“Email has an ability many channels don’t: creating valuable personal touches at scale.” – David Newman
Email used to be massive, back in the early days of AOL and CompuServe. Today, email has been replaced with Tweets, likes, shares and status updates. However, amid all the social media noise, smart marketers find success in their inboxes. The problem is that most people don’t know how to do it right.
So, let’s go back to the basics and talk about how you can build a great email marketing campaign from scratch.
People Love to Buy, but Hate to Be Sold
Our immediate need as game and hobby enthusiasts turned business owners is the desire to sell. Knowing that “people love to buy, but hate to be sold” makes us sick.
We hate it when prospects think we are liars and manipulators. Every sales move makes us seem like we are putting pressure on the customer to buy. We don’t appear to respect them enough to let them make up their mind in their own time.
This kind of thinking makes us feel like we are horrible people, making other people hate us.
To avoid stressing over sales, you need to learn to romance your prospects. Build a relationship with them: build an email list. Email is your secret sales weapon.
One Foot in the Door
To get into your readers’ inboxes is not easy. If you’re not careful with your email marketing campaign, your readers will assume you are being pushy and will run away from you.
To keep this from happening, you must respect the client. Here’s how:
Seek Their Permission
Email marketing is permission marketing. Most countries demand that subscribers opt in – you can’t add people to your list without their permission.
You must focus on attracting willing subscribers.
Marketers use three main approaches: they offer something for free, create a newsletter or send product updates. I can’t tell you which to pick. You’ll have to see which one fits your strategy best and run with it.
Whichever method you choose, have a clear purpose when asking for email addresses. Create a strong, clear call to action (CTA) and use result-oriented copywriting to create interest.
No one will sign up unless you offer benefits. Your subscription text should answer the following critical questions:
- What do I get when I give you my email address?
- Are you going to spam me?
- How often will you email me?
- Will you offer reduced prices?
- Will you grant access to beta tests and pre-releases?
- Will you send me relevant offers or more junk?
A simple “Enter your email for updates” is unlikely to motivate your readers to offer their email addresses, at least until you have a solid reputation.
The emails you send may end up in the spam box. Your email service provider of choice may ensure major ISPs don’t block your emails, but they can’t guarantee where the reader’s mail client will put them. Getting whitelisted will ensure that your emails appear in your readers’ inboxes.
Whitelisting is similar to readers marking you as a friend, and the best way to achieve this is by asking them to add you to their address book. Always provide instructions at the top of each email, so your readers can do this. Include the instructions on the initial welcome and first follow-up email.
Manage Expectations with Follow-Up Efforts
Include a strong call to action in every message and be consistent with your monitoring efforts to achieve success with your email marketing campaign. If you promise a daily update, ensure you deliver. If you promise a weekly update, don’t send more frequently. The worst crime in email marketing (after spamming) is bombing your recipients with masses of communication.
Most email service providers offer a simple autoresponder, so make use of it. Use the autoresponder to set up an initial welcome message to tell your subscribers what you plan to do with their email address.
Above all, ensure you live up to your subscribers’ expectations.
Pitch When They’re Ready
Never pitch your subscriber frequently.
Always maintain expectations and pitch only when an offer or product is relevant, based on browsing or buying habits. Since this is hard to tell, keep selling at a minimum to avoid unsubscribes.
If you can’t track your subscribers’ habits, consider measuring the value you provide. You know the value you add by sending newsletters, linking to blog posts or promoting your latest video. Balance that value with personal messages or friendly updates. Save the pitches for unique updates, offers, and announcements. The point here is to engage your reader, not to sell to them.
The unfortunate truth is that there is no clear way to know when to pitch. Decide how and when you want to sell, but remember to err on the side of caution. Don’t play it fast and loose or you’ll lose subscribers and put a painful dent in customer loyalty.
Use an Autoresponder
Once your game and hobby business starts getting busy, you may have less time to talk to your list. You might entirely forget to speak with them until you have something to sell.
This is where a commercial autoresponder comes into its own. Instead of only sending one message, proper autoresponsers (e.g. aweber) allow you to build email sequences and schedule content to be sent out. You may need to hire external help to write a long series of emails, but the advantages are important: staying in regular touch with your customers makes selling easier, gives you the confidence to announce new products, and reduces the chance of reader annoyance.
Analyzing and Segmenting Your List
Analyze Your List
Reputable email service providers offer analytics, so take advantage of them to monitor open rates, click through rates (CTR), and unsubscribes.
Open rate is a clear indicator of how well you’ve built your relationship with your subscribers. A low open rate translates into “delete upon receipt” and you know that you have work to do to get your prospects interested. If you haven’t been providing value or managing expectations, you need to start doing so immediately.
Low CTR, on the other hand, could be a result of poor copywriting. The remedy here is to improve your copy.
High unsubscribe rates show that you have failed to offer value, you’re not managing expectation and you do not understand how to write great copy. Try to work out where you’re going wrong. You can add value by selling less and informing more. You can manage expectations by keeping to your email schedule. You can hire a copywriter to make your copy persuasive and authoritative – and add value, too.
Analytics will show you data, such as when your subscribers leave your list. Your job is to analyse that data to understand why things happen. Are people leaving after a certain autoresponder message? After you try to sell to them? At the top of your sales funnel? Rework anything you think needs changing as soon as you notice it. The point with email analytics is to pay attention.
Segment Your List
List segmentation is the process of splitting up your list into smaller, more tightly targeted groups.
Simple list segments could be:
- Prospects (who look like leads you can warm them up)
- Product Updates (for existing customers)
- Daily Email List (or weekly, bi-weekly, monthly)
Segmenting your list helps you deliver more targeted communication. The upside is that you can reach specific audiences with specific messages: existing customers get product updates (so they can buy upgrades), prospects get industry news (with an interesting product or two they might like), and your newsletter subscribers get a bit of everything..
The downside is that you’ll have to manage expectations and subscribes and unsubscribes for each segment carefully, to avoid repetition and annoying your audience.
Segmenting your list offers the opportunity to communicate with people who didn’t open your previous message. You can ask what stopped them from taking action, and rectify the problem. You can also reach out to people who responded to your pitch with instructions on what to do next.
Importance of an Email List
Your list is an asset. If you know how to manage it, your email list can be extremely valuable.
Remember, people won’t like you selling to them, but they won’t mind spending their money in your business if you give them time to decide what they want. Before sending out emails to your readers, make sure your primary goals are to inform and engage. Get whitelisted to be sure your emails are delivered correctly. Manage expectations with a consistent follow-up effort, pitch occasionally and then segment and analyze your subscribers to be sure you are doing the right thing. Over time, you’ll get to know your list as if they were family: you’ll know who to pitch to, who to keep informed, who loves pre-releases and who your most loyal customers are. And you’ll know how to make the most of them all.