If you are looking for an effective way to increase sales and keep your business in the forefront of customers’ minds, email is the perfect solution. With an ROI of $38 to every one dollar spent, according to a survey last year, email marketing can pay off big for a small business. After all, we all get email, and most of us check it multiple times a day.
Inundating prospective customers with daily emails about sales or discounts isn’t the way to get their attention, however. Instead, try offering them something useful: an email newsletter. Here are 10 steps to starting your own.
- Clarify your goals. As with every other type of marketing you do, it’s important to set specific, measurable goals for your email newsletter. Do you want it to get customers to visit your website, call your business or actually walk in the door? What numbers constitute success? How will the newsletter integrate with the rest of your marketing efforts to reach those goals?
- Decide on content. A newsletter must be more than just a marketing message — it should also offer some valuable, useful information to readers. For example, if you own a garden supply store, you could share 10 tips to prepare your garden for winter, a list of 5 essential garden tools, or the 3 biggest mistakes new gardeners make. Think of questions your prospective customers have or problems they need solutions to, then develop content that answers them. You can also announce new products or services, upcoming events at your business, and sales or other promotions.
- Be consistent. How often to send out your email newsletter depends on your available time, type of business and desired goals. However, once a month is a good starting point for most businesses. If you send your newsletter less frequently than that, you won’t achieve your goal of building brand awareness. Consistency is key, so send your newsletter out regularly at the same time of the month and the same time of day—such as 9 a.m. the first Tuesday of each month.
- Collect email addresses. The FTC’s CAN-SPAM Act strictly regulates email marketing. You can’t send your newsletter to people unless they sign up for it. Put a sign-up box near the top of your business website (all you have to ask for is the customer’s email address) or use a popup message. Collect email subscribers offline, too, by asking customers to sign up during the sales process. Offering an incentive for signing up, such as a code good for 20 percent off the first purchase, will help build your email list.
- Choose an email marketing service. Email marketing services provide email newsletter templates that make creating your newsletter easy. They also handle the grunt work of sending out the emails and gathering data about how customers interact with them. Constant Contact, Campaigner and MailChimp are popular email marketing services; ask other business owners for their recommendations, too.
- Select a template. Choose a template design that fits the type of content you plan to include and harmonizes with the design elements of your business brand. Make sure the template is mobile-friendly, since the majority of emails are now viewed on mobile devices.
- Create a welcome message. When someone signs up to receive your email newsletter, send a confirmation or welcome email thanking them for subscribing and letting them know what to expect. For example, tell them how often they will receive the newsletter and how to change their newsletter preferences or unsubscribe. Your email marketing service can set up this welcome email to send automatically.
- Include calls to action. Remember your newsletter goals? Include clear calls to action to achieve those goals. For instance, if you sell clothing online, news about your new fall fashions could include a link to “Shop Now.” Links should always go to specific landing pages—not just to your website’s homepage. Make sure the landing pages are mobile friendly in case users click through on a mobile device.
- Encourage pass-along readership. Grow your email newsletter audience by asking readers to forward the newsletter to a friend or colleague who might be interested. (Be sure to include a link at the bottom of the newsletter that tells recipients how to subscribe.)
- Track results. Email marketing services gather lots of data about how recipients interact with your emails, and provide analytics tools you can use to slice and dice that information. How many recipients open your newsletter? How many actually click on a link? Of those, how many actually take the desired action (such as making a purchase from your website)? Slice and dice this data to see what email newsletter topics, times of day and subject lines work best. Use what you learn to continually improve your email newsletter.