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Why small businesses need to move away from Gmail and Outlook

Canadian consumers rate email as the primary way they keep in contact with the businesses they frequent. A recent study found that 68% of consumers use email to reach businesses, definitely trumping the telephone, mail and even social media methods, with less than 10% using each method. Unfortunately for many small Canadian businesses, they aren’t leveraging this data and don’t have current email marketing campaigns. As well, a full 61% of small businesses using email to stay in touch are using mailbox providers like Gmail and Outlook and not an email marketing provider.

People are spending large amounts of time in their email inbox. The majority (84%) of people check email at least twice a day and more than 1/3rd check it six or more times a day. Two-thirds of people are also very likely to sign up for email marketing correspondence for the following reasons:

  • Receive discounts and special offers
  • Take part in special promotions
  • Stay informed on an ongoing basis

Small businesses that don’t have email marketing campaigns or ones that are managed by something other than a free email provider are missing out some great customer engagement opportunities.

What’s wrong with Gmail and Outlook?

While both of these email providers provide a great service to the ordinary email user, these email services just don’t have the functionality that small businesses need to run email marketing campaigns.

Can’t comply

First, they don’t have a way to maintain Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) compliance. Under this legislation, the sending of electronic messages without the recipient’s consent is prohibited. If a marketer is caught sending out un-solicited messages, they can be subject to penalties and statutory damages. In Canada, Rogers Media Inc., Porter Airlines and PlentyofFish have all had to pay for damages for sending unwarranted emails under CASL. If those large corporations have trouble staying within anti-spam legislation, think about the problems your small business could face. Features like permission tracking, CASL-compliant email list signup forms and the unsubscribe functionality, just aren’t available with Gmail and Outlook.

No data

Next, they aren’t able to give you metrics on what people are doing with your emails. You won’t know who is opening your emails, clicking your links, buying your products and services after reading your emails, or who is subscribing and unsubscribing. These metrics are very important in figuring out if your email marketing campaigns are actually working or if they are getting on the bad side of your customer. Because you don’t have the numbers behind your emails, you also can’t optimize your  techniques like segmenting your customer base and personalizing your messages.

Looks bad

While using a free service for emails to keep in touch with your customers seems cost-effective, it is also undermining your brand. Customers are nine times as likely to choose a business with a domain-based email address over a free domain. Having business emails with free provider information in it dates your business, makes you seem less reputable and less professional. Your emails may also be mistaken as spam, which is a disastrous mistake in the email marketing world. If your emails aren’t even reaching your customers or being disregarded as spam, they won’t get opened and you won’t reap the benefits from your marketing campaign.

Can’t connect

In terms of your incoming mail, Gmail and Outlook are also not worthy of small businesses. With aggressive spam filtering, you could be missing out on important messages from your customers. You’ll have to go in and check your spam folder regularly, which just adds to your workload as a small business and basically un-spam the emails that aren’t. The problem with this is that you may only get one email per customer, so it wastes your time having to do this.

Small businesses need to take a step back and evaluate their current email marketing practices. Using Gmail and Outlook is fine for the average person, but just doesn’t give small businesses the functionality they need to grow.

About Victor Green

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