Over the last few months we've been working with a number of our clients on establishing and growing their email marketing strategies. We helped one client send out an email for the first time and saw conversion rates that were 2-3 times higher than their Web site conversion rates. I mean conversions from subscribers to buyers which meant real dollars in their pocket.

As we start 2011 and face the hype over new tools and new ways to use "old" tools like Facebook, this is an excellent time for you to consider the importance of email communications in your marketing strategy.

While email marketing doesn't usually get you in front of millions of people, it's good to remember that for most small businesses, getting in front of millions of people is not the point.

The point is to put what you have to offer in front of the people who have the greatest interest in it, and are most likely to either buy it or share it with someone who will. I may ruffle a few feathers by saying that I still think the best way to do that online is email. Social media can be more fun but it is also usually far more distracted. And because it's so easy for people to join and unjoin your social media groups, it also feels like less of a committment.

The psychological and physical barriers that make your email list hard to grow (subscribers' fear of having their email address snatched up, gradually tormented, and then hurled into the bottomless pit of spam despair, or the plain realization that it's just more work to actually type something than to click a "like" button) on the flip side can also make your email list an audience of much higher quality than many of your social networks. When someone joins your email list, they usually mean it. They've often made a greater committment to you and are showing that they actually want to hear from you.

So here are...

5 reasons why you should make 2011 the year you dedicate to email marketing:


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  1. it requires very little effort to get started - sign up for a mailing list software and put the signup form on your Web site and you're off to the races!

  2. you don't have to write that often - even once per quarter is enough at the start and is better than the extremes of not at all or emailing every month with nothing interesting to say.

  3. there are hordes of people out there who WANT to hear from you - who are you to deny them? Social media, social schmedia! Email was the original excellent way to keep up those one-to-many relationships, build your brand among people who want it, and turn your customers into evangelists. It still works, and for some things, better than social media.

  4. it is an excellent way to get you in the habit of something you should be doing anyway - sharing your story. You need to tell people what you're doing. Thinking about content to share on a regular basis is healthy for your business.

  5. average direct marketing response rates are usually less than 3% - that means 97% of the people you paid to reach will not be ready to buy from you. If buying is the only option you give them, those 97% of people will probably just disappear - even if many of them liked what you had to offer. Don't give them a "buy it" or "beat it" ultimatum. Give them the option of saying "please stay on my radar" for when they *are* ready to buy.

Build Your Email Marketing Chops

Mastering email marketing takes time, attention and planning. You will probably not see huge amounts of additional revenue in the first 6 months. This is one more reason why you should START NOW!

As my very wise grandfather would have said, you need time to "build your chops". Make a few mistakes. Publish a few pieces of horrible content that your 100 readers will tell you they hate and then as your list grows you'll be able to publish a few pieces your 1,000 readers will love. Learn what your audience wants. They will tell you through their email opens, their clicks and their actual responses to the messages you've sent them. All you have to do is give them the chance, and listen.

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