Business development · 12 January 2017

Email marketing: Still a small business owner’s best friend

email
Around 2.6bn people globally are currently using email

Despite the meteoric rise of social media platforms and instant messaging tools in recent years, email continues to hold its own. Here, GoDaddy’s VP for EMEA, Stefano Maruzzi, discusses the ongoing importance of email marketing for small businesses.

Let me transport you back to the year 1971 for a moment. Computer engineer Ray Tomlinson was working for BBN Technologies, a contractor for the US Department of Defense.

Unbeknownst to everyone, Tomlinson was working on a side project, which resulted in him discovering a way to send an electronic message over a network. Ironically, Tomlinson initially wanted to keep the idea hidden from his employer, thinking it would get him into trouble. In fact, the opposite was true. Tomlinson had laid the groundwork for one of the most important inventions of the 20th century — email.

At the beginning of 2017, 2.6 billion people use email worldwide, an impressive feat considering the technology is nearing its 50th birthday.

Despite the rise of platforms and tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Slack and WhatsApp over the last decade, email continues to hold its own. Estimates suggest that email usage will continue to grow in popularity, with 3 billion people using it by 2020.

Why email marketing remains king for small businesses

Flashy advertising campaigns may generate lots of buzz but these are expensive and aren’t a realistic option for small businesses. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t advertise at all.

Email is one of the most cost-effective ways to spread the word and expand your business. Whether you’re launching a new product, setting up an event or offering a seasonal sale, a well-crafted email is guaranteed to bring more eyeballs to your website. And more traffic leads to more business.

If you still need convincing about the importance of email marketing, I’ll give you three reasons why it should be a priority for your small business:

  • For every £1 you spend on email marketing, you’ll see an average of 43p returned.
  • Email is 40 times more effective in acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter.
  • 92 per cent of online adults use email, with 61 per cent using it on an average day.

So what is the best way to help ensure you have a strong email marketing strategy?


Sign ’em up

As tempting as it is to get a head start by buying email lists, you must resist this urge at all costs. The people on these lists may have opted in to receive marketing materials, but they haven’t signed up to hear specifically from you. There’s a high chance they are completely the wrong target audience for your product or service.

The best way to build your email database is via a signup form on your website. You may wish to experiment with where it’s placed. Pop-ups that aren’t too intrusive also perform well, as can opt-ins at checkout. Another good strategy to gain subscribers is to promote your mailers to people who follow your business on social media channels.

The more information you’re able to collect about your subscribers, the more options you’ll have when it comes to sending newsletters or email alerts. Securing the basics such as names, location and date of birth will present you with the opportunity to provide a personalised touch. However, don’t go too overboard with field on your signup form — you want to make it easy to sign up.


Subject: Keep it snappy and informative

Email open rates depend on multiple factors, including subject lines, relevance, sending times and frequency and your relationship with your reader or customer. There’s no magic formula to rustling up the ideal subject line, but there are things that you can do to increase the odds of your email being opened.

Be concise and descriptive. Try and stick to a maximum of ten words. It takes time to master, but it will get easier with practice. Create a sense of urgency if you can (Winter sale ends midnight!), and if the opportunity presents itself, it’s okay to hit a punchline. Take inspiration from newsletters you’ve signed up to yourself and be on the lookout for innovative ideas that you can implement.

If you can’t think of a snappy, fun and engaging subject line based on the content you’ve included in your email, this may indicate room for improvement with the copy. It’s good to talk through subject lines with other colleagues or even friends and family members if you’re running a one-person shop.

Before sending out your email, it’s good to take a step back and ask yourself if the email is something you’d be happy to receive in your inbox. Is it informative? Inspiring? Have you backed it up with a strong call to action?


Give it that professional touch

There are plenty of email marketing tools available on the market to help you design a professional looking newsletter with minimal fuss.  Email Marketing software enables you to craft emails using a drag-and-drop composer, integrate clickable buttons to boost engagement and monitor those all-important analytics.

The software should also include tools that enable you to turn blog posts into newsletters, as well as send automated welcome messages to new subscribers.


Knowledge is power

One area of email marketing that you must not overlook is analytics. Your email marketing platform will gather all sorts of metrics that can provide you with valuable insight. Don’t worry if you find there’s a huge difference between the number of people on your email list and the number of people actually reading your emails.

Average open rates for bulk sending are generally between ten and 25 per cent for small businesses. If your open rate is consistently below ten per cent, something’s not right and you need to make changes.

Just as people sign up to your newsletter list, it’s inevitable that readers are going to unsubscribe as well. Again, if you’re finding that around 1 per cent of your readers are unsubscribing after every email, then it’s a good idea to reevaluate whether the content is providing value to the reader.

It’s a good idea to clean your email list once every six months. If you have people on your list who haven’t opened an email for months, separate them and send a special message offering a unique incentive. If this doesn’t trigger engagement, remove these email addresses from your list. This can help save you money by keeping your lists filled only with the most relevant people.

Remember, people who are opening your emails are clearly interested in what you have to say – so it’s also worth asking for their opinion about how you can improve your products and services. The more time and effort you put into creating solid email marketing campaigns, the higher the rewards can be.

Missed Stefano’s previous article last month? Read why a mobile-friendly website is worth its weight in gold, here. 

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

At the beginning of his professional career, Stefano Maruzzi made an impact by leveraging his software engineering skills to launch Microsoft University in Italy, while writing fifteen books which have been translated into multiple languages. He then served as MSN Italy country manager at Microsoft, president at Condé Nast Digital International, and Google Italy country director. Maruzzi is currently GoDaddy’s VP EMEA in London, UK, heading the regional team to empower small business owners to build their brand and grow online.

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