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Small businesses earn big bucks through e-mail newsletters

23 July 2010 No Comment

By Helen Kaiao Chang

See original story on SDNN

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Your e-mails can mean money for your small business.

Chris Murch, an e-mail marketing expert, tells these stories:

* One e-mail netted $1 million worth of business for a radio show, after a fan forwarded a promotional e-mail to a large company. The international company later signed a contract with the radio program that generated income for both.

* A fishing gear company did $70,000 of new business from one e-mail campaign. The e-mails had a photo to “See the Biggest Bass Ever Caught in Colorado,” which linked to the company’s Web site, where visitors went crazy signing up for fishing trips.

* A guitar company shop in Denver makes several thousands of dollars extra each month from guitars featured in their e-mails. The “guitar of the month” is advertised only through its e-mail list of loyal customers.

Murch told these stories during a SCORE workshop about e-mail marketing for businesses. SCORE is a non-profit group offering workshops and business coaching for entrepreneurs. Score hosted a workshop Tuesday, and it will be held again in Carlsbad on May 7.

Murch said e-mails can be an important tool for businesses to keep in touch with customers. “Anyone who’s ever purchased anything from you should be on your e-mail list,” he said. “As long as you’ve provided good service, you’re halfway there to staying in touch with your customers.”

E-mails are profitable, averaging $57 return-on-investment for every $1 spent, he said.

They are also an easy way to stay in communication, since it takes seven “touch points” — contacts with customers — to make a sale.

“When (visitors) land on your Web site, you want a way to stay in touch with them, so when they’re ready to buy, they buy from you,” said Murch. “Familiarity breeds confidence and confidence breeds sales.”

Murch told of many ways to collect e-mail addresses from customers, including:

When customers call your store, ask them for e-mail contacts to tell them about specials.
Offer a free gift on your Web site, in exchange for e-mail information.
List your e-mail and Web site contacts on the signature lines of all outgoing company e-mails.
Keep e-mail addresses of people and groups who contact you.
Capture e-mails from business cards people give you.
Murch’s own business sends out one billion (yes, with a “b”) e-mails a month, staggered by the day. He advised entrepreneurs to use real contacts, rather than using purchased lists, CD-ROM lists or list sharing services. Make sure your lists are fresh — one year or less — and maintain then quarterly, he said.

But quality is more important than quantity of e-mails. “It’s more about good information than frequent information,” he said. “It’s content over frequency.”

In planning an e-mail campaign strategy, Murch suggested the following strategy:

Set objectives
Determine format
Create a schedule
Build a professional template
Analyze results
Test, test, test

He also offered the following nine tips:

1. Just do it. Sign up for a program with a free e-mail trial. Send out test e-mails to
family and friends. Develop it from there.
2. Content is king. Make sure your e-mails comprise 80 percent content, and 20 percent sales. Even less sales is better. Position yourself as an expert. Toot your horn when appropriate.
3. Use the same business e-mail address and name. Whether someone opens an e-mail depends 60 percent on whether people recognize who it’s from.
4. Write compelling subject lines. People will open an e-mail 30 percent of the time, depending on the subject line. Make it compelling and create a call to action.
5. Create an attractive e-mail. Use graphics, images, and white space in the e-mail itself.
6. Use links. In your e-mail messages, add three to five links to the business Web site.
7. Track links. Measure which links people click. For example, a travel company might have links for cruises to Alaska, Hawaii and Mexico. If 100 of 1,000 clicks are for Alaska, they can create a new list and send follow up e-mails about Alaska specials.
8. Put a sign-up box on your Web site. Include a compelling offer, encouraging visitors to leave their e-mail contacts.
9. Send test e-mails. Send e-mails to yourself, checking how it renders, how it looks, if the links work and if everything is accurate, before sending to your database. Test your messages by dividing the list and using different subject lines, to see which are opened more.

Murch shared more examples of successful and unsuccessful e-mail campaigns.

One fitness company had such a successful e-mail newsletter — chock-full of health information and tips — Timex decided to sponsor it. The watch company paid for billboards to promote the newsletter.

One car company sent e-mails to customers who had recently bought that brand of car. The e-mails promoted the company’s new cars. But most people don’t need a new car every two or three months, said Munch. The e-mails would have been more relevant if they were about maintaining the cars.

“It’s interesting to see big companies making those big mistakes,” said Munch. “They weren’t thinking it through.”

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenChang.

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