90% of the marketing managers we consult with don’t know how to do email marketing and are making fatal mistakes in their email marketing by writing bullshit monthly newsletters.
So what are the problems with a monthly newsletter? The main issue is your lack of leverage at the campaign level:
Each email written, and gets sent out one single time.
You spend all that time writing your email, and making it look just right, and then once it’s sent… it becomes instantly useless.
Are disposable emails putting your best foot forward?
The hidden pitfall there, and something that doesn’t rear its ugly head until years down the line, is that you force yourself into a cycle of lower (and lower, and lower…) quality content which turns fewer (and fewer, and fewer…) sales, as the problem compounds.
Why your monthly newsletter’s suck, and how to start email marketing the right way
If you’ve tuned into the online marketing world, then you’ll know who Gary Vaynerchuk is and you’ll probably also know about his book, ‘Jab, Jab, Jab… Right Hook’, a metaphor for modern interaction in what he deems ‘The Sharing Economy’.
In Gary’s book he tells you to focus on giving in order to cut through the clutter on social media with creative and powerful content.
“There is no sale without the story; no knockout without the setup.”
In other words, brands are – to their own detriment – thinking of social media as a distribution channel rather than a storytelling channel; one where you shove self-promotion and uncompelling sales pitches in people’s faces.
So if you’re still sending out a monthly newsletter, you know where your business fits in when Gary says, “99% of people don’t market in the year we actually live in”
Modern marketing is about providing value to your prospects and customers. This means, “we’re offering 10% off for the entire weekend!” won’t work, but, “here are some great ideas to use X product of ours this Summer!” will.
The Internet allows you to focus individual content pieces at every stage of the content marketing funnel (that’s all four stage Awareness, Interest, Decision, and Action), and to be successful with your online marketing, you need to be writing content for every stage.
Right now – with your spammy “10% off” newsletters – you’re only creating content for the Action stage.
How to create an email marketing strategy, and the benefits of using autoresponder in your email marketing campaigns
To avoid disposable emails your emails must be… (anyone? anyone?!)… reusable.
Just like any good song, movie, product, or service… You want to squeeze more than one moment of value from it.
An email autoresponder can be loosely defined as an ongoing, evergreen campaign of your best content – which drips out automatically through the use of software – sent periodically over a period of days, weeks, months, or even years in a completely controlled manner.
Control is the key word, there.
Since you control the narrative, you control the path, and are able to craft the perfect story for your subscribers (and future customers or clients!).
The idea is:
- The day they sign up, they get an email
- 2 days later, they get another email
- 3 days later, they get another email
- 5 days later, they get another email
- 5 days later, they get another email
- 3 days later, they get another email
… and so on and so on, you get the picture.
When you stagger your marketing campaign this way you uncover a ton of opportunity:
- Rather than writing the email once and sending it out to your current list once, you write the email once and send it out to every subscriber that ever subscribes to your email list, plus any others that ever will, starting today and lasting forever
- Rather than writing an email based on what’s happening today (because who knows if that will be interesting), you craft a story months in advance and plan every single piece of the narrative
- You’re able to focus your best content first to keep new subscribers excited about your next email. This will significantly lower your unsubscriptions, which means more opportunity to show more people you’re the right company for their business
- You’re able to spend 10 times the amount of time, energy, resources, and money into each email – making each email 10 times more interesting – because the emails are re-used on every subscriber
- You turn your email list into an incredibly valuable, vital, profitable, and effective marketing channel as you are turning your list becomes a blackbook of future clients which you’re able to market to over and over again
- You get access to critical analytics data on every email that goes out over time, to know the best times to send emails, the best subjects to get them opened, and know exactly what’s working (and what’s not!), see what your users want, and be able to improve month after month
I know what you’re thinking, “sounds great, but how do I set that up?”
These days, you’ve got a ton of options. First, let’s take a look at the paid software you’re going to need to invest in. This is probably the easiest business expense you could ever justify.
