Why Email Marketing is Important
Forget about everyday email. It doesn’t apply to email marketing.
Email marketing complements your blogging in a different and even more powerful way than social media. There’s a surprising amount most people don’t know about using email to further their business marketing, especially in conjunction with a blog. I’ve been using email to successfully market my blog coaching services and information products, all the while providing valuable information to my subscribers and getting to know them better. It’s time I told you how I do it and how you can do it, too.
Knowing how to use email as part of daily business communications does not prepare you for email marketing success any more than learning how to write a sentence prepares you to be an extraordinary novelist.
In other words, email marketing is nothing like writing daily business communications emails.
How are you supposed to reach out to people who are not using social networks extensively and who don’t even know what RSS is?
Email is vital for reaching those who are not at the cutting edge of the social media scene. It’s also vital for those who do use social media (everyone who uses social media still uses email). Let’s take a look at the reasons why:
- Email is used by everyone. Even people who are skittish about web technologies usually do just fine with email.
- Email is intimate and familiar: despite all the technology of it, you’re still getting a letter from another human being. This helps to create powerful connections, if it can be properly managed.
- Having multiple marketing channels increases the number of touch points you have with others. If those touch points are quality interactions, trust develops rapidly and permanently. Email is another channel in addition to blogging and social networks.
The most important reason of all is that it builds and strengthens the relationships you have with blog readers and business clients. And there is no question that helps your bottom line.
How Email is Used for Marketing
When it comes to marketing, there are several ways email is often used:
- Provide regular news and information that your readers would find valuable.
- Get feedback from your readers in order to better serve them.
- Present offers for products and services your readers would find valuable.
- Send reminders about important events, sales, and offers.
- Update clients and other people who may not be regularly reading your posts with information or news that would be important to them.
- Encourage clients to take the next step with you, because there may be something you can do for them that follows naturally from the work you’ve already done.
- Suggest readers who haven’t yet acquired your services to do so.
- Reach new readers (and new potential clients) through email forwarding.
- Keep your business alive in the minds of clients or others who don’t subscribe to the blog via RSS or visit often.
Email Marketing Services: What they Do and Why You should Use Them
If you’re thinking you’re going to manage this easily by just using your business or personal email account and program, think again: between the management, tracking, and permissions & spam issues, it’s not going to cut it. You need a dedicated service for email marketing, for several important reasons:
- Copy & paste easy opt-in forms.
- Automated backend systems for opting in, list management, and unsubscribes.
- Split-testing capability (trying different subject lines or messages to see which is more effective).
- Statistics for sign-ups, deliverability, open rates, and click rates.
- Automated compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act.
- Automated back-ups of your email list.
- Ability to import/export list data.
The most important of these have to do with making your email marketing easier to set up and manage, tracking, and legal compliance. Think about it: without some kind of automated system, how are people going to get on your list? You need a form they can fill out which adds their name to the list. But, in order to comply with the law (and follow best practices), there has to be a confirmation process. It’s really best that all this be automated.
Once you send out emails, you will want to know how effective they are. What is the percentage of people who open the emails? And once open, how many people click on links within? Your tracking provides you with reports: graphs and tables of data. With split-testing, you can send two different emails to different sub-groups of your list and see which one performs better. And if someone doesn’t want to be on your list anymore, you want to have automatic one-click unsubscribe capability.
Without a service to automate most of this, your email marketing efforts would be a waste of time and possibly put you in non-compliance with spam laws.
There are many email list service providers, but the one used by most online marketers is Aweber.
The Difference between Broadcast and Autoresponder Messages
When you engage in email marketing, there are two kinds of message you can send out: broadcast and autoresponder. Broadcast message are sent out only once, while autoresponder messages are sent out repeatedly and automatically according to a schedule. Let’s take a brief look at each type.
- Can be written in advance and then sent automatically on a predetermined date and time.
- Can be sent immediately.
- Used to keep subscribers updated on news, information, and offers of a timely or one-time nature.
- The name “autoresponder” derives from email listservs, where it used to be that you signed up by simply emailing a subscribe address. The program would then automatically send a response. Although this isn’t exactly the same thing, the name has stuck.
- These are written in advance and sent automatically according to a schedule, starting when a person subscribes.
- Great “set it and forget it” marketing.
- Prevents you from having to do the same thing repeatedly.
You can send both types of messages, it’s not an either-or situation.
What Spam Really is (vs. what People Think it is) and How to Make Sure You’re Not Sending Any
There’s the official definition of spam: unsolicited commercial bulk email, and then there’s how most people think of it: email they don’t want! If you get pushy in your sales message in your emails, that will cause people to think of your email as “spammy” even though they signed up for your list on purpose. And what constitutes “pushy” for one person isn’t the same for another person. There is only one official definition of spam, but there are an infinite number of ways people will feel an email is spam.
Is this fair? Of course not, but it’s the reality (or, more precisely, the lack thereof) we have to deal with. That perception of spam is something we must always be concerned about, and conduct ourselves accordingly.
