Email works best when it is used for a limited range of tasks. Sending documents or other files, updates, formal or brief correspondence. If the frequency of communication rises past a certain point switch to an instant-messaging app. If responses run over a paragraph, pick up the phone or meet in person.
But what if you’re talking to more than a handful of people?
Cash-strapped small businesses are brilliant at taking tools for one purpose and adapting them for another. But sometimes using a good tool for the wrong task can make your life a lot harder. Sending mass emails from your personal inbox is a case in point.
Email marketing is a staple tactic among businesses these days. Despite instant messaging, webinars and social media, email remains the most effective method for communicating with clients on a regular basis.
A classic small business mistake is to assume that the best way to send your weekly or monthly newsletter is to send a blind carbon copy (BCC) email to every customer in your address book. This is a bad idea for several reasons.
1. Easy to Make Errors
It’s almost a rite of passage for marketing managers or PR interns. Journalists often receive one email press release a week with the names of 100 other journalists in the CC field immediately followed by a second email with “RETRACT” in the subject line.
While it’s mildly interesting to see the mailing-list company you keep, a business that inadvertently broadcasts open lists of its customers would at the least be very embarrassed. Manually pasting in lists of customer email addresses is inviting trouble.
2. Difficult to Streamline
Businesses generally want to send out similar content in the same style at a regular time to a growing list of customers. Email clients require a lot of copy and pasting to achieve this, which invites more errors and is a highly manual, time-consuming process.
3. Strains Your Resources
Once your customer list gets to a reasonable size, emailing 600 people from your inbox is going to slow down things a little. It can also create issues with your email provider if newsletter subscribers lazily mark your email as spam rather than follow the proper unsubscribe process. The last thing you want is for your business URL to be blacklisted for sending out spam.
So what do you use instead? The practice of sending a customer newsletter falls under email marketing. There are a range of high-quality, cloud-based applications in this area with names such as MailChimp, AWeber and Campaign Monitor.
Apps which can plug into CRMs include Salesforce.com’s ExactTarget and iContact. MailChimp and the like have integrations to pull customers from a CRM database into their own, but there’s obviously an advantage to working from the one database.
There are several advantages to using an email marketing app instead of your email client to send a newsletter.
1. You Can See Who Opens It
Not only can you see which customers open your newsletters, you can see which links they have clicked within it. Several newsletters down the track and you can tell which customers are the most interested in what your business has to say. I’d be giving them a call first at the beginning of the next quarter.
2. Say it Once, Say it Right
Email marketing apps have tools that make it easy to create beautiful newsletters. Set up a template and you can just refresh the words and pictures. If you have a blog you can automatically send your newsletter every month without the need for any manual updating.
3. A Professional Postie
Email marketing apps don’t just store your database, they also look after the transmission. That means issues such as bouncebacks, delays, out of office replies and spam avoidance are no longer in your hands.
The overall quality of your newsletter should improve and you will know more about your customers by switching to an email marketing app. And your inbox can get on with looking after directly addressed business emails.