From the first time I received an email marketing campaign in early 2002, I saw the potential. I believed then and, 16 years later, still believe that email marketing is a powerful tool for small business owners.

It is an easy way to stay connected with customers, drive repeat business and referrals, and move prospects through your sales funnel. And when you consider the high cost of traditional advertising methods such as print, radio, and television and the ever-changing social networks that are now limiting your ability to reach your customers and prospects, email marketing is one of the most cost-effective marketing tools you can employ.

Don’t believe me? Here are just a few compelling statistics.

  • Email is almost 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined helping your business acquire new customers. (McKinsey, 2014)
  • 66 percent of consumers have made a purchase as a result of an email marketing message. (DMA, 2013)
  • Email outperforms direct mail with more than four times the return on investment. (DMA, 2013)

So now that I have made my case for email marketing, here are several things to keep in mind as you are getting started with email marketing and links to resources which will help along the way.

Permission Only

People open email from people they know, and they delete or mark as spam email from people they don’t recognize. This is why it’s critical that you always ask for permission before adding a new contact to your email list.

Be Personal

Don’t treat your contacts like names on a list, treat them like people. Ellen McDowell, the Social Butterfly, will even argue that you need to go a step further and make them feel as if they are the one person you are talking with.

Remember when someone joins your email list, they are opting-in to learn more about your business but they are not all doing it for the same reason. Some are completely new to your business and want to learn more about what you have to offer. Others are repeat customers who joined your list to make sure they’re staying up-to-date with everything you have going on. Be prepared to build segmented lists to deliver relevant content to each group.

Be Relevant

Remember that email marketing isn’t just about getting your information in front of current and potential customers. It’s also about listening to what your audience is interested in and providing an experience that’s relevant and valuable to them. Using your segmented list, you can send timely information they are likely to respond to and take action rather than simply skipping over it in their inbox.

Use your reports to identify topics which generate the most interaction and give your audience a chance to sign up for specialized messages and campaigns from time to time.

Plan Ahead

Yes, I know you have lots of things to do every day, but don’t let email fall to the bottom of the list. Take time to plan ahead. Great content starts with having a well-thought-out content plan, seasonal themes, and products and programs you will feature. Also, brainstorm a list of reliable content sources. These sources can be individuals within your organization who are experts in areas you will need to write about or industry websites and journals which contain information you may want to refer to from time to time.

Improve Deliverability

Your email is not very valuable if it doesn’t actually reach people’s inbox. One of the biggest benefits of using email marketing software like Constant Contact is that they take the necessary steps to make sure your emails are safely delivered to your recipient’s inbox.

But there are things you can do to improve your open rate as well. Look at your bounce reports and clean up emails which bounce for invalid or suspended email addresses. Keeping an eye on your bounces will help you to remove any addresses with ongoing issues and maintain high delivery rates.

Also, check your unsubscribes and spam reports. If an individual on your email list reports your email as unwanted or unsolicited, it will be marked as spam. If you consistently have a high number of spam reports it may be time to review the content you’re sending.

The best way to set expectations for your audience is to use your email sign-up page. Make sure your audience understands the value of signing up right from the start.

 Content Your Readers Want

When someone signs up to receive your email communications, they do so with the expectation of receiving something of value. If you don’t communicate clearly what that value is, your audience might lose interest quickly. Your open and click-through rates signal that interest. These metrics can be influenced by how often you send information, the time of day, the quality of your subject line, and the actual content you share,

It seems like a lot to keep in mind, but start small. Send a few campaigns, try some different approaches and see what works. Looking for more resources? Check out our Email Bootcamp:

Improve Your Email in Just Five Days.