Email Marketing; It’s Not Just for The Big Boys
Not long ago, I was walking down the main shopping street in a nearby town
when I stopped in at The Sweet Spot, a bakery and sweet shop I’ve been known to
frequent. It is a great place to sit down, have a coffee and a slice of pie and reflect on all the good things life has to offer. Without question, it has always been the happiest, sweetest place I know. When I’m down, I go there to feel better. When I’m feeling good, I go there to feel great.
I sat down at the counter, set up my laptop and then greeted Betty, the owner of the shop.
“How’s the blueberry pie today?”
“Piping fresh,” she said.
“Then please bring over a slice of the pie and coffee.”
She brought over a generous slice, along with a cup of my favorite coffee.
“Thanks, love,” I said, happily accepting my order. I set my laptop to the side to make
way for the pie and then enjoyed some pie and sipped my coffee. In between, I tapped away at my laptop, checking email and surfing the Web. After a few minutes, I looked around the shop. Even for this time of day, it seemed curiously empty. “Where is everyone?” I asked, half-jokingly. “Have I missed out on a national holiday or
Betty came over and shrugged. Then she leaned her elbows on the counter. “You
tell me,” she said. “To be honest, business has been getting slower and slower. I don’t know how I’m going to stay open.”
This last bit of news filled me with apprehension. “What do you mean?” I asked
anxiously, suddenly fearful of the day when Betty’s blueberry pie might not be available whenever I fancied a slice.
“Business is tough. Rents are high. I’ve got salaries to pay. I need to sell more
pie and sweets to make a profit.” She glanced around her shop. The booths were bright and cheery. The floor, highly polished. The display cases were filled with delicious pies and gorgeous sweets. There was a brilliant coffee aroma filling the air. It was, by every standard, a bright and cheery place. “I thought that I’d get more people when I went to the wi-fi service,” she said. “Students. Office workers. Whatever. And it helped. But still not enough to get enough of them through the doors and into the shop.”
I knew that the Sweet Spot was everything people like me – and a lot of other
people – would love. So why weren’t more people here? I sipped my coffee and then
looked her directly in the eye. “Have you advertised?”
“Of course. In all the usual places…”
“Aha,” I said. “What do you mean, all the usual places?”
“I’ve put an advert in the local newspaper,” she said. “I’ve made nice displays for
the window.” She looked directly at me. “I sent out coupons in a mailing, which was
successful, but that cost too much money to do often.” She lowered her eyes. “I don’t
know what else to do.”
“Newspaper? Displays in the window? Coupon in snail mail? Betty, luv, it’s
time you entered the twenty-first century,” I said, my voice both sympathetic and gently critical.
She looked at me curiously. “I don’t understand.”
“You’ve put in wi-fi for your customers, which is great, but you haven’t even
begun to use technology for your own benefit. You need to take advantage of the
Internet and technology to grow your business.”
“You mean the Internet?”
“For starters. I’ll bet you don’t even have a web site.”
“A web site? I wouldn’t know where to begin. Besides, isn’t the Internet for the
big shops and stores?”
“Not at all. It’s for people just like you with shops just like yours.”
“But what do I do? Where do I start? I don’t know how,” she explained.
I smiled. “Then, my dear, you have just served some delicious blueberry pie to
someone who can help you.”
“Have I now?” she asked, meeting my smile with an even broader smile of her
“Indeed you have.”
“Would you like another slice of pie?”
I raised my hand in protest. “I couldn’t. But, if you’d be so kind as to refill my
coffee, I’d be glad to start to help.”
In short order, my coffee was refilled and Betty was seated beside me at the
counter. I explained to her that “bricks and mortar” shops like hers were at risk unless they learned to compete in a world that was becoming rapidly wireless. “Not that long ago, you could have rested easy that you would do fine – as you’re the only pie and sweet shop on the block. But now High Street exists in virtual space and there are hundreds of shops there for people to visit.”
“But people can’t eat on the Internet,” Betty protested. “And they can’t have a
slice of blueberry pie on the Internet.”
“Right you are. However, because of the Internet, they can get blueberry pie from
a shop in France and have coffee beans shipped directly to their homes from Colombia.
There’s a shop in Melbourne that is half the size of yours that is sending sweet to a
customer in London right now.
She waved her hands in the air, getting flustered and overwhelmed. “All right, all
right. I get it. I’m not a complete loon, you know. I know the Internet is important. But
you’re saying that I can use the Internet to get more customers and make more money?
You’ve got my attention. But how do I do it?”
I smiled. “First, you have to stop thinking of the Internet as a foreign country – as
someplace out there – and start thinking of it concretely as everyone’s High Street. Once you are able to do that, everything else I’m going to say will start to make a bit more sense.”
She shuddered and then she nodded warily. “Okay, I can do that I think.” Then
she let out a low whistle. “My little shop, here in reality, is competing with shops all
over the world and you tell me I have to think of the shops on the Internet concretely.”
I laughed. “I guess when you put it that way, it can seem a bit topsy-turvy. But I
promise you, it isn’t. What’s more, it is simply the way of the world so the sooner you
can manage to think of the virtual world as your world, the sooner – and more
successfully – you will be able to be part of it.
“And the sooner you will realise that the easiest and best way to communicate
with your customers and get them here, and buying your pies and sweets, is through email marketing.”
“Email marketing, what’s that?”