If you’re running a regional business, you’ve probably already integrated email newsletters into your marketing strategy. It’s likely that you already understand the importance of leveraging email lists.
If you are a smaller business, I’m sure you’ve heard other business owners tell you to start utilizing email marketing. But you may not understand why email marketing is such a big deal.
Now a lot of smaller businesses don’t bother with email newsletters. I think that’s a shame.
Because when people sign up for your list, they are saying they want to hear more from your business.
Email is still one of the highest converting forms of marketing. More people have email addresses than they do Facebook and Twitter accounts by a multiplier of about 3x. Plus, email is a more formal and serious marketing channel for B2B than social. If your business is more focused on B2C, you can still benefit from an email list.
All forms of marketing are important. But few of them are directly correlated as email.
People who opt into your email list are volunteering to get more information from you. They want to hear more from you. They are giving you permission to send more stuff to their inbox.
Now this doesn’t mean hit them with a barrage of stuff.
Why I Hate The Term E-Blast
I shudder when I see people talking about an “E-Blast”. No one wants to blasted with anything.
When they see that phrase in the subject line of your email, they instantly hit Delete. Labeling your emails as an “E-Blast” just tells the recipient it’s advertising, and it goes straight to the Trash.
And if you’re waiting for the next opportunity to blast people with unwanted ads, you’ve already lost.
Email Marketing: For The Win
Email marketing is effective for one reason. Everyone reads their email. Even if it takes you a long time to get through your Inbox, most of your emails get opened.
Messages that get sent to your Inbox don’t disappear. Posts that are on your Facebook or Twitter Timelines go by fairly quick. Those things are going to fade out. But whatever’s in your inbox is going to sit there until you look at it.
The true power of email marketing is starting a relationship with your customers.
When we read words on a screen, in our minds, we imagine the person is talking to us. When we read a book, we imagine ourselves as the hero in the story.
As a reader, even if we realize that an email newsletter is being seen by thousands of people, we still feel like those words are for us.
RSS Email Marketing
One way to use an email list is to send subscribers your RSS feed. If you blog regularly, or if your make videos or podcasts, sending them your feed via email will increase the chances of your most loyal customers hearing your words.
Content influences buying decisions when your blog, podcast, or YouTube channel leverages your industry knowledge and answers questions your customers didn’t even know they had yet.
Most businesses have a leadership team with decades of combined experience. Most smaller businesses have an owner with decades of practical industry knowledge. Publishing that knowledge on a regular basis makes it a lot easier to turn prospects into customers.
Blogging is a means to raise awareness of your expertise in a given field. It’s also a form of lead generation. You’re talking people into your store by showing them that you’re the best choice out there.
Providing value first through your blog, and the corresponding RSS feed is a means of providing value before and after the product sale.
When people go to make a purchasing decision, who are they going to choose? The comonay that’s been in their inbox once a week, or a random company that they are unfamiliar with?
If you’re trying to compete head-to-head with larger brands, that customer relationship is going to be your best means of leveling the playing field.
Autoresponder Email Sequences
Another way to use email marketing is to put customers on a sequence of emails that trigger from the day they sign up. This is a little more sophisticated than a simple RSS campaign.
Autoresponder series are just a series of pre-written emails that go out on timed intervals once a person subscribes to your email list. Essentially, you lead the customer through a slow-motion sales cycle.
After the customer opts-in, and they get a welcome email, most autoresponders take time to educate the customer. First by pointing out their need, then illuminating them to the types of solutions, finally positioning your solution as the best choice that exists.
It’s at this point that you first present a call-to-action for a purchase in the email sequence.
This is in stark contrast to simply blasting the customer with advertising that they aren’t remotely interested in.
So why does this method work?
Trust Is Your Point of Differentiation
People need a reason to trust your brand.
When you are going up against larger brands that offer similar solutions, the larger brand usually wins. The reason is that branding is about trust.
When you take time to educate the customer via email content, that trust factor goes up. When you provide value to the customer for several weeks (or months) before asking for the sale, you’ve already built up trust equity with the customer. Companies that go into a sales pitch on the first interaction have not established trust with customers yet.
Raising awareness is a big hurdle to overcome. Autoresponder email content is a way that you can stay top of mind with customers.
One thing that I see companies do occasionally that is a bad idea is to get customers on their email list, and then not send anything for months, or even a year.
Imagine you haven’t heard from a company for several months, and then all of a sudden, you get an email from them.
Your initial thought is probably, I don’t remember signing up for this — this must be spam! And then they unsubscribe form your list.
If you’re going to have a list, be sure to send out content on a regular basis. Once a month is fine. Once a week is better. (That way they don’t forget about your company). If you have an RSS campaign, you can send email up to once a day. Just make sure you’re providing something of value to customers whenever you send an email.
Lead Magnets and Incentives
One thing you can do to get people on your email list is give away a free PDF, report, or e-book in exchange for signing up on your list. A free download with valuable information inside is a more equitable trade to your customers, and they are more likely to signup.
Every email subscription service has this as a feature. It’s just a matter of deciding what you want to give away, setting up the download, and adding that information to the signup form on your website.
Make sure you’re giving away something of value, that will be interesting to your target customers. It can be a checklist, a brochure, a report — just as long as it’s something that helps them solve one of their core problems.
Other Advantages of Email Marketing
Email lists are just one of the many forms of marketing your company is probably focused on. All forms of marketing are valuable in different ways. You may be thinking that social media is the most important form of marketing you can focus on. And social is definitely important, but here’s the difference.
With social media, it always starts out costing nothing to reach the fans who follow your profile.
But as we’ve seen with Facebook, advertising is always the end game with social platforms. Twitter just announced they are changing their timeline to show the Tweets you are most likely to engage with. Instagram is also changing their algorithm to display your timeline based on what they believe your preferences are.
The reason your email list and your website are so important is that these are the channels that you own and control. Social media platforms are great, but the rules can change at any time. Google search is the same way. You don’t have 100% control over where or how often people will see your posts.
But with your email list, these are people who have opted-in, and want to hear more about about your product. And while social platforms may come and go in the big picture, most people keep their email addresses for life.
Owning your platform, like your website or email list, means you can market effectively no matter what happens with search or social. Not that you should ignore those. That’s not what I’m saying at all. But by having a email list means if anything does happen to make you drop out of sight on Facebook or Google, you still have a means to bring in qualified customer leads.
Here’s another thing that people may forget about having an email list. If people are opening the emails you send out, they don’t even need to come to your website anymore in order for you to market to them.
The ultimate goal is to make sales, and you do that by raising awareness of your company, and positioning your business as the best solution for your customers.
Out of Sequence Email Campaigns
You can always create a one-off email to send to the people on your list. You may want to do this if you have a special, sale, or survey you want to send.
E-commerce and Email Lists
If you have an online store, there are ways to automatically add your e-commerce customers to your mailing list when they make a purchase. This can either be through double opt-in (checkbox at checkout, and confirmation email), or done automatically in the background.
Some countries will require you to use a separate opt-in at the time of checkout due to their regional or international anti-spam laws.
Personally, I think it’s always best to give the customer the option of signing up on their own. If you use a checkbox for email subscription at checkout, avoid dark patterns like pre-checking the opt-in box and forcing the customer to uncheck the subscription box.
It’s in your best interest to have an email list. Though there are many small businesses that don’t have one yet, almost every regional, national, and international company has an email list. The main advantages are the ability to market to qualified leads that want to hear more from you, and the means to nurture a relationship between your brand and each of your customers.