You've worked hard and spent a lot of time and money building your customer base. The only thing that's harder than getting customers in the first place is keeping them. And the only thing that costs more than getting customers is getting them back. Keeping customers interested in your business can be an overwhelming proposition for SMBs, but we've found a simple, inexpensive way to help keep them up-to-date, and you might even find new customers along the way.
Constant Contact, a Web-based e-mail marketing service helps business owners stay in touch with clients through customizable, opt-in newsletters and marketing campaigns. The program walks you through every step of the process, from creating subscriber lists to designing and distributing newsletters, promotions and announcements.
Constant Contact isn't the only player in this field. Programs like Big Hip and mUrgent offer similar services you might want to investigate. As a representative of the type, though, Constant Contact is a solid example, offering a wide range of features and exceptional ease of use. The application is free for businesses with up to 50 subscribers, $15 for 51 to 500 subscribers and on up to $150 for up to 25,000 subscribers.
Right out of the gate the program lets you create a simple sign-up form for your Web page. Visitors to your site can indicate their areas of interest and request special services such as e-mail reminders tied to key events such as birthdays and anniversaries. As visitors opt in to newsletters or reminders, Constant Contact imports their information directly to its database.
|Creating Content — Adding text to your newsletter is as simple as typing text into individual boxes. The software also lets you choose different font and format styles.|
You can also create and define specific marketing campaigns. Other features let you manage those campaigns — sorting them according to present status, organizing subscribers according to interest categories and managing bounced messages. Custom reports help you track the ongoing results of any given campaign.
This might sound like a lot of work, but Constant Contact makes it surprisingly easy. Many small-business owners are intimidated by the thought of putting out a regular newsletter simply because of the perceived effort required. Learn HTML? A little busy here, thank you very much.
This is where Constant Contact excels. Templates cover a range of needs, from a basic newsletter, to special promotions, to holiday communications and so on. Pre-defined styles include Modern, Urban, Professional, Stylish and the like. (For customers seeking something more personal than the predefined options, Constant Contact will create a custom template for $599.)
The templates contain spaces for customized messages, and you can change colors, font sizes and styles. You'll have to do a little up-front work to get the newsletter looking just the way you want it, but once the framework is in place, sending a newsletter is just a matter of typing and saving the current message for each new mailing.
Keep Customers, Save Money
Many small businesses will find Constant Contact an excellent resource, especially those struggling to convert a static Web presence into a more robust marketing tool. We all recognize the high cost of customer acquisition, and in the case of the Web, an automated contact tool offers an easy way to minimize that cost by converting one-timers into repeat customers.
|Try This at Home — Michael Katz creates his Blue Penguin e-newsletter using Constant Contact. His topic: How to produce effective newsletters.|
For most businesses, studies show that increasing your customer retention by as little as five percent can bump up profits by at least 20 — and up to as much as 80 — percent.
It costs the average business seven-to-nine times more money to win a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. And here's the kicker; repeat customers spend more than new customers do — by an average of 67 percent. Now factor in customer referrals — those same studies show that after 10 purchases, customers tend to refer up to as many as seven people — and it really adds up.
Moreover, Constant Contact manages to leapfrog over what many see as the chief downfall of such automated marketing: That is, the idea that such communications risk being a little too impersonal, a little too slick to create a true relationship.
In this case, Constant Contact's ability to easily customize content and sort visitors according to their interests gives you significant marketing muscle while still maintaining a sense of personal connection to your customers.
Adam Stone writes extensively on business and technology issues. He makes his virtual residence at firstname.lastname@example.org and his physical home in Annapolis, Md.