Social media has definitely changed the way people use email.
For local business marketing, there is value in both. It doesn’t seem that people look at 100% of their emails, especially marketing emails, like they did 20 years ago, but there is still opportunity.
And there is definitely opportunity for local businesses. There is a lot of noise in both the social and email world. Lots of faraway people and brands. There seems to be an appreciation for a local connection.
So anyway, if you’re interested in getting more into email for your local business, here are a few tips.
1. Consistent Schedule
The biggest thing with subscriptions of any kind of a consistent schedule.
People like consistency. We liked having our favorite radio and television programs come on the same time each week. We liked having the newspaper on the front porch every morning at 6:00 AM. We liked having our magazines in the mailbox on the same day each month.
It’s the same with digital marketing.
If you’re going to commit to an email program, commit to a regular schedule. We’ll get into the type of content next and the quantity after that, but before doing anything know that whatever you commit to that the #1 thing to remember is to send emails consistently.
2. New, Used, Recycled, Curated
People often struggle to add content to any platform. Email, social media, YouTube, etc.
For email, and really for any of them, you can use new, used, recycled and curated content. It doesn’t have to be new every time.
For new content, start with your answers to common questions. Write little tips that will help your customers. If you have a little rant about something relating to your business or industry go ahead and include that.
For used content, you can dip into your archives once you’ve started doing this for awhile. Let’s say that you’ve now been doing email for years. Go back and look at the early emails and identify the best answers and tips and resend those in new emails. You’ll probably have new subscribers that haven’t seen it before.
Recycled is another good one. You might have old paper newsletters that you sent out years ago. Reuse that content for the email. Maybe you even have old videos. Turn that into text for the email. You can also use content from social media and other digital channels.
Curated content is resharing content you find from other sources. For a local business this is a great option to help subscribers find relevant info for their community. If the ice cream shop down the street is having an event this weekend then go ahead and share that in the email.
You don’t have to do all of these in every email. These are just options to choose from.
You need to send more emails than you are likely considering.
If I had to guess I’d say that most local businesses send 0-1 emails every quarter. That’s more annoying than sending daily emails to your customers and subscribers.
If you wait more than a month to send an email the recipient will likely be wondering why they’re getting the email. They’ll be wondering when they signed up for it. It just causes more confusion than benefit.
But email is not social media. I think businesses could post 10x a day on social and be fine. With email, I think ~2 emails per week is a good schedule. One per week should be the goal.
First, this quantity gives you a chance to gather data, feedback and learn what works and what doesn’t. You might lose a few subscribers, but the learning will far outweigh that and make for better value in future emails, which will lead to more subscribers.
4. Preferred Communication Channel
The thing today with people is that they all have 1-2 preferred methods of communication. For younger people it’s typically text. Although some older people prefer that channel.
Generation X and Millennials seem to still prefer email although many still use strictly social media or text or whatever.
Email has turned into a nice channel for work and also for checking in once in awhile. You’re not always connected in most cases like you are with text and Facebook.
With your email program you’re looking for the people that want to receive emails. Offer them text, phone, mail, email for receipts and business communication. Do the same for your other content.
5. Points of Capture
This gets into point of capture. A big one for email for local businesses is in-person. Ask customers if they use email and if emailed receipts and communication work.
Include the email signup in the footer on your website. Don’t use a popup. The number of subscribers you get will be small and the number of confused and frustrated visitors will be far higher and it’s just not worth it.
We’re talking about a fair amount of work here. Where most local businesses struggle is not devoting enough time and energy from one person to handle all these marketing channels.
It can be a full-time job for someone to handle just social media. And usually that person is also doing the email. The issue is that this person usually has a different and full-time job at the company. They get about 1-2 hours a week to focus on the digital marketing.
Hire someone that can work 10-20 hours a week on digital, including email. Maybe it’s part-time. Maybe it’s an intern. Maybe it’s someone that is a current part-time worker that you can hire full-time to do this and the other part-time job.
You now have a schedule and ideas for filling our your email effort. But leave a little room, maybe 10%, for experimenting. This could be something off the wall and crazy in the form of a video or whatever. Maybe quotes or jokes. Anything.
Allow the person in charge of email to experiment a little. Let them do it consistently. Over time, they will learn what experiments work and then they can implement them fully into the strategy.
Most will fail and that’s fine. But once in awhile something will work and that can lead to more subscribers, more engagement and more customers.
Email is still a great marketing channel. There is especially opportunity for local businesses. You don’t have to force people to subscribe. But give them the option. Find the people that prefer email. Then create great content and deliver it on a regular schedule. That’s how you can capture attention, get more people to know about you and that leads to more business.