If you’re a business owner, by now you’ve probably heard about email marketing. You may have been told it’s the way to grow your business, become the next training superstar and gain international stardom.
Some of the claims you’ll see about the powers of email marketing are, well, over hyped. But there’s no getting away from the fact that email marketing can be a very powerful tool in your business toolbox. So, what exactly is it?
Email marketing is simply sending messages to a group of people (current or potential customers) using email.
Why use email for marketing?
The biggest gain to be had from email marketing over, say social media marketing, is that you own your email list and any resources you create for email marketing.
Marketing efforts you build on social media platforms can be lost in the blink of an eye or the change of an algorithm.
You’ll never have to worry about the whims of social media platforms if you use email marketing. What you build you get to keep.
You’re in control
Having a list of email addresses for current clients, prospective leads and mildly interested followers means you can be proactive about staying in touch with them — which puts you in the driving seat with regards to building customer relationships. If you have someone’s email address you can open — and re-open — the conversation, even after they’ve left your social platform or website.
Why you need an Email Marketing Service
The best thing about email marketing? In its basic form, email marketing is pretty simple.
However, don’t be tempted to do bulk email sends from your business account! Or any other normal email account for that matter. Why? Because if you do, the email powers-that-be will blacklist you as a spammer. And once you’ve had your email address flagged as spam, it’s almost impossible to undo it.
Instead, sign up to a dedicated Email Marketing Service. Don’t consider sending bulk emails without one — trust me on this!
Play by the anti-spam laws
An email marketing service will ensure your emails meet all the legal requirements. And there are plenty! Most countries have some version of anti-spam laws. In the USA it’s known as the CAN-SPAM Act.
If you examine any marketing emails you receive, you’ll notice they all have some details in common. For example, they’ll all Include clearly visible unsubscribe links and, depending on your location, a physical business address. These are part of the CAN-SPAM Act.
An email marketing service provider will ensure all CAN-SPAM requirements are met and that anyone who clicks unsubscribe is removed from your list. But there’s more to using an email marketing platform than “because The Law says you should”…
Email marketing platform as a CRM
A what? CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. And if you have more than 10 clients, you probably want one.
A CRM helps you store customer information and manage marketing campaigns from one place.
You can set up your email marketing platform to record and track all sorts of useful information about your subscribers:
- Their general details — name/address/phone
- The name of their dog(s)
- Their dog’s birthday
- Dog’s sex and neuter status
- Which classes they’ve attended
- Which training location they attend
- Their usual trainer
- Anything else that is relevant to their relationship with you.
At heart, a CRM is a big database that you use to sort and filter data so you can send your emails to the people most likely to benefit from them. Luckily, you don’t have to be a database wizard to use a CRM. You don’t need to worry about the back end at all because that’s done for you by the software.
How to choose the right service for you
If you’ve just done a Google search for “Email Marketing Service provider” or similar, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by now.
There are plenty to choose from! So, to narrow down your options, here are the top three things you need to consider.
First up, how big is your list? Most of the bigger providers do a free plan, depending on how large your subscriber list is. It’s also important to check how the provider counts subscribers. For some providers, each email address is only counted once. For these, it doesn’t matter if you have subscribers on multiple sub-lists.
However, for other providers, each email address on any given list OR sub-list is counted. That means that if you have multiple sub-lists and the same addresses appears on more than one of them, you could be paying for that subscriber more than once.
Most providers have pricing tiers that depend on your list size so it makes sense to look carefully at how that is calculated.
What do you want to do with your new email platform? If all you want to do is send a basic newsletter to everyone, you’ll be able to get away with a provider that is perhaps a bit cheaper.
Not all email marketing platforms work the same way. They all do basically the same things but their user interfaces — the way you use the program, the terminology and how functions are mapped out — are all a bit different.
The best thing to do is test at least two and decide which you like best. It’s inevitable that one of them will make more sense and be easier for you to use than another just based on its user interface.
