Since my blog has been heavy on family updates as of late, I thought it was about time to discuss business and best practices. How about discussing the power of email for Internet marketing.

Parents know it’s tough to cook with a newborn in the house, so one of my co-workers was kind enough to setup a dinner schedule to help us out. Shane provided our first dinner and he setup an account on so others could opt in and schedule dinner for us on follow up nights. The first two scheduled meals worked out great, but there was a snag on #3. Someone had planned to provide us dinner last Friday night, but I wasn’t notified and a bit puzzled Food Tidings didn’t send me a confirmation. In fact, Food Tidings never sent me any email.

Enter the importance of email and opt in

What's your email strategy?

Not to pick on Food Tidings, but you have to establish an email relationship with your customers from Day 1. Even better, require a confirmation email to your customer so you know you’re connected. And always ask for the marketing email opt in when the user signs up, people are more inclined to accept all that stuff right when they’re on boarding and focused on the task. In my line of work, it’s not uncommon to see greater than 100% open rates. Yes, people are opening their emails more than once – but why is that? When you send meaningful and relevant content, there are multiple calls to action the customer could potentially follow. If you integrate customer data into the messages, often users will use their email as another form of “browser favorites”. Also don’t forget that everyone has at least one email address, not everyone has an account for every social networking site.

So what are the take aways to remember here?
1. Make sure you get your user’s email address. Even better, require confirmation to complete their account setup.
2. Send a welcome email and ask them to opt in to marketing messages. Give a clear explanation of the value or don’t expect many conversions.
3. Engage your customer with relevant and personalized content. This will bring them back to your site and help conversions. If your business has multiple components, use a series of informational or triggered messages to educate your customer. If you are sending meaningful content, they will continue to read your messages. If your content isn’t helpful, customers will send it to the trash and you won’t get another chance to engage them.
4. Finally, measure your open and conversion rates. If you don’t plan this from the start, it’s painful to implement later. Also, run A/B tests; force yourself to constantly improve your offerings. The competition is tireless, it is imperative you fight for your customer’s attention, and use every tool in your arsenal.

It’s sexy these days to have a Facebook or Twitter widget and I agree with this strategy, but don’t forget about the masses of late adopters that rely on email. Many portals get between 5 and 20% of their repeat unique users through plain old email campaigns, make sure you’re getting your share; and bake in reporting so you can optimize for your business over time.