How To Setup Email Marketing For Your Business
People consume social media, but they buy after doing their own research. It’s is the perfect conduit to getting people on board, and turning potential customers into paying customers.
The good news is, whoever you’re currently using for your email list probably already offers an autoresponder, but the bad news is you’re going to have to dig into your pockets and cough up some dough (they’re typically a monthly paid plan).
If you’re not happy with the email provider you’re currently using, or if – gasp – you don’t already have an email list (in which case you should sign up with any of these), here are a couple of the one’s I recommend.
- Active Campaign
- Constant Contact
If you’re already using one of the above services, this is a time to check out the competition and see if you prefer the interface, or features/options of any the other industry leaders in the email marketing space.
If you’re on an old, crusty provider, here’s a great opportunity to set this up under a more modern provider. You’ll be able to export your old list and import them into the new provider with no problems.
Whether you’re coming from another email autoresponder provider or not, you’ll need to create a list of contacts, and an autoresponder campaign. In ActiveCampaign they’re called Automations, and it basically looks like a drawing board that you can drag and drop ‘Actions’ onto.
Don’t get caught up in the lingo. You’re just looking at a couple main functions:
- Send email, and…
- Wait X days
To get up and running in a hurry, focus on getting a framework in place.
- Create an email, type: “Test” in the subject and “Test” in the body. Hit Save.
- Create a delay, make it happen after the email, set it to wait 2 days. Hit Save.
- Create another email, make it happened after the delay, subject “Test 2”, body “Test 2”. Hit Save.
You now have the skeleton of an autoresponder sequence to get you started.
You’ll – obviously – want to go back and edit those two emails before sending, but the point here is to not get overwhelmed with the minutia.
Get started, get the framework in place, understand the pieces, and then dive in further.
By focusing on the bigger picture – the bird’s eye view – you’re able to start thinking about the various pieces fit together (how long to wait before the next email? What should the next email be? What should the first email be? What should the ongoing theme/storyline be?)
There are a lot of options, here. Some people get their prospects on a list by promising a discount.
Others offer a free 6-week course (delivered through email). Others offer a paid 6-week course (same thing, delivered through email).
Others offer an “upgrade” on their blog post, where you teach XYZ, then offer a video walkthrough if they sign up via email, and a lot of these ideas are not something you have time to plan and execute if you’re always scrambling to get next month’s email out.
The Anatomy Of A Successful Email Marketing Campaign
Your autoresponder needs to start with a strong opening email
It would be hard to understate the importance of a strong opener. Lead with your best, best, best content. And your best, best, best headline as a subject.
You gotta set the hook early – that’s fisherman’s lingo, by the way – and set the tone of communication to, “we’re here to help, we’re here to provide value, and we know what we’re talking about”
Finding or creating great content in this first email shouldn’t be too difficult, but those of you who are new to creating content, might not know where to look. If you’ve got no idea what your best content is, one option is to go to Google Analytics and determine the most popular pages on your website.
To do that, go into your Analytics accounts, and under “All Website Data” you’re looking under Behavior > Landing Pages (or alternatively under Behavior > All Pages… check both and see what jumps out at you) and look at what pages people are finding you through.
Typically your homepage (shown as ‘/’ in the screenshot) and your about page will always be near the top (shown as ‘/about/’ in the screenshot).
Look beyond those at the content that has proven itself to be something people are searching, interesting in, and strong enough to rank – be that in Google’s eyes, or your peers via inbound links.
Viola! Your best content. Turn that content into short form content in the way of a story.
Get comfortable with emailing your audience a lot more often
Another mistake that managers – or interns, since that’s (frustratingly) the level of worker most businesses task with writing their email newsletter – make is only sending an email once a month.
If you’re scared of emailing your customer every 5–7 days, you need to ask yourself why. This will be unsettling and you won’t like the answer but here it is: the only reason someone would be afraid of talking to their potential audience, is if they’re worried that person will unsubscribe.
