In episode 58, hosts Elizabeth Larkin and Gene Marks answer a question about email frequency to your small business customers:
“If I wanted to start an email marketing campaign, how often would I have to reach out to my customers? Would I need to start doing content marketing, and what even is that?”
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Elizabeth: Alright. Welcome back to the Small Biz Ahead Podcast. I’m here with Gene, and Gene, I want to know, how often do you call your current customers?
Gene: Actually pick up the phone and call them?
Elizabeth: Yeah, just to say hi.
Gene: Not that often. I mean, it’s such a good question, because phone calls, they’re tough nowadays, aren’t they? I mean, people don’t want to get phone calls.
Gene: If I don’t have anything to talk about, what am I? “Hey, Elizabeth, what’s going on?” You know, people are busy and running around during the day, so I don’t normally call, just like, have just a call… I email a lot, to my customers. And I see them at events. We put on a lot of events in my company. Meetups, and events for training, and support for the products we sell, so customers come to that. That’s an opportunity to see them.
Elizabeth: So if you’re a small business owner in the Philly area, what is your meetup group?
Gene: We have a few of them. We have a meetup group for each of the products that we sell.
Gene: We have one, we have a Dynamics CRM meetup group, a Zoho CRM meetup group, a Salesforce meetup group, and then we have it in a hotel outside of the city.
Elizabeth: Is it networking?
Gene: Yeah. What we do is, it’s two hours of basically free training.
Gene: So anybody comes, and we actually buy coffee and bagels and all that, and we pick one topic to talk about, like, “How does Salesforce’s email integrate with Outlook?” And we have a discussion on that, and then we open it up for questions back and forth.
Elizabeth: Do you get a lot of good questions?
Gene: Yeah, and we get a lot of… it’s been growing every month, so we get anywhere from 20 to 40 people show up. It started out with just a couple, and we do it for two reasons. We have existing clients that come, so it’s nice to see them, and it’s also nice to just give them something for free.
Like come on out, and whatever. Because we’ve learned, even though they get the information for free, nobody’s smart enough to do it on their own, so they’re just like, “Yeah, this is all very nice. Why don’t you guys come on in here and set this up for us?”
Elizabeth: So it’s basically upselling.
Gene: It is. It’s a chance to upsell, and then of course it’s a prospecting thing as well. Some people that are users of the product already, but they need help, they’ll come in as well.
Elizabeth: So you would recommend that for service-based business like yours?
Gene: I think events are great. I really do. We do a lot of online events, we do a lot of on-site events. I have a real … you talk about phone calls, we do this in lieu of phone calls.
When we do these meetup groups, if we get 30 people that sign up to come, I don’t care if nobody shows up. I really don’t, because we got their contact information.
Gene: And now I’ve got a reason to email them and say, “Hey, can you make it, or-”
Elizabeth: And you got bagels and donuts, all to yourself.
Gene: And we got all the bagels and donuts, you bring it back. Everybody gets to keep it.
Elizabeth: Alright, we’re going to be right back with our question. This is about how often you should be emailing your customers.
Gene: Every hour.
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QUESTION: How Often Should I Email My Customers?
Elizabeth: Our question today is from Kenny in Kansas, and he’s a personal trainer. He writes:
“If I wanted to start an email marketing campaign, how often would I have to reach out to my customers? Would I need to start doing content marketing, and what even is that?”
I’m going to tackle the content marketing question, because that’s what I do.
Gene: Go for it.
Elizabeth: Content marketing is figuring out who your customers are, which I know sounds crazy to a small business owner, but some business owners don’t really have a good sense of who their customers are.
Elizabeth: So you find out who your customers are, and then you give them content that helps them use, or take advantage of, your products. In the form of a personal trainer, content marketing would be sharing or creating content on fitness, diet-
Elizabeth: Nutrition. Anything really related to personal training. What Kenny would do is, he’d go find a writer, maybe a college student. Gene’s favorite thing is to suggest finding a college student.
