Email marketing for small business 101

Email marketing for small business 101

As my longtime followers know, email marketing is one of my favorite ingredients of an effective small business marketing strategy. So when I reached out to my email list at the end of 2019 to ask them what topic they were most interested in hearing more about in 2020, you can imagine my excitement when email marketing was the top choice. 

By the way, if you’d like to influence my emails and blogs in the new year, take this quick survey for yourself. I’d love your input! 

I’ve covered email marketing a few times on this blog already but I also recognize that sometimes getting back to the basics is really what an entrepreneur needs most. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions I get about email marketing and the way I would answer them for you if we were discussing your business marketing over coffee. Because that’s really how these things should be done, right? 

small business email campaign

Q. Why do you recommend email marketing so much, isn’t it kind of old-school?

A. Heck no. There’s a reason top marketing influencers like Amy Porterfield make most of their platform revolve around email marketing and that’s because it’s proven to be extremely effective. I have a longer answer to this question here, but the summary is that emailing is still a daily activity for most first-world audiences (people carry email apps on their phones if that confirms its importance) and since there are no tricky algorithms involved, it’s one of the surest ways to actually get a message in front of a reader. 

Additionally, email tends to be an activity done when someone is feeling productive. Similarly to an audience member jumping on Google search when they really want to accomplish something, a well timed email is a closer bet for grabbing the attention of a lead who is in pull-the-trigger mode than, say, someone browsing social media. This is another reason I think it’s a no-brainer.  

Q. How frequently should I send emails to my audience?

A. More often than you think or may even be comfortable with but this also depends on the audience, product and competition. I prefer giving more specific advice on this after knowing your business goals and target audience, but the general rule of thumb is that even hot leads (those most ready to buy) are busy, distracted people and the fewer the reminders you send, the more likely they are to forget to follow through or feel like your competition that is sending more emails cares more and is more on top of things. 

Often, my clients make the email frequency decision based on fear of losing subscribers. I wrote a whole blog on this already. You absolutely cannot think about email marketing this way or you will lose the game against your competition or the other priorities in your potential customers’ lives. First, you have to be confident that what you’re offering is worth your reader’s attention. If you’re nervous to push yourself on someone in an email, that’s not an email marketing issue, it’s a boss confidence issue. This is true for marketing in general but I think email suffers the most from a hesitancy to put yourself out there. Bottom line is to be confident in your offer or story and confident in your emails to present that offer or story well and starting to send emails more often won’t keep you up at night.

Whatever you’re comfortable with at the moment – monthly, weekly, etc., double that frequency. Twice a month, twice a week. If you want to get serious about results from your emails, you have to be willing to get in your audience’s inbox more. And you have to value email list conversion over the unsubscribes because playing to the unsubs will cost you conversion from the others on the list. Now, the other side to this is to make sure your email content is worth sending more often. See next Q. 

Q. What should I put in my emails?

A. Mostly valuable, interesting content with the occasional sales push and clear CTAs. Think of emails as chapters of a story, one flowing right into the next. Some serve the purpose of getting more acquainted, developing the plot, explaining the context, providing credibility and consistent solutions, and others bring this all to a climax with an urge for the reader to get involved and take action. 

Gary Vaynerchuk and Storybrand both preach the drip/drip/drip/sell formula, although they call it different things. The drip emails are offering your audience something generous to create interest, loyalty and appreciation on their side. While the harder sales push comes every few of these drips after earning your readers’ time and attention to hear what you offer. The same approach works well for social media also. 

I always offer the audience an opportunity to check out my products or services in every single email but the drip emails highlight value over this while every few emails, I’ll make the entire email about the offer. This has worked very well for my lists. 

Q. How do I build my email list?

A. Here’s an unpopular answer: Don’t focus on building your email list. Focus on making your emails great. Too often, I hear small business owners talk about adding to their email list before they’re really ready to start sending quality emails. Having a larger list isn’t going to do much for you if your emails are infrequent or a turn-off. 

So, after you’ve created a nice email campaign that meets the checklist of great email requirements, THEN start building your list. And remember, a small list filled with engaged, hot leads is better than a giant list made up of low interest leads anyday. 

Email marketing is my jam. Let me know if you want a professionally done email campaign locked and loaded so you can get more from your emails while doing zero of the work.

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