Getting Started with Email Marketing: The Ultimate Guide
Ah, emails. It’s often the forgotten step child of the marketing funnel. For many brands, their email marketing is a monthly newsletter.
Boom! Email marketing done, right?
Here’s the thing. Email isn’t quite as sexy as it used to be. With social media like Snapchat and Facebook floating around, brands dive in there. And that’s cool (and important), but dollar for dollar, email marketing is still a money maker.
Check out these stats:
- Over 75% of email revenue is generated by triggered campaigns, rather than one-size-fits-all campaigns. Automated email campaigns account for 21% of email marketing revenue. – DMA
- Retailers who invested in mobile, email and social saw 30% more sales on average than those concentrating on just one or two channels – Econsultancy
- Three-quarters of companies agree that email offers “excellent” to “good” ROI. – Hubspot
Email marketing works.
In this post, I’m going to take you through some ways to get your email marketing up and running. It’s not going to be a lot of fluff, but stuff that has worked for brands and will work for you too.
Email Service Provider
If you’re starting from scratch, you need to get an email service provider. You can’t send out mass emails through via firstname.lastname@example.org.
A professional email account builds trust. It means you aren’t some scam artist. I’m going to assume you’ve got at least one email with your domain name like this: email@example.com.
So you’ve got that, now you want to start sending emails. That’s where the email service provider comes into play.
Here are the main options:
I’ve had experience with each of these. For the most part, they provide the same experience, it’s more of what you like using the best.
For my site, I use MailChimp.
It’s easy to use and has a great user interface. It’s also cheap, I only pay $10 a month. You can start for free, but for a business, the free option won’t be powerful enough.
You need an email service provider that gives you a couple of things:
Let’s look at these a little more in depth.
Broadcasts are one off emails. These are what you’d see as monthly newsletters. You send them once and then never again.
Autoresponders are email series. They are pre-written and set as a series.
Here’s an example:
You visit a site, love it and want to sign up for monthly newsletters. So, you fill out your email address. A few minutes later, you see a new email from that website welcoming you.
That’s an autoresponder.
A lot of expert marketers expand on this. They have long autoresponder series that might be 10 (or 20) emails.
Then, a week later, you get another email that gives you a pf checklist. A month later, you get an email that gives you a coupon on one of their products.
The goal is to walk your readers through a journey. You want to help them build trust in you. That’s going to make them more likely to buy.
Segmentation means you are able to split your email list into smaller chunks. Unless you have a small list, you don’t want to send all the same emails to everyone.
There are a couple of reasons for this.
The first is that a lot of people are in different spots on the buyer’s journey. You might have one reader who is ready to buy today (yay) but for the most part, people aren’t ready to buy yet.
They need to nurturing over time.
Breaking up your list can help.
You can send a more sales heavy email to those who’ve opened every email you’ve sent. You can send a 10% off coupon to people who have bought products before.
There are millions of ways you can break up your list. So once you can start segmenting you should do it. We’re going to cover all of these more in depth below, so keep reading.
Before you can start thinking about your email campaigns, you need to get people to actually hand you their email addresses.
Surprisingly, people don’t give away their email addresses willingly. You need to give them something of value, something they want.
These are called lead magnets or opt-ins. You’ve likely seen them on other sites. And you’ve probably given your email address in exchange for something yourself.
What you want to do is make sure this first touch you get with potential customers is good. Don’t half ass an opt-in.
Make it something that speaks directly to their needs and gives lots of value. If you can help solve their problems, give them good advice, save them time, or make them money, even better.
Here are some common giveaways you can use:
- Resource Lists
- Podcast episodes
As you can see, there are lots of options. For more, check out this really good list.
The opt-in is going to be the lead action to get people into your email list. From there, you can start sending them specific information via your email campaigns.
Most Common Campaigns
Alright, you’ve got your email service provider set up. Next, you want to start creating emails.
There are a couple of campaigns everyone needs to have.
Here’s an example of a newsletter. This is from one of my favorite sites online BrainPickings. This newsletter goes out every Sunday and it’s one of the few I always read:
In the BrianPickings newlsetter, Maria Popova shares recent posts as well as past content that applies to what’s happening and in the news right now.
The frequency of this will vary. Some brands can do a weekly newsletter. If you don’t have a ton of news to share, it’s fine to do monthly newsletters.
