I get asked the same question on a regular basis. If a business only has a limited amount of time for social media, what makes the most sense? To the surprise of many, my answer is almost always email. While everyone is talking about social media, none of those platforms will deliver the same results for a small business as a well structured, timely, relevant email campaign directed at an audience which has given you permission to contact them. Typically we see 2-4 times the engagement with email that we do with social media. If you are not getting results which are comparable to ours, it is probably because you are not using email correctly. Here are some common mistakes:
- Sending your newsletter to every breathing person (and possibly a few dead ones) you have ever met. Just because someone has given you their business card it does not mean they want to get your email. Be selective, build your list or lists with people who have demonstrated an interest by buying from you, referring a customer to you or downloading a form from your website.
- Treating your entire list like one homogeneous group. Even people who want to hear from you don’t all want the same information. Create subsets and smaller groups which, from time to time, will get different information. You don’t have to create five different newsletters, just swap out one article. For example, we have a large community of people who are not in Indianapolis who subscribe to our newsletter. Most weeks they get the standard newsletter, but if I am promoting a local seminar, I swap out the article for a link to our podcast or something else readers around the world will enjoy.
- Thinking of your email like the old company newsletter which was a quarterly round up of everything remotely relevant or interesting. Email isn’t print. People won’t linger over an email newsletter the way they did a printed piece. Take a lesson from the newspapers. Use your email for more frequent, small pieces. Use interesting headlines to get it opened and short articles and teasers with links to more information on your website.
The key is delivering simple, focused messages to stay connected. Here are just a few examples:
- A company which sells carpet has two lists (consumers and real estate agents). Both lists receive updates about carpet fashion and promotions. The real estate agents also get links to special promotions and deals just for them and their clients. These newsletters have some of the highest forwarding statistics. The lesson: sometimes a good referral list will perform significantly better than cold prospects.
- An optometrist who sends monthly reminders to patients to change their contacts along with a short eye health tip. Every few months he includes a reminder to order prescription sunglasses, an extra pair of glasses or make their next appointment.
- An HVAC contractor sends two emails. The first email is sent right after the project is completed. Sometimes it includes a short survey, other times a request to review their services on Yelp or Angie’s List. The second email automatically goes out 11 months later to remind customers to have a technician back for an annual check up. In between, the customers are added to their regular monthly email with home tips and an occasional request for a referral.
- A DJ promotes a song of the week as a way of showcasing his broad music library. Periodically he runs a contest where he offers a chance to win a free download from iTunes.
There are a lot of ways email marketing can be used beyond just a simple newsletter. Want to learn more?
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