smb-tech-trendsEmail marketing may be one of the best ways to keep in touch with your small business customers and build brand awareness. So it’s not surprising that a recent survey of 917 small business owners by Constant Contact found use of email marketing among 98 percent of respondents

The advantages of email marketing when compared to traditional direct mail marketing are considerable. For starters, email marketing is far less expensive than direct mail. Inbound marketing agency IMPACT says that in some cases, a direct mail campaign can cost 50 to 100 times more than an email marketing campaign. Emails take less time to develop, which enables you to communicate more frequently, and they can easily be shared. Also, it’s easier to track sales and user engagement online to find out who is opening your email, what links they click on and who is unsubscribing.

Email marketing also gives you the advantage of real time messages so you quickly can launch a campaign to move a product or run a limited-time offer and test messages to see what is most effective.

Optimize your email marketing campaign

When it comes to effective email marketing campaigns, there are several tactics you want to consider.

Set goals:  You don’t want to start emailing your customers and prospects without having clear goals in mind. Your campaign may be designed to help build brand awareness or announce a new offering and drive customers and prospects to your website to learn more about it. Whatever the goal, be clear about what you want the reader to do in a call-to-action and also set milestones that you can measure — for example, do you want to achieve 50 conversions  a week?

Identify prospects: Depending on the campaign and the information you want to convey, you may need to segment your customer and prospect database. The better the segmentation of your list; the greater the possibility your email will be opened and read.

Create valuable content: Content is everywhere these days and no doubt your targets are already deluged with information – especially email, even if much of it is spam. Your campaign should offer valuable information. If you introducing a new product or service; speak to customer needs, answer questions and even address market issues if appropriate.

direct mailGain attention with subject line: First impressions count and that goes for your subject head. Make sure your subject line is clear. Speak to an issue or topic that you know your customers and prospects are talking about these days and be engaging. Where possible encourage action: Learn how or respond now. Also, refrain from using the word FREE in your subject line to avoid getting automatically dumped into a junk folder by the SPAM filter.

Personalize the message: Use first names to establish an immediate connection with your customers and prospects.

Time distribution: Sending too many emails can be annoying to customers and prospects; yet by not sending enough, you may miss a buying opportunity. Generally mailing once a month is considered appropriate, though you’ll want to send several – three ideally – variations on the message to get the best response rate.

Choose the right service:

There are a lot of email marketing services to choose from. Here are some tips to help you choose one offered recently by Entrepreneur in “10 Questions to Ask When Choosing an Email Marketing Service.”  In addition to asking about cost for distribution, consider your needs in terms of:

  • Custom design or templates: Most services offer professionally-designed templates. Some services, however, let you incorporate graphics and design elements from your existing marketing materials into their products when you use them.
  • Professional consulting services: If you are looking for a long term campaign strategy, select a service that offers consulting services
  • Social media links: Many firms offer social features to let your subscribers know about your social networks.
  • Analytics: Find out the range of free, self-service analytics and reporting so you know how many people are opening your emails and what action they are taking.

What has been the most effective use of email marketing for your small business?

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