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“The money’s in the list!”
If you run a website or are at all involved in website management, chances are you've heard at least one person tell you “The money's in the list!” before. But while this might be true, running a successful email marketing campaign isn't the easiest money you'll ever earn.
Succeeding with this medium requires a great deal of planning and foresight – if executed poorly, you risk losing subscribers and tarnishing your brand's image.
So how can you use email marketing to connect with your readers outside of your website and to deepen their commitment to your brand with informative articles and well-executed promotions? Let's get started…
Email Marketing 101
Put very simply, an email marketing campaign allows you to send marketing messages directly to your subscribers ‘inboxes. To start an email campaign, you'll need a service to store your contacts and your messages (generally called an “autoresponder”), as well as a sign up form on your website where people can opt-in to receiving your email messages. Once these readers have been added to your list, they will begin receiving your messages.
The first step in launching an email marketing campaign is the selection of an autoresponder provider. While most hosting companies offer email list management services as part of their packages, it's best to work with a private email list management company, as these companies offer more services and better deliverability rates than self-hosted email solutions.
In general, the highest-rated email autoresponders are:
Each of these services differ in terms of their prices and the specific features they offer, so it's worth spending some time reviewing their packages to find the one that best suits your needs.
Once you've signed up with an email autoresponder, you'll be able to set up individual lists for each of your websites.
Down the road, you may want to look into segmenting your lists based on how active your readership is, whether or not individual subscribers have purchased anything and so on – for now, it's enough to simply set up a general list for each website you run.
What kinds of details should be considered when setting up a list?
Within your list management area, you'll be able to set up the name and email address that your messages are sent under, as well as the address and email signature that appear in any of your messages.
These settings control how your visitors move through the subscription process. For example, where should a visitor wind up once he or she has first submitted contact information? What pages should subscribers be redirected to once they've confirmed their subscriptions?
When you set up your lists, you'll need to determine whether to use a single opt-in set up or a double opt-in format. On a single opt-in list, the subscriber will begin receiving messages as soon as the information on the signup form is completed; on a double opt-in list, potential subscribers will need to confirm again via email that they're interested in receiving email messages from you.
Now, whether you should use a single or double opt-in format is the subject of much debate in the internet marketing world. And while the choice that's right for you will depend on your website, your industry and your personal preferences, there are two general rules of thumb to consider.
- First, single opt-in lists have higher subscriber rates, as double opt-in lists lose people in the confirmation process. However, a double opt-in list will better protect you against spam complaints, as you're confirming that every single person on your list truly wants to be there.
- After your list has been created, you'll need a way to get your website visitors to join your email list. This is done through web forms, which typically consist of a headline (something like, “Join Our Email List to Receive This Benefit!”), an area where visitors can enter their contact information and a “Submit” button.
Although you have the option of including a number of different fields on this form, the general consensus is that it's best to include only a “Name” and an “Email” field. Including additional details (like address, phone number, etc) risks turning off potential subscribers, who worry that you'll be showing up on their doorstep to pitch additional marketing messages.
By requesting a name and an email address, you're able to personalize the messages you send out to the subscribers' names, while still appearing to request only the minimum amount of information necessary to enroll new participants.
Depending on the exact autoresponder program you've chosen, your options for customizing the look of your web forms will vary significantly. However, all of the programs listed above provide you with a number of customizable templates that can be changed to suit the color scheme and style of your website.
You may also find that you have the option of displaying your web form as either an inline form in the body or your website or as a pop-up style opt-in box, which can be particularly successful in attracting new subscribers.
Once your form is set up and customized, adding it to your website typically only involves copying and pasting a line of code to the page where you'd like the form to reside.
Most autoresponder programs have detailed tutorials on how to do this, but if you need technical assistance, this task can be easily outsourced.
Tips for Communicating with Your Email List
Now that you've got your list set up and your web form created and deployed, it's time to start communicating with your mailing list recipients! There are a few things you'll want to keep in mind here:
Offer an Incentive to Encourage Readers to Join Your List
Most people are wary of handing their email address out to just anyone, so it's a good idea to offer a special bonus – like a free ebook or a unique coupon code – to entice them to subscribe.
Strike a Balance between Pre-scheduled Follow-up Messages and Broadcast Emails
Within your autoresponder, you should have the option to pre-schedule standard messages to be sent out at default intervals (called “follow up messages”), as well as send out spur-of-the-moment messages whenever you have breaking news to share (called “broadcast” emails).
While follow-up messages can save you time by pre-loading content into your autoresponder, it's a good idea to keep your list “fresh” with occasional broadcast messages as well.
Integrate Copywriting Practices into Your Email Marketing Campaign
When you run an email list, you're competing for attention inside peoples' already-cluttered inboxes. To help get your messages noticed, study good copywriting practices and be sure to integrate them into the subject lines and calls to action of your email messages.
Email marketing – just like most other website management tasks – has a learning curve. And while it certainly can be a great tool for building your relationship with your readers, it may take some time to start seeing success with this technique.
Be patient and apply the lessons described above. In no time, you'll have a responsive email list that practically sends you money with every message you send out!