Building Your Email Mailing List

Increasing your opt-in list of targeted email clients is the most important email marketing strategy you can use. Your email list is actually a group of potential “sales leads” and you should treat expanding your email list as one of your most important marketing activities, second only to creating your web site. The more effort you put into developing your email list, the more potential customers you will have. Conversely, if you fail to collect email addresses, your online business growth will halt. It’s that simple. Tip #1: Offer Them Content People don’t just like to give out their email addresses online (and with good reason nowadays!) But if you offer them something in return, such as an informative newsletter, a free ebook, a forum membership or free software, they will be much more likely to give you their email address when subscribing. Offering subscriptions, whether to a newsletter, ezine, ebook, software, or online course, is the number one legitimate method of increasing your email list (and is used by all of the big and successful sites online). In recent studies of why people go online, results are showing that most of us go online for one of two major, basic reasons: to communicate or to learn. Are you meeting one of these needs? You will be, if you offer them high-quality information or interaction through one of the above methods. Don’t just send people who sign up to your list ads (unless they have specifically requested news on current specials); spice it up with information that they can use. They will remember you, will pass your newsletters around to their friends, and your name and company will get known. It’s one of the best methods of marketing around, and your home-based business can start to grow if you do this. Tip #2: Make It Easy For Them It’s amazing the number of online businesses that have subscription forms tucked away deep within their site hierarchy, or don’t even have interactive subscription forms for signing up. Don’t just rely on the customer taking the initiative of sending you an email asking to subscribe to your content; have a web designer create an easy-to-use form that they can fill in and subscribe to. Place your subscription box in a prominent area. Normally, the left top side of a web site is the area that a visitor looks at first. This is a natural area to place a small box that says, “Subscribe to our informative newsletter” or “download our free software” to increase your email list. Alternatively, you could create a pop-under that appears before they leave, asking if they would like to subscribe to your quality content. Don’t let them leave your site without offering them the chance, with an attractive ad, to sign up – and give you their email address. Be sure to have a link on each and every web page on your web site, offering visitors the chance to subscribe. Otherwise, they may go to your site, click around, and by page four, forget that they meant to sign up for your newsletter or ebook. Remind them frequently with a tasteful link or box on each page, and watch your subscriptions rise. Tip #3: Assure Their Privacy When a person visits a web site online, they often hesitate to give out their email address. Since they don’t know you, they often fear the worst: that you could be an unscrupulous email harvester, who will turn around and sell their information to sleazy porn sites or lending companies charging high interest rates. They don’t know that you’re a responsible, ethical Mom at home working to help support your family, since the Internet is a pretty anonymous medium. One way to overcome this natural hesitation to give out information is to place a prominent privacy notice near your subscription form that states: “Your privacy is important to us. We will never sell or disclose the information that you provide us with.” You have just overcome the number one reason that people don’t give out their email address, and increased greatly the chances that your opt-in list will grow. Tip #4: Don’t Use Force, and Don’t Ask for Too Much Information Nowadays, some sites have become quite aggressive in their techniques for getting email addresses, to the point that they won’t allow you to enter their site without giving it. Most people will click away from sites that use techniques that don’t offer choices. Instead, make subscription their choice, and never, ever force the issue (even if the web developer you finally hired to revamp your web site tells you ‘but everyone is doing it nowadays’. You aren’t everybody, you’re a highly ethical person growing your online business). When asking for subscriptions, don’t ask for too much information from first-time visitors such as their age, phone number, and other information, or you will frighten them away. Your subscription box is not meant to be marketing research and shouldn’t be used this way. At this point, you are creating an initial contact with potential clients. Simply ask for their email address, and nothing more, and you’ll see more subscribers. Down the road, when they know you better, you can always send out surveys to find out more about them. But at that point, you’ll be letting them know you’re trying to improve your customer service and help improve your offerings and their experience when visiting your site, and they’ll know who you are (you’re the ethical, polite business that offers them a great service or products at an outstanding value). Tip #5: Give Them a Gift Ever since we were small children opening Christmas presents underneath the tree, we have all found free gifts irresistible. You can offer your site visitors an extra incentive for subscribing to your newsletter or email communications: let them know that they will get a free gift when they sign up. This free gift could be a free ebook, a special screen saver, or information that they can use. Or, you can give them access to special areas on your web site that they couldn’t get to otherwise, when they sign up and register. If you use this technique, you should see response rates to your subscription requests go up tremendously. Don’t know how to write an ebook? This isn’t a problem. There are plenty of sites that offer free content, reports, and ebooks that you can download, and offer to site visitors (example: just try typing in “free content” into Google, and you will be deluged with links from sites begging you to give away their content). Then, take the time to sort through what looks good, and would meet your customer’s needs best, and voila! You have a freebie to offer your site visitors. Tip #6: Ask Them to ‘Pass It Along’ (Viral Emailing) In the lingo of online marketing, ‘Viral emarketing’ doesn’t describe teenaged hackers bent over their computer screens, sending viruses to unsuspecting recipients. Instead, it’s a highly accepted and used method of increasing email lists. Basically, you are asking those who receive your newsletter or email to share it with their friends who might enjoy reading the great information in it. Chances are, if they like it enough, they will click on the “subscribe” link (you do have one, don’t you, at the bottom of your newsletters and/or ezines?), and you will have a new address for your list. The Internet is all about sharing information, and we love to let others know about good places to learn at. If you make yours a great one, you’ll start seeing people share the wealth with others-and your web site URL will get seen by more people. Tip #7: Give Them More Choices People have different needs when going online. It can help to sit down, and think through what kinds of things visitors to your online business site might want to see, or need, and add these features in. Offer visitors to your site different options: some may want to subscribe to a newsletter, others may want to read your special articles, while yet others only want to hear about special product updates. Create your subscription box to offer different choices, then deliver them what they asked for. This is called ‘market segmentation’: you are meeting the needs of different sectors of your market, and this is good, sound sales practice that will cause your email list to expand. If you’re just starting out, you can offer simpler choices, such as receiving a “text” versus “HTML” version of your newsletter or emails (most mail managers let you create both). People appreciate being given a choice, and will remember you positively for it. Tip #8: Develop a Relationship With Your Clients Who would you rather interact with and trust, someone you have never heard of, or someone you have had a positive experience with before? This same principle is doubly true online. You should be emailing all of your current customers promptly in response to their questions, to confirm product orders, and other business communications in a polite, friendly manner. They will be more likely to sign up, subscribe, and ask for product updates if they’ve heard from you before, and if you are professional in all of your communications.

