email marketing for small companies

Your Email Marketing Myths Busted

Without a doubt strongemail marketing/strong is the most effective and economical ways that small businesses can communicate with customers and clients. But there are a lot of myths among business owners, usually based on their perception, not tests or real numbers, that prevent them from using email the right way. Here are the top 7 myths… h2Myth 1. You can send too frequently./h2 If I have another meeting with an entrepreneur who thinks that email marketing is having a Constant Contact account and sending out an email once a quarter I’m going to scream!

The truth is you can send an email to your list, daily, three times a week, weekly, bi-weekly…you pick one…and it’s likely to be very effective if you do two things: ol liSet the expectation up front with the people on your list so they know what they’re signing up for./li liSend relevant information in each message./li /ol That’s it. Will more people unsubscribe? Maybe. Is that important? Probably not. (see Myth #2) h2Myth 2. Unsubscribes are bad./h2 I have seen some serious ringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over a few unsubscribes here and a few there. It’s not a big deal. Truth be told, you want some unsubscribes every time you send a message.

The people getting off your list are saying “this isn’t for me.” As a marketer you should be thanking them for excusing themselves. Now you can focus on the real prospects…the ones who value what you send and who want a relationship with you.

One salesman in my hometown voluntarily got on my list, but didn’t like the number of messages he got (just a few). He emailed me to give me his candid email marketing advice and I promptly and politely removed him from the list. When I see him around town he refers to me as the “man who sends the messages” and repeats his opinion of my marketing.

I have two choices. Listen to this one person (who by the way isn’t a client) and change what I’m doing. Or, stay the course. My bottom line favors the latter. h2Myth 3. You need a big list to make money./h2 It’s not the size that matters…

It’s your relationship with your list that’s important. You build relationship in email marketing just like you do in real life. ul liShow up consistently and often./li liBe of service./li liHave conversations./li liMake introductions./li liShare yourself./li /ul You’d never expect to build a strong friendship with someone in real life if you only spoke to them once a quarter. h2Myth 4. You have to write all of the email content yourself./h2 It’s great if you can write and you have time to do it consistently, but you don’t have to.

You can act as a collector and curator of information for your prospects and customers. There’s a good chance that if you find something interesting, your subscribers will too.

Make a list of the five most interesting articles you read this week and send it out. Even if they have nothing to do with your industry.

As a bonus…insert your opinion on some of the topics where appropriate.

If you’re sharing great resources your list will appreciate you and see you as a leader. h2Myth 5. You can’t sell in email./h2 If this were true, what would be the point of email marketing? According to the Direct Marketing Association email marketing returns $43 for every $1 you spend (on average) so somebody’s selling something.

The challenge is doing it right. I teach my clients that email marketing is a a href=http://stevegordonmarketing.com/consultingsilent sales machine/a. You wrap your sales message inside a great piece of valuable information.

No one likes to be sold but you know what they say: “A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down…” Integrating your pitch with your content not only makes it easier to swallow, it makes your buying your stuff seem like the next logical step for those who found your content useful. h2Myth 6. It’s got to be pretty to work./h2 “Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.”

Some of the most effective emails I’ve ever sent were ugly, plain text things with no images, no logo, no color…nothing but the words.

Right now, the only email I send that has any design to it at all is my weekly email magazine, the “Marketing Entrepreneur’s E-Letter”: http://stevegordonmarketing.com/eletter. All of the follow-up emails I send are plain text…by design.

Why does plain text work better?

Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of our email recipients for a moment. If you’re scanning through your inbox looking for the important messages. The ones that you need to read right now and you see a big logo or image at the top you instantly know “this is a mass email…it’s not actionable…I can read it later.”

On the other hand, if you get what looks like a plain old email (like real, everyday people send) you’re probably going to at least scan it to see if you need to respond.

Don’t worry about having the perfect design…or any design at all. Just get your message out. Today! h2Myth 7. My clients will hate me if I make a mistake./h2 You will make mistakes. It’s part of the learning process and you want to make mistakes. I’ve made my fair share over the last two years since I got serious about email marketing.

I’ve sent emails that didn’t get opened…emails that aggravated a few…emails with typos…changed branding three times…sent emails with boring subject lines…you name it.

But by far the biggest mistake I made was not emailing consistently or often enough in the beginning.

But I keep showing up and talking to the people who have asked to hear from me.

And they have rewarded me with their attention and business.

Email Marketing: 6 Things to do when your list doesn't love you anymore

Best Email Marketing StrategiesThe steps you need to take to build a quality email marketing campaign are well documented all over the web. Today, I'd like to focus on how to tell when you've crossed the line and become SPAMMY and what to do to recover from it. The truth is that even well intentioned email marketers can cross the line. You need to know how to recognize it when it happens and you need to know that it's not fatal...if you take the right actions to get back on course.

How do you know you've become a SPAMMER

In my experience there are only two things that I need to examine to determine if a business is being SPAMMY.

