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How to Craft the Perfect Email

Some small business owners are intimidated by email marketing. Having to write an individual email is scary enough if you don’t consider yourself a writer. The thought of sending an email out to an entire mailing list can be downright terrifying!

Fortunately, the perfect email is about more than just writing. And even for the written elements, once you’ve figured out the essential components, it’s easy for even those more timid writers among us to excel.

Here are the steps that go into crafting the perfect email.

Start with a Strong Subject Line

According to Campaign Manager, the average office worker receives 121 emails per day. That’s a lot of activity in just one inbox, and it means that you need to do something from the start to catch your readers’ eyes.

This starts with a strong subject line. There are a number of approaches you can take to make sure your subject line stands out. Consider including one of the following elements:

  • Create a sense of urgency – “Sale ends TONIGHT at 9pm”
  • Make an offer they can’t refuse – “Free shipping on orders of $25 or more”
  • Pique their interest – “What’s the secret to maintaining a healthy lawn?”
  • Provide value – “5 Tips for Hosting the Perfect July 4 BBQ”

An eye-catching subject line just might include an emoji, too. Of course, including emojis won’t be the appropriate choice for all businesses, but for some it can be a fun way to stand out in a text-heavy inbox.

Personalize the Message

There are a few steps that go into personalizing email messaging. You should begin by segmenting your lists. By breaking your customers and prospects down into groups based on demographics (like age, location, or gender) or by behavior (past purchases, most recent interaction with your brand, etc.) you can target different subsets of your population with messaging that will be most relevant to them.

This doesn’t mean you need to reinvent the wheel for each variant, but there are little steps you can take to tweak the messaging to best appeal to each group. Let’s say you own a landscaping business. You’re offering a big start of the summer promotion; anyone who schedules regular yard work appointments at the start of the summer will get 10 percent off each session.

This is great news for all of your customers, but you can tailor the messaging based on how you’ve segmented your list. Let’s say you’ve broken your list down by types of services those customers currently receive. For those who take advantage of your gardening services, make the messaging about how you’ll keep their flowers in bloom all season long, for a fraction of the price. For those who use your lawn mowing services, the email can say something like “The only thing better than the smell of fresh-cut grass is saving 10% off your lawn care services this summer.”

To further personalize the messages, take advantage of merge tags, which allow you to include the name of the recipient in the greeting, rather than a generic “Hey there.”

Write Smart Body Copy

This is where those non-writers start to get intimidated. What is good copy, anyway? Really it’s about being concise, clear, and helpful.

Keep sentences short, eliminate jargon and technical speak, and make it very clear what you’re offering in your email. Because we do all get so many emails each day, no one has time to sit down and read a thousand word email. Keep it to 250-500 words maximum, and devise ways to draw attention to the most important keywords. This can be as simple as bolding relevant text or including an image that draws the viewer’s eye to the most critical part of the message.

If you’re feeling shaky in your copywriting skills, check out this list of dos and don’ts.

Incorporate Elements Beyond Text

Creating the perfect email is all about standing out from the crowd. And what better way to do that than to add elements beyond text? A stunning photo, an informative infographic, or a quick video are all ways to add other media into your messaging.

If you’re going to go this route, set it up with a brief sentence or two, and then let the media speak for itself. If needed, include captions on images so that viewers have more context. Videos should also include subtitles, so that those viewing in a place where they can’t turn their volume up can still grasp the content (a service like Rev can help you with your transcription needs).

End with a Call to Action

Once you’ve dazzled your readers with relevant, personalized content and exciting visual elements, it’s time to bring it on home. One simple, clear call to action that’s tied in with the rest of the email is the way to do that.

If your email was about a sale going on right now, include a “Shop the sale” button that takes readers to your e-commerce site. If your email was an offer for a free ebook, end with a “Get the book” link. Whatever the case may be, make sure that the call to action flows with the rest of the email content and is set apart visually so that readers can’t possibly miss it.

And Don’t Forget the Unsubscribe Option

Last but not least, you want to give your readers a chance to unsubscribe. Not only is it the law to give folks a chance to opt-out of your marketing messaging, it can also help you maintain a clean email list. When your email is going directly to spam folders or getting deleted without being opened week after week, that puts you at risk of being punished by ISPs. A clean email list, with higher open rates and fewer people marking you as spam, ensures that your messaging is ending up in the inboxes of your most engaged subscribers.

Once you get the hang of creating compelling marketing emails, you must keep it up! Staying in regular contact with your subscribers is the best way to remain top-of-mind, so establish a cadence for your email marketing and stick to it.

6 Email Marketing Myths You Can Ignore

Email marketing has been around for a long time, and consequently, people have developed a lot of opinions about what works and what doesn’t. However, as the digital marketing landscape has changed, some things about email marketing that used to be true are no longer so. And there are some things that have always been myths, but still persist today.

Here, let’s debunk the six biggest email marketing myths out there.

1. Email Marketing is Dead

As more digital channels have emerged through which you can reach clients, there have been whispers going around that email marketing is dead.

