Poor old email marketing has taken a backseat to social networks in recent years but it’s a place it really doesn’t deserve. Email marketing is still hugely effective, can offer direct and measurable return on investment and according to a recent study is the way that 77% of people still want to receive their marketing messages.
The first step towards effective email marketing is building a list. Even if you are not quite ready to start a campaign you should be collecting emails so that when you are ready you have a list of subscribers ready to receive it. But before I share my tips on list building here’s some important considerations.
Getting permission from subscribers is essential for effective email marketing. It may be tempting to collect a bunch of business cards at a meeting and then add all the email addresses to your list but it’s also against data protection guidelines in Ireland. Even putting these guidelines aside it’s bad practice to send an email shot to people who didn’t request it, here’s why:
When someone receives your email you want them to be happy, you want them to associate a positive emotion when they think about your brand. I get an email from Mari Smith every week, she shares 5 links that she thinks her subscribers will find valuable and I’m always pleased to get it, she’s a great curator. Sometimes this email also contains information about her latest offer, webinar or course. I’m also pleased to hear about this, Mari’s webinars are well worth attending. Sending an email to someone who didn’t request it can have the opposite effect. I started getting unsolicited emails from a deal site last year. Every day they would hit my inbox and every day I’d delete them. Every time I saw them I’d get annoyed, yes it only took clicking one button to unsubscribe but that still seemed like work to me, I didn’t ask for the email and now I had to put effort into unsubscribing. The result – I would never buy anything from that particular company.
Avoid getting marked as spam – In the example above it would have been much easier for me to hit the spam button than unsubscribe and this is another reason that getting permission is crucial. When someone hits the spam button on your email it doesn’t just recognise the email as spam locally, the email address that it comes from gets a black mark next to it, get enough black marks and you’ll find that email providers will not only block email from that address but from all emails from that domain.
Make it easy to unsubscribe
People unsubscribing from your email list is bad right? Well yes it does seem a bit disheartening when someone chooses to unsubscribe from your list but remember if they have no use for your email, if they don’t want the information you send they are either not a potential customer or they simply don’t want what you are sending them. We can learn from this, a good clean email list full of potential customers is the ideal so if someone isn’t a lead there is no real value in having them there. If we get a lot of unsubcribers from one particular newsletter we should look at the content and see what it is that may have caused them to unsubscribe. What could have put them off? Were you selling too hard? Did the email look spammy? Or has it been so long since they subscribed, or so long since you sent your last mail that they don’t remember why they subscribed?
I recently heard that an airline had sent an email to those who hadn’t opened their emails asking if the recipient still wanted to get the newsletter. This is a fantastic way to reconnect with dormant subscribers and to keep the list clean. It also shows that they care about their customers and potential customers.
Segment your list
Some people may want to hear from you once a month, some may want to get something once a week. Existing customers may want different information to leads, different sorts of customers will want to be treated differently. For this reason you should be thinking about segmenting your list in advance. You can do this by asking what sort of content subscribers want to receive at the sign up stage and you can segment yourself by filtering subscribers in to different categories.
How to get subscribers
- Put a subscribe form on your website. If you want to encourage subscribers make sure this is prominent on your website, preferably above the fold.
- Add a call to action to the subscribe form. This can be as simple as telling people what they get in return for subscribing. For me it’s ‘social media hints and tips’, others offer a monthly prize for subscribers or a freebie. On my latest joint project ‘We Teach Social‘ we’re offering a free course to one of our subscribers.
- A strong call to action always works best so ‘Subscribe to our newsletter for monthly social media hints and tips’ will work better than ‘Would you like to subscribe to our newsletter? We’ll send you monthly social media hints and tips’. Telling rather than asking someone what to do will get better results (in spite of what your Mother might have told you).
- As well as adding the subscribe form to your main website it’s worth creating a page on your site dedicated to collecting email subscribers. This gives you the opportunity to tell people a bit more about what they will get, leaves room for more segmentation options and gives you a landing page to share on your social media channels when asking for subscribers.
- Consider a pop up. Pop up email subscribe boxes that appear once you have spent some time on a site are annoying to some but they do attract new subscribers. I’m not sure Ireland is ready for these yet but it is worth testing it on some pages to see if your subscriber rate increases without loosing page views on your website.
- If you have already embarked on email marketing ask for some testimonials from existing subscribers. Ask them to tell you what they like about your emails and add them to your newsletter subscribe page. This will encourage new subscribers as they will be reassured that it’s worthwhile – that you are delivering what you promise.
- If you have already embarked on email marketing include a newsletter archive on your sign up page. Again this will encourage potential subscribers to make the leap as they will see exactly what they are signing up to.
- Ask for subscribers on your social media channels. I tweet once a week about my mailing list and always get new subscribers. If you run a Facebook competition make sure that getting email opt in is part of the entry process.
- Add a call to action to the bottom of blog posts. You can either add a subscribe form here or link to your subscribe page.
- Add a link to your email subscribe page / form to your email signature.
- If your business has a physical location – a shop or an office that customers visit – try and capture email addresses there. Ask people to subscribe to be in with the chance of winning something. I know I put my business card in to a bowl at Wagamama a long time ago as part of a contest and I’ve been getting special offers from them ever since. As I am a customer of Wagamama already these offers are always welcome and encourage me to visit more often. If you don’t have a premises take advantage of trade shows and events to encourage subscribers in a similar manner.
- If you run an online store it’s easier to capture email addresses. Ensure that you are asking for the subscribe opt in as part of the check out process.
- When you send emails out ask people to tell their friends, give them a link to your subscribe page that they can share with others.
What have I left out? What tips do you have for getting new email subscribers?
If you are based in or close to Kildare book a spot on my email marketing for beginners workshop in Naas on 3rd & 4th December. You will learn more about how to best utilise email marketing for your business and create an email to send to your customers in time for Christmas. Call 045 897610 to book your place for just €40. Find out more about what is included in the workshop here.
photo credit: Ed Siasoco (aka SC Fiasco) via photopin cc
Jon Loomer says
Great overview, Amanda! I get about as many referrals from email as I do Facebook. Considering Facebook is my core business and I have more “Likes” than email subscribers, that’s pretty big.
I’ve begun experimenting with the lightbox popup. I’m more conscious of the real estate on my site lately as it’s beginning to get cluttered. So I decided to try out removing the subscribe boxes that formerly took up a bunch of space and instead using a popup once per week per user after 20 seconds reading. So far, it’s increasing subscriptions. But we’ll see!
Amanda Webb says
That’s interesting. I tend to ignore those boxes when they turn up as I’m generally on the site looking to read the content. I did notice yours alright the last time I dropped in. I’d be interested to know if you think it has any effect on your bounce rate.
In Ireland we can be quite reserved and can shun anything quite as obvious as a pop up window so I’m not sure how it would go down on an Irish based site. I might just do an experiment myself!
Thanks Amanda! There are some really great tips which I shall definitely be putting into action!
Amanda Webb says
Glad you found it useful Mark 🙂