Marketing of any form is an absolute must for any business, whether it’s a start-up, a blog, a website or an established company.
When we hear “online marketing,” we usually think of social media and SEO. Email is now a kind of afterthought and, more often than not, is overlooked as a solid platform for gaining new customers, building a brand and bringing in revenue. In reality, email marketing, when done correctly, is one of the best ways to do all of the above. No major business today could survive without their email list.
Here, we’re going to talk about the basics of email marketing, why anyone should consider it as a marketing method and how it can help a new or existing business . We’re also going to touch on how to begin email marketing, tips on what tools to use and how to use them, how to sustain and ultimately and how to keep it working to continuously bring in revenue.
The Potential in Email Marketing
According to Kissmetrics, Jay Harper, who runs Red Apple Lipstick (a gluten- and paraben-free online makeup store) made $10,895.54 just by sending the people on his email list a couple of messages about the products. A web designer named Nathan Barry made $12,000 in sales by promoting an e-book he created via email. This money was made within 24 hours, and Barry went on to make $85,000. . . all in his first year.
Everyone, from your bank to airlines to clothing brands to magazines to non-profits, do some form of email marketing. HubSpot gave us a list of some of the best email marketing campaigns ever and there are a wide range of names on it, including charity.water, Dropbox and BuzzFeed. PayPal used email marketing to sell the fact that you can easily send money to a friend using their product, the tagline reading, “Good food. Good friends. Good way to split the bill.” Chances are that the people one the receiving end of that email had, at one point or another, squabbled over the bill when out to dinner with friends.
Meanwhile, Rip Curl utilized email marketing with “Join the Revolution” as their tagline to sell a watch. Everyone wants to be a part of something, and Rip Curl invited everyone on their target email list to be a part of a watch-wearing group of people (who may or may not be plotting a revolution).
But Just What is Email Marketing?
Email marketing, to put it simply, is a form of marketing that uses emails to introduce something to subscribers, give people information, get subscribers to take action by reading more or buying, sustain interest by sending emails at regular intervals, build relationships so customers become loyal and eventually and widen the customer base.
For example, let’s say that you like browsing for shoes online. You see a website that sells all the shoes you like – let’s call this website XYZ. You sign up or subscribe to them. You then receive a welcome email from XYZ, including some information on who they are and what they do. You take another look at the XYZ website but don’t buy anything. Three days later, you receive another email from XYZ telling you that they have new shoes you might like. You click on the email and are directed to their website, where you do some shopping. XYZ will continue to send you emails, which you may or may not read. A few days later, you see an email that tells you XYZ is offering a 25% discount on boots. You click on the email and do more shopping. If you like XYZ’s service and their products, you’ll look for their emails and click on those you think are good deals. You will most likely tell your friends about the awesome deals you’re getting on XYZ. That is email marketing.
What Makes Email Marketing Different
Email goes directly to the most personal of all virtual spaces: the inbox. Other forms of marketing, like social media and SEO, are detached from their audience. They are used to engage people’s attention for short bursts of time and push websites and businesses higher on search engine rankings.
Email marketing is a sustained, long-term strategy that pays off big time. It builds an audience, maintains relationships, develops trust and solidifies a business’ or an individual’s authority in a specific niche. This direct access is something that social media or SEO lacks.
Look at it this way: social media is like a booth with a flashy salesman who uses all manners of tricks to get customers’ attention, while SEO would be those banners hanging at prominent spots at the mall, telling you to go to their stores. On the flip side, emails are like the people who go right up to you and convince you to buy or sign up for their services or products.
Who Uses Email Marketing
Anyone and everyone can and should utilize email marketing. Small business owners, big company CEOs, bloggers or news websites – if it’s something that needs to be pushed toward an audience or a customer base, it needs emails.
Even the people who do heavy marketing cite email and list building as their most important strategy. Author and publisher Michael Hyatt says that he has “literally built a multi-million dollar business on the strength of [his] email list.” He goes on to say that “ninety percent of [his] income comes from it” and that his “email list is still [his] number one business priority and asset.”
Douglass Karr from Marketing Tech Blog agrees: “Without a doubt, our email list is the best investment we’ve ever made.”
Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner, despite his focus on social media, recommends email marketing, too. “Email is the most important channel for you to cultivate,” he says.
Why Choose Email Marketing
How does this form of marketing help what you want to do?
