Five Keys to Effective Email Marketing

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The world has changed a lot – you used to be able to send out letters…direct mail and bring in new business with great success.

But costs have gone up, effectiveness of direct mail has gone down and there are lots of other marketing choices out there.

One of those choices is email marketing – it’s low cost, it’s easy enough that anyone can do  it and if it’s done right it’s been proven to more effective in terms of ROI (Return on Investment) than anything else out there.

The kicker is that is needs to be done the right way!

Let’s start out by looking at an example:

Financial Services

It’s tough to be in the Financial Services business – especially in this economy, but that didn’t stop Vern Cushenbery from creating Cush Capital in Overland Park a couple of years ago after 10 years in the financial investment arena.  Vern specializes in what he calls “Wholesale Investing” – his firm does their own research and buys directly, cutting out the middleman (mutual funds managers, other advisors, etc.) and saving investors a lot of money.

Early on he realized he needed an easy way to communicate with his clients (and potential clients) so he could share his approach and thoughts on the marketplace.  Cushenbery’s answer:  a monthly email newsletter with articles that give you insight not only into his investment strategies, but who he is as a person.  He writes everything himself and gives you insight into who he is and why he does what he does – in fact his January newsletter was all about the goals he’s setting for himself and his firm.

Technology has done a lot to level the playing field when it comes to marketing your small business compared to the ‘big boys’.  There are a lot of alternatives available today that are a lot more effective than expensive ‘traditional marketing’ alternatives (like TV or other advertising) – but only if they’re used the right way.  As an example, in 2009 the Direct Marketing Association released a study showing that Email Marketing returned $43.62 for every dollar spent!  That’s down a couple of dollars from 2008, but still more than double the next closest option of Internet Search Advertising at $21.85.

I previously covered the 10 Reasons to use email marketing (in case that ROI number isn’t enough for you) – so let’s look at the keys to using email marketing effectively?

1. Don’t Spam – ever!

It’s tempting to buy a list of email addresses that represents your perfect targets and start sending them emails about how great you are and how you can help them.  The problem is people really don’t want unasked for stuff in their inbox – just like they don’t want phone calls at dinner or people knocking on their doors to sell stuff!  Not only are you not going to create a customer using spam, you are going to build a bad reputation (which travels fast these days) and you run the risk of violating the CAN-SPAM act (which can cost you up to $16,000 per violation!).

What’s the alternative?  Send emails to customers and prospects who WANT to hear from you.  It will take more time to build your list organically, but it will be hugely effective when you do!

2. Have a plan!

What do you want to get out of your email marketing efforts?  Are you looking to build up credibility as an expert in your space?  Do you want to stay in front of people?  Do you want to build on Word of Mouth and referrals?  Decide what you want and design your approach to get there.

3. Make it your own!

How many email newsletters have you seen built around ‘industry’ updates or generic articles.  Even if they’re well written and helpful they don’t have any personal touch.

One of the great things about being a small business is that you’re unique.  People do business with you (or are considering doing business with you) because they like what you’ve done with the place, they like your approach, how you operate.  That’s what you need to be sharing in your newsletters.  Yes it will take a lot more effort to write your own stuff, but just like Blanc Burgers take a little more effort than your average chain burger; it’s worth it in the end!

4. Be consistent!

The overall volume or frequency of your email is less important than your consistency.  For an email newsletter you want to set (and meet) expectations that you’re capable of delivering a quality product on a consistent basis – just like you deliver your other products and services.  Weekly emails are great, but it’s a big commitment and a lot of work.  Email newsletters once per quarter should be easy to do, but you lose a lot of the benefits of staying top of mind and in front of your audience.  My recommendation would be to do something at least monthly – but whatever it is, live up to your plan!

5. Be interesting – add value!

Finally – good email newsletters aren’t about selling.  They may help you generate revenue, but they can’t be a sales pitch (or a disguised sales pitch).  You need to be educating, entertaining or adding value in some way.  You could use the newsletter to offer a special deal as a reward to your readers – but it better be really special and it should be coupled with other content that makes it worthwhile to open.

Back to our example with Vern and his newsletter:  He’s been doing it monthly for almost a year and a half (consistent) with a goal of educating his readers on investing in today’s market (he has a plan, it’s interesting and he’s adding value).   Vern will tell you the newsletter is a lot of work, but it’s also been a great tool that’s allowed him to build relationships and grow his business in a leveraged way.  And isn’t that what you want out of your marketing?

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

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