Developing an E-mail Marketing Campaign

By Scott Meldrum
March 10, 2006

As president and founder of HypeCouncil, Scott Meldrum oversees the development and implementation of online advertising, publicity and word-of-mouth marketing campaigns for top brands and Fortune 500 clients. HypeCouncil’s measurable online marketing strategies have generated high sales-driven returns for companies in various industries. For more information, visit www.hypecouncil.com.

E-mail is fast becoming the preferred communication vehicle, whether you are the sender or the receiver. For health clubs e-mail marketing can be more effective than standard marketing strategies, such as direct mail and traditional advertising, because it’s cost-effective, immediate, based on a fairly intimate one-on-one relationship and highly measurable. In terms of sales, Marketing Sherpa, a well-known research firm, found that click-to-purchase rates were up 28 percent in 2005, and orders per e-mail delivered increased 18 percent.

Another added benefit is the pass-along or viral effect, an increasingly important tactic to pull in more potential clients and increase membership sales. If your e-mails are relevant and compelling enough to your opt-in recipients, the probability that they’ll forward it to their peers is significantly higher than any other communication format.

Ultimately, the goal of a successful e-mail marketing program for a health club is threefold. First, you must achieve a continuously growing list of opt-in leads who want to receive your e-mails. Then you need those leads to forward your messages to their peers. Once they do so, you can attain a positive, tracked rate of leads who visit your site and browse, learn, register and ultimately sign up.

Here are a few tips to get your e-mail marketing program started on the right track.

1. Develop a welcome strategy. Someone was interested enough in your club—either through your Web site, an event or having signed up at your facility—to give you his/her e-mail address and permission to send him or her an e-mail. Now it’s up to you to initiate that all-important dialogue and seal the deal. Statistics show that welcome messages get nearly twice the response rate as regular e-mail. In the personalized message you send immediately after successful registration, thank the person for his/her interest, restate the benefits of signing up with your club and offer him or her an incentive to engage in further conversation with your company. This last part can be a promotional coupon to be redeemed at the club, a special discount for referrals, or a form to submit his/her first tip or question to your e-newsletter.

2. Create content that meets your audience’s needs. A customer-centric approach will deliver better sales results. First and foremost, the e-mail content should inform and excite your customers and genuinely help them achieve their fitness and health goals. Then, artfully blend in the messages aimed toward creating new sales and bottom-line boosting opportunities, such as discounts for in-gym merchandise or workout-complementing services.

3. Include a call-to-action. Every e-mail communication should have a call-to-action or send-to-a-friend capability. This not only broadens your sales-lead network, but you also achieve instant credibility with the person who receives the recommendation from a person he or she knows. Plus, you can track what type of content is passed along more than others, which recipients are “ambassadors” (consider offering them additional rewards for their loyalty) and more. Be sure the call-to-action button or link is prominently displayed within the e-mail.

4. Get readers to click. You want to make the transition from your e-mail message to your Web site as seamless as possible. The easiest way to do this is to maximize the number of links within your e-mail content. For example, if your monthly e-newsletter has a diet tip of the month, link the header to the portion of your Web site that archives previous diet tips of the month. Don’t forget to link your logo to your home page.

5. Track, analyze and optimize. Take the time to review the loads of statistics created by your e-mail marketing reporting tools and Web site analytics. Find out what your recipients are telling you by their actions and behavior. What is the open rate? What links do they click on? Do they download and redeem the coupons offered in your e-mails? Do they forward your e-mails, and if so, to whom and how many? Do the people they shared your content with click back to your Web site and sign up? Use this data to continuously improve your program.

6. Never send unsolicited e-mails. You must have the recipient’s permission to communicate to them via e-mail, and you must specifically define the nature of your e-mail contact. Federal laws also require that any commercial e-mail must have an opt-out mechanism that allows the recipient to end subsequent e-mails anytime from your company.