Email Marketing Q&A

badge-emailBoth our public contestants and our Play-at-Home members are tasked with finding their best three questions about each week’s topic. And since there’s no way we’d ever get to all of them during a live episode, I’m answering ‘em here. Did I miss one of yours? Please leave it in the comments and below and either Nick or myself will get to it lickety-split.

What are your suggestions for enticing freebies? How do you stand out from all the noise of free ebooks/whitepapers? and should they always be tied to a paid offer?

Your email list enticement doesn’t always need to be a freebie. There are a few sites where the content is just “that good” and after reading one post and poking you around, you just “know” you want more. But if you haven’t quite found your rhythm in that regard, using a “bribe” is a great idea — IF you do it strategically.

Ask yourself, what questions do I get asked most often by my current customers? That’s a great starting place from which to create something extremely helpful and valuable — for both you AND them. If they get their first question(s) answered via your giveaway, it may help make the process of working with them (as a new client) a smoother proposition for you both.

So yes, the gift should tie back somehow to a product or service you’re selling. Otherwise, you’re just confusing your audience and gunking up your sales funnel.

The secret to making that gift stand out is to create something that people don’t expect — in terms of both value and quality. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of junk out there to be had for free. Don’t ever use that an excuse to lower your own standards. You want your gift to speak volumes about what you have to offer your paying clients.

Are long form emails more effective, or is there an ideal length in email marketing?

In general, most emails are better served up short. Attention spans are decreasing by the hour and your readers don’t often have hours to look at emails. That doesn’t mean that a long-form email every once in awhile is a bad idea — but you better make it worth your reader’s while. And I’d also send something like that on the weekend when they might have more time to read it.

How important are images and color in email newsletter design and content for creating the response you want?

This depends on your audience. If you’re a graphic designer, then it’s much more important than for someone who offers editing services. In general, we are all visual animals and will be drawn in by a nice graphic and an appealing color scheme. But many more readers are opening their emails on their smart phones these days — so those things aren’t as important as they were even five years ago. The main thing to remember is that if you’re going to use images and colors, make sure they’re appropriate for your audience, support your branding and that the images are sized correctly. Images also need to have designated “alt text” so that in the event your reader has images turned off, they’ll be able to understand the email.

What is *the* main thing we should be doing in order to optimize newsletter click through rates, what would it be?

Build a solid relationship with your subscribers right from the start. If they like your content, they will open your emails no matter what the subject line says. Danny had something to say about this too:

What’s the balance to strike between pitch and story? Can a story be a pitch combined or does it have to be one or the other?

In most content marketing that we do (whether that’s in an email, on social media or on our own blogs) the general rule of thumb is 70-80% helpful content/stories to 20-30% sales (e.g. pitch). But sometimes you’ll need to break that rule and send an email that’s 100% sales pitch. As long as you don’t do that every time (or at least more than 30% of the time), you should be fine. But again, this all depends on your audience, your business model and the expectations you’ve set.

Is there an ideal length to the story?

It should be as long as it needs to be — and no longer. You can tell a great story in one sentence or an entire novel. Think about what your goals are, the needs of your reader and go from there. If the story is too long for an email, provide a link to your website where they can continue reading.

Is there any time that you would treat an email marketing campaign differently than a direct mail marketing campaign as far as how you word the copy?

Not really. The words are usually written according to the needs of the campaign itself. And campaigns often involve multiple channels (e.g. email AND direct mail AND social media, etc.). But secondarily, how those words are displayed will change slightly from channel to channel due to the restrictions and constraints of the channel itself. There is much more flexibility in an email than in a Tweet, for example. And again you can do things with paper (direct mail) that you can’t do in an email and vice versa.

Are there specific things we can do to encourage engagement from our readership?

