No matter what they say about the death of email (a death that has been proclaimed by a major publication every year since 2003), email is still the #1 direct response marketing tool on the planet. It’s affordable and it leads to sales. Unfortunately, very few places do it really well.
If you’re just getting started with email marketing, here are some quick tips to make sure you’re starting on the right foot.
To really do email marketing right, you have to send externally, rather than off your own server. This makes sure that your emails will actually hit inboxes, and get as many eyes on them as possible. Nowadays, there’s really no reason not to because so many providers offer great service, great templates, free plans for smaller mailing lists and very low cost plans for larger ones.
My personal favorite is Mailchimp. MailChimp offers a “Forever Free” plan, which means that you get up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month for free, no questions asked. They just ask that you include a small badge in the bottom of your email template. They offer great templates, great customer service and (dare I say!) are really fun to use. If the Forever Free plan doesn’t work for you, they offer extremely low cost monthly and pay-per-message plans.
Now, if you’re a non-profit, you might prefer VerticalResponse. Why? Because as long as you can show that your organization has 501(c)(3) status, you will get 10,000 free email credits each month to use any way you like. If 10,000 per month isn’t enough, they give you an additional 15% discount on email credits. I’ve personally signed a few non-profits up for this service, and it is a quick and painless process.
Don’t Default to Newsletters
The first thing that tends to pop into people’s minds when getting started with email is “We should do an email newsletter!”
When you have a dedicated mailing list of customers who have signed up for your email newsletter, then great. They can work. But newsletters are really for keeping in touch with an audience that is already pretty excited about what you offer, and tend to be less successful at converting sales.
Instead of focusing on newsletters, think about doing messaging that focuses on one or two key points and has a prominent call to action. For example, here’s one from my own inbox from Piperlime:
There is absolutely no doubt what they want you to do here – buy sandals! The message is clear, overt, concise, and the user isn’t being distracted by any other type of messaging. Which leads me to my next point…
Know Your Goals
One of the reasons that so many default to newsletters is that they’re skipping over a step when thinking about their email marketing plan – they don’t know what they’re trying to achieve.
Goal setting should be the first step in planning out any marketing strategy. What are you trying to accomplish? That will dictate the form your tactics take. For example:
- If your goal is to get people to make a purchase off of your website, then you’re going to want to use a format that is really clean and simple and has an overt call to action.
- If your goal is to keep in touch with loyal customers, and make sure they’re informed about your news and events (without necessarily making a purchase), then a newsletter might be more appropriate.
Use The PS
When our brain receives information, we process two things with the most dominance – the beginning of the message and the end of the message. All the stuff in between is just being scanned for anything that may jump out as important. That’s why you have to frame your messages – have a strong beginning, and a strong closing. This is where the “P.S.” comes in. Here’s an example:
In this email supporting the Obama presidential campaign, arguably the strongest line is at the end – “Let’s beat these guys” with a link off to a fundraising website. They are utilizing the P.S. to make that last impression because they know it’s the last thing that you’re going to see, and it’s also the thing that you’re going to be the most conscious of. I’d bet all the money in my pockets that it was that link that got the most clicks in that email.
(As a complete aside, it truly doesn’t matter to me who you vote for, but it’s worth signing up for emails from all of the major political campaigns, particularly if you’re a non-profit. These guys raise millions of dollars over email and have it finely tuned – there’s a lot you can learn about messaging.)
Create Value for your Subscribers
The last piece of advice is the most important. No matter what you send out, you should always be thinking about what is going to create the most value for your subscribers because every time you hit that send button, you are showing your subscribers how much you value them and their time. Make sure your messaging is something that they are going to view as worth their time to open, instead of a piece of spam email that is just clogging up their inbox. If you do this consistently, your subscribers will recognize it and will be more likely to open what you send them because they know that they are getting something valuable from it.