Email marketing is one of the most cost effective marketing tools available to small business owners. Is email marketing a priority for you this year? If so, you might be a little lost on how to get started. Here are some of the best practices I recommend to my clients on how to get started.

1 Determine Your Purpose

Think about why you want to market using email. Is it to stay in touch, educate new prospects, and/or offer promotions? What would success look like? Growing your list and growing sales are most likely the goals you have in mind. If that is the case, make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART).

2 Plan

Collect all your contacts

Export your email contacts into .csv format. This is the format that all email service providers (ESP) use to import contacts. Don’t forget the also gather your business cards. These can be scanned and also converted to .csv format by tools such as CardScan. Name, email, company name and phone number is about all you need to get started.

Pick an Email Service Provider (ESP)

All ESPs provide basic functionality. Things to consider are ease of use, deliverability, technical support and of course cost. My overriding criteria is how much time does it take me to create and send out an email newsletter. While I’m partial to Constant Contact, be sure you make your choice based on your priorities. If you would like to sign up for a free 60-day trial of Constant Contact click here. The only caveat is that you will be limited to only 100 contacts.

Create templates and landing pages

Once you have selected an ESP, create an email template for newsletters, welcome to new subscribers, auto responders. You will also need to create a “Subscribe to Our Newsletter” call to action for your website. Many ESPs provide html code for this.

3 Execute

Import your contacts

Import the various .csv files. You may not want to spend time importing all of the information unless you intend to use the ESP contact list as your CRM. I don’t recommend this as most ESP solutions are not meant for CRM.

Create your newsletter

Using your template, create your first newsletter. I like to keep the newsletter to 3-4 articles. I recommend that the lead article be a blog that you created on your website (I use WordPress). This demonstrates your thought leadership and can differentiate you from your competition. If you don’t like to write blogs then consider hiring freelancers from Fiverr and Elance who can create an entire series of blogs at a reasonable price. The other articles can be articles by others that would be of interest to your subscribers. Remember to only paste a portion of the article into your newsletter and link back to the original article. You must give credits to the author as well. Think of yourself as a curator of content.

Proof your copy

Send final drafts of your newsletter to yourself. Better yet, send it to someone else to edit and review. Correcting typos and grammar makes your newsletter more professional. Also click on links to make sure they are working correctly.

Schedule Your Campaign

You are now ready to send your email out. Best times typically to send out an email is Tuesday through Thursday between 9am-2pm. This is a general rule so use what you know about when your customers and prospects typically open email.

4 Monitor and Track

Open Rate

Once you have sent your newsletter, monitor how many subscribers have open your email. Open rates vary but 15-20% would a good start. This number is typically conservative since a lot of email applications like Microsoft Outlook allow users to “Preview” their email without actually opening it.

Click Though Rate (CTR)

The most important statistic to watch is whether subscribers are clicking on links. The links should be going to your website and offers that you make. It really establishes how much interest readers have with your content and your business.

Improve Engagement

Open rates and click through rates will give you a sense of what your readers like and don’t like. Experiment with various offers, headlines, contests, etc. Remember it costs less to try things with email marketing than other marketing campaigns such as mail and pay-per-click (PPC).

Final Thoughts

One of the big secrets to successful email marketing is consistency and continual improvement. Find ways to make your email marketing more engaging. As John C Maxwell famously stated, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

By the way, if all of this seems overwhelming please contact me. We can manage your email marketing campaigns for a very affordable monthly price.

Are having success with email marketing? If so, what are you doing to make it successful?