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Friday Small Business Roundup: Get Ready for Holiday Retail and More

August 23rd, 2013 ::

Is Your Ecommerce Site Making These 5 Fatal Mistakes? Read Rieva Lesonsky’s post and find out what you might be doing wrong.

Then start getting your ecommerce site ready for holiday 2013 retail: Read 3 Ways Email Can Boost Your 2013 Holiday Sales.

Get more out of your social media presence. Read Monika Jansen’s tips on How to Become an Industry Influencer.

Then check out her post 13 Small Changes That Will Greatly Improve Your Social Media Marketing for quick tweaks you can make right away.

Are you marketing to moms? Learn the secrets to attracting these powerful consumers in Karen Axelton’s post, When Marketing to Moms, Mobile and Social Are Key.

How Do Your Healthiness Habits Measure Up? Learn how you compare to other small business owners in Maria Valdez Haubrich’s post.

Friday Small Business Roundup: Who’s Spending What, and How?

August 2nd, 2013 ::

Can Eating the Frog Make You More Productive? And just what does it mean? Read Rieva Lesonsky’s post to find out.

It’s the little things that count. Read Monika Jansen’s post 19 Easy Ways to Improve Your Customer Service for great ideas you can put into practice right away.

You might be turning away money without even realizing it. Read Maria Valdez Haubrich’s post Are You a Payment Dinosaur? to learn why.

Are you missing out on the lucrative senior market? Read Maria Valdez Haubrich’s post Think Seniors Aren’t Online? Think Again to find out.

All kinds of consumers are getting primed to spend. Read more in Karen Axelton’s post Consumers Are Ready to Spend on Luxury Products and Services.

Learn the benefits of inbound marketing and how to use it in your business in Monika Jansen’s post The ROI of Inbound Marketing.


Web.com Small Business Tip of the Day: What Are Your Customers Doing Online?

May 3rd, 2013 ::

What are your customers doing online? The answer is most likely social media, according to a new survey from Experian Marketing Services, which also showed five minutes of every hour is spent on shopping. A great deal of this social networking and shopping is happening on consumers’ mobile devices, which brings up the question, how are your online marketing efforts doing? Is your business well-represented on local search sites? How does your website look on a smartphone? Are you using social media to announce new products, promote daily specials and communicate with your customer? The truth is there’s probably more you could be doing, so make it a point to find out what you don’t know about online marketing and get your business on the right track.

4 Ways to Get More Subscribers to Your Email Newsletter

April 26th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

An email newsletter is a key element of your content marketing strategy, driving users to your website, your social media accounts and your business. So if you’ve got an email newsletter, you’re ahead of the game. But how do you get more subscribers to help spread your content far and wide (and buy more stuff from your business)? Try these tactics.

1. Encourage sign-ups everywhere.

It’s essential to put a signup box above the fold on the home page of your website. Ideally, you should also have it on every page. But don’t limit yourself to your website. Regularly post on your social media sites reminding customers to sign up for your newsletter if they haven’t already. Or post content from the newsletter and then say, “To get articles like this every month, sign up for our newsletter (link).” If you send receipts or order acknowledgements by email, make sure those emails include a link to sign up for your newsletter.

And don’t limit yourself to the digital world, either. Have sign-up sheets at the point-of-sale checkout in your store; ask for signups when you give customers the check at your bar or restaurant; ask if customers want to sign up when you’re handing them the invoice after completing work on their home or car. You get the idea. You can also enclose information about your newsletter in packing slips when you ship product, stick it in the bag when customers buy at the counter, or print it on receipts.

2. Keep it simple.

Subscribing to a newsletter is often an impulse decision, so don’t smother the impulse by asking for too much information. To send out an email newsletter, all you really need is the person’s email (it’s nice, but not necessary, to have their name too).

Keep in mind, you can always collect more details about them later, after they’ve been a subscriber for a while and you’ve earned their goodwill. Customers will be more likely to provide personal details if they’ve grown to trust you and feel that they are getting something of value from your newsletter.