Statistics show that 91% of all consumers check their email daily. People carry smartphones, tablets and laptops with them all the time – email access is right at your target audience’s fingertips 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Surveys have shown that companies, big and small, rate their email campaigns as more profitable than social media marketing, content marketing or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.
Email marketing also cuts out any “middle man.” For example, going on Facebook to create a page for your business is great, but in the end, Facebook will always be in charge of it and any policies they might roll out will affect your likes, viewers, followers and posts. This won’t happen with emails.
In addition to a direct reach, email marketing lets you send multiple messages at once as well as send certain emails at specific times. This gives you flexibility when it comes to building anticipation for promotions or product launches, pique curiosity for upcoming events, generate interest for new items or services and ultimately drive traffic to your website. You have complete control over your marketing message and create a successful sales funnel, or communication with an audience intended to gradually draw someone in. This turns them from impassive readers who quickly scan their inboxes to prospective customers who want to know more about your products to actual consumers who make a purchase to loyal members of your brand.
Most marketers agree that it takes five “touches” with any audience to make one sale. Email marketing is able to manage all of those “touches” and time them to get the best results. This is what makes it such a powerful tool.
Data shows that 66% of US customers have purchased at least one item through an email campaign. Overall, email marketing has a return on investment (ROI) of 4,300% – an enormous figure that reflects its effectiveness.
How to Start Email Marketing
Successful email marketing, like all things worth doing, begins with a solid foundation and the right tools. The foundation includes an up-and-running business website and organic traffic to the site. In this case, traffic is where things like social media promotions and SEO come in handy so you can maximize the number of people going to your website. (Learn more about using Facebook for traffic here.)
Step 1: Secure an AutoResponder
Once the foundation is in place, the first step is building a mailing list. Your mailing list is your most valuable asset – it is basically the database that contains all of your customer’s information. To start a mailing list, you generally need an autoresponder. Using your standard Gmail or regular email account isn’t good enough. (To find out why check out this email building list e-book/course that has a lot more details on list building.)
An autoresponder is software that manages your mailing list for you. This is the most important tool in email marketing; it saves you plenty of time and trouble and increases effectiveness. This type of software allows you to create one or more opt-in forms, which is where your visitors will enter their information to subscribe to your emails. The autoresponder stores the information you need in order to use it later in your email campaigns. It allows you to send emails to large numbers of people, it personalizes emails and gives you statistics on how many emails are actually being read. It also manages your email addresses according to groups, helps comply with legal requirements such as CAN-SPAM and basically does about 90% of the the tedious work you don’t have time for.
Autoresponders allows you to implement a “double opt-in” so subscribers have to confirm their subscription via email. This prevents spam and weeds out people who aren’t really interested in what you’re pitching. They also allow people to unsubscribe automatically.
Three of the biggest autoresponders on the market are MailChimp, GetResponse and AWeber. These are paid tools, depending on how large you want your mailing list to become and how fast you want it to grow. The bright side to this software? Mailing lists are exported and moved to another provider if you’re not happy with your current autoresponder.
Step 2: Build And Display Your Opt-In Form
The next step after securing an autoresponder is to create your opt-in form. This is a piece of code that you can paste into your HTML, embedding it on your website.
There are several ways to host this opt-in form. A landing page on your website (a single page purposely made for people to sign up or subscribe) is very minimal in design and is focused on selling the subscription. However, it does need to have traffic driven to it. Another option is to add the opt-in form to your home page, putting it front and center where people will immediately see it, or as a widget on your sidebar. If you decide to put it on your sidebar, make sure it can be easily noticed and doesn’t disappear when the visitor scrolls down.
Other options for opt-in forms are pop-overs. Pop-ups open within the browser over the content of the website. Visitors will either have to enter their information in the pop-over or click “close” before they can proceed. A lot of bloggers have said that pop-overs increase their subscriptions hundred-fold, but they can also be irritating for other people who feel like their time is being wasted. You can avoid this by using plug-ins that will show your pop-over only after a person has spent some time on your website or after they have scrolled down a few pages. Make sure pop-overs don’t appear when a visitor returns to your site and are easily closed on mobile. Buzz Sumo is a great tool for making pop-overs.
Embedding the opt-in form in your content might be a better way to go for those with text-heavy websites. This relies on quality content. It’s almost like serving up your home page and everything else as “free samples” of what customers might be getting if they subscribe with you, then reminding them to sign up when they keep reading. This initiates a relationship with prospective customers and gets them to subscribe.
