What role should email play for the brick and mortar business?

By: Jack Winston

Email (along with a business website) forms the cornerstone of most real world, brick and mortar business’ digital marketing strategies. Unfortunately, businesses often use email marketing in a way that is counterproductive. General email volumes are up. People’s attention spans and free time are down. Most consumers have learned to screen out email based on scanning uninteresting subject lines and sender addresses. Email clients (Outlook, Yahoo, Gmail, etc…) offer the ability to mark senders as spam, and email senders that don’t provide a means for recipients to opt-out risk the chance of being “Blacklisted” by service providers – making it very difficult to continue an email marketing program.

Knowing the pitfalls of poor email marketing habits, the savvy marketer strives to build an email list of opt-in customers that have agreed to receive emails from the business. Furthermore, effective email campaigns offer genuinely interesting information, valuable promotional offers, and are not so frequent so as to be relegated to a consumer’s ignore list. Done successfully, you can create an email brand that extends your real world brand onto your customers’ computers and mobile phones. You want your email brand and your interesting subject lines to stop the consumer in their delete-delete-delete-delete pattern with a “hmm, that is worth me taking 2 seconds to look at.” And then, when opened, you want your email message to make a favorable impression – ideally: “I need to get over there right away!”, but at least: “That’s cool. I like those guys.” Definitely not: “This is lame and a waste of my time.” Enough impressions along the lines of the latter results in a tarnished email brand that will only earn your next campaign another push of the delete key.

The most important element of an email marketing program is that it is NOT your only digital marketing channel. There is enormous value in extending a real world business’s interaction with its customers to the online world. Email is just one way – and only works when you have invested in establishing credibility with your recipients.

Facebook and Twitter marketing programs are of increasing importance for brands and businesses alike. In prior posts, we have discussed the value of getting customers to Like you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter. Posting to customers’ walls is a cost-effective way of putting short micro messages in front of your customers. Just as with email, you need to keep your posts interesting and valuable – but it is generally acceptable to post more frequently to facebook and twitter than it is to blast emails. With the average American spending more than 1 hour per day on Facebook, this is a very valuable marketing channel to invest in.

Location based tools are also valuable ways to notify consumers in your area that you are offering something of value. Facebook deals, Foursquare Specials and GroupOn Now enable customers to locate interesting discounts or promotions in the area. Bozuko offers consumers the ability to find and play Bozuko games in your area via location based services (at time of writing, we are still in Beta and only working with a select group of businesses in the greater Boston area). These tools help businesses entice customers to stop by and take advantage of their promotions.

The evolution of online technologies and consumers’ modes of interacting with businesses online demand that brick and mortar businesses adapt their digital marketing strategies. Successful businesses will move beyond email – not abandon – to connect with consumers using a new range of tools. Bozuko offers both the opportunity to directly connect with potential customers in the area as well as drive participation in Facebook marketing programs by encouraging customers to check-in or Like the business offering the promotion.

Please stay tuned as Bozuko roles out to a larger number of Boston area businesses throughout the summer and eventually to brands and businesses throughout the known universe. And beyond.

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