In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Marketers still see a great deal of value in email marketing, and are still investing heavily in this tactic. According to surveys from HubSpot, 93 percent of B2B marketers use email to distribute content. On the B2C side of things, 59 percent of consumers report that information in an email has influenced their purchasing decisions. And everyone is on email. Ninety-nine percent of consumers check their email every single day (and most report doing so multiple times a day).

2. Frequent Emails Feel Spammy

Some marketers are hesitant to send regular emails at the risk of annoying their mailing list. And it’s true, for most consumers, their inboxes are crowded places. A survey from Marketing Charts found that the average person receives 416 marketing emails each month.

But just because others are sending emails doesn’t mean you shouldn’t send any (or only send one once in a blue moon). The key to avoiding that spammy feel is ensuring that your content is always valuable. If you send emails that add value, provide information, and are actually helpful to your audience, you’re a lot more likely to see strong open rates and a reduction in unsubscribes.

If you’re looking for tips on creating engaging content, check out this post.

3. Unsubscribes Are a Bad Thing

No one enjoys rejection, and an unsubscribe can certainly sting. But the reality is that unsubscribes are not necessarily a bad thing. A clean email list is key to staying on ISPs’ good sides, and that’s what will keep your emails from being barred from inboxes.

You can do things on your end to clean your list—like scanning for typos and giving people an option to re-opt-in if they’ve been unresponsive to your recent email marketing efforts—but unsubscribes are a way for you to get your customers to do some of the heavy lifting for you. An unsubscribe is someone saying they’re no longer interested in your content, and that could be for any number of reasons.

If you see a large number of unsubscribes all at the same time, that might be indicative of a problem with your content, but if you see people leave your list from time to time, that’s simply making space for a higher open rate overall and a better relationship with ISPs.

4. There is a Magic Day and Time to Send Emails

Some marketers swear by sending emails at a very specific time. If it’s not Tuesday at 10am, they won’t send an email!

There has been a lot of research over the years, with marketers trying to find that magic time where open rates will be high and conversions will abound. But these studies have been less than definitive, and so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to timing emails.

It’s certainly true that some audiences will engage with emails at a higher rate at certain times of day, but that will vary from business to business, so trying to stick with some antiquated idea about the one day and time you can send an email won’t serve you.

Instead, do some experimenting, send emails at several days and times throughout the week and see which ones get the highest engagement. Then aim for that time again, and see if you can repeat your results. Be willing to mix things up, and don’t be afraid to send emails out more than once a week (see point 2 above).

5. Long Subject Lines Spell Trouble

For a long time, marketers were told to shy away from subject lines that were too long to be fully displayed in someone’s inbox. That sounds on the surface like a sensible piece of advice, but it turns out that a recent study from Marketing Sherpa busted this long-held belief.

While email subject lines that fall into that “sweet spot” of 41-50 characters performed well, it’s actually longer subject lines with 61-70 characters that did the best. So don’t stress about fitting all of your email subject lines into those narrow parameters. Instead, work to create a subject that is attention-grabbing and really tells readers what they can expect to find inside the email.

6. Avoid Repeat Messages

Super Office reports that the average open rate for emails in 2018 was just shy of 25 percent. That means that three out of four people on your list are not seeing any given email. Some people won’t read a given email because the subject line doesn’t interest them, but others will miss it for completely innocuous reasons. They may have been busy that day or accidentally deleted the message.

Whatever the case may be, for your most important content, it’s okay to send the same email copy twice in order to get the highest engagement. This isn’t a tactic you should take with every email message, but it can actually be valuable when used sparingly.

There are a few caveats here. First, don’t send the same email on the same day. Instead, wait several days before you resend it. You should also switch up the subject line, so that those who wrote the email off the first time because of its subject line might open it this time, and so that those who opened it the first time around aren’t put off by getting the exact same email twice.

When it comes to email marketing, we’ve been told a lot of stories over the years about what works and what doesn’t. Fortunately, it continues to be a popular marketing channel that gets a lot of attention and research, and that allows marketers to let go of old myths and learn new tricks.

Best Practices for Keeping Your Email List Nice and Clean

If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ve likely built up a quite a long email list. Email remains a convenient, effective way to reach prospects and customers, so it’s great to have a lot of names to send offers and updates to.

However, if your marketing emails are getting low engagement, it may start to raise eyebrows with internet service providers (ISPs). If you continue to have issues with your email list, ISPs will block your emails from ever reaching your customers—even those who are still excited to hear from you.

That’s why it’s important to keep your email list neat and clean. Sending emails only to those who are engaged and happy to be on your list will ensure better open rates and a greater return on your marketing efforts.

If you’ve let your list get to a scary place, now is the time to tidy it up. Here’s how you do it.

Look at Your Bounces

The first place to start when you’re cleaning your email list is to see where it stands now. Take a look at your bounce rates. Email marketing services will pull reports that show you hard and soft bounces.

