The Reports of The Death of Email Newsletters Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
Believe it or not, ezines, or email newsletters, are still an incredibly effective communication tool for local small businesses because of their in-depth material. I started my email newsletter a couple of years ago but it was a few years in the making. I wanted to do this for a long time but never thought I had anything important to say.
Then, I got on Facebook and people told me they liked my writing and how I’d helped them. After all, helping is exactly what I wanted to do. So, I fundamentally shifted my view of my business and realized that I was being of service to others if I shared my local small business marketing ideas with more people.
The most important marketing tool you have, besides yourself, is your knowledge. And, your knowledge can help people. You probably already know that because your customers tell you that…I hope.
Knowledge is the heart of content marketing and in today’s world, content marketing is king. Content marketing means sharing information with your customers and prospects to educate them. Local small businesses now have to work harder to attract savvy customers. With fierce competition, they need better reasons and experiences to buy and choose from us over the other guy.
Launch Your Local Small Business Email Newsletter In 5 Steps
1) A Marketing List
Over the course of several emails, I outlined how to build your list. You can refresh your memory here, here and here.
2) A White-Hatted Email Marketing Service
What’s a white-hatted service? Benchmark Email, the one I use, is. It’s like an old Western movie. The good guys wear the white hat and the bad guys wear the black hat. The major ISPs like Yahoo, Earthlink, Google, Hotmail, AOL et al, look for companies that have healthy emailing practices and identify them as white hats. The white hats pass through the servers unabated because they’ve proven their trustworthiness. The black hats get stopped at the door, shuffled to a SPAM folder or completely deleted off your server, unknown to you. No, spam filtering isn’t perfect but there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye.
If you just send one from your email account, you are inviting trouble. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) i.e. Comcast, ATT, views your large list suspiciously and you can get jammed up by the recipients ISP, blocking you forever.
White-hatted services like Benchmark also offer tons and tons of templates that make your newsletter practically a no-brainer. You try it FREE for 30-days, play with it and see if it works for you.
3) A Viewpoint
Your email newsletter need not consist of anything more than a short article and, occasionally, an offer like a discount, free consultation or an event. If you hate to write, you can hire someone to do that or you can use a service for your industry. If you work for a large national firm or franchiser, they will often supply the materials to you. If you create a goal of 250 words or less, you can do it. That’s a single page, double-spaced. God knows, you cranked out more than that in college.
Here’s a link to get lots of inspiration for creating blog postings because it’s effectively the same as writing an article. The difference is you send your newsletter out and your blog waits to be discovered.
26 Blog Posts to Write Before Your Competitors Do…(with Examples)
4) An Album of Complementary Photos
Dollar Photo Club is the BEST place to get images to use in my newsletter aside from my own photos. I like Dollar Photo Club because I pay for the image which makes its a clean-cut transaction where I don’t step on someone’s toes. You won’t run into copyright issues or upset someone because you stole their image. iStockphoto.com used to be my go-to place for finding images. They just got too expensive for providing me with a good supply of images.
You can resort to using your own photos. If you take lots of them, good for you. I just can’t keep up with my own demand. So, stock photos work great for me.
You can use flickr as well though I’ve completely struggled on how to use their images, giving credit to the owner and sizing it to fit my blog.
5) A Commitment, A Re-Commitment
You have to commit. I’m actually recommitting because getting a newsletter together isn’t simple.
- You have to do something no less than once a month or you will be forgotten, ignored or worse.
- Oh, trust me, it’s a struggle to get this baby out. I stay up late, fit it in between client work, try to get an advanced start, work through illness, skip meals. I’m expecting it to get better. I know it will. But, I’m committed. Your kind words spur me on. And, when you cry “uncle”, I’ll stop.
Good luck! Let’s see what happens.
Take an honest assessment of where your business is today. Get out a piece of paper (or an electronic doc) and make note of what you need to: Start doing Stop doing Continue doing based on last year’s results. What’s not working in your marketing activities? Where are you dropping the ball with customers? How can you improve your profit margin? This one step alone will make a huge difference in creating new strategies and action steps for the coming year.
Source: Is Your Business Ready for 2016?
If you’ve read the EMyth or follow any of their advice, you know how valuable and wise Michael Gerber’s former organization is. I know I’m already looking ahead to 2016, making plans and charting my course.
In the linked article, there’s great advice about not just skipping the last 2 months of the year but using it to reflect and map out your business’ plans for the 2016 into 2018.
One of the many great pieces of advice:
- Start doing
- Stop doing (emphasis added)
- Continue doing based on last year’s results
If you’re feeling out of tune with your company’s direction or are overwhelmed with the details of running your business everyday, you owe it to yourself and to your customers to have a plan. Planning always gets pushed aside for the urgent. Planning isn’t urgent but it’s necessary. I guess I’m in the same boat as all of you. Time to book some library time for myself and plot a course for 2016.
When I was in college, I took ONE, count it ONE, philosophy class at the University of San Francisco because it was a graduation requirement. Catholic Jesuit education prides itself on producing well-rounded students. I certainly enjoyed the breadth of my education… just not philosophy.
