Let’s take a moment to step back, and think about what a modern communications strategy means to you. What it means to all of us. It’s been a dizzying couple of decades when it comes to communications.  The evolution away from the dominance of one-way channels – radio, tv, print – has been fast and furious.  But while everyone understands the importance of interaction with customers through social media, blogging, and the like, why don’t more small businesses invest their time and resources there?

Whether we acknowledge it or not, the quick pace of evolution in communications media has left a void.

Sure, we have the data to prove that most people (but not all!) have a Facebook account.  And more companies than not have a business presence on social media.  But not every company blogs or tweets or invests in a Yelp presence.  And it’s easy to understand why:  first of all, we have seen plenty of platforms bubble and burst (think MySpace and Blogger and Napster).  And we have seen the big platforms falter of late.  Social media interactions are down this holiday season, and companies can no longer count on a social media account being a sure-fire way to guarantee sales.

strategic emails

You need to think of a third way:  use email marketing to provide the structure and control of a traditional communications channel, but with the data and feedback that you have come to rely on.

Sending a clear message to a targeted group of people is incredibly important. That has always the foundation of communications, no matter what channel you use.  Now, to really leverage the evolution of communications means leveraging modern hyper-connectivity (check out New Power to learn more) and taking control of the message directly.  You don’t need to be solely dependent on the algorithm of a social media company any more than you need to be dependent on the reach of a print newspaper.

One of our favorite ways to take control of your communications strategy:  email marketing.

Email marketing is always subject to a bit of a cycle.  It will fall out of fashion, then come re-surging back when people remember its strengths. We need to be reminded that when done correctly, email marketing gives you the power to control the message. Plus, you can adjust the message to provide the information that different groups need the most.

Email has been proven to be a very powerful way to communicate with prospects and clients.  Studies have shown that, after peer recommendations and advice from thought leaders, it’s the most trusted source of information for B2B customers.

There are just some simple skills you need to learn to make the most of it. And the good news is that there are several email platforms that offer the best-in-class features that are necessary to not only streamline your workflow, but also keep you compliant with laws and standards. But first, take some time to lay the groundwork.

Always remember to manage your email list like the valuable asset it is.

Collecting email addresses takes time. The good news is that it’s ok to pull information from any business source: customer lists, signup sheets at events, emails of LinkedIn contacts, association contacts (unless that association bars such practices). An important caveat to this rule: you must use a system that allows users to Unsubscribe from your list (that’s a law, so don’t fudge it.)

The next step: tag your lists to break them into segments. For instance, the Bombastic email list uses 3 tags: “current customers”, “general contacts”, and “professional colleagues”. Depending on the message we have to send, we direct the email to some or all of these tags. This increases both the open rates and click through/action rates.

Structure your emails for interaction.

From using a strategic Subject line to crafting the tone of your email (to sound like a real person) it’s important to carefully plan your emails.  You’ll want a concise email that flows logically from top to bottom and has a focused purpose.  And whether you are sending an informational update to current customers or a promotional email to prospects, you will also need a very clear Call to Action.  Using color and graphics, make it very clear what action you want the recipient to take.

Always set aside time to test and reflect.

It’s important keep tabs on which emails received interaction and which didn’t. Keep in mind that there are three factors that affect the success of email campaigns:

  • message type (general versus niche; special offer versus information);
  • timing of delivery (which day of the week and what time of the day); and
  • structure of the content (how long, what tone of voice was used, how many & what type of photos, how the call to action was built).

Set aside time after each email campaign to check the open rate and the engagements.  Learning how to formulate each email in a way that your recipients respond to is how you can improve your messaging.

There is more to learn, but that’s in your control too.

Because of the data produced by email platforms, this is an area of marketing that has a treasure trove of information behind it.  That’s what makes this area so powerful:  you can learn how to connect on your terms, with your brand voice, to your audience. And if you want some support, we’re happy to share some tools that we have and give your program a jump start.  The bottom line: don’t neglect to add email marketing to your bag of marketing tricks.

About this post’s photo:  my client and friend, Susan Derrick, allowed me to play with some vintage clip art books that she collected during her time as an illustrator in New York City.  This is a photo from the “Communications” series.

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