A soft bounce is an email address that they were temporarily unable to reach. It may be because their server was down, or some other short-term issue. These addresses don’t need to be removed from your list right away, but do know that if the soft bounce continues week after week, it will become a hard bounce and then should be addressed.

Hard bounces are for email addresses that cannot be reached permanently. It might be because the email address has been closed (this happens a lot when someone signs up with their work email and then leaves the company). It may also be something that you can fix on your end, like a typo.

If the hard bounce is something you can fix, you should fix it and otherwise leave the name on your list! If the hard bounce isn’t something you can control on your end, remove that email address from your list.

Check for Typos and Role Addresses

As I mentioned above, a lot of typos in an email list can have an effect on bounce rate. Some typos are obvious and easy to catch—for example, email addresses with “gamil.com” instead of “gmail.com.” Others require a little more digging to fix. For example, you’re not necessarily going to know how a person’s last name or company name should be spelled, but there are ways to identify these issues. Cross check the spelling of their name across information in your CRM database. If their last name is spelled one way in the name section, but then spelled differently within their email address and the email is bouncing, you can assume that the email spelling is incorrect and instead switch it to the spelling reflected in the other portion of the form.

You can also turn to a service like ZeroBounce to eliminate bad email addresses. Their technology scans for and removes invalid emails and spam traps from your list.

Role addresses should also be removed from your mailing list. These are emails that are “support@” or “info@.” These are addresses that are easy to scan for and remove, and eliminating them can have a positive effect on your standing with ISPs.

Opt-In Messaging

Once you’ve gone through your existing email list and cleaned things up, you want to take steps to keep your list in good shape. That starts with opt-in messaging.

For people who sign up via your website, provide them with a double opt-in prompt as they’re entering their information. This means that they’ll click on the “Sign up for our mailing list” button, put in their information, and then receive a second prompt—”Yes! Sign me up for this list”—which they’ll have to click to confirm enrollment. Asking people if they’re sure they want to register will keep those who are on the fence from even getting on your list in the first place.

You can take the same approach with names who have been dormant on your list. You shouldn’t delete them right away on your own, but you can check in with those people who have not read your emails in some time. Send them a re-opt-in message. This gives them the chance to choose to remain on your list. If they do remain, this re-opt-in will perhaps reinvigorate their interest in your list and get them opening messages from you again. If they choose to go, that’s okay, too! They’ve done some of the work of scrubbing your list for you.

Create a Welcome Email

Sometimes people sign up for a new email list and then promptly forget that they’ve done so. A week later, they get the first email from the company and say, “What is this doing here? I didn’t sign up for this!” Suddenly, they’re reporting your email as spam. Get reported as spam often enough, and you can get dinged by ISPs.

That’s why it’s good practice to send a welcome email. Thank your new subscriber for signing up, tell them what they can expect from you going forward, and give them an opportunity to opt out now, in case they’ve already changed their mind.

Better yet, consider establishing a welcome journey series, focused on getting them to a sale even more quickly. No matter what route you choose to take with the welcome email, it will help to manage expectations for both you and them, and allows you to keep your email list clean from the start.

Send Regular Emails

Once you have a list of email addresses you know are valid, from people who are excited to be there, it’s up to you to stay in regular contact!

Setting a regular schedule for your emails keeps your fans engaged and open rates high. People who really want to be on your list will be excited to see your content, offers, and updates on a regular basis. If you only send emails once in a blue moon, it’s possible that even those who like your business will ignore it or question why they’re on your email list.

Sending regular emails is also a great way to weed out those who don’t really want to be there. When a customer or prospect regularly receives an email from a business they’re not excited to hear about, it’s more likely to drive them to unsubscribe. While having someone leave your list may seem like a bad thing, it actually saves you from having to do the work of identifying them as unengaged subscribers and removing them on your end.

Segment Your List

Another great way to keep subscribers happy and engaged is to segment your list. Segmentation means that people will get the content that’s most relevant and important to them, which will keep them opening and reading your mailings.

There are a number of ways to segment. One is by stage in the customer journey. You can provide your best repeat customers special discounts, sneak peeks at new products, and other fun bonus offers. Another is by past purchase behavior. Let’s say you own a toy store. A customer who’s purchased toys for babies in the past likely won’t want information about the newest board games or Lego sets, but they would like to hear about the latest car seat toys.

In the world of email lists, it’s quality, not quantity, that wins out in the end. Building and maintaining a clean list, filled with subscribers who are happy to be there, will help you to decrease your bounce rate, increase your open rate, stay on ISPs’ good sides, and get the most out of your marketing efforts. A tidy email list is a win-win-win, so set aside some time this summer to clean things up and set yourself up for email marketing success.

email marketing

EMaaS: How Email Marketing Can Be Your Agency’s Most Profitable Service

Enjoy today’s guest post from David Mihm.

Thanks to John’s generous promotion of my content over the years, many of you probably know I’ve spent most of my career in search engine optimization.

