Top Email Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

Email marketing is a great way for Small Businesses to reach their customers.  As a champion of working smarter to create the most cost-effective marketing plans, I want your emails to be even better.  Read below for the top tips, tricks, best practices and recommendations that work for small businesses.

Email Marketing Tips

Be consistent

Send a regular, weekly (or monthly) email so your customers know when to hear from you.

Keep top of mind

Keep your customers thinking about your small business by sending response emails such as…welcoming to email lists, confirming purchases, responding to inquiries/complaints/comments, and thank you notes for their business.

Give it away

Give your customers what they value by educating them on new advances in the industry, the latest trends, and offering useful discounts.

Segment your emails

Personalize emails by group, so customers knwo you are paying attention to who they are and what they need.

Learn to love Unsubscribe

Allowing customers to unsubscribe is a great opportunity to see which emails are causing them to leave your address list and what is the best way to communicate with them.

Choose the right Email Service provider

Take time to find the email service provider that matches your and your customers’ needs. Examples: Constant Contact, Active Campaign, Vertical Response, Active trail, Sendinblue, Get Response, MailChimp, Silverpop, Benchmark, AWeber, and Salesforce

Let these tricks help you send smarter emails to your customers for better business results.

Email Marketing Resources

 In 10 Simple Marketing Tips for Small BusinessesEric Holtzclaw focuses on strengthening the relationship between small businesses and their customers.  He suggests giveaways, regular weekly emails and creating excitement through events, both virtual and live. 

 Willie Pena not only shares 5 Ways to Grow Your Small Business Through Email Marketing, but also walks you through the crucial steps.  He discusses best practices, how to test and what to include in emails for maximum benefit.   

The Email Marketing Tips for Small Business blog by Manisha Kumar emphasizes the ROI and conversion rate benefits of using Email Marketing for small business emails.  The article also includes sections on protecting your current subscriber list, frequency and relevancy of emails and what to consider when choosing a service provider.  

The Top 5 Email Marketing Tips for Small Businesses from Kabbage Inc. gets right to the point with how to, how often, what to and who to send emails from a small business.  Keeping the receiver of the emails happy is a consistent theme throughout the article. 

Carly Brantz focuses on a very important aspect of email marketing in What is “List-Unsubscribe?”.  She gives links to a few other email marketing best practices, but the heart of this article is centered around including an unsubscribe option to reduce spam issues and other complaints regarding your business emails. 


How to Find Design Inspiration

How to find design inspiration in the real world

Need help finding real world design inspiration? 4 steps to get inspired

So your business has an empty shop window to fill, a trade show exhibit to build, or a product launch party to plan…how do you create a physical environment that gets your customers attention?  With solid set design skills, of course.

Set Design:  How to Get Inspired

Designing sets for theater productions requires a lot of creativity and thought.  Each project starts with an inspiration session that can last weeks before the actual set is drawn and construction begins.  Many of the techniques used in set design can be applied to making a business space stand out.  Whether you are designing a storefront window, planning an over the top party, creating a trade show must-see booth, or simply creating a unique space for your customers to enjoy your products, these tips can help you and your business stand out.

Step 1:  Go see a movie. 

Hollywood has provided us with a lifetime of visual inspiration.  Watch a period piece to see how fabric and knickknacks have changed over the years.  Use the brilliance of CGI to imagine color and size combinations that will make your design memorable.  Immerse yourself in the story to understand what elements are expected.  For example, sitting through a horror movie even if it is not your preferred genre in preparation for a haunted house design helps with details like lighting, staging and props.  

Step 2:  Break out the crayons and coloring books. 

The simplicity of coloring books focuses on lines, angles and curves and are a great jumping off point for big picture design.  Besides, spending a few minutes coloring has been shown to relax adults, allowing their minds to open and think tangentially about a situation, problem or design.  Comic books and cartoons also offer clean, efficient images. 

Step 3:  Take a hike.  Look for Art and Architecture. 

Take a walk around a city.  Look at the statues including their bases. Examine fences, bridges, walls and buildings.  Look at details like trim and windows to see layers of pattern.  Walk in nature.  Note the way water changes color.  Compare the texture of different bark, leaves and stones.   

Step 4:  Grab your passport. 

Ok, not literally.  Go to Netflix, Amazon Prime, a library, thrift store or bookstore and find travel films, books and DVDs.  Seeing somewhere far away can open your eyes to create a mind blowing space.  Try House Hunters International, Better Late than Never, the Rick Steves videos, and anything in the Visions travel series.  These companies take a lot of time to get lighting and composition just right.

First, compile a stack of drawings, notes or a Pinterest board. Next, sit down with the director, event planner or building team and discuss the limitations of the stage, set pieces and whatever other parameters will control the design.   

Take the time to fill your mind and sketch book with ideas to design with depth and an attention to detail.

