Five Tips For Building A Strong Email Marketing Foundation
by Steve Adams

    1. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes: Small business owners and entrepreneurs like to jump right in and get started, which is crucial to success, but it’s also important to prepare and plan and set objectives, especially when it comes to email marketing. When you’re getting started with email marketing make sure you step back and think through what you’re trying to accomplish. The best way to do this is to try and see things through your customer’s eyes.


      • Ask yourself what type of information would attract attention and get people to open, read and act on your email campaigns.
      • Do they want coupons, special offers or promotions?
      • Would they respond better to valuable information and practical tips they can use?
      • Often the best e-newsletters include a mix of sales with expert opinions and advice.


    1. Make a current email marketing plan: Once you’ve established your email marketing objectives, you can build an email marketing plan for the year. Look at the calendar, again from your customer’s perspective.


      • Map out promotions, topics and campaigns that will help you reach out to your customers at the right time with the right information.
      • It sounds like a challenging task, but you know your customers better than anyone else, so roughing out a flexible plan for the year shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours.
      • Investing planning time up front will dramatically improve the performance of your email marketing campaigns. And your customers will appreciate getting relevant emails right when they want them.


    1. Start building your email list: Now that you’ve put yourself firmly in your customers’ shoes, you’re ready to start building your opt-in email list. Opt-in means that your customers understand clearly that by signing up they are giving you permission to send them email communications. Make sure this is clearly stated whether the sign up is on a web page or a paper form. In addition to name and email address, think about other information that could help you target your email campaigns.


      • If your business is a restaurant, retailer or florist, gather birthday information
      • Consultants and business services firms can include a check off box to learn more about the products and services as well as the topics, issues and challenges that interest their customers.
      • Ask your customers how frequently they would like to receive emails from you.
      • Take every opportunity to gather customer emails and profile information by using all of the tools at your disposal, including quick and easy sign up on the home page of your web site, paper form sign ups at the cash register or a jar for customers to drop business cards.
      • In addition to passive collection, you can also actively seek people you want to reach by attending relevant trade shows and conferences. Gather business cards, ask for permission and add them to your list!


    1. Create an email template that reflects your brand image: Email marketing services provide templates that are great for getting started. Try and choose a look and feel that reflects your business and brand image.


      • If you have the time and resources, you can also have a custom template created for you that matches your web site and marketing collateral.
      • You’ll also want to decide on the formatting and how the content is displayed. Leave plenty of room for images and graphics and try to make the text concise, to the point, and easy to scan.


    1. Begin the conversation with your inaugural campaign: Now you’re ready to launch your first email campaign! Kick things off by introducing yourself and setting expectations. Let your audience know the type of information they’ll be receiving and how frequently they can expect to hear from you.


    • In your first campaign, don’t just sell, but also offer valuable information or tips your audience can use.
    • Encourage feedback so you can begin an ongoing dialogue with your customers, allowing you to continually gather more detailed profile information to improve the targeting of future campaigns.