Although many of my colleagues in the SEO world were surprised when I transitioned into the adjacent world of email marketing a year ago and launched Tidings, I hope you’ll understand why after reading this column.

For a variety of reasons, some of which I’ll detail at the end of this post, I see SEO as an increasingly difficult proposition for both small business owners and agencies serving them. Meanwhile, small business owners consistently rate email marketing as one of the top three performing channels, and unlike SEO, it’s not a black box and isn’t subject to algorithmic fluctuations.

I‘d never really paid much attention to it since I didn’t offer it as a service in my consulting days, nor does my previous employer (Moz) offer it as a product. But from first-hand experience, I can tell you that neither of those is a good reason to ignore its effectiveness!

My own experience sending a newsletter has been eye-opening, and while social media garners most of the mainstream headlines these days, email remains as powerful as ever, and it’s well-positioned to be an effective offering into the foreseeable future.

Here’s just a sampling of the many reasons I’m bullish on email.

Minimal Hard Costs

We all love low-cost, high-value service offerings. Costs don’t get any lower than free, which, conveniently, is exactly the monthly price of a number of email service providers.

Mailchimp, MailerLite and SendinBlue offer free plans, and many other providers charge under $10/month, depending on your number of subscribers.

The minimal hard costs of email are a big contributing factor to its high margin as a service offering.

Minimal Technical Costs

Email has four main technical prongs: capturing email addresses, managing lists and campaigns, “designing” your campaign, and delivering your campaign–all of which are usually included in your Email Service Provider plan.

CANSPAM-compliant address capture and list management are probably the two biggest reasons to use an ESP in the first place.

Address acquisition products like Privy and MailMunch make it incredibly easy to tie your website, landing pages, and social campaigns directly to your email lists at your ESP. The management interface provided by most ESPs is more than adequate. And all major ESPs place a premium on deliverability.

Campaign “design” is potentially the most technical aspect of the bunch. (As an aside, a personal pet peeve is the industry’s use of the verb “design” in conjunction with “campaign.” I see so many businesses of all sizes getting hung up on a campaign’s design and not focusing enough on its content, which is what really drives campaign success. But I digress.)

Given that more than 2/3 of email gets opened on phones, using a responsive email template in your campaigns is essential, and I don’t mean to downplay the technical difficulty behind creating that template.  It’s incredibly challenging to account for dozens of widely-used but outmoded email clients like Microsoft Outlook. And there are a range of new dynamic and interactive technologies that larger brands are using to great effect.

Generally speaking, however, each major ESP offers at least one effective, responsive template (including ours at Tidings), so it’s another zero or near-nil cost.

Minimal Time Costs

Email is also relatively cheap in terms of time cost. Unlike social media where daily or even hourly presence performs best, email allows you to duck in and duck out as you have time.

For most small businesses, a weekly or even monthly newsletter helps you stay top of mind with your customers and drive engagement with events happening around your business or important topics in your industry.  

As simple as that sounds, sending a newsletter is intimidating for a lot of businesses! We surveyed 300 U.S. business owners last fall and found that 50% of small business owners aren’t yet sending one, and for the ones that are, 63% of them spend more than an hour to do so.

While the complexity of the ESP campaign interface is a contributing factor, the biggest hurdle for most businesses is coming up with content.

Regular newsletters are a great opportunity for agencies to solve this problem for small businesses. Chances are that many of you are already doing social media and content creation for your clients. And even if you’re not, many clients are probably doing a solid job with their own social accounts.

But organic reach continues to shrink on major social channels, and fewer and fewer people are seeing that content unless you’re paying to put it in front of people. Newsletters offer an easy way to extend the reach of those efforts on an organic basis.

Tidings’ whitelabel platform offers you a turnkey solution to extend the reach of your social campaigns to email, as well as one-click RSS integrations with any public feed. More people seeing your work or your clients’ work with no additional effort is as easy a win as they come!

Predictable and Concrete

Back in my SEO days, one of the hardest parts of my job as a consultant was convincing a client to be patient as their search results gradually improved, and proving how successful my efforts were.  More businesses today understand the value of SEO, but most best practices are still hard to feel paying off at a gut level, it still takes time for them to work, and it’s still difficult to attribute success to any specific tactic or set of tactics.

Clients still appreciate seeing themselves rank #1 for a vanity keyword, but it can take years to get them there (if you get them there at all) and with Google’s increasing personalization and monetization of the search results, ranking #1 organically ain’t what it used to be.

Seeing their own newsletter — and the conversations and leads that it generates — resonates instantly that you are delivering a valuable service. In fact, for many clients, it could be your “foot in the door” on top of which you sell other less concrete services like SEO.

Synergy with Other Services

It’s low-cost. It’s concrete. But the other reason email makes such a great foot-in-the-door offering is that it helps make so many other marketing services more effective.

An email address is the cornerstone of customer intelligence services like FullContact, not to mention more robust CRM programs like Hubspot. Retargeting and remarketing via customer email addresses stretch a client’s paid ad budget as far as it’ll go. And an email address is essential to unlock lookalike audiences as an additional paid acquisition channel.

