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Five Commandments of Small-Biz Email Marketing Awesomeness

by Gary Levitt  |  
November 23, 2011

In this article, you'll learn...

  • Why it's important to "be human" in your emails
  • What customer-centric tactics will help you gain and keep email subscribers

Before we even start, let's ask: Is email marketing for your small business even worth doing? Yes and no. Yes, if you do it well. No, if you take the path of mediocrity. Sure, tools can make email marketing easier, but it'll still take time and effort. Before you invest any precious time into email marketing, take on the mindset that "good enough" isn't good enough.

Countless small businesses send out countless emails every day. If you were to sift through campaigns and results (as I do), the mountains of data would suggest two breeds of email campaign: the outstanding... and the invisible. Your emails need to be outstanding.

A "bad" email promotion can be much harder to produce than an outstanding one because it involves laboring over imitation and so-called best-practices... sterilizing the soul out of your verbiage only to get lost in a sea of lookalikes and clichés. It's much easier to make an outstanding email because that involves just being yourself and enjoying the process.

With that in mind, here are my Five Commandments for email awesomeness—tailor-made for small businesses.

1. Perfection can be a huge imperfection

The other day, I met a gelled, buffed, and dry-cleaned car salesman delivering a flawless pitch to an elevator-music soundtrack. Why did he make my skin crawl? Because I wasn't seeing him. It was a projection, a front, a lie. His shtick was so universally and calculatedly inoffensive... that it became somewhat offensive. Do not do that in your emails.

Be you. The best brands—much like the best people—have an identity, a voice, idiosyncrasies, and unpredictable quirks. That is the stuff of relationships, the brand glue that turns customers into friends.

Think about the emails you read most—your priority emails. They're from friends, family members, and co-workers: emails packed with quirks and typos and life, but always relevant and real. Relationships are what dominate real email communication. To become a priority, you have to be human, not a watered-down, mass-oriented chunk of supposed perfection.

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Gary Levitt is the CEO of Mad Mimi in New York and is responsible for tactical aspects of Mad Mimi's development and brand. Gary was born on a remote farm in Southern Africa and went to school with Nelson Mandela's grandchildren; he was also a skateboard pro and champion, and a professional bass player.

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  • by Erika Barkhuizen Wed Nov 23, 2011 via mobile

    Good advice. Now to set about doing it

  • by HCG corporate designs Wed Nov 23, 2011 via web

    absolutely agree - good post!

  • by Scott Wells - Iron on Patches Mon Nov 28, 2011 via web

    I agree....emailing your customers has to be personal and there are many software packages online to do this. We simply make sure all our campaigns have the customer's name and business listed in the email. If we can get other pieces of information about the customer over time, we try to include these into groups. Birthdays is a good one. We make sure to send a happy birthday wish to our customers. It lets them know we are thinking of them. is our website and this is the way we do our email marketing.

  • by Kirk Kiernicki Thu Dec 1, 2011 via web

    I'm a bit new to this but this sounds like some very good advice. Really love the humanize point - I can't stand the sanitary/germ-free/non-personality emails that I get. I don't even look at them anymore. Could you do a followup article on point #4 (Great design is always worth it) and what has worked best for you?

  • by Michaele Wed Feb 8, 2012 via web

    Excellent article, thanks. You give us specific directions about personalizing the e-mail and relating to the reader on the human level.
    Kirk and I want more instructions!

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