1. Email Content: You're only sending sales or promotional emails. You can get away with this IF you promised at the outset that you'd only be sending emails like this...and it's a fit for your business. It works if you're a retailer or restaurant and everyone on your list signed up to get the weekly deals. If that's not you, good luck, this approach will blow up in your face eventually.

2. Email Results: You get more unsubscribes and SPAM complaints then clicks. Seems obvious, but it's worth saying. Watch your unsubscribes. I usually don't worry too much about them unless the numbers are high (if more than 1% of your list jumps ship on a single email start paying attention). It's the SPAM complaints that are the real red flag. Why? Your subscriber usually has to take an extra step to report a SPAM complaint when they unsubscribe. If they're doing more work to complain, you've gone the extra mile to aggravate them.

Again, if it's just one or two complaints from your list of 1000, I wouldn't be too worried. But if it spikes, it's an indication you've broken a promise with your list.

Be really concerned when the number of unsubscribes and SPAM complaints is higher than the number of clicks you're getting. This is an especially bad sign that your relationship with your list is experiencing a disconnect. Like all relationships you need to fix it with humility, service, honesty and gratitude.

How to get your email list to love you again

1. Stop thinking of "it" as an email list! Start thinking of "them." The individual people who are subscribed to your list. If you're a small business owner you probably know these people. They've been in your business or you know them from the community. Think about Bob your off and on customer. Think about Elizabeth from your Chamber of Commerce. Understand that your email marketing (and really all of your marketing) is about these people. Not your "list."

2. Be humble. I don't mean be meek...there's a difference. But approach your email list from an perspective of humility. These people have opened their inbox to you...for most that's a pretty intimate place (I often joke during speeches that it's the only way anyone other than my wife can get in my pants...where I carry my iPhone).

When you approach your email marketing from a perspective of humility it will come through in your writing. It's difficult to humbly hard sell someone. Don't get me wrong, hard sells do work in email. But they are a short term strategy. Over time they will wear out your list. If you're in business for the long haul then you need a strong, but subtle approach.

3. Take an attitude of service. Once you start thinking of your list as the individuals on it, it becomes much easier to understand how you can serve your list. I am a firm believer in the philosophy of givers gain. Be of service to the people on your list. Make your email marketing worth their time by giving them something that only you can uniquely offer...your expertise and perspective.

4. Be honest. If you step in pooh as you walk into a cocktail party, you might as well point it out...everyone can smell the stink anyway. Come clean with your list. Apologize for stepping out of bounds and show the way forward. Pointing out your own flaws shows strength. And in the end the people on your list are there to be lead. Show them that you have a plan to lead them forward and tell them why the journey is important.

Your true fans will rally around you. And you'll build anticipation for the good stuff to come.

5. Show gratitude to the people who pointed out your error. Figure out a way to personally contact (by telephone if you can) the people who complained. Apologize, then thank them for alerting you to a weakness in your email marketing approach. Explain what you're doing to correct it and tell them they are welcome back if and when they are ready. For many email marketers this isn't possible. Often you've only got their email address and you can't send them anything because of the complaint. In that case, say it publicly. You may not reach everyone who complained, but you'll show your future subscribers that you're transparent and you listen.

6. Make and keep two promises.

  1. Tell your subscribers what type of content you'll be sending, including offers.
  2. Make them a promise on the frequency of your emails going forward.

And keep both promises!

You may get more unsubscribes when you make these promises. That's OK. You're setting new rules and some people won't want to continue. Get them off your list now.

Once you commit you need to stay consistent.

Fully 9 out of 10 of my clients fear high email frequency when we are designing their email marketing plan. But frequency is not what generates SPAM complaints. Broken promises and inconsistency generate SPAM complaints.

As an example, I get a great daily newsletter called Early to Rise. It's not one of these joke a day or word of the day emails that are just a few sentences long. It's usually a 2000-4000 word article each day. But I read it for three reasons:

  1. I signed up knowing it would come every day.
  2. The content they send is exactly as they promised.
  3. The content is highly relevant to me.

The publishers honor the promises they made to me (and that I willingly accepted).

The real truth is that high frequency, relevant emails sent with permission will generate fewer complaints then low frequency (like quarterly) blasts. The simple reason is familiarity. If you're only touching the people on your list once a quarter they'll forget that they wanted to hear from you in the first place.

If you've created a SPAM problem, don't worry too much. If you catch it early, you can correct the problem and emerge with a stronger relationship with the people on your list.

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Photo courtesy Kevin Dooley.

Compound Marketing: The Only Marketing Strategy You'll Ever Need

Do you know the story of the Magic Penny? If not, let me introduce you to the only small business marketing strategy you'll ever need. It goes like this… If given the choice of taking a penny that doubled every day for 30 days or taking $10,000 today, which would you choose? I’d take the penny every time! Why? Through the miracle of compounding that penny would double every day for the full 30 days…accumulating an astonishing $5.37 million (here’s an example of the math from USAToday).

Marketing works in much the same way (in fact many large things in life are accomplished by adding small things together, over and over). Most small businesses ignore the immense benefits of...