Many small business owners and marketers understand the benefits of using e-mail marketing and online surveys to develop relationships with their customers. Yet, a surprising number of businesses send e-mail communications without thinking about their long-term goals. Take some time to think about your customer communications strategy. The upfront planning you do now can have an enormous impact on your overall success in the long term. Below are five steps to get you started creating an effective e-mail communications plan.
1. Consider your image
What words do you want your recipients to think of when they receive an e-mail from you? Here are a few: knowledgeable, available, professional, reliable and respectful. Every e-mail you send to a customer, prospect or member puts your brand and message front and center. You are building a brand among your constituents, and your e-mail marketing efforts can go a long way to support it. Let the values and personality traits of your business or organization guide you as you plan and create your marketing communications.
2. Determine what information is most valuable to your readers
How do you know what content is most valuable to your readers? Ask them. An online survey is an easy, affordable, and effective way to find out what your customers are thinking. The results you get back can provide helpful insight into the value of your e-mails, what content is most relevant, how your readers use the content you provide, and much more. Another way to learn what topics are of most interest to readers is to review and analyze your campaign delivery metrics. Look at your open rates and click-throughs to determine which articles generated the most interest, and which subject lines resulted in more opens. You can then identify the most popular topics that will appeal to your subscribers going forward.
3. Get your readers invested
Another consideration in your planning is how to get your customers more invested in your e-mail content. This goes beyond just writing about topics they’ll find interesting. Engage them by making them part of the content. You could add a question and answer section to your newsletters, conduct an online survey focused on content, or simply ask for feedback in every issue. Consider inviting your customers to share their success stories or suggest tips or information for other readers. Giving your audience opportunities to be heard and even seen will make their experience more personal and help you to forge a greater connection with them. And it will help you add fresh, engaging content to your communications.
4. Expand your reach – grow your list
Do you want to find more people who are interested in what you have to offer and to more deeply engage with those with whom you already have a relationship? If so, think about how you will use e-mail marketing to do it. It starts with list growth. Who do you want to add to your list? How will you ask them to join? How will you promote your e-mail communications and engage others in promoting them as well? The answers to these questions will help guide your communications strategy and the tactics you’ll employ. Perhaps you should incorporate an incentive or loyalty program to generate new subscribers and strengthen existing subscriber relationships. Or, you could partner with a like-minded business that offers a complimentary service or product and encourage your customers to sign up for their newsletter and vice versa. You could even conduct an event aimed at your shared customers.
5. Schedule your e-mail communications
Now that you’ve analyzed your reports, surveyed your customers, and figured out what content you want to send, it’s time to sit down with the calendar and plan. Consider upcoming seasons (back-to-school, the winter holidays) and events as e-mail marketing opportunities. Outside of these events, try and identify one unifying topic, component or section of your newsletter that will remain consistent throughout the year. Perhaps, you will include a monthly recipe, tip of the month, or link to a news article that pertains to your audience. Whatever it is, your readers will come to expect it and will be excited to see what’s included when they hear from you. Put all those ideas into the plan and then round it out from there.
Your e-mail marketing plan can serve as your roadmap going forward. By planning your customer communications strategy now, you’ll set benchmarks for what you want to accomplish in the coming months and identify the tools and tactics to help you achieve your goals.
If you want an additional, more thorough planning tool, download Constant Contact’s free Email Marketing Workbook. It includes probing questions and ideas to help you continue to build a winning communications strategy and plan for your business.
Eric Groves: Thanks for the tips!
I will download your email marketing workbook. I am planning to start a newsletter for my Ego Sole Trader business in the near future. I want it to be a collection of tips, links, interesting information for solo entrepreneurs and business minded individuals and in the long run a way of creating more business.
Great tips..Amazing to me that there are still marketers and bloggers out there that do not see the potential in email.
Great solid info! Especially love what you had to say about getting your readers invested. It’s a key element.
Perhaps it’s assumed here, but having a good tool for managing your lists and sending emails is just as important (and precedes many of these great tips).
Any advice on a good email marketing tool?
Other tips: Keep the emails short. Use a strong graphic. Be relevant. Scrub the list periodically. Don’t forget the call-to-action.