How many times did you pass on a project because you knew you didn’t have enough people or resources to make it work?
I often hear that email is one of such projects.
In most cases, small business owners know that they should be collecting their customers’ emails addresses and running email campaigns.
But they just keep saying – We’ll do that later.
At the same time, email marketing has repeatedly been ranked as the top digital marketing channel when it comes to return on investment (ROI).
It’d be a shame if you were to miss out on the opportunities that email creates, especially for small businesses.
So today, I’m going to show you four ways in which email could help you build relationships and sell more of your products, too.
If you’d rather cover your bases first instead, read our post on email marketing basics.
Four ways you can use email if you’re running a small business
1. Get feedback and reviews
Local businesses know this more than anyone else – positive reviews are your ultimate online marketing weapon.
In fact, people are 12 times more likely to trust online reviews than product descriptions that come from manufacturers.
So how can small businesses take advantage of them?
In two ways.
First is that reviews act as social proof. The more reviews you have, the more likely it is that people will check out your offer, instead of your competitors’.
The second way is that online reviews can give you valuable information about your brand or products. And it’s not only about knowing what aspects of the product your customers like or dislike, but also about how they intend to use it.
What’s even better, the words your customers use to describe your product or brand when leaving a review can help you improve your website copy – and make it feel more natural and SEO-friendly.
Now onto the slightly more difficult part.
How can you use emails to generate reviews?
Here’s an example of an email containing a survey from DesignLab.
If you’d like to send a survey to your audience, you can do this in two ways.
You can either do this manually or – better yet – use Marketing Automation workflows to do it for you.
Here’s one way you could set it up:
Step 1. Someone makes a purchase (or a different action you’ve specified) and lands in your email list.
Step 2. Assign them a tag, e.g., one that tells you which product category they enjoyed.
Step 3. Send them a “thank you for your purchase” message.
Step 4. Wait 10 or more days so that the customer gets a chance to use your product.
Step 5. Send an email asking them to leave a review.
And this is what it looks like in a workflow.
Best of all? I created this workflow using one of our marketing automation templates. All I had to do is adjust the settings for the individual elements, i.e., choose the appropriate tag and emails I wanted to send.
2. Help customers browse your site
How often do people land on one of your landing pages directly, skipping the homepage altogether?
Whether they came from organic, referral, or a paid campaign, it might be that they “jumped the line” and never even got to thoroughly browse your site.
If you’re in ecommerce, this is a big challenge as you want your customers to know what products and categories you’re offering.
So, what can you do about it?
Make sure that you show everyone around after they’ve joined your email list.
You can do it using marketing automation workflows to onboard new customers.
In a moment, you’ll see how.
In one of my previous articles, I talked about four distinct levels of welcome campaigns.
- Single welcome email
- Welcome email series
- Welcome email series with tagging and scoring
- Welcome email series with tagging, scoring, and behavior-triggered messages
To introduce new customers to all the product categories, I’d suggest that you skip the single welcome email and go straight for one of the more advanced types of campaigns.
A welcome email series is just another name for a simple autoresponder sequence. In other words, a set of messages sent one after another, at a chosen time interval.
So, in your welcome email, you’d say thanks for either joining your list or making a purchase.
And in the messages that come after, you could provide recommendations and hint at other categories.
E.g., if they purchased running shoes, you could recommend some vitamins or rain jackets for running.
Here’s what a post-purchase follow-up email could look like.
If you decide to step it up a little, then add tagging and scoring to your workflow. With these, you can assess your customers’ engagement and tag them according to their interest.
For example, if they clicked on the “rain jacket for running” category, you could tag them as “outdoor runner.” Which in turn, will help you send them more-targeted communication in the future.
Below you can see two workflows that you could use:
- Welcome new customers and introduce them to your other categories.
- Tag them according to the categories they’ve clicked in the previous workflow.
From there you decide if you want to follow up with your audience manually or automatically – using behavior-triggered emails.
The latter solution requires a little more effort upfront, but it’s also got one key advantage.
Your emails will be sent in response to your customers’ actions. And sending them at the right moment is likely to have a significant impact on your conversion rates as triggered emails strongly outperform regular newsletters.
3. Stay on top of your customers’ minds
Not everyone who visits your site is going to convert straight away, just as not everyone’s going to buy from you on a regular basis.
But does that mean you shouldn’t be keeping in touch with them? What if they’re genuinely interested, but simply not ready to commit at this particular moment?
Believe it or not, this is often the case. Especially if you’re in a seasonal business or working in B2B, where the approval path is longer.
That’s why you should be running something that’s often called a top of mind campaign. And as the name implies, it’s a campaign that helps you stay on top of your customers’ minds.
Here’s a fragment of an email from Death to Stock where they offer a free photo pack every month. Do you see the subtle hint at the end of this message?
Your top of mind campaign could be a simple monthly newsletter containing product or company updates.
Or it could be an automated sequence or autoresponder that’s sent out every month, automatically.
What’s important is that your emails shouldn’t be all about selling your product.
Instead, they should be focused on providing your audience with value and only slightly be hinting that you’ve got a special offer for them.
Be patient and don’t worry – they’ll buy from you when they’re ready.
Here’s how Trello’s using email campaigns to provide valuable content to their audience who are using the free version of the platform.
Notice how only at the very end of the newsletter, they’re suggesting that you can use more advanced (premium) features like team collaboration. Just like in the example I’ve shown you just a moment ago.
4. Launch a new product
If you’re thinking about launching a new product, you should consider using a variety of online marketing channels.
We once talked about how you can use social media to promote a new product.
Brands such as Ben & Jerry’s had successfully used this approach and been able to engage their audience even before their product arrived on the shelves.
Email’s perfect for that, too.
In his article, John Rampton lists five steps you should take when using email to support a product launch.
- Build a list of active, interested subscribers.
- Tease your audience with an “announcement” to come.
- Formally announce your product—when the time is right.
- Follow up with sales, discounts, and other initiatives.
- Support your product with ongoing content.
Now think about some of the most prominent brands like Apple or Samsung. All of them announce their products months before production starts.
Would that work for a smaller company like yours?
It certainly could.
Just remember that you have to form strong relationships first.
There are a few ways to do this.
First of all, make sure that you’re not building just an email list but a club. All the members of your club should know that they’re getting exclusive information and news about your products. Make them feel like they’re part of something bigger.
Once you’ve got that, consider building a loyalty program and get people to refer your brand to others.
Then when you have a small but engaged community, run a teaser campaign.
Just like Happy Socks did with one of their exclusive lines created in partnership with the Beatles.
That’s not all, folks
There are many other ways you can use email to build relationships and your business, too.
What’s important is that you give it a go, test a few approaches, observe the results, and make the final decision based on data.
If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out this article – 20 automated emails you should be sending today.
And if you’re just starting with email marketing, don’t forget to check out our Introduction to Email List Building guide.