Mon Jun 17th, 2013
Mick Souder/SU Management Information Systems Dept.
Many people in this community have their own business or offer some service for hire apart from their day job.
For most of the 20th century, the simple options for getting the word out on your business included posting a sign with your phone number on a bulletin board, placing a low-cost classified ad in the newspaper, or getting known by word-of-mouth. Over the past 15 years, however, a critical mass of people have started using public computer networking technologies to create options to market goods and services using the tools of the Internet.
The rise of the Internet has also presented a number of challenges, as many of the traditional means of marketing have become nearly obsolete as people interact in new ways with each other and the people with whom they do business.
Many Internet marketing options may seem complicated — Do you need an online store? Is it worth buying online ads? — and with the common use of smartphones and tablet computers and low-cost specialized applications for those devices over the last couple of years, Internet marketing has changed.
Even so, there are some relatively simple things an independent business owners can do to market themselves. Over the next few months, we are going to discuss a few of these in the Drum. In this issue, we’ll focus one of the oldest and most-used Internet technologies: email.
To use email in your business, you need to get the email addresses of your customers. One simple method is to have an email sign-up sheet for your business. It’s a good idea to do even if you don’t have an email account for your business yet.
Wherever you are conducting business — whether in your shop, on a vendor table at the Southern Ute tribal offices, or at a booth in a community event — it’s a good idea to have a clipboard or a notepad with an email sign-up sheet including spaces for names and emails and a statement saying you would like to add the customers who sign up to your mailing list.
Also, capture into your contacts list any addresses from emails you receive that seem relevant to your business. These may be addresses from notes you receive directly or addresses that other people provide when they send email to multiple recipients.
At some point, you will need to consolidate the email addresses you collect into a contact list or a word-processor document. If you use a word processor such as Microsoft Word, you can create a usable list by formatting addresses as “Real Name” <email@example.com>; “Next Real Name” <firstname.lastname@example.org>; and so forth. Most email programs have tools for creating and managing contact lists.
If you don’t have an email account for your business, you can get one in several ways. You can contact your Internet provider to see if they will provide you with one that you can use for your business. You can also sign up for free email accounts through services such as Yahoo (http://mail.yahoo.com) or Google (http://mail.google.com). If at all possible, get an account username that is related to your business.
If you want to take things a step further, you can buy the domain name for your business, such as www.mycompany.com, that you can also use if you create a website — but that is beyond the scope of this article.
Once you collect your customers’ email addresses and you have an email account from which to send information, you can email marketing materials. These can be simple announcements saying that you will be selling your wares at the Hall of Warriors at a particular time and date, coupons on a good or service, general announcements, or a business’s newsletter. If possible, put the material in the body of the message and not as an attachment.
When you send the email, put the customers’ addresses in the “Bcc” address field. “Bcc” stands for blind carbon copy. This keeps your customers addresses private from others and protects the intellectual capital you have gathered. Send the note to your business’ own email address in the “To” field.
Regardless of the content of your email, you will need to give the people to whom you send messages to the chance to opt-out of receiving emails from you. This is done by providing a note on the bottom of messages you send that reads something like “If you wish to be removed from this mailing list, please send an email to me at email@example.com with the word ‘remove’ in the subject line.”
If you get such a request, honor it as soon as possible. The idea of Internet marketing is to build relationships for your business. Getting potential customers frustrated with you doesn’t do that.
As your use of email grows, you can look into software programs and services that can help your electronic mailing to customers. However, the steps outlined above are a simple way to start using email to reach out to your customers.