Small Business Marketing Dos & Don’ts:  Email Marketing

Small Business Marketing Dos & Don’ts: Email Marketing

Working at the Local Search Association has allowed me the privilege of meeting and working with some of the best and brightest minds in the marketing and advertising industries. From Fortune 500 companies to startups, this monthly column, “3 Dos and 3 Don’ts,” offers some practical tips for small businesses to improve their marketing efforts.

This week’s topic is Email Marketing.

Dave Charest, Constant Contact

DO: Collect Email Addresses.

Make sure you’re collecting email addresses in all the places potential customers interact with your business. That’s face-to-face interactions, on print materials, and online. Here’s a simple list growth checklist to make sure you’re set up to gather email addresses in every situation.

DON’T: Ask people if they want to join your email list.

Wait, what? I know, I know. But think about it. No one ever wakes up saying, “I can’t wait to get more email today!” So never ask, “Would you like to join our email list?” Instead, emphasize the value someone should expect to receive in exchange for giving you their email address. If you’re unsure what to say, here’s where you can find a simple script on how to ask for email addresses.

Mike Wilson, Zenreach

DO: Leverage Automation.

For the same reasons that small businesses leverage automation and outsourcing for other marketing and advertising services, automation in email marketing is essential for local business owners because doing it effectively is in-and-of-itself a full-time and very specialized activity. Automation is an often over-used and loosely defined term, but the basics for email marketing automation include the automatic scheduling, triggering, tracking and conversion/performance reporting, etc. of messages to your customers. These are the ‘must-haves’ and typically included in most leading, high-quality email marketing platforms and services.

DON’T: Don’t be homogenous.

Research consistently shows that non-personal messages (one size fits all), sent over time, will erode users interest (Business2Community). A user continually presented with generic messages or untargeted offers will increase unsubscribe-rates and lower conversion. Moreover, broad, poorly planned (or impulsively sent) messages frequently annoy users causing them to, at-best, ignore your messages or at-worst send them to spam. In the end, this results in a disservice to their customers and, of potentially greater consequence, wastes time, money and produces poor local advertising ROI for your small business.

Jack Jostes, Ramblin Jackson

DO: Send from a professional email account.

When you’re sending out marketing emails to your clients and/or prospective customers, you’re likely one of dozens of marketing “blasts” they’re getting. Send your emails from an email ending in @yourdomain.com to make sure people take you seriously and recognize you instantly so you don’t end up in their spam folder. Sending from a professional account will contribute to better open rates, click-thru rates and overall response to your email campaigns.

DON’T: Send from free email accounts.

Don’t send your email marketing content from an email address ending in @gmail.com, @comcast.net, @aol.com, etc. Sending email from a free email account like @yahoo.com makes you look unprofessional. You can’t even afford to pay for email hosting? You must not be serious about your business.

Bonus: Alex Rafter, Square

Do: Send actionable content.

With each email you send, think about the action you want your customers to take when they open it. Include one actionable link (this is commonly referred to as the call to action, or CTA) as the centerpiece of your email. Some examples include “Shop the sale,” or “RSVP here.” Square Customer Engagement has beautiful, ready-to-go templates for promotions, announcements, or event invitations that make it easy to plug in your CTA.

Don’t: flood people’s inboxes.

Think of all the email you get in your personal account — and how quickly it adds up. You want to show your customers’ inboxes the same respect you expect other businesses to show yours. A general rule of thumb is to only send an email when the content is truly engaging and actionable to avoid losing subscribers.

Small Business Marketing Dos & Don’ts: Web Presence

Small Business Marketing Dos & Don’ts: Web Presence

Working at the Local Search Association has allowed me the privilege of meeting and working with some of the best and brightest minds in the marketing and advertising industries. From Fortune 500 companies to startups, this monthly column, “3 Dos and 3 Don’ts,” offers some practical tips for small businesses to improve their marketing efforts.

This week’s topic is Web Presence.

Chris Carfi, GoDaddy

DO: Invest time building your website.

A GoDaddy survey found that 59 percent of very small businesses with five or fewer employees still do not have a website. Setting up a website can be as simple as getting a WordPress website, or using a DIY website builder. If you want assistance setting up the website, there are online marketplaces that can connect you with freelance web designers who can help. Additionally, do make sure your website is mobile friendly. With an increasing number of consumers accessing information from the mobile devices, make sure your website is designed to be both useful and responsive when viewed on a mobile phone or tablet.

DON’T: Forget that less is more.

A clean, professional looking site is easier to use and will keep users coming back. Keep themes and colors consistent, make sure text is large enough to read. Make sure buttons are identifiable and present large, clear targets on mobile devices. Also, make sure important information is highly visible on your page so it’s easy to find and reflects your business’s brand identity.

Kerry Cullen Baldwin, Web.com

DO: Monitor user behavior on your website.

Congratulations on being in the 50% of businesses that actually have a website! Now that you do, it’s important to understand if it is working for your business and how users interact with it. Do they view one or more pages? Do they stay on it for a short period of time or do they linger? Do these metrics vary from page to page? Is the number of website visitors growing over time and where are they coming from? Are users converting – submitting online forms, requesting downloads, making purchases? It’s imperative to implement a website monitoring tool such as Google Analytics so that you can routinely analyze how users interact with your site thus enabling you to capitalize on your strengths as well as identify potential problem areas and correct proactively.

DON’T: Rely on the Contact Us page.

How many times have you gone to a website and found that you were one or more clicks away from finding a phone number? If you want prospective customers to call you, make sure that your phone number is prominent at the top on each page of your website and not just on the Contact Us page. If there are other actions you want users to take such as signing up for a free trial, requesting a quote or subscribing to a newsletter – tell them what you want to do, make it prominent and, most importantly, make it easy for them to do so.

Susana Zialcita, Google

DO: Make your website mobile friendly.

This free report will give you a prioritized list of specific fixes that you can use to make your site faster, better and more pleasant for those visiting your site from their phones. Once you get your report, you can work with your web professional to address the highest-priority items on the list. If you need a quick guide to point to, this is a good place to start. A couple of quick tips: go easy on the images; they slow pages down. Also, think about taps with fingers instead of clicks with a mouse and avoid long menus of options. Finally, use a legible font size.

DON’T: Send the wrong message to your customers.

As 48% of smartphone users said that if a site didn’t work well on their smartphones, it made them feel like the company didn’t care about their business. You wouldn’t think of building a front door that only half of your customers could fit through, right? Well, in 2015, half of all searches in the US were conducted on a mobile phone. Maintaining a site that only works on desktop computers is like forcing every other customer that visits your store front to crawl through a door that is too small for them to walk through. Since mobile phones extend the internet to all moments in our day to day life (we browse while walking the dog, waiting in line for coffee, and during long car rides in the passenger seat), your digital store front is open to customers at all hours of the day! Make sure your introduction to those customers is a warm welcome from a well-designed, speedy and easy to use website.