Small Business Email Marketing With Double Opt-In

Nobody in their right mind should ever consider generating SPAM on the internet. You know, those unsolicited emails containing various offers, deals, promotions, etc from people that you have never heard of. Is that not aggravating? Here is how to do an effective job of small business email marketing without ever resorting to sending spam.

All email systems, from AOL to Yahoo to Outlook to Gmail all employ a feature called “white listing”. The people on this list have been cleared by you for their messages to appear in your main “Inbox”. In addition to names that you intentionally place on this list, the email provider will also add to the white list the names of anybody to whom you send messages. The theory is that, if you personally send them messages, you have an established dialogue with them by default.

Once an email address is on the white list of your email system, all incoming messages from that address will automatically make it to your Inbox.

If you simply buy a list of email addresses or use someone else’s list, your address will not be on the white list of the addressee as you have not yet established a dialogue with that person. To send out such unsolicited emails is, in fact, SPAMming! You are at risk of having your IP address shut down for good if your Internet Service Provider (ISP) gets enough complaints.

The real and professional solution to this problem is to use a “Double Opt-In” methodology. In such a program, a visitor firsts requests to be on your list (first Opt-In) and then you send them a verification message to which they respond to verify the fact that they wish to be on your list (second Opt-In). After this dialogue takes place, you can be sure that your email address has been white listed on the visitor’s system. From then on, your messages will naturally make it to their inbox along with all other respected messages.

The best way to easily accomplish such a double opt-in program is to employ an autoresponder service from one of the many vendors on the Internet that provide this function. It is very inexpensive (usually $20 per month or less) and they are extremely effective.

When using an autoresponder for your small business email marketing, you first attract traffic to a “lead capture page” on the Internet wherein you ask visitors to provide you with their email address in order to receive something of value, such as a white paper on an interesting topic, a link to a mini-course on your topic, etc. Once they input their email address, the autoresponder system takes over, sending the visitor a verification email, receiving the verification prompt and activating their address on your double opt-in list.

Each new name added to you list will receive one or more email marketing messages that you had previously setup to be delivered in sequence and with a specified interval between messages. So, they might receive an introductory or thank you message right away followed by some sort of interesting tip or technique, followed by a special discount offer, etc, etc, etc. Of course, the visitor has the right to unsubscribe or “opt-out” at any time, so the burden is on you to keep your message stream interesting, informative and not too pushy.

By using such an approach, you can create a very effective small business email marketing program that will work for years to come!

Starting a Business? The 4 Things You Need to Succeed

With the desperate state of the economy, more and more Americans are looking to go into business for themselves. Entrepreneurship is the best (and only) way to take complete control of your work and financial future. Whatever business you are considering, there are a few universal requirements if your venture is going to succeed. The four fundamentals of business startup are time, money, knowledge, and support.

Time

Startups take time…much more time than many anticipate. If you plan to keep your regular job during the startup of your own company, expect to have zero free time in the foreseeable future. If you will be launching your venture full-time, expect your free time to be extremely limited, probably scheduled, and definitely overshadowed by thoughts of your startup.

Before you take the leap, prepare yourself for the inevitable demands on your time by finding and using an effective time-management system. Take a close look at how you currently spend your time and look for ways to reduce your commitments. Schedule necessary tasks, eliminate unnecessary tasks, and delegate anything you can. Look for blocks of time that can be committed to the startup. For some, getting up a few hours early or staying up late is effective, for others an entire schedule do-over is required. Everyone is busy these days, but the only way to succeed in business on your own is to commit the time and effort needed to get where you want to go.

Money

Start a business with NO money? Not if you want to succeed! The old adage is still true — it takes money to make money. How much you need depends on the type of business you are starting. And, even if you plan to find investors to fund the bulk of your venture, those investors will expect to see your own financial contribution to the startup before they will risk their cash.

That said, there are a million ways to cut the costs of startup and a savvy entrepreneur can launch a successful business for far less than the initial budget indicates. Bootstrapping doesn’t just save you cash during startup but also creates a culture of limited waste and efficient spending that will serve to boost the bottom line through the life of your business. Still, you have to put some cash up front to get your startup off the ground.

Knowledge

Startups require two broad categories of knowledge — operations and business fundamentals. The operations are what the business does, how it gets done, and steps or procedures that set your venture apart from the competitors. Business fundamentals are required for any type of business in any industry. This knowledge base includes the basics of accounting, marketing, financial management, networking, computer skills and the like. It is very common for entrepreneurs to be very knowledgeable in the operations of what they want to do and to rely on outsource professionals to manage the rest. Bad plan.

