Building and growing an email list is one of the important business decisions you can make for your online business. Not only does it provide a way for you to communicate directly with your audience, it becomes an asset you own. Another marketing stack you can learn and leverage to generate revenue long term.
There are quite a few email marketing best practices I will cover but first, why bother with email in the first place? Having a mailing list of people who have given you permission to contact them through email has all sorts of unique advantages:
- Email subscribers are typically your most engaged subscribers.
- You can drive traffic to new blog posts and videos you create.
- It’s easier to sell products as you’re building a relationship with people.
- You can leverage affiliate marketing to make a substantial income.
- Emails can be automated if you like, making it a hands off promotion and revenue stream long term.
Email marketing does not fit all niches. It’s most effective used where you’re positioning yourself as an expert or someone on your team as the “face” of the brand. Remember, people want to get emails from people, not companies.
The Best Email Marketing Practice – The Welcome Email
If you get nothing else out of this guide, at a minimum setup a welcome email series people get when they subscribe. The absolute worst thing you can do is to grow a list that you don’t email, then months later finally email people on your list. This ruins the effectiveness of your emails.
In general, you want to create a 4-7 day auto-responder series for anyone who signs up to your list so you can provide value. Set it up so people get an email everyday or every other day for a week. Be really helpful and build a solid relationship with people who subscribe.
After the initial 4-7 day email series, I would then setup a longer 6 month or more long email series that subscribers get on auto-pilot 2-3 times a week. An alternative to this is to simply commit to writing custom emails a few times a week.
This is obvious a lot of work, but the goal is to turn your email list into a revenue stream which you can do through careful testing an monitoring of the performance of your emails and making changes as needed.
Email Marketing Customization
No one wants “updates” or to be the “first to know” about deals. You have to have a compelling lead magnet to get people to subscribe. This does not need to be anything overly complicated. The value of the email list itself can be enough of a selling point when done right.
The opt-in form has some call to action. Free course, free ebook, 20% discount code, free chapter, private video, something. Once your user subscribes, direct to another page that tells you to check your email. This is the “thank you” page.
Thank you page trip wire product
When someone signs up to your list and you redirect them to that “thank you for signing up – check your email” page. Why not have a product up-sell? This is known as a trip wire product. Something like an ebook or a coupon code for a massive discount (30% or greater).
This is an effective way to start making money from your email marketing and it helps to cover the costs of running paid ads and collecting leads.
On this thank you page you could even leverage a video here that quickly thanks the user and tells them what to expect in their email in the future. Next, make sure to automate the delivery of the lead magnet immediately.
If you setup double opt-in, then emphasis to your subscribers check your email and confirm your email. When they click the link to confirm, you then send them to a page that verifies you’ve signed up. Monitor open rates and improve from here.
Check your email
You’ll also want some call to action for your subscriber to “check your email.” This can either be a custom page you make in WordPress or it can be a page from your mailing list management company. If you create a “thank you” page simply have a quick reminder here.
This becomes more important if you have a double opt-in setup for your email list. With all providers you have two choices:
- Double opt-in
- Single opt-in
Double means the person needs to confirm their email again after submitting it the first time to actually be on your list. Single means they submit their email once and that’s it.
In general, you as a new email marketer will need to use double opt-in to protect the quality of service from your email list provider. Once you’ve proven you’re trustworthy you can the use single opt-in. Double opt-in however is not that bad and it does has some advantages
- List size does not matter, really.
- List quality and responsiveness is what matters.
- You want people who actually want to be on your list.
- The bigger your list the more money it costs. So keep it to people who want to be on it
Once you’ve select double opt-in you must set a confirmation page. You can either make one yourself and plug in the URL when logged into your list management account or you can use a confirmation page from your list management company.
Delivering on the lead magnet
The bonus is delivered automatically in an autoresponder you set up in your service provider. So no worries about doing it manually. You can set a follow up autoresponder with a link to a page where they can download the ebook, audio or video.
You can also instead set it to send the ebook or materials directly in that email with no link to any page. It depends on how you wish to deliver your bonus and what your bonus even is.
In this follow-up email that contains a link or the actual bonus itself, it’s important to do more than just say “thanks here’s your stuff.” Just like how you did on the thank-you page in that you set expectations, do the same with this second email because it’s the first genuine email anyone receives from you:
- Remind people that you will be sending more emails in the future.
- Talk about what the emails contain and how they will benefit the subscriber if they stay on the list.
- The frequency of the emails. If it’s twice a week, let them know.
- Give them an opportunity to unsubscribe.