The four we recommend
Convertkit and Mailchimp are very basic and user friendly so are often a good bet if you’re just starting out with email marketing software.
Active Campaign is for the serious email marketing user. It has sophisticated integration, automation, and segmentation tools but those come with a bigger price tag, as you’d expect.
Constant Contact is a midway point between Convertkit and Active Campaign.
You’ve signed up…now what?
Once you’ve settled on your email provider, you’re ready to get started. And for most small businesses that means sending email newsletters. So, what is a newsletter and how do you create a good one?
Writing the perfect newsletter
First of all, an email newsletter is NOT the same as a print newsletter. Our guide to writing effective newsletters goes into more detail but basically, the goal of your newsletter is to communicate one or two key points in any given email. It doesn’t need to have six articles and three videos and a link to every training resource you’ve ever enjoyed.
How to choose what to include
When you’re creating your newsletter, keep your reader in mind. They’ll only keep opening your emails if what you provide is worthy of their time and energy. Before including something, ask yourself whether it fits in a VASE:
- V = VALUE
Does the item provide something valuable?
- A = AMUSEMENT
Is it funny or entertaining?
- S = SOLUTIONS
Does it fix a problem they’re facing, or might face in the future?
- E = EDUCATION
Does it teach them something new or interesting?
Items can sometimes fit in multiple categories — for example, solutions and education will often blend — but that’s fine.
To make these ideas more concrete, let’s look at some examples from real emails we’ve received:
VALUE – Most people would find a free gift card valuable.
AMUSEMENT – Hopefully this example is self-explanatory!
SOLUTIONS – Frequently, a solution-based email is going to be focused on selling something to the reader.
EDUCATION – An education-focused email teaches or informs the reader, they don’t necessarily need to buy anything to get the benefit from it.
Do’s and Don’ts of effective emails
Now you have a good idea of what to include in your emails, I just want to cover a few general do’s and don’ts for effective email marketing…
- Write like a person! Your emails need to be friendly, warm, and professional, not starchy and corporate. Imagine you’re writing to your favorite client; it’ll help you keep that personal feel. Ask yourself the following questions and make sure you include the answers in your email:
- “Why would this person care about this email?”
- “What information do they need to make a decision on whether they want to click on the link?”
- “Why is this piece of information entertaining or interesting to them in any way?”
- Tell your subscribers about upcoming events, classes, openings in your schedule, or new offerings BEFORE making the news public in social media. Your subscribers want to feel they are considered before anyone else.
- Keep your emails simple and focused on ONE primary call-to-action or piece of information it’s trying to convey. Maybe include a quick story, a link to a blog post, a joke, or a question. But keep in mind what you want the email to achieve — what would you like the reader to actually do?
- SEND YOURSELF A TEST EMAIL!! You’d be amazed at how typos and “OMG! Did I really say that?” sentences will fly under your proof-reading radar until you see the message in its live form.
- Only try to sell to your subscribers; no-one likes to be constantly sold to. No more than 1/3 of your emails should be aimed at selling stuff, the rest should fall into VASE model, where “S” doesn’t stand for “sell.”
- Talk about yourself in the third person. If you spoke to a client like that, it’d be weird right?
- Underestimate your subject line. If your subscribers don’t read the subject line, it doesn’t matter how fabulous the body of the email is, they’re unlikely to open it to find out.
- Include too many images. This will trigger some email programs to flag that message as spam. This can affect the deliverability of your marketing emails in the future.
- Over-think it. You want to put your best foot forward, but it should still sound like you. Be yourself!
- Do it once and forget about it. When it comes to any marketing effort, consistency matters.
- Sign people up for your email list without their permission. Really. Please don’t do this.
You now have the basics of email marketing, what it is, why it’s great, how to get started and some idea of what to do and what to avoid. Next time we’ll take a detailed look at the fun, flashy stuff like automations and segmentation so you can really get the best out of your email marketing efforts.