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Why Email Marketing Shouldn't be an Ugly Stepchild

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Email marketing isn't a sexy topic. In a world dominated by tweets, Likes and +1's, most marketers aren't excited by email marketing any more.

Marketing is about hype and the shiny new thing, making email the forgotten toy of yesteryear. But small business owners do themselves a huge disservice by failing to adopt the well-known best practices in email marketing simply because it’s not new. Here’s why they shouldn’t.

Email Has a Huge Audience

While the growth numbers in social media and search engine optimization continue to be impressive, the fact remains that 72 percent of people check their email more than 6 times per day. This means email is probably the most reliable way to get in touch with an audience.

People Prefer Email

While Facebook is great for reviving old social connections and Twitter is awesome for real-time commentary of political debates, research shows that 77 percent prefer to receive permission-based commercial messages via email. This implies that end-users carry strict expectations about how they like to use the various technology platforms they engage with. It is best not to violate those expectations just because the audience may be there.

Email Marketing is Effective

While the days of buying a huge email list are definitely over, email marketing remains an effective marketing channel.

A recent survey showed 66 percent of those surveyed made a purchase based on getting a promotional email. This is why 67 percent of marketers surveyed earlier this year planned to increase their email marketing budgets for 2012.

Email Helps Launch Social, Local and SEO Campaigns

The power of integrated marketing is greatly magnified for small businesses with strong email practices.

For example, launching a new social media campaign or local reputation management initiative is vastly easier with a large email list of interested recipients.

SEO becomes much easier when you can notify your email list of a buzz-worthy / backlink-worthy blog post.

Lastly, you can request reviews for local directories much more easily when you maintain a list of customer email addresses.

What Small Businesses Need to Do

  1. Start the lists: Believe it or not, many small businesses still don’t have any email lists at all. For many others, the lists are poorly organized or infrequently updated. Start building two lists: Existing Customers and Prospective Customers. It isn’t hard. Don’t buy email lists. Study after study shows that they don’t work any more. Collect emails when customers sign a contract or put a sign-up sheet on near your register. Give patrons an incentive to join your list and make it fun.
  2. Build a newsletter: The easiest way to jumpstart email marketing is with a monthly newsletter. All small businesses have expertise, share this specialized-knowledge with existing customers. There are many free email marketing platforms to select from, all of which will give you code to add a “Join my newsletter” form to your website. Most have an attractive library of email templates to select from (for free). If you don’t have the bandwidth or discipline to work with the software, outsource it.
  3. Build Nurture Emails: After conquering the monthly newsletter, build a series of nurture emails for new prospects. This project takes longer, but has a high return on investment. Make these emails informative and helpful. Space them out appropriately as to not overwhelm the list. The more informative the emails are, the most customers will be gained from this activity.
  4. Track results: As with any marketing effort, strong tracking is required to know if it’s working. After building the monthly newsletter and nurture emails, it’s critical to track leads by their source. Small businesses are notorious for reaching false conclusions about their marketing programs, often following their gut rather than the data. If you don’t know how to set up solid tracking, seek help from a marketing consultant who does.

Conclusions

Email marketing is certainly the least sexy topic in the search world today, but it remains effective. The return on investment has been demonstrated in almost every vertical, yet many small businesses don’t have a simple list of customers.

Like any marketing program, email isn't a silver bullet but it's an essential element in any modern small business marketing strategy. Once operationalized, small business owners will find that launching social, local, SEO and other marketing campaigns will also get a boost by “blasting it out to the list.”


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