How to best execute a powerful email marketing campaign – Erik Beene, UGA SBDC

Digital marketing was thrust to the forefront of marketing strategy due to last year’s pandemic. Email marketing has emerged and a leading strategic tool for businesses everywhere.

On this week’s episode of The Playbook, host Mark Collier, business consultant for the UGA Small Business Development Center, is joined by Erik Beene, Program Coordinator at the UGA SBDC. Today, Beene is going to share his wealth of information on how businesses can leverage the power of a dynamic email marketing campaign.

Transcription:

Mark Collier:
Hi, everyone. Welcome into The Playbook on ASBN. I’m your host, Mark Collier. Each week on The Playbook, I sit down with emerging entrepreneurs, seasoned business owners, and resource experts to deliver relevant information to the ASBN audience. Digital marketing was thrust to the forefront of marketing strategy due to last year’s pandemic. Email marketing has reemerged as a leading strategic tool for businesses everywhere.

Mark Collier:
I’m joined today by my UGA SBDC colleague and Email Marketing Subject Matter Expert, Erik Beene, who is going to share his wealth of information on how businesses can leverage the power of a dynamic email marketing campaign. Welcome into The Playbook, Erik.

Erik Beene:
Well, thank you, Mark. How are you today?

Mark Collier:
I’m doing well. And I’ll tell you what, as I said in my lead in, email marketing has had a resurgence. For a while, I mean, face-to-face marketing, obviously that’s going to be the preferred method of marketing. But with the pandemic, everyone was virtual, contact list, and couldn’t do that.

Erik Beene:
Exactly. Exactly.

Mark Collier:
So email marketing has reemerged. So we’re going to talk about email marketing a bit. And why is it such a powerful tool today?

Erik Beene:
Yeah. So what really makes email marketing a really powerful tool, especially when you’re looking at all digital media, is that when it comes to … you’re trying to get out there as a small business owner on Facebook, on Twitter, whatever you have you. Email marketing really, it’s one of the only digital media platforms that you own everything. When you post to Facebook, when you post to Twitter, yeah, you wrote that, but it lives on Facebook servers and all that kind of stuff.

Erik Beene:
But when you’re sending out that email and you’re building that audience in whatever email platform you’re using, that’s a direct relationship that’s between just you and that person that you’re emailing. You have that email address. And say you don’t like the email platform you’re using, you can always pick that list up and go to another one. So that’s really what makes it powerful. And the cost of it is really quite low for a lot of places.

Erik Beene:
So its one of those tools that you can really get a really high return on investment. Because more than likely, what you’re putting into it is more man hours and labor time than it is actual cost of buying things.

Mark Collier:
That makes perfect sense. So does email marketing work through every stage of the buying process? Talk to me a little bit about that, because there are different processes that they go through.

Erik Beene:
Yeah, sure thing. So depending on which school of thought you’re in, there’s either the circle of marketing from McKinsey, or there’s what I think a lot of people know, is the marketing funnel. Where you start out with-

Mark Collier:
Sales funnel. Yep.

Erik Beene:
Yeah. The sales funnel where you start out at awareness and you go into interest and all the way down until purchase, essentially.

Mark Collier:
Correct.

Erik Beene:
And email marketing really works through all of that. And what’s so great about it is it can be rudimentary to super advanced. Where you build out a line of emails, essentially, where you can funnel somebody down that path the whole way. So you can introduce them to a new product, tell them about that product, why it came to be. Really get them interested into it. All the way to, hey, since you’re such a special customer to me, I’m going to give you a discount or something. Trigger them to finally get to the end of that funnel, all through email marketing and just that direct relationship with them.

Mark Collier:
Another thing I see important as you talked about that continuum, is at the end, gauging that buyer’s experience, which is very, very important. You get that feedback. And you can do that through your email marketing as well.

Erik Beene:
Yeah. Yeah. That’s another great option for small business owners, is asking for that feedback. One of the things that you can do is, you can market even through just customer satisfaction surveys. Just having that, how can we do better? Did you enjoy the process? There’s just so many things you can do with it, that it really is a versatile tool.

Mark Collier:
All right. So I’m a small business owner. I want to start an email marketing campaign. Where do I start? Is it kind of like a checklist of top three things that you’re going to encourage me to do? Walk me through that process of someone who’s beginning to start a new campaign.

Erik Beene:
Somebody who’s just starting. Yeah. So you’ve just opened, say a pizza restaurant or something, and you want to start email marketing. Well, number one I would say, is you got to commit to it. Because just like any other marketing channel, you’re not going to see success if you just do one email every six months.

Mark Collier:
One and done is not going to work.

Erik Beene:
Yeah. One and done, it’s not going to work. It’s got to build that relationship. And the only way you can build that relationship is by regular communication.

Mark Collier:
That’s true.

Erik Beene:
Just like in your personal relationships, getting out and seeing people, it’s the same thing. So first is committing to it. Second would be actually collecting email addresses. And there are a wide variety of ways you can do it. Say you’re a pizza restaurant, and maybe you have a point of sale system where people can email the receipt to them. Well, you can have a little box on your point of sale system that’s like, would you like to get newsletters from us, or something.

Mark Collier:
I like it.

Erik Beene:
That’s a great way to start building your list and people involved. You can have QR codes at your table. There’s a lot of different ways, but collecting emails is the next one. And then third would be picking the platform that’s right for you. At the SBDC we use MailChimp. It’s a great Georgia company based right here in Atlanta. So we’re big fans of MailChimp. But MailChimp really is focused on commerce. They have a lot of eCommerce plugins and stuff like that. But there are multiple platforms out there, so it’s really picking the one at the best price point and all that for your business.

