Creating an Email Strategy for a Tiny Audience

August 3, 2016

By Gretchen Scheiman

We don't all have audiences in the millions, or even thousands. Some brands have really tiny audiences, and no plans to make them bigger — ever. Maybe you're marketing to business owners who need special gear for some of their workers, or to health-care professionals who treat a specific rare disease, or to people who have reservations on a commercial space flight. No matter how you have defined your audience for your brand, you think you need an email strategy.
Here are some questions to answer when creating an email strategy for tiny audiences:

Are email communications right for this audience? First, make sure an email strategy makes sense. If your audience is small enough, you probably already have a dedicated sales force reaching out to them. If so, maybe email isn't right for you. But if your audience is geographically dispersed or just large enough (or sales-averse enough) that your sales channel isn't enough, then an email strategy may be a logical choice.

What are your goals for email communications? Are you driving leads, selling $X in gear, motivating training signups, or just educating your audience so they will be better buyers in the future? You need to have a goal or action in mind for your audience that you will be able to measure later. Once you have a goal, you can answer a lot of the other important questions more easily.

Which channels are right for your audience? Once you've decided that you need an email strategy, it's important to think through how you'll deliver all of your direct communications. Is your audience glued to their smartphones, or are they more receptive to direct mail? Should you be aligning communications with your sales efforts, or are you scaling back a live sales force and leaning more on CRM overall?

Your business plans and your customers' channel preferences will guide you to the right channels. A common choice is to start with email and layer in direct mail and sales calls by phone. Email is the workhorse of CRM, after all, and it's inexpensive to produce. But you need to think through your audience and their needs before committing to one channel vs another.

How often should you reach out to your audience? It's great to know where you can reach your audience, but that doesn't tell you how often you should try to get their attention. Remember, you probably have other marketing in place: PR, digital media, sales collateral, print, etc. So you need to think about how often to invade their inbox or mailbox or phone in that context.

What can you do that's different? It's likely that the people you are trying to talk to have a sense of just how unique they are. This doesn't mean that you need to wow them with tickets for two to "Hamilton," but you should think through the value you can offer in your communications. Make it special.

Maybe you can offer larger-than-usual product samples, or pass-along materials for their customers or patients, or maybe you can use communications to notify your audience of special training programs (to get them ready for that space flight). Whatever offers you plan to communicate, make sure they are relevant to your product and to your customers' needs that brought them to your brand.

How will you measure success? This one is tricky. Tiny audiences are not big enough for traditional statistically significant measurement methods. Even directionally, the usual metrics will lead you astray. Go back to your goals and focus on how you can determine if you've met those. How many sales do you need? How much engagement will indicate that you're on the right track?

Source

"Creating an Email Strategy for a Tiny Audience." MediaPost, 8/3/16.

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