Question: Do you have any tips for small businesses wanting to start an e-mail marketing program?
Answer: E-mail marketing is one of the most valuable and economical tools a small-business owner can use. The most important thing to do when starting out is to build a strong foundation. Most people rush into their first e-mail campaigns, often overlooking the two most important steps to establish a foundation—putting yourself in your customers' shoes and making a plan for the year.
Your goals can be accomplished easily if you first ask yourself what kind of information your clients would want. What would attract attention and get people to open, read and act on your e-mail campaigns? What can you offer that's of value to your customers?
In most cases, the best newsletters combine both promotions and useful information, such as tips, that your audience can use.
Once you've identified the type of content you'll have, the next step is to make a marketing plan for the year. It's always best to be prepared, even if plans change along the way. Looking at the calendar from your customers' perspective, map out promotions, topics and campaigns that will help you reach out to them at the right time with the right information all year long. Investing time in planning will improve your campaign performance and keep your customers satisfied with relevant, timely e-mails.
After you've completed these two critical steps, you can move on to building your e-mail list and then creating a template that reflects your brand image. Finally, send out your first e-mail in which you introduce yourself and set expectations about what type of information your subscribers can expect to receive. Encourage an ongoing conversation by asking for feedback. This will not only engage your customers but their suggestions can also help you improve and target your campaigns for the future.
Steve Adams is VP-marketing at Campaigner, an e-mail marketing solutions provider.
Originally published April 6, 2009