Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from an “Ask the Expert” small-business advice column written by Steven Strauss, one of the nation’s leading small business experts. His articles first appear each week in USA Today. The new edition of his book, “The Small Business Bible,” can be purchased online at www.amazon.com. Should you have a question for “Ask the Expert,” please contact Strauss by e-mail at sstrauss@MrAllBiz.com.
There are all sorts of ways to use e-mail to grow your business, but for my money, the bread-and-butter, best ways are e-newsletters and actual e-mails. Don’t just take my word for it. When it comes to e-mail marketing, there may be no more knowledgeable a source than Gail Goodman, the dynamic CEO of Constant Contact, one of the top e-mail marketing companies in the world.
Goodman started running Constant Contact in 1999 and has since grown it into a business with more than 250,000 customers. She was named the Best Entrepreneur in the 2007 Stevie Awards for Women in Business and her company came in at No. 16 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Top 50 fastest-growing women-led companies.
When I recently spoke with Goodman about why e-mail marketing is so effective, she was, not surprisingly, a source of great ideas. To start with, she says, the essential power of e-mail marketing is that it “facilitates repeat sales and word of mouth referrals while also keeping you visible. It is also very affordable and stretches your marketing dollar.”
Think about it. People forward e-mails. That is a form of word-of-mouth advertising. The same is true for e-newsletters. As such, e-mail marketing both helps with customer retention as well as customer acquisition. The fact that it takes little more than some sweat equity makes it quite attractive in this economy.
Goodman says that today, e-mail becomes even more important since it allows you to forge a connection with customers, and that can make the difference between someone being a one-shot and a repeat customer.
For maximum effectiveness, Goodman advises that your e-mail correspondence be all about them, not you. Of course you can and should use e-mail to announce a sale or some other special, but to be truly successful, the savvy e-mail marketer will use e-mail to connect with their customers.
Says Goodman, “Don’t use e-mail or e-newsletters to always ask for an order, instead, use it to help your customers. If you own a restaurant, for example, send out a recipe or a coupon.” The important thing, she notes, is that you use your e-mail to stay in, if not constant contact, then at least regular contact.
This leads to her other important point, namely, that not only must you get permission — “It is not like direct mail where you can just send mail to anyone,” but that in fact “permission is perishable.”
When someone opts-in for your e-newsletter or otherwise gives you their e-mail address, Goodman says that “it is, of course, not permission for daily e-mails and it is also not permission to wait a year. Use that permission wisely.”
If you do that, if you create and grow a list of customers and their e-mail addresses, and then use that list to stay in touch by making your correspondence about them, and thereby forge a connection with them, then you will be well on your way to becoming a master e-marketer.