A client asked me about email marketing a little while ago and we had a pretty lengthy discussion. I first assumed she wanted to know all about the tools and the setup and the tech. But what she really wanted to know was what she was supposed to be sending her email subscribers.
We’d set up a system for her site to collect email addresses from people who wanted to hear more from her. We’d included a small welcome series, but we didn’t have an overall email marketing plan for her. She was confused with all the articles about segmenting her list and newsletter templates and automated campaigns.
This article is for folks like my client with small, just-getting-started email lists. It’s not about the gathering of the email addresses or the tech. Instead, it’s about what to send your email subscribers and things to think about when you’re planning.
The Purpose of Email Marketing
Your email marketing is all about building relationships with potential customers. It’s direct communication with people who have told you they’re interested in hearing from you.
Unless you’re Old Navy or Glossier, you don’t want to be throwing out ads every day to your list. You don’t have 100K+ people on your list (or if you do, you’re doing fine and this isn’t your article!). Even if you’re in a B2B field, you need to actually communicate like a real person to other real live people.
Think about what you would say to someone you meet up with live, in person. Do you check in with them? Do you ask how they’re doing? Do you listen to what they have to say? Do you tell them the latest news? Do you share things with them when you think it will be helpful? (yes, yes you do. Do this over email and you’ve got it.)
Planning your communication
The very first step is planning what you want to send and how often you want to send it.
Not designing your email newsletter. Use plain text, or just a logo plus text until you have someone to do that for you. You’re not Macy’s!
The most important thing you can do is plan to communicate regularly. This will help you with three things.
- One, you will be setting expectations with your subscribers. If you communicate regularly, you’ll create anticipation for your email.
- Two, you will be setting a regular schedule for yourself and the work will be easier to do and plan. You won’t end up scrambling at the last minute because you’ve suddenly realized you haven’t emailed your list in two weeks and you’re due.
- And three, regular scheduling makes some parts of your email marketing easier to automate and delegate. If you do a monthly compilation of all your content to send out, you can hire someone to do that bit for you.
My recommendation is to touch base with your list at least weekly. This is because people will forget who you are if you’re not in their inbox frequently enough. We all want to believe that we’re so awesome no one would ever forget us. But the truth is that your audience is busy juggling life and work and school and hobbies and travel just like you are and it’s hard to allocate brain space for an online email-sender until you really get to know them.
Some ideas for your regular communication:
For the brave and ambitious only! If you can give value every day through email, then do it. Personally, I think this is tough to do and maintain, especially at the early stages of a list. As your business grows, you might be able to delegate enough so that you can focus on a daily email.
Weekly or monthly. I like a weekly newsletter myself, on the sending end and on the receiving end. The mistake I see with newsletters is that they’re sometimes too much about the sender, not about the audience. Only send out info about you that is relevant to your audience. You can send subscriber-only content, quick notes, recaps of your content, relevant industry information, nearly anything that you think will benefit your audience and help them.
Good supplements to a newsletter. If you’re doing a monthly newsletter, on the weeks you don’t send it, send a quick share instead. Or, if you are sending a weekly newsletter, you can use these whenever you find something you want to share. In quick share emails, you can send quick notes, articles you find on blogs that your audience would like, fun (but relevant) tools or memes, time-important industry info.
Questions and surveys
Anytime. You can send emails that ask your audience questions, or you can include audience questions in any of your communications. Listen to the answers you get. The people who answer are likely to be some of your biggest fans, or the people who are the most unhappy with something. Reply to anyone who answers if at all possible. And if you are a beginner, you really should be able to do this.
Hand-in-hand with regular communication is setting expectations for that communication. On your website be sure to let people know when to expect their first email, and how often to expect additional emails. In your first, welcome email, you can again let people know what you’re planning to send.
No one likes uncertainty and if you get rid of that feeling, and then do what you say you will, people will trust you. Periodically in your emails, you can again spell out your plan to make sure people are comfortable with what you’re sending.
Don’t assume that every email will get opened, even by raving fans
How many emails do you get each day? Too many.
Which ones do you read each day? (my answer – the ones that I know will make me smile or will teach me something valuable.)
Even when I love the emails from someone, I miss some. Sometimes I’m just busy, sometimes, the subject line looks like something I don’t care about. And sometimes, I just don’t see an email. Oh, and I forget a lot too when I’m reading and skimming emails.
I have a pretty good attention span and I still miss a lot. Your subscribers, even those who love you and have every intention of opening every email will miss some emails too.
Send multiple versions of your important emails. Send reminders.
Include reminders in your regular emails. Ask if your subscribers remember that you have an event coming up.
Send valuable information
When I say valuable, I mean information that is helpful to your audience. This can include your own content, other people’s content, helpful ideas, case studies, and even sales letters.
No one will mind if you send frequent emails if they’re helpful! And if they aren’t helpful, your subscriber will unsubscribe no matter how often they come. These people have told you they want to hear from you, so don’t ignore them.
When you send sales emails, keep those helpful too. Don’t be shy about sending sales emails if you have something your audience wants. They know you’re running a business!
Your sales emails can be helpful by offering a helpful hint or an insight into your audience’s problem. An insight can make your audience feel understood, and that’s remarkably helpful! Doesn’t it just release so much worry and tension knowing that someone gets what you’re going through?
Start planning out your email marketing. How often will you regularly communicate? Will your newsletter be structured or free-form? Do you think you could write a daily email?