3. Offer something in return.

Bribery works. Make your newsletter desirable and encourage subscriptions by offering something in return. This could be a downloadable ebook on tax tips (for an accounting firm) or a $5 discount off the next purchase (for a clothing retailer or restaurant).

4. Make it shareable.

People trust their friends’ recommendations, so using social sharing is a great way to encourage new subscribers. Include icons in your email newsletter to make it easy for recipients to like or follow your business on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or whatever social media sites you use. Every issue of your newsletter should also include a friendly request asking customers to forward the newsletter to others who might enjoy it.

Image by Flickr user Sean MacEntee (Creative Commons)

How to Craft Content That Works for Your Content Marketing Campaign

April 24th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

The essence of any content marketing strategy is, of course, content. But for small business owners, this is often the biggest stumbling block. Chances are you’re not a writer, so how do you and your team craft content that will work to improve your website’s SEO and drive traffic and sales? Here are some tips.

Focus on quality. You may read articles that give you the idea your content has to be stuffed with keywords. In reality, this leads to articles that make no sense (we’ve all read them—those blog posts that sound like they were written by someone who didn’t speak English). Think about what your audience wants to know, and write articles that answer their questions. For example, if you own a lawn care and landscaping business, your customers might want to know how to keep their lawns green, how to prevent weeds, what types of grass are best for the local climate, etc.

Include both timely and timeless content. You don’t want every article you write to become outdated in a month. However, tying your content to current trends (such as seasons, holidays or hot topics online) does help boost your SEO and make your site seem fresh. Aim for a mix of timeless topics (such as what types of grass are best for the climate, or how often to mow a lawn) and timely ones (such as popular plants this summer, or how to prepare your garden for winter).

Use keywords. I mentioned not stuffing your articles with keywords, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to use them. Figure out what keywords you want to be found for (for example: San Francisco lawn care, landscaping service, best landscaping company) and use those keywords in the headlines, subheads and first paragraphs of your articles. If you use photos or graphics, you should also use keywords in the captions, descriptions and tags of the artwork.

Enlist your staff. If you’re not a good writer, do you have someone who is on your team? Remember, content isn’t just words, so see what kind of talent exists on your staff. You might have someone who’s great at shooting videos or taking photos. Used properly on your website and social media accounts, these can be excellent traffic drivers.

Get professional help. Creating content, especially blog posts, articles and newsletters, can be time-consuming and stressful if you don’t have an experienced writer on staff. Consider outsourcing to a freelance writer or marketing copywriter. You can find tons to choose from on sites like Guru.com, Elance.com or Freelancer.com.

Image by Flickr user mrsdkrebs (Creative Commons)

Web.com Small Business Toolkit: Mailigen’s Epic Free (Email Marketing)

March 11th, 2013 ::

Mailigen’s Epic Free

If you’re looking for a starter email marketing solution, Mailigen’s Epic Free email marketing solution lets small businesses have up to 5,000 subscribers before it charges a monthly fee. Create newsletters, signup forms and surveys from over 130 customizable templates. You’ll get real-time performance reports, plus, Mailigen integrates with Google Analytics. Mailigen’s branding is part of the emails, but if you ask them to remove it, they will. You can also post to your Facebook or Twitter account when you send out the emails and target your audience so subscribers get exactly the information they’re interested in.

7 Ways to Make Cold Emailing Work For You

March 4th, 2013 ::

Brr, it's cold - but it could get warmer!I have a confession to make: I have always been outgoing and perfectly comfortable talking to total strangers. I have walked right up to famous people I wanted to meet (mostly pro snowboarders and startup founders whose companies have gone big-time) and introduced myself. For some reason, though, cold calling and cold emailing are much harder for me to do, so I always give kudos to people who not only do it, but do it well.

When I was the editor at Tech Cocktail, I got pitched a lot via email. Whoever did a great job got my attention, a reply, and usually an article out of it. Now, I get pitched by companies selling a service I might be interested in, either as a small business owner or marketer.

