Small business owners – if you know you *should* be engaging in email marketing, but don’t know how or where to start, and you’re wondering if it’s even worth the effort, then read on! Marketing expert Victoria Brown is about to unveil the benefits and how to get going with the one thing that might just transform your business….
Email is dead.
You might have heard that, I certainly have. But whatever your preconception of email marketing is right now, leave it at the doorstep (like a dodgy double-glazing salesperson, who’s overstayed their welcome) and start again.
According to website Hubspot (2022), 77% of marketers have seen an increase in email engagement over the last 12 months. Also, smartphone users (the way people are increasingly consuming content now) prefer to receive brand communications via email.
Doesn’t sound very ‘dead’, does it?
And that’s not all. Every single small business owner I spoke to that either survived or even thrived during the pandemic, were the ones with active email lists who emailed their customers regularly.
The ones I spoke to that were struggling were the ones who didn’t email their customers or have an email list. Even though I love email, that was still completely shocking to me. I mean EVERYONE that did well or survived had an email list and the people that didn’t were the ones without. THAT is the power of an email list.
Why is email marketing so powerful?
Let’s take it way, way back to marketing basics. You’ve heard of the ‘Know, Like and Trust’ factor, right?
So, forgive me if I get a bit ‘maths-y’ but you could put if like this:
Sales = Know + Like + Trust
In other words, to get sales, you need your customers to Know, Like and Trust you.
Well, social media and networking is where small business owners generally tend to focus their energies and attention – which mainly covers on the ‘know’ bit. And that’s certainly important, don’t get me wrong. But, the part of the equation that’s woefully neglected is the ‘trust’ bit. This is essential (especially for online businesses, where your customers can’t meet or see you in person), and is the bit that email marketing is really, really good at.
You see, when you turn up regularly to serve your customers, in a trusted place like their inboxes, you show you’re reliable. You’re doing all the hard work for them (they don’t have to seek you out) and showing up regularly, to show you’re not some fly-by-night business owner who can’t be trusted. No, you’re someone that takes their customers and business seriously. That gives you trustability points straight out of the gate.
On top of that, you’re giving yourself more chance of showing up when you’re needed. For example, if you are a maker that crafts beautiful handmade mugs, your customer might discover you on social media, or at an event. But they might not be quite ready to buy from you, yet. So what happens when their best friend’s birthday comes up, and they’re ready to buy? Can you really trust they’ll remember exactly who you are and where to find you, when the time is right? If you’re dropping them a weekly email, then they’ll know exactly who you are, and at a click of a button they could be dropping your products into their basket. That’s great service.
It all comes down to one of the most important rules in business – make it easy for your customers to buy from you.
An algorithm-free way to reach your customers
If Instagram’s algorithm is driving you crazy and you’ve all but given up on Facebook, you’re sick and tired of spending so much time worrying about how to be shown more on socials – then consider this: Email lists don’t have algorithms.
Nope. Once your lovely customers are safely on your email list, then kapow! You pretty much know your emails are going to drop in front of them (minus a few filtering into spam folders). Compare this to the 10% of your Instagram followers that are probably seeing your posts, and boom, email marketing wins the trophy every time. Not that there isn’t a place for social media, but it’s not always the easiest place to engage your audience.
And if things got a little crazy and one or more social platforms decided to shut down overnight, would you still be able to contact your customers? Guess what, if they were on your email list, you could. Email marketing gives you control and way more security in your business.
Why don’t more people do email marketing, then?
In my experience, small business owners tend to feel a bit ‘icky’ about email marketing. Which is a shame, because it’s such a powerful tool.
I regularly hear things like: “I don’t want to annoy my customers,” or “I don’t know what to write!” and that all time favourite: “I don’t want to seem too sale-sy”.
The problem, I think comes from the fact that business owners are making judgements based on their own bad experiences of emails. You know, the ones that make you want to delete your whole email account to stop them getting through (because for some reason, you never seem to be able to unsubscribe from them).
