Numbers don’t lie.
77% of online consumers surveyed said they want to receive permission-based marketing messages via email. Sounds impressive – but even more impressive when you learn that direct mail came in a distant second with only 9% looking forward to opening their mail box. Interestingly, only 5% preferred text messages. (Source: ExactTarget 2012 Channel Preference Survey)
That’s the good news. After all, email is perhaps the most inexpensive means for small business owners to communicate with consumers. The bad news is – before you can communicate with consumers via email – you’ve got to get their permission (along with their email address.)
Permission-based marketing simply means that you have your customer’s permission to contact them. However, if you’re a small business owner just getting their feet wet it’s likely that 77% of your list isn’t exactly a large number.
Collecting email addresses from customers and clients who have given you permission to contact them is the “Catch 22” and “between a rock and a hard place” of small business email marketing. Obviously purchasing lists of email addresses of consumers who fit the demographic of your customer doesn’t cut it. Emailing someone without their permission to ask for permission to email them just doesn’t make sense – not to mention today’s consumer tends to be totally turned off by businesses that make the attempt. Not too many fans of spam out there.
So, if you don’t have a list – how do you create one?
The Usual Suspects
It would be hard to find anyone with even a smidgen of experience searching the Internet who hasn’t encountered an “opt-in” when visiting a website. An opt-in is nothing more than a form that serves to ask permission to contact the consumer as well as collect their information. Visitors to your businesses’ website can opt-in to receive a variety of marketing messages from you – for example a newsletter, blog posts, or special announcements (such as a sale.) It makes sense to have opt-in opportunities on every page of your website.
Sounds great but, once again, if you’ve got very little traffic on your website, that translates into very little opportunity to build a Mondo email list. If the obvious tactic of including opt-in opportunities on your small business website doesn’t help that much when it comes to building your list – what other tactics can you employ?
Plenty – here are a few:
If you’re a retailer, make it a practice to ask for (and collect) every customer’s opt-in at the point of purchase. The same goes for B2B small business owners. For example, train your receptionist to ask for opt-in when taking calls.
Display an “opt-in sign up” book where customers and visitors to your office will easily find it. Be sure to include information that motivates people to provide you with their permission (i.e. a description of your newsletter, let them know you routinely email discount offers, etc.)
Do it the old fashioned way. It’s likely you’ve got the phone number of most of your customers and clients. Pick up the phone and call to ask for their permission to be contacted via email.
Contact customers and clients who’ve already subscribed. Let them know you’re running a “forwarding contest” and tell them they will be entered into a raffle for each person they forward your email to. Include a link that says something like “Forward to a Friend” (there are email marketing services that can identify which subscribers actually forwarded their email.)
Ask in-person. We are so “virtually” oriented that the obvious can escape us: ask people to opt-in when you meet them in person. This can be at professional and business networking events – even with that person you struck up a conversation with in line at the grocery store.
Partner with a related, non-compete business. Are you a web designer? Partner with a public relations firm and send out each other’s messages.
Include an invitation to opt-in on all printed marketing material. This includes everything from promotional brochures, stationary, and your business card. It also includes printed advertising.
Last, but definitely not least (and perhaps the most obvious) include a link to an opt-in underneath your email signature.January 21, 2013
Sean Murray is the President and Chief Editor of deBanked and the founder of the Broker Fair Conference. Connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on twitter. You can view all future deBanked events here.