Your newsletter is all about offering good information to your reader. Newsletters aren’t there to sell, we’ll get to that later. You want to provide lots of value.
That means highlighting your recent blog posts or videos. Any news about your brand is fine too. If you have forums or a membership component, include links to hot topics too.
A welcome series is going to be your first interaction with your readers, so make it count! Here’s an example of a good welcome email:
This welcome email from Acorns is all about the personal touch. The founders introduce themselves and tell you exactly why they started the brand. You feel like real people are talking to you.
At the very least you want to let people know they’ve subscribed to your email list. This is the start of your welcome series.
From there, keep your series helpful and informative. Offer an introduction to yourself, your product, or your service. Provide links to some of your best content to get people started.
The point of this series is to get people comfortable with you and your brand. It’s also not about selling, it’s about giving.
Don’t discount the importance of the welcome email. A lot of brands do, in fact, a third of companies don’t have one.
You’ve got people on your list, you’ve sent them your welcome series, you’ve got a monthly newsletter, so now what?
Here’s where the lead nurture campaign comes in handy. This campaign takes people from email subscribers to real live leads. You want people to start taking actions so you can track your real super fans and the people who aren’t all that interested.
Here’s an example from the Red Sox:
Note, they aren’t asking me to buy tickets. They’re asking me to register for a chance to get free tickets. It’s very likely the Red Sox will track who clicks this register button and consider these people (yes, me) warm leads for future ticket sales.
Again, the big thing here is building trust and providing value. Without that, your leads are going to disappear.
How you build towards these leads can depend on your business.
A B2B brand could offer industry white papers or host webinars on a particular topic. An eCommerce shop can highlight how to best use their products or offer tutorials.
Remember, most people aren’t ready to buy when they jump on to your email list. So you need to bring them along until they are ready to pull the trigger.
So the lead nurture keeps doing this while encouraging people to take action. Someone who signs up for your webinar and watches, well you’ve got yourself an engaged lead.
Keep track of them.
Time to get some sales, right?
This is where the sales campaign comes into play. Here, it’s not about anything beyond asking for the sale.
You want the people who have gotten to this stage to buy. If you’ve done a good job with your other campaigns then you should get results.
Check out this example from Brennan Dunn’s site Double Your Freelancing. This is part of a sales campaign asking me to buy a course on mastering a certain email service provider.
Not only is he asking for the sale, in this email he’s sweetening the pot by highlighting some surprise bonuses.
Your type of business will also make a difference in your sales campaign.
Retail shops can go for it and ask. Highlight a sale you’re having or showcase new products.
A course will need a few emails to get those leads excited. You might need to send three or four emails before you ask for the sale in the last email.
Other Types of Campaigns
The four I listed above are the most common email campaigns that every brand should run.
As you get into advanced email marketing tactics you can improve and expand your campaigns.
Here are a few examples:
- Referral campaigns – Use these to ask customers to refer your product or service to others.
- Testimonial campaigns – Use these to get customers to see how people just like them use and love your product or service.
- Cart abandonment campaign – If you’re in eCommerce, use these campaigns to get people to come back to their carts.
You know about the campaigns you should be using, now let’s look at how to write your emails.
There’s a lot more that goes into writing email series than you think. Amazing email copywriters can churn out million dollar campaigns.
Remember, for most brands, email marketing produces a real return on investment. So don’t skimp on this.
It’s always a good idea to hire a professional (hi) but if you want to take a stab at writing emails here’s how to do it.
Do not, I repeat, do not ignore your subject line. Here’s the fact of the matter: if your subject line sucks no one is going to open your email.
If no one opens your emails you’re not building trust, offering value, or making sales.
Kinda renders email marketing pointless, huh?
Check out how something as small as the number of words in the subject line makes a difference:
So when it comes to your subject lines here are a few tips:
- Make them short 10-15 words max
- Don’t bs people; make the content of the email match the subject
- Use emotion; humor and curiosity always work
Start with these tips. Once you get writing, test your emails. Try out a bunch of different subject lines and see what works.
If you get a lot of opens with one type or style of subject line, you’ve got a winner.
This post, from WordStream, does an awesome deep dive on subject lines, I recommend giving it a read.
