As a small business owner of a brick-and-mortar store, you know you should have a mailing list, and you should be asking your customers to sign up for it. But what kind of content should you send out? How often should you send them? Do you need software?
Her are a few basic tips to get you started advertising by email.
- Plan how often you should be advertising by email, and space your messages out over the month or year. If this is your first email newsletter, once a week is probably too demanding. Do give yourself deadlines — once a month is reasonable to start — but don’t be too strict at first. Call it your business’s “occasional updates” newsletter.
- Include free-bees and incentives at the time of signup. Typical opt-in procedure online is a sign up link, a thank you page, a confirmation email, and another confirmation email. During these repetitive interactions, you are interacting with your customer and therefore have opportunity to offer a promotional code, like free shipping, 10% off, or, if signing up in person, a small give-away item.
- Collect email addresses early and often. There’s no harm in having the addresses in-hand, even if the newsletter is in the planning stages; it’s much more of a problem to construct the newsletter and have no audience to send it to.
- Use an HTML or CSS template for all emails. Test it across as many email providers as possible (there are web tools that do this for you).
- You may not need an email service provider (ESP) at first, but consider pricing one. They can offer tools to integrate your social media presence, target your customer base extremely specifically, plan ahead and send emails for you, and help get you set up with templates. If your customer base is small, their subscription fee may be as low as $10-20 a month or even free.
Tips for Collecting Emails:
Resist the temptation to buy email lists. Your newsletter will probably be marked as spam, and using these lists may be against the CAN-SPAM Act. The opt-in route will garner you more long-term subscribers and more click-through rates.
- Establish a web presence and/or blog, and place a form to sign up for your email list on it.
- Give out postcard-sized, graphically-attractive promotional cards advertising sales and events, and include your website and blogs on them.
- Hold an in-store raffle or silent auction, especially if the proceeds go to charity. Alert the winners by email. Collect business cards or ballots in a fishbowl or box with a small opening. Offer printed ballots if your customers are not the type to carry business cards.
- If you task staff with collecting emails, they will probably receive a lot of “no”s if they simply ask customers to sign up. Instead, train staff to lead with what the newsletter will do for the customer. “We don’t have a lot of in-store sales, but you can get a 20% off coupon from our newsletter.” “If you are enjoying this event, sign up for the newsletter so you can find out when we are hosting the next one.”