But you have to deliver something of value to the customer in order to capture their email address — buying lists violates most ESP terms of use, not to mention many anti-spam laws.

As I hopefully convinced you above, many of your clients don’t have time or wherewithal to create something of value on a consistent basis, which is where your agency or consultancy comes in!

With the two major platforms becoming largely pay-to-play for local businesses, email offers one of the best remaining opportunities for organic visibility — and actually makes paid visibility cheaper and more effective. Both of which help your client’s ROI and your bottom line as an agency.

Enables Future Upsell Opportunities

Regular newsletter content is a high-value deliverable in its own right. But it’s just the first step in building a complete email marketing program over time — with many more opportunities for deeper client engagement.

Helping your clients craft a welcome email sequence for subscribers, or a drip campaign for prospects, are no-brainer opportunities.

Segmentation and personalization are emerging as two of the easiest ways to improve the effectiveness of content delivered to existing subscribers.

And deeper analysis around which content is most effective and which subscribers are deserving of extra attention or personal follow-ups (our free Email Intelligence Briefing can help with these questions) can lead to even more profitable email programs.

Your Last Best Option?

As I mentioned earlier, Facebook’s ongoing reduction in organic visibility, Google’s evolution of the local SERP, and the shift to voice search will combine to create an existential threat to agencies that serve smaller-budget local businesses over the next 2-3 years.

Agencies simply can’t charge the margin to place paid ads that they can charge for organic work, and while basic SEO blocking-and-tackling such as site architecture, Title Tags, and citation building will always be important services, their impact for local businesses has declined over the past decade, due to algorithmic sophistication, increased competition, and decreased organic real estate.

To grow or even maintain your client base, it’ll be critical for you as an agency to offer additional services that are just as effective and scalable as these techniques were a decade ago.

Email, meanwhile, is not going away as a top-performing channel.  In fact, with a Return-On-Investment of 44:1, marketers consistently rate it as THE top performing channel. That ROI has actually increased since 2015 according to Campaign Monitor, and it’s particularly true for B2B companies.

Email remains a powerful driver of new business and one of the best ways to encourage referrals. But the time it takes to put together an engaging, mobile-optimized email campaign makes it difficult to pull off for many small businesses. If you’re not already doing so, I hope your agency or consultancy decides to step into this arena, help your small business clients take advantage of the power of email, and grow your business at the same time.

To learn more about how email can help to benefit your business, be sure to visit Tidings. (Yes, I believe so strongly in Tidings that I’ve used an affiliate link!)

If you liked this post, check out our Guide to Customer Relationship Management.

About the Author

David MIhm

David Mihm is first and foremost an advocate for sustainable digital marketing techniques for small businesses.  In 2012, he sold his former company GetListed.org to Moz, helping over 3 million businesses get better visibility in the local search engines.  He’s a co-founder of the Local University conference series. David now runs Tidings and his weekly newsletter, Minutive.

2 How to Build a Newsletter People Will Actually Read

Duct Tape Marketing Newsletter - Created with Placeit

Duct Tape Marketing Newsletter – Created with PlaceIt

Think about the last newsletter you received in your inbox.  Was it a newsletter you looked forward to receiving or just another piece to add to the daily content clutter?

If it was a piece of clutter, I am guessing the information included in the newsletter did not provide you with value.  Many people view newsletters as an opportunity to sell versus an opportunity to build trust.  I am not saying you can never sell to your list, however, that trust factor is the most important element that needs to be built up first.

What does this mean for you?  As marketers and small business owners, we have the chance to stand out from the daily content dump.  To actually provide value and build trust with our audiences.  To offer something they look forward to receiving each week or month.

Below are four easy steps to build a newsletter people will actually read.

Focus on the subject line

This is your chance at a first impression.  You know the old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, well, I am pretty sure that doesn’t apply here.  The subject line is the first glance, the first opportunity to grab someone’s attention and to get them to click through to read more.  Here are some tips on best practices for writing subject lines:

  • Keep it interesting. Change the subject line for each newsletter you send
  • Get to the point. Keep the subject line to 50 characters or less
  • Add personalization.  Use either name or localization in subject line
  • Keep it honest.  Make the subject line relevant to the actual information in the newsletter
  • Encourage action.  Add some urgency to your subject line such as “24 hours only”

Share the best content

When creating a newsletter, one of the best (and easiest) practices is content curation.  Monitoring industry related blogs over the week and collecting the most relevant and value-packed posts to share with your audience is a great way to add value for a number of reasons.  Here are a few of them: establishing relationships with other experts by sharing their content, providing your audience with the best information available to save them time and research, and saving yourself endless hours each week having to write all the content on your own.  A win-win-win!