Gene: Marketing kid… find the college kid, right?
Elizabeth: Have them write some basic articles on training, or you could do videos. Actually, I think videos would probably work best, and then you have that content to then put up on your social media platforms, and to use in your email. As far as email marketing, I think the standard is at least once a month.
Gene: It really does depend on email… and by the way, the content, just to even out, that’s a great description of content marketing. Really, it should be of value. It should not be selling anything.
Gene: It should be just of educational value. How can I help my customers, or my community?
Elizabeth: Actually, that’s a good idea. What do you use for content marketing, and just a reminder, Gene’s company sells CRM systems.
Gene: Yeah, so we’re in the technology business, so what we do for our content marketing, we send emails. I want to talk about how often you should be doing this. I have a lot of different email lists, and the content depends on the list.
The frequency depends on the list. We’ve got a list of people that right now, and there’s like a thousand people on this list. The people that I’ve had communications with before in the past. Might have been interested. They fell off the face of the Earth for whatever reason. They get an email from me once a quarter.
Gene: Once a quarter. And that is usually on some general sales and marketing topic. Because-
Elizabeth: Okay. So it’s not about CRM systems, it’s just about-
Gene: No, not about CRM. Just a general, because I can do that, because CRM has to do with sales and marketing. So just a general sales and marketing topic. Hope this information helps, hope you’ve been well, and that’s what we do.
We have lists of people that are actual customers, that are using the products that we sell, and they’re every three months we email to them, and it’s… I call it my “how is” list. “How is Zoho?” I come up with, you know, “How you making out, any questions, anything that you like, whatever.” Specifically, or I’ll email to them every three months, some specific Zoho tip, [inaudible 00:07:11] I know you’re a Zoho customer, so here, Zoho integrates great with a phone system, you might want to consider trying out this add-on. Let me know if you need any help.
Elizabeth: And then they call you. Yeah. They call you like, “I don’t know how to do that.”
Gene: “I don’t know what to do. Sounds great, so why don’t you come on in to…” So it’s education, but the idea there is that hopefully they’re going to need some help, and they’ll come back to me.
Then we have newsletters. People sign up for our newsletters, and that’s a monthly newsletter. We say it right up front. If you’re interested in, I use Zoho or SalesForce, whether you’re a client, maybe you’re just a Zoho user in Alaska. You signed up for our monthly newsletter, and then we have tips on the monthly… the question is, how often do you email?
It depends on your audience, and nowadays people don’t just blast out an email to their entire database. They have it segmented down into multiple lists in their database, and each list has got not only a specific type of content you’re delivering, but also what the frequency is.
Elizabeth: You can tell, because I deal with a lot of small businesses that I use, just in the Hartford area in real life, you can tell the ones that segment their lists, and the ones that don’t.
Elizabeth: So for a personal trainer, Kenny, I would say you want to create one list of your current clients, and then you want to create a second list of people who have inquired, or former clients.
Gene: Perfect idea. People that have… that are former clients, or maybe you’re right, they’ve inquired about your services, and then I think you might want to have a third list of people that are… they could be cold prospects, but you have a hunch that they might… these are people that you might have met at networking events, or social… They didn’t even inquire about your services, but they might be out there.
So your clients could be hearing from you once a month, because they like you, and you already gave them a fitness tip. You’re going to recommend a good product, or a good whatever.
Elizabeth: Remind them how to do a good squat.
Gene: Yeah, whatever. And then there’s your prospects, which maybe that’s once a quarter, you know what I mean? That you’re going to be… and then that third list, the people that are sort of out there, that might have an interest in whatever, once or twice a year, maybe.
The bottom line is that you want your customers to… you want to stay in touch with your customers so they’re coming back for more, you want your prospects, and those other people that are out there, everybody has an issue. We all think about fitness at different times of the year.
