Despite the current economic crisis, this is probably the best time to try to start a new small business.  With so many free and affordable resources, the investment to get started, is smaller then ever.   One of the best, and cheapest tools is email marketing. And if used correctly, with a permission based list, one of the most effective.

Ray Lamb writes a compelling argument for getting an email program started.  He says:

The third key to effective small business email advertising is consistency. The power of email is that it allows you to maintain regular, laser-targeted contact with your prospects and customers, thereby building a relationship with them.

Relationship is the foundation of incremental sales. Your competitors are using email to build relationship with their customers, and trying to do so with YOURS. You absolutely must meet and surpass them, or you will find your customers defecting, and your business growth slowing.

I am not endorsing building a list by simply adding anyone and everyone you meet, or even hear about, they will just unsubscibe anyway.   Use the tool wisely to stay connected with customers, bring them something of value and they will stay with you.

Here a few tips to keep readers coming back:

  1. As you begin your email program, create multiple categories.  And put people in the category they fit best.  While your list is small you may send the same email to everyone, but as your data base grows, it is painful to try to separate the names to create more niched communication.  Today, my email lists are split between local and out of town companies, with a separate group for HVAC industry ( this was my roots), I have biz owners and non biz owners, and a Men’s list and Women’s list to distribute my event lists.  – Create subgroups which are relevant to your business.
  2. Content first – Your readers receive a lot of email.   How do you earn the right to be opened and read?  Present information of interest, this may or may not be directly related to your product, but it will keep readers coming back.
  3. Earn the right to Sell – My favorite example of this is the weekly newsletter from Joe’s Butcher Shop – Every week he sends out a recipe.  His customers love it, because not only does Joe know fish and meat, he’s a good cook and he shares his favorites.  After the Recipe, the newsletter is filled with information on specials and events in downtown Carmel.  All the way at the bottom is a coupon good for one week.  Every week, Joe sells whatever he features.
  4. Monitor performance.  Look at open rates, and opt-outs.  These numbers will tell you if you are using or abusing the tool.  When I first started using email six years ago, my open rates were around 50- 65%.  But email is very common now, and people are constantly being added to lists.  So with industry averages hovering around 20%  i no long expect that level of interest.   However, if I see a sudden drop, i back up.  Am I sending too much email?  Or the wrong type?
  5. Adjust and go forward – There is no one right formula, but practice, and revisions will make it better!

Do you have an email secret you would like to share? Or an email pet peeve?  Both are welcome

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