Keep it mobile

According to emailmonday, 45% of email opens occurred on mobile, 36% on desktop and 19% in a webmail client.  If on average, 45% of you audience is viewing your newsletter on their mobile device, don’t you think it is worth paying attention to?  I sure do.  Here are some best practices for mobile friendly newsletters:

  • Learn to love larger font sizes – 16px as the smallest option
  • Move away from text-heavy newsletters.  Sometimes less is more!
  • Use dividers or different color backgrounds to break up the newsletter into sections
  • Use large, clickable buttons for calls to action

Keep a schedule

If you take the steps above to add value to your newsletters, people will actually start to look forward to hearing from you.  Keeping a schedule to send the newsletter each week or month allows your audience to start to know when to expect it to come through.  Who doesn’t love becoming part of their client’s routine?

I would love to hear from you!  Do you have an example of a newsletter you look forward to receiving?

Sara JantschSara Jantsch is the Vice President of Operations at Duct Tape Marketing.  She oversees day-to-day operations to support the growth of Duct Tape Marketing and the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.  She focuses on strategic planning, goal setting and directing the operations of the company in support of its goals.  Sara is also a Duct Tape Marketing Consultant and has a very strong passion for working with small business owners that started back at the dinner table as a child. Connect with Sara on twitter.

5 Turning Leads Into Customers With an Email Autoresponder

Today’s Guest Post is by Jack Reamer – Enjoy!

Imagine if your marketing ran on autopilot…

You could sit back, kick your feet up and watch your sales go through the roof.

You could grow your business (and take that much-needed vacation) without worrying about how you’ll get your next customer.

Sounds good, right?

Now, you know that marketing isn’t that easy. But a good email autoresponder can bring you new customers like clockwork – even when you’re not working.

What is an email autoresponder?

An autoresponder is an automated series of emails that gives your leads value, draws them closer to your brand and eventually makes them buy what you’re selling.

Basically, it puts your email marketing on autopilot.

How can your business sell with an autoresponder?

Photo credit: Banquet hall via flickr (license)

Photo credit: Banquet hall via flickr (license)

Picture yourself in a 10,000 square foot banquet hall that’s packed with your potential customers.

You’re holding a microphone, and your potential customers are waiting to hear your best sales pitch. What would you say? What would you want them to know before they made a buying decision?

Those are your selling points. And as long as you have your lead’s attention, your email autoresponder can deliver your selling points just like this fictional banquet hall sales pitch.

You need to know two things to sell with an email autoresponder:

  1. What do your leads care about?
  2. What are your selling points?

If your autoresponder messages are about things your leads care about, they will open and read your emails. So earn their attention by sending emails that will help your leads solve a problem or reach a goal.

Then how do you sell? Easy. Just connect one of your selling points to each email.

Let’s look at an example:

Let’s say you’re a bookkeeping company that wants to turn your leads into customers with an autoresponder.

Your leads are busy small business owners who care about saving time running their business. And one of your selling points is you can save business owners one hour a week by doing their bookkeeping.

An email that would work well in your autoresponder is:

“How any business owner can save 5 hours this week”

Then, inside that email, give five time-saving tips for small business owners.

Make sure one of the tips talks about hiring a bookkeeper to instantly save 1 hour every week. (Include a link back to your website so your leads can click to learn more about your bookkeeping service.)

Why does this email work well?

  • It’s a topic your leads care about so it will get opened.
  • You provide five helpful tips so it will get read.
  • You tie your selling point to the email so your leads can click for more details.

Three email ideas for an autoresponder that sells:

1) Welcome Email

Use this email to get your leads to look forward to future emails (by telling them what’s coming up) and to ask, “what are you struggling with?” so you know exactly what your leads need help with.

2) Problem Solver

Help them solve a problem they’re struggling with. (Just make sure the problem relates to your business.) Give your leads helpful tips to establish your credibility and to prove you’re an expert.

3) Case Study

Talk about a past customer’s problems (and how you helped them solve it), so it’s helpful to your leads. Make sure to provide insights with this case study, but don’t forget to include a testimonial.

Have any questions about selling with email? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll answer each one.

Jack ReamerJack Reamer is an email marketing expert who specializes in helping B2B companies turn leads into customers with helpful & engaging emails. Jack shares actionable email marketing insights on his blog emailsthatsell.com. Want to bring in more sales with your emails? Click here to learn the four biggest mistakes business owners make with email marketing (and how to avoid them.)

1 How to Use Marketing Automation Correctly

Today’s Guest Post is by Zach Watson – Enjoy!

marketing automation

Photo via PhotoPin

Marketing automation can’t be described as a new concept anymore. It would be more accurate to say it’s a difficult undertaking because automating anything requires precision and constant maintenance.

But it’s not impossible to use this strategy effectively. The fact that marketing automation is no longer a new, mysterious technology provides small businesses with the one resource they need to capitalize on this software: best practices.

The biggest risk of automating your marketing is that you will do it incorrectly, and your customers will be left confused and alienated. But by using other marketers as a guide, you’ll be better positioned to avoid the common pitfalls of automation. Here are a few:

Common Uses for Marketing Automation Include:

1. Content Marketing

Educational or entertaining content can be used both as a means to grow your email list and a way to increase engagement from your subscribers. If you’re offering a product or service, then using content as a means to move buyers through the sales funnel is an excellent use of marketing automation.

