How do you stay in touch with your customers? Or better yet, communicate with people who haven’t bought anything, but what to know more about what you do?
Putting up a website and a Facebook page helps, but it’s nowhere near as effective as direct communication with people who want to hear from you. Email subscriptions are the way to go.
They drive traffic to your website too, so it’s an inexpensive way to improve your SEO.
You may think, we’ve got Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – why do we need to bother with email?
People of all ages use email which means pretty much any demographic you’re trying to target is available. Getting email on the phone is pretty standard, especially for younger users or business professionals – so mobile friendly communications are critical. Roughly 85% of people in the U.S. check their email – sometimes multiple times a day.
The real trick is to get them to read yours.
Email Marketing Companies
If you’re thinking about just taking a bunch of names from your customer list and emailing the lot of them – probably not your best strategy. Better to have a smaller number of interested subscribers than blasting the inbox of a bunch of unsuspecting people.
Plus, you’d have no idea how well your emails are received. When you work with an email marketing company – you’ll get some insight and analysis on how well your messages are doing.
There are a several email marketing companies and some offer free accounts:
- MailChimp – Free Account
- HubSpot – Free Account
- Constant Contact – Free Trial (60 days)
- Aweber – Free Trial (30 days)
- InfusionSoft Free Trial (14 days)
All these companies help you manage your subscriber list with varying options for depending on the plan you pick. They typically let you schedule mailings, check the open rate and track whether buttons or Calls to Action were clicked.
Once you’ve picked the company you want to work with, plan to stay with them for a while. To be candid, if you’re just starting out – a 30 day or 14-day free trial isn’t much time for you to see whether you like the software. Though you can look at what each company has to offer, you probably want to go with a free account, not a trial.
Now any free account will have ads – simple as that. They all add their own branding, though if you step up to a paid account on HubSpot ($50 a month) they will remove it. The price range for free versus paid varies.
MailChimp’s growing business plan is $10 a month for unlimited subscribers. Hubspot as noted is $50.00. At Constant Contact, once your free trial is up, you pay $20 a month for up to 500 subscribers and $45 a month for the level after that.
At Aweber, it’s similar – $19 and $29. At InfusionSoft you’ll pay $99 a month for only 500 subscribers, unless they are running a promotion (which they often are.)
For me, MailChimp is the clear winner and not just on price. They let you make popups, landing pages, have templates and a visual builder interface where you can test your email on different screen sizes. It’s easy to use and they have an excellent knowledge base.
Adding an Opt-in to your Website
When you open your email marketing account, you can create and name lists. You can go generic –Company Name newsletter – or be more interesting Company Name Discounts or Tips or Coupons.
Just in case you didn’t know, people love coupons in their email. Granted, they need to be meaningful – offer $5.00 off a $300 installation probably isn’t going to get too many people fired up. But if you’re running an online store or offer a specialty service – coupons are your friend.
On a similar note, you add lists relevant to specific products or services. You might have a list for campers, or first-time home buyers or clearance items. Create the lists on your mail account, then put the sign up on the appropriate page.
Get Your API Key
An API is an application programming interface – in other words, it’s how one application interacts with another application. The API is what gives them permission to engage, so that authorization is called a key which is presented as a long string of random numbers.
On your email marketing account, you will have access to an API key or the ability to generate one. You will use that to confirm that your website can interact with your mailing list.
Set Up Your Opt-in
On your WordPress website, you need a form that is attached that account – called an opt-in. You can get a plugin or if you’re using the Divi theme – they already have an Opt-in module.
Either way, you will tell the Opt-in where your account is, i.e. MailChimp, and provide the API key. When the interface is successful you will choose the mailing list you’re using for subscribers. It’s that’s simple.
Then you create the form – usually just asking for a subscriber’s name and email. FYI – you’ll get the best response when you put your opt-in at the top of a page. And if you have a blog, always, always, always add an opt-in on your sidebar.
What’s that? It’s simple – before the name is added to your mailing list, the subscriber gets and email with a link, asking them to confirm their subscription. Chances are good if you get any newsletters, you’ve received one of these.
Using the double opt-in gives you protection under the CAN SPAM act which became federal law in 2003. But you can still get busted – fined at $16,000 an email – for doing spammy stuff:
- Fake names or domains to hide who’s sending the email
- Fake subject headers: Buy this Mercedes for $5.00
- An easy, accessible link to let users unsubscribe
- Include the company’s physical address
- Honor opt-outs promptly and never send emails to people who have unsubscribed
Every email marketing company is aware of these rules. Your part is not to send spam your customers with irrelevant emails or phony promotions. We’ve all heard of clickbait – in an email that can be considered spam.
The Dreaded Spam Folder
Why do some emails get identified as junk mail? More importantly, how do you make sure they aren’t yours?
