My family owns a granola business. Olde Man Granola is a relatively new company – about 5 years old. I’ve watched them work so hard for little personal gain. They do everything themselves, including small-scale marketing if/when they have the resources. Their focus is making delicious granola. Those involved have families, work multiple jobs, and one is a full time student. I often find myself brainstorming what the best way to help them would be. “Do It Yourself” Content Marketing A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the inaugural Denver Digital Summit. I was looking forward to the content as it looked super relevant to my interest in email and making sure it’s used properly. I was specifically curious about what would be said regarding how to use email as a medium to acquire new business and retain customers. There were many well-spoken thoughts on where digital marketing is and what’s to come. It was a great conference. One unintentional theme that caught my attention was the concept of “Do It Yourself” content marketing. How can those in small companies effectively market without the resources that a larger organization can bring? There are many places to go for help sending email, but I know my family wouldn’t know where to begin to look. They use a pay as you go service that gives them the templates they need to send email. That’s the extent of their knowledge. 4 Steps to Growing Your Business How can those of us in the industry help our brothers, sisters, friends, parents, and local community use email to build successful businesses? There’s no option to invest money because that $$ is just not there…yet. There are many things that go into maintaining a relevant, engaging subscriber base, but I know that it can be broken down into bite size pieces to help your business start off on the right foot so that when growth happens, you’re already doing the right things. Here are 4 steps that will help you start your program well: Build a strategy: It’s great that you plan on sending a monthly email(or already do), but take the time to map out a strategy. Clearly outline what your subscribers are going to want to hear from you. Then map out how you would like that to help your business. Then, come up with a way to measure your goals so you know if it’s working and if changes need to be made. Here’s the start of a simple strategy for Olde Man Granola: Target email recipient? Granola lovers What do granola lovers want to hear?Expanded use for the flavors they love. Benefit to Olde Man Granola? Provide users with more reasons to purchase, create brand awareness, increase revenue. Other questions that need to be answered: How are successes from email going to be measured? What goals are you going to attribute to your email program? What tools are going to be used to send these emails? Collect email addresses ASAP: As soon as there’s an opportunity, start organically collecting email addresses. As with many businesses, early stage customers of Olde Man Granola were family and friends. I still remember the day an order was received from someone there was no connection to–that was an exciting time! The beginning of a business is filled with people who love you and want to hear from you. Make sure you seize the opportunity to communicate with those raving fans that are wanting to see you succeed! With all the sweat you are putting into building your business – you shouldn’t let collecting email addresses fall through the cracks. Building an email program starts with organic collection and taking advantage of the opportunity to communicate with those who really want to hear from you. Warning: At the beginning of the life of your company, it’s tempting to rent or purchase lists. Don’t do it, they’ll do more harm then good! Start your program out well. Get your permission before emailing your customers: Tell those who are willingly giving you a place in their busy lives what you’re going to be sending them and ask for permission to send those emails. Not only is this best practice – it’s also required by certain legislation. CASL is one of the newer laws and goes into effect on 7/1. Engage: Once you have email addresses of those that have asked to hear from you, follow through with that! I know when I’m told I’m going to get a coupon or recipe from a business I really enjoy frequenting, I look for those things. Collecting email addresses is great, but if you’re not going to do it in a way that grows your brand and helps you continue to make raving fans, why do it? Email has such a high ROI. As a business, start now–and do it the right way. Every time someone opens one of your emails, you’re having a conversation. Make that conversation something meaningful and set the expectation that your customers will receive what they want. Once that expectation has been set, keep that trust and help them continue to love your brand.