Mark Collier:
Okay. Now you mentioned QR codes. That is something that is being used more and more today. Some people don’t know what it is. So explain, what is that QR code? And if you use it, what information does it capture for the business owner?

Erik Beene:
Sure, sure. So QR codes are essentially … if you’ve been to a restaurant recently, a lot of small businesses have replaced their paper menus with just a code. And it’s that code where, it usually says, scan me. And You take out your phone and take a picture of it and it brings you to a webpage or something, usually a menu. But you can put all sorts of things in a QR code. Typically, it’s a link to a webpage.

Erik Beene:
So for a lot of restaurants, for example, they use it to have their menu right there on the table. So they don’t have to worry about printing new paper menus often or cleaning menus, especially during COVID. All that kind of stuff.

Mark Collier:
Quick question on that. If I scan that with my phone, does it capture my email address for the business owner automatically?

Erik Beene:
Typically not, especially for a lot of small businesses. And what you really want to do is … a big part about that relationship is trust. And so you want to avoid being scammy or malicious in any way. So you really want to give people the opportunity to opt in, instead of skimming emails like that.

Erik Beene:
But you can definitely have a QR code that, it’s a signup form where they can put in their information. Sometimes you can even ask them, what’s their birthday, so you can send them a birthday present. Like a coupon or something. All that kind of stuff. It’s a great way to have a form set up, though.

Mark Collier:
Makes sense. So you talked about, a little bit, what it takes to get started. Are there any pitfalls that business owners should be aware of with email marketing?

Erik Beene:
Yeah. So there are actually a couple of laws about email marketing that a lot of people are just not aware of, which is perfectly fine. But there are some laws that are in place to avoid spam. Because especially when email marketing started, of course, spam followed almost immediately.

Mark Collier:
Yeah. Yes it did.

Erik Beene:
So it really is focusing on, you got to have a couple of key things when you send an email. One, you have to make sure that people know that it is an advertisement. That doesn’t mean you have to put “ad” in the subject line. It just has to … you can’t mislead people saying, oh, here’s your bill. Oh, wait. No, it’s an ad, kind of thing. So be honest with what it is, what they’re going to get when they open it up.

Erik Beene:
And you also have to have a couple of links in there that … options for them to opt out of your marketing. That’s a big one. And then you also need to put in your physical address and that kind of thing, or wherever your business has that physical address. Just so it’s that, yes, they’re real. This isn’t some fake thing out in the world. So if your business doesn’t have a physical location, it’s a PO Box or something like that.

Mark Collier:
Okay. All right. So what’s the big difference [inaudible 00:08:44] between email marketing and other digital owned media?

Erik Beene:
Yeah. And it’s getting back to that, you own your email marketing. That’s an asset that you own. Facebook, tomorrow, could say, I don’t think your account meets our standards anymore. I’m booting it off. And that’s true of any social media platform. It’s not yours, it’s theirs. It’s their company’s. But your email marketing list, that is yours. And that’s an asset that you can continuously tap into and grow and develop and really strengthen for your business. And it’s a true business asset.

Mark Collier:
All right. And they talk about email marketing, a list, as it’s your tribe.

Erik Beene:
Yes. Yes.

Mark Collier:
I mean, you’re able to market to them, they follow you. And if you do the right job in terms of engaging with your clients, they become brand ambassadors for you as well.

Erik Beene:
Yeah. That’s really one of the critical things is, when you have that email address, more times than not, those are the people who care most about you. So those are going to be the people that support you. And you want to keep that in mind when you are marketing to them. And really, really think of it … I’m talking to friends. I’m not talking to potential people who are going to give me money, but this is a friendly thing. So it’s going back to that, building that relationship. Which is, of course, super critical in no matter what marketing you’re doing.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely. All right. So we talked a lot about the email marketing dos, now let’s talk about some of the don’ts you should do. What is the one thing, or a couple things that business owners should never do when it comes to email marketing?

Erik Beene:
So this is one of the things … and I should have mentioned this earlier when I was talking about getting started. But this is one of the things that business owners absolutely should never do when they’re getting started. And that’s buying a list from someone else. Because a lot of people are like, well, I don’t want to start if I only have 100 email addresses or something like that. Well, that’s the best way to do it because buying a list is always a bad idea.

Mark Collier:
Why?

Erik Beene:
Because you don’t know how that list got there.

Mark Collier:
Good point.

Erik Beene:
The people who are on that list, they didn’t opt to receive messages from you. They might have opted in to receive messages from someone else, but they don’t have a relationship with you. So when you start sending them emails, they’re going to think of that as spam. And all the email platforms are very, very cautious about kicking bad actors off their platforms. So if you’re getting a lot of spam reports because you bought a list and people are like, I never signed up for this. Well, then you’re out of luck, because your platform you’re using to send those emails might kick you out.

Mark Collier:
And your reputation could be hurt as well.

Erik Beene:
And your reputation also hits … Yeah. It’s a big risk for your reputation. Because that’s the first interaction you’re having with these people. And if it’s negative, they’re going to have a bad taste in their mouth. And they might tell your friends and that’s not great for business at all.

Mark Collier:
The most important point you raise is that you don’t know who these email marketing addresses are. I mean, if you receive an email list full of senior citizens and you have a nightclub for twenty-somethings, how effective is that going to be?

Erik Beene:
Exactly. So there’s just things like that that you have to be aware of. And that’s why you always need to avoid buying a list from someone else. You’ve got to build it yourself.

Mark Collier:
All right. Very good. Erik Beene, my UGA SBDC colleague. I want to thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to come in.

Erik Beene:
Of course, of course.

Mark Collier:
Email marketing, it’s a big deal for companies today. And the advice you shared today is going to help them do that right.

Erik Beene:
All right. Well, I’m glad I could help, Mark.

Mark Collier:
All right.


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