For the small business owner, email marketing can be a low-cost and highly-effective way to stay in contact with existing customers as well as prospects. However, email marketing may be a bit of a mystery to you, so let me run through the basics, including: what exactly email marketing is, what it can do for you, and how to get started with an email marketing service.
In a nutshell, email marketing is a type of direct marketing that uses email as the correspondence mechanism. Direct marketing means you are communicating directly with your customers or prospects.
The communication is based upon a permission-based email list which your customers and prospects will opt-in to before they start receiving the communications. So, instead traditional hard copy mailing where you may be sending out advertising to people that may not be the exact right fit, your emails will go to the people who want to hear from you, since they chose to opt-in.
What You Can Do With Email Marketing
Building your email list is the first step. You may ask yourself how to build an email list. You can put an easy fill-in form on your company webpage and blog. Those interested in getting on your list just type in their name and email address. You can add a link on your email signature that invites people to join your email list.
Once you have gathered momentum and have your email list, you are now ready to put it to use. Depending on the email marketing service provider that you use, there are a variety of things that you can do once you have built your list.
You can use email marketing to send your clients a regular newsletter, but you may wonder how to start an email newsletter. Well, bottom line, it’s all about good content.
Depending on your business, it could contain tips/tricks of the industry, announces sales and special, provide biographies of new team members at your company or highlight any awards or recognition that your company received. Your newsletter content should be valuable and keep you in your customers mind as the “go-to” person for the services or product that you provide.
If you already maintain a blog, AWeber, a leading email marketing service provider, has a feature that lets you automatically create a newsletter that gets sent to your customers based upon your blog posts. You can tailor the frequency of these mailings as well (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly).
Tim Carter is the founder of a home improvement resource www.askthebuilder.com and also a nationally-syndicated newspaper columnist. He used an email marketing service to let people subscribe to his newsletter and also to send it out. He noted that “results were outstanding.”
A built-in feature on most email marketing software programs is that they have an auto responder function. What this means is that as soon as someone signs up to be on your email list, they will get a pre-determined automatic response from you. It can welcome them, let them know what to expect being on your email list and you can also provide them links to certain content so they can immediately get engaged with your website or blog.
You can even set up your auto responder to deliver a series of email follow ups. Say for example you tell your customers if they sign up for your email list you will provide them with 5 tips that are relevant to your industry.
For example, say you are a professional organizer. After someone signs up with your email list you can automatically send them on email a day for five days. Each email would have a different tip on how to get organized (e.g., tips for clearing clutter, getting a handle on your closet, etc.).
If you own a restaurant you could send a series of emails, with each one highlighting a dish on your menu and telling the story of how it became part of your menu. For example, was it your mother’s secret recipe, or does it remind you of a certain vacation you took?
Finding an Email Marketing Software Provider
If email marketing sounds like it might be a good match for you, the next step is to find an email marketing software program provider. I have been using email marketing for a few years now and I am a huge fan of AWeber (http://www.aweber.com). They provide an easy to use e-mail marketing service that is popular with small business owners in a variety of industries.
At their core, they are an email list building software provider, which is the critical item for building your email list. However, they also have additional features like automatic newsletter building from blog posts, updating your Twitter followers using an AWeber to Twitter feature, auto responder options, and email list management tools, to name a few.
AWeber also provides a solid knowledge base including forums and videos so you can learn additional tricks and tips as you develop your presence in email marketing.
AWeber also lets you sign up and get your first month for $1. Giving it a try for 30 days is a great way to see the full functionality and determine if it might be a good fit for your marketing strategy. Seriously, for just $1, you don’t have much to lose.
Meeting Legal Requirements
Email marketing does require that you adhere to the requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.This act sets rules relating to commercial-oriented email, sets rules for commercial messages and also requires that the email recipient can request that you stop emailing them (also knowing and unsubscribing or opting-out).
Using an email list provider like AWeber will make sure that you are always on legal grounds. On each email that AWeber sends for you, it includes an unsubscribe link and also a mailing address for you, the sending. I love the fact that I don’t have to worry if I am complying with CAN-SPAM, since I know AWeber is keeping up to date on this topic and adjusting their email format accordingly.