Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Just Grow With It

You work hard to advertise your business.  You send out flyers.  You might use radio or even television.  Maybe you even hit the pavement and do some good old-fashioned door-knocking.  Perhaps the most taken for granted form of marketing, however, is your email newsletter.  There are a few reasons that email marketing is so effective, and some great ways to make it even more so.

Ease of use is one of the many things that sets email marketing apart from all other forms of marketing.  If you have a thought in the middle of the night, you can create a newsletter and, should you wish, send it immediately to your subscribers.  Contrast this to direct mail marketing which takes weeks or even months from the inception of the idea until it hits your customers' mailboxes.  TV and radio advertising have a similar start to finish timeframe, and that good old-fashioned pavement pounding - well, that just makes me tired to think about.

Another quality that sets email marketing apart from the other forms mentioned above is the out of pocket cost.  Direct mail, on average, costs nearly 20 times more than email marketing services (based on a side-by-side comparison of Email Contact prices versus those of a leading direct mail marketing company).  That cost increases significantly with the number of direct mail recipients.

Given just those two qualities - ease of use and cost - it would seem that email marketing would be a top choice among businesses as a form of advertising.  And it is.  A recent study showed that nearly three-quarters of all companies rate their email campaign's return on investment (ROI) as excellent or good.  Sixty percent of those companies reported sending 50,000 or more emails per month, up from forty percent of companies just four years ago.  While 50,000 may seem like a staggering amount of emails to a small-business owner, it is not out of reach.  There are a few things that any business owner can do to increase the size of their subscriber list:

  • Pay attention to where you are most likely to come into contact with customers or potential customers. If your main point of contact is your website, be sure to add a link in a prominent spot asking visitors to sign up for your newsletter.  If you mainly converse with customers face-to-face, i.e. at your store, a sign-up sheet may be a good idea.
  • Hold a contest.  Referrals and word of mouth advertising are some of the best ways to get new customers - and they're free!  Reward existing customers for the referrals they send your way.
  • Ask, ask, ask!  During regular conversations with your customers, whether it be over the phone or during a sales presentation, ask if they would like to receive your email newsletter. 
  • During a point of sale transaction, simply ask for the customer's email address and enter it into your database.
  • Collect email addresses at trade shows or conventions.  Hold a drawing, if you think that will attract more interest.
Once you've collected and added new email addresses to your subscriber list, it's important to do everything in your power to keep them there.  Make sure that you're offering something of value - your newsletter should contain information that will be useful to the reader, and not just "fluff".  Be approachable.  Perhaps your attempts at increasing subscribership are turning off potential customers (think pop ups).  Maybe your notifications are coming too often or are too "in your face", or subscribers are worried about you selling their information.  Whatever the concerns are, be sure to address them in a timely and professional manner.  Don't take things too personally.  After all, the way in which you respond to these concerns could be the deciding factor in the subscriber's decision to stay or not to stay.

When it comes to subscriber lists, the sky really is the limit.  Any company, small or large, can have a dream-size list with a little effort.

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