Email Marketing – Part One – Getting Started

When one of our favorite non-profit, the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, asked us to give a talk on email marketing, we were happy to help! After all, we work with lots of non-profits and associations at Wood Street.

Email marketing is tricky. You have to wrangle with SPAM filters, building lists and achieving goals. Add to that the steady stream of email naysayers: you might simply abandon the idea of engaging in email marketing.

Don’t give up! You can do this AND succeed! I have put together some information to get you started. The folks at the AHCMC seminar said it was helpful, hopefully you do as well. Below are my slides and part one of an in depth overview on email marketing…

Getting started with your campaign

Does email marketing work??? Or has Social Media killed it?

You get slammed with spam everyday in your inbox. You also see the growth of social and think email must be dead or at least dying. But, this simply isn’t the case.

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Email marketing brought in $40.56 for every dollar spent according to a 2011 Report from Direct Marketers Association. And shows us that Facebook & Twitter marketing combined make up just 0.2% of the number of emails sent each day… not including spam.

When I put together a presentation on email marketing, I immediately thought of friend and email marketing expert DJ Waldow.

I asked DJ for a quote for my presentation and it the perfect way to start off the first section of this talk…

“You can have the best subject line, be the most trusted sender, write killer copy, and have a kick ass offer, but if you don’t have a list of email addresses to send to… none of that matters.” – DJ Waldow, Author of The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing, Waldow Social

Building Your List

Emails need recipients! So, where do they come from? When we start working with a new client on email marketing, their first question is usually one of these…

  • Is it OK to use your client or member list?
  • What about buying lists?
  • Should you add people without permission?

The answer is generally no. The last thing you want to do is get a bad reputation as an email marketer. It is generally better to err on the side of caution when building your list.

Let’s say you simply add your entire client list to your email marketing campaign without any advance notice, permission or warning?

Or perhaps you buy a list that has, at some point, expressed interest in the subject you’ll be writing about. This is an absolute no-no; do not do this.

Or maybe you import your Outlook or Gmail list and start blasting email marketing messages out to them?

Back in the day, this was only marginally OK. But now, it can actually cause a lot of harm. You could rack up a bunch of SPAM complaints and then BAM, your server is blacklisted. In other, you are labeled a spammer. Not good; and you might never recover from it.

Or maybe your emails get through complaint free but the recipients don’t know what the email is or what to do with it. And quietly your email marketing efforts produce zero engagement, zero growth and zero results!

Size is not as important as quality when it comes to email marketing lists. You want recipients who want your email, people who will find something useful in the content. How do you do this? The old fashioned way, you earn it!

Don’t worry, you don’t have to contact each person and convince them one at a time to join your list. There are plenty out there who want what you have. You just have to make it easy for them to find you and sign up.

Here are some easy ways to get followers…

  • Pop-up signup forms on your homepage or blog. If done right, these have shown to be incredibly effective at building a great list.
  • Contact and sales forms – make these opt-in not opt-out. In other words, if someone is filling out a form to contact you, give them a simple way to also join your email list. Have a checkbox, unchecked, that they can check to signup while filling out your form.
  • Include email newsletter callouts throughout your site – you never know when the moment will strike when a site visitor will be inspired to make a commitment They are so impressed with what you have to say, they want to make sure they get it regularly. Don’t make it hard for them. Make it obvious where to sign up with an obvious call to action on every page!
  • Social media channels – As DJ says, social and email are like Batman and Robin. Use social media to build your list, include signup forms in your social channels, announce your upcoming newsletter drops. Or send something like “our newsletter is going out later today, you signed up?” Chris Penn is a genius at this.
  • QR Codes and SMS Marketing – use these to build your list with strategically located ads and announcements combined with special offers.
  • Ask – sometimes, in whatever situation, it helps to ask. “Hey, do you get our email newsletter? You can sign up here!” or “Give me your card and I’ll sign you up!”

How are you sending these emails?

First, select an Email Service Provider or ESP. There are many to choose from ranging in price and level of service. We use MailChimp, but we suggest you ask around and do your research. Some of the more popular ESPs include…

When selecting an ESP, you’ll want to decide…

  • Are your drops simple or more complex?
  • Do you need custom design?
  • Do you need easy form and site (API) integration?
  • Do you need data management?
  • Do you need CRM integration like Salesforce or Highrise?
  • Do you need help or do you like to do-it-yourself?

Email Formatting – what are you sending?

When considering an email marketing campaign of any kind, you need to think about the user. In order to know the user, you need to develop some buyer personas.

Knowing your audience is crucial if you expect to achieve your goals with email. The only way to get opens and clicks from your list is to deliver subject lines and content that appeal to them. Knowing their wants and needs makes this much easier.

First thing: what will your email look like? Do you want a nicely designed email with navigation, images, etc. or do you prefer an all text email with just links? Who is your audience and what will they look like? What will turn them off?

It doesn’t matter what you want. It matters what will work with your target audience. The best way to find this out, aside from asking, is to test.

Using A/B split testing, segment your first few drops using one list for HTML emails and one for plain text emails. Track the open rates as well as click rates.

It might be that one is a clear winner. Or you might notice some things work with the HTML layouts while the text version offers other advantages. Keep trying new things and expand on your successes.

You can try:

  • Short vs. long emails
  • Lots of color vs. a little color
  • Link early in the email, link late, link at the top or bottom

What about mobile???

Generally, the number of recipients reading your emails on mobile devices could range anywhere from 20-60%. Your site stats can shed a little light on this. Once you get started your ESP stats will also show you how many users are on mobile devices.

Either way, do not dismiss mobile in your email marketing efforts. The numbers are there and will continue to grow. Consider the following when factoring mobile into your newsletter…

  • How does your newsletter perform on mobile? Test it on different mobile devices; how does it look? Perform?
  • How much content are you giving them? Remember, the mobile user has a small screen and even smaller attention span, don’t overwhelm them.
  • Did you make use of the preheader? This is the text that appears at the top of the email message. Maybe mobile devices will show this in the inbox preview. Use this to send them to a responsive version of your website or to a mobile microsite.
  • Where are you sending them? Are your links pointed to a responsive or mobile microsite? OR… a non-responsive site?? Think through the user’s experience from beginning to end and eliminate anything that will annoy or frustrate them.

Now, you should have a solid idea of where to start. Stay tuned for part two, Email Content – what are you sending?

What do you think about email marketing? What have been some of your successes and failures? Please share below!

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