What comes to mind when you hear the term “Email Marketing”? If you’re like a lot of people, the next word you think of is Spam. Or perhaps you think of it as the stuff you see in your in box each morning that you delete without reading. Maybe you’ve tried Email Marketing once or twice without success, or maybe you haven’t tried it because you don’t think it would work for your company, products or industry.

With the exception of companies that can count their customers on two hands, I believe that Email Marketing, combined with a professional, content-rich web site, should be a part of every company’s marketing mix. Following are the reasons why:

Your customers are online and use email nearly every day

Customers around the world are now experienced with educating themselves on just about any subject, investigating potential options, and purchasing products and services on line. If you have or can build a solid, online reputation for sending timely, content-rich, and helpful emails to customers, those customers will not only allow you to send those emails, they will look forward to receiving them, and in some cases, will visit your web site, ask for more information, ask to set up a meeting with you, or even purchase what you’re offering.

Emails are opened more frequently than you might think

According to a number of published studies, and my own experience, open rates for email marketing efforts range from 5 – 20%. However, those open rates are for unsolicited email. If you already have a relationship with a customer and that person allows you to send emails to his or her in box, open rates will almost certainly be higher. And once the email is opened, your well-written and convincing content can encourage the reader to learn more and take action.

Email gets your message across quickly and consistently

Let’s say, for example that you manufacture capital equipment and that you have an installed base of 500 units of various configurations working in 50 manufacturing facilities around the world. You have just developed a hardware upgrade that can dramatically increase the productivity and output of 20% of the units in the installed base. The upgrade costs $25,000 to build, but it’s worth at least $200,000 in increased profit per year to each customer.  You’ve decided to price the upgrade at $100,000 per unit.

Even the world’s greatest field sales force would have a tough time reaching all the customers who could potentially buy this upgrade in a timely manner, let alone with the same exact message. So what is the best way to inform each of your customers about the upgrade, explain how it will help them, convince them that it’s worth $100,000, and do it quickly and consistently?  I would suggest that sending a detailed email to all of the customers involved in making or influencing purchasing decisions is the most effective first step you can take.

Email is more than affordable; it’s cheap

Effective email marketing campaigns can be done with very little money, relative to the cost of using virtually any other method to reach customers. Although the costs of developing the content of each message will vary, the act of sending the information can be done for between one and two cents per email.

Email can help you reach out to those difficult-to-visit but very profitable customers

Almost every business has a number of highly-profitable customers who happen to be located in places that are difficult and expensive to get to, and therefore, can’t be supported with frequent face-to-face visits.  Using email can help to keep these customers informed and aware of not only new products and services, but also of any new information you have regarding your existing products and services.

While nothing can adequately replace in-person contact, email can help you establish and maintain an ongoing conversation with your customers and prospects, and might even spare you from ever hearing the dreaded “we purchased from your competitor because we hadn’t heard from you and didn’t think you cared”.

So, if you haven’t started communicating with your customers and prospects with email marketing yet, I have just one question: What are you waiting for?