But here’s the good news: your emails don’t have to be like that. In fact, your emails can be however you want them to be. Fun fact – you have complete control. Which means you can focus on crafting emails that are perfectly suiting to serving and wowing your customers and make you feel good (getting you oodles of sales in the process).
When you shift your focus from feeling icky about email to feeling good about the fact they help you serve your trusted customers better, well, everything changes.
Full disclosure: I used to feel icky about emails too, but now writing them is the highlight of my week, because it helps me feel more connected to my customers than any other platform.
11 Top tips for email marketing success:
1. Wrap your head around the fact you’re serving, not ‘bugging’ your customers.
Remember: by emailing your customers, you’re actually providing them a FREE service! Go you! Be proud about this fact and shout it from the rooftops.
2. Find a platform that works for you (not necessarily the one that’s free)
What kind of emails do you want to send? What kind of business do you have (product/service-based)? Are you tech-y or not? Give a couple a whirl on a free trial, to see what you think. Mailchimp and Flodesk are good starting points and both offer something different.
3. BUT, having said that: when you’ve decided on a platform, stick with it.
Most of the time when I see people ‘stuck’, it’s because they’re dithering over which platform or tool to choose. But the truth is they do a similar thing, and you just need to commit to one and move on. There’s no magic bullet, you’ve actually just got to get on and start. FACT: Inaction causes way more problems than choosing the ‘wrong’ platform.
4. Don’t be a shy-guy
Don’t be one of these businesses that makes your customers work to find out where they can sign up to your email list. Make it obvious. Put it in more than one place. Yes, think of user experience, but you need more than one tiny apologetic sign up form buried at the bottom of the page, which people need to get their magnifying glass out to see. That means multiple places across your website to sign up to your email list and yes, even (gasp) pop-ups! (Obviously, keeping within your brand look and feel.)
5. Connect with your customers by writing in a conversational style
This one will depend on your brand tone of voice and writing style, but generally speaking, conversational writing connects more. If you’re new to this, try recording yourself saying what you want to get across out loud, and use this as a starting point. The end result? Your customers feel you are a trusted friend having a chat. It also feels way less ‘sales-y’ for you. BONUS!
6. Keep the content simple
If you stress about what to write about in your emails, keep it simple. A relevant thought, or image that you think will resonate with your audience can sometimes be so much more impactful than writing loads of words for the sake of it. Especially in our increasingly content-overwhelmed world.
7. Be consistent – create a plan and stick to it
Like anything in business, small consistent actions over time will get you the best results. Make sure you’re regularly working on both building your list and sending emails, to keep you front of mind. I recommend weekly for both sending emails and mentioning on socials, but see what works for you.
8. Offer a benefit for signing up
An email address is a valuable commodity (even more important than your customer’s afternoon Tunnocks Teacake). So, you need to offer them an attractive benefit in return for their email details. Whether that’s offering a virtual freebie, a discount or exclusive email member benefits, they may need a little push to take the action.
9. Read up on GDPR
Make sure you are legal. Don’t get overwhelmed by this stuff, or let it stop you building your list, but it is important you understand how to be compliant as a business owner. There are bucketfuls of resources online, make sure you choose a reputable one. I can recommend Suzanne Dibble Legal Academy.
10. Don’t feel you have to constantly flog stuff
Not every email needs to be directly selling a product. You should be brand building too. Think about what you want to achieve from each email and focus on that. Sometimes telling a story about your brand, or a customer story can be more powerful than saying ‘buy from me’.
11. Just start and take it one step at a time
Take action and start. You’ll only get good at this stuff if you actually pull your finger out and start. The best platform in the world isn’t going to do the work for you, but the good news is that it’s totally 100% doable! So, take it one step at a time and before long you’ll start to enjoy connecting with your customers by email. Then it shouldn’t be long before you hear the cha-CHING of your virtual till, as your sales start coming in from those happy customers.
Victoria Brown is a Small Business Marketing expert, Host of Creative Slurp Podcast and Accountability Club.
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