We all do, and there is a certain percentage of the people in your database, Kenny, that are going to be like, “You know what? This is ridiculous, dude. I’ve eaten way too many Ring Dings, and I’m watching way too much Netflix, and I need to get fitter, and I can’t do it myself, so I think I should get a fitness coach. You know what? I get these emails from this Kenny guy every couple of months. I like him. I think I’ll reach out to-”
Your job, Kenny, is to be touching those people just enough, so that when they discover that they determine that they need your services, they think of you first.
Gene: And again, it just depends on the list that you’re targeting.
Elizabeth: Now how to get started with email marketing. The first thing to do is to choose what software you’re going to use. I think the most well-known one at this point is probably MailChimp.
Gene: Constant Contact is also really well, yeah.
Elizabeth: Constant Contact, yeah.
Gene: AWeber, these are all really good.
Elizabeth: We’re going to list it. We’ve listed, we’ve talked about all those before.
Gene: Yeah, sure. Sure.
Elizabeth: But it’s actually really easy to set up different-
Elizabeth: I think in MailChimp, it’s called Campaigns: your different lists. They all have different terminology. This is something that if you don’t really have the time to do it, you could hire one of Gene’s college students.
Gene: College students, and I always keep saying, or somebody part-time to help you out and do that.
Gene: I’m a believer in having people assist you in doing that stuff.
Elizabeth: So you might have what, a $500 initial investment in hiring someone to help you, putting your list together, creating a template for your emails and that stuff.
Gene: I actually think that personally you’re going to hire-
Elizabeth: That’s on the high end, too.
Gene: Yeah, actually I think it’s somebody you’re going to hire is going to be only average anywhere from around 50 bucks an hour, is what you’re going to pay.
Gene: It might be less, it might be a little bit more, but if you use around number 50 bucks an hour for somebody to help you.
Elizabeth: You would pay a college student $50 an hour?
Gene: Not that much. No, a college student would be like, 20 bucks an hour or 25, but you might find a good part-timer somewhere else that is-
Elizabeth: Guru, Fiverr-
Gene: Yeah, Fiverr, Guru, right. So those are sites that you can find somebody that might be just that much more experienced than a college kid.
And then, when you think about it, if the person’s going to be sending out one newsletter a month, one newsletter a quarter, one news… how much time that goes into each newsletter, should probably take two to three hours of work.
Gene: I think it should cost you about 150 bucks each time you send out a newsletter.
Elizabeth: Once the initial work is done, and that college student or whoever has set everything up, you would probably be able to just do it on your own.
Gene: But don’t. Don’t.
Elizabeth: But don’t.
Gene: Yeah, you’re better off spending your time and efforts on what you do best. And let somebody else do that for you. Just make sure they’re doing the content the right way.
Elizabeth: Okay. I would also like to ask our listeners to weigh in. If you have a small business and you do content marketing, tell us what topic you write about, or you produce content for for your business. If you have a small business and you don’t do content marketing, also post in the comments, and then I will go and weigh in on what topic I think you should be creating content on, and Gene will as well.
Gene: I like it.
Elizabeth: Okay, we’ll be right back with Gene’s Word of Brilliance.
WORD OF BRILLIANCE: Mister Rogers
Elizabeth: It’s Word of Brilliance time. Gene, take it away.
Gene: My word is Mister Rogers. Did you ever watch Mister Rogers?
Elizabeth: Of course I did.
Gene: Right, did you? So what guys, that’s certainly not dating yourself. If you’re too young to remember Mister Rogers, then-
Elizabeth: He’s still on in repeats.
Gene: Yeah, he is, wonderful TV show. Beautiful show about… Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
Elizabeth: Was he on when you were a kid?
Gene: Oh yeah.
Elizabeth: And he was on when your kids were…
Gene: Yeah, although my kids weren’t big fans of his, but he was big in the 70’s and the 80’s, when he was-
Elizabeth: Are your kids monsters?
Gene: Yeah, they are monsters, actually. They are monsters.
