Top Five Tech Tools You're Probably Not Using – but SHOULD BE: part three

Email Campaigning

I remember attending a meeting when I was IT manager for a New York architectural design firm, and learning that the most important application was not the one that did the drafting, drawing and 3D design… but was Microsoft Outlook – their email program…!

Not surprising, once you consider it. Unless we can communicate with our clients, colleagues, co-workers, vendors and peers, there IS no business. The days of mailroom workers patrolling the aisles with carts, picking up and delivering physical mail all day are not even in the active memory of many of today’s Small Business owners and employees. Email is king and, as such, is easily taken for granted.

So looking at email as a Small Business “power tool” might strike you as a bit strange, initially. Plain old, boring email — huh? But that’s not what we’re talking about here.

Back in the old-timey days of carbon paper and Correct-O-Type, there used to be this thing called “Direct Mail campaigning“, in which colorful brochures, flyers, postcards and the like were physically mailed to targeted audiences throughout the land. Only a fraction of recipients ever responded, but if you sent out thousands (or tens of thousands), a return of even a small percent of the total more than justified the effort and expense.

Well email, for the most part, is free. And with the proper resource, preparing the equivalent of a colorful flyer or informative brochure is child’s play (and for the technologically challenged out there — enlist the aid of your actual children in this effort: they were practically born with joysticks or game controllers in their hands).

Many of you may be familiar with Constant Contact, the popular email campaign website. In fact, if you’ve recently received an email invitation to an event that was well formatted, with graphics, nice fonts and such, check the bottom of that messageodds are good it was sent from a Constant Contact account.

As good, and as popular, as Constant Contact is, Your Open Source CIO prefers and recommends (and uses) MailChimp. … I have no idea why they call it that, but who cares what it’s called:

  • It’s FREE
  • Each free account can have up to 2,000 email accounts in its combined lists
  • Each account can deliver up to 12,000 mailings each month
  • It has a wealth of video tutorials to walk you through every step of setting up email campaigns
  • It has a wonderful selection of templates for all occasions, edited as easily as a word processor document
  • It’s the only free email campaign site I’m aware of that has autoresponders. (MailChimp no longer offers autoresponder with the FREE accounts.)
  • Did I mention it’s FREE???

For those of you who read the previous series “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail“, you may recall that I mentioned MailChimp in the third post – Marketing. Since then (less than a month ago) MailChimp has doubled the number of outbound emails per month from six to twelve thousand. This means that if you have a targeted list of, say, 400 people, you can send each of them an email a day. For FREE.

The real advantage of email campaigning is the autoresponder. In short, it is a pre-determined series of emails delivered on a schedule – every other day, every week, once a month, whatever. As new people are added to your autoresponder list, they’re automatically put at the top of the list, and get the first email – say “Welcome, Valued Customer of [INSERT YOUR BUSINESS NAME]”, then the second, and third, and so on, according to schedule.

AUTOMATICALLY. So once you’ve set up the emails, and the schedule, you just add new names to the list. How are you doing this now? Manually, by mail merging word processor documents — if at all?? C’mon now, join the 21st Century…already in progress.

It’s a well-known metric of business that it takes an average of seven contacts to convert a lead into a customer. Will you remember to follow-up seven times with every new lead you encounter? Will you have the time?? With a properly designed autoresponder campaign, you don’t have to. And this doesn’t just apply to converting leads… business is about relationships, remember?

How about a valued customer autoresponder campaign? Not pitches, and upsell attempts — just send an email every third week, with some helpful advice or amusing anecdotes, coming from you, and reminding your existing customers that you value them — and hopefully, jogging their memory of how much they value you and Your Small Business.

Wondering how to get new business from your old clients? Remember, it’s about relationships. And as with personal relationships, it’s usually out of sight, out of mind.

So use email campaigning not just to pitch and sell, but to stay “top of mind with your most valuable resources – the people you’re already doing business with.

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