Using technology in general and the power of the internet specifically to increase your bottom line can be a tricky situation.
As a small business owner, you are likely bombarded with endless claims about specific software and platforms and their ability to get you new customers. While using advertising platforms like Google or Facebook can certainly help bring in new customers, the humble email might be the most effective when it comes to significantly increasing your bottom line.
Email marketing entails first acquiring email addresses of current and prospective customers (more on how to do that below), and then regularly sending an email to your “email list” with information, promotions, and anything else relevant to your customers.
The Biggest Advantages of Email Marketing
There are several reasons why email marketing is the most powerful marketing channel for many businesses.
- You are in control – Ad platforms like Google or Facebook, even your local newspaper, have strict guidelines and formats you need to comply with. Email allows for much more personal choice. You can include only text, images and links to your website, product pages, or even general information that is useful to your customers. In contrast to other platforms, the sky is the limit when it comes to what you can and can’t do through email. (Although there is one caveat explored below regarding spam filters).
- Cost-effective – Compared to other marketing channels, email is much cheaper to use. Many of the most popular email marketing services let you set up an account and send email for a low cost or even free. As the size of your email list grows, you will have to pay more, but compared to the alternative it’s much cheaper.
- Speak directly to your customers – You get to decide the messaging and can relate to your audience in your worlds. You understand their needs and are in the best position to speak to them in a way that will resonate. Email allows you to present you and your business the way you want and can be used to show that you are a human being as opposed to a huge corporation.
- Increase repeat customers – Business owners already know that getting repeat customers is much cheaper than acquiring new ones. If your recipients are getting your email, they are familiar with you and your services. Email allows you to stay top of mind so that when they need what you offer they will be more likely to think of you. And oftentimes email can spur an impulse purchase they might not have otherwise made.
Seven ways to grow your email list
With a better understanding of the power of email marketing, the logical question is “How can I grow my email list?” The best written and designed email in the world won’t do you any good if nobody gets it. Here are some ways you can collect and grow your email list.
- Ask in person – If you don’t have a list, this can be a good way to get your feet wet. Just ask existing customers in person if they would like to sign up for your newsletter. If they are a customer, chances are they are interested in what you offer.
- Your website – It is relatively simple to add an email collection form to your existing website. Most email marketing services will provide you with a tool to collect emails. Normally this is simple and involves cutting and pasting a bit of code they provide. When customers sign up their email goes right to your database.
- Business card drops – You’ve likely seen business collecting business cards at the register. If you have a physical location, post a business card collecting container prompting customers to sign up for your newsletter by simply giving you a business card.
- Sign up / promos – When asking for an email address, whether on or off-line, if you offer something of value in exchange for an email you will increase your chances of getting an email. This can be a discount or a raffle entry. Online, a free ebook is a popular way to entice visitors to provide their email.
- Existing CRM – If you have customer email already, you can use those, although you should get the user’s OK to receive email. Send them an introductory email asking them to opt-out if they don’t want to receive your emails going forward. If you already have a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) software it’s even easier to import email addresses.
- Social media – most social media platforms provide a way to collect emails. The other option is to simply include a link to your website in your post on social media. The page you link to should have a clean form asking for the user’s email.
Tips on getting the most from your email
Once you have a growing email list, the next step is to use it effectively.
- Subject line – By far, the subject line is the most important part of your email, as it often determines if the recipient will open it. A popular strategy is to attempt to arouse curiosity so that the recipient opens it. Another tactic is to specifically preview what you are offering or talking about in your email, similar to a headline in a news article. Experiment with different strategies. Email marketing services also allow you to test more than one subject line and compare metrics like open rates.
- Provide value – Don’t just email the same promo offer week after week. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and think of what would be useful to them. You likely follow your space more closely than your customers, let them know what is going on in the industry, or even your local community.
- Learn from others – The best way to find ideas about improving your emails is to see what others are doing. Sign up to get emails from companies that are similar to you to see what the competition is doing. And sign up for emails from companies you admire for even more inspiration – although you might want to set up a separate email just to receive those so that you don’t flood your inbox!
- Consistency is key – To get the most value out of email marketing it is vital that you are consistent, ideally emailing once a week. Keep in mind each email you send represents a possible sale, so the more often the better. If you don’t have the resources to email once a week, you should try to communicate with your audience at least once a month, preferably on a regular schedule.
- But within reason – You might be tempted to send emails every day, but by emailing too often you run the risk of alienating recipients who will unsubscribe.
- Legal issues – Most countries have their own set of rules governing email, and New Zealand is no exception. The Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007 lays out the rules surrounding what you can and can’t do through email.
- Spam filters – In addition to country-specific laws, most email providers (e.g. Google’s Gmail) have advanced filters that can block your emails from getting to your recipient’s inbox. These can be triggered by overly promotional language or if users identify it as spam. As an example, here are Google’s guidelines to ensure your email is delivered to the inbox.