improve email marketing

When using e-mail for your business purposes, it can be difficult to understand how to effectively market yourself and portray a professional image. This is especially important in the current market where individuals expect your quality of service to be exceptional, while providing a good price, and remaining on a reasonable schedule. We have outlined some of the steps that you can take in order to ensure that your e-mail is working for you rather than against you.

Stop using bought e-mail lists

When you buy an e-mail list, you will be reaching people who do not necessarily want anything to do with your content. This is also true for rented e-mail lists, with the exception that you cannot see the e-mail addresses that you are mailing. Furthermore, good e-mail lists won't be given up – why would someone want to tarnish their good name with their own customers by handing those customers off to the highest bidder?

Use instead opt-in e-mail lists. The option of opting into your e-mail list ensures that only people who want to receive your marketing will receive it. You have already established a type of working relationship with these people, and they already want to know what you have to say. They are then more likely to read your e-mails, and are even more likely to pass them along to their friends and colleagues. This type of spreading is what your business needs to survive, otherwise you'll just be considered spam, potentially never to reach your target audience.

Start using e-mail marketing tools

The most commonly used tool to measure the “success” of an e-mail list is the number of clicks your e-mails to receive, and many people stop there. However, this is just one component of an effective marketing strategy. Clicks don't actually do anything to prove effectiveness or efficiency; they only provide an estimate of the number of curious readers. There are a number of other tools that will provide more helpful in gauging the success of your marketing e-mails in the long run.

You should be tracking engagement over time. If someone has been on your list for two years and has only clicked ten times, they're not as interested as someone who has been on your list for six months and has clicked ten times – even though the total number of clicks is the same.

You should pay attention to your unsubscribe rate, as well as the reasons why users unsubscribe. If you are noticing that many of your users are unsubscribing, obviously they're not providing any value to you – you should therefore examine why they are unwilling to continue receiving communications from you.

Pay attention to the time your users spend viewing your e-mails. This is important because someone who actively reads the entire content of your e-mails is just as valuable to your business as someone who rarely reads the content, but clicks regularly. These people are your audience – the people who find your e-mails the most beneficial to them.

What device do your readers use to access your content? This is becoming an increasingly important concern as almost everyone is now using smart phones and tablets for business purposes. Ensuring that your content can be viewed on a variety of devices ensures that your readers will actually check your content on their current device – if they have to return to it from their computer, they are statistically unlikely to do so.

What e-mail client are they using? This goes hand-in-hand with the device optimization, as not all of your customers will be using the same e-mail clients. If you understand what clients you need to provide content for (ideally, all of them) you can make sure that your e-mails will show up properly no matter how they choose to receive their e-mail.

Track and Analyze

It's one thing to know the answers to the above questions; being able to determine how you can use it to your advantage is an entirely different subject. You must be able to evaluate the data that these marketing tools have provided you with in order to make sure that you can fix the problems. Sometimes, these problems aren't fixable – in these cases it may be best to start over.

Titles Matter – Keep them Short!

With the vast expansion of e-mail marketing, you need to be sure that your e-mails aren't ignored, or worse, unsubscribed. You need to make sure you're delivering punchy titles that effectively communicate the key points of what the e-mail will hold – typically using your target keywords. Additionally, long titles can be truncated if they don't fit. While the full subject will still be visible if the user knows how to display it, why make them go through that extra work?

During our latest Workshop (in Grass Valley, CA with the Nevada County Online meetup group) Nate discusses the difference between Email versus Social Media as tools and the tactics needed to effectively use them for your business.

HUGE thank you to Doug Greene who handled the video & audio, and our wonderful host Nevada County Online! Check out the clip below:

What is MailChimp?

Simply put, MailChimp is our favorite email newsletter platform.  It has other uses, from announcements to invites, and anytime in between when you might need a slick looking email.  If you are subscribed to our newsletter, you've already seen it in action.

mailchimp newdesign

MailChimp recently overhauled their site with a new look and more user friendly functionality, so today seems like a good day to show it off and let you know a little bit more about why we use MailChimp in most of our projects.


Do I need a paid account?

No! Unless you have a database of over 2000 emails. When you hit that benchmark you can upgrade to a paid account. Also, congratulations on having a huge database. Not everyone knows how to put that kind of volume to good use, but I'll get to that in a moment.

Just one reason I love MailChimp

Just one reason I love MailChimp

When you find your account approaching the 2000 email mark, it's a good idea to scrub out the lower value subscribers and make sure your list is truly high quality before upgrading. No reason to get a paid account if your list sucks, dig?

