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Essential Online Tools for Small Businesses – Part 1

When I started my first business, I was told by many online gurus that growing and managing your list correctly is absolutely essential. At that time, I didn’t even know what a list was, but I have since realised that the value of many businesses is entirely based upon their list and how effectively they utilise it.

Your list should not be limited to one channel, and in many respects is stronger and more resilient over a variety of platforms including email, telephone and social media. With this in mind however, having a strong list of emails is still one of the most reliable and revered means of building a business.

I’ve dabbled with a few email marketing platforms but now use Mailchimp, I find it extremely user-friendly and easy to manage your list.


When constructing an email to send out, Mailchimp has an excellent template builder that uses drag-and-drop technology to create professional-looking emails.


Choose a theme, then adjust the layout images and content to suit your needs. Once you’re happy with the email you’ve created, you can also schedule when you’d like the email to go out. I know from analysing my campaigns that the best open/click rate on my emails happen if I schedule them at 09:00 on a Monday morning. The bulk of my subscribers are UK-based, so I don’t have to worry too much about different time zones, but this may be another consideration for you to be aware of.


Creating a list in Mailchimp is simple and you can import a pre-existing list. Once limitation of this system however is that Mailchimp has built-in security measures to ensure that you’re not a spammer. It works out how many people actually open your emails and who clicks them. If you’re open rate is too small, it flags up that you are emailing people that perhaps haven’t given you permission to email.


There are very strict rules around email marketing so Mailchimp are just adhering to these rules which can only be a good thing – no-one likes getting spammed after all!

Once you’ve earned the trust of Mailchimp, it also awards you upgrades. For example, I have now been awarded Single Opt-In status on one of my lists, which means that people only have to fill out one form to join my list, without the need for them click on a confirmation email.

Mailchimp is free to use up to 2000 contacts, over which you’ll have to pay a monthly fee to use the service. It’s a good idea to have an occasional audit of your list and delete those that don’t ever open them. As discussed in a previous post, it’s far better to have 100 subscribers that are true fans of what you do, than 1000 serial subscribers who aren’t too interested.

You can also create Groups and Segments within your list. So, for example, perhaps you wanted to tell your subscribers about a last-minute offer that you were running, but didn’t want those subscribers that have already bought your product or service to know that you were running the promotion. Set up a Group excluding those that have already purchased from you, then send the promotion out to this group. Simple!

A massive benefit of using Mailchimp is their reporting.


Their reports are simple to analyse and you can pinpoint exactly who has opened the email, who has clicked on what links, at what time and where in the world they are! This is invaluable information to have as you then know how effective your campaigns have been and you can then focus future communications with your subscribers based upon their behaviour.

I now use Mailchimp not just to send out newsletters, but I also have a list of people that work for me. I can then see exactly who has opened the work emails in real time and I’m able to click send once!

There are so many benefits of using email marketing software and I’m surprised more small business owners still do things manually. Being able to manage your list, create professional-looking newsletters and analyse your data are absolutely essential for effective email marketing so in my mind there’s really no reason not to!

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