Driving Your SMB Forward With Email

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:

  1. Customize and personalize your emails.
  2. Use your metrics to guide future campaigns.
  3. Be aware that email creative is very different than web creative.
  4. If your brand is well known, use that as your from line – if a small business owner is well regarded, test using a personal name in the from line.
  5. Make sure you know the rules of the CAN-SPAM Act – it’s a federal law and has key considerations that many marketers and business owners are not aware of.

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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