Despite the torrent of emails we all receive, email marketing is still one of the best tools in a small business's arsenal to raise awareness and fuel sales. But email marketing gets a business only so far unless the email contact list continues to grow, says Wendy Lowe, director of product marketing for an email marketing service called Campaigner. Without new customers and prospects being added into the mix, she notes, a small business is not going to see great results with their program. She offers these five tips that can help small companies increase their email list size on an ongoing basis.
- Ask for email addresses at the point of sale. If customers are purchasing from you once, and you do a good job, there's a high likelihood they'll purchase from you again. Tell them they will be notified about discounts on selected items, exclusive email-only specials and first notice of sales by signing up for your mailing list, either online or in person.
- Promote (or start) a loyalty program. A loyalty program makes customers feel special with the promise of exclusive, members-only benefits. You can incent customers to sign up for yours (and give you their email address) with an on-the-spot discount or special offer such as a free gift. .
- Offer free information. You have a high level of expertise in your business or you wouldn't have started it. What you may not realize, though, is that by sharing a little bit of that knowledge for free you can entice customers and prospects to give you their email information. For example, if you're a photographer you can offer simple tips on how to take better, more interesting photos at family events. If you run a garden shop you can offer tips on preparing garden beds in the spring and winter and how to care of plants. And all anyone needs to do to get that information is give you an email address to send it to.
- Hold a contest. Similar to the survey, you can offer a prize (or series of prizes) to anyone who signs up for your contest. In a restaurant, you can put up a fishbowl to collect business cards for a drawing for a free appetizer, meal or party. An accountant can offer a free consultation; a real estate agent can offer a free home inspection or energy assessment. The contest prize will also create awareness of the service or products you are selling.
- Use social media to encourage sign-ups. If you already have Twitter followers or a Facebook fan page, ask your followers and fans to sign up for your email alerts. Explain that the emails will include information and offers not available anywhere else. You can make it part of your loyalty program, or a separate benefit if you don't have a loyalty program already.
The key to success, Lowe says, is to take action and try a few ideas. Lowe, whose firm, Protus, also provides Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions for businesses, advises that marketers get their list-building mechanism going and believes they'll soon find they have lots of people to send their compelling and creative emails. As lists grow, responses are likely to grow too. Over time, a business can start looking for additional ways to get value from its list, like segmenting it based on interests or demographics for specific offers.
If you want even more on email marketing tips, read the articles below and also download this great primer on the subject.