Good News for Small Biz

How are small businesses faring in the battle for the email inbox against large companies with big advertising budgets?

Surprisingly well, according to a new report by VerticalResponse.

Its “Trend Watch Q1 2006” offers revealing insights into the world of small business email marketing. It also provides rare, indispensable industry benchmarks that allow small business owners to compare their email performance to similar-sized companies in the same category.

Here are some illuminating conclusions drawn from the report and a recent conversation with Vertical Response CEO Janine Popick:

  • People click on email from organizations that strike a personal chord. Art galleries, wineries, life coaches, fitness centers, and religious establishments typically experience the best results of the organizations surveyed. Interestingly, Popick told me her company broadcasts email campaigns for over 600 wineries, proving oenophiles are a receptive audience to email communications catering to their passion for fine wine.

  • It’s all about rapport. We’ve been hearing for years that email is all about relevancy, and that’s true. But the report shows going one step further — developing a rapport — is key. Companies enjoying more intimate relationships with their customers, such as restaurants, real estate companies, and, again, art galleries and wineries, perform better than those in more impersonal industries or with an online presence only.
  • Staying close to the customer pays. Smaller businesses have open and click rates that trend as much as 30 percent higher than their corporate counterparts, probably because they have closer relationships to their customers. As list size grows, click and open rates generally decrease and unsubscribe rates climb. Intuitively, that makes sense. As the business grows, the company may be less familiar with its recipients or not effectively targeting specific segments of its audience. Another reason may be that companies with large lists may not be using confirmed opt-in methods.
  • As lists grow, bounce rates go down. This may be the result of better data inputting or more frequent emailing that keeps lists current.

Popick also reports that although most small businesses are doing great at steadily growing their email lists, only a few reach the elusive 10,000-member threshold.

As a small business owner, I find many of the report’s findings accurately reflect my own recent e-newsletter experience.

My e-newsletter is only broadcast to roughly 800 colleagues, clients, and prospects but enjoys a 49 percent CTR (define). Within the e-newsletter, the articles on life coaching topics, such as “Taming Your To Do List” and “Creating Problem-Free Zones in Your Life,” attract a dramatically higher readership than the more business-focused articles.

As my list grows and I broadcast more frequently, the bounce rates go down, because I’m continually cleaning up the list. The only difference is I’m not experiencing a higher unsubscribe rate. In fact, it’s decreased. But that may because over time, I’ve been working to refine the content to increase the relevance to my readers, which creates a greater rapport both on- and offline.

So if you’re a small-business owner, don’t be intimidated by the big boys’ email campaigns. You’ve got a closer rapport and stronger relationship with your customers. You can make it even more satisfying for everyone by staying in touch by email.

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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