By Bola Ajumobi

If you have had an online business in the past year, you would have had to be living under a rock far away not to have heard of the onslaught two cute white and black animals wrecked on the online world. I am talking about the panda update and partner-in-crime; penguin update. Traffic disappeared overnight literarily for a number of online stores that had erstwhile enjoyed robust traffic from Google.

To survive and thrive online as a small business in these times you have to do better with factors you can control; your online portal – your website and your email list.

I will be focusing on email marketing in this article. Mom-owned small businesses can do better with their email marketing. I have signed up for email newsletters of fellow mom-owned businesses and never hear from these businesses and no, the emails were not trapped in my spam folders as I always check. Some would send a newsletter or an offer sporadically every couple of months and I have to remind myself each time I get those once-in-a-blue-moon email that I indeed signed up for the newsletter.

Of the visitors you are getting to your site, probably one percent or less are plastic-in-hand ready to buy from you. Another small segment of your website visitors think they might buy from you but might be shopping around or have no need for your product or service yet. Regular communication warms them up to your business and primes them for a sale.

So what are some actionable steps to get the most out of email marketing?

  1. Have a newsletter calendar. Depending on what time of business you are in, there are bound to be holidays and celebrations that you can use as tie-in for your promotional email. Planning ahead also saves you the hassle of scrambling to send a newsletter at the last minute (guilty here myself).
  2. Have a signup form on your website’s home page. Try to have it visible without having to scroll down. Give an inducement for signing up if possible. Put up the form on another high traffic area of your website like your “about us” page.
  3. Rather than emphasize “join us on face book” emphasize “sign up for our newsletter”. Put up a signup form on your face book page. You own your email list, you don’t own your face book page, face book and their shareholders own your face book business page.
  4. Don’t rent an email list! Build your list organically. You can squeeze out more value from expensive marketing campaigns like pay-per-click or daily deals if you are able to funnel a portion of this traffic into your email list.
  5. Send out an email newsletter once a month at least. You can poll your current subscribers to know how frequently they want to hear from you. That way they will remember you when they are in need of your product or services.
  6. Measure your response and tweak things. You want to benchmark against your industry. Track open rates, click through rates, forwards, unsubscribe rate and spam complaints and adjust as necessary. I found out that having a catchy or informative phrase as the subject line of my newsletter got a lot more opens and clicks than my erstwhile bland title of “Slimy Bookworm May Newsletter”.
  7. Have a welcome email that goes out after a new subscriber signs up. I have mine set up as an auto responder that goes out 24 hours after sign up. In your welcome email thank the subscriber for signing up. Set expectations on email frequency and reassure them that you value their privacy. You may include a special offer.  It will bring down your unsubscribe rate.

As the serenity Prayer goes:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change: Google algorithm updates, Facebook monetization and so on.

Courage to change the things I can: my website and my email newsletter

And wisdom to know the difference: we all need to keep working on this one!

Bola Ajumobi is a mom of two young boys with a health care background and owns the online children’s bookstore; SlimyBookworm.com where busy parents or gift shoppers can take advantage of the complimentary gift suggestion service to find just the right books for the kids in their lives.  She loves interacting with other moms-in-business and exchanging insights on running a business.