the other's benefit. He recommends leveraging the lessons of your SEM campaign in your e-mail campaigns' copy.

For example, try using your best-performing keywords in your e-mail's subject line to improve open rates or in copy to improve relevancy. Your best-performing ad copy could have the call to action your e-mail messages have been lacking to encourage click-through rates. And your top converting landing pages should be employed as destinations for those click-throughs.

Of course, the opposite is true, too: what you learn from your e-mail campaign can help guide your search marketing activities.

Mezrich points out that you know a lot about your audience based on its response to your e-mail programs. The types of messaging, content, offers, and landing pages that resonate with your e-mail recipients are likely the same things that would resonate with the average searcher. If offer A consistently outperforms offer B in getting your audience to take action, then try utilizing offer A in your paid search ads. If you find that your e-mail that talks about a specific theme or topical area tends to produce higher engagement rates, undertake some keyword research in those areas to include related terms in your search campaign.

You must consider which activity to use at each stage of the marketing funnel. For someone who is unaware of your company, brand, or product, SEM is the way to get them to your site and hopefully get them to register for your e-mail database. This is usually referred to as customer acquisition.

Once someone is registered, you can turn her into a loyal or repeat customer by keeping your brand top of mind with regular communications. This is called customer retention.

Regularly reaching out to your audience via e-mail to communicate relevant information, updates, or offers will help your audience think of you first when they need a solution that your company offers. Instead of that person starting from scratch with another search query, you want her to come back to your Web site of her own volition. That way, you can avoid paying twice for an acquisition.

If you plan your search and e-mail activities appropriately, you should pay only once for a new customer. Your search marketing will get the user into your site and registered in your database (acquisition), and your e-mail marketing will help you avoid spending additional media to achieve repeat purchase and customer loyalty (retention).

Join us for Search Engine Strategies London February 17-20 at the Business Design Centre in Islington. Don't miss the definitive event for U.K. and European marketers, corporate decision makers, webmasters and search marketing specialists!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie Batten

Julie is a member of the senior strategy team at Klick Health, focused on online media and digital. Julie initially established and led the media practice at Klick for several years, relinquishing leadership to expand beyond media into additional digital tactics. She brings a wealth of experience in search marketing, digital media, and all facets of digital strategy to bear, helping Klick's clients develop innovative digital solutions. As her role has evolved, so have her contributions to ClickZ, which she has been writing for since 2007.

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