Many small business owners look at email marketing as another to-do list item taking up time that could be spent on more important tasks.
But, as with blogging, newsletters are extremely valuable and worth regularly spending some time on, especially for small business owners.
If you’re a skeptic, allow me to try to convince you about the importance of email marketing for small businesses…
Email Marketing Is a Valuable Customer Touchpoint
At the end of the day, a newsletter is just an email thread between you and a customer. Though they mainly flow in one direction, they’re an easy way to keep the channels of communication open.
You might think you need actual news to share in order to send a newsletter, but that’s not true! Their main value? Serving as regular customer touchpoints.
They signal to your customers that you’re thinking of them, and remind them to occasionally think about you, too.
I’ve heard from many small business owners that they struggle with keeping repeat clientele. A newsletter helps with that by keeping you on their minds!
At minimum, you should at least have a newsletter or email marketing program, even if you’re not spending a ton of time on the content.
So, now that we’ve established that, what should you be putting into your marketing emails?
What Makes a Good Newsletter
Newsletters can feel overwhelming to small business owners. Many of them imagine newsletters as grand, beautifully designed, paragraphs-long pieces of content.
And it’s true that some newsletters do look like that.
But a good email newsletter can be short, sweet, and minimalist. To borrow a phrase from one of my favorite copywriters, Laura Belgray, “nobody ever unsubscribed because your email was too short.”
You can even set one up that automatically lets your followers know every time you post to your blog, so you never actually have to write a single email (more on that below).
Of course, you should also use these as a way to share news if you have it. Or use them to let customers know when there’s new content on your blog. But if you feel you don’t have anything to share, use your email as a way to say “Hello!” and see how they’re doing.
You can also use emails to get customer feedback. Ask them how you’re doing, or about their biggest concerns or issues related to your industry (this is an easy way to generate blog post ideas!).
And I actually advocate for minimalist emails when it comes to design. You can include your logo, a header, or design a template you like, but including too many graphics or images is actually more likely to land you in the dreaded Promotions folder tundra. (Or worse! The Junk Mail wasteland.)
Keeping the tone conversational (yes, that includes casual subject lines!) and the emails looking similar to what you’d send a friend creates a much higher chance of landing in your customer’s Inbox (and actually being opened).
Where to Get Started with Email Marketing
If you’re looking for a free and easy-to-use program, Mailchimp is a great starting point. With a free option that lets you send up to 10,000 emails a month to 2,000 subscribers, it’s an easy place to get set up.
You can even set up an RSS email campaign which automatically sends your blog posts out in email form to your followers! The downside to this is that you can’t customize the emails. Though you have some control over designing the template, it will be filled with content from your blog. But automated RSS feed email campaigns are an excellent option for those of you who want to set it up and forget about it.
Another option for beginners is Flodesk, which is a newcomer to the email marketing scene. I don’t have as much experience with this platform, but the internet is abuzz with mostly good reviews. The biggest pros are how easy they make it to design beautiful emails, as well as some of their automation features. Cons mainly seem to be in glitches on the backend, though they do get high marks for their customer service response times.
For those who are a bit more advanced and are willing to pay for their program, ConvertKit is a great option! Their automation processes are easy to use and understand, and the program integrates well with tools like Zapier, making it easy to create automations that flow across multiple programs if you’re getting into more serious marketing. With ConvertKit you can also create landing pages for your campaigns whether you’ve got a website or not, which is great news for those putting together campaigns over social media.
Personally, I use GetResponse as a reasonably priced option that allows more control over automation and list segmentation than MailChimp does. These are slightly more advanced features you don’t need to worry about if you’re just getting started. But if you’re looking to upgrade your email marketing, it’s worth looking into! For those running ecommerce sites or promoting webinars, this is a great, easy-to-use newsletter option.
Go Out, Explore, and Get to Writing
This is just the tip of the iceberg! There’s an email marketing platform out there to suit your needs, so spend some time getting to know your options.
My best piece of advice is not to stress about it too much. As I mentioned, emails are just a way for you to stay in touch with your customers. It’s up to you how they look or how much time you put into them!
Just make sure you’re keeping these channels open and letting customers know that you’re here for them. That’s the easiest way to keep them happy and coming back to your business over and over again.