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21 How I Use Email Marketing

This post is part of a creative marketing series sponsored by HP

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With the advent of social media, email marketing has taken a bit of a back seat in terms of buzz – but not with marketers that understand the power this tool has for long term trust building and short term conversion.

I’ve been an advocate of this tool throughout the rise of social media and find it telling that many bloggers and social media types that have built followings online are now turning to email marketing to cash in. I don’t mean cash in as a bad thing, I mean that they have found email marketing to be a way to generate customers in this more commercially acceptable avenue.

Email marketing is a central tool I still employ for building trust, doing research, announcing new products, selling products and services, educating customers, and expanding the awareness of my web presence beyond my web site.

While there are many ways to use email marketing I thought today I would share a little about how I do it so you could have one simple and practical road map.

My email marketing routine

List building – Obviously for email marketing to be an effective play, you’ve got to possess a list. Don’t ever, ever buy one! You must build your list and you must do it by offering value, that’s it.

You should, however, employ some tools that make it easy for people to subscribe. I place a sign-up form on most pages (it’s over there in the left sidebar if you’re reading this on my blog) and I use a drop down script from dynamic drive to offer the newsletter to site visitors. I know some folks don’t like these in your face forms, but there’s no denying how much more effective they are.

I offer people a free report for signing up in addition to the offer of the newsletter and this definitely drives sign-ups. I also make a special offer to buy my books through a thank you page once someone does subscribe. This is a low cost product that I add lots of valuable bonuses to and it often starts the relationship deepening very quickly.

I also promote my list when I speak and encourage you to consider ways to build your list from your other offline activities as well.

email marketing

Image: RambergMediaImages

Getting started – I use an autorepsonder to reply once someone subscribes. I send an evergreen issue of my newsletter so they get a taste of the value right away. A few days after they subscribe I also send what feels like a much more personal thank you note from me. This is a text email that is very simple and tells them I am glad they subscribed. I get constant feedback from people that, while they may know it’s not really a personal note, love the personal feel. I suggest you adopt this tactic. (The content of the note is on page 215 of Duct Tape Marketing, you know in case you want to buy the book.)

Content – Your readership will grow and spread only if they find your content valuable. While I do send occasional product pitches, I choose to do these in solo emails (a tactic that makes the offer stand out) and choose to fill my weekly newsletter with content that I think readers have come to value. Increasingly this is snack size tips that lead them to other great resources.

Format – I send my weekly newsletter in HTML format as reading and engaging with the content is much more enjoyable in the visual format. I do also send a text version for those that don’t allow HTML and as a further tool to help get through some spam filters.

I have moved to a format where I point out a lot of great content that I’ve written or that others have written. I used to include the full content in the email, but have found over the years that people have grown very comfortable with the digest format that allows them to click through to the full content online. One word of advice, as so many people now read email online through Gmail and Yahoo make your links open in a new window so they don’t have to keep coming back to find the email. (You simply add target=”_blank” after your link in HTML code to do this.)

As stated above I use text only email when I am doing a straight pitch for a product or service offering or promoting an event. I don’t include anything extra in these emails as I’ve found that total focus on one topic, in this format, generates the highest response. (A/B testing of your emails is a standard offering in most email services.)

ESP – ESP is the acronym for email service provider. If your list is more than a dozen names you need to use a service to send your emails. There are many great, low cost solutions for this that allow you to easily create, send and archive your email newsletters, offers and campaigns. These services also help you build and maintain your list and comply with CAN-SPAM laws.

I use Infusionsoft as part it’s part of my CRM and shopping cart set-up, but I’ve also experienced good things over the years from Constant Contact, Vertical Response, AWeber, MailChimp and iContact. In my opinion any of these services will meet your needs.

MailChimp wins the award for education. Take a look at their list of email marketing ebooks.

Integration – Email is a great way to expand beyond the newsletter communication to build deeper engagement in your community. Certainly it’s become very standard to include all of the ways for people to connect with you online in your email communications. You should add Twitter and Facebook links to your emails, but also cross promote your blog content, archive your newsletter issues as web pages on your site, and promote your new issues in Facebook status updates as well. (Here’s an example of an issue of my newsletter online.)

19 Applying Drip Marketing to Your Staff

drip trainingA very effective approach to lead generation and nurturing is something called “drip marketing.” The idea behind the tactic is that you design a series of contacts, via email, postal mail, or phone, that are routinely dripped out to a prospect as a reaction, for example, to them signing up for an event. The power of this technique is that for the most part the entire process, once designed, can be automated with technology. This automation makes it easier for you to focus on other forms of engagement with the prospect knowing that they are receiving consistent touches and gentle reminders that you are there when ready to serve their needs.

I believe this same autoresponder drip marketing approach should be utilized internally as well as a way to supplement the training of staff. Small business are usually pretty bare when it comes to training. Who has time, right? Basic job functions are usually about the only thing that’s taught, but everything else that’s going in the company, important as it may be to the total engagement of the team, is often left to chance after the first day of orientation.

Why not set up a series of emails delivered over a 90 day period to each new hire do things like

  • teach important product and service features
  • share detailed information about the ideal customer and core differentiators
  • contain real live customer success stories and testimonials
  • outline the marketing plan for the coming year
  • feature other staff members and their stories

I’m not suggesting that you can use this approach to replace processes, manuals and human interaction, but even in very smallest of organizations, this type of drip training would allow you to go much deeper that you might, while helping your new team member feel much more a part of team, no matter what the job title. Remember, marketing is everyone’s job and the best way to send this message is to educate your staff as though they were a customer.

You can employ a low cost autoresponder tool such as AWeber, iContact, Constant Contact to handle the automatic delivery of your content. All you have to do is write the series of email once and then enroll each new employee as part of the hiring process.

Image credit: Steve Beger

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15 The small business market research challenge

Market research is a challenge for many small businesses. The data that you may need to conquer your corner of the world may not exist in a tidy database, yet marketing strategy should be well informed with real information.

One of the best methods of market research available to the small business in my opinion is the customer or prospect survey. Picking up the phone and calling your best customers from time to time to dig in and really understand what you do well, what you do that is unique, what you could do that no one else does is essential for creating a marketing strategy and message that has impact.

Further using free and low cost tools like Survey Monkey, Survey Gizmo or the survey feature from an email service like iContact is a great way to assess product viability, product features, product names, service names or any other aspect of your business. People like to be asked for their opinion and committing to gathering consistent feedback and research is a great way to move your business in the right direction and monitor the health of your customer relationships.

I spent a few minutes chatting with Barry Jennings, Market Research Guru for Dell. Dell has invested tremendous in recent years getting out and talking one on one with customers and doing very small businesslike research.