After all, the goal is to surprise and delight with a scene that not only enhances the performance or product, but transports the audience/customer to a whole, new world.

Bring this level of excitement to your business to make the most of your Brands.

Be inspired!  A little extra thought and research can lead to a truly unforgettable experience for your customers.

Target Marketing 101

Basic techniques to find your high value customers

Given that marketing is becoming more personalized, the key to success in business is reaching your high value target market.  So how do you find your target market?     
Use these Basic techniques to get closer to your target market… so you can give them what they want…
and grow your business. 

FIRST List the qualities of your ideal customer

  • Who are your most loyal customers? 
  • What problem does your product/service solve & who needs your product service most?
  • Where can you find customers that use your product/service?  Locations offline/online, geographic, industry
  • Why do they love your brand & who else is similar?
  • Who else could become part of your target market that isn’t already?
  • Think beyond basic demographics of age, location & industry to include life stage, hobbies, & values

NEXT  Create a target market communication plan 

  • What forms of media do they enjoy and use regularly? 
  • What advertising are they motivated by:  types of content, message type & form of media? 
  • What is the cost of reaching your target market for each media type? 
  • Which ones are in budget & likely to succeed? 
  • Use a small sample to test your communication in multiple forms of media & with multiple messages. 
  • Choose the one that works the best. 

FINALLY  Listen to your target market

Now that you are sending out your message…

  • Use comments, social feeds, social media listening, your sales team & customer service to:
  • Hear what your target market thinks of your brand, product/service, & marketing communication. 
  • Adjust your campaign with this input as needed to stay 1) relevant & 2) ahead of what your target market needs.  Anticipate what will make them value your product even more. 

Let these techniques help you find your target market so you can reach them with the products and services they want and need for better business results.

Repeat this process with any new products to make sure you invest wisely in successful advertising, social media and marketing.

“Target Marketing means you are putting your customer and their needs at the center of your focus and attention.  You are making your customer the most important aspect of doing business, so your products/services are the best they can be. “ 
– Heather H. Bennett, Creative Brand Coach

Here are a few expert resources to keep in mind for more information about target markets.

The Future of Marketing: 90% of Marketers Say It’s All About Getting Personal

from @MobileMktrDaily

My take: Marketing is moving to individualized message.  Therefore it is important to know your audience to get the individualized message right.  

Don’t Spoil Secrets with Retargeting: 5 tips 

by Bryan Pearson Simply collecting information isn’t the answer to understanding your customer and building a lasting relationship. Marketers need to use this data wisely and keep their customers’ needs and desires at the center of the business. The post shares 5 tips about how to do that.  My take: Clear tips to understand your target market.

Four simple steps to defining and reaching your target market

by Paula Hutchings & @TalentedLadies 

My take: This group sets the bar high for useful, helpful & practical business knowledge.  A terrific set of steps to help guide you to your target market

How to Use Laddering By Henk Hoets
Quote: “You use laddering to develop unique selling propositions in your ads. “

My take: Using laddering to better understand your target markets, useful to creating content specifically for your audience

Calls to Action: Get your customers to click

What is a call to action? 

A marketing device designed to get your target market to: buy, click or share information immediately.

In social media, a call to action normally refers to

  1. a button that sends them to a page for you to gather information from them and in exchange give them some information or a free product OR
  2. a request for them to retweet, share or like something you posted. 

Why create a call to action? 

To get to know your target market better…
So you can give them the product or service they really want and need.  

All to increase your ROI. 

Create click through by being more relevant, more authentic, more interesting.

The more you interact with your target market in a community setting the better you can anticipate their needs – surprise & delight them with a product they can’t wait to buy & will hopefully recommend to others. 

How to create calls to action that stand out

Use Smart CTAs 

Creates a unique button that is matched to different viewer groups, so they see something they are more motivated to click and fill out.  Smart CTAs can be sorted by lifecycle stage, trigger event, device type, language or other description. 

In the end, by sorting your potential customers ahead of their interaction with your brand you can reduce the number of clicks to a sale. 

Fewer clicks means

  1. less chance they will buy elsewhere
  2. less effort for your customer to get what they want 
  3. much happier customers

Example:  Think of the difference between driving to the store to buy your favorite toothpaste versus knowing a new tube at a great price will automatically be delivered to your front door every 3 months without having to do anything or go anywhere. 

Tell them what they get by clicking

Be completely open and obvious about exactly what they will get if they click through and share their email with you.  

No games, no trickery.  Just the truth.

Otherwise they will not come back and not recommend or give a high review of your product.  

Tell them exactly what to do

Again be completely clear, concise and obvious.  Simple directions lead to desired actions.

Examples:  Click here for a Free eBook, Like, Retweet, Share, comment, reply, type in your email address, click here to buy this product

Talk to them in their own language and follow their rules

If they are on twitter, use a twitter friendly call to action.  
If they are using Instagram.  Use an Instagram friendly call to action.

