Don’t Bother With Social Media Until You Have Email Marketing Nailed

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Email MarketingLook, I know there will be those that dispute the idea I’ve put forth in the title to this post, but I’ve become more and more convinced of its validity over the past couple of years.

I think there’s a hierarchy in the world of building a total web presence for your business and mastering things like Facebook and Pinterest fall somewhere far behind getting your content strategy, SEO and email marketing machine oiled and ready for prime time.

It’s not that I don’t think social media is an important or effective part of the puzzle, it’s just that without the proper foundation to build on, content to amplify and email strategy to convert through, your social media efforts will drain your focus and time with little opportunity for return.

An engaged email list, eager to hear from you, is the most valuable asset your can build. 1000 responsive email followers trumps 25,000 Twitter followers every day when it comes to actually promoting the things that make your money. (Unless you’re Justin Bieber I suppose.)

Focus on building a list of email subscribers that want to hear from you and social media will become a tool set to help you do more of that.

So, if you’re one of the many wrestling with how to get more deeply involved in this week’s tactic for getting more fans, but don’t have a strategy to attract and capture email leads, I’ll let you off the hook – ditch social media for now and focus on email marketing first.

Your email marketing plan

One of the most important elements in your email marketing arsenal is a value filled eBook that motivates people to willingly give you their email address. Drop everything you’re doing right now and come up with a plan to create or repurpose valuable, educational content into the form of an eBook, with an accompanying value laden title, and make that the foundation of your lead capture program.

This is a numbers game. You need to promote and highlight your eBook through blogging, guest posting and any participation you have on Facebook and Twitter for the primary purpose of building links, traffic and subscribers attracted to the topic of your eBook and blog content.

These subscribers won’t all be hot prospects, but they will generate the momentum you need through their sharing, linking and otherwise supporting your continued marketing efforts.

In addition to your free eBook you’ll want to plan on consistent communication through the use of a weekly newsletter that offers additional and ongoing value.

You need to build a following first and then you can start to narrow your focus to conversion.

Basic email capture plan:

  • Choose an email service provider (ESP) such as Constant Contact, GetResponse, AWeber, MailChimp or Infusionsoft
  • Use your ESPs form building tools and place a lead capture form on every page of your website. (Don’t ask for more than name and email at this point)
  • Create an email subscription landing page – a page that describes and promotes your eBook and lists all the benefits of why a viewer might give you’re their email address.
  • Create a series of emails, delivered through your ESPs autoresponder function that provides additional information on downloading the eBook as well as related topics that they may find on your blog and in your newsletter.
  • Consider using a pop up form such as Pippity for WordPress that can be programmed to bring focus to your offer in smart ways.
  • Many ESPs have “tell a friend” function that allows readers to easily email your offer to friends – use it!
  • Some ESPs – Aweber specifically – have a feature that make it very easy for people leaving comments to your blog to add their name to your email list. Finding ways to integrate your email capture into other actions is essential
  • Work your networks online and offline and start telling people about your free eBook and newsletter
  • Ask any strategic partners or close associates to trade plugs in their newsletter for the same in yours.
  • Promote your free eBook in social networks on a regular basis

There are too many things to do and not enough time to do them. Don’t divert your focus on the next shiny object that pops into view until you get your email marketing list and follow-up built.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Email Marketing.


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  1. Great article John – very helpful advice! I had reached the same conclusion in regards to having clients put off social media – in my case it was in favor first of SEO and a strong website – but it is good to hear someone else express this opinion. Your argument for a focus on email (and an eBook) makes sense and adds a lead generation/capture option to a more basic strategy.

  2. Hey John,
    Had a question. Do you think it makes sense to send a heavy promotional message once a month to an email list?

    I have a client that just wants to send out their monthly specials and that’s it. I have been trying to move them away from this but they feel that if they get 200 responses from a list of over 10K that it is “working” for them.

    1. Mikel – nobody really wants promotional email unless you have a really hot product with a great offer. I think you earn the right to send promotional offers by showing that you can provide useful and valuable content in between.

