A common gripe I hear is how “expensive” small business marketing is — which is presumably why business owners don’t do any and then complain because they have no business and the bank is calling them daily threatening to eat their children. Or something like that.
And yet, any kind of marketing really isn’t expensive at all. In fact, just saying the words shows me immediately whoever has said it has no idea what small business marketing is actually about… which, on reflection, means it’s probably a good thing they aren’t doing any of it because they’d be throwing their money away.
OK first big slap from The Bald One: small business marketing done right isn’t a cost because it makes a profit, and having an arbitrary marketing budget for it is just silly. This isn’t some self-serving guru-speak for ‘put this on your credit card and worry about it later‘, either.
It’s just common sense. If you, say, send a mailing out to your best customers and every time you do it you make, say, £500, wouldn’t you be Mr Sensible if you, you know… sent the bugger out again and again, and tested it with a larger list?
If you had any sense you would.
But, OK. Let’s face facts. A lot of business owners don’t have an awful lot of money right now, not even £100 they could lose on testing an ad (because that happens more often than not, until you hit the ‘sweet spot’ with your small business marketing and advertising, after which it’s time to fetch the gravy boat).
So let’s look at a few cheap ways to do some serious small business marketing
First and easiest has got to be email.
I’ll look at other kinds of small business marketing in subsequent blog posts because there are billions of ways to market your business for low cost or no cost at all and I don’t want to short-change you.
Effective, profitable and affordable small business marketing is about putting offers for stuff in front of people who want it.
So, email marketing or email advertising as some people call it — because you have a list of people who have expressed an interest in you and your stuff. My, but a lot of people really have a downer about small business marketing by email because they think it’s ineffective, almost no one reads it and people get pissed off with it if they do.
But do you know why they’re right?
It’s because… most people write small business marketing emails with the same skill as I’d apply lipstick. And so their emails are indeed ineffective, almost no one ever reads them and people get pissed off with it when they do.
3 Ways to Get More Responses to Your Email Marketing
First, email more often. This is probably the most important one of all, because if you’re not emailing, then no one can be responding, can they? I know this seems obvious to you right now, but think about your own list… how often do you email them? Most people I speak to not only email infrequently but do so randomly and sporadically — and usually it’s when they want to sell something. But small business marketing is about relationships.
So, in contrast, I email my list every weekday, and my unsubscribe rate is very low. Now, at this point you might be thinking, as do so many others, that if you email too often… then they’ll get fed up and leave. Well, yes, one or two might — but most won’t.
Because not only do you tell them you’re going to do this when they join your list but you make your daily emails so valuable they don’t want to miss them. This is the big secret: you can’t email too often… only too boringly!
Second… DON’T be boring! And don’t email only when you want something from them, either (i.e. their money).
Being boring means telling them all about you, your company, why they should buy from you and all that rubbish.
Having a ‘professionally’ designed pretty email with funky graphics can lead to problems which we categorise with the very technical term, ‘boring unnecessary and counterproductive because HTML rendering errors in many email clients and the fact MOST of of them don’t download remotely hosted images mean your pretty emails look like shit at the other end‘.
Look at the horror of Fig 1, where small business marketing crashes and burns spectacularly:
And I have news for you: no one cares about all that pretty and funky ‘professional’ stuff, anyway, so not only have you alienated your audience, you did it for reasons no one cares about.
All they do care about is what you can do for them. And since asking them for money all the time is a Really Bad Idea, you’ll have to show them your value in other ways. Oh, and they do care when your emails look like shit, obviously.
So that means it’s incumbent on you to educate, inform and even entertain them with your emails. Look, no one’s asking for War and Peace or Shakespearean quality — sometimes just a few lines will do.
And don’t worry about being seen as ‘unprofessional’. You’ll find being ‘professional’ is in most cases tantamount to being ‘boring’ and that’s a big no-no, right?
Thirdly, throw in the most important ingredient... yourself. People do business with people in businesses, not with the businesses themselves. So, to make your email small business marketing pay you’ve got to focus on giving value and forming a relationship with your audience. No relationship… then few or no sales – it’s that simple.
And you develop a relationship by writing entertaining and informative emails from you to an individual, using personal words like me and you.
You want to get to the point where your readers feel they know you, so don’t be afraid to share your life experiences, the ups and downs, your victories and the interesting and entertaining anecdotes and tidbits we call come across daily. And being ‘professional’ has nothing to do with veneers of social politeness and everything to do with giving great service.
True story: just recently I bought a reasonably expensive cycling jacket which was supposed to be waterproof.
And it was… right up until the moment it actually rained. And the company not only refused to publish my review on their website but also – get this – said, “send it back and we’ll have a look at it, and maybe give you a refund“.
I pointed out I spend, sorry, used to spend about £500 a year with them on average, but right now they’re as popular as cold dog-sick at the bottom of a dark stairwell. They did write back and offer a refund, but by then I’d had it with them. Grumpy bald git that I am, I’d rather get wet.
My point here is this: their emails are all very professional and pretty (except when you don’t load the graphics, and then they look like shit) but the firm itself sucks donkey-snot.
Now, when you apply these three principles to your emails, you’ll find when you DO ask for the sale — say in every 3rd or 4th email, and perhaps occasionally as a subtle P.S. at the bottom of some of them — you’ll enjoy a staggering conversion rate. My clients get conversion rates about 10 times higher than trying to sell any other way when they change the way in which they write their emails.
Now, another thing here is you don’t need an eye-wateringly expensive copywriter like me to write these emails for you. In fact, you’re almost certain to get a better response doing it y0urelf in the long run because your voice is your own. Sure, you can (and should) still use simple marketing concepts like the AIDA model but you don’t need to go overboard and start writing like those folks who seem to have an unfortunate habit of twitching when their hand gets anywhere near the ! key.
Anyway, even though email marketing has a bad reputation, I know but it’s undeserved because done properly it works fabulously well.
Small business marketing is about relationships because that’s all business is – another form of human interaction between individuals
It’s no harder to comprehend than that.
So you don’t need all the expensive, glossy stuff they want you to buy, or the ‘professionally created’ dogs-dinner-at-the-other-end email marketing templates. Small business marketing is right at the coal-face, so to speak. You don’t have the luxury of big marketing budgets you don’t really have to account for or show they’re turning a positive ROI.
What you do need in small business marketing is a personality and a willingness to let it show through — and doing that in email is cheap, fast and easy. Small business marketing at its best, no less.