Email Marketing Tips for Small Business Owners in 2011

Email is by far the most ubiquitous form of digital communication for small business owners (outside of phone calls of course) and one of the easiest to get started with. There are literally dozens of email marketing platforms available for small business owners to leverage. Finding the right platform is critical. Think about your specific goals when choosing a platform. Do you need a platform that is more hands-off? Perhaps you’re looking for a service that provides a service for creating and deploying your emails for you? Or maybe you are more of do-it-yourself kind of person and all you need is the technology? Either way, there are platforms that cater to each kind of need. When I work with clients I recommend a platform called AWeber. Aweber is one of the most used email marketing platforms in the world. There are 3 major reasons why I like Aweber over other email marketing platforms.

1. It is simple to use. There are dozens of videos that can viewed to learn from as a means of getting acquainted with Aweber. This helps save time by shaving of hours of reading and learning. It’s pretty easy to open up a new tab in your browser and let the video play while you walk through a specific step.

2. Aweber can be fully automated. While other email marketing providers allow for similar functionality I find that Aweber is much better at this than the competition. Aweber allows a user to write email marketing messages in advance and then schedule them as part of a sequence. These are called “auto-responders”. This means that you can program your emails ahead of time and deploy them as people move through your buying cycle. This is incredibly useful and provides a nice way to appear like you are always working. Imagine being able to organize a list of prospects, a list of customers and a list of potential partners and the programming a series of emails to each list. Talk about set-it and forget-it!

3. Aweber provides easy to digest marketing analytics to help you understand how well your email marketing strategy is performing. Track things like clicks, forwards and undeliverable messages all in one dashboard. And while many other email marketing platforms provide similar insights I find that Aweber simply does a better job of making it digestable. As a business owner you don’t have time to pour over dozens of statistics and fancy graphs. You simply need the most relevant information and Aweber makes getting to this information easy, even allowing you to access data from a mobile phone.

So now that we’ve covered the best email marketing platform, let’s talks about how we get started. The first step is creating a segmented list that will be used to organize email sign-ups. If you’re website is designed properly, you will have specific sections for customers, partners and potential clients to view information about your products and services. These should all be set-up as separate lists and treated with separate communication messages. Customers will want to receive product and service updates, partners will want to hear about staffing changes or relevant company information and your potential customers will seek information about how they can benefit from working with you. Therefore, they all should be treated separately. The easiest way to organize this is with list-segmentation and it’s easier than it sounds.

First Step: Create the list in your email marketing software. Name the list something that is obvious, like customers or prospects.

Second Step: Generate the code for a sign-up form by clicking on the “create a sign-up form” in your email marketing software. This will ensure that anyone that signs-up using this form will be funneled into their respected list.

Third Step: Apply this code to the appropriate section of your website. If it’s the code to generate sign-ups from prospects then place that on the page you use to “sell” prospects.

Fourth Step: Create 4-6 custom email messages that speak to what these people need to know about your company, product or service. Write the emails in a progressive fashion, perhaps covering the features and benefits of one product or service in each email.

Fifth Step: Program these emails within your email marketing software to deploy every 5-7 days over a series of 3-5 weeks. Finally, schedule the emails to go out during a time of day that makes sense. Studies have shown that mid-morning and early afternoon have the best chance of getting read. This can however differ depending on your product or service and the audience you intend to reach.

This is a simple, straightforward approach to getting an email marketing campaign up and running. Sure, there are nuances that you’ll need to learn along the way. But for the most part, these are the fundamental elements that should be applied to experience success. One big advantage to using email is the data that is collected. For example, by looking at the click rates on each email, you’ll be able to determine who is more interested in a specific product or service. If you start to notice a really high click-through rate on a specific email topic that is a good sign of demand for that product or service and might warrant more communication to your audience regarding its features and benefits. All in all email is still one of the most reliable, scalable and efficient forms of small business advertising and should be a pillar of your total marketing strategy.

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