Without question, email is one of the most effective marketing tools in a marketer’s toolbox and most small businesses rely heavily on it. Email marketing is an efficient and direct way of communicating with customers and prospects. But here’s the rub. The way you’ve likely been handling email —using the ‘batch-and-blast’ method of sending the same message to all customers—doesn’t work anymore. It’s gotten much harder for small businesses who send an email to their entire database to get a good response.

Sure, it might seem from a statistical perspective that sending more emails will net you more responses and, ultimately, more money. But if you’re sending emails that are irrelevant to those receiving them you’re more likely to lose a potential customer, because those people unsubscribe, both physically and mentally. The next time they see a communication from your company, they’ll send it to the junk pile without opening it.

Blasting emails across the board to customers and prospects generally doesn’t turn prospects into customers, it just wears out their goodwill. There’s simply too much competing for our attention now. Inboxes are overflowing with marketing messages and our social media feeds are buzzing with posts from both people and brands. Nothing about an email that is sent to thousands or millions of people is going to stand out, and the conversion rate for batch and blast emails reflects that—it’s just below one percent.

When you put down the bullhorn, however, and nurture relationships with more personalized, one-to-one communication, sales can skyrocket. You can do that by using data about your customers and prospects to send them an email they’ll want to open. It’s a behavioral-driven strategy, and it harnesses a wide range of data points to enable small businesses to figure out which people to email, which emails to send and how often. Sending emails triggered by someone’s  behavior or an event—like a sale on products they’ve purchased before or the fact they abandoned an online shopping cart midway through a purchase—typically have much higher conversion rates than one-size-fits-all broadcast emails.

In fact research shows relevant emails drive 18 times more revenue than broadcast emails. (Source: Jupiter Research) And more personal communication with prospects and customers builds longer and deeper relationships.

Successful email marketing all comes down to relevance.  Take a look at our small business guide about sending personalized email. Digital marketing is on the cusp of a sea change, where batch and blast is being upended by the ability to send personalized, finely targeted communications.  These are emails that have relevance and that’s the key to engagement and, ultimately, conversions.  Connecting with contacts is important but if you want engagement–and if you want your leads to become customers–you need to reach them with the right message at the right time.

To do that:

  • Make sure all your departments are working together—sales, marketing, customer service and information technology—so that you can really achieve the kind of personalized communication your business needs. Customers aren’t one-dimensional, so your approach shouldn’t be either.
  • In all your channels and at every touch-point with customers and prospects, you should be collecting information about their behavior. You can’t personalize email marketing without data.
  • Once you understand your customers and potential customers—and their buying habits and preferences—you can begin to anticipate their needs and communicate with them in a meaningful way.