The reason why you want to automate sign-ups to your list is so that your email list service automatically complies with anti-spam laws and practices. I use a double opt-in sign up process. You’ve been through this yourself, no doubt, when signing up to email lists, but here’s the process:
- User fills out sign-up form and submits data. This is the first opt-in: in other words, you don’t just add people’s email addresses to your list yourself, they have to decide they want to join.
- User receives an email stating that sign-up isn’t complete until a confirmation link is clicked on. This is the second opt-in. Somebody else might have signed them up for a list without their consent or they may simply have changed their mind. To opt out, they don’t have to do anything: no confirmation means no further emails are sent.
- Once confirmed, the user now receives messages, usually a first message which is sent automatically, followed by later broadcast or autoresponder messages.
The Biggest Mistake with Email Marketing
The biggest mistake people make with email marketing is not doing it.
The second biggest mistake people make with email marketing is not doing it enough.
People need to be reminded that you exist and that you provide products or services which will benefit them and improve their lives. It’s up to you to do this. You can’t help people if they’ve forgotten about you. This is why you should do email marketing.
But if you’re going to do it, then do it well. If you wait too long between messages, your readers will forget they opted in in the first place and they’ll mark your message as spam (or just unsubscribe because they don’t feel you’re really doing anything for them). Sending message once a week or once every two weeks is about right. More frequently than that, you’ll irritate people; less frequently than that, you’ll be forgotten.
So, do email marketing, but do it enough.
The Same Problem All Over Again: What to Write About?
You thought you had this problem when you started your blog, didn’t you? Now you have to figure out what to write about in your email marketing, too!
Luckily, it’s not really much of a stretch. It should be content which complements your blog. It should be something you can send out once or twice a week. It doesn’t have to be timely. It could be timeless topics you think of in advance and then automate. The way I see it, there are three main types of email content: education , summarization, and offers.
Education Email Marketing
People read your blog for many reasons, but in large part it is to educate themselves. The more people learn from you, the more they come to know, like, and tust you, and that leads to business and opportunities. Education via email can be done in a wonderfully different way than on a blog: it can be done in a sequence and it can be automated through autoresponders.
All you have to do is put together a miniature course, where you send regular emails that cover a series of topics in a subject. Sure, you have to write them all in advance, but once they’re done, they’re done, and they just keep on being sent out automatically after people subscribe. It just takes care of itself. More importantly, it takes care of you, because it helps your business. This is because a course can also be a form of extended sales letter, the end of which includes an offer, which results in sales for you.
How to Do Educational Email Marketing
- Think of a “101″ type of educational topic based on the kinds of basic questions people ask you when you begin working for them or when they are trying to decide why they need your expertise or product.
- Write out a series of four to eight short (no more than a few hundred words at the most) introductory lessons that explain this topic in a very introductory fashion. You can do these in a word processor in advance of even getting a list management service—just copy and paste later.
- Structure each one so that it lists objectives, provides educational content, summarizes that content, and then provides readers with action steps they’ll want to take when they’ve read it.
- Write another email meant to precede the lessons that introduces them. This will serve as an overview of the emails to come, like a table of contents.
- Find the email that falls near the middle of the sequence, and add a little message to it in the beginning saying that the course is a little more than halfway through, and that they (the readers) are doing fine. Remind them of the remaining lesson titles. This is so they don’t feel lost in the middle of your little course, and so that they have a sense of accomplishment and bearing.
- Write an email for when the miniature course is over with. Congratulate the readers that have completed the course and invite them to offer their feedback and questions to you (this can be very valuable insight). Let them know that now that the course is over, they’ll continue to receive normal emails that have additional content to the course that will help them. Let them know they can unsubscribe if they like and tell them how to do it. I know that seems counterproductive, but realize this: you only want people on your list who really want to be there. Nobody else is worth having just for the sake of inflated numbers. That type of illusion doesn’t help anyone.
By this time, you will (hopefully) have a whole catalog of emails ready to go in after the current autoresponder sequence.
Just because the main course is over, that doesn’t mean the education stops. Via autoresponder, you can continue to update your readers on the same or related subjects (make sure any other topics truly are related). But what’s great is that you can now begin mixing in a different type of message which I call a summarization message.
Summarization Content in Email Marketing
Summarization is a great way to not have to incessantly write new, original material. By summarizing what you’ve already written, you’re providing great content to your readers which is new to them, even though it may be old news to you.
The idea here is not to offer digests of your current blog posts (though you certainly may and there’s nothing wrong with that). Instead, summarize your blog content by topic or subject. For example, you can introduce a subject and then say that to learn more, the reader is invited to visit these posts on the blog. Then you list the posts and provide links to them. I like to explain each post with a sentence after the link. I’ve done this with posts on WordPress SEO, for example.
The beauty of this method is that it’s not dependent upon you to be timely. You simply add these in after your lessons from your miniature course, and they go out automatically according to the schedule you set.
The service I use, Aweber, does a very interesting thing: when I add a new autoresponder email to the list, it goes out right away to people who haven’t yet received it, but it goes out according to schedule for those who have just recently signed up. This gives me the best of both worlds, because I can write a message that’s new for everyone, regardless of whether they’ve been on my list for a few years or a few days (the people who just joined won’t get it for a while, but that’s fine, since the topics are timeless).
Your business does not survive on good feelings. You need to make money. That means you need to sell, and email is a fantastic vehicle for sales offers. You can present offers that do not alienate your subscribers by making sure that the offer is highly relevant to their needs. If you have been building up your relationship with them over time, you don’t need to engage in any kind of hard sell language.
That doesn’t mean you say, “You wouldn’t really want one of these, would you?” You have to have confidence in your offer and present it in a straightforward manner that lets the prospect know what they will gain if they take advantage of it. Don’t use flowery, sales-y, or overdescriptive language.
How to Present an Offer
- Explain what the offer is in terms of what the prospect will get.
- If there is a sales page to come after clicking a link, do not say what the price is. The job of the sales page is to explain everything the prospect needs to understand the value he or she will get for the price.
- Explain why you think the prospect should visit the page to learn more. Always frame everything in terms of the prospect’s benefit.
- Explain benefits, not features. List the features, and follow each feature with the words “which means…” or “so that…” and explain the true benefit. In other words, don’t just give ‘em the what, give ‘em the why. The why has to meet a need your audience has, soothe some pain that hurts them.
- Give the readers several chances to click the link that takes them to the sales page. Put the link in there at least twice. Pushy sales emails will have the link in there over a hundred times, it seems, so I like to be different by putting in there only a few times.
- Many email marketers will say that a P.S. works wonders. In many cases, they’re right. But P.S.’s have also become such a cliché that I’ve begun leaving them off some of mine, just so that the email is more like a real message I would send to a friend.
- Your subject line is the most important part of the whole email. Treat it like a headline—because that’s exactly what it is: a headline for an email.
How to Get People to Want to Join Your Email List Without Extra Giveaways
Why would anybody want to join your email list? Because you’re going to give them great stuff, that’s why, just like why they would want to read your blog. An email list isn’t the same as simply subscribing to the blog posts via email. Email marketing is a different animal, from the beginning.
In order to get people to sign up for your email list, you have to know what it is you’re going to give them. If you know what you’re going to give them, you can provide the correct incentive. What’s brilliant about the education method I outlined above is that it practically “sells” itself. The reason for people to join the list is to get the course! But after the course is over, they’re still on the list.
The other thing I really like about this method is that no special “download gift” is needed to “ethically bribe” people to join your list. Educational material often makes for a great sign-up incentive, so if you wanted to provide that, you’d have to create that material, anyway. The additional effort of putting together the download aspect of the freebie brings in more friction to the set up than is necessary or even beneficial.
How to Use a Sign-Up Incentive Correctly
If you do want to offer an incentive, make sure it’s actually worth something. Make it something valuable enough that you could sell it independently. You choose to give it away. People don’t want worthless free stuff, they want free stuff that’s valuable—that’s what’s so great about getting it free, and that’s why people will sign up to your list. Tell your readers what the value of the incentive is. For example: “$39 ebook free just for subscribing.”
The Technical Side of Sign-ups
If your blog software lets you create pages, you can put your email list sign-up form on a page, and then link to the page whenever you want to encourage people to join. You should always be subscribed to your own list so you know it works.
Long-Term Power Tips
- When you write a blog post, it’s clear you’re broadcasting to an audience. When you write an email, you want to write it as if you’re writing to just one person you know very well, even if that email is going to be sent to thousands of people. Each person will read it as if it were addressed only to them, as if you were writing only to them.
- Encourage replies to your emails. Constantly remind readers that you value their feedback and questions. Tell them to hit the Reply button and respond. Fewer will do so than you think, but enough will to give you insight into how you can improve your email marketing. When you respond to these replies, it lets your readers know you’re really there and takes away the impersonal feel of automation.
- Go back and update old blog posts from time to time, then send an email out to your list to let you know that you just updated the post and you think they’d find it valuable. Add this email to your autoresponder list. You don’t have to say that you just updated the post, only that you’ve updated it.
- As part of your automated sequence after the short course, send your readers a list of links to all your social media profiles and invite them to connect with you there. I’ve used this to great success, constantly growing my email list, blog subscribers, and social media friends/followers.
- Everything you learned about copywriting and writing headlines applies to email marketing. Your email subject line is your headline. How will you convince people to open your email out of the hundred emails clogging their inbox? By writing compelling subject lines.
Remember to treat people with respect and give them the good stuff, and you’ll have many loyal readers. What you do with them is up to you, but certainly more business and opportunities will come your way. Just as having a blog in the first place sets you apart from most businesspeople, who are stuck in the dark-ages.
What You Should Do Now
Start paying attention to how you are being marketed with email. Sign up for email lists just to observe how they market.
Go to Aweber and start going through their training videos to see how it’s all done. There is a bit of a learning curve, but email marketing is worth doing, so just dive right in.
Sign up for my own email list (of course). You will see examples of everything I talk about in this post: