If there was an inexpensive marketing tool that would increase your business’s customer acquisition, conversion, and retention, would you use it? How about if the tool gave you heightened knowledge customers’ wants and needs while also creating a tangible, valuable asset?
If such a thing existed, of course you’d use it. And that thing does exist — it’s e-mail marketing.
E-mail marketing isn’t new and it isn’t sexy, but it’s a must-have for small businesses.
Consider Gigaom’s June 2014 study of 300 U.S. digital marketers. The study revealed e-mail marketing is “the digital workhorse, deemed the most effective for building awareness, acquisition, retention, and conversion.”
The Gigaom survey found that: marketers with small budgets ranked e-mail as the single-most-popular tactic for achieving brand awareness. Marketers favor e-mail marketing because e-mail is the second-most-popular online activity in the United States, behind social networking. Plus, e-mail is cost-effective, measurable, and adaptable.
Why Double-Opt-In Is Mandatory
The first step in e-mail marketing is building a customer list. Be smart about how you go about it.
You could use the super-easy single-opt-in method, in which you ask for and collect visitors’ e-mail addresses. But single-opt-in lends itself to abuse, resulting in more spam complaints and potential banning of your domain name by the major ISPs. You could also be accused of violating federal anti-spam laws. Avoid this at all costs.
Fortunately there’s an alternative to single opt-in, and you’ve undoubtedly experienced it. It’s the double-opt-in method, where subscribers to your list must confirm (by clicking on an e-mail that you send them) that they indeed want to hear from you. With double opt-in, you target only those subscribers who really want to hear from you. Double-opted-in lists have much higher engagement levels over time, which translates to more opens and clicks and fewer bounces and unsubscribes.
Offer a Must-Have
You can increase sign-up rates by offering a free product or service in exchange for signing up to your list. But free offers are everywhere online, and most of them deliver no value. To differentiate your business, put yourself in the minds of the people who visit your website and offer something they HAVE TO HAVE.
For example, here on TheSolopreneurLife.com, I created a self-assessment tool that enabled aspiring solopreneurs to determine if solo-business ownership is a good fit for them. My sign-up rates increased more than 300% after the self-assessment tool was added.
The Basic Steps and What You Can Expect
Books have been written about how to do e-mail marketing, but here’s a brief outline of what has worked for me.
1. Create an “ad” for your website. Place the ad in the banner position and/or at the top of your sidebar. Make the ad attractive, friendly, and (of course) clickable.
2. When prospective subscribers click on the ad, take them to sign-up copy that explains what they’re going to receive. If you’re promising an e-newsletter, think carefully about whether you can deliver on that promise over a long period of time. Then deliver on the promise. If you plan to send offers to your list, spell that out in your copy.
3. Offer a free, valuable product to people who sign up for your list.
4. Use a reputable vendor for list management and e-newsletter delivery. I use Mailchimp because it’s easy to use; provides high delivery rates due to strict standards; offers attractive and customizable sign-up forms and e-newsletter designs; gives you real-time, in-depth reporting; and is an excellent value.
If you do a good job executing these recommendations, you will experience increased customer acquisition, conversion, and retention. You will experience heightened knowledge of your customers’ wants and needs. You will eliminate an existing risk. Your double-opt-in list will become one of your business’s most valuable assets. And if you ever choose to sell your business, the list will be an important piece of the sale.