Small Biz E-Mail Promotions

E-mail is a dream medium for small businesses. We’ve used it ourselves for self-promotion and seen amazing results in terms of new clients, opportunities, and marketplace exposure.

As the medium is relatively young, entrepreneurs often don’t quite know how to start marketing with email. Or they don’t take full advantage of all available, inexpensive, effective email marketing approaches.

That’s why we found Ilise Benun’s book “Self-Promotion Online” so helpful. Geared toward creative people such graphic designers and writers but applicable to most small businesses, it’s a step-by-step guide to the whole online space — from creating Web sites to search engine placement.

Some excerpts of the email marketing tips we found most helpful.

Best E-Mail Uses

E-mail marketing…. is simply the process of using email to keep in touch with, and keep your name in front of, those with whom you have a relationship — past, current and possibly future customers; colleagues and vendors; even friends and family. The most effective email marketing involves sending messages to people who are already familiar with your work.

Advantages of an E-Mail Marketing Campaign

  • E-mail keeps you visible. It keeps your customers connected to you and up-to-date on what you are doing. If you send something useful, like quick tips or an interesting industry-related link, they will also feel like they’re getting something valuable from you.

  • E-mail motivates people to respond. If a prospect has been meaning to contact you but hasn’t because she’s been busy with everything else, your email message will give her an opportunity to reach out; all she has to do is click on “reply.”
  • E-mail allows you to educate your market about your work, little by little, which positions you as an expert and instills confidence in your ability to handle whatever projects a prospect may have.

What to Send

Quick tips are perfect for email marketing, as are the answers to typical questions you get from clients, industry links and other resources, or a simple update on what’s new in your business. You can even use email to advise prospects and clients about your travel schedule and when you are available to take on new projects.

Capturing Names and Addresses for Your List

Don’t ever buy an email marketing list offered to you by a stranger online. You need to encourage your prospects to sign up — to opt in, as they say — to receive your regular email messages…. Offer a few different ways, such as a form to fill out on your Web site or through a list manager such as Listbot, where people can self-subscribe…. Don’t forget to offer it to people you speak with. Instead of simply asking for someone’s email address, say something like this: “I send out an email newsletter about [your specialty”, and I’d be happy to put you on the list.”

How to Do “Cold” E-Mail Marketing

“If you target carefully, write concisely and approach people respectfully, you can use email to begin a conversation with someone who may have never heard of you but whose need you satisfy…. First, choose your prospect and find his email address. Then send a brief message — no more than three sentences — telling where and how you got their email address, who you are and what you offer…. Then ask him to reply if he’d like more information.” One designer commented cold-call e-marketing works better than the phone since it allows the prospect to respond without confrontation.

Who to Send E-Mail Press Releases To

In Benun’s book, a graphic designer recounts how he used email public relations to get coverage in two major newspapers, resulting in 20 new clients. He also sends press releases to his database of clients, vendors, colleagues, and friends “because you just never know.”

E-Mail as a Relationship Builder

It is the succession of communication back and forth that builds relationships between you and the people who make up your market. If you do your email marketing right, your recipients will actually look forward to receiving your messages. Instead of cursing you for sending something, they may actually thank you.

Distributing Your Newsletter

In another article by Benum, she discusses the best ways to distribute email newsletters:

You can do it yourself from your own software — but only if your list is small, as many Internet service providers (ISPs) won’t allow you to send to a large number of recipients at once…. As your list grows, you can use either a free online list-distribution service (like those offered by Yahoo or Topica) or a fee-based service (such as MailerMailer or Constant Contact). To convey a professional appearance, it’s better to use the fee-based services; the free services add their own advertising messages to yours and can be mistaken for spam.

Using innovative e-marketing techniques to promote your small to midsize business? Share them with Karen.

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