      1. Hi John,

        I agree with the no promotions unless there’s great value. I also love the idea of an eBook, however, what if you run an ecommerce retail site, where your clients are SEO-driven and typically order only once or twice (table covers, banners, flags?) Is there still value? Thanks.

  3. great post,, have a question in my mind.. will the concept of sending emails in series work out in a better manner… and will it give is an advantage

  4. I would
    suggest that staying focused and maintaining discipline is critical – too
    many entrepreneurs get distracted by the big bright shiny object syndrome. As well as we do need to get our email marketing list and follow-up built as you have mentioned i completely agree.

  5. Great post as usual, John ! Totally agree with you ! My e-mail subscribers are my number one priority and if I could ditch Facebook, I would. But it’s almost expected nowadays to have a FB presence, so I’ll keep it for now. But my list is where my focus is for sure !

  6. John,
    ESPs do not allow you to email to people who did not opt-in to you specifically – no 3rd party lists allowed. Therefore, renting the “use” of email files in large quantities with a strong offer to drive the person to your site, opt in to get the free ebook, special offer etc., can work well – especially in B2C environment. However, for B2B promotion, a well crafted direct MAIL campaign to drive a business client to your site will typically have a much better response. Business owners get inundated with emails and simply can’t take the tie to consider every offer. Mail, due mainly to cost, is a much less crowded venue to reach your B2B audience

  7. Hi John, Great Post!

    I’d like yor insight on this: is this strategy on this post also effective for small local businesses (e.g. a local store, restaurant, plumber, etc)?

    Is always valuable content a good incentive to get people opt-in?
    should be considered other kind of incentive such as coupons, hot-deals subscriptions, etc?

    Is email the best chanel for this local business in order to attact customers to their shop/store/restaurant/location?

    Too many questions, I know 😉

    Thanks a lot

  8. John, I totally agree. Email is here to stay. E-newsletters give you more room to prove your competence and put you directly into someone’s inbox. Once you have that platform and structure in place you can also use social media to push people to your subscriber list.

    They are a way to keep building up the basics of know me, trust me, then like me. E-newsletters, when well-designed, are a great way to build your brand.

    Emily Brackett
    http://www.mailonthemark.com custom-branded e-newsletters

  9. I must admit. When I read the title of this article, I didn’t agree. Now that I have read your reasoning and thought about it more though, I agree with you John. Make sense, and I think a lot of times site owners have huge email lists that seldomly get used because they think it’s old fashioned marketing now.

  10. John I agree with you on the importance of building your email list. Nothing is more important than growing your own community on a property [ blog /website] that you actually own and control. I think we have seen too many times businesses and individuals getting burnt by change of practice and rules on third party sites. Read Ed Dales blog post http://www.eddale.co/facebook/there-is-something-rotten-in-the-state-of-facebook for a latest example.
    You have also given us a timely reminder to focus on what is most important. Without focus we can’t really achieve anything worthwhile. Thankyou

  11. Great article. With all the buzz around social media, I think we all sometimes forget that email is a very professional and personal way to get and stay in touch with people. There really still is a lot of potential in email marketing. Again, great article!

    Best,

    James
    http://www.fundinggates.com

  12. Excellent points. And as dynamic and interactive as social media is, email not only has the potential to engage users to that degree, but already can. Leverage the power of a website by showing its capabilities right inside an email, with rich media, social media actions, playable video content, and more, allowing recipients to engage right there in the email while they are getting your message. That’s what ActiveMail does for email.

  13. Wow! This confirms what I recently realized. It doesn’t make any sense to spend all day marketing and building traffic, if that traffic escapes without a positive action. I’m building my eBook, right now.
    Then will put together a series of autoresponder emails to cultivate my following. It’s nice to see that I’m on the right track.

  14. A real challenge when you’re just getting started it finding the traffic to sign up for your email list in the first place. Once you have your ebook setup a great place to find subscribers is on Facebook. Facebook doesn’t have to be an end in itself, it can be a generator of leads for your main channel- email.

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  29. How to focus and semi-customize the email list is also important , so you don’t irritate folks with non-relevant offerings and news

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