It’s really, really hard to grasp something I found so nebulous and confounding. Go look up metaphysical, ontological, epistemology and coherentism. You’ll be ready to pull your hair out like I was. Somehow religious faith is easier for me to grasp than philosophy though I admire its philosophy hitmakers like Aristotle, Plato, Hobbes, and Aquinas.
Which brings me to branding. I find it in the same category. I often get asked by local Bay Area business owners if I do branding. My pat answer is no. I can help you create a logo, a website, find the right thing to say and help capture and promote the uniqueness of your business. But, I don’t do branding.
Why? Because branding isn’t a formula or a puzzle. Branding isn’t a THING, it’s a way of being. Basically, it’s your business’ personality and essence. It often results in feelings from your customers, the best one being loyalty. See! I’m starting to wander off into philosophy.
One key element of branding is customer service. That’s out of my hands. That’s up to you, Mr. and Miss Business Owner. Then, there’s your values, your philosophy, your mission, your approach. So, the relationship of local business owner and marketer is to get your brand identity created and then, promoted to get you customers. Marketers can only help your local small business marketing so much. The rest is up to you.
Staeven Frey of QCMG Agency in Nashville, TN does such a good job describing Branding 101, I’m sharing it here and bowing down to his great description.
The entire article, Brand Messaging 101: How Do I Do That? is available at this link. From Staeven Frey:
First, before I can share with you what brand messaging, I want to share what its not.
Brand Messaging is not a formula
Brand messaging is not some formula you can put together to execute seamless communication tactics…blah blah blah…those fancy words don’t mean anything. And while this is a “1-2-3″ kind of post, we’re talking about principles and big ideas–what I would call variables, but not prescription items that go into a formula. A better term altogether is “equation,” since everyone’s equation is different–and one size does not fit all.
Brand messaging is the voice you use
Its the combination of tone, message, verbals, non-verbals. Its the complete verbal + visual equation of how you express yourself. Most people use their voice in person, but when you’re an organization, you use other things too. Brand messaging is the full range of “stuff” that you use. Its business cards to print to your building–everything that shares yourself with the world.
I write this to dissuade you from believing that if you just get the right logo or the perfect business card, your branding woes will be over. Do do those things and, then, just be really great at your job. Help get the word around and create the brand that you are proud to own.
Given the explosion of blogs and bloggers, you probably think you’re going to get lost in a churning sea of information. That’s entirely possible. But, there are some things you can to do pull your blog into the boat and save yourself from drowning or getting lost at sea.
Why should you blog? For local businesses it’s a surprisingly good way of adding “juice” to your website. Google’s algorithm (the formula for delivering results) is constantly on the hunt for three things: 1) relevance, 2) freshness, and 3) connection. When you blog, you do all of those, making it far more likely that your business will turn up in the highly coveted organic results. Remember, Google wants be the go-to search engine so they give you results that really match your query. Then, the look for websites that are tended to. A blog shows that you tend your website without you constantly having to update your other pages. As far as connections go, the algorithm looks for social media connections and links. Comments go along ways to. See if you can solicit comments from some of your fans and remember to post your blog to your Facebook Fan Page.
In this infographic, that’s intended for new local business blogs, there’s great advice for both new and experienced bloggers to get discovered by Google. Of course, Google isn’t the only search engine but it’s used by 70% – 80% of all users. So it’s the 800-lb gorilla in the room. It cannot be ignored. Appealing to Google is the best way to juice up your blog.
Infographic by Digital Philippines
Crowdspring.com published a fascinating article called Small Business Marketing: Best Times And Days To Send Email For Opens And Click-Throughs about the timing of emails and inlcuding this fantastic info graphic on figuring out the timing of email delivery.
Here are 7 takeaways from the article:
1) Find an email delivery resource that let’s you deliver the email based on where the recipient is. For instance, it’s good to deliver an email at 9am but if you launch it at 9am EST then it’s 6am PST and those Hawaiians are snoozing away at 3am HST.
2) Sending an email too late in the day means that it gets stale because the vast majority are opened within an hour of being sent. The longer it sits, the less likely the reader opens it or even finds it.
3) The peak opening hours are between 9am and 4pm with the highest opening time around 3pm.
4) Thursday is the best date followed very closely by Wednesday.
5) HOWEVER, know who your target recipient is helps determine the best time and day of the week for you. The perfect example is that at 6am on any cable news station Monday thru Friday, you’ll see ads for accounting firms and other services you’ll never see at 3pm. The appeal is to early-rising executives. That’s good context for your email delivery time and date.
6) Make sure you have your email in recipient’s boxes at least 1 hour prior to peak open times.
7) And, then, there’s this. Scott Stratten, author of UnMarketing posted this yesterday:
Breaking research: the best time to post to your blog is when you have something useful to say. Not “Tuesday”. Not “weekly”. When you have something that is worth the interruption to your readers day to say “You need to know this.” not “I’ve been told frequency is good!”. Respect their inbox. Respect their feeds.
It’s not specifically about email newsletters but I took to heart to mean you can better connect with readers when you send them something of value and meaning to you.
Below is my cool pictograph that I borrowed with the do’s and don’ts of email marketing. Sums it up beautifully.