The 2 Surefire Ways to Grow Your Business in 2016: SEO & Email Marketing. Email marketing is still one of the best growth channels out there for marketers in any industry. Why? Because it has the highest ROI (return on investment).

Here are 10 great ways companies are using email marketing to grow their business (and you can too):

Sponsored emails

You can partner with or pay large publishers or other companies who have regular email lists to put your ad in one of their emails. This is a great “ride-along” type promotion, taking advantage of someone else who has done the work to build an email list and has an attentive audience.

Dedicated eblasts

Similar to sponsored emails in that you are leveraging someone else’s email list, but this time you are building an email that is unique to your company. Instead of an ad inside their email, you write the full email and they send it on your behalf.

Purchasing lists

Used to be much more popular than it is now, but still a valid way to generate leads and reach customers you would not be able to acquire on your own. Buy the names or rent the ability to send them an email through an established email marketing company, and send them your offer.

Email newsletters

You can build your own list of interested subscribers and share news and content with them on a regular basis. The New York Times is an example of a company that has spent a lot of time perfecting the art of email newsletters over the last couple of years. The key with newsletters is they are not meant to sell, they are meant to inform and share.

Lead nurturing programs

If your company is in the lead generation business, you likely already have a lead nurturing program. Email is a great lead nurturing tool, and many companies use automated email programs to stay connected to leads and help direct them through the buying process. This is a perfect ‘set it and forget it’ email marketing program that is sure to help your sales team.

Discounts and offers

Ecommerce companies like Amazon have taken advantage of email marketing programs to keep in touch with prospective customers and let them know about specials and discounts. Allow people to sign up on your website to be alerted when something they want is on sale.

Loyalty programs

It’s far less expensive to sell to an existing customer than a new one, and email makes that equation even more one-sided. When someone purchases from you, collect their email address. That way you can follow up with exclusive offers for existing customers, offers they would not otherwise see.

Fundraising

Political campaigns and non-profits are busy perfecting the art of the fundraising emails. The Obama campaign in 2012 set a new record, raising $690 million digitally, much of that coming from email and social media. Emails are a great way to reach out to loyal supporters in times of need.

Product announcements

Sometimes you want to know when a new product becomes available. More and more, companies are “pre-announcing” new products and asking people to sign up to receive more information and be alerted when the product becomes available for sale. If someone wants to know more about your product, allow them to sign up for email announcements.

Refer a friend programs

Referrals are a growth hacker’s best friend. Companies have succeeded at building a referral program right into their products and using email to notify friends that someone has recommended a new product to them. Referral emails can be crafted to look like they are coming directly from the person who referred them, which makes them more likely to be read than traditional promotional emails.

  • These days, most small business owners know that search engine optimization (SEO) is something they need to do. But to many, the term alone is confusing, not to mention the various tricks of the trade, and hiring an SEO consultant may just not be in the budget.

Let’s begin by explaining what SEO is: It’s an inbound marketing technique that involves keywords, smart linking and other methods to, yes, optimize a Web site so the page ranks highly on search engines. The goal is to make it so that when people — i.e., potential customers — are searching for products and services, they find your business first.

Don’t get overwhelmed yet. While developing a complete mastery of SEO is a full-time job in itself, there are many small, painless things businesses like yours can do to optimize their Web sites. Here some tips for doing just that.

Use the Google Keyword Tool to Create a Content Strategy

When creating your Web site, it’s important that every page be search engine optimized with target keywords, a proper hierarchy and title tags, and that the site loads quickly. This work, however, is generally best left to a Web designer who can get an optimized site up quickly — an essential part of the task because your Web site is a portal to your business.

Far more important for the small business owner is an SEO-motivated content strategy that uses the Google Keyword Tool as a guide. To use this, create a Google account if you don’t already have one. Then type in search terms that are relevant to your business. The tool will suggest various related terms that customers are searching for — terms you might not have ever known were relevant, and that you should consider in your content strategy.

As an example, let’s say you own a flower shop in Austin. Typing in “flower shops in Austin” generates a number of terms that target customers search for, including “flower shops austin tx” and “austin florist” and “best flowers in Austin.” In the resulting grid, you will see a ranking for how competitive the term is and how many people are searching for it. Ideally, you’ll want to select terms with low competition and high search volumes, though even those with medium competition might be a good target. With these keywords as a guide, brainstorm content for your Web site’s blog, whether that’s “Top 10 Tips for Choosing the Best Flowers in Austin” or a how-to video for creating wedding bouquets.

 Share Content on Social Media Sites

Once you have engaging, search engine–optimized content, it’s time to get that content out to customers by promoting it on social media. The real goal here is to create a passionate community filled with followers who love and respect your brand. This is what we call social SEO.

Create a profile on all of the major sites, including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, making sure to add important keywords into your descriptions and details about your business’s location. Keep your updates varied, sharing both your content and other interesting content in some posts and reaching out directly to followers in others. Add keywords where you can, but make sure to keep it natural. The more followers link to your site and social media profiles, the better you’ll rank in search results.