If you want cold emailing to work for you, here are all the things your email must contain to grab the recipients’ attention:

1. Get basic information right

I cannot stress this enough: Make sure you get my name, company name, industry, location, and any other basic information about me that strengthens your pitch right.

2. Customize the message

Because you did your homework to confirm I am in your target market, throw in references to the industry and what I do to build trust and credibility.

3. Get to the point

If your email is long, there is no way I’m going to read it. Explain exactly why you are emailing me in your opening sentence.

4. Name name

If we have a friend, acquaintance, or client in common, tell me who it is rather than saying, “We have a mutual friend.” Say, “We have a mutual friend, Mark Zuckerberg*.” If Mark told you to contact me, let me know why.

5. List the benefits

Definitely let me know why I should meet with you, do business with you, or buy from you. How will working with you benefit me? And how, in turn, can I help you?

6. Offer meeting times and days

If you want to meet with me in person, let me know when and where you are available to meet. If you are so inclined, offer to pay for coffee or lunch.

7. Follow up

Acknowledge that I am busy, and offer to follow up in a week or so. You can also ask our mutual friend Mark Zuckerberg to follow up if you’d think it would help.

* I do not know Mark Zuckerberg, but if you do, feel free to make an email introduction.

Do you use cold emailing regularly or on occasion? What have you found works best for you?

Image courtesy of colourbox.com

Meet the Mobile Super-Shoppers

March 1st, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Is your small business reaching out to Hispanic consumers on their mobile devices? If not, you’re missing out on a big opportunity. New research reported by eMarketer shows that Hispanic consumers are not only far more likely than non-Hispanics to use mobile devices, but are also far more likely to use them to shop.

A study from Acosta Sales & Marketing found that Hispanic consumers, in particular, are more likely than the average shopper to use a smartphone (51 percent of Hispanics vs. 41 percent of all consumers), regularly use text messaging (47 percent vs. 42 percent) and use mobile apps (19 percent vs. 14 percent).

According to a study from Leo Burnett and Lapiz, Hispanic consumers are 7 percent more likely than non-Hispanic consumers to use their mobile phones to shop (56 percent vs. 33 percent of non-Hispanics). They’re also more likely to shop with a tablet (43 percent of Hispanics do so, vs. 25 percent of non-Hispanics).

The same Leo Burnett/Lapiz study reports that Hispanics are far more likely than non-Hispanics to make shopping a social activity, whether they’re shopping online or off:

  • Nearly half (48 percent) of Hispanics use social networking sites as part of their shopping activities, while only 31 percent of non-Hispanics do so.
  • Hispanics are twice as likely to share their opinions of products or brands and write product reviews on social media sites (36 percent of Hispanics do so, vs. 18 percent of Non-Hispanics).
  • Hispanics are more than twice as likely to reach out to friends and family for help with shopping decisions (37 percent of Hispanics do so, vs. 17 percent of non-Hispanics).

What do these numbers mean to you? First, with Hispanics a growing segment of the U.S. population, there’s scarcely a business out there that shouldn’t be reaching out to them. To attract these super-shoppers, consider:

  • Creating a mobile app for your business that lets customers do something more easily, whether that’s getting product quotes or making purchases directly on their phones.
  • Making it easy for consumers to share information from your website or ecommerce site or social media accounts with friends and family, whether via email, social media or text messaging.
  • Have an active presence in social media and make sure your business is represented on ratings and review sites.
  • Taking advantage of text messaging, since Hispanic consumers are actively engaged in it. But be careful: Don’t overstep your welcome or send too many texts.

Image by Flickr user moodboard photography (Creative Commons)

7 Quick Fixes for Common Email Marketing Mistakes

February 21st, 2013 ::

Band-aidBecause we’re human, we are going to make mistakes. Unfortunately when it comes to email marketing, if you make some big mistakes, you could lose subscribers.

