Despite all the advances in social media, one of the most effective online marketing tools is still email.
Attribution: Flickr - Pascual López
Collect email addresses
The general rule of email campaigns is to add everyone that you know to your mailing list. While this is not strictly allowed by anti-spamming laws, small businesses are rarely punished for this, especially if your mail outs provide an unsubscribe option.
Attribution: Lawton Chiles
So add every email address that you come across to your list but respect people when they unsubscribe.
Groupon does something annoyingly stupid. If you subscribe to get updates you will receive several per day. Even receiving them once per day is too much. Once per week would have been lovely, but no, they insist on spamming you. As a result most people quickly unsubscribe. I would love to get groupon deal updates but they don't allow me an option to ask for weekly deals.
Attribution: Flickr - gajman
You should be the same. It is rare that you should be sending information out more than once a month unless there you really have a lot of new information that the customer cares about. Note, that is not what you have to tell them that matters, only what they want to read.
Use a mail campaign platform
Many content management systems will have one built in, but of course there are free cloud based content management platforms such as MailChimp that you can use. These systems allow you track your mail campaign and include the unsubscribe option.
My normal approach to publishing content is to place it on our blog. It turns out that few people subscribe or read the blog directly. Some people do find it through web searches, but mostly it is just another of many blogs.
Attribution: Flickr - 10ch
That is okay, for some companies we use our Facebook page as the main way of keeping track of clients. We can post links to our blog articles through the Facebook page as well as use Facebook for posting other content such as videos, photos and little snippets.
The other approach is to send out a newsletter with links to most important articles in the blog. I favour this approach because I can easily see how many people click on each article link in the newsletter.
You can of course just send out the content in the mail out. This makes sense if you are sending out an offer. However it is a good idea to have the offer as a link so that you can track how many people click on it to learn more details.
News, not olds
News is called news because it is new. News should also be interesting to the reader. I often end in a constant battle with small business owners about what should or should not be in a newsletter or email.
So you need new products, new achievements, new staff and new developments. The most successful newsletter I sent out with one company was an article describing the fact that I had been appointed to the company. Sounds odd, but that is the power of News.
Avoid talking about mundane matters, or things that have passed. Many business owners are so obsessed with the running of their company they actually want to put that in the newsletter.
Address their problem, not your solution
A friend was sending an email with the title "Winter Campaign". This is very typical of how many businesses think. They talk about what they are doing. The problem is, people usually care about themselves more than they care about you. In this example, we simply changed campaign to "offer", because an offer is what the customer is getting.
Here is a simple fact, if you don't know what the customers problem is, you probably shouldn't be in business. The email being sent out should be in terms of the customer, not directly about you.
Call to action (have a point)
This doesn't mean you should be sending out emails to people to pressure them to buy your product within the next 24 hours or miss out on this once in a lifetime offer. However successful campaigns usually have a particular point, and hopefully a call to action.
Attribtuion: Flickr - Sean MacEntee
My general approach is to think of one simple action that people can undertake after reading your email. It doesn't have to be anything big, maybe it is just planting the idea to start thinking about improving a business practice, or investigating a solution.
Of course the best actions are the ones where they come in talk to you. Hence the ever popular free quote.
Content: Inform, educate and illuminate
Email campaigns are a part of content marketing which means that the goal shouldn't just be to sell but to inform. An accountant sending out information about how changes to a tax law might impact on businesses or better yet, how businesses can take advantage of those tax laws, not only provides a useful service but might inspire some of them to call that accounting firm for advice.
Why email campaigns are great
Some businesses and organisations build up strong relationships with potential and current clients through social media. Yet most businesses are simply not suited to this type of relationship. However sending out occasional newsletters puts us in control of that relationship with very little downside.