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“Bring out yer dead!” There’s nothing that pundits, talking heads, and consultants like better than things that have died. If it’s dead, we don’t need to bother with it anymore and we can move on to selling something newer, flashier, shinier – something with a sexier acronym and a whole new list of buzzwords. And of course, quite often, the body in question really is dead. But like the persistently vital elderly gentleman in the Monty Python classic film, sometimes it isn’t Quite Dead Yet. In the Internet marketing world, there is one such frequent flyer in the obituary columns that somehow nonetheless keeps proclaiming its continued vitality – email marketing.

Email Marketing? But it’s all spam! It’s valueless! Nobody reads it! Yet…yet, despite all these bells tolling its demise, Email Marketing continues to be a vital channel for millions of marketers and hundreds of millions of customers and clients. In December of 2012, Wanderful Marketing surveyed 1000 brick-and-mortar customers and found that 91% of them had gone into a store as a result of an online marketing pitch – and a whopping 60% of them had done it as a result of an email pitch. Not a Facebook ad, not a banner impression, not a Tweet – email. On the other side of the equation, Forrester Research finds that more than 8 out of 10 online marketers report that email is still their primary channel for lead generation.

The old fellow is not only alive, he is still kicking.

The trick is that you have to use the tool in a smart and focused way. An email blast to a million strangers will not generate a tidal wave of leads; it will generate a tidal wave of complaints about spam to your ISP. You will never send an effective email marketing message to a stranger. Rather, you can use it to communicate with existing customers and leads, in order to build three key fundamentals of your online marketing effort:

Email Marketing for Loyalty & Branding

Sending valuable information about your company such as promotions, or useful information about technology or uses for your product, to people who have signed up to receive it.

Email Marketing for Lead Nurturing

When prospects express interest, you can create “drip” campaigns that send a steady, but reasonable (and welcomed) drumbeat of key data, cool tips, helpful reminders and other similar “touches” at critical points in your sales process.

Cross Selling and Up-Selling Existing Clients

You know what your existing clients have purchased and you know why – thus you are in a great position to use this knowledge to sell them on new or related products and services, or to encourage them to upgrade the systems they have.

Think about your own inbox for a minute. If you are like the majority of people who do any business online, then you welcome and appreciate useful, helpful informational emails from your business associates, vendors, etc. – even if those messages are explicitly advertisements or sales pitches. You don’t welcome messages from people who you don’t know, even if what they are offering is something you need. Email remains a conduit for trusted information. Among the large community of people who already have a trust relationship with you, it is an absolutely outstanding tool to extend, support, and monetize those relationships.

If you ask the “Dead Body” of email marketing to perform miracles for you, by converting strangers into customers, you will be disappointed. But if you ask email marketing to do what it is unparalleled at doing, to channel good information to people who want to hear it in the most efficient and convenient way possible, you could reap an enormous harvest of goodwill AND conversions. Don’t throw that dead body onto the heap quite yet – you’ll be throwing away a fortune if you do. Use it wisely, use it appropriately, use it in ways that benefit the recipients – and you’ll find life and vitality in that corpse for many years, if not decades, to come.

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