Small businesses have an identity problem. Not enough customers know they even exist. The average small business has about a 7% rate of brand awareness. So, basically only seven out of every 100 potential customers who are looking for the services your business supplies know who you are. To reach that other 93%, many entrepreneurs are turning to e-mail marketing because it is cheap, easy to execute, and simple to track in terms of its effectiveness.
Of course, therein lies the problem. E-mail is so easy and cheap that everybody uses it, filling up inboxes to the point of insanity. As you’re looking at your inbox, you’ll probably agree that most of it is unsolicited, junk, or unsolicited junk.
Various studies estimate as much as 75% of e-mail is perceived by recipients as one of those three categories, leaving them overwhelmed and with a sense of helplessness—present company included, as I delete at least 40 unsolicited e-mails daily. No doubt many of these are from businesses trying to sell me something when I’m not ready to buy, or convince me to attend a workshop/seminar/networking mixer/fill-in-the-blank. Why else would e-mail response rates be so low?
Although it sounds like it, I haven’t come to bury e-mail. But I don’t want to be buried by it either. E-mail still serves as one of the best ways to interact with people with whom you have existing relationships or want to build new business relationships.
The real question is how well an e-mail message hits the target. The answer: Not enough of it. That’s why it’s really important to understand how Really Simple Syndication (RSS) can help you move beyond that 7% brand awareness number.
RSS is a family of Web feed formats that can be used to publish frequently updated content such as blog entries, news features, and podcasts. An RSS document (which is called a “Web feed” or “channel”) contains either a summary of content from an associated Website or the full text. In short, RSS makes it easy for the content you create (blogs, podcasts, etc.) to be distributed and subscribed to all over the Web. It also makes it easier for you to consume content you like, the way you want.
Using free services like Google Reader or Bloglines, you can subscribe to your favorite site’s RSS feeds. Or you can customize your iGoogle or Yahoo! home pages to subscribe to your favorite blogs and Websites.
Just like any other piece of content, this means that others can easily subscribe to your blog on their customized home page or feed reader. All you have to do is create a blog entry, and because of RSS, it can automatically show up in different formats without any extra work. It can also be syndicated to Web pages. People can even mash-up your blog’s feed with others they read using a service like MySyndicaat.
In addition, with the help of RSS search engines, you can make your content available for those looking for the kind of information you provide, allowing