There are many good reasons to invest time in email marketing … greater reach, more information and best of all, it’s free
A healthy email list of clients and potential clients is one of the most valuable assets in your marketing toolbox. Social media has a dismal record for reaching all your followers. Obviously they push you to boost your posts, or in other words, pay to reach your people.
With mass email, you’re certain that all the people on your list who have signed up to receive your marketing materials receive them.
First, the law
The laws governing mass email to prevent spam are fairly tough. This is a good thing. You can’t just sign people up for your list, willy nilly. They need to be current customers, people who have given you permission to email them, ideally in writing or with a digital signature, or they need to have completed the signup process themselves, online. The latter is the ideal method.
You also have to give them the option of opting out of emails with two clicks at most, if memory serves me correct. If you do business in Europe and email there, the rules are even tougher. I’ll skip those for now, because there are good solutions to all these problems.
Free email marketing solutions are available
The good news, is unless you have a massive email list, the solution is free.
There are a number of email marketing services. The two I’ve used most frequently are Constant Contact and Mail Chimp. Of the two I prefer MailChimp. Both have free offers, which allows you to do several thousand emails per month at no charge. There is also a limit of emails you can mail to at one time. With MailChimp that’s 2,000 addresses, and 12,000 emails per month.
All these companies offer the services you need most, which is a signup form, list management and an interface for creating the email.
In short, you drive people to your signup form and they automatically go into the list. You can ask questions which are useful for creating separate or segmented lists, so you can target different audiences with different messages. In my case, I have one list for small businesses and another for photographers and artists.
Getting the signup
The easiest way of getting signups is to put one of those annoying popup windows on your website, asking them to sign up. I hate them, I have to be honest. But they work. You can make an offer for signing up, such as a discount on their first purchase. But curiously enough, I find that leaving the offer off and just offering information, such as blog posts captures nearly as many addresses.
It’s worth remembering that the reasons popups work isn’t always because the person is interested in your product. A lot has to do with psychology, and that sometimes people don’t read directions and believe they have to sign up to make the window go away.
These people aren’t useful for marketing to of course. But quite often they unsubscribe from your list later so you don’t have a lot of worthless emails.
Also, you can choose the ones who never open your emails and unsubscribe them yourself if you run short of addresses in your free plan.
See exactly what your results are
The statistics for these programs are insightful. You can for instance see at a glance how many people opened your email, and how many clicked from the email to your website. You can see exactly who did both even … (so yes, I see you opening these emails).
One thing I’ve learned from reading my statistics over the years, is though email is one of the best ways of reaching your customers, getting a quarter of the people who receive emails to open them is considered good. Above that is great. And the click through to your website rate is even lower.
It also seems the larger a list, when compiled through website signups, the lower your percentages. Still, it beats the hell out of most social media. And you’re able to give people much more information.
Another thing I’ve learned is you can never really be sure that your list is average. All these companies offer hints at the best times to email. Around 11 in the morning seems to be the best. The best day seems to be Tuesday. After that, it can greatly depend on your list and the people on it. For some lists the second best day is Thursday, for others it’s Wednesday. Weekends are bad, unless you happen to have subscribers who open them on weekends.
In short, there are few rules that apply to everyone. The idea is you test various components, and through your statistics see what works best for your list.
Creating the emails are easier than you think
That leaves the interface for creating the email, and your signup forms. MailChimps is pretty simple, and getting easier. You can use a prebuilt template as is, or modify it to match the look of your marketing. Once you’ve got it how you like it, you can save that as a template for future uses.
You can choose a template with already selected fields, so you all you need do is drop in the images, and type over the place holder text. Or you can customize your template for each individual email.
The same goes for creating signup form and embedding it in your website or social media.
In short, you can get into the nitty gritty if you want, or you can use the existing templates. If you’re doing it on your own, that’s a good way to start. With each email you get a bit more familiar, and if you consult the directions, you can do nearly anything I can do. It just takes longer to get the hang of it. And perhaps, if I may say so, I might have a better graphic design sense.
So if you don’t want to take the time, I’m available.
One thing that makes email easier to format is you have fewer options. Creating the text and styling is very simple, easier than Microsoft Word for instance. Creating a sign up form isn’t any harder. You don’t even have to resize images prior to uploading in MailChimp. It will automatically resize them for you, if you choose that option.
If you do have skill though with Adobe Photoshop, you can optimize the images to load quicker.
Something to remember with everything online, is the longer anything takes, the more likely it is the reader will give up, or pass through the email before the images load.
Reviewing your work
Before you send out a thousand emails to prospective clients, it’s of course a good idea to read it over. Your teachers in school taught you to proofread. Don’t ignore them.
You also want to test on various devices. These services will show you how your email will look on a computer, a tablet, a phone and in some cases, let you choose brands or at least screen sizes. The layouts of email templates automatically change based on the screen size. So it’s a good idea to make sure it’s all working as well.
I usually send test emails to myself and my partner. Then I check on a laptop, a computer, a tablet and a phone.
Because hitting that send button is scary.
And so you’ve sent your email, got your own copy and see it’s perfection itself. Now you wait and watch the open and click rates with baited breath, and wait for the phone to ring. It takes a few days for all the results to roll in. Once in you can compare that email to previous ones, to see what works best.
You can also test separate parts of your emails. For instance you can send one email with a different headline to half of your list, and then see which headline worked best. With enough testing, you can then be more certain that what you say or show has the most appeal possible.
You can also share your email with social media, and encourage your readers to forward it as well.
Does it work?
Not for everyone, no. Young people especially are turning away from email. But of all the marketing tools out there, a properly designed and planned email campaign can be one of the most effective, reliable and valuable techniques available.