By Rhonda Abrams, The Planning Shop
Want a cheap, effective, efficient, easy marketing technique for your small business? Start your own e-mail newsletter. I have one. Your vet, gym and kids school probably all have an e-mail newsletter. You can, too.
Why this sudden increase of newsletters in your in-box? Because it’s incredibly easy and cheap to send e-mail newsletters thanks to a profusion of web-based e-mail newsletter services. Aren’t newsletters just viewed as more spam? Not if your recipients have signed up to receive them — and not if you do them right.
Do they work? Absolutely! If what you want to do is to keep your name in front of customers and prospects — and make the occasional sale.
Newsletters are fast and easy. My free e-mail business tips newsletter takes a few hours, and every month, I reach 20,000 readers! My local wine bar owner spends about three hours to write and upload his newsletter, but when he announced a last-minute special event one afternoon, his place was packed that evening.
Just keep your expectations modest. You may not make a lot of direct sales to your readers, but you’re building your brand and potential repeat and referral business. If you provide value to your readers, you can get an “open rate” of 15% to 20%, meaning that once a month your customers and prospects see your company name and two or three times a year they actually open your newsletter.
Ten tips to e-mail newsletter success
1. Make it meaningful: Readers should get something from bothering to open your newsletter. It doesn’t have to be a lot — if they learn one new, useful thing, they’ve benefited. Discounts and sales are always enticing.
2. Keep it short. People have limited time. The recipient needs to be able to get something valuable from your newsletter in less than a minute.
3. Use a descriptive subject line: It’s not particularly exciting to just see “This month’s news” or “This month’s specials.” Instead, indicate what they’ll find right in the headline. “This month’s Special — 50% off all Outdoor Furniture.” Studies show subject lines with fewer than 50 characters are best. Avoid subject lines that will get you blocked. Spam filters block subject lines with words like “free” or dollar signs or all caps.
4. Send it regularly. Once a month or every two weeks is ideal. More than that is probably overkill, unless you’re providing real news.
5. Maintain your branding. Make sure your company name is very visible. Use the same colors, fonts and taglines you use in the rest of your branding.
6. Only send it to people who’ve signed up. This is called “Opt-In” and most e-mail newsletter services will send to your e-mail list only if people have signed up to receive it — or have given you their business card.
7. Provide an “unsubscribe” option. Once again, this is required by most e-mail services — and it’s the law.
8. ABSOLUTELY use an online e-mail newsletter service. There are a bunch of great, inexpensive services, such as Constant Contact, Vertical Response and Emma. It costs about one cent per person per mailing. There’s even a free service, Mail Chimp, if you’re sending to fewer than 500 recipients. Newsletter services provide templates or design services, making it easy to design your newsletter. They manage all technical aspects, so you don’t have to deal with software and continually clean up your mailing list, deleting “unsubscribes.” They’re amazing.
9. Use Analytics. e-mail newsletter services generally provide a great deal of information about how well your newsletter is doing – who’s opening the newsletter, how many people are clicking on which links, and so on. Look at this info to learn what your readers respond to and keep experimenting to continually improve the effectiveness of your newsletter.
10. Encourage sign-ups. Put sign-up links on every page of your website. Gather business cards for newsletter sign-ups at trade shows or networking events. Make sure all your customers are on your list. Let everyone know. It doesn’t take much, just a simple reminder, like “Sign up for my free business tips newsletter at http://www.PlanningShop.com.” See, that was easy!