Yes, unsubscribe. People use emails they don’t check frequently for email lists. They also set up separate emails only for lists. Additionally, people sometimes only subscribe to get the free bonus and that’s it.
People are free to do what they want, but these leads suck and you don’t want to pay for them to be on your list. You want them to unsubscribe because you want to truly focus on having a responsive list. That means when you send an email to your list, the majority open it.
The third email (most important)
This is the most important email you send. After they confirm, after they get your bonus, after they read your follow-up. This is the first real content driven email from you. Your bonus should have wowed them, now it’s time to make them feel glad they stuck around and signed up.
You do this by setting out to make the greatest most helpful and amazing email ever written. That should be your mindset for this email. Do your best work. Make it actionable and exclusive. You could even send a second product, for free.
Your best work + the unexpected = fan for life
Email forms and design
All service providers provide an email opt-in form design editor to allow you to create beautiful, high converting forms you can easily add to your website and blog. If you really want something custom then I suggest hiring a developer from UpWork.com.
Types of forms
With most email marketing software, you’ll get a nice choice of different forms to leverage on your website, blog or ecommerce store. There is no one right form, you need to test different implementations and make business decisions on the numbers. As for the types of forms, here are the most common:
Inline means inline with your content. This is the most common, standard form you will find. It’s that classic email opt-in from. It works best when put in the middle of a blog post, at the bottom of a blog post or in the sidebar.
Light box form (sometimes called a modal)
A light box is type of popup that appears when triggered by some sort of action. Like when a person clicks a link or a button or perhaps it is setup as an exit intent. Which means that when a visitor moves the mouse cursor over the browser tab this box appears.
Lightbox, modal boxes are highly effective at growing your list due to the creative and professional ways they can be incorporated into your website.
Not the most popular choice, but you can leverage slide in forms that can be set to appear depending on how far down the page the visitor has scrolled. It works because it has an animation that grabs the users attention.
A slide in form is a good choice if you don’t wish you use inline forms in your blog posts and want to keep a more clean, clutter free design.
Last are banners that sit at the top of your website. With a banner you can have an input field where the user can enter their email, a button that triggers a lightbox or you can direct visitors to a landing page.
Banners are a good, subtle way to grab your visitors attention, they can be sticky so they follow the user or have an absolute position at the top.
Where To Put Email Opt-in Forms
Having a single button in the whole footer area is one of the best spots. The bottom of blog posts work too as well as having a lead page where you drive traffic to after they click a button. Let’s get into it a bit more.
The bottom of your blog posts
Surprisingly, the bottom of a post or page – the area after the content but before the footer (or comments if it’s a blog post) works extremely well. It’s an appropriate place for an email opt-in because it directs a visitor to do something next after reading.
Sidenote: This spot also works well for advertising. Particularly the leaderboard size for the same reasons.
Right above the footer
If someone is reading your about page they’re interested enough to learn what the purpose of your website is. At the bottom of this page consider including a form as a way to direct your visitors attention.
Top of the Sidebar
Sidebars are a dated design choice as most websites now get 50% of their traffic from mobile, but the top spot in a sidebar is a classic, high converting spot for an email opt-in form.
Pop-ups work, but now are generally frowned upon by Google as it provides a poor user experience. If you want to use popups fair enough. I would read this article to optimize your your pop up form.
Generally though, I would stay away from pop-ups particularly if your goal to to rank specific blog posts for specific keywords. Otherwise, use pop-ups on your homepage, as an exit intent popup or as the result of a trigger.
A landing page is an optimized page designed to convert visitors into subscribers with a clear call to action. These pages can be created with a landing page builder that gives you advanced analytics and conversion tools or you can use a pre-made template provided by your email marketing provider.
A good example of a landing page is from James Clear who’s email list is called the 3-2-1 Newsletter found at JameClear.com/3-2-1. He uses this page on Instagram, Facebook and in video descriptions to drive traffic too.
Email Marketing Best Practices for Beginners
Autoresponders are emails you write that are automatically sent to people who sign-up for your email list. It’s a best practice to take the time to set up an autoreponder series. How long the series is totally up to you.
Ideally it’s best to make a 6 month to 1 year autoresponder series where by each and every week (or twice or three times a week) your list gets an email from you.
These email should be related to your websites content. They should always provide value, and they should not be too long or too short. It’s fine to send a massive high quality email, but people are also comfortable with a quality 500 word email. Span out your massive emails as to keep your lists attention.
Format your emails correctly
The ideal width for an email is 500 to 600 pixels, with any wider and users may have to scroll horizontally on their mobile phones. So, even if the template you choose is really lovely and well-designed, make sure it’s not overly big.
