Small Business Email Marketing

I’ve written on this topic in the past, but it’s so important I think it’s worth revisiting.  As I write this, I’m printing a coupon I received via email this morning.  It’s from a company that emails me often and I look fortward to their messages.

Here’s the thing.  It costs virtually nothing to send email.  You’re already paying for the bandwidth whether you use it or not and you don’t need expensive software.  In fact, you probably have what you need on your computer already.

There are two ways you can use email to build your business.  The first, and probably most effective method is the newsletter.  It’s also the one that requires the most work and discipline on your part.  If you decide to send out a monthly, or even weekly newsletter, you have to be prepared to meet the schedule.  As the “king of the procrastinators” I can promise you that your newsletter will fail very quickly if you don’t keep on schedule.  Unless you (or someone on your staff) is willing to commit to a regular schedule, you might not want to go the newsletter route, at least not yet.

The other option is irregular email updates, done on an as-needed basis.  What’s “as needed”?  It’s something that goes out when, and only when, you have something to say.  For example, to promote a sale, an exciting new item, or an event.  While it may be tempting to use email as a jump start during a slow period, if your communications don’t offer a value to the reader, either in the form of a special sale or valuable information, he or she will soon start hitting the “delete” button every time your name shows up in the “From” field of their email client.

I’m shocked and amazed at how many otherwise excellent business people don’t maintain a customer database with email addresses.  Your customers are your most valuable asset.  Why would you let them decide when you’re going to have a conversation?  That’s what you’re doing when you don’t have their contact information.  To reach them, you’re either going to have to run an expensive ad, or you’re going to have to wait until they come to you.

I think the reason why email is so poorly used, especially by small businesses, lies in the idea that a marketing messaged is somehow “junk” or “spam”.  If that’s what you think, get over it!  That’s step 1 in a successful email campaign.  Spam is an unsolicited email promoting something you aren’t interested in.  It’s sent to a purchased list of email addresses with no regard to the person’s interest in the product.  A solicitation from a total stranger to buy a product that “enhances” some body part or other is spam.  Gardening tips from the neighborhood hardware store who got my email address from me is something of true value.  (True value-hardware store.  Get it?)  It’s something I would open and read.  If the mailing included information on a sale on grass seed, or reminding me to get my lawn mower sharpened before grass-cutting season starts, so much the better.

If it’s ok for your dentist to contact you twice a year to remind you it’s time for a checkup and cleaning, it should be ok for your auto repair shop to remind you that it’s time to get your car ready for winter and summer.

So stop thinking that you’re bothering me by sending helpful, informative messages.  And make sure everyone on your staff understands this or the next step just won’t work.

Step 2 is to build your customer database.  Every single person you deal with, whether they buy anything or not, should be asked for their email address.  This is where step 1 becomes important.  If you or anyone who works for you has a negative attitude about the messages you’re sending out they won’t ask for the contact information.  On the other hand, if they’re really excited about your email campaign, they’ll be enthusiastic about making sure no one is left out. Asking for contact information must be part of everyone’s job description.

To recap, your email campaign will be successful if:

  • Your mailings offer something of value to the customer.
  • You and your staff understand that you’re sending out valuable information, not “spam” or “junk”.
  • You get contact information from every single customer and prospect for your database.

That’s it.  It’s not rocket science.  It’s not brain surgery.  You don’t even have to stay at a Holiday Inn Express.

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3 Responses

  1. […] mlbuckley placed an interesting blog post on Small Business Email Marketing « Mining the StoreHere’s a brief overviewIt’s sent to a purchased list of email addresses with no regard to the person’s interest in the product. A solicitation from a total stranger to buy a product that “enhances” some body part or other is spam. Gardening tips from the neighborhood hardware store who got my … Building Your Small Business with Email Newsletters Part 2 · Our Five Step, Fail-Proof Permission Based Email Marketing Plan · Ten tips for email marketing · How to improve your email marketing: Part 1 … […]

  2. […] Read the original post: Small Business Email Marketing « Mining the Store […]

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