Guest Contribution by Sarah Noel Block
Marketing is like dating.
If social media is casual flirting, email marketing is the honeymoon stage of a relationship. You’re getting to know each other. Both parties hope for the best. In the end, you may end up marrying them (you gain a customer) or getting dumped (unsubscribe).
No one likes getting dumped. It doesn’t matter how confident you are in your content, every unsubscribe hurts a little.
Email marketing can be wildly successful. Some businesses rely on email marketing for their entire sales funnel, but there are cons as well. If done wrong, email marketing can turn off a prospective customer forever.
What are the benefits of email marketing?
Email marketing isn’t about daily promos and discounts. It’s about building a relationship with your prospects. They are getting to know your business, while your business can better understand your prospects by identifying what links they’re clicking on, what subject lines tempt them to open, and types of emails are driving them to convert.
As someone who specializes in marketing strategies for tiny marketing departments, I gravitate toward marketing tactics that provide big results from a small investment. There is no tactic that yields the biggest result from the smallest investment than email marketing. In 2019, emails saw an ROI of $33 for every $1 spent (1) on average.
Cost-effective marketing tactic
Get started with email marketing on the cheap. To begin, all you need is a business email address. For a few dollars a month, you can get a personalized G-suite email account(2). From there, activate a free email automation account like MailChimp(3) or Mailerlite(4). I, personally, have been using MailChimp(5) since 2015. Automation and sequences can be quickly created and deployed. Plus, up to 2,000 contacts are free, so it’s a great option for beginners.
Automate the sales cycle
Online businesses can have the entire sales process to take place in a series of emails. With the right email sequence, online business owners can make all of their income via email marketing. Online course creators, for example, regularly build their entire sales process around the perfect email copy. Teachable(6), an online course marketplace is an example of a company that uses email marketing as their primary source of lead conversions (in conjunction with other top marketing tactics like webinars, content marketing, and online summits). They have perfected the email selling sequence(7). In fact, I’ve been following the Teachable Crazy 8 Launch Strategy email sequence for the last five years. You can find the launch sequence and examples here(8). Hubspot (9)also has a killer sample email sequence for cold prospects. After discovering it, I realized that someone used it on me (and it worked).
Segmentation for personalized marketing
Email marketing is the easiest way to add personalization to your marketing. It is simple to create segmented lists based on location, job title, and any other information that you’ve gathered. I use Hubspot and automate creating “active lists” based on job title AND industry, so I always have updated lists for my segments. This way, everyone gets content that matters to them. The fastest way to get someone to click unsubscribe is to send them something irrelevant, like the time I accidentally had a vacation rental email sent to my marketing list. Oops.
One-step of multi-touchpoint marketing
You can connect your email marketing platform to your advertising programmatic platform to automate showing ads to engaged subscribers. This tactic means your ad spend is used only on people who are most likely to convert. Dollars well-spent. With platforms like AdRoll(10), you can connect your marketing automation platform like HubSpot(11), Marketo(12), or Mailchimp(13) to create a multi-touch strategy with your email list.
If you need to increase your contact list, build a nurture email campaign, or develop an email sales funnel, click here to download my Trello board with all of my email marketing secrets(14).
What are the cons of email marketing?
While the benefits of email marketing are plentiful, the cons should be noted as well. With content marketing, you build an audience and thusly a list as you go. With email marketing, that list needs to exist before you can start.
You need a list
If you’re going to use email marketing as a tactic, you need to have people to email. I know. You are shocked. Ten years ago, if you had a couple of hundred dollars to spare, you could buy an email list, but not anymore. You can technically buy the list, but it is illegal to send bulk unsolicited emails according to the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and GDPR(15).
Instead of buying a list, focus on building a list of highly engaged subscribers(16). This can be done with content marketing, gated content upgrades, sign-up sheets at events where you speak, giveaways, or partnerships. Sumo recently shared a list of both standard and completely unique ideas for growing your email list(17).
Focus on building a list before you start email marketing. If you focus on email list building exclusively for a month, you’ll be surprised by the results.
Email marketing means weekly housekeeping. You don’t want a stale list, which leads to low open and click-through-rates. For my own clients, once a week I check for duplicates, bad data, and unengaged contacts. Clean-up duplicates and bad data. For unengaged contacts, send them an email. Tell them you noticed that they haven’t been engaged lately. Take this opportunity to survey them. Are they only interested in certain kinds of content? Does your content no longer apply to them? Are they no longer interested? Set up the survey so you automatically add anyone who indicated they aren’t interested in your content to a list that you can later remove. While unsubscribes are bad for your email reputation, removing the list of unengaged contacts yourself will improve your email rates.
Are you a spammer?
The right strategy is the key to successful email marketing. Without it, you could be marked as spam. If you use deceitful (even if by accident) subject lines, email people who haven’t opted in, or even something as simple as sending the wrong email to the wrong list, you can be marked as spam. If enough people mark your emails as spam, you can be blocked from email marketing. You can make simple and completely innocent mistakes and still end up in trouble for spamming. I once worked with someone who mass emailed his contacts (without BCC) and ended up causing the company to get a fine for spamming. It was an innocent mistake, but it didn’t change the cost of the fine.
In my early marketing days, I made a mistake or two or twelve. One mistake I made was launching an email sequence to an unsegmented list. I meant to send it to non-customers within a certain location, but instead, I sent it to everyone on my list within that location. Those customers were frustrated that they got an email that didn’t make sense for them, I was frustrated that I made a dumb mistake. The plus? I accidentally re-engaged some customers who were no longer using our services and wanted to set-up a call to get updated quotes.
Email marketing can be extremely successful if done right. But the cons are big cons. With the wrong strategy, email marketing can turn off a potential customer and that relationship might never recover.
If you decide to go forward with email marketing, start with a proper strategy. First, build your list through content marketing with content upgrades like worksheets, eBooks, or swipe files. Next, segment your list so you are sending the right emails to the right people.
A good place to start with segmentation is by job title and/or industry. After that, engage authentically. Write email sequences that add value to your list. Last, be consistent. Make sure you stay top of mind and continue to build that relationship. In the end, your subscriber might just pop the question.
Sarah Noel Block has been working with tiny marketing departments for over ten years to streamline, systemize, automate, and outsource, expanding the bandwidth of a tiny team. Learn more at sarahnoelblock.com.