Nancy Wurtzel

Article Summary:

A list of simple email tips to help you make the most of your business communication.

Email Tips for Small Business

Communicating through email has become such an accepted part of our business culture that we can't even imagine life without it. Email is a powerful communications tool, but are you utilizing it to your best advantage?

Here are a few tips that will remind you how easily, quickly and effectively you can communicate with your existing and potential customers - simply by using your email.

When planning your marketing, don't forget to double-back and "re-market" to the customers who have already purchased products.

For instance, at the end of the month, email all of the customers who placed orders with your company. In the email, thank them for their business and inquire if they were happy about what they purchased from your company. Also, ask them how they would rate your customer service. You will be amazed at the response.

Not only do you begin a dialogue with your customers, but you will obtain some valuable constructive comments about your products and services. Many customers will write with suggestions about how to improve existing products and with ideas on new products to consider. This is a goldmine of information.

Your email will also have a positive impact on your customer. He or she will be thrilled that you took the time to show your interest and appreciation. Think about it: It is indeed very rare when anyone takes the time to ask for your feedback and to pointedly say "thank you." In the era of the "big-box" stores that have taken over the retail landscape, a sincere "thank you" is almost non-existent.

For those customers who do respond, we send a final follow-up email thanking them for the feedback and requesting that they share your website address with family and friends. Most of them will respond that they will do so. Presto! You have a personal dialogue going with that customer.

Best of all, this only takes a matter of minutes and a little staff time. It costs next to nothing and yet the benefits are enormous.

Just a few words of advice about your email correspondence. Keep your messages brief and to the point -- write only a few short paragraphs.

Your writing style should be upbeat, but professional. Don't sprinkle your copy full of exclamation marks as this has a tendency to look phony! Rather, use strong transitions, dashes, interesting adjectives and crisp writing. Be sure to include all your contact information and a direct hot link to your site.

Consider a closing signature that includes all of the appropriate contact information, and a one-line company description. The idea is to make it as easy as possible for everyone. Following is a sample:

Candace Allen
Puppies and Dogs Galore
"Gifts and Information for Your Dogs and Puppies, Since 1997"
3467 Sherman Way, Calabasas CA 91276

Ask a friend or two to read your email correspondence to get their constructive advice.

Make sure that you proof your writing carefully as customers will be turned off by poor grammar or spelling errors. Also, keep track of your messages. If you don't, you may end up sending double emails and this will be annoying to the recipients.

Here is an idea about how to use the information that a customer sends you.

If a customer writes you a glowing review of your product and services, then you should consider asking the person if you could quote them on your website. You can create a "Customer Testimonials" page for all of this feedback. Just use first names and the customer location. For example:

"I've shopped at your site for years and love the personalized online service. When I have a question, your staff always contacts me promptly with an answer. Your products are the best and I always feel like a valued customer."
Fairview, Indiana

Wow, what a fantastic endorsement! This deserves to be featured on your site, so don't be shy about asking.

There is so much information that you can email, but the messages should be targeted to the right audience. Consequently, you will need to develop numerous email lists.

You will certainly have a "personal" email list with a mixture of family, friends, former co-workers, networking pals and social acquaintances. You can send these people newsy emails about your business.

For instance, if your local paper or a trade publication publishes a story about your company, it is the perfect opportunity for you to send an upbeat email to this personal list. Tell everyone briefly about the story, how the person could get a copy of the publication (or better yet, attach a copy) and what it means for your company.

Basically, this email is a chance to toot your own horn and remind everyone that you have a small business and need their support. Include all of your contact information as noted previously. The key is to keep the message informative and short.

At the end of your email include a closer paragraph that says something like, "You can help me spread the good news about my company by forwarding this email message to five or 10 people who would be interested in our puppy and dog product line. I'm sure that you know many people who are canine lovers. Please do this favor for me today."

You don't have to have a story published about you or your company to write this type of email. How about using a milestone as the subject matter -- perhaps you are celebrating your first year in business or the first half-year. Maybe you just made some significant changes to your website or will be showing your products at an expo, convention or show. Whatever the news, share it.

See what happens when you ask everyone you know to forward it to five or ten people (or more). You will soon get the power of email working for you.

Many times, sales opportunities are right under your nose, but they can be easily missed as you go about your busy life. Remember that you are spending money everyday in your own community, and this money can be traced right to potential customers.

That's right, look at how you are spending money in your community and consider these people your potential customers. Sit down with your checkbook and credit card statement to identify where you are spending your money on a regular basis.

Here are a few businesses that may be on your list: accountant, plumber, housekeeper, gardener, dry cleaner, dentist, physician, pediatrician, hairdresser, spiritual family, Realtor, mechanic, baby sitter/childcare person, teacher, bank teller/manager, coffee server, just to name a few.

Take advantage of these built-in marketing opportunities by asking for the person's email address and then adding them to one of your lists. Remember, you are spending money with these people on an ongoing basis. You may have referred business to them in the past, so don't be afraid about asking for their support and then sending appropriate email messages. The key to effective selling is asking.

It's important in business to think big but work small. In other words, come up with some great ideas on how to market and sell your products or services and then think through the details about how you will make this happen.

This is where email comes in so handy. If you are planning a sale or promotion, use your email to communicate with customers. Let them know why they should visit your site and how it will benefit them.

Want to get your email working smarter? Write a weekly or monthly ezine (newsletter) for customers that talks about your industry. Tie in your company whenever appropriate, but don't oversell. An ezine should be informative and helpful -- not simply a sales piece.

For instance, if you are promoting "Puppies and Dogs Galore," then write about training issues, excessive barking, the best rewards and collar/leash options. You will quickly find that customers love this type of information because they can relate to it and they will be able to use it in their everyday lives.

You can even include some jokes or humorous stories in your ezine. How about a fun survey, a puzzle or a question of the month? However, avoid attachments and images as not everyone will be willing to open them and your message could end up in the trash before it is even viewed.

Everyone is inundated with so much information each day that you must keep your emails short and to the point. Use humor whenever possible, but avoid going "over the top" or you will lose your audience. Write in an interesting, crisp and professional manner. Make sure that your email has a purpose and that you know what you would like in return from the recipients.

If someone asks to be removed from one of your email lists then do so quickly with no questions asked.

Your email marketing will work best if you have a written plan. This will force you to really think about your email goals and objectives, and the planning will show through to your customers and potential customers.

Have some fun and be creative about how to use email. Talk to others who run their own businesses to see what has worked for them. Test the waters by writing a plan and then doing several emails to each of your email groups. Gauge reactions and make any changes that will help you be more effective. What are you waiting for....start writing those emails!

Nancy Wurtzel is the founder and owner of All About Baby, an online store located at All About Baby offers more than 300 personalized and memorable baby gifts for young children. The site also features interesting and helpful child-related content. Ms. Wurtzel has over 25 years of marketing and communications experience. She consults with small businesses seeking to enter the marketplace or grow their existing e-commerce business.

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