So here’s the solution: stop spamming your list, and get on board with this stuff, start offering value, invest some time and resources into emails that will always be valuable to your customers (and potential customers); emails they’ll be happy to receive, not dreading.
Your readers are your future; treat them like the VIP customer or client they are!
There’s a mindset change that needs to occur for you to find success with email marketing.
It’s a fundamental shift in how you value your customer. It’s sometimes referred to as a scarcity/abundance change, where you transition from ‘push marketing’ into ‘pull marketing’.
I won’t bore you with too many details, but here’s a quick run down:
- Your newsletter is ‘push marketing’ in the sense you are pushing deals and advertisements in front of someone. It’s interrupting their day, not complimenting it. Think of it like spear fishing.
- In ‘pull marketing’ your focus shifts from pushing yourself in front of the reader, to showing up where the reading is, and being the answer they’re looking for. You’re not a spear, you’re a net.
The main focus of pull marketing is changing from focusing on you, to focusing on them. This can feel counter-intuitive at first because despite what most marketing managers think, offering discounts to your readers is focused on you, not them.
The more value you can deliver in your email, the more it will resonate with your audience and the more they’ll enjoy your content and look forward to your emails in the future. Keep this in mind while planning and designing your email marketing campaigns. It’s about the reader. Hammer that home, and think of how you can add more value at every stage.
If you nail the message and content, then the time, effort, and money spent on making the emails spectacular – and I’m not talking about design – will pay dividends over the years to come.
Email marketing 101: Don’t give it all away in the subject!
If you’re sending the reader to a link, or your blog, or somewhere else they need to click to get to, don’t give it all away in the headline.
You’ll often hear me talk about the importance of a headline, but the rules translate to the big show as well. Don’t give it away in the excerpt, email, or subject.
Don’t form an opinion for the reader, let them do that. Keep the loop open so they have to click to get the full picture. People will naturally feel inclined to ‘close the loop’, or understand the idea you’re talking about in the email.
In the same vein, make sure the link ‘closes the loop’ for them, so they don’t end up feeling underwhelmed. More value, all the time.
How To Do Email Marketing: The Anatomy Of A Good Email
Here’s a frightening thought: 8 out of 10 people will read the subject, but only 2 out of 10 will read the next sentence. What does this mean for you?
Your headline is your lifeline, so be sure to nail your email subject
In marketing, your headline (or in this case, the email’s subject line) is the most important part. In email marketing terms, this means you must, must, must do your best to nail the subject line.
“Your headline is the first, and perhaps only, impression you make on a prospective reader. Without a compelling promise that turns a browser into a reader, the rest of your words may as well not even exist.”
– Copyblogger on Magnetic Headlines
Content creators at large, massively viral, content marketing agencies and websites like Upworthy are tasked with writing 25 headlines for every piece of content they create (yes, twenty five).
What’s Upworthy’s reasoning for this? It’s three fold:
- Once you start getting desperate, you start thinking outside of the box.
- To accept that not every headline will be perfect, and keep writing.
- Number 24 will suck, then 25 will be a gift from the headline gods and will make you a legend.
Think about where the content makes sense to be from the reader’s perspective
Too often, people put too much weight in their website and send every email out with a brief excerpt and a link to the rest of the article. Instead, remember that your email marketing list isn’t just a way to push traffic to your website, it is its own marketing channel. Ask yourself where the content should live, rather than where you want the visitor to go, because failing to do so is a recipe for unsubscriptions.
- Is the content’s information short enough that it can be communicated as is in the email? Maybe this is a quick thought you had about the market, or an idea you contemplate every quarter? If so, consider just writing it out in the email
- Is the content complicated enough that it includes a couple youtube videos and images? Maybe it makes sense to open with a short intro to the story, and then linking out to the blog post if it makes more sense
- Is the content a ton of writing with some simple images? Perhaps it belongs on Medium
Have one singular goal for each email you send, and stay laser focused on that desired outcome
A huge mistake email marketers make when starting out is fragmenting their message to far. Set a single goal for the email and don’t stray from it.