From Field and Snippets
Most people will see snippets of your email in their inbox, like this:
People are far more likely to open your emails when it comes from a person instead of a business. And when they can have an idea of what your email is about before they open it.
So if you’re John Thompson from Cool Water Bottles, Inc., have your from field read from John Thompson. You don’t want it to read from Cool Water Bottles, Inc., that immediately registers as spam to people now.
It’s even better if your actual email is from a person too. But, if you can’t do that, try for something friendlier like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Alright, so now it’s time to cover the content.
There are a few things you want to keep in mind here.
First, always have a point to your email. Don’t just send something to send something. Respect the inbox of your subscribers. When you are planning out your campaigns and autoresponders know exactly the outcome of both the campaign as a whole and also each individual email.
Alright, so what does that mean?
You want to have each email drive the reader to take an action. It could be as simple as clicking a link to read a blog post. Or, it could be having them sign up for a consultation call.
Here’s a great example from CopyHackers. This email is super short, but it packs a punch. Read that and try NOT clicking on the link!
Once you know what you want the action to be you also should ask the reader to do it. Don’t assume that because a link is in your email it’s obvious someone is going to click.
Surprisingly, it’s not.
Instead, use a call to action. Tell people to click a link, to click to make a call, to click to buy. Whatever it is you want them to do, tell them to do it.
Finally, one last thing about emails: keep them short.
If you can’t get your point across in less than 300(ish) words, rework your email. It’s likely you’re asking for readers to do too much.
Now, like everything in the world, there is an exception. There are brands and people who are outstanding at writing emails and can weave stories that are 1,000 words or more. But, for most of you, at least when you’re starting, shorter is better.
These are the basics to succeeding with email. As you get more advanced, we can cover higher level email writing. But for now, you’re good to get started.
With your emails ready to go, now it’s time to send them. Here is where your email service provider comes in handy.
Your weekly or monthly newsletter is going to out, you guessed it, weekly or monthly. You want to send these as broadcasts, one time emails. The language on your email service provider is going to vary, but pick the one time send.
Now, for the rest of these emails they get sent as campaigns. These are also referred to as autoresponders or drip campaigns.
Here’s how an autoresponder works: you send out a series of emails over a specifically allotted time span. In the image below, you can see how they look visually. This campaign is looking for people to book calls.
Remember when I told you to have a plan for your campaigns before you send them? Well, this is where that plan comes in handy.
You want to send out your email campaigns to get the most impact from your readers. So, that means sending your emails at the right time.
Let’s use the welcome campaign for an example.
As soon as a person gives you their email address they enter your autoresponder series. The first thing they will get is a confirmation email.
Once they confirm their subscription, your autoresponder is triggered and the first email, the welcome email, gets sent.
Let’s say your next email is a little bio about you or your brand. This email is triggered to send 2 days after the welcome email. Now, how about the next is your top 5 posts, that gets sent 3 days after that.
And so on, and so on.
The emails are automatically dripped over a period of time that is pre-scheduled. It doesn’t matter what day or hour someone signs up to be on your list, emails will go out.
So, you can see this is a great way for brands to keep in touch with potential customers. Constantly providing value is a fast track to building trust.
The final thing you want to think about when it comes to your email list is segmenting.
As your list grows, it’s important to realize that not all subscribers are going to behave in the same way. Just look at this chart that highlights the survey results of marketers who use segmenting:
Some will click everything you send, some won’t open a single email (even though they subscribed!) and the majority will waiver between those two options.
To make sure you always get the highest amount of people opening and clicking your emails, you want to segment your list. This just means you’re breaking your big list into smaller segments.
You can then send specific emails to each of your segments. This is going to help you really target your customers.
Here are a few examples of ways you can segment:
- Newsletter only
- Signed up for webinar
- Have clicked and opened every email
- Product updates
And don’t think you can’t segment your list multiple ways. You can have one segmented group, or you could have 10 groups. Keep in mind, the more segmented your list is, the better results you typically have with actions and engagement.
Ready to Start?
Well, if you’ve gotten this far, you have a simple overview of the basics of email marketing. You can use this to either get started with your emails or improve the quality of your campaigns.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be highlighting some of the above topics more in depth and include some advanced tips too. So keep your eye out!
In the meantime, if you have any questions, let me know. I’m happy to help. Shoot me a message.