Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways for any small business to connect with local customers. As larger companies scramble to personalize their emails, small businesses naturally benefit from their local knowledge and experience. What’s more, an increasing number of consumers prefer to shop locally. According to a 2020 study, 82 percent of shoppers said they would rather support a local business than a large corporation (1).
If you want to use local email marketing to promote your small business, this guide looks at:
- The benefits of local email marketing.
- How to choose an email marketing tool.
- How to build an email list, online and offline.
- Various types of local email content.
First, let’s look at what local email marketing means.
What is Local Email Marketing?
While regular email marketing involves sending emails to a wider pool of customers and prospects to promote a business, local email marketing involves targeting customers and prospects from a specific geographic area.
Small businesses can use various online marketing strategies to support the growth of their business locally, but email marketing offers many unique benefits.
What Are the Benefits of Local Email Marketing?
Build Your Local Reputation
By sending out helpful email content and attractive offers to local consumers, you can quickly build your reputation in the community. Ultimately, it enables you to grow your brand organically through word of mouth and referral activity, increasing trust in your business.
Save Time and Money
Direct mail advertising, TV and radio ads, search engine ads, and social media ads are expensive if you’re on a tight budget. In contrast, email marketing costs very little and offers a high return on your investment. With email automation and bulk email broadcasting, you can reach a large number of potential customers using very little time and resources.
Increase Traffic to Your Online Channels
By including relevant links within your emails, you can expose more people to your website content and social media conversations.
Reach Mobile Consumers
An increasing number of consumers read emails on their mobile phones, so you can reach your target audience wherever they are at all times of the day.
Generate More Sales
Email marketing is one of the best ways to increase sales throughout the year, especially if traffic to your brick-and-mortar store is down. According to a Direct Marketing Association study, 66 percent of consumers made a purchase online because of an email marketing message (2).
Increase Customer Loyalty
Sending useful emails to local customers not only strengthens your reputation, but it also fosters customer loyalty. When customers know they can rely on you for helpful content and exclusive deals, they’re more likely to stick around.
Most email marketing tools allow you to track what happens after you’ve delivered your emails. You can track open rates, click through rates, unsubscribe rates, and more to learn how your emails are performing. You can then use this data to better understand the needs and interests of your audience.
How to Choose an Email Marketing Tool
Choosing the right email marketing tool will help you create more effective email marketing campaigns. Here are a few key features you should look out for:
- Multiple subscription tiers. Look for a provider that offers cheap or free plans for smaller businesses. You can then upgrade as you grow.
- Analytics tools. You should be able to get a detailed overview of how your emails are performing, with access to open rates, unsubscribe rates, click-through rates, and more.
- An A/B testing tool. This tool allows you to test different versions of an email on a small group of subscribers. For example, you could send two groups the same email, but change the subject line for each group. You can then compare the results and send the best version of the email to the rest of your list.
- Email survey tools. Your email marketing platform should make it easy to create surveys and send them to your list. Gathering feedback will help you optimize future marketing campaigns.
- A visual editor. Most tools offer a drag-and-drop editor to help you quickly create attractive-looking emails. You should also get access to pre-designed templates.
- Autoresponders. These are emails that are sent automatically to your subscribers when certain events are triggered, based on rules that you define. For example, you could set up an autoresponder to send a welcome message to anyone that signs up to your mailing list.
- Segmentation tools. Dividing your subscribers into sub-groups is an important part of being able to send more personalized, effective messages. For example, you can segment subscribers based on their location, age, gender, interests, and so on.
- Mobile optimized templates. More and more users are opening emails on mobile devices, so your emails need to be easy to read on smaller screens.
These features are a good starting point to find the best tool for your business. Some of the most popular email marketing platforms for small businesses are Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Sendinblue, GetResponse, Drip, ConvertKit, and AWeber. Some of these platforms even offer free plans for businesses with smaller email lists.
Local Email Marketing List-Building Strategies
Before you start to build your email list, it’s important to categorize your existing email addresses into groups based on their location. By segmenting your list, you can be sure you’re sending out the right messages to the right people.
There are various ways to grow your list, but these are the best online and offline methods:
- Place signup forms across your website – on your homepage, about page, contact page, and alongside blog posts.
- Use popup forms that get triggered after users have spent a certain amount of time on your website, after they’ve scrolled down a certain percentage of a page, or when they start to exit a page.
- Create a full-page call-to-action when users land on your website. Known as a welcome mat, this technique is a great way to grab the attention of visitors and encourage them to join your email list.
- Include a link to your email signup form on your social media profiles, and within posts.
- Encourage in-store customers to sign up during checkout.
- Clearly display a URL to your sign-up page on business cards, flyers, and shopping bags.
- Collect email addresses at trade shows and other business events that you attend or host.
- Partner with other local businesses to promote each other’s deals. For example, you could create a community-based email list with exclusive deals from various businesses.
With all of these methods, it’s crucial to provide an incentive to sign up, such as a discount code, access to exclusive content, or a customer loyalty rewards program.
Local Email Marketing Content Ideas
Once you have a growing list of email subscribers, you should aim to consistently deliver engaging emails. Here are nine different types of email content you can bring into play:
Create an editorial calendar based around regular holidays and events in your local area. Apart from national holidays, include local events such as community festivals, local historical anniversaries, exhibitions, and sporting fixtures. Then include events tied to your business, such as company anniversaries, workshops, trade shows, fundraisers, and product launches. Base each email campaign around these specific events, using special offers to encourage engagement with your business.
New Product Promotions
While product launches can be an in-store event, you can also keep it virtual. Whenever you’re releasing a new product or service, never waste this opportunity to involve your email subscribers. Encourage users to try your new products with limited-time offers or discounts.
Any new developments in your company can be used to create email content. For example, keep subscribers informed about your changing business hours, new staff, new locations, or reformed work processes.
To lower unsubscribe rates, you need to regularly deliver helpful content to your audience. What problems do your readers face? What tips and advice can you offer to improve their lives? For example, a dog grooming business might send tips about the best places to take dogs in the local area.
If you’re not sure what your audience wants to hear about, send out a survey. Surveys are not only a good way to get to know your audience, but they also give you valuable feedback about your business, products, and services. What do customers like and dislike about your business? What do they think about local issues? Report the results in a follow-up email and share the results with local newspapers for free publicity.
Consider setting up a loyalty program that rewards customers for sticking with your business. For example, offer a VIP loyalty program that offers discounts, free deliveries, and early access to new products. Promote the loyalty program during the email signup process.
Showing customers your real employees helps to humanize your company and builds trust with your audience. Show real photos of your team at work and consider interviewing team members to give readers an insight into your company.
If you’ve collected enough information from subscribers during the signup process, you can deliver more personalized offers to make your emails stand out. For example, send customers exclusive discounts on their birthday and subscription anniversary. You can also offer special deals on related products or services to people that have recently made a purchase.
You should definitely promote new blog posts on social media. However, you can also promote content to your email subscribers; just do it less frequently. Consider highlighting your most popular blog posts of the last three months or share a roundup of your most popular posts of the year.
Boost Small Business Results with Local Email Marketing
There are many benefits of local email marketing for small businesses, but the bottom line is that it’s the most cost-effective way to attract, engage, and retain local customers. It takes time and dedication to grow a small business, but you have the advantage of local knowledge – unlike larger companies.
Draw on your local insights to deliver relevant and helpful email content to your audience and reward your subscribers with special offers. At the same time, grow your email list by using the online and offline strategies outlined here. When you do this consistently, you’ll steadily build your reputation in the local community, attract more potential customers to your business, and ultimately increase sales in the process.