There are some simple rules to follow – the first is having respected email marketing provider. But understand that spam filters look at the whole email from the domain to subject to the body content. Spam filters always err on the side of caution – if they aren’t sure – bam, into the junk folder it goes.
Simple guidelines include:
- Choose a credible name for the “from” field – newsletter@mydomain or customerservice@mydomain
- Avoid having too many links and don’t link to smarmy sites.
- Be careful not to sound too “salesy”. Avoid used car salesmen lingo.
- Email regularly – once a week at minimum. Once every couple of months may put you on the spam filters radar.
- Don’t try to be slick – just be you. Monitor the responses to your emails and adjust your pitch accordingly.
Lots of people will recommend that you ask email recipients to add your address to their contact lists. It makes sense, but truthfully, I’ve never once added marketing email to my contacts. If I see something in spam, I either move to my inbox or let it stay where it belongs.
Not trying to discourage you from adding that request – just saying don’t count it on happening.
Pop-Ups and Giveaways
I’m not a huge fan of popups – especially poorly timed popups that annoy the crap out of a person who’s trying to read the content on your site. When you’re just starting out online, pop-ups are not as helpful until you develop some traffic.
If you invest in a blog that delivers information your customers need, it will probably build your list better than a pop-up. But if you’re going to use one, do it right. Make sure it doesn’t pop-up two seconds after they come to your site. You can also put it on a specific page – i.e. special deals or clearance in an online store.
Giveaways are known in the email marketing biz as “gated content.” You’ve seen them – those Special Reports on everything from SEO Secrets to How to Make Millions as a Day Trader. All you have to do to get that delicious pdf is fork over your contact information.
Depending on the service or product the site is selling, they may ask for more than your name and email. They may want your title, phone, your business name and number of employees. Just to state the obvious, if you give them all that information, don’t be surprised when you get a sales call.
Our stance on gated content is make sure it’s valuable, not just a bunch of info people can get anywhere. Share your expertise. Relevant content is really essential in maintaining your credibility with customers and attracting new ones.
What’s the Secret Sauce?
The goal of building a mailing list is two-fold: to communicate with customers/prospective customers and build traffic to your website. There’s a really great website and blog at Backlinko.com to show you how it’s done.
Note the immediate option to subscribe, followed by clients, testimonials, explanation of what he does and closing with gated content for one more pass at subscribers.
Email marketing is part of your SEO strategy. But it’s more than a list.
Building a list is just the first part of email marketing – providing compelling content is the second. How well do you know what your customers are interested in?
Discounts, specials and coupons are an all-around crowd pleaser, but don’t over use them. When you do, there is no reason for customers to take action without them. They are “specials” for a reason.
A blog is a great way to develop your good content chops. Give people the benefit of your expertise with information they wouldn’t ordinarily know. That makes your content shareable, but also encourages people to subscribe. Expert SEO guru Neil Patel has a great blog that is informative and helpful because he is generous with what he knows.
With all the “key word generators” out there, there are a lot of generic blogs written straight for them. You’ll see them in the SERPs – lists of articles with pretty much the same name. Yes, you want to consider how people will search for information, but no you don’t want to be the 20th listing for basically offering the exact same content as every other company in your field.
Build your voice. Think about how you talk to customers offline. Use social media to ask questions about what people would like to know. You can blend in relevant search terms and still represent your brand.
For blog posts to have much value, they should be at minimum 500 to 800 words, with a minimum of 1 post a week. You can include the post links in your subscriber emails.
Don’t be afraid to look for help if writing isn’t your thing – there are writers out there to help. And you don’t have to go to an expensive agency to get them – particularly when you’re just starting out.
You can use freelancers to write your email campaigns (blogs too) but make sure you’re prepared to give them good direction. Decide what kind of tone you want to convey – casual and informal or professional and more official.
The tone is the framework for the style of content a writer creates. Make sure they understand who your customer is too – basic demographics like age or interest can determine the best word choices.
Ask for work samples, most writers have them. Review their work, especially when the relationship is still forming to tweak and tone the content. There are free tools to check for plagiarism – don’t pay for content that was copied and pasted from someone else’s site.
Once you’re in the groove, a good writer can help your site – and subscriber list – grow.
Quick Recap to Close
Email marketing offers direction communication with customers and prospects. It also drives traffic to your website, which improves your search engine standings.
- Use a reputable email provider
- Don’t write gimmicky, spammy emails
- Put your Opt-in at the top of the site
- Use gated content to encourage subscription
- Deliver relevant, quality content in your emails and on your site
- Use coupons and promo codes sparingly
- Be smart about pop-up placement
- Get resources to help if you need them
The most important you can do is build credibility by sharing your expertise, experience or insights. Don’t overdo the sales pitch. People are a lot more suspicious these days – the BS detector is operating at full strength.
Be authentic – this has to be your voice. You’ll be amazed how that makes you stand out from the crowd.