By Steve Adams, VP of Marketing, Campaigner
If you know anyone who owns a small business, you know that small business owners wear many hats. They are in charge of sales, customer support and marketing, among many other things. In some cases even custodial services can be all in a day’s work. Holding all of these roles can be a tiresome job, and certain aspects of the business may not get as much love as others.
Oftentimes, the marketing program will take a backseat. Aside from word-of-mouth, marketing programs tend to be thought of as very expensive and extremely time consuming. Many small business owners think that having to learn to use an additional marketing service, like email marketing, let alone implementing campaigns on a frequent basis will take up a significant amount of their valuable time. This is not true!
Email marketing is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to market a small business. Getting started can seem like a daunting task, but every small business should go into it with the mindset that you don’t have to know everything about email before you can get started. The benefits that come when you finally implement email into your marketing efforts will truly amaze you.
Why small businesses should implement an email marketing program
Email marketing allows small businesses to build stronger relationships with their customers and increase trust in their brand. With a proven ROI of forty-five dollars for every dollar invested (DMA, 2008) it plays a crucial role in the success of tens of thousands of small businesses. With an ROI like that, small business owners need to know that it doesn’t take much time or effort to just get started.
When your customers check their inboxes and see an email from your company, you are staying top-of-mind, which is critical during these tough economic times. Additionally, email marketing helps small business owners alert their customers about things such new promotions, coupons and useful information or tips. By providing customers with information and content valuable to them, they’ll want to hear more from you.
How to get started with email marketing
Here is an easy to follow checklist to help guide small business owners through getting started:
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes -Take a step back and think through what you’re trying to accomplish. The best way to do this is to see things through your customer’s eyes – what would they want?
- What type of information would attract attention and get people to open, read and act on your email campaigns?
- Would they want coupons, special offers or promotions?
- Would they rather valuable information and practical tips they can use?
- Often the best e-newsletters include a mix of sales with expert opinions and advice.
Build an email marketing plan for the year. Look at the calendar, again from your customer’s perspective.
- Map out promotions, topics and campaigns that will help you reach out to your customers at the right time with the right information. Think about holidays or events occurring throughout the year that you can plan around.
- You know your customers better than anyone else, so roughing out a flexible plan for the year shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours.
- Investing time planning up front will dramatically improve the performance of your email marketing campaigns. Your customers will also appreciate getting relevant emails right when they want them.
Start building your opt-in email list. Opt-in means that your customers understand clearly that by signing up they are giving you permission to send them email communications. In addition to name and email address, think about other information that could help you target your email campaigns.
- Include a check-off box option for your customers to learn more about certain products and services as well as topics, issues and challenges that interest them.
- Use all of the tools at your disposal to gather email and customer information including a quick sign up on your homepage, paper form sign ups at the cash register or a jar for customers to drop business cards.
- Actively seek people you want to reach by attending relevant trade shows and conferences. Gather business cards, ask for permission and add them to your list!
Create an email template that reflects your brand image. Try and choose a look and feel that reflects your business and brand image.
- Think about formatting and how you want the content displayed. Leave plenty of room for images and graphics and try to make the text concise, to the point, and easy to scan.
Launch your first email campaign! Kick things off by introducing yourself and setting expectations. Let your audience know the type of information they’ll be receiving and how frequently to expect it.
- In your first campaign, don’t just sell, but also offer valuable information or tips your audience can use.
- Encourage feedback to begin an ongoing dialogue with customers, allowing you to continually gather more detailed profile information to improve the targeting of future campaigns.
Your email campaign is a work in progress. The important thing is to take the first step and send your first email. From there, it will grow with you as you learn the tricks of the trade. By following this checklist you should have a good idea how to kick things off. It doesn’t take much time or money, it just takes a few simple steps and you clicking send. So go ahead
just get started!
Steve Adams is VP of Marketing for Campaigner, a provider of email marketing solutions. Steve Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org