Next, use a personal “from” address. Your subscribers will be getting your emails and will see this address. If they see something like email@example.com it will feel cold and uncaring.
It’s best to have your key marketing message and call to action (CTA) displayed before the fold. If you do this, most of your users will notice it right away. I’ve discovered that combining a link in the above-the-fold, in the middle, and one last link in the “PS” is most effective.
Finally, pick a logo that’s simple to read, such as a typeface or font that is well-known. Make sure your email’s design and style are consistent with your brand. Finally, put your logo at the top of the email so that recipients can identify your company right away.
This is especially essential for ecommerce companies. If you’re creating a personal brand, having your logo on there isn’t necessary.
Practice your copywriting with good titles
We’ve all seen subject lines in emails before. There’s a lot of information out there on how to construct them, but what if you want to use one that is more complicated than “Hello” or “How are you?” It may appear difficult at first sight, but it isn’t.
The heading line is short (typically 30 to 50 characters) and should be succinct. They should cut through the clutter and encourage people to respond. Numbers, symbols, well-considered emojis, and enticing discounts will improve your open rates if you use them.
A smart habit is to establish an email address that you use solely to join email lists from companies and people you respect. Pay attention to how they title the emails, their content, and how they format them. Then copy and modify based on the results.
Do not purchase email lists
Consumers are more likely to respond to your email marketing if they feel that they have a genuine relationship with you. When you buy email lists, any leads on that list lose trust in you as a business as they tend receive unsolicited garbage in their inboxes.
The penalties for breaking these rules are severe. According to Forbes, you may be fined up to $41,000 per infraction under the CAN-SPAM Act for sending emails that violate this legislation. In addition to legal concerns, your domain’s reputation for email deliverability will be harmed, resulting in at best being put in the spam folder or
In a nutshell, never acquire email lists from a seller. It’s that simple and more essential than ever before with GDPR implementation in Europe.
Last thing you need to know is that you can and should scrub your email list. What email scrubbing is the act of simply deleting emails that are unresponsive. Say you have a list of 1000 people but 200 of those emails have not opened anything from you in the last 3 months.
These sorts of emails are proverbially dead weight. Costing you money but not actually opening and engaging with your emails. Scrubbing is a quick and easy process to delete such emails in bulk.
You should scrub your email list once every 6 months in order to save costs and to keep a targeted list that is interested and responsive to your emails.
In addition or an alternative too setting up automated autoresponders is to simply send out broadcast emails to your list. Broadcasts are emails you want to send in real time.
This is ideal if you’re comfortable with doing the work required to write and send out emails each and every week. This allows for a more organic experience for your subscribers but does require a lot of work on your end.
The Internet marketers strategy
Content -Content -> Promotion -> Content -> Content -> Promotion
This is an extremely old school stereotypical strategy for email lists. You provide high quality content with not strings attached, no expectations and then perhaps once or twice a month you send out a promotion for a product or service where you get a percentage of the sale.
If you can figure this one out and do it properly without annoying your list, you can create a fairly profitable and predictable sales funnel. To the point where you can determine how much each sign-up is worth. Once have this information, the sky’s the limit.
If you determine that for every sign-up brings you bring in $7 USD, you can then take that information and go to Facebook ads or Google and promote a landing page for your free give-away and list. You can then bid on keywords and pay for clicks.
If your landing page converts at 30% and you’re paying 100$ for every 100 clicks, that’s 30 sign-ups for 100$. If each sign-up is worth 7$ as in this example you’re spending 100$ to make 210$ (30 X 7). A nice profit that can scale.
The guru name dropping strategy
Promotion -> Promotion -> Promotion -> Promotion
Some list owners blast their list with promotion after promotion. Most do it wrong as they constantly send out lame short emails with the sole intention of promoting a product:
“Hey guys! My friend Mike Richard Stevens release the most powerful game changing product that will blow your mind into another dimension. It’s called Thunder Shock Email List Control Mastery Power 90″. Guys YOU NEED this product if you want to compete with the pros”.
Note: Any references to real people are coincidental.
To do this right each email needs to be of very high quality. What exactly does that mean? Eben Pagan has numerous products and lists. Almost every email he sends is a link to a high quality video series for a product he owns or is a lengthy 30 minute+ interview he did with a guru with the purpose of building awareness and sales for the product.
It’s product after product BUT it’s not promoted in a lazy way. To do this right it takes time, money, and connections all of which you won’t have when starting out.