What is email marketing?

Email marketing is, as the name suggests, the use of email in marketing communications. What sort of email? In its broadest sense, the term covers every email you ever send to a customer, potential customer or public venue. In general, though, it’s used to refer to: Sending direct promotional emails to try and acquire new customers or persuade existing customers to buy again Sending emails designed to encourage customer loyalty and enhance the customer relationship Placing your marketing messages or advertisements in emails sent by other people Give me an analogy…

You can think of these three main forms of email marketing as the electronic equivalent of: Direct mail Sending people a print newsletter Placing advertisements in subscription magazines and newspapers There is, however, one extremely important difference – the issue of permission (see later). Why is email marketing so popular? Email marketing is so popular because: sending email is much cheaper than most other forms of communication email lets you deliver your message to the people (unlike a website, where the people have to come to your message) email marketing has proven very successful for those who do it right Let’s briefly review the three types of email marketing:

1. Direct email Direct email involves sending a promotional message in the form of an email. It might be an announcement of a special offer, for example. Just as you might have a list of customer or prospect postal addresses to send your promotions too, so you can collect a list of customer or prospect email addresses. You can also rent lists of email addresses from service companies. They’ll let you send your message to their own address lists. These services can usually let you target your message according to, for example, the interests or geographical location of the owners of the email address.

2. Retention email Instead of promotional email designed only to encourage the recipient to take action (buy something, sign-up for something, etc.), you might send out retention emails. These usually take the form of regular emails known as newsletters. A newsletter may carry promotional messages or advertisements, but will aim at developing a long-term impact on the readers. It should provide the readers with value, which means more than just sales messages. It should contain information which informs, entertains or otherwise benefits the readers.

