The idea of marketing to a specialized niche of very active customers and then using that base to recruit in a viral way is new to the internet but one that goes way back in the non internet world of marketing. It is well known that if you create an elite group of dedicated customers, they will become a recruitment army for your business and become your marketing team that works for free without even knowing they are doing so.
This approach to marketing is not as focused on email communications as many of our internet marketing efforts were ten years ago. But that is a good thing for two reasons. The first reason is that dynamic marketing, meaning selling through a relationship model is far more effective and yields a higher per sale basket total as well as a much higher incidence of repeat sales than cold call selling and it is far less frustrating.
The second reason is that using email as the backbone of your sales program has become more and more problematic because of the influence of spam and spam filters which have made the free flow of marketing emails much more difficult to manage. Because spam filtering has become so aggressive and so successful, email delivery of marketing material is harder to do and takes a greater investment of time and ongoing knowledge that pulls you away from your customers and from your businesses. So the migration to dynamic selling and away from cold call and mass marketing email techniques is a natural evolution of the internet marketing model in the new century.
So the online experience of your customer takes on a greater importance in your marketing plan. But you will find that devoting more time and money to building a web "place" that your customers participate in actively will be far more rewarding than any scattershot approach to email marketing could ever be even before the eruption of spam which made email delivery such a nightmare.
One way to give your customers the feel of being part of your organization is to build a specialized membership area of your web site that customers must make an extra effort to become part of. In fact, many online retailers actually charge a small fee to be part of this membership site. That is effective because the fee gives your members the sensation of being part of a closed community and the revenue is good for your cash flow.
Your customers who chose to become part of the membership area of your web site should get some special privileges and rewards for their elevated status. So you might create a discount card that creates a desire to spend more in your online store only for those customers who are part of the elite membership area. Your customers will think they are getting something very special when in fact, all you are doing is exchanging a small part of your mark up for greater volume of sales which is always a good trade off for you as a retailer.
One of the big values of creating a membership area is that those who populate that membership can become part of the team to make contributions about future product or service offerings. This is tremendously valuable to your development teams because the more you "pick the brains" of your customers, the more you will offer products or services that are going to be a success when they hit the market.
You will see a greater sense of brand loyalty grow out of the people who enjoy exclusive membership in your reserved area of your web site. Make it a point to make that part of the site look elegant and luxurious. Its all just graphics but in cyberspace, graphics have a reality all their own. And don't take your eye off of the goal of using the membership area for recruitment of new customers through referrals or to take marginal customers and make them devotees as well. A few gift memberships can go a long way toward accomplishing those goals.