When we distributed our first email newsletter 10 years ago, it was a novelty. Back then, few small businesses were using email, so the open rate for that first campaign was more than 70%. Today, the best programs rarely achieve more than 20 – 25% open rates.
The decrease is caused in part by the explosion of affordable options such as Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, Delivera and AddressTwo. The ease of use and affordability of these tools has made email marketing a significant part of the marketing tool kit of most small business owners. At the same time, the broad use has flooded our inboxes. Many of your target customers are email weary. But great campaigns still deliver results, so how do you build a great campaign?
Start with an audience of people who want to hear from you. Many businesses make the mistake of putting everyone they meet on their email list, regardless of if they ask to be on the list or are a client. An unsolicited email will often do more harm than good as it may annoy and turn off a prospective customer or referral source. Email lists should be permission based.
What is a permission-based email list? While there are several types of permission-based lists, all of them boil down to the same thing. The reader has given you permission, implicitly or explicitly, to send them email.
Explicit or Affirmative Consent: They have completed a form similar to the one below or otherwise affirmatively said they want to be on your email list. They understand by completing the form they are agreeing to receive your email.
Implicit or Preexisting Business Relationship: In this case, the recipient may not have signed up directly,but there has been some type of business interaction. Perhaps they made a purchase, requested information, responded to a questionnaire or downloaded information from your website. To build our list, we offer a wide variety of free marketing tools in exchange for email addresses on our website. This strategy of exchanging content for emails has become extremely popular lately. To be sure you actually get sign ups, you need to offer unique content the visitor can’t get elsewhere.
In addition to online activities, you may add people to your list after an offline interaction. Business cards dropped into a fish bowl at a conference, seminar or trade show are examples of implicit permission. They understand that by giving you their business card, they are inviting followups. You may not, however, automatically subscribe the entire list from the conference or the membership list from an organization you belong to. While they may have an interest in your product or service, they have not asked for your information.
The same rules apply to people you meet at networking events. Just because someone politely gives you their card when asked, it does not mean they want to receive your email. What can you do? Tell them you distribute a weekly email and ASK them if they would like to be added to your list. What if they say no? Then they aren’t interested. Let it go, move on, and turn your attention to someone who cares about you, your product and your information.
And while you are here, if you would like to receive our newsletter, be sure to sign up below and receive a copy of our white paper on how to improve your email newsletter program.