Getting Started With Email Marketing

Email marketing is cheap and extremely effective. But there are plenty of areas where you can make mistakes. Read on for ideas as to how you could use it, and how do it right.

What’s It For?

Email provides a great ROI for many companies. They’re doing things such as:

  • Bringing People Back – Email can help encourage repeat buying. Offering updates on your new services or features, providing a coupon or news about a sale, and simply reminding customers you exist can get people back in the store or on the website. This is common for retailers, bars/restaurants, and other companies where people may purchase frequently.
  • Staying In Consideration – If you need to stay in consideration during a long buying cycle, email is a perfect tool. This is very common in B2B settings.
  • Keeping Clients Informed – If you do ongoing business with customers, they may want to stay up to date on new features or services you provide. This works even better in information-heavy industries, where you can provide useful info about your expertise. Think businesses such as financial advisors or many B2B services.

If you don’t think people would want emails from you, really consider whether that is true. Take, for instance, a garbage service – who wants emails about garbage? Perhaps people interested in when summer yard waste service ends, or how to dispose of their Christmas tree? Occasional emails might be appreciated – and could make people happier with your service.

Email Marketing Basics

Good email marketing revolves around permission and providing value.

  • Get Their Permission – You can’t send to someone unless they’ve requested your emails. It’s actually illegal. Even if you could, they probably won’t see value in the emails (see next bullet). The biggest problem small businesses have here is taking every business card they’ve ever received and making this their email list. Depending on who those people are and what your content is, this might not make everyone angry, but it’s not recommended.
  • Provide Surprising Value – With the quantity of email most people receive today, you have to provide some value to get people reading. Think about what matters to your customers – is it getting discounts? Helpful information? Updates on your company? That’s where you should focus your content. This will get your emails read, and keep customers from marking them as spam (which will eventually lead to email providers not delivering your emails).

Building Your Email List

Creating emails is work – which is pretty unrewarding if you’re only sending to a couple people. So you need to have a strategy for building a list.

  • Your website – One easy way to capture emails is through your website. Almost any email service will provide signup forms that you can add to your site. It helps if you give people an idea of what they’re going to receive, and provide some promo for signing up (the subscribe rate for my email list quadrupled when I started offering a downloadable guide to online marketing). If you’re collecting emails on your website, I recommend you require subscribers¬†double opt-in – meaning they get a confirmation email before actually being subscribed. This stops someone else from entering their email and making you look like a spammer.
  • Your Store/In Person/Tradeshows/Etc. – A second way to collect emails is when you see customers. Some restaurants include a signup card with the bill, and stores can place a signup form near the register. Tradeshows are an obvious possibility, and sales people can ask your customers. For an eye-catching idea – Mailchimp has an iPad app to let customers sign up. Don’t be afraid to ask people – you should be confident in the content you’re sending.
  • Existing Lists – I mentioned earlier not to go and add every contact you have to your marketing list. If, however, you want to jump-start things, you can send a personal email to contacts, telling them you’ll be sending emails and offering a subscribe link. This will at least give your list a base, to make writing emails feel worthwhile.
  • Buying – A final way to rapidly grow your list is to buy one. This can work, and can legally satisfy the permission requirement, but isn’t something I suggest.

Getting Started

Before collecting your first email address, you should think about everything above – and decide what kind of emails you want to send, and how frequently you want to send them. Then you can properly set expectations for your subscribers, and prepare yourself for the regular work of creating emails. Once you know what you want to do, you need to decide how you’ll actually send the emails.

Pretty much everyone knows how email, and that’s all you really need to get started, but I would recommend looking into an email service provider. Dealing with double opt-in, subscribes, and unsubscribes will get difficult if your list reaches any size. You also may have trouble getting emails ¬†delivered if sending hundreds at a time. Finally, the services will provide pretty templates and signup forms to make your emails look professional.

I use Mailchimp (silly name but serious service) for sending emails and highly recommend them – if you have list of less than 2000 they’ll even let you send for free. Some other well known providers include Constant Contact, Vertical Response, and Aweber.

Email marketing’s low cost and strong return (perhaps falling, but still excellent) make it a clear winner for many companies. Can’t think of how your business could use it? Ask the readers with a comment below.

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