See the links below in my resource section from Tim Brown on how to do each social media platform right.  Thank you, Tim!

Create a time limit

Give them an incentive to click through now…Don’t let them stray away and forget why they were intrigued.

Give-a-ways or contests are fine, but use a timed or limited quantity incentive for a long-term strategy. 

Example:  First 15 to send in their email address get access to a free webinar on cutting edge social media marketing tools. 

Go create amazing CTAs:  make your customers happy, make your sales team happy & increase your social media marketing ROI. 

Resources for more information from Experts

7 Tips for Creating a Call to Action on Social Media  by Sam Hurley

Summary: Comparing a game & momentum altering basketball maneuver to a call to action… why yes, I do want to read the whole article.  Sam Hurley is a master at making social media marketing more fun.  Another great check list while creating your call to action. 

How to use CTA’S on Social Media by Tim Brown

Summary:  a basic guide for everyone on what calls to action are, how to do them the right way and what they can do for your brand, company, product

5 Tips to Create an Irresistible Call to Action by Vaibhav Kakkar

Summary:  As always, the team from Jeff Bullas is committed to giving great, consistent advice.  My recommendation for a blueprint to create your call to action. 

Call-to-Action Best Practices by HubSpot

Summary:  a few simple tricks to make your CTA more effective.

HubSpot Competitors: 8 Alternatives to the PopularMarketing Automation System  by Caroline Malamut

Summary: A terrific comparison of 8 marketing software options

Resources on how to create call to action by social media platform

Thank you to Tim Brown for this useful list!

7 Steps to Create a Brand Strategy

What is a Brand Strategy and how do I create one?

This definition of Brand Strategy by CarlyStec sums it up nicely. 

“Brand strategy is a plan that encompasses specific, long-term goals that can be achieved with the evolution of a successful brand — the combined components of your company’s character that make it identifiable.”

In short your Brand Strategy is what you plan to do with your Brand to grow and/or strengthen your business.

How to create a Brand Strategy

Step 1:  What is your Brand? Ask yourself these questions to find your Brand

  • What are your brand’s likes and dislikes… What would always be seen as your Brand? What would never be seen as your Brand? What is authentically always true about your brand.
  • What can your followers expect your brand to be, stand or, sound like?  
  • What five words describe your brand?  What 5 words will never describe your brand?
  • What does your Brand do better, more uniquely & different from your competition: other brands in your industry?
  • Does your current business mission statement match the answers above?

Create a Brand Identity Statement:

My Brand _____________ will always be seen as _________, _________ and __________.  Brand X’s followers expect Brand X to do ___________, be ___________ and never _____________.  Brand X promises its loyal followers to provide _____________ in the time frame of ________________with these qualities: ______________, ________________, and ____________.

You may not be able to or need to fill out the entire Brand Identity Statement.  Take time to revisit this every few months to make sure your Brand is communicating consistently and staying true to itself. 

Step 2: Get feedback from followers and rewrite your Brand Identity 

Email, tweet or message to your customers announcing your Brand Identity

  • What do they love about your brand? What do they expect?
  • “Customer service “, retweets and comment sections are especially helpful with this. 

Step 3:  Create A Brand Location Check List 

List everywhere your Brand is present

Social Media, products, other blogs, customer forums, trade shows, books, webinars, guest blogging, Public Relations, press releases, websites, flyers, online community groups etc. etc. 

Ask friends, employees, & trusted colleagues to help you create this list. 

Step 4:  Using your Brand Location List, check how each interaction matches your Brand Identity

Are there areas that your message or image is not consistent, needs update or rewriting?

This is a great opportunity to create a new logo that works everywhere, identify photography, design elements or writing style that is inconsistent and clean up any communications that stray from what you are trying to achieve as a brand. 

Step 5:  Find your Target Market

Now that you know who your brand is, what your brand stands for and where your brand is located… Figure out who your brand should be communicating with.

Who is your target market?

  • What is the perfect customer for your brand? 
  • What problem does your product, Brand solve and who needs that solution? 
  • Who is actively seeking your Brand and loves your brand? 
  • Who else could become part of your target market that isn’t already?

Rewrite your Brand Identity Statement with all you learned from determining your target market. 

Step 6:  Create a list of Goals your Brand wants to achieve

Add these to the Brand Plan if it makes sense.

Step 7:  Create your Brand Strategy

Answer the following in a few words to instantly create a Brand Strategy.

  • What is your Brand?
  • Who is your Target Market?
  • What does your Target Market expect from your Brand?  What does your Brand promise?
  • Where will your Brand be found?  
  • How will you communicate with your target market? (social media, voice)
  • What will your Brand’s communications consistently say?
  • How will your Brand uphold the promises it has made to its target market?

Having a strong Brand Strategy and clear Brand Plan will help you consistently surprise & delight your customers, making them not only loyal users, but also advocates and promoters of your Brand.