Step 3: Drive the Right Traffic
When your opt-in form is ready, you can start building your list so it becomes “highly targeted.” This simply means that you want subscriptions from people who want what you’re selling, who are genuinely interested in what you have to say and who will eventually buy from you. Good email marketing isn’t about building a huge list of random email addresses: it’s about growing a quality list of paying customers. Use avenues like social media engagement, pay-per-click (PPC) and other SEO methods to drive organic traffic to your site.
How to Create the Right Emails
Email marketing relies on quality content to really work because it is so direct and personal. If you’ve built a solid, highly targeted mailing list, you can have confidence that it is filled with customers who are interested in what you have to say and what you have to offer. Now, it’s time to deliver.
The key to emails is making sure people don’t just open one. You need them to keep opening them for as long as you send them out. If you’re on social media or have subscribed to any website, your inbox is probably full of emails from Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, eBay and Netflix. Do you take a look at each and every one of these or do you skim over them most of the time?
Focus on giving your customers valuable content, things they can benefit from. If you’re pitching a blog, create unique and interesting content that people will want to read. If you’re selling something, create an email campaign that builds excitement; start off with an email that teases “something good coming up” until you finally reveal your product. Use photos and images to catch their eye. People will take notice when you make the effort to stop relying on the usual dull stuff that is obviously used for SEO.
Know your audience. Again, building your mailing list should have helped with this. Are you looking to sell to young professionals, teenagers or senior citizens? Do you want working moms or millennials to read your stuff? Does your company or brand span across all ages or does it focus on one specific demographic? Since you’re speaking directly to your customers, it’s important to keep in mind that your “tone of voice” can make or break your emails.
Most emails from subscriptions are informal, light in tone and use first-person pronouns such as “I,” “we” or “you.” This addresses your customer directly, making it seem like you’re really talking to them and that they’re special. However, this all depends on your brand. If you’re selling a blog that talks about quantum physics, for example, you might want to use more academic language to maintain credibility. If you’re going for more of a BuzzFeed feel, emails with a conversational tone are perfectly acceptable.
What Rules Are There in Email Marketing?
The biggest challenge in email marketing is getting people to open your emails right off the bat. Here are some email marketing standards to conform to so you get what you want.
People usually don’t spend a lot of time going through their inbox. Make emails short and succinct; a good length for text-based emails would be between 400-700 words. Newsletters that use photos can be a bit longer, but take care that it doesn’t take too long to scroll through it all – if you have to scroll down more than five times on mobile, it’s probably too long.
Another thing to consider is frequency. This is a balance you will have to achieve through trial and error. Sending too many emails at once will annoy and drive customers away, while not sending enough will make them lose interest. Once a week is a good starting point as you introduce yourself and your brand. You can slowly adjust to more or less than that as you start selling. Do a quick study of your autoresponder’s statistics so you have a basis of how often to send emails.
Target certain times of the day to send your emails. A majority of companies tend to send emails when people are asleep. To grab people’s attention, use your autoresponder to select an optimum time in the daylight hours, such as lunch breaks or first thing in the morning. You can even customize when to send an email according to different time zones.
Now that your content is promising, it’s time to write the subject line, that one line people see when they open their inbox. Your subject line is the equivalent of what a store banner would say to get people to come in the door. One-third of consumers will open an email based on the subject line alone. Use it wisely.
People will look for “keywords” when skimming through their inbox. These words “pop” and catch their eye long enough for them to open your email. Try to avoid sounding like an ad or a marketer in your subject line. A good strategy would be to ask a question, invite customers to comment or give their opinion on something. Subject lines usually consist of only 50 characters; make sure you come up with something that doesn’t get cut.
Getting past the spam filters in any inbox is one big challenge in email marketing. Your emails could go straight to the spam folder and people will never see them. Since spam filters go through email content, looking for keywords that can be flagged as spam, such as “download,” “money back,” “shop,” “Viagra” or “gambling,” avoid these words when you create your email campaigns.
Spam filters also use other factors to check if your email is considered spam, such as the proportion of words and images or the length of text. If your content is already of high quality, you can easily avoid these problems. The purpose of filters is to let the good stuff in and keep the bad stuff out. If your stuff is good and people keep clicking on your emails, Google will actually want to help you and more people will find you.
If you’re confident enough about what you’re sending, you can also ask customers to put you in their main inbox instead of the “promotions” or “social” tabs in order for them to see your emails right away. You can do this once you’ve established a level of trust and authority, enough so customers agree with you.