Probably one of the most overlooked things to do in an email is to ASK for a response. Ask a question and then tell your reader to “hit reply and let me know what you think.” It’s so easy, but not enough people do that. Also – when you do get a response, be sure to respond to that email personally, too. Even if it’s a simple, “Thanks! I loved to hear that,” or something similar. Email is supposed to be a two-way conversation. And acknowledging someone’s email — even if you don’t need to say anything more — is very effective at letting people know they matter to you.

Is there a benefit to capturing your reader’s first and last name at opt-in to personalize the autoresponder and future newsletters?

For the first name, yes. You’ll often want to personalize emails either in the salutation or later on in the body copy. The last name is really for YOU. If you’ve got multiple people on your list named “Peter,” it can be helpful to have their last name so you can differentiate who’s reading, opening, clicking, etc.

If you get bold and courageous, you might also ask folks (later on) to provide you with US mailing addresses so you can send them a postcard or a thank you note. I’ve seen different companies ask their subscribers for a little more information at different intervals as a way of building up a better profile on someone. This could also include things like their Twitter handle, their G+ profile, or even topics of interest. You don’t have to capture all the goodies on their first visit to your website.

The trouble I had with longer autoresponder series is that at some point someone ends up not getting an email and then there’s a customer service issue to deal with. Suggestions?

Customer service issues will always happen. We don’t live in a perfect world. The best way to mitigate this is to 1) Select the best email company you can (deliverability of emails is HUGE which is why I use Aweber); and 2) Anticipate requests by having the autoresponder copy in handy digital files on your computer so you can just hit reply and then copy/paste the content there for them.

Does anyone send multiple emails in one day?

Not usually, but in some cases, yes. The most common reason would be during a multi-day online event where you want to remind folks to show up (sent early in the day) and then send them a link or a crucial update later in that day.

My big worry is coming up with content for not only a blog, not only guest posts but a newsletter too. I have come up with something completely separate.

In most cases, you should not need to come up with an entirely new content. If you’re already writing for your blog, you can set up your email newsletter to send out an email that contains the first paragraph or first # of characters of your blog posts with a link back to your site to read more. These are typically created using your RSS feed. (See MailChimp’s and Aweber’s How-to explanations for more on this.)

How do you utilize an email list for a long term sales process?

If the product or service you’re selling is higher priced, your sales cycle will take longer. Makes sense, right? I probably won’t just drop a couple thousand dollars on an impulse. So those on your list will need to get to know you, like you and trust you AND have a need that they want filled AND have the money set aside to buy your thing AND be committed to making a change. That’s a lot of stuff that has to happen before people will buy.

You don’t have control over all of that — so pay attention to the first part (getting people to like and trust you) and staying in front of them on a regular basis. That way, when they ARE ready to buy, your name will come to mind.

Revisit our lesson on Sales Funnels to better understand the planning out part of this, and then use email as ONE piece of that nurturing process.

Is it easy to transfer to Aweber? I’m still on Mailchimp… when would be a good time to switch?

There are two ways to transfer your list to Aweber: 1) You do it yourself by downloading a .CSV file from your current vendor and then uploading that to Aweber; or 2) You contact Aweber’s customer service and ask them to help you.

When I switched, I used option #2 even though I knew perfectly well how to do it myself. Here’s why: if you do it yourself, every person on your list will receive an email requiring them to confirm (again) that they want to stay on your list. If you ask for help from Aweber, they will usually allow you to bypass this requirement; but only after they’ve verified that your current list was indeed an opt-in list (and not a list that your purchased).

The best time to switch is when you can afford it. Do the price comparison, look at how quickly (or not) your list is growing and see if it makes sense financially to do it sooner rather than later.

The reason most people don’t want to pay for email marketing services is because they’re not actively selling anything. If that’s you — and you’re only doing an RSS to email newsletter for example — then it probably doesn’t make sense to move yet.

But if you want to be able to do some affiliate marketing, autoresponders or other more “advanced” tactics, then it’s time you moved over.

About Tea Silvestre

Executive Producer of Prosperity's Kitchen, author and marketing coach to solopreneurs.