You’ve heard it.
You might have even bought into it.
You know, that persistent little whisper from the shiny, sexy, new and powerful world of social media.
“Email is dead. It’s so boring and old-fashioned. Everyone knows we’re supposed to use [insert trendy social media platform of your choice] now.”
The irony of this is thick. Truth is, email marketing was, is, and will be (for the foreseeable future) the most powerful social media platform around. Rumors of its death are greatly exaggerated.
Every successful online marketer we’ve talked with agrees — email readers are more responsive, they have a tighter connection with you, and they buy more stuff.
Most email marketing is terrible, but yours won’t be, because you’re going to follow these guidelines.
Build your email list
It’s hard to create a strong business around a list of 8 people. OK, this may seem a bit obvious, but bear with me.
It’s easy to get intimidated by the prospect of building your list, but it’s not rocket science when you break it down into two key areas of focus:
To build your list, you need to drive traffic and capture opt-ins.
Simple, though not always easy. But let’s dive into it.
Grow your traffic
If you’ve been around Copyblogger for any length of time (and if you haven’t, don’t worry), you’ll know that our philosophy of driving traffic centers around content marketing.
As we’ve talked about before in these lessons, content marketing is just creating and freely sharing informative, valuable and relevant content in a public way.
This can take all kinds of forms; blogging, guest posting, video tutorials, free PDF reports. (Here are a bunch more ideas if you want to go nuts with this, which, of course, we highly recommend.)
The idea is to create irresistible content, delivered over time, that works its way into your reader’s heart and mind, culminating in …
Building your opt-ins
Capturing the opt-in (that’s just a jargon way of saying the reader gives you her email address and says it’s ok to email her in the future) is the beginning of a profoundly important conversation.
This is point when a reader has been so knocked out by your free content that they give you permission to contact them on a regular basis with further, valuable content, and with offers for products they’ll want.
Long gone (thankfully) are the days of copying and pasting hundreds thousands, or millions of email addresses into your system with the intention of spamming everyone’s lights out.
There is no good way to buy addresses to add to your email list. It’s unethical, usually illegal, and terrible for your business. Don’t do it.
(There are various ways to “borrow” someone else’s list, but that’s another topic.)
On the practical side, you’ll need to set up a way to capture the email addresses of interested readers.
No, you cannot just mail people out of your Outlook. Trust us.
There are a couple of companies we use and unofficially recommend for this (Aweber and Mailchimp), and several runners-up. These services automate the opt-in process through the use of links, web forms, and robust backend software. More important, they manage relationships with the companies that deliver your email, so you end up in fewer spam filters.
Focus on your Cookie Content
You knew I’d get back to this one, right?
Cookie content is the answer to “how can I get people to read my email marketing?”
It’s also the answer to “how can I get more subscribers,” “how can I sell more stuff,” “how do I convince readers to complete the opt-in,” “how do I stay out of spam filters,” and “how can I get more referrals and repeat business.”
Just because someone signed up to your email list does not mean they will open all, or any, of the content you send them. Cookie Content is all about training your readers to understand that, if you’ve sent them something, it’s gonna be worth reading. It teaches them to create a wonderful association every time they see your name in the “from” field in their inbox.
Cookie Content can take many forms depending on what you’re trying to achieve in your business. Most often, it takes the form of useful tips, funny or touching stories, case studies, or interviews you’ve conducted with experts. Here’s a great content idea post from our own Jon Morrow to help you along.
Be warned: if you think non-stop ads, promotions or irrelevant offers make for great Cookie Content, you’re on your way to the dustbin of email marketing history. There’s no faster path to unsubscribes and spam complaints.
This drip, drip, drip of delivering interesting and/or relevant content over time will fan the desire of your readers, preparing them for amazing offers of related products down the road.
The magnificent autoresponder
The email autoresponder is my favorite marketing and communication tool.
(As you may know, marketing and communication aren’t two different things for me — and they probably shouldn’t be for you either.)
The autoresponder is a mighty tool that efficiently reaches out to your readers for you, whether you’re around or not.
In fact, it’s so powerful that I recommend you avoid any email provider — and there’s at least one popular one out there — that doesn’t give you an unlimited autoresponder.
Maybe you want every one of your subscribers to receive a 20-part instructional course (like Internet Marketing for Smart People). The autoresponder has your back. And it keeps sending that course out when you’re on vacation, or have the flu, or just feel like doing something else for awhile. The autoresponder never gets burned out or bored. Every reader gets the same great experience.
Maybe you’d like to send a single, special note to each of your readers 72 hours after they sign up to your list. The autoresponder will obey your command.
Maybe you have a tailor-made digital gift for each of your readers on the first, second and third anniversary of their subscription with you. Again, the autoresponder will faithfully deliver it, on time, to each reader, on the individually correct date.
Are you starting to see how cool this is?
Once you’ve got one, five, or twenty autoresponders set up with your provider, you’re done. And that beautiful mule will keep working on your behalf day-in and day-out.
An autoresponder lets you get the most use out of your very best material.
As you probably know, I’m a fan of creating the best damned content you possibly can.
Which can, frankly, be a lot of work.
The fabulous thing about an autoresponder is that you continue to get value out of that hard work. You can write the world’s most brilliant blog post, and the odds are that in a month or two it will be forgotten. But you can copy that post to your autoresponder sequence and keep sending it to every new person who connects with you — for as long as you choose to stay in business.
I love tools that let me work smarter, not harder.
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