business_linkIn the last newsletter we introduced digital marketing and took a look at blogging. This month we will look at email marketing and a few legal rules.

So what is it?
It is an effective and cheap way of keeping in touch with and updating your customers. Email marketing can range from a quick, simple, email to update on say product information to a professionally designed newsletter. But let's establish an important point early on: Spam is a nuisance, can damage the sender's reputation and is illegal. Ensure that people on your contact list have opted to receive emails from you and are given the opportunity to opt out, more on this later.


This is a large and growing area full of jargon, and I am not going to attempt to explain it all here but we will look at a few digital marketing tools to give you a flavour.

Let's look at email newsletters:
You can use one of a number of paid-for online service providers for your newsletter, such as VerticalResponse.com or constantcontact.com and others easily found on search engines. Some of which may provide templates if you don't have your own, may allow you to check who opens the emails to view them and allow you to send bulk mailings without upsetting your own ISP.

Some tips on content to get you started:
 

  • Start with the customer: make sure you are sending information to the right people i.e. that they will find it useful and relevant to what they need.
  • Emails are highly flexible so customise as much as you can for individuals and groups of customers.
  • Grab the reader's attention with good quality headings that act as signposts to guide the reader through the newsletter.
  • Give the reader a good reason to read past your opening sentences by using content that will interest them.
  • Ensure that the content is accurate and relevant to the reader.
  • Give the content careful thought, simply presenting an extension of your sales brochure will not be read with as much interest as a mix of product information and other useful information and tips. The latter will also help build your credibility.
  • By all means include news about your company if that is relevant to your reader, but the bulk of the content should focus on how you can benefit your audience. Too many newsletters read like an in-house magazine and are a turn-off for the reader.
  • Promote your newsletter in your other marketing activity - use an opt-in box.
  • Create links in your newsletter to sections of your website.
  • Encourage the reader to pass the newsletter to friends and colleagues etc.
  • Be succinct, your readers will be busy people; get to the point early and keep it simple.
  • Use HTML format for making your newsletter appear like a website, but also offer a simple text version for people whose email doesn't read HTML; you could also offer a PDF format. Let the recipient choose when they opt in to receiving your newsletter.

Frequency needs careful thought, too often can be counter productive and too infrequently might mean they will forget you.

As always the style of writing is important, it should fall somewhere between the formal style of your brochure and leaflets and the informality of your blog.

Call to action - tell the reader what to do next: click on...; call us on...; see us at... etc.

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Some legal stuff:
 

  • Include your company name and contact details.
  • Information on pricing must be clear and unambiguous.
  • Include an opt-out facility and act on op-out requests quickly.
  • Only send to people that have consented by opting in. There are some exceptions to this i.e. where people have purchased from you, given you their email details and not opted out from receiving updates and newsletters or where you collect the customer's email address as part of the selling process. See www.ico.gov.uk for more on this.
  • Keep the readership list confidential - create mail groups that don't show details of recipients.
  • Make it clear that it is a commercial email either in the subject line or early in the main body.
  • Observe distance selling and online trading rules - see businesslink.gov.uk for more details.

That's all for this month.

 Peter Mulhall

Business Adviser

Business Link - the place to go for business support

Online: www.businesslink.gov.uk

BUSINESS LINK ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS

business link

I met someone at a networking event recently and we have decided that our companies should work together. Do you think that business co-operation or collaboration is a good idea?

In short: you can't be good at everything, so yes it may well be a good idea.

However, let's look at a few of the things that would be involved.

What opportunities do we want to capitalise on?

You will need to identify an opportunity. This might be submitting a joint bid on a tender, or entering another market sector, or a particularly large customer to target which otherwise you would not have the credibility, skill or the resources to convert into a customer. You may not identify a specific opportunity at the early stage, but all parties should have a purpose for wanting to collaborate.

Choose your partners - but choose wisely!

The choice of collaborative partner is critical. Sometimes the criteria for partner selection are woefully inadequate and more suitable to choosing a golf partner than a business partner. Getting on with business partners is essential, but more is needed.

Taking it on trust

Trust; this is a difficult one as it only truly forms with experience. There will be issues possibly, for some, on intellectual property and the need for confidentiality and confidentiality agreements. But ultimately you will need to trust partners, sometimes with sensitive information about your own business as you proceed to collaborate. Not only that, you will need to trust that the other parties will fulfil their responsibilities on the projects or ventures that you undertake; there will inevitably be division of labour and you are unlikely to be in a position to supervise, hands-on, the things that others are accountable for.

Skills match

One of the big advantages of business collaboration is that you gain access to skills and competencies not available in your own business i.e. the other party excels in areas where you are weak and vice versa. This doesn't happen automatically; drawing up a skills map and skills-auditing each potential partner in order to match skills required with skills available is a crucial part of the preparation stage.

Cultural match

If you, as a sole trader, are wanting to collaborate with other sole traders, understanding the other party's style of doing business, vision, view of the world around them, their values and beliefs and behaviours will be important for effective collaboration.

If you are a larger business with staff and even possibly a management team, how you go about understanding each other's business culture will need a lot of careful thought. Each MD spending time at the other's business getting to know people and processes is a good place to start.

Process matching

This is about how you or your company actually works from end to end. How you sell, market your products & services, communicate internally, & externally, deal with suppliers, customer relationship management; how you actually make the products and provide the service, how you run your admin and finance functions etc. Don't assume that because your own business runs effectively and smoothly that there will be no difficulties when you collaborate with others even if they too have a smooth running business.

Legal & structural aspects

Collaborative agreements or even legal entities may be needed depending on the depth of the relationship and complexity of the work being undertaken. Seek specialist advice.

So yes it is definitely an option to consider...

It is widely accepted that business cooperation / collaboration is a valid strategy for growing a business. There are huge benefits to be had from utilising the synergy of complementary businesses as well as potential economies of scale.

...but don't go into it blindfolded

We have only scratched the surface and looked at a few aspects, but even so it should be clear that some form of due diligence is needed before any decision is made. Good advice is essential for each party separately and, if the idea progresses, possibly a facilitator, either internal, or external to mediate and to project manage the formation and early stages of the partnership or joint-venture.

A sobering thought is that the majority of collaborative business relationships fail. So do your groundwork first, be prepared to put the time and effort into making the partnership work and you stand a chance of being one of those businesses that succeed with collaborative cooperative relationships.

In a nutshell:

  • Identify the business opportunity
  • Choose your partner carefully
  • Spend time getting to know them and their business
  • Take advice
  • Be clear about the risks and benefits

If you think that collaborative co-operative working is a possible strategy for you but you're not sure where to start, talk to one of our business advisers.

That's all for this month.

Peter Mulhall
Business Adviser
tel: 07717 290309

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Business Link - the place to go for business support

Online: www.businesslink.gov.uk/east

 

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