Mike Blumenthal and Beth Kahlich take a Deep Dive into small business email marketing. In this episode, Mike and Beth discuss some of the biggest issues confronting small businesses with email marketing, the biggest mistakes small business owners make in email marketing and more.
This is our Deep Dive Into Local from May 8th, 2017. In our Deep Dive series, we take a closer look at one thing in local that caught our attention and deserves a longer discussion.
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Mike: Hi, welcome to the “Deep Dive Local” from Local U. My name is Mike Blumenthal and joining me this week — Mary Bowling is on vacation — is Beth Kahlich.
Mike: As in baby has colic.
Beth: That’s exactly right. That’s how I tell people how to say it.
Mike: Although she’s more cheerful than that. I get to see her get colicky. I presume it’s possible.
Beth: It is.
Mike: If the laundry is still not done.
Beth: That’s right. When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
Mike: Here we go. So this week, we’re going to be talking about small businesses and email. I’ve been experimenting a lot with David Mihm’s new Tidings product, which I like a great deal.
Mike: It really makes newsletter creation really very simple for a small business. And I know that what you’re going to be discussing is some of the problems that small businesses have. One of the things I’ve seen … well, a couple things: At the biggest level, email is interesting to me because it’s one of the areas that is dark to Google and Facebook. They effectively don’t know who your customers are. They can’t interact with them directly. And so, as a result, it’s one of the areas of digital marketing that a small business still owns completely themselves.
One of the things I find shocking is how difficult it is to get most small businesses to even start collecting the email address…
Mike:..let alone figuring out what content they want to send out, right. So, for me, the single biggest mistake in this arena is that most small businesses — many have yet to put in place a mechanism, a process standardized across all employees and every sale as a way to gather critical customer contact information. And these days, it’s not just email address, it’s mobile phone number if they give you permission. So, I know you have a list of five egregious things.
Beth: I do.
Mike: So, why don’t you point some of those out, some of the mistakes that they make?
Beth: Sounds great, Mike. So, basically, you’re 100% right. I’m not even going down the path in these top five mistakes of how people don’t do a very good job of collecting email addresses. And they should be at every point of contact that they have with their customer. And in addition to that, as I’ll talk about in the first one, is they send the same email to everyone on their list. So, we do — I tell people, “Don’t worry if your list is 100 people. As long as you get started somewhere, that’s great.” If your list is 25 people, these are people that have agreed to give you their email address. And that’s the other thing, don’t buy a list. These are people that have agreed to give you their email address, so they, at least in some point, want to hear from you. So, don’t hesitate to email them.
But if you have certain customers that are interested in different products that you offer or in certain demographics, segment in your list, for heaven’s sakes, because not everybody wants to … like, I don’t want to get an email from my OB-GYN’s office about anything having to do with being pregnant. I’m done with that stage in my life. But they’d send it, just send it out to everyone. Or, maybe, it’s a fitness instructor that’s got talking about some really hard workout.
Mike: As a side note to that, I don’t want to get an email from my OB-GYN about anything. [laughter]
Beth: That’s true. But, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen all kinds of interesting… people don’t think about it. They’re so concentrated on their own business that they’re not thinking about their customers and how to segment that. So that would be number one mistake is sending the same email to everyone on your list.
Number two is that people want to then put everything in their email. So, they’re like, “Okay, I made a newsletter,” and they were thinking about it in terms of a paper newsletter. So they say, “Okay, I’ve got five news stories and five things are happening in my office, or three things.” And they write the whole article, put the whole article in the email, and then the email ends up being this long diatribe of what’s going on. Well, most people, when they’re reading emails, are on their phones, and most people are not going to scroll through all those articles.
So what I recommend is that you have the full article on your website, and you have the headline and a snippet in your email. And then if someone wants to read more about that particular subject, they can click and go to your website. The good part about that is you could open it up later and tell who clicked on what articles. Then that’s a way for you to segment your list. Really good way for you to tell, “Okay, these people on my list are interested in these types of topics.” And you can see which ones are more popular so you can have different topics in the future that more people might be interested in.
Number three is that a lot of people go, “Okay, I’m going to make this PDF or this wire on my computer,” and it’s a graphic, like a JPEG or PDF. And they go, “And now, I’m going to send it out to my list.” And they take that image and they put it in an email and they send it out to their list. And they don’t have anything written in text. Well, first of all, if you don’t have anything written in text, you’re going to fire all the email spam filters on most people’s email. And so, your email may not even get to their inbox. It could get sent into spam. Another thing is that it might open a preview image or it might not, and so, depending on how the receiver gets that email, they may see an X. They may not even see your flyer.
So, it’s okay to attach that flyer, but what I would recommend is you take all the text of the flyer, type it up in the email. You could still have a graphic that might have been on the flyer, but that way, when people are reading on their phones most likely, they’re going to be able to read everything, very clearly, tell what your email is about and not have to wait for an image to download or maybe not even get it in the first place.
