Digital Marketing & Communication Tips During the Pandemic for Rural and Small Business

Email Marketing 101

As part of our effort to help businesses, causes, and campaigns in rural America we have prepared weekly webinars on topics relating to digital marketing. You can watch our most recent above or read on!

It’s not just for the big guys…
Email marketing is an essential part of getting in front of customers and donors and is completely doable for any organization. This should be a part of the base of your marketing and communication strategy. It not only keeps you top-of-mind, but also is a way to relate important information, messages, new products, services or offers directly to those who want to see it. This can be done through newsletters, seasonal messages, appointment reminders, special promotions, or customer loyalty programs.

Now more than ever, customers are looking online first for updates and information as many areas are still under some form of restrictions or just starting to lift them.  So this is an easy way to get the message out if you are “open” or starting the process in some way.

Build a List
You may already have lists available to you if you have an e-commerce set-up or use services like Squarespace or Shopify to process payments. If not, create a form on your site and share it in social media, or in your locations to encourage customers to sign up. Have a sign-up form by your register, offer a discount for joining your mail list, start a birthday club, get creative! You know your customers… What would they respond to? You’ll want to make sure and offer value in asking customers to give you their information.

Don’t be greedy. If you are starting a list from scratch, remember to keep the sign-up simple and easy to do. It can be tempting to ask for as much information about a customer as you can, but privacy should be a consideration when asking for any information. Mail services like Mailchimp allow you to create sign-ups within their system.

When it comes to privacy, no one likes surprises. Make sure you are clear, and let customers know you will be sending them an email with offers, information, etc. This will keep your customers happy and your unsubscribe rates lower. Make sure you stress the value of your emails!

We love email marketing services. They take care of a lot of heavy lifting. Many have options that are low cost or free and take much of the guesswork out of managing a list, compliance, connecting to WordPress websites, and automatic responses. Many of these offer discounts for nonprofits and charities as well.

A couple of our favorites are MailChimp and Constant Contact. In most cases, free accounts with these services have just about everything you will need. You’ll be able to create lists, templated emails, sign-up forms, check results and send test messages. Or, of course, you can do it manually. Sending and managing lists is completely possible to do without a mail service. With your current email client and a spreadsheet, you can manage everything, but keep in mind this can be hard and VERY time-consuming. We wouldn’t recommend it but it is possible! Keep an Excel spreadsheet of names or create an address list in Outlook or whatever you use and build emails in your email client.

Keep your customer in mind with quality over quantity. We discussed earlier making the emails worth a customer’s time so making sure that you don’t bombard them. Start with special offers, a weekly email or a monthly newsletter.

When writing emails, always check for errors and make sure you are using an active voice. 

Branding should be consistent with your website and social media presence. This is a best practice for all marketing efforts and is an easy way to increase credibility and let customers know it’s you!

A call to action is important! Including links to your website for purchases or dates when you offer services or specials include a sense of urgency and will make customers feel like they need to act on your message.

As a best practice, you’ll want to make sure your emails are sent in a mobile-friendly format as most email is checked on phones. It’s also important to remember that not everyone can interact with email in the same way so be mindful of ADA compliance issues. Many email services have practices in place for this kind of thing but if you are doing it manually consider these items.

Last but not least, always make sure links and images work and send a test email before blasting to your whole list. We quality control every message we send for clients twice and recommend you find a process that works for your company.

A 20-30% open rate with 2-3% click-through rates is common. You might see a spike when you first start sending emails, so be aware that, after time, this may be closer to your norm. As with all marketing, word-of-mouth is always the best indicator! Hearing from clients always makes our day!

The return on investment can be great with email marketing and, if you do it right, can change how you communicate with customers or donors. On the other hand, doing it poorly can have an opposite effect so be mindful of customers/donors’ time and privacy, and offer value with everything you send.

Just a reminder
Every company, group, nonprofit, campaign or cause should maintain a few things to have a solid digital marketing strategy. Email marketing, active social media pages, and up-to-date contact information on platforms where your brand is listed like Facebook and Google.