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You have to create a strategy, and properly execute on it, to be successful with email marketing. An excellent metaphor for this process is a farmer caring for his fields. From planting the seeds, until the final harvest, a consistent approach is critical for achieving results. This article explores best practices for email marketing from the perspective of a successful gardener.

The Marketing Lifecycle
According to marketing guru Jay Conrad Levinson, you have to get your message across to a prospect 9 times in order to turn them into a customer. However, since the prospect is only paying attention 1 out of 3 times that your message is viewed, you actually have to touch the prospect 27 times! Note that this includes any form of contact with the prospect, not just email. Combining multiple forms of contact with email, like telephone calls or postal mail, can help pierce through the “fog of war” much more quickly. Also note that simply blasting out 27 emails will almost surely NOT convert your prospect. Just like 9 women cannot produce 1 baby in 1 month, so the proper lifecycle must be followed in order to achieve your desired response.

Choosing The Soil
Different kinds of crops need to be grown in different soils. You have to plant in the right place to successfully grow most crops. Likewise, going after the wrong prospects with the wrong offer is a waste of both the prospects time, and your own.

Planting The Seeds
How your prospect first discovers you is critical to establishing the “tone” for the relationship. You must create a strong positive association with your brand by using techniques like relationships with other brands they already know and trust. And you must avoid strong negative associations by not using spam or other widely disliked marketing techniques.

Watering The Fields
You must maintain contact in order to cultivate your prospect into a customer. Failing to keep “top of mind” when the prospect or customer is ready to make a purchase will result in them going elsewhere for the products or services that they require. Variations on a consistent theme are more effective at building the necessary recognition.

Too Much Is As Bad As Not Enough
Too much contact in too short a period of time, even quality contact, is not a good thing. The recipient will tire of messages that occur too frequently. At best, this will result in less attention being paid to your message, lower click-thrus, and a higher number of opt-out requests. At worst, it can increase your number of complaints, or just simply turn potential customers off from doing business with you.

Pulling The Weeds
You need to constantly remove individuals who either are no longer interested, or should not have been on your list in the first place. Like weeds in a garden, they consume time, space, and resources that should be focused on the prospects that will eventually pay off.

Follow The Almanac
Create a marketing calendar to coordinate your email marketing. Timing your email campaigns to build off of and support your other marketing efforts is highly effective. Likewise, being aware of other dates and events key to your specific industry, or for the specific target market that you are trying to address can help increase the impact of your communications.

The Weather Can Change Suddenly
Unexpected opportunities or threats can and will arise. Being able to respond both well and quickly is essential. Remember that you cannot control the weather, however. Sometimes the only appropriate response is to simply wait for the right time to take action.

Weigh The Harvest
Don’t just measure how many people respond, measure the bottom line results of those responses. Just like “buying the business” (offering a loss leader in order to “acquire” a customer) is not a sustainable model, so tracking only click-thrus without tracking both conversions and profits from those associated sales does not present an accurate picture of the actual value to the business.

Like farming, a careful balance in your email marketing plan between doing too much and too little makes all the difference in the final results. Create a well thought-out strategy, carefully execute on it, and measure the results. Repeat. This is the basic formula to successfully use email marketing.

This Web Marketing article was written by Ron Evans on 3/21/2005