Supercharge Your Online Presence: Email Marketing

Issue: 
Jan-Feb 2013

The online world continues to innovate and evolve, arboricultural technology and equipment are constantly improving, consumers’ lifestyles and spending habits are changing; but the cornerstone of any successful small business remains the same – effective communication. 

In this digitally centred age, a large component of that communication happens online, with interpersonal and business-to-business level communication occurring via email. According to internetworldstats.com, there were 28.5 million Canadian internet users as of June 2012. It’s not abnormal for a person to use at least two email addresses and therefore, the statistics speak for themselves – when used strategically, email marketing can be an indispensable tool for small businesses. 

The Benefits of Email Marketing for Small Businesses
Using email to send marketing and promotional messages can realise a diverse variety of benefits for small business owners. Amongst the most prominent advantages of email marketing is its affordability. Radio advertising costs from $1,500 and upwards per month, the rates for television advertising hover at around $4,000 onwards a month, and the production and distribution of flyers can cost anything between $58 to $3,500. While these are all effective marketing methods in their own right, email marketing requires a maximum of a few hours a week, a basic understanding of technology and basic connectivity.

With email marketing, small business owners have 100% control over who they communicate with and can create mailing lists based on niche interests. By pooling together a database of subscribers, owners have more assurance that they are communicating with their target market and are not relying on random prospects which may never lead to conversions. 

Furthermore, when making this investment of time and effort (both of which are invaluable commodities to a small business), owners are able to calculate the return on their investment more accurately than would be possible through any other medium. By reviewing email click-throughs, opens, link clicks and bounces, the campaign can be analysed and revised for future promotions.

Of paramount importance is the fact that email marketing is more environmentally responsible than any other branding or advertising technique. Arborists can convey messages and information regarding their services, communicate directly with their customer base and advertise special offers without harming the environment and destroying trees, which quite literally, are the foundation of an arborist’s livelihood. 

The Statistics Speak for Themselves
A compelling study by leading bulk email sender Mailchimp in 2010 reported that the email marketing campaigns set up by companies in the global home and gardening industry boasted a staggering 28.2% open rate. But what does this mean for small businesses and tree care specialists in the Canadian aboricultural industry? It means simply that on average, out of every 1,000 emails sent, a potential 282 emails will be opened by prospective clients. According to the same study, only the photography and video industries surpass this open rate by 0.7%. 

Renowned global market research company Ipsos, specializing in “better, quicker, cheaper (BQC),” marketing methods for small business clients recently released three pertinent statistical findings. According to Ipsos, 65% of Canadians favour communication via email over alternative measures, 80% of Canadians frequenting the net register as email subscribers of at least one, but up to eight different company websites, and 27% of Canadian internet users forward useful emails on to a friend or colleague. Small business owners need not possess an incredible amount of web savvy to exploit this marketing opportunity and maximize their potential to increase revenue and establish their companies. 

Email Marketing 101
No matter how eloquent, how intelligent or how target-market centred an email is, it will never fulfil its purpose if it is not opened by the recipient. The magic needs to happen from the very beginning – with the subject line. 

In a study conducted by Mailchimp, which evaluated the open rates of over 200 million emails, the subject line was identified as being paramount to a campaign’s overall success. To ensure that mailing systems do not truncate subject lines, they should be kept at a maximum of 50-55 characters. They should also be succinct, informative and should provide a brief idea of what to expect. Words like, “free,” which could trigger an anti-spam filter and direct the email to a junkmail folder, or words like, “help, percent-off,” and, “reminder,” which have been proven to negatively influence open rates, should be avoided. 

Examples of good subject lines are: “Practical Issues: Arborist on Site, Organic Arborists: Saving the World One Tree at a Time,” or, “Company X Tree Care – Pruning, Treatment & Removals.” 

An important step in the process is to build a database of loyal clients: an email database sign-up can be presented at your front desk or at the client’s front door; invitations to join the mailing list can be sent to previous clients; social media can be used to create awareness around what kind of information database members can expect; and a sign-up form can be integrated into the company website. The expression: “quality, not quantity,” applies. A database of 50 willing, interactive and loyal clients will outperform a database of 500 clients who are uninterested and unengaging. 

SPAM: The Arch-Nemesis of Email Marketing
Spam, in the form of mass promotional emails and aggressive advertising campaigns with abrupt and often impolite calls-to-action, are as invasive and damaging as apple scab on a budding crabapple tree. Small business owners would do well to familiarize themselves with the Canadian spam prevention laws, which oblige companies to engage in anti-spam marketing techniques. For example, when conducting an email campaign, an ‘unsubscribe’ link must always be included. 

Bulk Email Senders*
Bulk email senders allow small business owners to send bulk emails to a large database at affordable rates – the best ones include anti-spam software and are able to track open, click-through and bounce rates – which are essential to gaging success of a particular campaign. Popular ones include:

Mailchimp.com. This bulk email sender enables users to send up to 12,000 emails per month to a list of maximum 2,000 subscribers for free. There are limitations for users who use this service for free but basic features like access to designer email templates, help with building a subscriber list, and access to reports on the outcomes of email campaigns are all a small business really requires. 

Sendblaster.com. As a bulk email service provider, this user-friendly service provides a 100% free solution for small businesses. Its features include building customizable sign-up forms for integration into a company website and access to Google Analytics for reports on open and click-through rates as well as sales conversion rates. Paid subscriptions include a range of additional benefits at affordable costs. 

Constantcontact.com. Constantcontact is another bulk email sender company with free sign-up, tailor-made to meet the needs and budgetary constraints of small businesses and non-profit organizations. It features step-by-step guidance on creating an effective email marketing campaign, a range of email templates to suit any kind of product or service provider, email list management for the establishment of a secure permission-based database and integrated anti-spam checkers. 

In 2012, a study was conducted by senior research analyst, W. Jeffery Rice on behalf of global market research institute MarketingSherpa in which the marketing budgets and forecasted strategies of 2,735 organizations were analyzed. The results showed that global budgets for email marketing campaigns are set to increase by 54% on average. An overwhelming number of other authoritative studies show similar findings. 

The statistics and evidence are unmistakably clear: email marketing is amongst the most affordable, most effective marketing methods for small business today. Arborists would do well to follow in the footsteps of small businesses in other arenas who have adopted this trend and reaped substantial benefits as a result. And remember: “The best things in life are free.”  

*Disclaimer: the article’s authors and associated companies have no professional affiliations with any of the companies mentioned in this article. All details are correct at the time of going to print.

SIDEBAR: SOME USEFUL INFO... On Email Etiquette

  • Use exclamation marks sparingly, and never in email subject lines. This can be construed as being aggressive, forceful or impolite.
  • Avoid sarcasm. Unless its face-to-face, it’s not funny.
  • Proofread all emails for spelling and grammar errors to avoid looking and sounding unprofessional.
  • When sending personalized emails, make sure to show respect by spelling the recipient’s name correctly and watch for incorrect titles. 
  • Ask permission before sending large attachments with emails.

Our mission is to enhance and promote the care and benefit of trees for present and future generations in Ontario through education, research and awareness.