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Email marketing is frequently one of the last things that small businesses focus on to promote their business. Below we will take a look at the importance of include an email marketing plan in to your small business model and touch on three of the most beneficial email marketing services currently available.
What Defines a Small Business?
The definition of a small business varies depending both on who you ask and whose definition of a small business they are using. The overall concept of a small business however, is a privately owned and operated business with few employees and a relatively low sales volume.
What is Email Marketing?
Email marketing is a process of utilizing electronic mail to promote products and services to a target audience. Email marketing can be utilized to share discounts, promotional products, special events, fundraising messages, solicit sales or simply to create brand awareness. While email communication between a small business and any potential or current customer could be considered to be email marketing, the purpose behind email marketing campaigns is always to improve business for the company.
How is Email Marketing Beneficial?
Lower Cost than Physical Mailings
Many small businesses still rely upon physical mailings to promote their business and expose their brand. These types of mailings, which generally take the form of flyers or postcards, are quite popular; however, they are also quite expensive. When preparing for physical mailings, companies must take in to consideration the time that goes in to designing mailings, the cost that goes in to printing and shipping, the waste that the company is creating and the time delay between creating the mailings and potential clients receiving them. Email marketing allows for companies to take advantage of promoting to clients but it also cuts out much of the added cost that comes with a physical mailing. That is not to say that email marketing is a replacement for physical mailing; however, it is a much more cost-effective method of marketing for small businesses working on a budget.
Real Time Marketing
As mentioned above when talking about physical mailings, businesses that send out physical mailings must consider the time-lapse between creating their information and customers receiving it. In the case of email marketing campaigns, information can be sent to clients and potential clients as soon as it has been created.
Knowing What Works and What Doesn’t
When sending out physical mailings to clients and potential clients, a company has relatively little opportunity to test the waters with a marketing campaign. The expense of printing up marketing materials, mailing them, collecting analytics, making changes and reprinting a new campaign is simply too cost prohibitive. Conversely, email marketing campaigns can be sent out to a test market of clients and potential clients for relatively little cost. Data can be automatically tracked by email marketing software and companies are able to determine which campaign receives a higher response. This type of testing the waters allows companies to improve their targeted marketing strategy for little cost and with very minimal time investment.
Increased Frequency of Messaging
When a company chooses to use physical mailings to promote themselves, they have to understand that it is not cost-effective (or polite business) to bombard someone’s mailbox. This means that physical mailings must be spread out over a longer period of time. While it is similarly taboo to “SPAM” someone’s email inbox with email marketing messages, it is financially feasible and less unacceptable to be able to send out multiple mailings within a shorter time frame.
Personalization of Messages
Using email marketing is often much more successful than generic postal mailings simply due to personalization. When clients and potential clients sign up for more information from a company only, they are invited to share personal information such as their interests as well as their name. This information allows a business to create a more personalized and targeted email marketing campaign which helps to weed out potentially unsuccessful mailings that take additional time and effort.
The Sharing of Information
The internet has become a hub of information sharing and this is one of the many added benefits to focusing on email marketing strategies. Sending email marketing makes it easy for recipients of a marketing message to share it with their friends, family or website readers thereby increasing a company’s viewing audience. This type of sharing not only increases exposure but it also allows for an increase in diversity among viewing audiences, giving companies a chance to promote to non-traditional consumers.
In an age where environmental consciousness can impact whether or not an individual patronizes a business, being environmentally conscious is important. When a company chooses to utilize email marketing rather than physical mailings they are making a statement about their “greenness” which impacts a specific group of consumers and positively impacts the perception of the business in the community.
Why Don’t More Small Businesses Use E-Mail Marketing?
While direct email marketing has been around for a while, there are still many small businesses that are not taking advantage of it. There are a couple of reasons why some small businesses are not taking advantage of email marketing.
Believe it or not, not everyone is familiar with the internet and email systems. Frequently small business owners pour so much time and effort in to their businesses that they are only familiar with things that directly relate to their industry. For example, a hardware store owner is familiar with the most popular tools on the market. This same owner may have no interest in, or a lack of knowledge of, how to use a computer which means that email marketing may never have occurred to them as a viable option.
What these companies often don’t realize however, is that there are many companies that offer to take control of email marketing for small businesses for a minimal fee. This minimal fee is certainly worth the added exposure that any type of small business can gain from email marketing!
Many small business owners try to cut costs where they can which is why an email marketing service or software is not utilized. The truth is however, that paying a minimal fee for an email marketing service or software will result in an incredible return on investment for the majority of businesses that make use of them.
How Can A Small Business Get Started with Email Marketing?
Getting started with small business email marketing is actually a relatively easy and painless process. The first step that any small business will need to do is to determine whether or not they have an employee with technical knowledge enough to run email marketing software. If no such employee is available then the business needs to turn to a company that can control email marketing campaigns in-house. Most, but not all, email marketing companies offer this type of full service for an additional fee, so it is important to research this option before settling on a service provider. Below we will take a look at some of our favorite email marketing companies.
Some Popular Email Marketing Companies
GetResponse won first place in our Best Email Marketing Comparison. The most prominent feature that draws us to GetResponse is the depth of their intelligent reporting service. The thorough analysis of email marketing options through GetResponse allows for users to perfect their email marketing campaign and really get the most out of consumer communications. GetResponse also provides a number of additional perks with their services for no additional cost. These include online surveys, automatic responders and social network integration. GetResponse currently offers a free 30 day trial and following that their monthly pricing structure begins at $15 per month and varies with the number of subscribers the business has.
Campaigner is our second choice for email marketing provider. Pricing is one of the most appealing factors with Campaigner email marketing service but they also have an exceptional reputation for customer service and offer a number of email templates for users. Campaigner also provides users with a number of “bonus” add-ons to their service including a library of creatives, a free auto-responder and social media integration. Campaigner offers a free 30 day trial and after that charges just $10 a month for up to 1,000 subscribers.
iContact is one of the most popular and highly marketed email marketing solutions, and comes in third in our review. iContact offers users a number of very powerful tools. Perhaps the biggest plus for iContact users is the ease with which this service can be set up and run and their seamless integration into Salesforce, social media and mobile devices. iContact offers users the chance to try their service for free for up to 100 subscribers, after which their fee begins at $10 per month.
StreamSend offers a very affordable solution including many features that are added fees with other companies. We love that StreamSend offers unlimited image hosting, an important feature for companies who are constantly emailing new images to customers. They offer a 30 day free trial and other great features like a private IP address, trigger-based messaging, and live telephone support.
Is Email Marketing Worth the Expense?
The biggest predicament for small business owners when it comes to most decisions is whether or not the initial cost is going to be worth it. When it comes to email marketing, assuming that a company a) has the knowledge to properly utilize and email marketing solution or b) utilizes a full service email marketing solution, the return on investment is always worth the expense. Monthly costs for these services are minimal and are scaled to fit the number of subscribers that a business has at the beginning of the billing period. This means that the larger the viewing audience for marketing materials is, the higher the monthly cost and yet in the vast majority of cases even large audience accounts pay less per month of mailing than they would for a single physical mailing campaign.