How do I build my email list?

There are many options. We've had success in the past by offering promo codes for discounts ranging from 10% to 20% off purchases in exchange for a subscribe. Mailchimp makes this extremely easy. Once you have set up the promo code, all you need to do is include it in the final welcome email, found under "Lists".

Or, wait a minute.  This was extremely easy a week ago, before the redesign of their dashboard.  I'm going to have to turn this over to the experts:

Did I mention the support team is awesome?

Did I mention the support team is awesome?

Another method is to include a check box on your check out page that allows folks to opt in to the newsletter just by clicking on it. If they're fans of your products, they will. Subscribers generated through this method are awesome, because you know for a fact that the customer wants to hear from you.

Some folks will buy lists, but that's a spammy move and the quality of the contact info just isn't there. Don't waste your your money.

How will an email newsletter help increase business?

Even if you're not technically an e-commerce site, a newsletter can be the most effective, most efficient way to stay in contact with folks that have already bought from you before.

This is really marketing 101 here. A newsletter should have news, obviously, and whatever you're selling shouldn't be as obvious.

Some newsletters should leave out sales entirely, as in the case of an alumnus of a workshop. They don't need you to sell the same workshop to them, and will unsubscribe if you try. However, a well crafted newsletter may warrant forwarding to friends that haven't taken to program.

Remember that you build your list from folks that have bought from you before. All you need to do is remind them of the satisfaction they get from using your product/services, and maybe entice them with the promise of future satisfaction.

There are many ways to accomplish this, and it will vary from project to project. If you want more specific advice, you know who to ask.

How do I maximize the outcome of my newsletter efforts?

NEVER SPAM. Seriously. If you promised folks one monthly newsletter, best not to surprise them with two. It can be tempting to send extra blasts when you're desperate, but all you'll get from it is a flood of unsubscribes. So don't do it.

You should, however, observe all the usual copywriting best practices, e.g. scannable copy, clickable images, bullet points. Make it useful. Make it fun. Change up your calls to action to reflect the attitude voiced by your writing. Make it personal.

mailchimp segments

Another extremely handy tool to maximize your effort is the power to divide your list into segments. Knowing which segments you can sell harder to and which you can't can help you create multiple versions of the monthly newsletter, each tailored to a different market. Each subscriber still receives only one email, but the'll love you all the more for knowing what they're looking for and giving it to them.

How do I design a great template?

The right template for you will evolve over time. The drag and drop editor makes creating your first draft easy/awesome.

I also highly recommend using the image cards rather than embedding images in the text blocks, as this will allow the images to scale for mobile users, which is pretty much guarantees to be a majority of your audience.

Make sure it looks good in preview mode for computers and mobile devices, and go through few drafts with your team to ensure quality. Then send it!

Give it a few days and check the report. You'll be able to see what parts of the email were enticing enough to click on, and you can incorporate more of those elements in your next newsletter.

Click map from part of our May newsletter - Trying not to take it personally that no one clicked on the TARDIS.

Click map from part of our May newsletter - Trying not to take it personally that no one clicked on the TARDIS.

You can use your last newsletter as a template for the next one simply by choosing "replicate campaign", and then make your edits from there.

My open rate is abysmal! Help!

When it comes to your open rate, there are three factors you need to consider:

1. Subject line

It better be enticing enough to merit opening the email. If you're subject line is too boring, you won't get many click. Fortunately, MailChimp has a tool for researching terms you might want to use in your subject line, comparing their performance from previously run campaigns. That's just cool.

2. The preview area

This little box contains the text that folks will see as a preview of the email that shows up after the subject line in their inbox. Make sure it rocks!

This little box contains the text that folks will see as a preview of the email that shows up after the subject line in their inbox. Make sure it rocks!

3. Previous history of receiving emails

Some folks will sign up for a newsletter and then never open it. Repeatedly. You can probably drop them from your list, or set their info aside in a segment that you won't send emails to.

Some folks, on the other hand, might have seen previous newsletters and decided they don't seem very interesting anymore. I've been this guy myself before, and sometimes I'm just to lazy or too attached to unsubscribe. Not much you can do about it, except for make your newsletters better and hope they start opening them again.

Remember that any open rate above 20% is actually pretty good, so don't cry if not everyone on your list opens the thing.

There's a lot more to MailChimp than just this stuff, but as always, leave further questions in the comments and we'll answer 'em! Thanks for reading!

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