Email marketing is the most underutilized marketing tool today for small businesses.
As far as an effective return on investment, studies show that for every $1 you spent on email marketing you can expect an average of $42 in ROI.
And unlike social media (who’s ROI is nowhere close), everyone you want to reach is already on email.
Yet, over the past 5 years of working with clients, I can only count a handful of them who are actively and consistently using email marketing to grow their business.
So why is that?
Well, email is made to sound really complicated…
Segmentation, automation, drip campaigns, nurture sequences, autoresponders — it all sounds like marketing gobbledygook.
Email marketing sounds complicated, so people assume it is… But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you’re not emailing your customers regularly, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity. An opportunity to not only grow your business by acquiring new customers, but to increase the customer lifetime value of your existing customers (by encouraging them to buy from you more often).
In this article I’m going to cover the 4 simple things you need to get up and running with an email marketing system for your business today. And chances are you already have 3 of them!
#1 You need a computer
Sounds simple enough, right? And it is!
As far as needing something physical (often one of the most expensive parts of running a business), all you need is access to a desktop or laptop computer.
Just about any computer will do — even an inexpensive Chromebook.
Chances are, you already have a computer in your office — so go ahead and check this off your list!
#2 You need an audience
Arguably one of the most important parts of email marketing — you have to have a list of people to send your emails.
When it comes to your audience, you can most easily define them by putting them into one of two buckets; customer or prospect.
At a bare minimum you want to be collecting email addresses, but in most cases it’s best if you can collect their email address and name. This way you can begin to personalize your email marketing campaigns and address your audience by name (which is a quick and easy way to make your emails more effective).
Let’s take a look at your two audiences.
Your “customer” audience
The easiest way to grow your subscriber list is to look at your existing customers. Most often this comes in the form of a customer list.
Perhaps you collect your customers name and email when they make a purchase, frequently email your customers during the course of projects, or get their email from form submissions on your website.
Most businesses collect all of your contacts in some kind of database (like a CRM), but if you haven’t been doing that — it may be as simple as going through your contacts list in your inbox.
Even if you haven’t been organized in collecting all of your customers’ contact information, chances are with a little bit of elbow grease you can come up with a pretty good size list.
Your customer audience is often the most valuable part of your list — these folks have already shown you that they are interested in the products or services you sell, and have already spent money with you.
Email marketing is a great way to re-engage with those people to keep them coming back.
Your “prospect” audience
Unlike your customer email list, your prospect email list are folks who haven’t done business with you — yet.
These could be people who contacted you to get a price or ask questions, but just haven’t committed.
These are also great people to get into your email marketing system. Depending on what you sell, people might not make a purchase straight away. By collecting the contact information of people who show interest in your product, you can increase the chances they purchase with you by nurturing them along the way.
Without getting too deep in the weeds, one of the most powerful aspects of email marketing is your ability to find out what your prospects are looking for, then send them emails (all automated, of course) that help answer the common questions people have and alleviate fears.
Not only do email campaigns like this make prospects more likely to buy — it makes them more likely to buy from you, the person who’s been educating and helping them along the way.
Collecting email addresses from prospects is a little more difficult. People who haven’t made a commitment to you yet are less likely to hand over their details. This is why you often see websites that offer free downloads, guides, or information behind a sign up form.
By “gating” pieces of valuable content (putting it behind some kind of signup form) you can exchange the visitor’s email for your information — growing your prospect audience on autopilot.
Word to the wise…
There are laws about who you can and cannot send marketing emails to. Depending on where you live (jurisdiction) these laws can be quite different.
Before starting an email marketing campaign it’s important to get consent from your audience (both prospects and customers!).
You can read more about the consent laws to find out which ones are applicable to you.
#3 You need an idea
You might be thinking to yourself, “What on earth would I be sending my audience? I don’t want to spam them!”.
You’re right — you don’t want to spam them. But just because marketing email has gotten a bad reputation for spam doesn’t mean all marketing emails are bad.
Keep in mind, you already know your audience is wanting to hear from you (via their consent to email them) — so you just have to brainstorm a few ideas on what might be helpful to them….
