E-Mail Marketing Basics for Small Businesses

It has become increasingly more difficult to promote a business using e-mail. Spam clogs up in-boxes and most people are quick to delete without reading the deluge of mail they receive .

Nonetheless, e-mail marketing, if done correctly, can be an inexpensive and quick way to reach a large audience. The key is to get people to want to receive your mailings. To do this, you need to do permission mailing, which means having people either sign up on your Web site for such mailings or provide their e-mail addresses when they purchase something from your company. In this way, you can collect e-mail addresses without buying a list that may be created and/or sold illegally.

E-mailing advertisements, sent with the express permission of the recipient, can still become redundant, and therefore ineffective, unless you:

  • Offer new discounted products or services regularly
  • Provide very targeted mailings
  • Offer some content

Even two or three sentences of original content can provide a reason to read your e-mail. It can also support the advertising that otherwise may be deleted. Short bits of information, such as five tips for a healthy lawn from a landscape company or suggestions for “dressing for success” from a clothing retailer are ways to keep your audience interested in your e-mails. Establishing your own newsletter, which may only be a few paragraphs, can draw the attention of your readers.

When e-mailing customers, you also need:

  • A catchy headline
  • A recognizable company name in the “from” box so they’ll know it’s from your business
  • A simple one-click manner in which they can get more information on specific products or services
  • A means of reaching customer service

Since you may only have one second to capture the reader before he or she hits delete, it’s to your benefit to highlight an interesting item in your subject line or immediately in the body of the text. This window can literally provide you a “window of opportunity” to grab their attention. Make this about them.

Unlike a press release, which gives the media your business news, e-mail marketing needs to focus on benefits to the customer. Once you’ve got them reading and have drawn attention to these customer benefits, you can include as much as you’d like about your company. They can elect to read it or not. Nonetheless, the farther down the reader scrolls, the more advertising and marketing information he or she will have absorbed.

A few e-mail marketing rules of thumb:

  • Make sure that everyone on the list has agreed to be there — don’t add names
  • Reassure readers that their information will not be shared
  • Give readers an opportunity to opt off of the list
  • Keep information concise, to the point, and focused on their needs
  • Don’t blitz — e-mailing more than once or twice a week is annoying
  • Provide a choice of HTML or TEXT version

Landing pages are also important. Readers should be able to get more information by clicking on various places on the initial marketing e-mail or newsletter. Don’t send them to a home page and make them search for the specific information that brought them there. For example, on Amazon.com if you click on a specific book, you’ll get a page with details and reviews of that book and suggestions of similar books. That landing page provides information including pricing or purchasing and then leads to a sales page or shopping cart. Your promotional e-mails should do the same thing and give the reader an opportunity to go to your home page.

A new company that does not conduct business directly over the Internet may want to take advantage of the interactivity of the Internet to provide readers with something to do, such as a quiz, questionnaire, survey, or short article. This puts your name in front of the reader and gives them a chance to interact. It is also a way of monitoring how many people visit your site.