The key to this strategy is to create campaigns that use if/then logic to deliver personalized content for the interests of each prospect. This builds rapport and trust between your company and your audience while also moving these prospects closer to using your product or service.

2. Onboarding

As software as a service has become a more common delivery model for software products, so has the onboarding email chain become a more common tactic for marketers. Many organizations devote a great deal of effort to getting prospects to sign up for free trials of their software in order to get them in the sales funnel.

Once the prospect signs up, it’s critical that they use the software to its full extent. After using the software becomes a habit, then the free trial user is exponentially more likely to become a paying customer.

The key to automating onboarding emails is to sync your marketing automation system with the software you sell so you can target users based on what behavior they have or haven’t taken.

The approach is similar to content marketing, but instead of a series of educational pieces of content, onboarding campaigns are usually personal emails discussing how to use specific features of the software.

3. Promotions and Discounts

These are often the bread and butter of e-commerce retailers as well as brick and mortar shops. Sending discounts is an effective strategy for driving both online and instore purchases, and it can be tempting to blast your best offers to everyone. However, like the other two tactics, you need to base these campaigns on user behavior to make sure your offers are as targeted as possible.

Now that you’ve got a framework for what you can do with marketing automation, it’s important to examine what you should not do with this type of software.

Don’t send the same emails to everyone

Marketers new to automation software often worry that creating automated email campaigns and scheduling other types of interactions along the sales funnel will make them sound like a robot. That’s not true — unless, of course, you send the same emails to your entire audience.

Failing to appreciate the differences in the interests of your customers is precisely what will make you sound like a robot. Fortunately, marketing automation products make it particularly easy to track user behavior on your website, in your email campaigns, and on your social media.

Use that information to make your marketing personalized, and your communication won’t sound robotic or mass-produced.

Don’t set and forget

To gather all the correct information you need to segment your marketing campaigns, you’ll need to test different approaches with different audiences. For example, “Does offer A work well with customers interested in product 2, or does offer B work better?” Test early and test often. You need to monitor your campaigns on a daily basis and make changes as necessary.

One of the cardinal sins of marketing automation is creating a single campaign for each segment and simply letting that campaign run without oversight. This is a massive mistake. It’s unlikely you’ll create the perfect marketing formula the first time around, so testing provides a way to improve quickly.

Marketing automation vendors don’t just make software that only huge businesses use; many make products for businesses of all sizes. But a cheaper price doesn’t take the pressure off of the marketer. Automation demands a lot of work.

You’re essentially playing the role of an engineer to construct a marketing lifecycle for your prospects. Be sure to follow industry best practices and constantly monitor your results to succeed in your automating endeavors.

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

Zach WatsonZach Watson is the content manager at TechnologyAdvice. He covers gamification, healthcare IT, business intelligence and other emerging technology. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

5 Help Compile a List of Best Email Services

Effective email marketing is an essential ingredient in any marketing plan. It has, for many businesses, become the most important conversion tactic for selling goods and services.

Email Service Providers (ESPs) offer tools that allow you to some pretty sophisticated campaigns, capture, follow-up and segmentation when fully employed.

I am using a fairly new curation tool called List.ly to compile, with your help, a list of the best email service providers. The current list is comprised of services that I have personally used as one time or another over the years and I would for you to add your favorites, vote the ones listed up or down, comment on and share this.

It would great if you added features and reasons why you like one or another in the comments feature to the right of each entry.

[listly id=”3nf” layout=”full”]

4 With Email Marketing Sometimes You Need to Question the Rules

Marketing podcast with DJ Waldow and Jason Falls (Click to play or right click and “Save As” to download – Subscribe now via iTunes or subscribe via other RSS device (Google Listen)

There are a handful of generally accepted “best practices” when it comes to email. Some have withstood the test of time and experiment, but others stay in place as hard and fast rules simply because enough people keep saying so.

Rebel's Guide to Email MarketingThe only hard and fast rule you should adhere to in marketing is what works for you. Now, what this means first and foremost is that you must be testing, measuring and analyzing what works for you or you’ll have no choice but to follow industry norms.

Sometimes norms present great opportunities to stand out. If everyone is doing something one way, there’s a pretty good bet that you can get some attention breaking the rules.

Today’s guests on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast are DJ Waldow and Jason Falls, co-authors of The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing: Grow Your List, Break the Rules, and Win

In the Rebel’s Guide they take on some of the common best practices and illustrate some great examples of people finding success in email marketing by bending and breaking the rules.

Below are some examples of the types of common practices you need to test and push in your email marketing efforts.

Subject lines

I call the subject line of an email the ad for opening and reading. If you don’t hook someone with it, you stand little chance of getting your email read and no chance of getting someone to click through to an offer.

Common wisdom is 30-40 characters with call to action or benefit right up front. What if you experimented with very short, intriguing subject lines that played to curiosity?

