Networking is core to growing a small business, communicating through email is a close second
In previous posts we saw the need to answer two really basic questions: So what? Which helps you focus on what makes your product unique in the market. Who cares? Which helps you identify your real consumer groups
Beginning with real nuts and bolts of actions you can take to market your small or medium-sized business, we saw that we could divide marketing tools along two lines:
And we examined “Networking”: Networking organizations, pros and cons and how to take advantage of it.
Email marketing is the second most important tool you have.
- Email, particularly those that you signed up for, have a good purchasing influence
- You already have a database or, at least, a starter database
- Many services are either free or cost very little
- Email is very flexible in terms of content and timing so, essentially, you can send pretty much whatever you want whenever you want
What can you do with email?
There are three basic messaging types you can do with email:
- A regular “personal” email. Going back to our CPA example, this would be an email along the lines of “Dear Joe: As tax season approaches, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you how valuable you are as a client and include this interactive 2016 Tax Planner which will help you save many hours…” In your case, and because this is to your own clients, this would probably result in a very high open rate and downloads. Ideally, you would follow this with a personal call for high-worth clients.
- An article. Typically, this could be a formatted page with headline, photos, logos, etc. You can use this approach when selling a new service, showing a case history and, in general, doing any massive sort of communication. Again, because this is from you to your existing clients, this would probably have a high open rate but you should not be surprised if this is not very effective as we have all become jaded when it comes to advertising.
- A newsletter. This is the least effective communication tool of the three:
- We all get too many newsletters
- Most of the content you think is mesmerizing is probably not that interesting to 99% of the receivers and it is very hard to keep a newsletter creative, relevant and vibrant.
- It is amazingly easy to just designate it as “spam” and relegate it to the spam folder.
Unless you are willing to put in the time and effort needed to create and maintain a really good newsletter, I would advise against it.
Legal Realities of Email campaigns
There are very strict laws regarding email communications and marketing in the U.S.
- The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003), signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 16, 2003, establishes the United States' first national standards for the sending of commercial e-mail and requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce its provisions.
- While it does not specifically require e-marketers to get permission prior to sending email messages, it does require that you give the recipient an opt-out mechanism.
- It is enforced by most mass mailers, which will blacklist your account if you spam people.
Some key provisions:
- Unsubscribe compliance
- A visible and operable unsubscribe mechanism is present in all emails.
- Consumer opt-out requests are honored within 10 business days.
- Opt-out lists also known as Suppression lists are only used for compliance purposes.
- Content compliance
- Accurate "From" lines (including "friendly froms")
- Relevant subject lines (relative to offer in body content and not deceptive)
- A legitimate physical address of the publisher and/or advertiser is present. PO Box addresses are acceptable in compliance with 16 C.F.R. 316.2(p) and if the email is sent by a third party, the legitimate physical address of the entity, whose products or services are promoted through the email should be visible.
- A label is present if the content is adult.
- Sending behavior compliance
- A message cannot be sent through an open relay
- A message cannot be sent without an unsubscribe option.
- A message cannot be sent to a harvested email address
- A message cannot contain a false header
- A message should contain at least one sentence.
- A message cannot be null.
- Unsubscribe option should be below the message.
There are no restrictions against a company emailing its existing customers or anyone who has inquired about its products or services, even if these individuals have not given permission, as these messages are classified as "relationship" messages under CAN-SPAM.
However, note that, if you spam, your mass-mailer will blacklist you. And, besides, you don’t want your professional email campaign coming across like Nigerian Scams or something, so it pays to adhere to both, the letter and the spirit of the law.
The Nuts and Bolts of Creating an Email Campaign
There are four key steps:
- Assembling your database for transfer to the mass mailer
- Cleaning your database (making sure that all names are correctly configured and spelled, removing duplicates) though
- Segmenting your database by campaign line (e.g., retention, small business, medium business)
- Mass mailer account – a mass mailer is a company that is set up to handle millions of emails per day. Your own email account and servers are not really set up for volume mailing so, even if you only mail a few thousand per month, it is much more convenient and effective to get a mass mailer. There are several mass mailers: ConstantContact, MailChimp and dozens more.
- Creating your message:
- You should have a clear idea of the messaging you want to send prior to creating it in your mass mailer and this should include:
i.Type of campaign for each sub-segment (e.g., retention, growth, referral)
- You should also consider creating a template, not only to make it easier to load in your message, but to give your company a uniform and professional image.
- Results analysis
- All mass mailers (we will be using MailChimp for the example) will give you a complete analysis of each one of your campaigns. At this point you should be looking at:
i.Open rates – how many people actually opened your email
ii.Opt Outs – how many people asked to be removed from the list
- All mass mailers will automatically remove duplicates from your list, remove opt-outs and in general perform all the clerical tasks you need to keep your email program running smoothly.
Before we jump into the step by step guide, there is one very important factor to consider when choosing your mass mailer and creating your messages.
Be mobile friendly.
The average time spent by adults on media shows that mobile (non-voice) increased 37% from 2011 to 2015 vs. 11.4% for digital and 1.9% for media overall. And the trend shows no sign of decreasing.
The number of people using only desktop computer decreased 50% in only one year. Fully 10% of digital users use ONLY mobile to access the web. This includes email.
Mobile email is not limited to younger consumers, over 80% of all adults use their smartphones to email during a typical week.
Next- For Hispanics, especially, mobile is hugely important