The Evolution of Email Marketing Into a Social Connection Platform
Long before Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube, there was a very basic form of social media called email. By simply copying other individuals on an email sent from one person to another, that email was distributed to a group. If any of those recipients forwarded the email to someone else, and so on and so on, the number of people who got the message grew exponentially. If that sounds familiar, it should â€“ thatâ€™s the core principle of social media.
Not surprisingly, entire companies were built around the concept of email marketing. One such company, Constant Contact, started in 1998 and today is used by more than 500,000 small businesses who pay as little as $15 monthly to send emails (often templated newsletters) to lists of prospects and customers maintained by Constant Contact.
But as recent activity suggests, Constant Contact has recognized that its core business, while essential to its success, is a platform for a much larger play: the bigger world of â€œengagement marketingâ€ (which happens to be the title of Constant Contact CEO Gail Goodmanâ€™s new book, Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins in a Socially Connected World.
Helping Small Businesses Get Found
Constant Contactâ€™s latest move, the strategic acquisition of SinglePlatform, demonstrates that the company understands the needs of its small business target audience. In a press release issued by Constant Contact about the acquisition, Gail Goodman said:
“There are hundreds of online and mobile sites that consumers use to find local businesses and make purchase decisions. Itâ€™s literally impossible for time-starved small businesses to keep up with all of them. Almost 50 percent of searches for local businesses happen without a specific business in mindÂ so itâ€™s absolutely critical that small businesses are listed everywhere to ensure they are found when and where consumers are looking. SinglePlatform makes that incredibly simple – update your information once, and itâ€™s delivered to all of the important search engines, apps, directories, and review sites.â€
Wiley Cerilli, CEO of SinglePlatform added this comment:
“The Internet is shifting from a listing directory to a discovery engine. The first step is making sure your listing is available wherever people are searching. The real magic happens when rich business information – menus, product photos, videos – is delivered at the moment that people are making a purchase decision.â€
Getting a Piece of the Local Deals Action
Constant Contact also saw an opportunity to leverage its small business customer base in another area: local deals. Constant Contact recently introduced â€œSaveLocal,â€ an online marketing tool that helps small businesses run effective, profitable deals. Originally available only to Constant Contact customers, the capability has just been made available to any business in theU.S.
In essence, SaveLocal is Groupon or LivingSocial without the middleman. According to Dave Gilbertson, VP and general manager of the SaveLocal product, â€œSaveLocal flips that model on its head and gives the merchant complete control of the deal: they control the discount amount, the terms of the deal, timing, and how many coupons to sell.Â And we’ve already seen some truly amazing results.â€
Gilbertson says SaveLocalâ€™s â€œsecret sauceâ€ is targeting a companyâ€™s customer base itself. â€œWe think that the best way to find your next great customer is through your existing customer base, rather than through a big list of consumers whho donâ€™t know much about you,â€ says Gilbertson. He says Constant Contactâ€™s way of structuring deals is working: â€œIn must the three months since SaveLocalâ€™s launch, our deal volume has put us in the top 10 among current providers.â€
And, Of Course, Going Social
Constant Contact also offers a product it calls â€œSocial Campaigns,â€ which allows its customers to create, publish, and promote special landing pages on a Facebook business page â€“ the Like page and the Reveal page. The company recently added templates that are sized specifically for the new Facebook Timeline format. New video campaign templates are also available. Constant Contact recently announced the launch of a Beta version of its new Social Campaigns Facebook App Directory, which makes it easy for Spcial Campaigns users to add additional functionality to their Facebook page right from the Constant Contact platform.
Also in the Constant Contact arsenal are products that help small businesses with Event Marketing and in executing Online Surveys.
So Much More Than Email
The evolution of Constant Contact as an online marketing provider is symbolic of the progression of email marketing itself. While email will likely remain a constant in marketing, it has morphed into a component of social connectivity. â€œForwardâ€ used to be the operative word, but today â€œShareâ€ is what online marketing is all about.
About Barry Silverstein
Barry Silverstein is a freelance writer/marketing consultant. In addition to writing for ReveNews, he is a contributing writer to Brandchannel.com, the worldâ€™s leading online branding forum. He is the author of three marketing books, The Breakaway Brand (co-author, McGraw-Hill, 2005), Business-to-Business Internet Marketing (Maximum Press, 2003) and Internet Marketing for Technology Companies (Maximum Press, 2003). Barry ran his own Internet and direct marketing agency for twenty years. You can find Barry on Twitter @bdsilv.