A trending strategy when a small business goes to market is that social media marketing becomes their main focal point. On the surface, social media marketing is easy to get started with, the costs can be nil, and most people are already using it for personal use.
The unfortunate part of social media as a leading strategy is that these platforms weren’t created with free business promotion in mind. They’re designed for user experience and marketers have a history of ruining user experience with pushy messaging and offers galore.
To fight back, social media platforms like Facebook are making it harder for businesses to participate for free. Facebook has nearly become a pay to play strategy if you’re a business wanting exposure.
The amount of effort that goes into creating social media posts when compared to the results they actually generate can quickly become demoralizing to a business owner. On a side note: In all of the Facebook bashing that I do, I will say that I love their Ad capabilities (more on that in another post).
To Move Forward, We Have to Take a Step Back…
Thankfully small business owners have a technology that’s on their side when it comes to reaching customers and fans. A technology that’s been around longer than social media. That technology is email.
Email is a direct way to connect with your readers where you can retain majority of the control. If properly executed, email can reach most (if not all) of your fans, avoid SPAM filters, and create a better return for your efforts. The following is a quick glance at developing an email marketing strategy.
Tools you’ll need to get started
Email Management Software
You’ll need a way to segment your customers and to avoid violating spam laws. Using a service like Mailchimp, Aweber, or Constant Contact. At Float On, we use Mailchimp, but don’t let that keep you from exploring other options.
Website, Hosting, and Domain
Even before you open up, you’ll need a website or landing page in order to passively collect emails. On top of that, you will want people to get into the habit of visiting your website. If you have a talented writer on staff, have them write blogs that you can feed to your email list. Floating is a new concept for more people. The earlier you educate, the less work you’ll have when you open the doors.
SumoMe is a website plugin that allows you an easy and aesthetic way to collect those emails. They also have a pop up feature that gets results. Yes, we’re recommending that you place a pop up on your website (more on that in a couple of paragraphs).
Ways to Build a List
Ask Current Customers to Join
On the bottom of your email receipts, provide a link and encourage people to join your newsletter. However, when asking them be more clever than, “Join Our Newsletter.” Make the offer intriguing to encourage signup. An idea to help get you started would be to ask people to, “Sign up to receive updates & special offers.”
Strategically place forms on your website so people who visit certain pages can provide you with their email address. Traditionally you’ll want a signup form on your home page and if your center has an active blog, provide a signup form on the sidebar. Another common practice is to include a newsletter signup form in the footer of your website. This way no matter what page they’re on, they have the ability to join your list.
Yes, Pop-ups, those little interruptions when you first visit a website. It’s usually a simple email capture form that puts itself front and center and puts your website temporarily in the background. Most people will claim to hate them, but studies show that they’re effective. We can attest to their effectiveness as well. Don’t let your personal taste influence your marketing practices too much, give pop-ups a chance. As mentioned before, the best pop-up platform we’ve encountered is SumoMe. They’re easy to set up for the non-technical user as they also have a suite of metrics that will come in handy as your website grows. Take a look at this detailed post on how to get email subscribers produced by, you guessed it, SumoMe.
Contests / Giveaways
Running a contest where you can capture emails is a great way to get casually interested people to convert to your email list. Sometimes it takes a small incentive to have someone jump on board. We’ve found this method of gaining emails doesn’t produce the most dedicated subscribers, but it’s a way to boost numbers. Use this short term attention in conjunction with a big email blast offering a fantastic email exclusive deal. Rewarding these people early on may increase your chances on keeping them on your list.
How to Use (not abuse) Your List
Marketing Before You Open – Keep your subscribers up to date on your progress, construction timeline, and soft & grand opening dates.
Seasonal Offers – The obvious offer is selling gifts cards during the holiday season. Also consider other holidays like Valentine’s, Mother’s & Father’s Day, as well as offer your past floaters discounts on their birthday (providing you have that information).
Floater Education – Floating is just now reaching mass consciousness. If you’re the first to bring floating to your city, consider a brief series of emails educating your community on what floating is, the benefits, and best practices for the perfect float. Use an automation sequence to educate your new followers without any extra effort on your part.
Reviving Past Floaters – We mentioned birthdays, but keep in mind a lot of people give floating a try and forget to come back. In most cases they’ve had a wonderful experience, but like with most habits, it takes repetition before it solidifies. Segment your email list with people who haven’t floated in the past 6 months and remind them about the joys of floating.
Rewarding Members – Your members should be the focal point of everything you do. These are the people who love floating so much that they have budgeted aside money every month just for float. They are often your most vocal supporters. Just because they’ve signed on to pay doesn’t mean the battle is over! Use email as an opportunity to keep them loyal. Offer up some members only deals or even surprise them with an extra float to share with a friend.
Some DOs to Consider
DO: Ask for permission to add to list – take it a step further and incentivize people to join your email list.
DO: Segment your list (members vs. floaters vs. floated only once vs. never floated)
DO: Provide value! Don’t just remind people you’re around or offer mediocre deals, make sure you WOW them!
A few DON’Ts to avoid
Don’t add people you meet in person without explicit permission. Make sure people have opted in (no uploading your contact list)
Don’t go overboard. You’ve earned their trust to be in their inbox, don’t start blasting them with daily emails.
“The biggest ROI in marketing is the reply button” – Chris Brogan
Encourage your fans to provide feedback, ask you questions, and participate in contests, giveaways, and promotions. Keeping personal engagement with your customers will build stronger relationships over time. Respond quickly to any replies you receive. Often a customer’s first interaction with your center will be online. Make sure you give online inquiries the same service that you would in person.
Here’s your chance to join our email list…
We don’t send many emails, but when we do, you’ll learn something new about how to start and operate a float tank center… And if we ever disappoint, you can opt out at any time.
That’s the nature of email marketing. People will opt out, and that’s perfectly ok.
It’s better to have an engaged email list than a stale one with a poor open rate.