Even though it’s been around commercially for nearly a decade, Social Media continues to be the shiniest toy for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

With more than two billion users and 218 MM users in the US alone, Facebook is presumed to be the easiest way for owners and entrepreneurs to reach their customers. Right?

Email: The Most Underrated Business Tool

Although it’s been around for more than 20 years, email is still rolling along, strong as ever. The death of email has long been touted as an inevitability, yet, in today’s digital age, investing in an email list is one of the wisest marketing decisions for your business.

While Facebook and its social brethren dominate top of mind awareness, email provides stability where social networks cannot. Likes and followers might look attractive, but there’s no guarantee you’ll ever reach them in 2018.

Thanks to social algorithms and an insane amount of content pulsing through news feeds each day, promoting your business is more difficult than ever. The audience you attract and gather on a platform like Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube does not belong to you; your business is simply ‘renting’ the platform to reach their users who happen to be customers of yours or who resonate with your product.

But email is different.

As digital business expert and speaker Chris Brogan sees it, your email list is better than having a large number of social followers. “An email list is the best way you can know, for sure, the absolute potential of who you can address in a one-to-one format as opposed to the “potential” of what [a social network audience] is and can be.”

Chris’ take on email is a good one.

While Facebook and other social networks offer the opportunity to acquire the attention of strangers, email extends businesses the ability to communicate with people who have already granted companies permission to talk to them.

Having an idea of who you will actually be speaking to is much more valuable than guessing who you’ll be reaching.

The Benefits of Email for Small Businesses

The folks who offer up their email address in exchange discounts to their favorite retail store or restaurant they’re effectively saying, ‘yes, I like this stuff’. When people ‘raise’ their hands by subscribing to your email list, you now ‘own’ this data – data that you can put to work for your business.

Easily, one of the best parts of building an email list is how much you’re able to decipher about your customers. Having their email alone won’t give you any idea into where they’re from, their favorite sports teams, or when their next birthday will be, but you now have an avenue through which you can inquire.

Enhance your social media efforts

Even though social media is much more expensive in 2018 than it was in 2014, some of the advancements in advertising targeting are profound.

With Facebook Ad Manager, businesses are able to upload their own email lists into the system, allowing them to see how many of the people they communicate with are on Facebook. The data is double-blind, meaning Facebook doesn’t acquire or store these emails, nor do businesses see each email’s associated profile.

Creating a custom audience with your own email data allows businesses to control who they’re marketing to, ultimately providing greater control of their overall budget.

Get to know your customer

Another massive reason to use Facebook’s Custom Audience tools with your email list? You get a clearer picture of who your customers are.
Facebook’s Audience Insights will inform you of where the majority of your email list resides, other Facebook pages they Like, their level of education, as well as their gender and ages. All of this data is in aggregate but it can still help guide your next sales promotion or your entire communications strategy, in general.

Share exclusive promotions

Once you have a fuller idea of who your customers are, you can begin to experiment with what they actually want to receive from your business.

If you’re running a professional services company, perhaps you could create a contest that’s exclusively for your email list. This can be a great way to reward those who have decided to allow your company to promote to them, in addition to being a great carrot for those who aren’t already on your list.

Creating a program of exclusivity makes your email list a destination. Even as more and more people begin to say ‘yes’ to your content, products, and newsletters, it can still be a place to attract the people you want and need most.  

Direct, private engagement

Social networks offer the chance for customers, prospects, and readers to talk back to businesses in a public forum. But oftentimes, the best approach, or at least, the desired medium, is one-to-one communication.

The privacy email affords makes direct contact much safer and comfortable for all parties involved. If a customer has an issue and is unavailable to speak over the phone, email is the best way to review any questions, comments, and concerns.

Ask for feedback

Knowing where you stand with your email list is important. If people aren’t responding to your sends like they once had, that’s a clear sign of stagnation (at which point, immediate action needs to be taken).

But even when things are going just fine and dandy, sending out a friendly survey that gauges your performance and your list’s overall satisfaction is a great way to make it known that you care. Offering your subscribers a chance to bend your ear is a great way to find better solutions for your own offerings.

Soliciting feedback is a way to show your subscribers that their opinions, thoughts, and suggestions matter to you. Being able to implement and execute this feedback proves to your list that you’re not simply paying lip-service, either. It’s a great way to find some of the hidden warts of any business – just be prepared to act one way or another.

How to Start Building Your Email List

Email is one of the most versatile and malleable forms of marketing and data available to any business. Getting people to sign-up for your content and promotions clearly gives you the opportunity to reach your most desirable consumer segment.

But before you can communicate with these folks in their inbox, you must first achieve the right to do so.

Capturing emails is hard. Just about every business, local and national, is competing for the attention of your target audience and there are only so many promotions and company newsletters people can handle each week.

In order to cultivate the best group of subscribers for your own business’s email list, companies need to put themselves into their consumer’s shoes.

For example, if you’re running a restaurant, one of the easiest ways to acquire a new email address is with your physical assets. Adding a flyer to a customer’s bag or a clear call to action at the top or bottom of their receipt is perfect for a takeout place or food truck. With a captive audience, a sit-down restaurant could benefit from promoting the benefits of joining their mailing list on a table tent.

A retail store can build their base through the promotion of a membership program, giving members the chance to gain exclusive discounts. For a professional service organization, like a CPA or law office, providing a free consultation for new subscribers could be incentive enough for curious website visitors to share their email.

Regardless of the type of business you have or run, building an email list is crucial to sustained, long-term success. It’s not easy, but by experimenting and finding the right system to attract new subscribers and customers for your company, you’ll be a much stronger company for doing so.

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