For small businesses on a budget, it can be a challenge to get your message out to customers without breaking the bank. We get it — you need an easy affordable way to stay connected with your customers so they keep coming back for more.
To get repeat business, the most cost-effective solution is email marketing.
For just a few cents per message, you can send attractive, professional email campaigns that drive customers back to your business. Plus, the ROI is great, earning roughly $43 for every $1 spent.
Here are five key tips for getting started:
Build your email list
First things first: Avoid buying email lists. Not only is it unethical to solicit people who didn’t ask to receive your emails, but using anonymous lists could get you flagged as a spammer and barred from using most email marketing services.
Instead, start collecting email addresses through a sign-up form on the home page of your website or blog, or add an email opt-in on your check-out page. You can also add a sign-up form to your Facebook page, and share or tweet the link to your followers. Are you attending a conference or event? Put a sign-up sheet on your table to collect email addresses from interested attendees.
Another great idea is to customize your email sign-up form. If you give subscribers the ability to provide their demographic information or their interests, you can segment your email list and send targeted messages to specific audiences.
Building up your email database takes time, but it will become one of the most valuable assets you own.
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Craft your message
Now that you’ve collected a solid subscriber list, you’re ready to create an email message that intrigues, inspires and motivates. But where do you start? Here are just a few ideas:
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Write strong subject lines
Of course, getting your message opened is the first step. On average, you have between 40 and 60 characters — and about five seconds — to capture your reader’s attention. Your choice of words is critical. Here are a few tips on writing awesome subject lines:
Read all about it! Highlight the most important facts of your message in a few words (just like a headline in your local newspaper).
It’s a numbers game. Late-night TV comedy doesn’t own the Top 10 list! Give your customers a Top Five or a Top Seven and watch your open rates soar.
Make it special. Tempt recipients by incorporating time sensitivity and exclusivity in your subject. “One day only sale!” or “Private Sale Just for You!” are more likely to entice customers to click.
Spread the word
Now that you’ve crafted the perfect email, expand your reach by posting it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks. Social media is a great way to start a conversation with your customers and show people what they’re missing. You can also add social media icons to your email messages, encouraging your subscribers to follow you on popular social sites.
Pro tip: Include a “share” button or “forward to a friend” link on your emails so recipients can pass them onto friends and family.
Test your campaign
Discover how to best connect with your target audience by testing your campaigns. Experiment with different designs, headlines, offers and content placement to see which versions get a better response. Switch out the images in your campaigns, add and delete links, use different subject lines for the same email, and see which generates more opens. Soon, you’ll intuitively build better campaigns based on your test results.
Analyze your responses
Once you’ve sent a few email campaigns, you’ll have the feedback you need to discover how your emails are performing.
Are your open rates where you would like them to be? The open rate might vary depending on your business, offer types, how often you send emails, etc. The next challenge is to get readers to click-through to your website.
Set your goals based on the average in your industry, then test and tweak your message to try, and surpass it.
Take a look at your links. When you discover what and where your customers are clicking, you can customize link placement for better results. Collecting and analyzing demographic information lets you send targeted campaigns to highly specific groups with specialized interests.
Most importantly, remember that there can be too much of a good thing.
Because email marketing is so easy and affordable, some companies tend to flood their subscribers’ inboxes. This can often create the opposite effect; your emails become so pervasive that customers either stop paying attention, assign your emails to their Spam folder, or get irritated and unsubscribe. So be smart, follow the tips above, and watch your business blossom.