Running a small business in the age of the internet brings so many new challenges. You spend a lot of time hearing about all the things you should be doing, while knowing there’s no possible way for you to do all of it. You have limited time, money, and energy, so you have to be picky about the marketing tactics you try.
In that context, email marketing may seem scary. It requires paying for a new software product and using both design and writing skills. That’s already a lot, but now there’s also those spam and GDPR compliance laws you keep hearing about. Your small business definitely can’t afford to end up on the wrong side of a law you don’t fully understand.
That may explain why only 36% of small businesses invest in email marketing. But for all the reasons that email marketing may seem scary, there are even more significant ways it can be valuable to small businesses.
3 Reasons Small Businesses Should Use Email Marketing
1. It helps you stay connected with your customers.
As a small business, you don’t have the budget the big brands do to stay top of mind with TV ads or billboards. And yet in our busy world, you need some way to stay on your customers’ minds in between visits.
Even if a person loves your website the first time they visit, it’s easy to forget you completely without some future reminder.
Even if a person loves your website the first time they visit, it’s easy to forget you completely without some future reminder. And even a customer that loves the first product they bought from you can become distracted by other brands and options over time.
The best way to keep the attention of your target audience once you have it is to keep showing up in their lives in some way. Email marketing gives you a way to show up in their inbox on a continual basis. And since an email doesn’t interrupt someone while they’re doing something else, like a lot of advertising, it’s an unobstructive way to stay on their minds and establish a more lasting connection.
2. It gives you more opportunities to persuade visitors to purchase.
Keeping the connection active with your prospects is a big deal, but as a business, ultimately the point of email marketing is to get more purchases.
88% of shoppers use the internet to do advance research on their options before making a purchase.
Many of your website visitors will leave your site the first time without making a purchase. Less than a third of people say they make impulse buys online. Instead, 88% of shoppers use the internet to do advance research on their options before making a purchase.
That means a lot of people who may well like your products will only browse on their first visit – and maybe even their first five or six visits. To get those visitors to actually purchase, you need to them to keep thinking about your products and come back again later when they’re ready to spend money.
Email marketing gives you plenty of opportunities to entice people already interested in your brand and products to cross that finish line toward a purchase. Your emails can remind them of the products you sell and alert them to attractive promotions and sales to get them to take the step you most value: making a purchase.
3. Email marketing works.
Email marketing is one of the most effective online marketing tactics for generating sales. In fact, for all the buzz social media gets, email marketing is 40 times more effective for acquiring customers than the top social media channels. And unlike more intrusive forms of advertising like TV ads or website pop-ups, people actually like receiving marketing emails. Over 90% say they’re happy to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with.
Email marketing is 40 times more effective for acquiring customers than the top social media channels.
When you’re trying to figure out which marketing tactics you can afford as a small business owner, the results possible with email marketing mean you can’t really afford to skip it.
How to Make Email Marketing Effective (Rather Than Scary)
1. Use an email marketing software designed for small businesses.
The first thing you need to start email marketing is the right software. Luckily, there are a few email marketing companies that specifically offer products for small businesses. An email marketing software designed for small business will be easy to use and priced affordably for a small business budget.
And even affordable email marketing options provide valuable features like pre-designed templates, analytics and personalization options. Most small business email marketing options offer a trial so you can get a feel for the service before starting a subscription. Take some time to review your different options and figure out which one feels right for you.
2. Build (don’t buy) your email list.
This is probably the hardest part of email marketing, but non-negotiable. If you buy an email list, you risk running afoul of spam laws and getting kicked off your email marketing software. And you’ll be reaching people less likely to care about your emails anyway.
If you buy an email list, you risk running afoul of spam laws and getting kicked off your email marketing software.
An email list made up of people who made the active choice to receive your emails will be more effective — people will be pleased to see your emails show up rather than annoyed.
Some techniques you can use to build your email list include:
- Promote your email signup form around your website – on the homepage, on the blog, on product pages.
- Consider offering visitors an incentive to sign up, such as 10% for their first purchase or exclusive email-only deals.
- Promote your list on social media.
- Consider creating high-value gated content that people will provide their email addresses to access.
It may take time for your email list to grow, but by only sending emails to people who want to receive them, you’ll ensure you’re reaching the right people and stay on the right side of the law.
3. Give subscribers a chance to opt in.
After a new subscriber signs up, you want to make sure they really want to receive your emails by sending them an email that allows them to click a button to confirm their subscription. For instance, you don’t want your emails going to someone with a similar email address to your real subscriber due to a typo.
Most email marketing software does this step automatically or makes it easy for you to set up. It’s simply a good practice for ensuring you’re only interacting with the people that care about your business and will be glad to see your emails.
4. Make the unsubscribe option easy.
This is another feature that’s important in terms of spam laws. Anyone that chooses to receive your emails but decides in a year they don’t want them anymore must have an easy way to unsubscribe. Usually that means a small link at the bottom of the email they can click on to remove their name from the list.
Anyone that chooses to receive your emails but decides in a year they don’t want them anymore must have an easy way to unsubscribe.
While including an unsubscribe option may seem self-defeating, it’s yet another way to make sure your emails are actually going to someone who wants them. It doesn’t do you any good to email people who don’t want to hear from you.
5. Create an email marketing strategy.
As with any type of marketing, you’ll do better with email marketing if you approach it with a plan. Try to get inside the heads of your customers when developing your plan: what emails would they most want to see? Consider asking them directly by sending a survey to your early subscribers.
You don’t want every email you send to be pushing a sale.
Your plan should include some promotional emails, but you don’t want every email you send to be pushing a sale. One of the great things about email marketing is the ability it gives you to connect with customers and build their trust. Figure out how to use your emails to do that. Your email marketing plan could include sharing your valuable content or creating helpful newsletters once a month.
Make sure you have a plan to guide when and how you send emails in order to keep your subscribers happy and reduce the chances of them clicking that unsubscribe button.
6. Email regularly.
If you sign up for an email list and don’t hear anything from the brand for a year, what happens when they do finally get in touch? You probably don’t remember who they are or why you should care and either delete the email or unsubscribe.
Your subscribers need to know who you are each time they see your email in their inbox.
Your subscribers need to know who you are each time they see your email in their inbox. If you go too long in between each point of contact, you lose out on the sense of connection and familiarity email marketing is all about. Make sure your email strategy involves sending regular emails, even if it’s just once a month. And do your best to keep them relevant and valuable to your subscribers.
7. Pay attention to your analytics.
Figuring out what your subscribers want to see in their inbox is one of the big challenges of email marketing, but you have a good resource for learning as you go: your email analytics. Monitor how people react to your emails. What subject lines get them to open an email? Which types of emails get them to click through to your website? And what emails drive purchases?
Use that information to strengthen your email marketing strategy over time. If you start out sending newsletters and no one bothers to read them, switch over to emails that share your top-performing content. If emails promoting your storewide sales don’t get people to click but those touting exclusive discounts for subscribers do, then do more of the latter.
Your subscribers will tell you what they want through their actions.
Your subscribers will tell you what they want through their actions. Don’t worry too much if you have emails that fall flat when you’re just getting started: you have room to try out different things and learn as you go.
Email marketing does provide an investment of time and money, but the return for small businesses can be powerful. Don’t let fear stop you from building a stronger connection with your customers and seeing the higher profits that come with it.