That means removing any links that don’t point to that goal, removing your signature, and removing any other extra links. Have two, and point both at the same place (try one in the P.S. since everyone reads the P.S.)
Don’t ask them to do one thing, then ask them to do another. Ask them to do one thing, then remind them to do it. Don’t give them options to get confused by, or to decide on. Make the decision before you send the email, and keep your message cohesive.
Don’t make it too easy to unsubscribe from your emails
While not wanting to come off spammy, you don’t want to make it too easy to unsubscribe, and what I mean by that is if your email ends, and the next colour they see is a blue UNSUBSCRIBE, then you’re going to get unnecessary unsubscriptions.
[Editor’s note: See? You tried to click that blue text, didn’t you? Everyone does.]
It’s not about their intention on their part, it’s about the simplicity of offering them “the next step”. It’s impulse, like the chocolate bars beside every grocery store checkout.
For the same reason you don’t want to give them too many links pointing to too many pieces of information, don’t give them an easy next step that is unsubscribing. To avoid this, add 7 or 8 carriage returns (old school term for hitting ENTER on your keyboard a bunch of times). Bryan Harris calls this the ‘Space’ Technique and I recommend it to everyone.
All you’re doing is creating some white space beneath the end of your email and the unsubscribe link. That’s it.
Again, don’t get spammy here, by setting the unsubscribe link to white on white, or hiding it elsewhere, you just want to make sure it’s not the first thing they do after reading your email.
Give value the utmost importance when crafting your email marketing campaign
Remember, this is not a one-and-done email that will only be seen by your current list. This will go out to everyone who ever joins your list. Pack that sucker full of good information that your potential customer cares about.
For example, if you’re selling t-shirts or other retail products, don’t send coupon after coupon, save those for Black Friday, and November 20th for a Christmas special. Instead, you want to be sending out fun ideas that others are using your products for.
Ask yourself: What novel and fun things are our customers getting up to? What do they care about when it comes to our product? What kind of food would go with our product? What kind of book, or coffee? What pairs well with this stuff. Remember to try and think outside the box. Get creative and really dive into your potential customers psyche to find what makes them tick.
Further Reading On How To Improve Your Email Marketing
Neil Patel wrote a great post on how to stop boring your subscribers through email.
Neville Medhora is a copywriting gold mine, but rather than linking his website and letting you sift through the posts, looking for tidbits of gold (of which there is a ton), here are a couple of my favorites.
- How to write a ‘simple yet informative’ newsletter for email
- Writing great headlines (and you know how I feel about headlines)
- His tone of voice comparison offers some interesting information to think about
If you’re brand new to this stuff and are looking for something that explains how to structure emails that people love from the ground up, Talia Wolf wrote a great write-up on figuring out who your audience is, what your tone should be, and how to write interesting, persuasive emails.
Copyblogger is an amazing resource for all things copywriting, but a few years ago they wrote about how to get emails opened, read, and clicked which is exactly what you should be hoping for as an email marketer.
KissMetrics wrote a great beginners guide to email marketing, that I recommend reading if you’d like to dig into these concepts and fully understand the underlying indicators of success.
Something we didn’t touch on in this article is how to get people onto your email list. If you’re using WordPress, OptinMonster is a great premium plugin that allows you capture your prospective buyer’s email address and they’ve put out a good article on getting started, if you’re looking to add rocket fuel to your new autoresponder.
I’ll be happy to respond to any questions you have in the comments. Don’t be shy… if you have questions, it’s very likely that others have the same questions, too. You’re helping everyone by asking.
Your Email Newsletter Sucks!
Email is still king when it comes to online marketing, but if you're still hacking together a monthly Newsletter you're doing it wrong.
Learn how to make email marketing work for your business.