Most if not all of Internet users in Africa have access to email in one form or other â€“ whether via the desktop or even on their mobile phones. As a result, email continues to gain widespread adoption as a preferred communication medium for lots of people in Africa even as SMS remains king. Both people and organisations are finding email to be a cost-effective, convenient and reliable way to stay in touch with anyone for as long as they have an email address. To this end, it is for this very reason that email, even in Africa, is also rapidly being used as a key channel for marketing and customer service initiatives. Email, used correctly, can strengthen client relationships, builds brand, and ultimately generates sales.
Email marketing by simple definition is â€œthe marketing of products and services via emailâ€. Today, permission-based email marketing is a white hot topic. The key difference between permission-based and SPAM email marketing is that in the former, the recipient can opt-in or opt-out of email communications whereas in the latter, one does not have a choice â€“ they simply keep receiving unsolicited email even if they never signed up for it. SPAM has become such a problem for email users that the United States passed the CAN-SPAM law in late 2003 which makes it a criminal offence to send SPAM. There are several flavours of email marketing that are available:
Direct email marketing.
Direct email marketing involves sending a promotional message in the form of an email. It might be an announcement of a special offer, for example. Just as you might have a list of customer or prospect postal addresses to send your promotions too, so you can collect a list of customer or prospect email addresses.
Retention email marketing.
Retention email marketing, unlike direct email marketing, is designed to encourage the recipient to take action (buy something, sign-up for something, etc.). These usually take the form of regular emails known as email newsletters or e-newsletters. An e-newsletter may carry promotional messages or advertisements, but will aim at developing a long-term impact on the readers. It should provide the readers with value, which means more than just sales messages. It should contain information which informs, entertains or otherwise benefits the readers.
Advertising email marketing.
Advertising email marketing involves putting your advertisement in e-newsletters published by others and paying them to appear in the emails they send to their subscribers. Indeed, there are many email newsletters that are created for just this purpose – to sell advertising space to others. As people tire of getting sales messages via email, it’s these quality communications that perhaps hold the most potential for the future.
Going forward, there will be many challenges for the African Enterprise to achieve the full benefit of email marketing. Some of these challenges are well known such as the lack of reliable and fast internet connectivity or the general limited uptake of the internet even as it has grown exponentially over the past decade or so. However, the benefits of this medium as a marketing channel far outweigh the limitations owing to the following:
- Price â€“ the cost of sending an email message, even in Africa is much cheaper than most of the other communication channels available today. It is possible to email an email list of thousands for no more than a few US$ Dollars.
- Personalisation â€“ most of todayâ€™s email marketing software and systems provide for personalisation of email messages distributed. This means that each recipient receives each message as if it were just to them and them only. Personalisation essentially engages the recipient in a dialogue which results in higher conversation ratios for marketing campaigns.
- Reporting â€“ Email marketing is highly targeted and traceable so that campaign reporting and analysis is practically done in real time. This enables a business to modify and reorient its email marketing campaign in record time to maximise performance.
- People â€“ Most of the people on email in Africa do represent something of an elite minority. For organisations marketing high value offerings, this is probably therefore an ideal channel to reach this target cost-effectively with a substantial return on investment.
All in all, Email marketing is undoubtedly here to stay and the future of marketing in Africa may well depend on it as a key channel as Internet usage gathers momentum throughout the continent.
This article was first published in the May 2006 edition of Marketing Africa Magazine.
About the Writer:
Moses Kemibaro is an internet marketing professional and founder of Dotsavvy Limited (www.dotsavvyafrica.com ). He can be reached on [email protected]