So they were at the Rugrats generation. Nickelodeon. But Mister Rogers is wonderful. Ran Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. He was beloved figure. He died a few years ago, but anyway, he was in the news recently, because the terrible events that happened back in May in Manchester, there was a quote from Mister Rogers. It was actually Mister Rogers’ mother. I don’t know if you saw this, it was viral, which basically said, when everything really bad happens, look for the helpers. Right?
Elizabeth: Yes. I’ve been seeing that, unfortunately, a lot lately.
Gene: That was a Mister Rogers’ generated quote, which again, I think it’s his mother, but it was attested to him.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Ascribed to him.
Gene: So anyways, so that brought another story that I wrote about, and this has a small business connection to it. There’s a guy named Anthony Breznican. He was a writer for Entertainment Weekly, and he wrote this viral piece. A story, that I think that resonates with anybody who runs a small business.
He was a college student at the University of Pittsburgh, and he grew up with Mister Rogers. This guy right now is in his 30s. Anyways, he’s not that old. I mean, this wasn’t that long ago, it’s 10 or 15 years ago. He was in college, and he was really down in the dumps. His grandfather had died. Things weren’t going so well. He was really bumming out or whatever.
Anyway, he’s in Pittsburgh. Fred Rogers lived in Pittsburgh. That’s where his show was broadcast out. Anthony, for some reason was in an office building, again, he was at Pitt, but he was in an office building, and he gets in the elevator, and who’s in the elevator but Mister Rogers.
Elizabeth: Oh my god.
Gene: It’s just him and Mister Rogers. And this is a guy, this iconic… he grew up with Mister Rogers.
Elizabeth: That’s a celebrity sighting.
Gene: Yeah. And so Mister Rogers in the elevator with Anthony, and Anthony just had to take the time to say, “Listen, I just want to let you know, you really helped me when I was a kid. I loved your show, and I’ve been feeling kind of down lately, and I was actually just thinking about you recently, and you’ve given me comfort.”
And what does Fred Rogers do? He was on the way to some meeting in this office building. They got to Anthony’s floor. Fred Rogers got out of the elevator with this guy, this kid, this college kid, and sat down with him and said, “Tell me what’s wrong. What’s been bothering you?”
Elizabeth: Oh my god. I would just start bawling immediately.
Gene: He did. He got all teary, and he started telling him about how much he missed his grandfather, and how things were kind of whatever, and Fred Rogers told him a story about his grandfather when he died, and how he still remembers him, and takes comfort, and he had this wonderful, warm conversation.
They went their separate ways, and it was just a moment for this guy, and he wrote about it just recently, recounting that, and I thought to myself, as business owners ourselves, are we really listening all the time to our customers’ problems? You asked me before, how often do I call my customers? I don’t.
Elizabeth: Totally put you on the spot.
Gene: Yeah, totally put me on the spot. I don’t actually call… I email them, checking in, you know what I mean?
Elizabeth: That’s fine.
Gene: How many times, Elizabeth, I have to tell you, we sell technology, so you can imagine I get lots of customers like, “Oh, this doesn’t work, that doesn’t, whatever.” How often do I really take the time to listen to what their pain is, and truly take an interest in help them, instead of just saying, “I don’t know dude, just turn it on and turn it off again, I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
Elizabeth: Yeah. Unplug it, plug it in again.
Gene: Yeah, unplug it, and then plug it back in. We’re so busy that we sometimes miss, and when we miss, by the way, we miss opportunities. We miss the opportunity to maybe help a customer, even if it’s not a revenue-generating thing, it could be a goodwill type of thing that solidifies your relationship, and then, you know, they-
Elizabeth: Much like content marketing.
Gene: Much like content marketing, it really is. Fred Rogers’ customers were always those kids, his audience, his fans that watch. He never forgot them. Even when he was off the air, he never forgot them.
Elizabeth: Oh my god, I’m going to start crying now.
Gene: It’s a great story.
Elizabeth: Now I bet Cory listens to your…
Gene: He listens because that’s his job. That’s his job.
Elizabeth: Okay, thanks for joining us, everyone. We’ll be back in a few days with another episode.
Gene: See you soon.