Email newsletters have been around forever, it seems. While the technologies behind them have changed, the proven principles for making them effective really haven’t. Whether you’re just now launching an email campaign designed to make customers aware of your brand, or you simply want to make your current list more profitable, we’ve got the keys to making it happen—regardless of your business niche!
1. Pick your Email Service Early On
There are many email services a small business could choose from to get started with a mailing list, and they each have their perks. Some charge you based on the number of subscribers you have. Others charge you for photo hosting, access to more polished-looking templates, or for the ability to produce detailed reports and analytics data. Take some time to research what you’ll need—not just now—but also in the future.
Keep in mind that whoever you decide to go with, you’ll most likely stay with them for a very long time. Switching subscription clients is not only a hassle, but it can be potentially damaging to your subscriber count since it will require your existing subscribers to re opt-in—something not everyone will do.
2. Capture, Capture, Capture
Mailing lists are one example where bigger is usually better. While it’s desirable to gain as many “qualified” leads as possible, there will always be time to pare down your initial contact list into a more focused group of targeted buyers at a later date. Your first concern with achieving a successful email list is to get emails. Period. Make sure that every possible mode of contact with your customer has the option for them to sign up, (including every page of your website) and keep it easy and painless for them to do so. Ask for their email, maybe a name, but no more. You want that email!
3. Offer an Incentive
The best way to get people to sign up for your list is to offer them something—preferably with no strings attached beyond the subscription process. This can be anything from a discount on your product or service, an ebook, free samples, or entrance into an exclusive giveaway. Whatever you decide to be your “hook”, be sure that it’s advertised alongside any place a customer could sign up. (This includes all those social media tools you may be using, like Facebook or Twitter.)
Don’t forget to follow through. Newsletter subscribers will get irritated quickly with any company that doesn’t provide the incentive in a timely manner, and if you can find a way to reward them within the context of the sign up confirmation, you’re one step ahead of the competition!
4. Establish Yourself as the Expert
Once you have someone signed up for your list, it’s all too easy for them to unsubscribe. (Or at least it should be. If you don’t have mandatory “Unsubscribe” functionality within the context of your emails, you may be breaking the law.) Why would anyone want to stick around? Unless you’re prepared to offer loads of goodies for those who remain, you’ll need to find a reason for them stay, read, and possibly even buy.
This is the perfect chance to let your subscribers know why your business is the go-to expert for your niche. Own a flower shop? Give basic tips for sending flowers to families during a funeral. Featuring a new variety of pizza at your eatery? Offer a history of the cuisine, along with nutritional data or industry trends that busy families may find fascinating! Once readers understand that each new email is a chance to learn something new, for free, they won’t hesitate to stay subscribed.
5. Build the Relationship
So now that you’ve got your audience hooked, how do you continue to keep the momentum flowing? By becoming increasingly involved in the lives of your subscribers (in a non-creepy way, of course). Schedule a series of emails designed to enrich the worlds of those receiving it, and make each one useful enough to stand alone or be forwarded on to a friend without causing confusion.
Another way to be certain that subscribers equate each email with a personal communication from you (and not some impersonal email robot somewhere far away) is to be sure that your messages are branded to match your business. If you use a certain color scheme, logo, or font on your website, try to incorporate that into the design of your emails, too. (This is just one reason why you’ll want to carefully vet email subscription services before you commit. Not all email templates are customizable.) Not only are you keeping a continual conversation through the emails, but you are helping to develop brand recognition—which will likely come in handy when customers are faced with the decision of who to buy from.
6. Make it Interactive
Most of your emails, if not all, will have at least one opportunity for a subscriber to learn more about your services, or to purchase on the spot. While most customers realize that this is the whole point to an email campaign, it doesn’t mean that they want to be blatantly pitched to. One way to get around the sticky issue of having a “call to action” without asking for a sale is to offer interactive components in your emails.
Simple ideas could include quizzes, surveys, or links to additional information that appear to be embedded in your email, but actually take the subscriber to another webpage (or at best, your website). Readers will find another reason to click through to new opportunities if they are eager to speak their mind or aren’t motivated by special offers alone. See what your email subscription provider can do for you in this area, and be mindful of requirements that may allow you to disclose that clicking on an actionable link may take them to a website outside of their email provider’s site.
7. Do it Right the First Time
I get hundreds of newsletters a day, and while I most likely can’t remember them all (nor do I open them all), I do remember those that are really bad—and I unsubscribe accordingly. Among those are emails that have obviously not been proofed for link accuracy or image compatibility, or those that contain obviously erroneous information. While it is certainly painful to realize that you’ve sent out an email with mistakes, it can be just a bad to send a second email calling your subscribers’ attention to the matter.
Check. Double-check. Check again. These are the only ways to be certain that your next email isn’t the death of your campaign, and if you want to be absolutely sure that you didn’t miss anything, send a test email to yourself before every mass release. Sometimes an email can look perfectly good in your email software, but will actually contain blaring mistakes. If you feel that you cannot let an erroneous email slide, see about correcting information on your website or other methods before you go to the last resort of sending out another email.
8. Make Yourself Available
Once a subscriber lets you into their email box, you’ve officially been granted access to their world. Don’t abuse this by becoming unavailable when they want something. We all know that it’s standard practice for auto-responders to overtake the customer service office. By making sure that a real person is on hand to answer questions stemming from newsletters, however, you’re reminding customers that technology hasn’t replaced humanity. Make sure that direct replies to your emails actually go someplace, and try to respond to requests within the same timeframe as you would for any other business matter. If your website policy is to reply to customer questions within 24 hours, this standard should apply to email newsletters, too.
Ultimately, the best email newsletters will follow the typical sales cycles that have proven successful for years, and that’s still the main objective. By keeping on your toes with industry standard practices, current spam laws, and your customers’ true needs, however, you can bring your email campaign to the next level without a lot of grief or expense.