The Great Email Conundrum

Email Marketing

Are you avoiding email marketing?

Every day we are all bombarded with an array of emails - from mailing lists we seem to have ended up on, from people we want to hear from and companies we have bought from.  I’ll admit it tests the patience of even the most saintly of us.  And it is probably what sparks the regular “Email is Dead” trends that come round every so often in the marketing field.

But nothing could be further from the truth, email marketing is becoming more important and you need to be in on the act.  

As a marketing tactic, email works.  Done well, it will probably be the single most effective tactic in your whole suite of marketing activities.  It consistently shows the highest rate of return on investment of any marketing activity - with some figures showing a 70:1 return.   It works to build relationships with and repeat purchases from existing customers and it brings new customers on board.  

As a small business, you can’t afford not to be using the power of email marketing to grow and sustain your business.  

But you are probably thinking:

  • I don’t have the time to build and manage a list
  • I haven’t got anything to say
  • No-one wants more emails
  • Who would want to sign up anyway
  • People only buy my product once
  • I have lots of social media followers, why do I need an email list too?
  • Writing terrifies the life out of me

I hear these comments very regularly.  You are not alone!  But now it is time to de-bunk those thoughts and change your mindset.


If you don’t have the time to invest in activities that are going to generate you revenue, then your business is on the road to nowhere.  Email return on investment has been going up - increasing by 50% from 2013 to 2014 to an average of £38 for every £1 spent.   It is worth your time to invest in building your email marketing activities.  

Nothing to Say?

If you are selling anything, you will have something to say.  But try to do it without a plan that links what you say to your business goals and the chances are that inspiration will be hard to come by.  A little time spent planning what you can say and what opportunities you can piggy back on will be time well spent and get rid of the pressure.

More emails!!

True, no one wants to be bombarded and overuse of email is one of the biggest reasons people will unsubscribe.  My perspective is that you should write an email when there is something of value to say.  A bit of balance is required and that depends on the nature of your business and who your customers are.  Write too often and people will get fed up with you, too infrequently and they will forget either who you are or if they ever signed up in the first place.  The bottom line is that how often and what you write will be unique to your business - a bit of experimentation is needed.  But there is nothing to stop you asking your list what they want.  

Who will subscribe?

If the prospect of a completely blank list is mildly terrifying, look at it another way.  If people have bought from you then they have already made it clear they are interested in what you do/sell.  So they are highly likely to want to hear more from you.  You can contact existing customers about other products or services you offer (See these rules on marketing to existing customers), so add these to your list.  (Make sure you segment your list to distinguish customers from others - it will make it a whole lot easier to communicate effectively later on).  

Then there are others who haven’t bought from you yet.  Add some options for sharing and forwarding to your email to encourage your customers them to pass the message on.  Add a sign-up button to your Facebook page, add a sign-up button to your website, ask people directly if they want to go on your list.  It might take a little while to build up, but it will get there.  People who sign up to your list that haven’t bought from you yet are HIGHLY likely to buy from you in the future and will be some of your warmest prospects.  People ARE interested in what you do, what you sell and what you have to say.  Why wouldn’t they be?  You’ve got a great business and we want to hear about it.  

The One Time Purchase or the Long Lead in

If you are selling high-value items, then the lead time between the first and second purchases is going to be long.  And if you only sell one product or type of product with no plans to expand, then it is a challenge to work email marketing effectively.  But in practice, this is rarely the case.  In practice, there are lots of ways that email can help you to grow your business.  

For example, you have a great product that is bucking the trend of disposability or really is a one-time purchase such as a garden room.  It’s going to last and last.  Well, that is going to make your customers very happy - which means they are likely to tell their friends about it and become one of your best advocates.  Maintaining that connection becomes pretty essential.  The secret ingredient is to find ways to carry on adding value to the purchase - not necessarily through additional sales opportunities but giving back to your customers with useful advice, upgrading or maintenance offers, discount offers with partners, interesting information.  It’s not going to be sales heavy in these instances, it’s about keeping the relationship alive through extra value.  And if you diversify your range or add new dimensions to your business, well then you have a ready-made audience to test and launch to.  

Social Media

Social media can be a fantastic way to support the growth of your business and is a key element of any business’s marketing activities today.  But if you use it as your main pillar of customer relationships and promotion, you are running a seriously MASSIVE risk.  You do not own any of the data and your accounts are not actually under your control.  There are countless examples of businesses who have built everything upon social media and lost it literally overnight because their accounts were taken down by the network.  If your followers decide to unfollow you, you can’t control that action and you can’t take steps to mitigate their action either.  Once they are gone, they are gone. These are not risks worth taking - get your followers off social media and on to a list you own, control and manage.  

Writers Block

People generally fall into three camps on the subject of writing

  • Love it (tend to write too much)
  • Hate it (they don’t write at all)
  • Pretty convinced they are no good at it (they put it off until it is too late or write too little)

While I love writing (except about me which I find very hard) I can fully understand the anxiety when confronted with a blank piece of paper.  Here are a few guidelines that can help you overcome the dreaded writers block:

  • Start by working out what the value is that you are offering to your customers and potential customers - it’s there, trust me.
  • Think of a great subject line that will encourage people to open your email. (Nearly 1/3 of people open emails based on subject line alone)
  • What do you want people to do as a result of your email?  Make this clear, make it easy and make sure any links go the right place (eg a particular page of your website rather than the home page).
  • Put your most important message first (people scan read in quite distinct patterns from left to right picking out key words at the top of the page).
  • Keep to your values and style of communication for your business
  • Most importantly of all - put some of you into your business and every communication you create.  People buy from people.    For most small businesses, a conversational style works really well - if a customer feels you are talking directly to them, they will warm to you very quickly.

There are a few technical points about managing an email list that are worth bearing in mind:

  • Using an email management tool is a more efficient option than grappling with keeping spreadsheets up to date.  The flow of subscribe and unsubscribe options can be customised and automated keeping you free to run the business.  Mailchimp is probably the best known option but there are lots out there offering free accounts up to certain limits.  
  • Most of the email management systems today will offer you mobile friendly layouts - with more and more emails being opened on smart phones, this is now an absolutely essential factor in successful email marketing.  
  • They also offer analytics on the open and click through rates of each email you send out so that you can track the effectiveness of your emails.  
  • The EU is currently negotiating new rules on data protection.  These rules will bring in some substantial changes to the ways that email marketing can be conducted.  Set your list up using good practice from the outset.
  • Handle your unsubscribers with grace and warmth - it will pay dividends.

Email marketing is a lynch pin for your business.  If you haven’t stuck your toe in the water yet, now is the time to do it.  

Still wondering how to make email marketing work for your business?  Grab a quick call with me to talk it through.  It’s completely free!


©Polly Hearsey 2019

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