How small businesses can increase repeat sales with email newsletters

Heather Robson

Heather Robson

Heather Robson is a copywriter and marketing consultant who specializes in content marketing, online sales copy, e-letter and email marketing.

Why is it important for businesses to use an email newsletter?

An e-newsletter lets you contact someone over and over again with a their permission. You become familiar. I’m sure most of your readers are probably familiar with the statistics that it takes 5 to 7 points of contact before somebody is willing to purchase from you. An e-letter is an easy, non-threatening way to generate those points of contact.

When you send an e-letter, you are building credibility; establishing your voice, your tone, and your personality; and setting up consistency, which develops trust. You’re giving away information, which creates a feeling of gratitude and appreciation in your reader. You’re doing things that help a person get to know you, like you, and trust you. They also start to feel loyal to you, which is a big deal.

E-letters are inexpensive to do, and email marketing has an unbelievable return on investment. When I say unbelievable, it actually is unbelievable. The DMA, the Direct Marketer’s Association, says that on average, people who do email marketing have about a 4300% return on investment, which is stupid crazy.

It’s very profitable. It really establishes a relationship with your target audience. It’s good not only for acquisitions but for retention marketing too. It’s an excellent way to keep in touch with your existing clients. Let them know what special offers you have just for them.

You’ve been doing this for a long time. Do you have any tips on how to do it well?

Sure. The first thing to do is really figure out the tone of your e-letters. Is it going to be helpful and approachable? Is it going to be cantankerous or contrarian? You want to get a really good feel on the tone of voice you’re using so that you approach your audience in a consistent way. That helps them really feel like they know you.

The next thing is to make sure you have a consistent way of delivering the information. Most of the people I write for want something action oriented. Our articles are very informative, but they also give the reader something they can actually do, which is going to theoretically improve their life, better their situation, or make them happier in some way.

You want to have clear goals at the onset. What do we want our readers to take away from whatever it is that we’re sending them? Once you have those things established, make sure you have a way of coming up with a fresh stream of topics.

With anything, you’ll have the initial rush of topics. Your first 25 or so will probably be pretty obvious, but then you want to have some ideas for digging a little bit deeper. What I do for that is I read as much as I can within my industry. Any time I read something, I try to come up with three articles ideas inspired from what I read. It might be that the piece left me with questions so one of those questions might be a topic for another day. It might be that everybody in the comments had a certain reaction and that reaction has led me to think, “Hey. Here’s another way of approaching this topic that I think would work better.” It might be that there was some little tangent in the article that didn’t really have to do with the article’s main point but was interesting enough that it could be its own article.

If you come up with three ideas for everything that you read, sooner or later you have a long list of things that you could write that would appeal to your target audience. You’re always ready to hit the ground running.

What questions should small business owners ask themselves before they launch a newsletter?

There are a couple of questions that I think are pretty important. The first one, of course, “Is this something I’m going to be able to stick with?”

Is this something that I’m going to be able to continually produce, week after week? Some newsletters are daily. Some are every other week. I don’t recommend necessarily less than that. Unless you’re doing a print newsletter, in which case you can do it once a month.

You want to make sure that you have a good list of topics that you’ll talk about and where you’ll get more topics so that you can continue to produce good content for your audience.

Another question that you want to ask yourself is, “Am I in a business where I have customers that come back to me again and again, or am I in a business where really I work with a customer one time and then they move on?” E-letters tend to work better as a retention tool. They can make a great acquisition tool, but where they really shine is in terms of retention. They make more sense for businesses that want to get a lot of repeat customers.

You mentioned that newsletters have a great return on investment. What are the things that people do to make sales with the newsletter?

The most important thing is to actually ask for sales occasionally. Some people are really good about sending out lots of useful information (or whatever kinds of things the newsletter promises to deliver). You need to follow through and send out that information as often as you said you’re going to send it out. Then you also want to occasionally ask people for a sale. If you’re sending out a weekly email article newsletter, maybe twice a month you actually send out a promotion that says this thing is happening and we’re offering this great deal. Give me a call and get signed up.

Here are two big mistakes that people make. Some people build an email list and then don’t email it at all. That’s a huge mistake. Other people build an email list and they either promote all the time or they engage all the time. They don’t have a blend of those two things.

Engagement is the content that you give. The value that you bring that you’re giving to your people for signing up. You definitely want to have e-letters that are dedicated to engagement. Then you also want to have some information or some mailings that are dedicated to promotion.

You’ll have to do some experiments and some trial-and-error to figure out your sweet spot. There is an engagement-to-promotion ratio. If you’re doing all one or all the other, then you’re not going to monetize the way that you were hoping to.

Do you have any other tips or suggestions for someone starting a newsletter?

Definitely make sure that you have some sort of method in place where your readers can actually engage. Not just read but also respond to what you’re sending out. They can ask you questions. They can send you complaints. They can make arguments. You want to have an email address or another method of contact where they can respond to what you’re saying. You want to do this because it helps you to gauge if you’re hitting the right mark. If your content is being well received. It’s also going to give you a lot of content ideas. Nick Osborne’s copy detective website has a lot of content that was based on the questions his readers were asking. When you give your readers a way to respond to you, you’ll get a lot of things that you can think, “Hey. I can turn that into a topic.”

It also gives you a way to give a shout out to your readers so you can be like, “Hey. Melissa in Los Alamos sent me this question. That’s a great question, Melissa.” Melissa feels special and everybody else on the list feels like, “Hey. This person really listens to the people that are reading.” That’s another good way to engage.

Thanks! How can people check you out on the Internet?

Get in touch with me on LinkedIn.

Want to find out about more cool ways to reach out to customers? Click here to read my interview with Tim Paige, called “Reach More People with a Podcast.”