3. Advertising in other people’s emails Instead of producing your own newsletter, you can find newsletters published by others and pay them to put your advertisement in the emails they send their subscribers. Indeed, there are many email newsletters that are created for just this purpose – to sell advertising space to others. Where’s the catch? This all sounds great of course. Imagine how much cheaper it is to send a message to thousands of email addresses, rather than thousands of postal addresses! It’s not that simple, unfortunately. Quite apart from the complexities of designing and delivering email messages to the right people, getting them to actually read and respond to your message, and measuring and analyzing the results, there is the issue of permission. What’s “permission”? Responsible email marketing is based on the idea of permission. This is a complex issue and the subject of intense debate in the marketing community. Essentially, you need an email address owner’s permission before you can send them a commercial email. If you don’t have this permission, then the recipients of your mail may well regard your message as spam; unsolicited commercial (bulk) email. You do not want to send spam! If you are accused of sending spam, then you may find your email accounts closed down, your website shut off, and your reputation in tatters. In some parts of the world, you may even be breaking the law. Quite apart from these practical considerations, there is also a strong argument which says that long-term successful email marketing relationships with customers and others can only work anyway if they’re permission based. The big question, of course, is what constitutes permission…and that is the main subject of debate. It’s important to remember that it’s not your views, or even the views of the majority, that count, but the views of those receiving your emails and those responsible for administering the infrastructure of the Internet. An example of permission is when your customer buys something from your online store and also ticks a box marked “please send me news about product updates via email”. You now have “permission” to send that person product updates by email, provided you also give them the opportunity to rescind that permission at any time. Educate yourself It’s important to stress that anyone considering email marketing must read up on the subject of permission and spam. If you don’t understand the importance of permission and the risks of ignoring it, then you could be heading for commercial disaster. Don’t panic, though. It’s actually relatively easy to ensure that the address lists you use or build yourself are permission-based. OK, now that you’re armed with some brief background information, browse the rest of this site to find the resources you need to develop a better understanding of how email marketing can work for you and your (potential) customers. Or to speed things up, try some of these.

Seven Rules of Email Marketing

Email Rule Number One: Never, Ever, Ever, SPAM Most likely, you’ve received SPAM, or unsolicited email, at some point (it seems to start just hours after creating your first email account).You may have even considered sending out a nice, friendly email to some of your customers, to let them know about your latest product or discount, and wondered if this is okay. But if they haven’t given you PERMISSION to email them, it’s SPAM. And that friendly little email could get you into a lot of trouble (even if it’s just to a few people), and can create a very negative impression of you and your online business. You should be aware that SPAM is illegal in over 18 states (as in if you are caught in California and Washington, to name two, they can bar you from your server and fine you large amounts). In addition, legislation is before Congress to create federal anti-spam legislation. And if you get added to a SPAM “blacklist”, your email address will be automatically filtered from major ISP servers, and your mails will never get delivered. Plus your ISP will terminate your service…you get the drift. But most importantly for those of us marketing our business online, SPAM doesn’t accomplish what you want: target interested consumers. Response rates to your emails are much, much higher if you are sending emails to people who have indicated that they want to receive your information. There’s ways to get them to do this, and I’ll be discussing this in a later lesson.

Email Rule Number Two: Collect Addresses in a Responsible Manner While SPAM doesn’t work, opt-in emails do. These are email lists created because the client asked to be added to the list. But there are methods that are considered ethical and responsible for collecting email addresses, and others that aren’t. Be ethical, and use permission marketing techniques (your customers ask to be added to a list, or willingly give you their email address in return for a service you provide them with, and for which you indicate that they will receive regular emails). Your customers will appreciate it, and you’ll see much better response rates and fewer angry letters and SPAM warnings. Never, ever “harvest” email addresses, which is the opposite of permission mail lists (we’ll discuss this in more detail in lesson six). In addition to being unethical, it just doesn’t work. Harvested email lists normally generate clickthrough rates of less than 0.01%, which are abysmal, in addition to all of the negative perceptions and problems it causes (see rule number one above). And please, offer those on your list (that they opted into) the option of unsubscribing from your mail list. While we all hate to lose email clients, you will have the assurance that those who are on your list are there because they want to be, and aren’t deleting your emails before they even open them.

