Email Marketing For Beginners – the Money is in the List!
It is often said about marketing that “the money is in the list” and indeed that is often true, if you do it right. However if you get it wrong, email marketing can quickly change to “the headache is in the list”.
Email marketing has been around for a long time although much has changed from the early wild days where spammers quickly dominated. These days many countries have regulations and laws which must be adhered to, as well as considerably more effective technical filters, so to be effective now and not get in trouble you must do it properly and ethically.
Is Email marketing worth the trouble?
Once you have an email list, emailing is very cheap and you can keep sending mail to your list over and over so you have multiple chances of making a sale or getting subscribers to perform whatever action you are aiming for. If you build a relationship with your subscribers your mailing list becomes the gift that keeps on giving.
It is a fact that the vast majority of new visitors to your site will leave and never come back, you typically get that one chance to convert them and then they are gone for good (re-targeting does offer some hope though) and after browsing thousands of sites they are not likely to remember yours. If you’ve just spent a load of money on advertising to get them to your site and they left after a few seconds you lost money but if you persuaded them to subscribe to your newsletter you can reach them again and again after they leave and so it is certainly worth the relatively small effort required.
How do you build a list?
Gone are the days when you could just (legally) buy or scrape enormous mailing lists so now you need to build your own list and it generally it should be double opt-in which means people submit their email to you and then you send them a confirmation email containing a link which they must click to double the opt in. This may sound like a lot of work but really its not so bad at all and just requires you to put a simple subscribe box on your site somewhere or even on every page and your visitors will hopefully subscribe before leaving your site. The advantage here is that the act of subscribing generally does not send them away from your site, unlike clicking on an ad for example. So once they fill in their email address and click submit they are free to carry on browsing your site.
To improve subscription rates it is common to incentivize the process, for example by offering something for free such as an ebook which you have created or access to some exclusive premium content. If your freebie offer is good, people will subscribe since it is painless for them to do so and they get something they want for free and of course everybody likes free. As long as your site and offer doesn’t look scammy and they can see that they can easily unsubscribe anytime they choose, then there is little risk to them in subscribing.
How do you maximize list performance?
When building a list it is important to ensure it is targeted or segmented where appropriate. In other words if you are offering blue widgets and green widgets, it is wise to associate your subscribers with whatever widget they are most interested in so those on the blue widget list wont get boring untargeted emails about green widgets which would result in higher unsubscribe rates and lower sales conversions.
Once you have your list you may be planning to send a newsletter every month for example, which is fine and you should do something like that. However people are subscribing every day and they will not see your old newsletters (unless you post them online as well which is a good idea anyway) and also since they just signed up they don’t really know you, there is no trust or relationship developed between you so just hitting them with the regular newsletter is less productive. It is critical to develop a relationship first and the simplest way to do that is through the use of an auto-responder.
An auto-responder is just a mailing system which will send an email or predefined series of emails to all new subscribers, it could be 5 or even 10 emails sent one per week or whatever interval you define. These emails gradually and entirely automatically work to build trust and instead of just hitting them with a heavy sales pitch from day one, you can slowly build up to that and subtly weave your pitch into the narrative along the way. By the time the subscriber has had your full series of auto-responder emails, if they did not yet unsubscribe, they will be much more receptive to future newsletters and emailed offers and hopefully may have already been converted to a buyer.
Besides the ‘traditional’ auto-responders, these days there are more advanced options which offer triggered emails. In other words when one of your subscribers performs a certain action such as viewing a specific page on your site, reading a certain email, clicking a link or even buying something, you can have a customized email (or sequence) sent to them. As you can imagine, this type of system can increase responsiveness of your subscriber list and dramatically increase conversions!
Making it easy for subscribers to be removed from your mailing list is of course important but also your mailing list software should take notice of undeliverable emails, bounces for example, and remove those from the list where appropriate. Failure to do so would result in forever sending emails which can’t be delivered, which can quickly result in your mail servers being blacklisted and subsequently will affect your success rate considerably. Keeping your list clean is a vital part of running a mailing system.
Once you have developed a receptive list, sending regular newsletters (or triggered emails) is of course a good idea but that is not all you can do. Take advantage of any special occasions that come along such as seasonal holidays or any events that your subscribers may be interested in and tailor one off (or even a special series of) mailings specifically for those. Christmas for example is obviously a great time for selling and so be prepared in advance for things like that, but don’t overdo it as saturating your list with endless offers will just drive members away.
As with any marketing or advertising campaign it is important to keep statistics and generate reports so you can see what works. Track emails sent, who reads them, what they click on, which ones convert etc etc. and tailor your future mailings accordingly to maximize performance. Email marketing software or services usually provides such analytics of your mailing data so just make sure you pay attention to this valuable data!
Email marketing can be highly productive, just make sure to do it right. Work to build a relationship with your subscribers and they will become long-term customers that will keep on buying as well as spreading the good word about your company or products for years to come.