Online Marketing Lesson 27: Email Marketing Basics

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The money is in the list. This is a common Internet marketing saying, and it is also true. No promotional technique beats email marketing as far as profitability is concerned. Why? Because email is the most direct and personal means of communication that we have available. Virtually every single person has an active email account these days, and the advantage of using an email list to market to prospects and customers is the fact that you can put your messages right in front of their faces.

And we are not talking about spam or unsolicited messages. A quality email list will have people who opted to receive your messages, and who possibly even look forward to them.

If you take a look around, you will notice that most Internet marketers base the launch of their products and services around email lists. Secondly, most established companies also use email marketing to keep contact with their prospects and customers. Did you ever buy a book on Amazon? If so, you might have noticed that they always follow up with a confirmation of your order and, after some time, with more offers that you could be interested in. That is email marketing.

There are two main factors that affect the quality of an email list: its responsiveness, and its size. In this lesson, we will talk about the first one, and in the next lesson, we will cover the list building techniques that you can use to increase the size of your email list.

Who Should Use Email Marketing?

At this point, you might be asking yourself: “Should I use email marketing even if I will make money selling advertising on my blog and not selling any products or services?”

Absolutely. Email marketing should be an important piece of any online marketing strategy. As long as you want to promote something on the Internet, therefore, you should start working on your email lists.

If you are a blogger, for example, you could create an email newsletter that either complements or delivers the content of your blog. The first option means that you would write some content specifically for the newsletter. The second option means that your email newsletter would just contain a small description and a link to your recent blog posts. You could then deliver the newsletter once a week or once a month.

This would give you another channel to interact with your readers, would possibly increase the traffic of your blog, and would also give you the possibility to talk directly and efficiently with your readers, should you need to do so in the future.

Email List Responsiveness

As we mentioned before, the responsiveness of your email list is the first factor that affects its quality. By responsiveness we mean the percentage of email subscribers who will:

  1. open your emails when you send them,
  2. read the message that you will send with the emails, and
  3. take action based on what the message talked about.

The “taking action” part can be a wide range of things. If you write an email to your list asking them to take a look at your latest blog post, people would take action by clicking on the link and reading your post. If you write an email to your list mentioning that your friend just released a really cool ebook, taking action would involve clicking on the link and downloading the ebook. Finally, if you write an email to your list mentioning a product that you just launched in the market, taking action would mean purchasing the product.

Here is a quick example to illustrate how a responsive list is vital. Suppose that two companies are about to launch two very similar products in the market. Company A has a highly responsive email list with 20,000 prospects, which was built over the years and with a good amount of interaction with the subscribers. Company B, on the other hand, has an email list with 150,000 subscribers, but the list is very low quality because it was purchased and built with spammy techniques.

During the launch of the products, both companies send a sequence of messages to their lists, explaining the benefits of the products and encouraging the prospects to buy them. Out of the 20,000 prospects in the list of Company A, 12,000 open and read the message, and 1,000 (or 5%) end up purchasing the product. Out of the 150,000 prospects in the list of company B, only 20,000 open and read the message (because many of the email addresses were not even valid), and 150 (or 0,1%) end up purchasing the product (because most of the people in the list were not interested in the product to begin with).

Three Building Blocks to a Responsive List

If you want to have a responsive email list, you will need to pay attention to these three building blocks:

1. Targeted Subscribers

You must make sure that you have targeted subscribers in your list. This means that your subscribers will have a common profile or a common interest. For example people interested in learning how to cook better or people who desire to make money in the stock market.

Secondly, you also want to make sure that your subscribers know exactly what kind of content they will get from your email messages. For example, if you plan to use your newsletter exclusively to promote a certain product, you should be upfront about it and let the subscribers know before they subscribe.

2. Double Opt-In

Anti-spam laws from around the world usually state that you can send direct email marketing messages only to people who have given their prior consent, which is called “opt-in.” There are two ways to get this consent, however: the single opt-in and the double opt-in.