Email Rule Number Three: Provide Contact Information When people read your emails, they may have questions, concerns, or want to tell you how great your emails are. They may even want to learn more about your products or services. They can’t do this if you don’t provide contact information in the email, since hitting the “reply” button in some cases sends the email back to a list server address. Let folks know who you are. It’s good business practice, and reassures them that you are a real, ethical, responsible business person that they want to do business with. When you provide them with a clear email address or toll-free phone number that they can reach you at in each of your email communications, you’ve helped establish your reliability.

Email Rule Four: Provide a Link to Your Web Site If it weren’t sad, it would be funny how many people forget marketing basics when they send out their emails, letting them know about their great online product or service. We think “letter” and forget “marketing”. Remember the real purpose of email marketing was discussed above: to bring people to your web site, where you can sell to them. Include a clear link to your web site in each and every email communication that you send out, even if it’s a customer survey. This way, you’re giving potential customers a chance to contact you, and learn more. And encourage them to do this: make your link entice them a bit. Instead of a plain link, why not say, “See our newest products” or “View our discounts available only this week” for your link. Of course, you can also use the word “free” to get them to contact you: “click here to see our FREE ebook (or newsletter, or software download).

Email Rule Five: Use Good Grammar Have you ever received an email advertisement or newsletter that was poorly done, or contained numerous grammar errors? What did you think of the firm that created it? Email communications can be an important method of increasing customer loyalty, or creating the perception that others have of your online business. That image in their mind will rise or fall based on the quality of your communications. If you aren’t a good writer, or are unsure how to create clear, legible email communications, consider hiring a professional to assist you. Your customers will notice the difference, and your business will be perceived as extremely professional (they don’t need to know that you work out of your home office, and are working in your sweat suit and slippers; they’ll see the polished, quality emails you send out and place you mentally with the real pros).

Rule Number Six: Be Honest In Your Communications Have you ever received an email with a header that stated, “About what we discussed the other day…” Thinking that a friend had changed their email address, you clicked on the mail, only to be greeted by SPAM. The sense of betrayal and anger are remembered long after the email is closed and deleted, and I doubt that emails that use “gorilla marketing tactics” like this have much success, or positive perception from customers. Honesty is the best policy in email communications, including headers. Don’t “trick” customers into opening your emails; instead, get them curious, or state clearly a benefit that your email will provide them with, then deliver it in your email. This creates a “win-win” situation: they’ve received real, honest help, and you’ve maintained positive contact with your customers.

Email Rule Seven: Be Polite Which message would you rather hear: “BUY NOW AND MAKE LOTS OF MONEY!!!” or “Here are some helpful car maintenance tips that will help you get extra gas mileage.” The first uses capital letters and exclamation points (considered “shouting” online) along with a highly unrealistic promise that insults the intelligence of most readers. While there is a place for sales copy, the second is more likely to get customers to click and open it, since it offers them a real benefit directed towards a real need with today’s high gas prices. The fact that after highly helpful tips, it includes an ad for tune-up services at a national chain doesn’t annoy those who read it, since they’ve learned how tune-ups can help them get better gas mileage in the article they read. Be polite, and offer your customers a real benefit for reading your emails to them. You may even get grateful mail back in return (and win a new loyal customer!) Thank your customers for asking for more information in your autoresponders. Let them know that you appreciate them, and that providing them with outstanding client service is your top goal. Treat them the way you would like to be treated, and you’ll see increased response rates. Courtesy is at times a forgotten art in our busy, rushed society today. Treating those you email as real human beings, and giving them a refreshing dose of courteous, polite behavior will be remembered long after they close the email. This was lesson one in our series, “Email Marketing Techniques.” Be sure to look for lesson two, in which we discuss “Building Your Email Mailing List”.