With the crazy growth of social media, experts predicted that email would die. That isn’t even close to happening! People still subscribe to lists. And, even though email is now a middle-aged technology, it is still useful and universally accepted. After all, nearly everybody has an email address.
For small businesses, email continues to be an effective way to establish and maintain relationships with customers. And when social media is baked into your email strategy, it encourages cross-channel interaction. Before starting a program or when taking a fresh look at the one you have, consider the following email marketing basics.
1. What to say. Do you know what your email marketing program goals are? Is the purpose of your emails to educate, or to start a dialogue? Or is it to inform your customers of industry news? Be sure to consider what’s in it for the subscriber. Figuring out the purpose will help determine content. Keep your audience engaged and interested with email content that is relevant to them.
2. Be personal. Unlike some other forms of marketing, email is one-to-one correspondence. Remember that you are not addressing a group or a list. Each message is delivered to one inbox to be read by one person. Your email marketing program can be used to build trust, develop relationships, and help you become a trusted source.
3. Be social. Don’t forget to include social media links in your emails. If you send content that your audience likes and make it easy for them to socialize it, your subscribers can extend your email marketing reach beyond just your list. Plus, social media sharing can spark conversations, giving you even more opportunities to establish new business relationships and nurture existing ones.
4. Be mobile-friendly. The percentage of emails read on a mobile device has risen from 13% in late 2010 to over 36% during the first half of 2012. And, in the next 6 to 12 months, it is predicted that over half of all emails will be opened on a mobile device. (Source: Knotice Mobile Email Opens Report, September 2012) It’s more important than ever for email marketers to optimize for mobile.
5. Build your list. Don’t buy or rent lists. Instead, ask past customers and contacts if they would like to receive regular email communications from you. It’s okay to start small! Look for other opportunities to get opt-ins by including an opt-in link in your email signature and on your website or by using a sign-up sheet. One sure-fire way to destroy trust and damage a relationship is to add someone to your list who doesn’t want to be there. Always always always get permission.
6. How often to send. Stay in touch regularly, but not too often. Many email marketers recommend sending not more than once a week and not less than once a month. If you want to email more frequently, state that on your opt-in form or sign-up sheet so your subscribers know what to expect.
7. Don’t spam. Use an email provider that automatically includes an unsubscribe link on your emails so people can opt out of your list. Even non-commercial emails (according to the CAN-SPAM Act) can be considered spam if unwanted by your recipients. When it comes to email, the general consensus is, “If I didn’t ask for it, it’s spam.”
Email will continue to be an affordable and effective way of strengthening customer relationships for the foreseeable future, so if you don’t have an email marketing program, now’s the time to start!