With the single opt-in you simply need to use a subscription form where the user will type her name and email, and upon clicking on the “Subscribe” button she will automatically get included in your list.

With the double opt-in model, after clicking on the “Subscribe” button the person will be sent a verification email, where she will need to click on a confirmation link.

The double opt-in method adds another security layer, to ensure that people really own the email address that they inserted in your form. The problem is that many people never verify their subscriptions, either because they forget to, or because the verification email was blocked by spam filters.

It is not uncommon to see verification rates below 50%, which means that for every 100 people who use your subscription form, only 50 will actually become subscribers.

This issue leads many people to use the single opt-in, which is a big mistake. First of all, because using the single opt-in model will inflate your list with people who don’t know how to click on a link, or who can’t get your messages because their spam filters are blocking them. Secondly, with the single opt-in model you might also get some subscribers whose email addresses were maliciously inserted in your form by bots or other users, causing spam violation problems.

If you want to be safe and have a responsive list, therefore, always go with double opt-in.

3. Relationships

Even if you have targeted subscribers and used a double opt-in model, you still won’t have a responsive list unless you build a relationship with the subscribers.

For example, if you just keep building your list for 6 months, and then you send first message to the list promoting your latest product, most subscribers will wonder who you are, why you are emailing them, and how the heck you got their email address in the first place.

Needless to say, the results won’t be very good.

In order to build a relationship with the subscribers, you need to keep in touch with them regularly. This could mean one email per week, one email every 15 days or even one email every 30 days. The frequency itself is not determinant. The important thing is to keep a regular interval between your messages and to make sure that your subscribers understand when and why they will receive the messages.

Secondly, make sure to deliver value through your messages. If you just push affiliate offers and sales pitches to your subscribers, they will leave as fast as they came. Value will mean different things for different audiences, but you must deliver it. If you have a newsletter to promote your humor blog, for instance, your email messages will need to be funny and to deliver entertainment to your subscribers. If you have an email list to promote your stock trading ebook, your messages should include tips and tutorials about how to make money trading stocks. So on and so forth.

Finally, you should also try to speak from a personal point of view, to establish intimacy with your subscribers. Email is a very personal communication platform, and your subscribers will trust your messages more if they know that there is a real person sending them on the other end. Practically speaking, always use your name (even if you are sending the messages on behalf of your company), and do not be afraid of sharing your personal experiences if they are relevant to the topic.

Email Marketing Solutions

There are several services and software that you can use to manage your email marketing campaigns. Below we will cover some web-based services and self-hosted solutions.

Web-Based Solutions

Aweber.com: Aweber is the leading web-based email marketing service. It comes with many advanced features, and the delivery rate of emails is very high. The drawback is the relatively high prices. For up to 500 subscribers you will pay $19 monthly, between 501 and 2,500 $29 monthly, between 2,501 and 5,000 subscribers $49 monthly and so on.

iContact.com: Another reliable email marketing company. The minimum monthly payment here is $14, which covers up to 500 subscribers. After that the pricing goes up in a similar fashion to Aweber. The company offers over 300 email templates, and you can also use the service to create surveys.

ConstantContact.com: The pricing and features of ConstantContact are similar to the other two companies. One difference is that you can try their services free for 60 days. The online surveys module also comes with more features when compared to competitors.

Self-Hosted Solutions

Interspire.com: This email marketing software needs to be installed on a web server that supports PHP. The price for a single user license is $499, and it comes with all the advanced features that you might need. The advantage of using a self-hosted solution like this one is the fact that you will only need to pay once. The drawback is the need for technical knowledge.

ActiveCampaign.com: The email marketing software from this company is called 1-2-All. The basic license costs $229, but it is limited to 4 email lists. The license with unlimited lists and up to six administrators costs $329. The company also offers a wide range of add-ons and web based support.

Action Points

  1. Review the three building blocks of responsive email lists.
  2. Decide the email marketing solution that is more suitable for your needs, and get started with it.
  3. Familiarize yourself with the features of your solution, and integrate a subscription form into your website or blog.

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