Here’s a tough reality for small business owners like you: You absolutely must sell your products or services to stay in business. And to experience maximum sales success, you need to support your efforts with effective marketing strategies. In this six-part series, we will talk about one of the most powerful tools available to help small business owners like you enjoy more marketing success – email.

Email marketing offers a multitude of advantages. It can help you drive traffic to your website. It can help you build a powerful, well-regarded brand. It can help you make those all-important repeat sales and develop lasting, profitable customer relationships. Do it right, and you can experience a huge boost to your marketing and lead generation results.

But do it wrong and not only will it hurt your marketing efforts, it could very well impact your results and damage your reputation.

This series will help you do it the right way. Starting Monday, we will take a look at five recommended stages of the email marketing process:

We will talk about the specifics of and suggestions for email messages at each stage in the customer journey. We’ll also include a written example of how each email might look.

Today, let’s set the stage by talking about general practices that can help you ensure email marketing success:

Make Your Copywriting Count

Remember that you are trying to persuade your readers to take action, even if you are not yet trying to sell them your product. So harness the power of persuasive copywriting. “Sell” them on taking the actions you want them to take, including opening your email, clicking through to your landing page, downloading your content and so on.

If your email is going to be effective, it has to get opened. Without a powerful subject line, it probably won’t be opened and read. So what constitutes a powerful subject line? Not “July Newsletter.” It’s more like “ Proven, Easy-To-Use Strategies To Help You Market More Effectively.” Notice that this subject line generates curiosity and mentions a benefit. It also contains that all-important word: “You.”

Keep in mind that you are writing for people, and people love to be paid attention to, and they love to hear their own names, so personalize your emails. Say “Dear Bob,” not “Recipient.” Address them directly. Use the word “you” frequently. Write to an audience of one, not to a crowd.

Make your email easy to digest by writing at a basic level. You aren’t writing a college thesis; your readers won’t be impressed by complex, high-level language. They also won’t be impressed by long sentences and huge blocks of text. So make your emails concise and straightforward with brief paragraphs and quick transitions. Make your message as long as you need to, but as short as you can, and if necessary, continue your sale on a landing page after they click through.

Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

Speaking of selling, although email marketing can give your sales efforts a huge boost, you don’t want to use your emails to sell your products. Rather, you want to “sell the click.” You want to persuade your reader to click through to your landing page and do the bulk of your selling there. So by all means, have the CTA link in your email go to a landing page, not your homepage.

And unless it’s for a newsletter, where you have a variety of content snippets that link to articles on your blog or elsewhere, use your email for only one purpose. For example, if your goal is to drive prospects to your landing page where they can access your latest case study, make sure that is the one and only CTA within your email body. Asking your recipient to do more than one thing causes decision fatigue – seriously diluting your email’s persuasive power.

Don’t Be A Pest

So how often should you send your message? There are a lot of varying opinions on best time of day, frequency of sending, and so forth. You need to find a cadence that works for your business and customers (and continue to track and optimize your success).  See what frequency and sending schedule works best for you. And when you find it, follow it.

Don’t Be Vain

In modern marketing, it’s easy to get caught up with large numbers and “vanity metrics” that may look great but have little or no bearing on your actual marketing and sales success. With email marketing, that vanity metric is most often the size of your subscriber list.

It’s nice to have a lot of subscribers, but it’s much, much better to have a smaller list that actively engages with you – that opens your emails and clicks through, and buys your stuff, than a big list that ignores you or hurts your deliverability.

When you’re testing and attempting to optimize your email marketing results, not everyone on your list is going to like what you are doing. My advice? Don’t worry about it. Don’t fear a few unsubscribes. You may even want to take a welcoming attitude toward them. An unsubscribe could very well mean you’re doing something right – whittling down your list to your target audience.

Organic > Paid

But your subscriber list does matter. It can be a huge asset, even if it’s not all that big. You want a list of interested readers who chose to receive your emails. So grow your list “organically;” don’t focus on sending cold emails to purchased lists of people who might be (but probably won’t be) interested in your product. It’s a sure way to spur unsubscribes and spam complaints that can prevent your emails from arriving in the inboxes of people who actually matter.

To help build your list, put email opt-in forms multiple places on your site and even in your social media profiles. Use powerful but brief copywriting to sell potential subscribers on the value they’ll get from opting in to your list.

Here’s a critical email marketing best practice you must follow: Send out your emails through a specialized software program specifically designed for email marketing. DO NOT use a program like Outlook to send out your messages. A key reason is that you must make it easy for subscribers to unsubscribe (it’s the law). Also, using a traditional email client program such as Outlook will make email marketing management and optimization pretty much impossible (even if you have dozens of folders and spreadsheets).

Be on the lookout for our next article in this series. We’ll be talking about using your introductory emails to make a great first impression on your new subscribers and to build momentum and set the stage for profitable customer relationships.

Now, on to: