Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard the expression, “The money’s in the list”. Chances are if you’ve spent any amount of time around the internet marketing community, it’s been hammered into you on more than one occasion that if you aren’t taking advantage of the power of email marketing, you’re missing out on sales and losing the chance to connect with your readers on a deeper level.
Well, that might be the case, but it’s also true that email marketing has something of a steep learning curve. If you’re spending tons and tons of time on your email marketing campaign but not seeing any results, that’s not really the best use of your time either.
So today, I want to share my experiences with email marketing, including some of the different email marketing styles that are out there and some “dos and don’ts” on how to get the most out of your campaign. I’m by no means an expert, but as with copywriting, I believe in acknowledging a few basic rules and then learning as you go. Let’s get started!
First, you need to recognize that all email campaigns are not created equally. The following are a few of the major types of email marketing messages out there – the one that’s right for your business may not be the same as what works for someone else, so it’s worth investing some time in figuring out what your subscribers are looking for.
Traditional Affiliate Email Marketing – If you’ve ever signed up for a “guru’s” email list, you know what I’m talking about here. Traditional email marketing combines compelling subject lines with short messages designed to get readers out of their inboxes and on to an affiliate product’s landing page as quickly as possible.
It’s easy to recognize these emails as they all tend to use similar subject lines (just to pull one out of my email account’s spam folder – “Friend, 24 proven profit systems for you…”) and are usually formatted to include a maximum of 65 characters per line.
Info-based Email Marketing – For the record, I’m not trying to knock traditional affiliate marketing email campaigns, as they can be incredibly profitable when done correctly. However, as consumers become increasingly aware of the marketing messages they’re being exposed to online, some marketers are finding success with a different type of email marketing campaign – the info email.
In these campaigns, absolutely no pitching is done within the email. Instead, the goal is to build trust with your readers and drive them back to your website where more sales can occur. Paul Myer’s Talk Biz newsletter is a great example of how these two techniques can be combined, while Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income newsletter and my Awesome Marketing email series take this approach exclusively.
Retail Newsletters – Another type of email marketing that you’ll commonly see (though not in conjunction with most affiliate websites) is the retail newsletter. Typically, these newsletters are built out with images in full HTML and feature coupon codes and product promotions for upcoming sales events.
Although these are the “Big 3” types of email marketing campaigns in my mind, there are tons of other variations, including hybrids of the models listed above, paid email newsletters, blog-style email campaigns and many others.
When it comes to choosing the one that’s right for your website, it can be helpful to look and see what other people in your industry are offering. If all of the authority sites in your niche are sending out traditional email marketing messages and encouraging opt-ins with a bonus ebook, there’s a good chance that they’re using this system because it works.
Once you’ve chosen an email marketing campaign type, consider the following “dos and don’ts”:
Do – Make it easy for visitors to subscribe
Got an email list without any subscribers? Maybe that’s because readers have to navigate through several pages of content on your site before they even see a mention of your list!
If you run an email list and want to encourage people to sign up, your opt-in form needs to be prominently featured on every page of your site. The most obvious places to include it are the sidebar of your blog, a “Subscribe” page and a whole-site pop-up ad (tastefully done, of course), but your opt-in form should also be located on your “About Me” page and any other high traffic areas of your site. Remember – the more places you have your form featured, the more readers you’ll reach with your message.
Do – Focus on your subject lines
Just like we talked about in our copywriting lesson last week, your email message’s “headline” (in this case, the subject line) is leaps and bounds more important than the content of the message itself. Take one look at your email inbox and see how cluttered it is – you’ll understand pretty quickly why it’s important to write engaging subject lines that stand out and actually compel people to open the message.
Again, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel – a simple search for “best email marketing subject lines” will turn up a number of different formulas you modify to your own needs. Put together the best subject lines you can, split test your messages whenever possible (Aweber allows you to do this on broadcast messages) and take note of the subject lines that receive the most “opens”. Over time, you’ll start to see a pattern of which messages your subscribers respond best to.
Do – Publish regularly
When it comes to email marketing, consistency really is key. Think about it – suppose someone signs up for your list and doesn’t receive any messages from you for two months, since you’ve been busy with other projects. Then, all of a sudden, you get on an email marketing kick and send this person a different sales message each day for two weeks. Think she’s going to stick it out on your list for very long?
Instead, set your reader’s expectations up front by letting them know how often they’ll hear from you and what types of messages they can expect to receive. If you plan to email once a week, let your subscribers know and then stick to your schedule!
One of the easiest ways to keep to your schedule is to pre-load your email autoresponder program with follow-up messages that will automatically launch at specified times. You can always expand on these messages with broadcasts on more timely topics, but having a few weeks or months of content prepared ahead of time will ensure that illness, injury or other disruptions don’t throw off your publishing schedule.
Do – Segment your list
List segmentation is a more advanced email marketing tactic, but the sooner you start implementing it with your list, the sooner you’ll be able to take advantage of its benefits.
Basically, segmenting your lists refers to the practice of breaking your subscribers up into smaller groups, based on common actions. For example, you might have a list segment of people who have purchased one or more of your products, as well as a segment of people who open every message you send. Having these groups separated out makes it possible to send them uniquely tailored messages that result in higher open and conversion rates.
For more instructions, check out the “Help” section of your email management program, as many of these services offer comprehensive training programs that show you how to implement this powerful technique.
Don’t – Be *that* guy
Chances are you’ve been on an email list that promised great content and then turned out to be a never-ending pitch fest, with sales message after sales message flooding your inbox. Even if the marketer sending the list seemed reputable at first, there’s nothing fun about feeling like you’ve turned up in a used car lot instead of your email inbox.
Don’t be that guy!
You guys know that I’m all about providing valuable content first and letting relationships develop over time, but even if you want to be more direct with your product pitches, there’s a way to do it without being a total asshole. Make your pitches – as long as they’re for products that you personally believe in – but try to mix in some worthwhile free content as well.
Don’t – Scam your readers
This should go without saying (and you wouldn’t be reading a blog about ethical marketing if you didn’t agree), but don’t scam your readers. Your subscribers placed their trust in you by opting in to your list with their valuable email addresses, so don’t abuse that trust and ruin the potential value of a long-term, loyal subscriber.
And while the definition of what truly constitutes “email spam” will vary from person to person, the following behaviors constitute spam in my book:
• Buying lists of subscribers from other email marketers (with the exception of obtaining a list as part of the purchase of a website that you intend to manage ethically in the future)
• Adding people to your list manually without their consent
• Sending email that’s full of links and fails your email autoresponder’s spam test
• Sending messages without the proper opt-out instructions (most autoresponder programs will include this for you automatically)
• Creating deliberately misleading subject lines to increase open rates
Basically, don’t be a jerk. Remember that your email marketing campaigns are an extension of your brand – just because they’re less visible than your blog doesn’t mean that any mistakes you make there will stay confined to your readers’ inboxes. Treat your email messages with the same care as you treat every other aspect of your business and, with time, you’ll start to see the benefit of this powerful marketing system.