In my last column, I fielded some key and frequently asked questions from small- and medium-sized businesses when it comes to email, particularly in how email should be considered in a social world. Today's column focuses on some specifics in other areas that any business owner needs to be aware of if they want to ensure email drives their business forward.
What are some tried and true methods that small-to-medium-sized businesses can use for their email marketing program and what are the big issues that we need to be aware of? Ones that don't require million dollar budgets or a small army of experts?
List growth. The first and often most challenging thing small- and medium-sized businesses need to do is develop and grow a true permission-based email subscriber list. There are no shortcuts and this requires patience. However, savvy businesses will capture email opt-ins at every customer touch point. Retail presences, call centers, their website, and social media platforms all represent perfect opportunities to capture email addresses in exchange for some kind of value. For some businesses it may be coupons and offers, while for a more B2B business it could be a white paper or valued content. Don't forget to send a welcome email and set expectations of what they should expect from your brand. Think about it the same way you would greet a possible customer walking through your store front or if they call your 1-800 number.
Frequency. How often you send emails is a crucial element to success and possibly, if abused, brand damage. A worst-case scenario is you gain trust and permission (and the potential for sales) from a brand via email sign-up but you send email campaigns too frequently and your recipients begin to have a negative impression of your brand.
Mobile. Smartphones and tablets are revolutionizing how people consume content and what, where, and why it matters. Nearly half of every hour on a smartphone is spent on email (Nielsen), so adapting your creative, coding, and strategy to this phenomenon is essential. Subject lines matter even more since boring ones or ones that don't entice may be deleted in line at the grocery store. For many brands, the goal is to not get deleted and to hopefully get read after the smartphone email triage happens.
Five other essential tips that businesses of all sizes need to remember for each and every campaign:
Sixty-eight percent of small businesses surveyed by Pitney Bowes listed email as their preferred marketing channel, so clearly email is the cornerstone of digital communication. A great, smart program moves the needle for businesses while providing value to its subscribers. The secret sauce can often be respecting the subscriber and sending relevant and valuable information, not just "blasting" emails when sales are slow. All of our inboxes are increasingly crowded, so to stand out and get read, marketers must apply common sense while leveraging the many possibilities of email marketing.
What are other tips that work for you, as a marketer or as a consumer, that should be passed on to this key and often forgotten business segment?
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Simms Jenkins is CEO of BrightWave Marketing, North America's leading email marketing-focused digital agency. The award-winning firm specializes in elevating email marketing and digital messaging programs that drive revenue, cut costs, and build relationships. Jenkins has led BrightWave Marketing in establishing a world-class client list including Affiliated Computer Service (A Xerox Company), Chick-fil-A, Cox Business, Phillips66, Porsche, and Southern Company. The agency was recently ranked among the fastest growing private companies by Inc. Magazine.
Jenkins was awarded the prestigious AMY 2010 Marketer of the Year from the American Marketing Association for being the top agency marketer and the Email Marketer of the Year at the Tech Marketing Awards held by the Technology Association of Georgia. Jenkins is regarded as one of the leading experts in the email marketing industry and is regularly cited by the media as such and called upon by the financial community to provide market insight and consulting.
Jenkins is the author of two definitive and highly regarded books on email marketing; The New Inbox (published in April 2013 by ClickZ/Incisive Media) and The Truth About Email Marketing (published by Pearson's Financial Times Press in 2008). Jenkins is currently the Email Marketing Best Practices Columnist for ClickZ, the largest resource of interactive marketing news and commentary in the world, online or off. His industry articles have been called one of the top 21 information sources for email marketers.
He has been featured in Fortune Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Adweek, Bloomberg TV, Wired Magazine, and scores of other leading publications and media outlets. Jenkins is a regular speaker at major digital industry and general business conferences.
Additionally, Jenkins is the creator of EmailStatCenter.com and SocialStatCenter.com, the leading authorities on email and social media metrics. Prior to founding BrightWave Marketing, Jenkins headed the CRM group at Cox Interactive Media.
Jenkins serves on the eMarketing Association's Board of Advisors among other civic and professional boards. He is also a mentor at Flashpoint, a Georgia Tech-based startup accelerator program. Jenkins is a graduate of Denison University in Granville, Ohio and resides in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood with his wife and three children.