A guide to getting started.
Email isn’t the most complex of marketing tools, but it can be tricky if you’re just starting out and don’t have a whole lot of experience or knowledge on the subject. Don’t be overwhelmed! I wrote up this short guide to help small biz newbies get started.
Pick the Right Tools
No matter what you’re doing, the right tools are essential for getting any job done right. In this case, you need an email service provider (ESP) to get started. There are a lot of options out there. The most recognizable and commonly used ESPs can be found with a simple Google search. If you’re just starting out, I would recommend picking something user-friendly that offers a free account option for smaller lists. MailChimp and ConstantContact are widely used, and quite easy to figure out. Shop around. Almost every ESP offers a free trial period for new users, so take advantage of it. Try out a few different options before you settle. Be sure to consider integration capabilities for your other applications, too, such as social media platforms you use, your website, or customer relationship management program. Make sure it’s easy to integrate a signup form where you need it, on your website and/or social media platforms.
Follow the Rules
ESPs are very very very picky about email lists and extremely vigilant when it comes to SPAM laws and email permissions. It’s vitally important that you follow the guidelines they lay out if you want your account to remain active. These programs use algorithms to monitor your sending and subscriber activity. Certain metrics such as bounce rates, abuse reports, and unsubscribe rates can trigger account reviews or even get your account suspended or blacklisted. Blacklisting is bad. Obviously. Avoid that. Most people don’t like seeing emails in their inboxes from companies they don’t recognize, and they will likely become suspicious and report it as SPAM, or simply ignore or delete the email. The best thing you can do is to learn the SPAM law as well as your ESP’s guidelines and be very careful to not break them. Never upload a purchased list! Only upload emails you have the appropriate permissions for, which you can collect via signup forms or directly through customer interaction. If in doubt, ask your ESP; all the reputable ones have support teams that will be happy to help.
Don’t be Boring
Content content content content CONTENT. It’s the meat and potatoes (or lentils and rice if you’re veggie) of all good marketing strategies these days. If you want to gain new subscribers as well as retain your existing ones, good content is vital. No matter what your business’s business is, the best kind of content to share is original and personal. Try to feature the “personality” of your unique company in one way or another. Connect with your reader. Good content showcases your company and the individuals that comprise it. Share blog content (if you have one) or feature a super cool new product to drive traffic to your site, or offer special deals for email subscribers that you can’t get anywhere else. That’s a great way to capture new subscribers, by the way. Feature that prominently with your signup form, and you’re sure to snag a few.
Find your Rhythm
Frequency is very important for retaining and gaining subscribers. It might take a little trial and error to find your “sweet spot,” where you’re not overwhelming your subscribers with too many emails, but also not so infrequent that they forget about you between blasts. Also consider how much time and effort you’re willing to invest in your email strategy. A good place to start is with a monthly newsletter or update. You might find that your subscribers prefer updates as infrequently as once per quarter, or as frequently as once per week. Your frequency can also depend on the type of emails you’re sending out. Are you sending newsletters, or important announcements, or information about new deals and products? Sometimes it’s okay to supplement a monthly newsletter with shorter emails in between. Your subscribers’ activity will give you cues as to what is working and what isn’t, so make sure you’re watching it after every blast for at least a few days.
Now go email some customers and make some profit!