What your customers want…
A great way to think about email marketing when it comes to your existing clientele is “what kind of value can I provide?”.
- Customers of your restaurant might want to hear about new menu items or specials.
- Customers of your lawn care business might want to get tips on how and when to water their grass.
- Supporters of your nonprofit might want to hear about news and updates.
No matter what business you’re in, there’s an opportunity for you to continue to provide value to people who have purchased from you. It can be as simple as keeping them in the loop, or you may choose to provide a bit of “continued education” by helping your customer be even more successful with your product or service.
Anything that helps them achieve their goals, save money, or become more efficient are typically welcomed from any customer!
What your prospects want…
Just because someone who showed interest in your business hasn’t bought yet doesn’t mean they won’t.
A lot of purchasing decisions take time.
People have to first understand their problem. Once they understand their issue, they will seek out solutions. After collecting a list of possible solutions they will weigh their options. Finally they will make a decision to purchase (or not) and from whom.
Depending on what you sell, this process could be a matter of minutes, days, weeks, months, or even years! Buying a bar of soap is a quick decision, having a custom pool built is not!
During this period there are a lot of things you can send your prospects to help them along this journey…
- Help prospects diagnose their problem.
- Answer the questions prospects have about your product or service.
- Overcome objections people have about doing business with you.
- Highlight your social proof and successful customers.
By sharing this kind of information, your email marketing campaigns can help your prospect in their journey — and since you were the one to help them, you’ll drastically increase the chances your prospect will choose you (the helpful one!) over your competitors.
#4 You need an email marketing platform
At this point you already have 3 of the 4 items — now the rubber meets the road!
You don’t want to conduct your email marketing from your normal inbox (like Gmail). Not only is this inefficient (Gmail wasn’t built for campaigns), but in many cases it violates the terms of service.
Instead, you’ll want to sign up with an email marketing platform.
But which one?
What’s best for you personally is hard to say. All of these platforms have their pros and cons.
Thankfully, most of them also have a free tier (for a limited number of subscribers or number of emails), or a free trial so you can test them out.
And I would encourage you to do so!
In order to be effective with email marketing, you’re going to want a system you feel comfortable with.
The platform I recommend…
For most of my clients (small businesses who are just dipping their toes into email marketing), I recommend MailerLite.
It’s powerful enough that you can grow into some pretty complex automations and segmentations — but simple enough that you can pop it open and send off an email to all of your subscribers without too much fuss.
If you’re starting out with less than 1,000 subscribers, then you can test out their free plan. After you grow past the 1,000 limit, paid plans start at just $10/mo.
If you’re looking for a more comprehensive solution that can help you manage all of your contacts, set reminders, create landing pages, and more — check out AllClients which is an entire CRM built for small (and very small) business (and also one of my favorite clients!).
Now it’s time to get started!
Email marketing is an untapped resource for most small businesses, giving you the ability to:
- Stay top of mind by showing up in your customers’ inbox regularly
- Introducing new products and services to an interested audience
- Surveying your customers to find out how you can improve
- Promoting sales, promotions, events, and news
- Solicit for online reviews
- Demonstrate your expertise and knowledge
- …And more!
There are all kinds of marketing activities (like social media, print ads, etc.) that promise some of these things — but email can do it all and puts you right inside your audience’s inbox.
If you don’t believe that’s true (or that it really works) then ask yourself why all the “big” companies are doing it.
Those companies understand the kind of return on investment email marketing provides — and it’s one of the big advantages they have over small businesses like yours.
If you want to increase your customer lifetime value, bring in new customers, and grow your business in the most cost efficient way possible — then email marketing just might be the answer you’re looking for.
I’ve been using email marketing in both of my businesses for their entire existence — and there’s no doubt it’s one of the most valuable assets my business owns.
Social media platforms come and go (not to mention go off and change their name to ‘Meta’!) — but email has proven it’s here to stay.
If you’re interested, but still unsure of how email marketing could fit into your business model, then I’d love to chat. If nothing else, I can help spark some ideas and get you pointed in the right direction!