The best way to catch a mistake in your email marketing messages is by sending out test emails to a few people who can check for formatting, grammatical, and spelling mistakes. Before doing that, though, run through this checklist to make sure you avoid these 7 common mistakes to begin with:

1 – Messing up email personalization

If I had a dollar for every time I got an email that said, “Hi [FirstName]” – well, I wouldn’t be rich, but I could go out for a very nice dinner tonight. While it’s not necessary to personalize greetings, it is a really nice touch. Just make sure email personalization is set up properly in the email marketing program you use.

2 – Emailing the wrong people

After you add contacts to your email marketing program, segment them into groups, such as company executives, small business owners, VIP customers, partners, etc. That way, when you send out an email, you know it is reaching the right people with the message you wrote specifically for them. Before you hit send, doublecheck that you selected the right group (or groups).

3 – Forgetting to add an unsubscribe option

It is actually illegal to not offer an easy way for your email recipients to unsubscribe to your email list, so make sure every email contains this option. But make it easy – let people click on a link to unsubscribe rather than forcing them to email you back with “unsubscribe” in the subject line or body of the email.

4 – Offering only HTML versions of your emails

Despite all the incredible advances in browser and mobile technology, some programs and devices just cannot handle HTML versions of emails. Always include a text option to make sure you can reach everyone on your list.

5 – Not adding links

You send out emails to increase sales, so make it easy to convert “maybes” into “yeses.” Link back to products, services, and downloadable content on your website, and, if you include an email address, hyperlink that as well so people can email you with one click.

6 – Leaving out social share buttons

At this point, forgetting to add social share buttons to any of your marketing communications is like forgetting to add your company name or signature. If you want to grow your social media audience and extend the reach of the content you share, always include those buttons.

7 – Not including contact information

This is my biggest pet peeve across online communications – hiding contact information. Make it super easy for people to contact you – via phone, email, snail mail, fax, carrier pigeon – whatever. Display that information front and center. Your customers will thank you.

What other mistakes have you seen?

Image courtesy of coachmunro.com

Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From Venus

February 21st, 2013 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

Social media is growing by leaps and bounds, but email is still the best way to reach out to the most customers and gain their loyalty, reports a new study by ExactTarget. Called Marketers from Mars, the study found significant gaps between how marketers think customers want to be marketed to, and how customers actually want to interact with brands.

The clear winner? Email, which was named as the most valuable marketing tool for building loyalty by both customers and marketers. Ninety-three percent of consumers subscribe to at least one brand’s email, while about half (49 percent) have made a purchase as a direct result of email messages.  One-third of consumers want marketers to invest more in email marketing.

However, while marketers were highly focused on mobile marketing, customers aren’t quite there yet. About one-fourth of marketers thought mobile apps were an effective marketing tool, but just 7 percent of consumers thought so. Instead, consumers were more likely to want brands to invest more in marketing on their traditional websites.

Consumers were more likely than marketers to want to interact with brands on Facebook. More than half (58 percent) of consumers have “Liked” a brand on Facebook, up 20 percent from the prior survey in 2010. About one-third of consumers with a smartphone and one-fourth of consumers who do not own a smartphone say they prefer to interact with brands on Facebook, making it the second most common place consumers go to connect with businesses online.

While just 21 percent of consumers have made a purchase as a direct result of a Facebook message, 22 percent of consumers say they want marketers to invest in creating a better Facebook experience. This suggests that there is great potential for Facebook to grow as a sales and marketing channel.

While marketers are highly engaged with Twitter, consumers are far less so. Some 61 percent of marketers follow at least once brand on Twitter, but only 12 percent of consumers do. That was an increase of just 7 percent from the prior survey in 2010.

What’s the takeaway? If you’re involved in small business marketing, you’re on the cutting edge of new trends and technologies—so don’t make the mistake of assuming your habits mirror those of the average consumer. Always do your research to understand exactly what your target customers are doing and how they want you to market to them—it may not be how you’d like to be marketed to yourself.

You can download the complimentary research from Exact Target or view an infographic of the survey.

Image by Flickr user (Creative Commons)