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Effective Email Marketing for Small Businesses

By Laura Sherman | Small Business

Keeping the doors of your small business opens can depend upon your ability to market to potential clients. With a plethora of options open to you, it can be overwhelming and difficult to decide which marketing tools to use.

Email marketing has been a mainstay strategy throughout the technological era. In 1978, Gary Thuerk of Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) revolutionized the industry when he sent four hundred emails to potential clients. Although Encyclopedia Britannica refers to this incident as the origin of spam, the fact is that this pioneer sold $13 million of his product through that effort.

Prior to this, companies were limited to direct mail for advertising. Using the postal service could cost a small fortune and your materials might end up in the trash as junk mail. On top of that, a two percent response to a direct mailing was considered excellent! Since its inception, email marketing has trumped direct mail in many ways.


Comparing social media with email marketing

While social media may appear to be the center of many small business marketing strategies, an effective email blast is a far more dependable way to increase your customer base. It allows you to create a personal voice for your existing customer base, the people who have already expressed an interest in purchasing from you.

Facebook is one of the most popular websites for social media marketing. However, as with many social media sites, their algorithms are always changing. Today, if you don’t spend money advertising with Facebook, the chances of your fans actually seeing your posts are minimal. 

In 2012, Michael Bernstein, assistant professor of Computer Science at Stanford University, determined in his postdoctoral research that thirty-five percent of your Facebook friends actually see your posts. More recently, that figure has dropped to six percent, and pages with many fans can be as low as two percent. In fact, managing director of Social@Ogilvy, Marshall Manson, boldly predicts, “Organic reach for the content brands publish in Facebook is destined to hit zero. It’s only a matter of time.” 

With email marketing, you hold the reigns. You are the one to decide how often your list hears from you. Also, you can track precisely how many clients are actually opening your email. A success email campaign can take time to build, but that’s true with any good marketing plan.


Collecting email addresses

When it comes to email lists, the old adage size doesn’t matter just isn’t true. It could be argued that with email lists size is the only thing that matters! After all, if Shakespeare were reincarnated as an entrepreneur, his beautifully poetic words might be rendered irrelevant if his email list was miniscule.

As an email marketer, your job is to continue to find new and creative ways to expand your list. Fortunately, the options are limitless. Here are just a few ways you can encourage a visitor to subscribe to your newsletter:

  • Offer to send a free mini-eBook.
  • Create a contest with giveaways each month for new subscribers.
  • Offer special discounts available only through your newsletters.
  • Invite friends to subscribe through social media.

In addition, there are a few strategies you can use to increase your list, which are quick, easy, and take advantage of tools you are most likely currently employing:

  • Create a pop-up window on your website, offering to sign them up for your newsletter.
  • Include an opt-in link with your email signature (for new emails and replies).
  • Offer incentives to employees for adding new subscribers.

If you have a brick-and-mortar business, I recommend you use all the online methods discussed earlier to engage new subscribers; however, there are also a few traditional ideas you can try:

  • Put sign-up sheets by every cash register.
  • Allow customers to subscribe in-store via a tablet or laptop. You can make it part of every transaction.
  • Offer a monthly prize for those customers who drop their business cards in a box. Make sure to get their permission to add their names to your email list.
  • Always ask for business cards at networking meetings or trade shows.
  • Host events with door prizes for everyone who subscribes.


Tips for keeping your readership

Billions of emails are sent whizzing into inboxes every day. With that kind of activity, you need to get noticed without becoming a nuisance. The last thing you want is to find your well-crafted emails sitting in your customer’s trash or junk folder.

Just as you’d spend time creating the perfect title for a book you were writing, the same goes for the subject line of your email. Strive to make it catchy but not too long. Hint at the content, which will make the email irresistible to open.

Another tip is to find the best time to launch your emails. There is really no magic time, as it really depends upon your reader’s habits and behaviors, the industry you’re in, as well as when your competitor tends to send their email. Ideally, you want to time it so that your email doesn’t get lost in your subscribers’ inboxes. According to Experian, emails sent on the weekend have the highest open rate and ones sent between 8:00pm to 4:00am have the best response rates overall. 

Finally, if you really want to appeal to your subscribers, avoid faking familiarity with them. Addressing the email directly to them can do more harm than good, especially if their name is misspelled. Instead, focus on directing emails to the correct demographic and interest of the client. Those elements are more likely to trigger a positive reaction and produce loyalty.


Content strategies

When you have a good-sized subscriber list, you will need to find compelling content that encourages people to not only open your email, but to read it as well. There are three main strategies you can employ: articles, offers, and surveys.

Keep every article fresh and relevant. Don’t simply copy content you find on the internet. Copied content can be riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, making you seem unprofessional to readers. It also won’t carry your unique voice. In addition, avoid reusing content from previous email blasts. It’s important to provide unique articles written with your readers in mind.

When you offer your subscribers a deal, try to avoid sounding like you’re advertising your products or services to them. Instead, give friendly, helpful advice and throw in a discount at the end aimed at their needs. 

Surveys can be helpful in determining the interest of your client base, so that you will know how to better serve them. It’s always a good idea to get continual feedback. Most people are willing to share their opinions (good and bad) with you if asked, and a survey helps to keep your business in their minds.

When looking into which promotional avenues to pursue, consider producing a quality email marketing campaign. It’s relatively free, easy to produce and maintain, and more importantly, it’s effective.

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