Email is often underutilized by small, local businesses despite the fact that it boasts a whopping 122 percent ROI — more than four times that of social media and direct mail. Whether you own or operate an auto repair shop, landscaping business, tax preparation service or other local business, here’s how you can leverage the power of email to win new customers and keep them coming back.
Local email marketing ideas
Email marketing should promote your business, but your email strategy should also feature value-added content that motivates opens, influences clicks, fosters trust and ultimately earns sales. Try these proven email marketing strategies for local businesses.
1. Create an editorial calendar around events, holidays and local happenings
A local focus will endear your business to local customers, so map out an editorial calendar based on the holidays, events and other local happenings important to your audience. Ideas include:
- Promotions for community holiday shopping days: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Giving Tuesday, for example.
- Special offers for annual events: Consider homecoming dances, community festivals, parades and historical anniversaries.
- Interesting historical facts about your city: These can segue to the importance of shopping at downtown businesses.
- Seasonal offers relevant to your local audience: For instance, people in northeast communities need to weather the winter cold, while those in southwest communities need to beat the summer heat.
- Promotions tied to local athletics: A restaurant can offer a pre-game special while a spa might offer a discount based on the number of points scored by the local football team.
- Local gift guides: Consider promoting top-selling holiday gifts in your local area or the most-wanted Christmas gifts based on local feedback — a great way to drive business to local retailers.
Want more great ideas for building an editorial calendar around local happenings? Watch Season 4 of Small Business Revolution, where our Deluxe colleagues help Searcy, Arkansas-based creperie and coffee shop Savor + Sip harness the power of local email marketing.
2. Craft valuable newsletters
The best email newsletters are packed with valuable tips and tricks your audience can use to solve their problems, achieve their goals and improve their lives. Your newsletter lends authority to your business, establishes solidarity with your audience and fosters long-term customer loyalty. Ideas include:
- How-to tips with a local focus: For example, a beauty salon might feature tips about how to maintain skin health in cold, dry climates or a landscaper might send a tip about the best local source for garden soil.
- Localized guides: Anyone can send a guide to landscaping a home, but only a local landscaper knows which plants grow best in your community. What unique local insights can you share with your audience?
- Important local announcements: Is the city utility rate going up? A local hardware store might offer energy-saving tips to keep costs low. Keep abreast of local news and identify relevant tie-ins that educate and help your customers as well as naturally promote your business.
There are plenty of great email newsletter topics. Pick one, then apply a local focus to give your business a competitive advantage customers will love.
3. Promote a rewards/loyalty program
Many local businesses offer rewards/loyalty programs, and email is a fantastic way to boost enrollment. Use email marketing to:
- Create excitement for your program and detail the benefits of signing up.
- Ask existing customers to send referrals your way in return for a special discount or reward.
- Send customers gifts on special days, such as birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and more.
You can also send reminders for customers to check their rewards account balances online and to share your program with their friends and family members on social media so they can reap the rewards, too.
4. Create customer spotlights and case studies
The proof is in the pudding, and you can use email marketing to show your audience how you’ve helped local customers just like them. It’s a great way to prove you understand their needs and can deliver solutions. Ideas include:
- Customer spotlights and testimonials
- Case studies that detail exactly how you solved a common local problem
- Before and after photos for a visual experience that highlights your capabilities
Customer spotlights, case studies and photos help you show off what you know, which motivates customer responses.
5. Gain customer insights
Polls and surveys can help you learn more about your local audience, which can, in turn, inform future email marketing and boost ROI. Try these ideas:
- Send a poll or survey to get customer feedback on local trends
- Report the results in a follow-up email. Local residents will no doubt find them interesting, and it presents a perfect opportunity to promote a relevant product or service
- Share the results with your local newspapers, radio stations, television stations, popular bloggers and other media members — a fantastic way to get free PR
Your polls and surveys can ask about customer behavior, favorite products and trends, or even get opinions about local hot button issues. Start by determining which questions you want to answer and if those insights will have local appeal — and if there is a natural segue to your business. If so, you have a winning poll or survey idea. (By the way, VerticalResponse makes surveying customers quick and easy.)
6. Send special offers
Email marketing is an easy way to send special offers to your subscribers. You can:
- Send promotional emails with a single, time-limited discount to motivate quick sales
- Include a special offer at the end of every email newsletter
- Subtly embed references to your products and services throughout your email content
Email is a great way to reach local customers with valuable content intertwined with timely, relevant promotions that drive local customers to your door.
How to get local subscribers
These are all great local email marketing ideas, but you can’t implement them without a subscriber list. The good news is building one won’t add a ton of work to your already busy schedule. In fact, you can automate nearly everything with email marketing tools. Here are ideas for building a local email subscriber list.
- Automatically enroll customers, loyalty card members, callers and people who email or fill out your contact form into your list. Make sure cashiers know to collect email addresses during checkout
- Invite Facebook and other social media followers to subscribe to your email newsletter. Sweeten the deal with an instant incentive
- Add a form to your website, either in the sidebar, in the content or as a pop-up. Offer a discount incentive or go with a lead magnet to boost your subscription rate
- Partner with other local businesses to create a community deals email list, or share subscribers with one another (just make sure they know they’re signing up for a community-wide list that will deliver great content and offers from multiple businesses)
Check out more great ideas for building an email list.
Advanced local email marketing tips
Once you get your feet wet, you can take advantage of these advanced strategies to get more out of your email marketing.
- A/B split testing: Test multiple versions of the same email to see which performs best. Then, send the winner to your entire list.
- Segment lists: Most businesses have different types of customers. Segment your lists by interests or demographics to send the most relevant information and offers. Doing so can increase responses exponentially.
- Automate email marketing: Create a series of emails designed to nurture leads over time, then send them on schedule with an email autoresponder program. Set it and forget it!
- Measure response: Use email analytics to measure open rates and clicks. Identify which emails work best, then emulate those efforts for future campaigns so you can improve your email marketing over time.
Email is a powerful and affordable tool local small businesses can use to boost sales. Use these tips to connect with local customers, earn referrals, beat the competition and keep business coming through your door.