Mike: Yes, and some of that was created by the fact that things like Constant Contact have such unpleasant editors in them…
Mike: …that are very difficult and not easily — it’s also compounded by the fact that email clients have never really been standardized in terms of how they render content. So it’s difficult, I think, at a number of levels, to create visually attractive content that complies with every email client out there.
Beth: Totally agree. I think that one of the big business centers would totally understand that it’s not going to look as pretty as your flyer, but you could still get the information out there and that’s what’s the most important. And Constant Contact, I know, has a third-generation editor that they are testing, but you can still switch back to their old editor, too, if you’re more comfortable with that. So, they’re trying to address those problems actively, I think, for a fact.
And then number four is bury the call-to-action at the bottom of the email. So, first of all, every email should have a call-to-action. What do you want people to do? You don’t want to just put your news story out there and then call it a day. You want to ask specifically for someone to call or contact you or click to go to the website and get more information, do something. But if you put that call-to-action at the very bottom of your email and don’t put it at the top of your email as well, you can’t guarantee that someone’s going to scroll through the whole email and see that call-to-action. And since that’s the money thing, that’s the actual thing that you want people to do, that’s the whole reason you’re sending out this email to begin with, you want to put that call-to-action as close to the top as you possibly can so that people will see it and take action.
Mike: What percentage of content do you think should be informational versus commercial in that email or any email for a small business?
Beth: I really like the idea of it being as much informational as possible, especially for the top content that someone’s going to see. So for instance, when I send out my tips every week or two, I always have the information at the top, and then right underneath it, again, leading people to click onto my website or a news article or something, and then right underneath that, I have the call-to-action, “Learn more about the classes.” They shouldn’t have to scroll at all to see on their phone that I’m providing them with information, and then I have a small call-to-action to learn more about my classes.
So, and then finally, number five is they put no thought whatsoever to the subject line. Please, please, please never have an email that says “Monthly Newsletter” or “May Newsletter” because that’s the first thing that everyone’s going to see when you send out this email. And so, you want to make sure that you tell them what they’re going to be getting. And again, that goes for why, if it’s a sale be sure that you say, “25% off when you open this email,” or if it’s an informational one, make sure that it says something a lot more along the lines of, “Learn more about this thing,” or “5 tips to help you have a greener lawn this summer,” which we need in Texas. But based on —
Mike: Maybe you need to get real lawns in Texas, that might be a good start. [laughter]
Beth: They do in Arizona. But basically, have something in there that tells them what they’re going to get before they open the email and not just something generic. And people tend to do that quite a bit.
So, those are my top five mistakes that small business owners make. So, if you’ve got anything else to add, Mike.
Mike: Well, I just think, to me, I think it makes — before you start boosting posts at Facebook, before you start advertising at Google, I think that emails should be foundational in your business processes. I think that every business and every agency helping them needs to encourage them. I mean, I have found that with some clients, even with nagging and suggestions, it’s just very difficult for them to figure out a process to do it. So, I think one of the jobs in the agency, their role in that situation is to help them figure out where and when they can be getting this email address, and where and when they should be saving it, right. I mean, it should be, weekly or daily, put into MailChimp, which is free up to 2,000.
Most small businesses, which is one of the reasons I like Tidings, because it uses MailChimp. And Tidings integrates with MailChimp and it makes it really easy to get the newsletter out the door. The other side of it is just content. And so, developing a flow, like one of the things that I found in terms of doing my weekly newsletter is that it’s important to develop a systematized way to gather the information and put into the newsletter. So, one of the things I do is I use Apple Notes on my phone and my computer, so that I can, when I’m reading, which I do a lot, I can just quickly hit a link and save it to my notes. So at the end of the week, I have a long list of articles. In fact, I end up having to cull it back. I cut three or four out of my list this week — interesting articles but ones that I want to cut back. But I’d rather be in position where I have too much content that I have to pare back a little than not enough.
Mike: And then finally, I have trouble cutting back content to the bare five essentials. I sort of figured that in a larger list, at least for me, that’s been segmented, people have chosen to get this. There are going to be different interests in that, and I don’t have a way to segment it further. In other words, I know people are interested in these newsletters so I have a tendency to put a few more links in rather than a few less…
Mike: I’m not saying it’s a good thing. I think it’s my tendency and it’s probably a bad thing.
Beth: You could A/B test that if you want.
Mike: I could A/B test that. You’re absolutely right. In the end, it’s an area that a business can get huge ROI on because email is very cheap. It’s a little bit of time, and it’s an area where it’s very difficult for the likes of Apple and Google and Facebook and Amazon to monetize. So given that, you’ve got an area that’s protected from them and I think it’s important that you defend it and use it well and respect it and respect your clients when you do it.
Beth: Right, right. Don’t send too often.
Mike: Don’t try this either.
Beth: That would be the bonus tip, is don’t send too often. Once a month is fine and unless they specifically signed up for a weekly email that they are expecting.
Mike: Right. So, unless you have anything else, with that, I’ll say goodbye to this week’s “Deep Dive.” And take care.
Beth: You bet, take care.