One of the best ways that small business owners can keep in touch with prospects and clients is to create an email newsletter that you send regularly to subscribers who have opted in to receive it. Email newsletters are a low-cost way to follow up with subscribers, build your reputation as an authority in your niche, and start conversations with prospects.
A great email newsletter builds trust between you and your readers by delivering high-quality content that your readers find helpful. Here are 7 steps to create your small business email marketing strategy.
Step 1 – Competitive Analysis
Before you start publishing your small business email newsletter, do some research on what your competitors are doing. If they already publish a newsletter, join their mailing list to keep tabs on them. Some of the things you will want to monitor include:
- How often do they send the newsletter?
- What types of information do they include?
- How relevant is their information is to their niche audience?
- Is the content valuable and easy-to-read or is it jargon-filled and primarily self-promotional?
- Have they missed any relevant topics you can cover?
- Do you see any opportunities for improvement?
Step 2 – Target Market Analysis
Next, decide who you want to reach with your newsletter, such as your current clients, prospects or the press. What are their demographics and psychographics? What steps must they take to make a purchasing decision? What do you want readers to do when they read your newsletter. Here are a few examples:
- Current clients – For current clients, you might want to upsell or cross-sell them on additional products, send you referrals, or renew their subscription to your services. You can use your newsletter to build client loyalty or promote additional products and services they might not be aware of. You can also remind them that you value their referrals.
- Prospects – For prospects, you might want to generate leads for your business. If you market a complex service that usually takes a few contacts before prospects are ready to buy, you can provide them with useful information that will help them make a better purchasing decision and encourage them to contact you when they are ready. If you sell products, you can also promote and sell those products through your email newsletter, thus encouraging prospects to buy from you directly.
Step 3 – Create Your Newsletter Format
When you create your newsletter, you want to make it a quick-read for subscribers. Don’t overwhelm readers with too much information. Decide what types of sections you will include in your newsletter, such as an introduction, a main article or editorial, case studies, featured products and services, upcoming events, or promotional offerings. For newsletters with many sections, add a table of contents at the top or on the left side so subscribers can preview your content.
Step 4 – Creating Content
Once you’ve decided on your newsletter’s format, it’s time to either pay someone to create content for you or to write the content yourself. Here are some ideas for generating content for your newsletters.
- Case studies – If you have a few great client success stories, write up case studies around the strongest ones. Case studies can be used again and again to promote your services in numerous ways and make a compelling case for why prospects should consider your products and services.
- Articles – If you choose to use articles in your newsletter and don’t want to write the content yourself, you can hire a freelance writer from a service like elance.com or find content from one of the major article directories on the web like ezinearticles.com. Article directories often will allow you to publish their articles in your newsletter for free as long as you include a blurb about the author of the article.
- Industry experts – A great way to generate content for your newsletter is to interview other industry experts about their tips and best practices. Additionally, you can ask industry experts to submit articles to your email newsletter. Make sure the articles are relevant to your subscribers’ interests and provide informative information rather than a sales pitch for their services.
- Customer feedback – You can ask your clients for feedback such as success stories or do a Q&A where you answer reader-submitted questions. You can also conduct polls and surveys to ask your readers what they think.
- Short tips – Not everything in your newsletter has to be article length, so consider adding short tips and quick takeaways. Quotes also work well if you can find one that is relevant to your newsletter content.
Step 5 – Mailing Your Newsletter
Email service providers like Aweber.com make sending email newsletters easy and cost-effective. Not only do they let you set up and schedule your broadcast ahead of time, but they will monitor who opens and clicks on links in your emails so you can measure your results.
Aweber put together a short video to describe the process. You don’t have to use them – there are plenty of other email service providers – but I’ve stayed with Aweber for years, even after trying out several competitors.
Step 6 – Commit to a Publishing Schedule
Decide when and how frequent you will publish your email newsletter. Frequency can make or break your email marketing success. If you publish too frequent, your newsletter may be perceived as spam. If you don’t publish enough, your readers won’t remember they subscribed.
How frequent you publish your content will depend on
- Content type – Readers are more tolerant of helpful editorial content than a barrage of promotional content.
- Content length – The longer your email, the more time it will take for subscribers to read it. If you send daily emails, keep them shorter. Monthly emails can be longer.
- Timeliness – How relevant is your newsletter content to current events in your subscribers’ lives? When are prospects likely to make purchasing decisions – for instance, is it seasonal or following a specific life trigger?
You may find it is best to let subscribers choose how often they receive content from you. For instance, if you offer a daily email, you may want to also offer a weekly digest that highlights the best content sent over the course of the week.
Step 7 – Test Your Results
As with any marketing campaign, testing is crucial to your success. You should monitor which days get the best open rates and which subjects get the best responses and sales. Specifically, look at:
- Your delivery rate – How many active email addresses do you have on your list? Email addresses become inactive over time so at any given point, only a percentage of your list will receive your email.
- Your open rate – How many people open your email? Open rates are estimations of the number of people who at least skim your email. They aren’t 100% active because email service providers often can’t track every possible way someone might view your email – such as on a cell phone or in your email reader’s preview mode. It is also virtually impossible to tell if your email ends up in your reader’s junk mail folder, so the open rate will give you an idea of how active your list is.
- Your click-through rate – How many people click the links in your email? Do certain offers get more clicks?
- Your sales rate – How many sales can you attribute to your email newsletter?
- Your list growth – How fast is your list growing?
Your small business email marketing strategy is a work in progress, so make sure to set benchmarks and monitor the success of your campaign. As you learn more about what your subscribers want, you can incorporate those changes to improve your success.