The weekend of April 13th will live on in infamy for small business owners running communities online. It was the weekend that Facebook notifications temporarily died. Groups all over Facebook (ironically) were scrambling trying to figure out what on earth was going on. Is this permanent? Was it purposeful? What do we do? And how can we set up our businesses so we can finally have freedom from Facebook?
The strategy: Diversify your communication strategies.
Whaaaaa? Communicate with people outside of Facebook? What is this madness?
E-mail has been a fundamental means of communication for decades now, but many of us have discarded it in favor of the new hotness found in social media. E-mail can feel invasive, and we don’t want to irritate people, so we communicate with them in more passive ways, relying on notifications to get their attention rather than more active forms of communication. In my hastily constructed post that weekend, I outlined some options for diversifying your communications strategies.
Today, I’ll provide you with a step by step how-to so that you can set up your mailing list now, so that if you ever find yourself on the wrong side of a notifications issue, you are ready.
Step 1 – Select an E-mail Service Provider
Picking a service provider is tough because there are a lot of options out there, and without experience it’s hard to know which perks matter and which ones don’t. After exhaustive research I selected aWeber as my e-mail provider of choice:
- Easy to use interface with not a lot of clutter
- Fundamental tools: opt in, GDPR compliance, campaigns, opt-ins are all available
- SPAM Checker (you can check any of your e-mails to see if they’ll end up in spam – AMAZING!)
- Incredible customer service focused on the small business owner
Step 2 – Gathering Data
First you need your customer’s information. To obtain it, login to your Point of Sale system and download your customers e-mail information. They have provided you with this information willingly, and the CAN-SPAM act does not require them to have opted into your mailing list, although you must provide them with an easy and obvious method of opting out.
Don’t be that person who leaves their list wondering how they get out of the fun house. It doesn’t mean they will leave, but everyone likes to feel like they have a choice.
Step 3 – Upload the Information
Go to aWeber and upload your list to the program. If you opt not to use aWeber, please be sure to use a reputable company and read their terms and conditions before uploading any information.You cannot download your group data from Facebook.
Reminder: I do not recommend sending mass mailings from your inbox. The risk of non-compliance is too high, and the fines are hefty.
Step 4 – Getting the E-Mail Started
Send an e-mail to your customers. Remember that this is an unsolicited e-mail so some of the recipients may not be sure who you are. Be sure to put something obvious as your subject line for your first e-mail. We said, “Hello from LuLaRoe Bobbie’s Dreamers” for our e-mail when we first started.
Step 5 – Content
Remember that with this e-mail you are entering someone’s mailbox for the first time. Which means it’s your chance to make a good impression. Spammy language, big letters, bold colors announcing your arrival won’t win you any friends, so be short, sweet, and well-formatted. This is a great time for you to tell them a bit about why you’re messaging them. A sample of what we sent is included for you to use as a guide, but please make sure to write your own copy.
Since this is your first e-mail to them and it was not solicited, offer them something in return for their time and the privilege of their attention. We offered a small discount* to thank them. You could also create a scavenger hunt game, or have them join your page to answer a question and then provide an opportunity for them to win something. There are many other things you can do to incentivize them to join your group, but that’s the one we chose.
You’ll note that we said to claim the discount they needed to say “Mine” and then “May the Force be With You.”. That was a very deliberate choice on our part because we knew that people would shop, and they would use the code word. It was different enough to where other members would notice and ask why people were doing that. This gave us the opportunity to provide additional members who had not yet shopped with us the option to join our mailing list using our form.
Tips for Your Mailing List E-Mail
- DO include a photo of yourself so that your e-mail is personalized and they know who you are right away. If you run your business with someone else or your family members, include them to if you’d like.
- DO keep it short and sweet. There’s no need to write them an essay. You only have a few seconds to grab their attention, so don’t waste it!
- DO let them know when they can expect to hear from you. We committed that we would send them 1 message a week at maximum.
- DON’T use this new platform to message people over and over again. I cannot tell you how often I have stopped doing business with someone because I received 4-5 e-mails from them a week. Each one notified me of sales, hot items, and beautiful (insert item name here) that I just can’t live without. It’s invasive, it’s spammy, and its irritating. Not words you want people to associate with you and your business.
We sent out the e-mail on Sunday morning and let them know that they had 24 hours to shop. We added 30 new people to our group from the e-mail, and sold double what we would usually sell thanks to these returning customers. These are people who don’t frequent Facebook often, and maybe our notifications were turned off for them, or maybe they forgot about us. Regardless of the reason, they were in our database, so they had clearly shopped with us once, and now they had come back.
It’s never a good idea to have all your communication eggs in one basket. Consumers expect to receive e-mails from companies they sign up with, so it’s not an unusual thing to do. These e-mails are an opportunity for you to build a relationship with your customer, not to spam them with offers.
Think about how often you get e-mails from various companies that you have purchased from. How many of them do you open? I get hundreds of e-mails in a day, 2 or 3 from some companies, most of which I ignore.
Don’t be the person who sends the e-mail your customers ignore. If you are, then having a mailing list provides you with little to no value. Focus less on convincing them that they must shop with you, and more on providing value to them. They will appreciate it, and be much more likely to open your e-mails in the future. And a customer that opens an e-mail, is significantly more likely to shop with you than a customer who doesn’t.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning that if you choose to click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you. I was also compensated to create this post, though all opinions are my own. I have a full affiliate disclosure that you can find here