Email marketing: the essentials

Last week I focused on two of the top email service providers – Surveymonkey and Campaign Master – to decide which one was best for anyone starting out in email marketing.

If you missed the result, then you can check it out here.

It turns out that even more of you than I had anticipated are keen to learn more about how to succeed in email marketing.

So today, I thought we’d look at some of the fundamentals…

Only email people who’ve given you permission

There are no blurred lines here: either they want it or they don’t. There are numerous sneaky ways of getting email addresses, some of them downright illegal, but these methods are not worth the effort.

There’s no point having emails on your list if they don’t want to receive messages from you. The only advantage to having a big email list is so you can show off in front of other email marketers, who love comparing traffic and opening rates and so on.

But it’s not the size that counts; it’s what you do with it!

So everyone on your list must want to hear from you, either because they love your products and want to hear about new releases, sales, offers, etc, or because they get some other benefit from your emails.

Remember: people are self-interested. They only open emails if there is something in it for them. This could be information that they need – to fix a problem they have, help them do their job better or make them rich.

Or it could be entertainment – your emails make them laugh or move them in some other way. Perhaps they find the subject, and the way you cover it, fascinating.

So, to get people opening your messages and stay engaged, you need to do at least one of the following:

  1. Keep them informed about your products, because they are already a huge fan – though this is, unfortunately, the least likely reason for them to open your emails.
  2. Save or make money
  3. Solve a problem: If you are selling an information product – ebook, course, membership site – it’s likely that it is intended to solve a problem, such as a health issue or a professional matter. It’s a no-brainer that your emails should address the same problem.
  4. Make them laugh. Or make their jaws drop. (Although, a warning: just because they forward your emails to their friends with a ‘Check this out… LOL’ message in front doesn’t mean they’ll buy your products, so be very wary of adopting this strategy unless your product itself is humorous.)
  5. Appeal to their most base instincts. Greed, fear, lust, jealousy, pride… Think of the seven deadly sins and you’ve got seven reasons that human beings will part with their cash! I’m certainly not saying that you should fill your emails with images of semi-naked women – and not just because you’re likely to get blocked by spam filters – but if you can appeal to the parts of the human psyche that drive us all, you’re halfway to a sale.

Get the mix right

When planning out your email campaigns, it’s important to think about frequency and the mix of what you’re sending.

First, most people think that it’s ’a bad thing’ to send emails out too frequently. In my experience, this is a myth. Amazon and many others send out emails every day, because they have a good reason for doing so. For some, like the many popular daily deal sites, it’s a core part of their business.

You should only send daily if you have a very good reason for doing so. Send emails as frequently as you can, as long as it makes sense.

You want to be a familiar (and welcome) sight in your customer’s inbox.
If you only send occasionally, they are not going to throw up their arms and say: ‘Oh, it’s so-and-so. I haven’t heard from them for ages. How lovely!’ They are more likely to think, ‘Who’s that?’ before pressing delete.

You want to remain front-of-mind, so on the day that they happen to need the product or service you offer, you are the first person or company they think of. Just remember to obey rule 1 and they won’t unsubscribe or report you for spam.

Now you need to think about the mix. There are generally two types of marketing email: editorial and advertising.

Editorial is where the primary purpose is to entertain or inform your reader. The purpose of this is to warm them up, keep them interested and titillated, so that when you hit them with an offer, they are more likely to respond.

Advertising is, of course, where the primary purpose of the email is to sell.

Getting the mix right can be hard, but as a rule, editorial should outweigh advertising at least 3:1. You will need to experiment with your list, though, to see what happens.

Create a decent design

Now you’ve decided what’s going to go in your emails and how often you’re going to send them, you should think about how they look.

There are some emails that work best as plain text, especially where it is a single writer communicating in the style of a letter with their audience.

Then there’s the ‘almost plain text’ approach, where the email is created in HTML but the design is very simple and reads like a letter. This is we do it here at Internet Income Detective.

Or you could go for the more designed email newsletter or ‘ezine’ approach, where the email looks more like a webpage.

The advantage of this approach is that it can look more professional, and it’s suitable for big or luxury brands where aesthetics are particularly important.

The disadvantages are that images might not load, or your central message might get lost among all the pretty pictures.

Finally, there is the fully image-based email, which you usually see from e-commerce or travel sites.

This only works where an image is more important than text and is unlikely to be suitable for you, although it depends on what you’re selling.

My advice is to look at the emails of similar businesses to yours and see what works for them. Sign up to as many email lists as you can and keep a ‘swipe’ file.

By the way, you don’t even need to hire a designer to create a nice-looking email. Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor, which we looked at last week, both have inbuilt template builders and editors, and there are thousands of HTML templates available online.

Building your list

None of this means anything if you don’t have a list of willing recipients.

I can’t even begin to cover the enormous topic of list building in this short email, but I will say that you should take every opportunity to tell visitors to your site that you have an email list and give them a strong reason to sign up to it.

As well as getting email addresses from your site, you could also use pay-per-click advertising. Of course, this costs, and Google does not even let you send potential leads to a page that only offers a sign-up.

It can work, but you need to keep an eye on your ROI (return on investment). In other words, you need to know the value of a lead and make sure you spend less than this on each one.

How can you work out the value of a lead?

You need to calculate how much money they are likely to spend.

For example, let’s say you sell a product for £50. You work out that for every 100 people who sign up to your list, five of them buy your product. That means you have a 5% conversion rate, so the value of each lead is 5% of the cost of the product, which is £2.50.

Therefore, you need to spend less than £2.50 acquiring each new lead.

My recommendation is to concentrate on building up your free leads, and that means sending traffic to your website. But that’s a whole different email…

Repeat success

The final point is a simple one: if something works well, do it again.

For example, if you launch a new product and get lots of orders on day one, don’t sit back and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Send the email again the next day, reminding people about the offer.

You should add a preamble to explain why you’re sending the email again. Perhaps there were so many orders that the system couldn’t handle it and you don’t want anyone to miss out…

This leads on to another tip… Campaigns that run over a number of days can work wonders. If you have a great offer, you can send out a series of offers over four or five days, counting down to the close of the offer.

If you say you’re going to close the offer, do it. You don’t want to train your list to expect you to trick them. It’s important that you do what you say you’re going to.

As I said, this is a huge subject and I could go on and on… so let me know if you’d like to get more detailed advice and I’ll make sure I cover it in future editions.

This article first appeared on Internet Income Detective. Read more and comment here