Each week as @Smallbizlady, I conduct interviews with small business experts on my weekly Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. This is excerpted from my #SmallBizChat interview with James Tayo @eblogr (on Twitter). James is a software developer who provides software for bloggers and Internet entrepreneurs. He helps entrepreneurs achieve a maximum effectiveness by developing software that automates the work they should not be doing. He blogs at Entrepreneur Blog’r, http://entrepreneurblogr.com/
Smallbizlady: Why is email marketing important? How does it help a business generate revenue?
James Tayo: Email marketing is the most cost-effective way to keep in touch with your clients and prospects. Most people coming in contact with your brand will not make a purchase immediately. Email marketing gives you that unique ability to create a relationship with your prospects, making them understand you are there to help.
Smallbizlady: What advice would you give a small business owner that is just starting on the Internet?
James Tayo: Take action. A lot of people including me always like to consume information and courses. The first version of your product should not aim to be the greatest. The problem is nothing will happen if you don’t actually take action to actualize your dreams. Do not over analyze.
Your product should only serve to add value with the minimal amount of features or information. The rest will be decided by your market. Improving on your product with the feedback of your market will ensure you don’t offer something nobody cares about.
Smallbizlady: How should small business owners gather email addresses from clients and what services do you recommend for sending out email?
James Tayo: I would recommend you use a third-party service provider and not to try and use a free tool. This is because your email marketing effort, if done right, will become the core of your business helping to bring in revenue and you do not want to trust this to a free service that has no support. Your email deliver-ability with the service providers should also be top-notch. I use an email service provider called Aweber. Another service provider you can take a look at is MailChimp.
Smallbizlady: How can small business owners get the best results from email marketing?
James Tayo: To get the most results, you need to nurture engaged subscribers. By engaging subscribers to click on your links, respond to your questions you will in turn get them to buy your products or hire you.
To do this you will need to train your subscribers to always expect to receive valuable stuff from you. If, every time they open your emails, your subscribers receive a great tip, or a blog post with information that helps or improves their bottom line, they will naturally come to trust you. Whenever you offer something for sale, it will be deemed to be valuable and you will not get as much objections as you normally would.
Smallbizlady: How often should your email list hear from you?
James Tayo: It depends on your audience. The goal you want to achieve is to stay in recent memory. You want to communicate frequently enough not to be deemed a spammer or overwhelm your list. But not infrequent enough for them to forget who you are. As a rule of thumb, it should be at least once a month and at most once a week for your regular schedule.
Smallbizlady: Should a small business have a branded e-newsletter template or is a text only email enough to engage subscribers?
James Tayo: A branded e-Newsletter comes across more professional and in some markets like insurance, it may be necessary to have that professional image. The issue you will have with branded newsletters is, you will need to test each email you have in a lot of email software.
Your readers will be reading your emails in multiple software clients like Outlook, Gmail or even on their mobile phones. All these clients display HTML newsletters in different ways. You can use a service like Litmus (http://litmus.com/) to test this. But at $49/month, you may want to start off with plain text emails. These will look mostly the same on most email software.
Smallbizlady: Do you need content strategy before starting an email marketing campaign?
James Tayo: You need to be in touch with your subscribers often. The emails you send them need to be strategic. It should be positioned to educate your subscribers about a topic they want to know about and in the same time selling your services.
This is what is known as content marketing. Education is one of the best ways to sell without really selling. The content (or most of it) will need to be written before you start your campaign If you use a service like Aweber or MailChimp, you can queue all the emails to be sent on your required schedule. Anytime, a subscriber joins your list, he/she gets the first email and the relationship between you and the subscriber starts. Very effective and low-cost.
Smallbizlady: How can you increase the number of people that sign up to hear from you?
James Tayo: On the Internet, the main currency is value. People only take action when they know it will be of benefit to them. You will need to offer something valuable to your subscribers. It doesn’t end there, you will have to communicate that value to people that haven’t signed up. Offer to give something in return for signing up. Whatever you offer, make sure it is of good quality. This is the first contact they will be having with you so you need to make a good impression. Don’t just slap a couple of words together and call it an eBook.
Smallbizlady: What other ways can I use to grow my subscriber numbers?
James Tayo: One strategy that people do not use is asking for referrals. As a small business you should always encourage your clients to refer you to their friends. Why not get your subscribers to refer you to their friends as well? If you use Wordpress, I have developed a plugin that automates this process. Offering your subscribers something in return if they get their friend to sign up for your email newsletter. You can check it out here http://memerson.virallist.hop.clickbank.net/
Smallbizlady: People get a lot of emails. How do I make sure mine gets opened?
James Tayo: An interesting subject line will go a long way in making sure your email gets opened. Try to create a subject that promises something on the other end. You can always try to arouse curiosity by asking a question. You have to make sure you deliver on the promise though. Do not trick your readers into opening your emails.
Smallbizlady: What other advice would you give entrepreneurs looking to use email marketing?
James Tayo: Invest as much as you can in your business. A lot of people try to do it all. Content creation, marketing, web design, product development. This is the fastest way to burn out. A business is meant to be fun most of the time. Yes, you will have to do the grunt work sometime but outsource what you are not good at to someone that will do it faster and better than you ever can. Your business will grow faster this way.
Smallbizlady: What metrics can I track so I know what to improve on? What tracking devices do you use?
James Tayo: You should track your open rates and click rates at the minimum. You should track your open rates and click rates at the minimum. Great email subjects will make your open rates better. You will want to optimize your subject to achieve higher open-rates. As noted earlier, you can arouse curiosity with your email subject line to achieve that goal.
Most of the email service providers give you access to reports for daily, weekly or monthly statistics. To increase your click rates, you will need great content. To get people clicking on the links in your email, entice them with a juicy offer or useful information on the other side of the click
Another good metric to track is to see which of your opt-in forms get the most sign-ups. The location of these forms on your website will affect the number of people that sign up. If you tag each form with an identifier, you can track them over a couple of months to determine
the optimum position for the form.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9pm ET follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.
Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small business experts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. As CEO of MFE Consulting LLC, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. Forbes Magazine recently named her one of the Top 20 women for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also the author of the national bestseller Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works. (Adams Media 2010)