Amanda Cullen is the founder of Business Made Simpler – Coaching and Workshops for Small Business Owners. She offers sound advice for people running or thinking of starting-up their own home business.
Email Marketing. The Why, What and How.
by Amanda Cullen of Business Made Simpler
Do you have a mailing list that you use at least occasionally? If so, are you using it effectively? If not, you could be missing a trick.
Why do you need an email marketing strategy?
Before we can answer this, we need to think about what we mean by ‘marketing’. It’s NOT selling. It’s positioning your business in the marketplace and increasing awareness of your brand.
Marketing starts with strategy. You need to be clear what messages you want to give out about your business, and who your audience is.
For example, my marketing is all aimed at establishing me as an experienced and trustworthy business coach, based in the Kingston Upon Thames area and working with business owners with 0-5 employees.
At the next level down, I want people to get a feel for my values of integrity, clarity, friendliness, supportiveness, and having a no-nonsense approach.
Once you know what messages you want to give out, you can think about how you do it both online (e.g. website, social media, blogs, advertising) and offline (business cards, flyers, posters, banners, magazine articles, etc.)
One option is email marketing, which is exactly what it says – sending out emails to position your business and raise brand awareness. For this you will, of course, need a mailing list!
How do you build your mailing list?
Starting and growing your mailing list is typically a combination of two things:
- organic growth
- specific, targeted action
Organic growth includes activities like having a sign-up box on your website, offering to add people to your mailing list if they show interest in your work, and adding customers / clients. It works, but growth may be slow.
Targeted action can include activities like displaying a sign-up sheet or having a bowl for business cards when you are speaking or exhibiting at expos or fairs, perhaps with an incentive to participate such as a prize draw or promise of an email with some exclusive content. It can also include ad campaigns e.g. on social media.
Developing your email marketing strategy
Once you’ve started to grow your list, you need to think about what you want your email marketing to do.
First you need to think about your objective – what you want to achieve
- Content – what to include
- Format – your layout, the balance between images and words, the length of articles, etc.
- Style – this should be consistent with your branding
- Tone – this is about the ‘voice’ you use to come across
I believe in the importance of ‘generosity’ in marketing. I believe it’s important to give away useful content and /or to promote others. So I typically share hints and tips that may help business owners to run their business more successfully, and I occasionally give a fellow business owner a mention when I come across something that I think may be interesting or helpful to my readers.
In terms of frequency the most important thing is to be realistic and consistent. Far better to do a really good, high quality, quarterly newsletter than a sloppy, poor quality one that is intended to come out every week or fortnight but is sporadic or inconsistent!
My emails are done in the format of a newsletter – with four short articles followed by a regular slot about my workshops and finishing with a testimonial. Newsletters are one option (and it’s up to you what format you choose) but of course your emails don’t have to use that format. They could simply be short emails announcing a forthcoming sale or promoting a new product or service.
A word about email marketing software.
There are lots of email marketing options out there – Constant Contacts, AWeber, Sendinblue, Hubspot, ActiveCampaign,Moosend, etc. but probably the best known, and the one I now use, is Mailchimp.
Mailchimp follows the typical pattern of offering a range of versions of increasing sophistication at increasing prices! The free version is fine for many people, at least when they start out, and will allow you to have up to 2000 subscribers.
Creating your ‘campaigns’
Mailchimp, along with many of the other email marketing software providers, calls each email or newsletter you send out a ‘campaign’. Don’t let this bother you, it’s just marketing speak!
For each email you send, whatever its format, there’s a simple process you can follow.
First think about:
- Purpose – why you’re sending it
- Audience – who you want to receive it
- Message – what you want them to feel
- Objective – what you want them to do as a result
Then it’s time to address:
- Format – layout, images v text
- Tone – style, language, ‘voice’
- Content – images and words
Your format and tone are likely to remain consistent from one ‘campaign’ to the next but obviously the content will change.
For your content, remember that you need to first determine your overall strategy then make sure your content fits it.
What do I mean by this? Well think back to what I said earlier. My strategy is to establish myself as an experienced and trustworthy business coach, based in the Kingston Upon Thames area and working with business owners with 0-5 employees.
So my content is all aimed at communicating to my target audience in a way that demonstrates my competence and expertise, gives them a sense of my straight-forward style and adds value by telling them something useful.
Take time and care over your title or ‘subject heading’ as Mailchimp (and probably other providers) calls it. This is what will make your subscribers decide whether or not to open your email at all.
It needs to catch their attention and hook them in.