The “keep in touch” strategy
Content -> Content -> Content -> Content -> Content -> Promotion
This type of list building strategy simply revolves around providing helpful emails to your list and asking for nothing in return. Maybe once every 6 months you’ll send out a promotional email and that one ask is enough to make your email marketing efforts profitable.
The strategy is ideal for bloggers who want to share updates, new videos, new blog posts and more.
Content -> Content -> Content -> Content -> Content (but with ads!)
Some build their business strictly around their email list. They focus on making enormous lists of thousands and thousands of subscribers and from this they are able to advertise in their emails as well as tie in any related products and services. They treat their list like a private blog and business.
However, the focus is on building these lists into proper business and this is done by using high quality content. Examples:
HungryGirl.com – This website started simply as a small two or three page website with a focus on building the email list.
HerMoney.com – Another email list based business providing personal finance advice for women.
TheMogulMom.com – Business advice for women who are also moms.
Email subscribers over any other type will ALWAYS be your most engaged. This makes them simply the best type of subscriber to have. So treat them right.
What do I write when I send emails?
The best emails are personable. People again want to get emails from people. As such, write your emails in a way you would if talking to a friend. Use a simple design, minimal amount of links and make sure your emails are to the point.
The Subject Line
“Clearer and more specific subject lines convert better.” – Bob Kemper
This is the sentence people will see in their email. It needs to be compelling. It needs to make people want to click and read.
Write like you’re writing to your brother or sister (or a friend). Avoid marketing language, be clear and concise and avoid cutesy language too. While a title like “27 reasons why you should never have a job” is a fantastic title for a blog post – they fall flat when it comes to email.
Why? Because they’re generic. People want personable, particularly people who have subscribed to you and want to hear from you. Instead, take a template and adjust it with your own words.
If someone asks you what you do for work, how do you answer? While you could just list out your job and your duties, it’s better to find a way to connect what you do to your audiences real life experience.
Instead of saying “I make websites and do SEO” which is a pretty mediocre description, tell a better story:
“You know when you search for an answer to a question like ‘what’s the difference between a 2 stroke engine and a 4 stroke engine’ I make websites that rank on Google to answer questions like that.”
This is a good conversation starter too because then people always ask interesting follow up questions. Your emails are a form of conversation. People subscribed because they want to hear from you, a cool interesting person who can solve their problems –not a faceless company.
How to get subscribers
So by now yo should understand the usefulness of email marketing, so how do you actually get subscribers and grow a list? Before you begin email marketing, you’ll ideally want to prove your topic and concept first. That means you test out your idea to see how the market place responds.
Once you have an idea that seems like it could work through having good engagement with your products, service or content then start doing the following to grow your email list.
Grow a free traffic source first
SEO through blogging and creating YouTube content is free to do, a long term play and takes a long time and a lot of work. The benefit if you’re successful however is that you’ll grow a traffic stream you don’t have to pay for that converts and makes you money.
For free traffic the best sources are from blogging and creating YouTube videos. Depending on the topic of your website, one platform may be better than the other.
Create an account that is related to your website. In the bio link to your landing page for your email list like James Clear. Next, you’ll need to grow your Instagram following. This is difficult obviously as Instagram is saturated.
Focus on any new features and leverage that as a way to grow organically or just pay to run ads to your account and convert people that way.
Join relevant groups. Help people. Link to your landing page but don’t tell them it’s your website. Just say something like “this helped me, maybe it can help you.” FB groups are cautious about links to other websites so just use common sense. You can apply this technique to forums and Reddit as well.
Beginners always focus on free. But running paid ads is not an expense once you find a traffic source that works. If you’re able to spend a $1 and make a $1.25 it’s only a matter of scaling that up.
Lot’s of different platforms allow you to run ads. Facebook, Google, YouTube, Pinterest. There is no one best, it depends on what platform your audience uses and which one you like and understand the best.
But concept I want you to take away, business run ads because ads are profitable. When you finally have the resources to drive paid traffic to your landing page and offers and the skill to optimize the user experience, you’ll quickly scale your income to incredible levels.
Conclusion: Best Practices for Email Marketing.
By now you should have a good understanding of how email marketing works and why it is so important for helping to grow your online business. The first step is to validate you idea and find out if people are interested in what you want to sell or create online. Once you have a winning idea build up a free traffic source and eventually get into running paid ads and email marketing.
David UtkeDavid Utke is a professional blogger, YouTuber and a highly rated user experience consultant. He and his team create helpful tutorials, software reviews, videos and more based on real-world experience. Join over 30,000 monthly readers and 27k+ YouTube subscribers!
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