You’ve heard over and over again that the power of a small business is in the list. And yet, there you sit, still baffled or mortified over starting an email marketing campaign.
Email marketing is at the heart of the most successful businesses these days, both online and brick and mortar.
And while it can be very intimidating to get started with email, there’s no denying it’s power to build a successful business.
Whether you’ve been putting off starting your email list, or you’re feeling too much like newbie to begin, read on because this ultimate guide to kick starting your email marketing is just for you.
Email is permission marketing at it’s most intimate via digital channels. Any more personal and you’d be meeting face to face over dinner.
People date over email, they conduct research, construct lucrative deals, build companies, sell products, keep up with loved ones…email is versatile.
And one of the most versatile and effective elements of marketing, selling, and building a business is email. 1999 called and wants us to know it was right all along.
Email is just as strong as it was way back then, and if you’re starting or running a business without a strong email marketing element, then this tutorial is exactly what you need to kick start your own email campaign.
Email is versatile, but it’s NOT free.
Don’t think for one instant that it’s a no-brainer for people to drop an email address into your opt-in form. How quick are you to just hand out your phone number to anyone that asks?
Well, these days email is just as personal and as people are being bombarded from all sides, email is their last refuge of controlled privacy in an otherwise chaotic life of invasion marketing.
So, as you build your email marketing it’s imperitive to keep in mind that permission is always earned and never assumed. Take people’s willingness to sign up seriously. That’s why it’s improtant to consider what kind of email delivery service you choose.
Choosing a service.
There’s plenty to choose from in the world of email marketing. Several offer free options when you’re under a certain number of subscribers.
The top two providers in this arena are Aweber and Mailchimp.
Aweber has a long history of robust features and professional tools for maintaining large and numerous lists for your business.
While they lack a lot in the ability to design good-looking emails and sign-up forms, their delivery service is often recognized as one of the best.
You can start your first month for only a dollar and after that it’s only $19 for up to 500 subscribers on your list.
MailChimp is quickly becoming everyone’s favorite provider lately. Not only are they a fun brand but they really make it simple to maintain several lists, create nice looking forms and emails, and the best part is they’re free up to 2,000 subscribers.
They also have very affordable monthly plans that include the kitchen sink of services and features, starting at only $10 a month. But honestly, the forever free plan does everything you’ll need at this stage of your business.
Remember though, it’s not the service that makes or breaks a successful email marketing campaign. It’s the content and your desire to truly inform and serve.
Speaking of which…
What do you send in your email?
Well, before we answer that question specifically, let’s look at what your goals are for email.
Email can be used for a variety of goals, and not just one at a time. You can use email to accomplish several things at once.
For instance, let’s say you want to educate your reader, establish expertise, and sell products. Those three things can be achieved at the same time through your email list if you pay close attention to the content you send out.
If you only pick one goal for your list, then may I humbly suggest the first one used in the illustration above – educating your readers. Because if you focus on the betterment of others then you will accomplish both expertise and sales due to that one main goal.
In ten years of using email marketing, I’ve found the best approach with email is to both educate and entertain at the same time with the hope of leaving each reader better off than before they read your message.
Now that you have your goals picked out that will best serve your ideal client and your business, we find ourselves back to the original question, “What do you send in your emails?”
In short the best answer to that is value. I know it sounds cliche’ and everyone talks about value and being valuable. But, it’s true. If you create content that adds real tangible value to your client’s existence, than your emails will become a welcome relief from the noise pummeling their inboxes.
Ok, now let’s get specific. I’ve found that the most valuable content is what I call, “peripheral content.” It’s the topics that you’re ideal client is constantly wondering about but maybe isn’t open to asking about in fear of looking foolish. Or in some cases, they really have no idea how to even ask questions about those topics, but they still know they need answers.
For instance, let’s pretend you run a business that sells self-published serialized educational books for Kindle. Peripheral content for this type of offering can be found in questions like:
- How do I know my child is getting anything from their textbooks at school?
- Are the teachers in my kid’s school even caring about the individual attention my child needs?
- Is it better for my child to learn on their own or with a teacher?
- Do textbooks help or hurt my child’s ability to really learn?
- Are there topics my child wants to learn but doesn’t have access to?
Peripheral topics circle around the main point of your business or offering, but don’t necessarily talk about the same thing over and over again.
So, it’s your job and your privilege to uncover those peripheral topics and dive in deep. These are the pain points that your ideal client is experiencing on a regular basis, but has no clue where to even begin searching for the solution.
So, if you come along and hand them the solution, well, let’s just say you’re the new hero. And it goes a long way to earning trust with potential buyers.
How to know what they want to know.
