It bothers me that many small business owners have negative feelings about email marketing when it’s one of the easiest and highest converting promotional channels. Although there is a lot of hype around social media, email marketing is still the most effective tool for growing your business and can provide the highest return on investment compared with other marketing strategies.
If your emails are providing someone with what they want, then people will read every single word you send their way. It doesn’t matter how small your business is, email is one of the best ways to build long-term relationships and grow revenue.
So, forget your personal feelings about being on email lists and put your business first with these email marketing tips.
1. Build an email list
The first thing you need to focus on is building your email database. The best place to start is with your CRM and compiling existing customer data. Be very careful about including prospect data, unless prospects have explicitly opted in to receive email marketing communications you could be liable for a fine under the Spam Act 2003 (read more here).
2. Make signing up easy
You won’t be able to grow your email list with one half-hidden signup form on your website, start capturing email addresses as soon as possible. Make sure you add subscribe forms throughout your website – on your homepage, within blog content, in the sidebar and the footer section of pages. You should also implement a pop-up app that will display your subscribe form when a person is about to leave your website, giving them one last chance to stay in touch.
3. Offer an incentive
The biggest mistake small businesses make is not offering a sign-up incentive or lead magnet. Enticing people to subscribe with the right incentive can explode your email signups. Offer something of value that people will gladly exchange their email address for, but make sure it’s relevant to your business or you will end up with a high number of unsubscribes.
Don’t be afraid to give away awesome content for free. It’s how you build trust and a relationship with your audience. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:
- A small discount or free shipping coupon
- An eBook
- A checklist
- Video tutorial or mini e-course
- Access to an exclusive Facebook group
- Stock photos
- Audio content
- Free consultation
- Guide or template
- Case study or whitepaper
- Printable Planner
- Early access to exclusive sales
- A free trial for software
4. Email marketing provider
MailChimp is free to use for up to 2,000 subscribers and is a good place to start with email marketing. It’s easy to use with drag and drop templates, so you don’t need to have any special skills to get started. However, be mindful of good branding principles when designing your template. Your email campaigns should match your brand’s look and feel, including your businesses colours consistently and add your logo in the header. If the look of your emails is consistent with your website and printed material, then readers will feel comfortable and know the emails are from you.
5. Email marketing ideas
A common concern for small businesses is what content to send in newsletters and how often. Start out with once per month or fortnightly, and create a schedule of ideas so that you’re always prepared. You’ll quickly see the positive impact of email marketing (phone calls, email leads, quote requests, purchases etc.) each time you hit send, so work hard to create great content and stick to a consistent schedule.
Regarding content, always consider whether it’s something your customers will care about (this is the key to high open rates). With more emails being sent than ever before, you need to think about your customer’s needs and create content that will stand out. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:
- Sales, specials or coupons
- Your latest blog articles
- Breaking news within your industry
- New products or services
- ‘How to’ guides featuring your products/services
- Sneak previews of projects
- Customer testimonials
- Event invitations
- Feature top sellers
- Round up experiences from conferences or community events
- Seasonal promotions
Creating an interesting subject line will also have an impact on how many people open your emails. MailChimp allows you to easily split test an email to try two different subject lines. You’ll learn a lot about your audience by testing and comparing the results. Another tip is to personalise your email with the customers first name, ie. Dear *|FNAME|* or Hey *|FNAME|*; and write in first-person.
6. Get comfortable with analytics
MailChimp and other good email providers will offer free reports that contain helpful information about your email campaigns. It’s important to read and understand these reports so that you can use the insights to improve your email campaigns going forward.
Pay attention to:
- How many people open the email
- How many people click on a link within the email
- How many people unsubscribe
Look for patterns that make these numbers go up or down. If an email receives a high number of unsubscribes, then try something different the next time. However, be aware that a certain number of people will unsubscribe from each email, which will grow as your email list grows. This is normal, so don’t get discouraged.
You may be wondering why I’m lecturing you on email marketing when I clearly have no email sign-ups on my website? The truth is I receive enough freelance work from SEO and referrals, so building an email list for this business isn’t a priority. However, email marketing was extremely important when I had an online store and sales would always peak when I sent out an email campaign. Repeat orders were largely driven by email marketing. Selling more to existing customers is a sure-fire way to grow revenue.
Email marketing truly is one of the best ways for your small business to grow. It takes time to build an engaged audience, but it will be worth it and is your best defence against competitors and noisy social media channels.