If you struggle with email marketing, aren’t convinced that it matters, or just haven’t gotten around to building an email strategy that makes money, this is for you.
Email marketing is not dead. Inboxes are flooded with sales flyers, junk email, and who knows what else, yet somehow, email marketing is still very effective. You can still reach buyers and grow your revenue with email, but there are a few tricks to doing it well. As part-owner of a coffee company, I made email a focus in our marketing strategy, and we were able to consistently generate revenue from a small list of highly engaged people. The brands that successfully incorporate email marketing as part of their strategy do it a little bit differently, and that’s why they’re winning in your inbox. Here are 11 things I’ve learned over the years that can help you build a solid email strategy.
Don’t Buy A List
It can be incredibly tempting to buy a large email list. Don’t do it.
Sure, you’d instantly get a large list of people to send your marketing emails to, but these people don’t want to hear from you. To them, you’re likely just spam, and that’s no way to live! People hate getting spammed, and Google does too. If enough people mark your emails as spam, Google will flag you – and you definitely want to avoid that filter.
Take the difficult route of slowly building a homegrown list of engaged people. A small list of 300 engaged people who chose to receive emails from you and will buy from you is far more valuable than a list of 30,000 people who have never heard of you and probably don’t care to.
Remember that you’re speaking to other people, not simply a “list.” Don’t be afraid to sound more like a person and less like a corporate robot in your emails. You don’t have to sound fancy or smart to people, you just have to be clear and genuine.
Make time to talk to people and engage with them. That’s what it means to be human, and after all. People appreciate when the owner, founder, or manager engages with them and talks to them human to human – even when you are selling to them.
You can’t show up once every two years and expect the people on your email list to buy from you at the wave of your “send” button (or even remember who you are!). Part of building a strong, engaged email list is nurturing that list, and a key component of nurturing your list is showing up consistently.
You don’t have to email every day or even multiple times a week, but it’s a good idea to show up in people’s inboxes once a week. They may not open every email you send, but seeing your name show up in their inbox consistently makes them remember that you exist. Don’t worry, emailing once a week isn’t spammy. It’s simply staying in touch.
Nurture More, Sell Less
“Always Be Closing” is retail jargon that means you should always be selling to people.
False. Humans don’t like being sold to, and honestly never really have. In order to buy from someone, or some brand, people must feel like they can trust that brand. If you’re always selling, you aren’t taking the time to build trust.
The best way to build trust with people is through what we call “nurture” content. Nurturing email content is simply content that provides value:
- answer their questions,
- ask for feedback,
- show “behind the scenes”,
- share testimonials,
- share your inspirations,
- teach them something valuable,
- and so much more.
You can mix in sales emails and product emails, but they shouldn’t dominate your customers’ inboxes. Send more nurture-type content than sales content, and you’ll develop a strong email list that trusts you.
Go Simple (Less Design)
You don’t have to send flashy, highly designed emails to get your point across or even to be effective.
This article shows big success for 3 companies on Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and they did it all without flashy emails. People responded so well to these text emails with a simple button on them.
The plain text vs. highly designed email debate is a common one in marketing circles, but I’d argue that simple text emails are more effective for one main reason: it looks like it’s coming from another human.
I’ve found that text emails are more likely to be engaged with and delivered directly to main inboxes. Highly designed emails tend to get lost in the Promotions tabs and thus, overlooked.
Segment Your Lists
People are different – with unique interests, tastes, backgrounds, and preferences. It will serve you well to keep that in mind when it comes to your email list.
When I owned a coffee company, some people on my email list liked darker roasts and some people preferred light roasted, fruity coffees. It wouldn’t do any good to send my dark roast loving friends content about light roasted coffee, would it? They wouldn’t really be interested in that.
By creating segments based on factors like preference, location, or even which stage of the buyer journey they’re in, you can send people content that is specifically geared to them, instead of simply lumping them into the same category as everyone else.
Nail the Subject Line
The subject line is the ad for the rest of the email. If the subject line is convincing enough, people will open your email. If not, they won’t open.
When writing a subject line for your marketing emails, it’s important to write a short, compelling, and clear statement. Before you click ‘Send’, take a step back and look at your email from your customer’s shoes. If it were your inbox, would that subject line make you want to read the rest of the email?
A tip for writing effective subject lines is to imagine writing to a person, instead of a list. If you were sending this email to one person that you know, how would the subject read? It’s okay for your email to feel like it’s coming from a friend – after all, we like communicating with humans more than corporations!
*One more thing about subject lines: don’t be misleading. The last thing you want to do is let people down when they open your emails. If your subject line hypes up the email and what’s inside really isn’t all that exciting, people will begin to expect the same results every time they get an email from you.
Use a CRM
Mailchimp, Drip, Convertkit, ActiveCampaign, Hubspot, etc, etc. There are so many customer relationship management (CRM) softwares to choose from – but Gmail and Outlook are not on that list.
The most important reason you should use a CRM to send marketing emails, instead of simply sending directly from your email address, is spam. Start sending marketing emails from your normal email account and you’ll get flagged as ‘spam’ in a heartbeat. CRMs protect you from that.
The less obvious reasons for choosing a CRM is that it simply makes email marketing easier. With any of the CRMs listed above, you can:
- Automate emails
- Segment contacts based on preferences, locations, etc
- View open and click rates
- Send emails to thousands of people at once
You may be weary of committing to a monthly subscription for one of these ESPs, but it’s worth every penny – and if done right, you should make your investment back many times over each month!
From: “Name”… Not “Company”
This is closely related to the idea of being more “human.” People identify with other people, not corporations. Instead of the From line saying: “firstname.lastname@example.org”, make sure it says “Sally Barker” or even “Sally at Acme Co.”
People like to see the face of another person pop up in their inbox, not some ethereal company. Ideally, someone (usually the founder) will become the face of the company in this regard.
I had great success doing this with my coffee company. My emails were From: “Jeff at Batch Nine”, and I signed every email, “From, Jeff”. This really helped people establish a face with the brand, and we got quite significant engagement from our list, as a result.
CRMs are powerful tools that allow you to automate emails and send them when certain trigger actions occur – all while you are sleeping. With these softwares, you can set up entire sequences of emails to send automatically, over a set period of time.
Use these features.
Set up welcome emails to send automatically when a new subscriber opts in, or type emails and schedule them to send days in advance. Automation is simply part of creating a plan for people once they have subscribed to your list. You can still send the occasional broadcast email in real-time, but the point of automation is that your email marketing can be a 24/7 selling machine.
Short and Sweet (& Clear!)
These days, we don’t read much. The old adage, “Keep It Simple, Stupid” is as relevant as ever – especially when it comes to marketing emails.
If you can’t say what you need to say in 2-3 paragraphs, save that thought for a blog post or some other piece of content.
Keep your emails simple, short, and to the point. For example, if you’re running a sale, don’t spend 3 paragraphs leading into the sale announcement.
Try to break up big blocks of text into smaller, easier-to-digest pieces of copy…like I did in this section! 🙂
Many small businesses don’t have a solid email strategy, and often it’s because they don’t know where to begin. It’s unfortunate because it really is one of the most effective ways to generate revenue for your company.
As a copywriter and marketing strategist, email marketing is part of what I do – I help clients write emails and build a solid email marketing strategy that wins you more customers. If you’d like to get on the ball with your company’s email marketing strategy, let’s chat.
Written by Jeff Felten