As the owner of a business, it is imperative that you learn and understand business fundamentals, even if you ultimately decide to outsource the actual day-to-day tasks related to those areas. For those who have a strong foundation in business skills, operational knowledge is far easier to assemble — you can hire an expert in the field, contract with consultants, or learn as you go. But the bottom line of any business is business — to be successful, the business owner must have a handle on the fundamentals.

Support

Launching a new business is highly stressful and it is critical that the entrepreneur have sufficient support to maintain their sanity. Be sure you have a few enthusiastic people on your side that you can access when the going seems rough. Your spouse or partner absolutely must be on your side, but you will need outside support, lest your entire relationship revolve around the business.

There will be plenty of people in your life asking you when you plan to find a real job, calling you “crazy” and “dreamer”, and otherwise looking to rain on your parade. (For the record, they are probably jealous…at least that’s what you should tell yourself). But there are always a few people, often the ones you least expect, who will emerge as your biggest cheerleaders. Starting a business isn’t easy, but having a small but strong support system can be the catalyst for keeping you motivated and on track to building the company of your dreams.

Whatever your business idea, your best chance of success comes with a realistic understanding of what it will take to launch the venture. Time and money are critical, and they are inversely proportional. Having more of one can make up for less of the other. Knowledge, especially of business fundamentals, is often sorely underappreciated by first-time entrepreneurs. In reality, business is all about business, no matter what the product, service, or industry. You need to know the basics of running a company, even if you are a world-renowned expert in the operations. Outside support is also significantly undervalued. Starting a business is a long, difficult road, and one that is not easy on the mental health of the entrepreneur. Having a strong support system can be the difference between giving up when the startup hits a roadblock and pushing through to ultimate success.

Home Business Management Requires Discipline

As new home businesses pop up, other home businesses are closing up shop and one of the main reasons for this is a lack of discipline leading to poor home business management. When you work for someone else, you will have a set schedule and a list of tasks that have to be followed. When you are working for yourself, you have to create and complete your own tasks and set timetables for yourself.

Anyone can go out there and start their own home business but this is not to say that everyone should do this. Generally, the people you find that open their own business and then shut it down are the people who should have never opened their business to begin with. A lack of a solid business plan and disciplined home business management are most likely fail modes. This is often because they lack the proper dedication that is needed to follow through and to keep up the pace that is needed in order to be successful.

Some people are just swept up by all of the advertisements and the word of mouth advertising when they hear just how great it is to work from home and to be your own boss. Even though having a home business can be a great thing, some people need that boss in order to get through the day.

Once all of the excitement of starting a home business wears off, it becomes apparent that it is not all fun and games. The entire success of the business depends solely on you. Everything from answering the phones to mailing packages, it is all on your shoulders and that can be a lot of stress for just one person to handle. As the business grows, you may be able to hire someone to help a little, but in the beginning, in order to keep costs down, you will be the one doing all of the work.

Do not quit your regular job to work from home because you think that you are going to have a lot of free time. When you are first starting up a business, you will find that you do not have a lot of free time at all. In order to make sure that all of the work in handled, you could very well find yourself working all through some nights. You might even find yourself spending less time with your family than you would like as you struggle to build a solid business.

For the first several months or maybe even the first couple of years, you will find that there is little extra money that you can spend. This is because you will have not only all of your home expenses but you will have bills for the business as well. You also have to make sure that you are sinking money back into the business in order to make sure that it grows.

As your business grows, you may find that the website that you first used is no longer able to handle the large bandwidth that you receive from all of the visitors to your site. In order to make sure that you are not losing your customers, you will need to upgrade or move to a web host that can provide the service you need. If you do not do this, the downtime of your website will result in a loss of sales.

Your office furniture and business equipment might also need to be upgraded and this will cost you more money of course. If your office desk is too small, no matter how much organization or time management you put into it, you are likely to have a hard time finding things. You might also have to purchase larger hard drives, better printers and you might want to upgrade your business phone lines so that you can go wireless.

Now, when you hear people advertise about their wonderful life working from home, you will hear all about the glitz and glamour. You will be told you can sleep until noon and you can work in your comfortable pajamas. If you think this would be a good idea, you would be wrong because businesses need to be run on a schedule in order to succeed. Orders are placed, customers need to be contacted and most of this has to be done during set hours during the day. It does not matter if you are taking the packages to the post office yourself or if you are scheduling to have them picked up, this is something that you have to tend to. Once things are running a little more smoothly, you might be able to cut back on some of your hours and have some of your employees pick up the slack, but you will find that you are generally very business and hardly have free time.