It’s a question that gets asked over and over, “How do I learn what my subscribers want to know?”
Ok, listen up because I’m only going to say this one. Ready?
You ask them, and then listen closely to their answers.
Yes, seriously, that’s all there is to it. You can do this with a small survey, a short email that asks them to reply, a blog post, phone conversations, personal emails, face to face coffee talks, a Skype chat, a live Google Hangout, and any other means of communication you can have with your customers.
The key to getting the right answers is of course to ask the right questions, and believe me, the old “Hey, what do you want me to write about,” question doesn’t work.
They don’t know what they want you to write about. You’re the expert. They want to trust you enough to know you’ll always bring them in-depth material that’s valuable.
You want to ask questions directly related to their lifestyle revolving around the product or service you provide. Even better, have a conversation with them about the problems that your business is solving or the fantasy it delivers.
It’s in these conversations that you’ll find all the peripheral content that your people will find very valuable. So, it’s in your best interest to have these conversations often.
Once you have your list of content ideas it’s time to spread them out into simple but meaningful messages that solve or enlighten people on the peripheral topics they’ve expressed to you.
Simple email writing tools.
For writing and storing emails any word processing program will do the job.
Some popular ones are Google Docs, Word, and Text Editor.
Here are the two I use daily.
I like to use a program called iA Writer for Mac for totally distraction-free writing. However, it’s not the best program for organizing large amounts of messages on different topics.
If I need to lay out a structure to an email autoresponder sequence (i.e. several topics with several emails for each topic) I use an amazing program called Scrivener. This is more of a book-writing program, but it’s so versatile I use it for almost everything I write.
How long do emails need to be?
There’s no concrete rule to email length, so perhaps a good answer is that the email needs to be as long as necessary to effectively communicate the big idea and make it worth people’s time to read.
From my experience, emails typically do well when they’re under 500 words but over 250. Short, sweet, and to the point works well for people because they’re busy and usually have a lot of email to process outside of yours.
But, if it needs to be longer, and will be very valuable, then don’t be afraid to go long. If you’re giving people good stuff, they’ll always take the time to read, no matter the length.
Bonus tip: If you have topics that you want to cover in-depth but want to still send it to your subscribers, a little downloadable mini-book in PDF or Kindle format will go a long way, or even a small series of them. We all love free books!
How often do I email my subscribers?
Well, the unfortunate answer is it depends. It depends on a lot of factors, like the type of business you run, the type of people you’re ideal clients are, and the type of content you’re going to send out.
Fortunately there’s no one single right way to run a successful email marketing campaign because it’s easily adaptable to your business and customers. Unfortunately, that can make it a little overwhelming to figure out exactly how to start.
So, here’s a rundown of the most popular ones being used successfully.
Autoresponder Series – A series of emails written and scheduled ahead of time that automatically deliver to subscribers upon signing up. All the top email providers have autorepsonder capabilities, but few people take advantage of it. These can be set to daily, weekly, monthly…it’s all up to you to decide.
Newsletter – This used to be the most popular form of email marketing. We all remember those over-done ugly HTML newsletters with all kinds of colors, headers, sidebars, and lots of pictures.
These days, smart marketers have thankfully replaced the ugly newsletter with plain text emails or simplified newsletter designs that are elegant and beautiful. These templates can be designed in your email program and again, scheduled ahead of time. These are great for delivering a summary of information that points back to your site. Like a mini-magazine or sorts.
The Update – This one is used very well by a some people I admire. They create something of value like a free PDF magazine, video series, podcast, or Kindle book, and each time a new edition or episode is ready, they send out a simple email that directs subscribers to download or watch.
You create the media on a regular basis and fill the magazine, book, or program with the peripheral content we discussed earlier. This way people look forward to the event of opening your email and getting their new free thing.
This approach, while simple in appearance is a lot more work than the other methods, because you have to always be producing the next issue, edition, or episode. And as someone who’s been involved in that before, it’s a lot of work.
So, how do you know what’s the best method for you and your customers?
Test test and test again. In other words, the only way to know is to simple start.
Don’t be afraid to try a new method and have it NOT work. That’s important data. And you never know until you actually take action on something if it’s right or wrong for everyone.
Building a successful and responsive email list takes time and effort. Let it take as long as it needs, while you remain open to making any and all changes you observe as you go.
21st century commerce, while using new tools and networks, is still operating from the same principles that have governed business since the dawn of time – communication, provision, and care.
Email is a perfect medium for accomplishing all these things and more for your ideal customer, so if you’ve been wondering or putting off kick starting your email marketing campaign, then it’s a good thing you’ve just read this tutorial because now you have everything you need to get started right now.
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