Email Marketing Tips for Small Business

“A small list that wants exactly what you’re offering is better than a bigger list that isn’t committed.”

-Ramsay Leimenstoll



Email marketing can be a wonderful tool. I know many small businesses are considering trying their hand at it. While it’s a fine vehicle,  there are pitfalls. Small business owners need to understand how marketing lists work and how to put together effective pieces of copy. Most of us are far too busy to do that, so when vendors come along offering solutions and promising to sell you access to thousands of prospects that fit your demographic, it’s very tempting to pick up on their offer.  But don’t let yourself be sold.


That’s a mistake – and often a very costly one – for the business, both in terms of dollars, and the potential loss (not gain) of customers.


I got a piece of junk mail the other day.  I tossed it into spam without even opening it. You might ask how I knew it was junk mail?  That’s a no-brainer.  Any email entitled ‘Weight Loss Secrets from God,’ is junk mail.


Our inboxes are full of unsolicited emails.  Junk mail. Most are not quite as desperate to be opened as the one above. Many are auto-generated viruses, but you know that and are smart enough not to open them.  Same thing with scammers who will steal you out of house. But if you got an email from an unknown source, would you risk opening it?


Some email marketing is generated by legitimate businesses who have purchased or rented email lists guaranteed to reach their target markets. The great majority of the time, they don’t. Mega-sized businesses with big marketing budgets may not care because they may be able to quantify it with the law of large numbers. Small businesses can’t and the only money-makes turn our to be the companies selling the marketing lists.


There are many reasons to avoid purchasing or renting email lists. Two come to mind immediately:


  1. Although some vendors may assure you the addresses they provide have opted in for marketing, it doesn’t mean they want to be marketed by your business.
  2. They usually don’t get it right. (How many of us actually receive sales emails that are actually useful? I know I don’t – and a 95- pound friend of mine complains about how many email she receives that guarantee weight loss.  What about you?


There are some software vendors that guarantee their lists, but sorry to say, that doesn’t hold water either.


The numbers don’t convert.  People don’t appreciate being solicited from companies they don’t know.


No, my friends.  Email marketing for small business – of for any business for that matter starts from the inside out. For those of you considering email marketing, here are some tips to get you going in the right direction:


Start with people you know,  You’ll find that even if they may not need your offer right now, they may know someone who does, and will pass your email on.  Electronic word-of mouth.

Creating your own email list is the only way to insure they’re received by people who care enough about you to open them. While that’s no guarantee it will get you an immediate sale, it will be a reminder of you and your business.  It will not be relegated to a spam folder.

If you don’t already have an email list for your existing customers, it’s perfectly fine to ask them if they’d like to receive emails from you.  It’s also wise – especially for retail businesses to keep a sign up sheet at your checkout counter.  Never assume and always ask permission.

Other sources include:

  • People who exchange cards with you at events and functions.
  • Have a Call to Action on your website and collect emails of the responders.
  • Have a blog or newsletter and include a link to subscribe.
  • When sending sales email, ALWAYS include an opt-out link.


Email marketing is sales – and the same rules apply. People buy from people they know, like and trust.  If a stranger makes you an offer you ‘can’t refuse,’ would you believe him?


There’s no valid case for blasting emails blindly to thousands of strangers. Statistically it never converts. The law of large numbers does not work for small business.


Which brings us to one final bit of advice. Avoid the hype. Come-ons like having the secret sauce, sales breakthroughs, increase  profits by 300% in 30 days, or your guarantee of a consistent stream of clients don’t cut it, and are unworthy of the inherent integrity of the small business community.


People may love to buy, but no one likes being sold.


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