How to Sustain Email Marketing – The Compelling Offer
Now that you’ve started building your mailing list, the question becomes how you’re supposed to keep going. After all, you didn’t put in the effort to get nothing back.
If no one is subscribing or signing up to your website, you might want to consider devices such as incentives or promos to catch people’s attention. No one can resist free stuff or discounts. Depending on your budget, these incentives can be things such as mini e-books, vouchers, gift certificates or promo codes for first-time users. Whatever you choose, make the subscription as appealing as possible.
You can also make the subscription itself the incentive. Give customers something to look forward to, such as newsletters filled with tips, e-zines with pictures, special offers and deals in the near future – anything that gets your target audience excited to sign up and watch for the next emails. This needs to be handled carefully; make sure you deliver if you take this route so your prospective customers stay with you.
You can also use terms such as “VIP,” “exclusive” or “membership” to gain subscribers. People love being a part of something special. Offer benefits and bonuses that others can see to encourage more people to sign up.
Don’t let your emails get dull once you receive a favorable response. Keep things exciting by rewarding your loyal customers and those who always click on your emails by sending small prizes or incentives to continue reading and buying. You can also look at your autosender for people who haven’t opened your emails in a while and send them a “come back to us” promotion or “we’ve missed you” emails. If you’re up to it, you can even ask people why they haven’t opened your emails – you’ll get interaction and feedback at the same time.
After you’ve run your mailing list for a while, do regular maintenance and “spring cleaning.” Get rid of invalid emails (fake addresses), addresses that have been abandoned or inactive addresses. Look for email addresses that “bounce.” These emails are not sent to the correct addresses properly, either because the account has been deleted, never existed or the inbox is full. Almost all autoresponders have a “hygiene tool” for this that runs automatically in the background.
To prevent a high count of invalid email addresses from entering your mailing list, you can use the “double opt-in” feature. As mentioned earlier, this is when customers have to confirm their email address by clicking on a link from their inbox. This validates a customer and while it may seem like a lot of work initially, it actually helps keep things running smoothly in the long run.
How to Make Money With the Mailing List
Email marketing gives one of the biggest returns when done right.. If you’ve established value for your brand and have built up a good mailing list, you’re ready to sell.
Use people’s incentive to open your emails to slowly introduce your products or services. Try not to hit customers with a hard sell right off, especially if you’re a new business. Use the acronym AIDA: awareness, interest, desire and action. If you were to sell something using a landing page on your website or an article, you’d have to incorporate all of these at once. Fortunately for emails, you get enough flexibility to handle these one or two steps at a time – this “spreads” the interest out and prevents you from looking like you’re doing nothing but pushing an item on people.
Say you’re a kitchen brand selling a new line of cutlery. Build awareness by mentioning in one of your regular emails that a new product is coming up, or send an email specifically saying something like heir kitchens should get ready. Next, create interest and give people a reason to care about the new cutlery by talking a bit about the product.Then, build desire. This is the harder sale, so you’ll have to focus on telling customers what this new cutlery can do for them, why they should add it to their existing collections and how it can benefit them and make their lives better. This leads to action: people are so interested in the cutlery that they click on your emails and go directly to “buy now.” This is ideal email marketing.
The great thing about this is that autoresponders can use AIDA. Come up with campaigns, feed emails to your autoresponder and when each email is to be sent to control your own timeline. Here’s a tip: send two or three emails to build value and trust, then your AIDA sales funnel. This is extremely convenient and allows you to get out behind your desk during the day. You can leave once your campaigns have been set up and wait for people to buy.
To maximize effectiveness, combine sequence or campaign emails with regular emails, so your customers don’t feel like they’re being pushed to buy all the time. It’s a balance that you’ll have to discover for yourself based on your specific products, but one that is well worth it in the end.
If you do decide to sell your whole business later on, sell your mailing list along with it to increase its value – it will be worth a lot if you have kept it up to date.
Promote your list at all times. Feature it on your home page, mention it in your website’s regular content, talk to people about it and really push for people to go to that opt-in form. You’ll quickly learn why direct access to your customers is the most lucrative form of marketing there is!
Your email list is going to be one of your most valuable assets as an internet marketer. Build it right and nurture it properly to create an income stream that continues for many, many years. A good list with a better marketing strategy can easily be a six-figure-per-year business. Get an even more in-depth tutorial with the Email Marketing Excellence e-book.