From line

Common wisdom here is that you want the recipient to see that the email is from someone they know. Makes sense, but what if you tested sending email with clever attributes that couldn’t be mistaken for anyone else, but also added a little fun and flair – example might be: From: Your Favorite Plumber

Preheader text

This is the second ad and most people waste it. It’s the very first bit of content that shows up after the subject line in a lot of email clients. Most people start with something like “having trouble reading this, blah, blah”

What if you used this to text to urge them to open – “You know you need to open this” “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, open this”

Alt images

The default setting for Gmail is to leave images turned off. This means the recipient must click something to actually make your images show. If you are using HTML email that relies on images to make greater impact you want those images turned on.

Common practice suggests that you use the Alt images attribute to describe your images as the alt text will show in place of images. What if you used this to convince people that they are missing cool stuff by leaving images off. “If you had images on you would see something really awesome here”

HTML and text

Another common spam filter fighting practice is to send your email in multiple formats. Your nice, pretty HTML email should have a text-based only version. It helps assure the ISPs that you are sending useful information.

One of the things that I think you need to experiment with is the use of text only emails or at least mixing the format up from time to time. When people get used to seeing your standard HTML template they get complacent. Send very short, personal emails using text only to make even greater impact.

Personalization

Another common practice is to add personalization from data fields. You know, Hey John, did you know that John could get a free blah, blah.

I agree there is a place for this, although it gets abused in absurd ways as well. This is something your want to play with. One of the most widely commented emails I ever sent intentionally played on the fill in the blank fields with fake data fields like [put new best friend’s name here] and [say something here that sounds authentic]

Opt-out

This one is not only common practice, it’s the law. You must add a way for people to opt-out of your email and you should make it obvious.

Most people hide this at the end of an email and use the default government language.

What if you put it first and had some fun with it. “I really, really don’t want to see you leave, but if you must break my heart, do it here.”

Every element of your marketing is only as good as your testing tells you it is, so study common best practices in everything you do and then figure out how to interrupt the best practices with testing.

3 5 Ways to Generate More Email Sign Ups

Getting more email subscribers is job #1. Email is and has long been the number one producer of return on marketing investment for businesses large and small.

Acquiring the contact information of someone who has expressed at least a mild interest in what you do and has given you permission to tell them a great deal more about what you do is the first, and perhaps most important, task.

There are few businesses today that can get by on traffic and eyeballs alone. Today’s marketer must get access, permission and time on the screen. Today’s marketer must have multiple opportunities to build enough relationship capital to convert trust into a sale.

Email marketing, combined of course with advertising, referrals, public relations and a total online presence is the complete package.

List building is an essential element of email marketing today and takes a strategic approach in line with its importance.

It’s no longer enough to slap an email sign-up form on every page of your website and call it done. You must focus attention to detail and expand your thinking on list building to get your “value exchange” or “reason I would give up my email address” in front of more of the right people at just the right time.

Below are five tactics for list building today:

1) Feature with content

There is an assumption in this post that you are producing high quality, educational content – the kind that draws links and readers. Now you’ll want to explore ways to promote your list sign up as people engage with this content.

Many WordPress theme frameworks today (Genesis and Thesis) allow for what are being called “feature boxes.” These feature boxes make it easy to place a sign up box at, say, the end of each blog post or top of your blog home page. Placing your email offer where people are reading and enjoy your content improves uptake.

2) Content partner share

One of the most important ways to entice email subscribers today is by offering long format content in the shape of an eBook. Generally, this is content that deeply tackles one subject in a way that’s appealing to your target client.

Once you’ve gone to the effort to produce this content reach out to other businesses, the ones that know they should be offering content to their customers, and allow them to promote your eBook by way of a special co-branded sign-up landing page.

3) Thank you suggest

Once someone signs up to receive your offer it’s good form to redirect them to a “thank you” page that gives them assurance that all is well, what to expect next or other details.

Consider partnering with three or four other “high quality” content producers that you would recommend to your readers and suggest subscriptions to these partners on your thank you page.

If each of the partners involved performs this action you’ll see more subscribers by way of referral.

4) Advertise

If your content, such as an eBook, is attractive enough you may find that advertising is an effective way to create list sign-ups. Of course this assumes that your conversion and measurement activities are such that you at least have some idea of what an email subscriber is worth long-term to your business.

You can effectively promote an eBook through Facebook Promoted Posts or by purchasing solo ads in newsletters related to your market.

5) Endorsement swaps

One of the most powerful ways to quickly add subscribers is for another list owner, one that has built trust with their subscribers, to send a mailing endorsing your eBook or newsletter content.

Now, while this is obviously a great tactic, it’s one that requires many things. No list owner will risk their reputation endorsing low quality content and neither should you. This is a tactic that takes time as it’s best done with partners that you have established a very trusting relationship with either by way of reputation in your industry or by directly working on other projects.

Build these relationships, create some killer content and approach your partners with the idea of sending an email offering their great content to your list while they do the same.