If you’re alive in the twenty-first century (and you are if you’re reading this!), then you’ve almost definitely been the recipient of at least one piece of email marketing.
Some of those emails have most likely been good, and some . . . not so good.
When used properly, email is one of the finest ways to cultivate positive relationship with an audience. When used less than ideally, well, it becomes pretty obvious when someone is only emailing you to sell you something. The word “slimy” comes to mind.
I’ve made it a big part of my mission to help people unlock the power of email marketing, and do it in a non-slimy way. In order to get you on the path to successful email marketing done smartly and ethically, it’s important to give you a clear understanding of exactly what email marketing is, why it’s important, and how it works.
Ready? Let’s get to it. Here’s what to expect in this chapter:
- What Is Email Marketing, and Why Is It Important?
- Is Email Marketing for Everyone?
- Examples of How People Use Email Marketing
- Every Email Needs One Goal & One Call To Action
- Email Service Providers & Why You Need Them
- Before You Begin, Remember It’s About People
What Is Email Marketing, and Why Is It Important?
What is email marketing? In the simplest definition, it’s using email to promote or market your products and services to your audience. But like any form of marketing, the “promote or market” aspect often takes precedence over a less apparent but arguably much more important one.
That less visible but more important element of email marketing?
Relationships. Getting to know your audience, understanding their pain points, providing value, being of service. Knowing that every person on the other end of that email is a human with interests, fears, needs, and desires.
In this way, successful email marketing is like successful marketing via any other channel. And there are definitely many forms and channels for marketing out there: social media, your website, ads, billboards (if that’s your style). So why would you want to focus on email marketing?
To put it plainly, email marketing is one of the best ways (and maybe the best way) to foster a relationship with your audience and promote your products and services to them. Email lets you connect one-on-one with your audience, helping you strengthen your relationship with them, and yes, make them feel more comfortable when you eventually pitch something.
Email also has two key advantages as a marketing channel: it’s easy, and it’s cheap. Unless you’ve been living on a remote island for the past twenty years, you probably know how to send an email. And the cost of sending that email, whether it’s to one person or 1,000, can be as little as, well, zero (except for maybe a tiny percentage of what you pay the power company and internet service provider every month).
Now, email marketing can get more expensive if you sign up with an email service provider, and we’ll talk about that soon—but on the whole, it’s still one of the least expensive forms of communication out there.
Your email list is also a valuable insurance policy. Social media platforms can change their rules on a whim (or even disappear altogether), websites can crash or be hacked . . . but an email list will be your mainstay. It’s something no one can really take away from you. As long as you have a backup copy of your current email subscribers and some way to send and receive emails, well, you’re still in business.
I learned this the hard way myself in 2013, when my own website went down because of a denial of service (DDoS) attack whose effects lasted over a week. My email list became my refuge to stay in touch with my audience and keep them updated on what was happening.
That’s why this is no understatement: My email list has become the number one asset in my brand. And so I’m on a mission to help others build their lists the smart way too.
And when it comes to sheer money-making potential, email is no slouch. In fact, I’ve seen businesses with fewer than 200 email subscribers have five-figure product launches! How? Because each of those business owners focuses on growing an email list with the right kind of people, and then serving that audience with the right kind of products. Whether you’re an affiliate marketer, you create your own products, or you’re not even sure what you’re going to sell yet, an email list is the ideal way to connect with your audience.
Want more evidence of the power of email marketing? A single broadcast email once helped me bring in over $60,000 in affiliate earnings. And more than $1,000,000 in total earnings can be directly attributed to my email list. But just as important, email has helped me discover the top pains and problems of my audience, which can then be used to craft content and product ideas to help alleviate those pains and problems.
Email is simply one of the best ways to provide value and build a trusting relationship with your audience. And yes, make a living.
Is Email Marketing for Everyone?
So email marketing is a great way to build your audience and make money promoting relevant products and services. But is this form of marketing for everyone? In a word, yes.
You might be wondering, “What if I want use email to market to millennials? I’ve heard they’re all just on Instagram and Snapchat. Do they even have email addresses?” In fact, studies have shown that email is still incredibly important to millennials. So you can scratch that worry off your list!
Are there any scenarios where email marketing doesn’t make sense? Maybe your audience has told you they don’t use or like email (perhaps if you surveyed them and very few of them like getting emails). Or maybe you’re having a ton of success connecting with your audience and marketing your products or services to them via other channels like Facebook or Instagram, and you don’t have the time or energy to try out a new marketing channel.
Or maybe email’s just not your thing. And that’s fine. I totally get it. All I ask is that you keep an open mind, because I truly believe that when done the right way, email marketing can work amazingly well for anyone trying to build a business and grow their audience.
As I see it, the important question is not really, Is email marketing for me? and more like, How can I best use email marketing given the nuances and needs of my industry/niche/audience?
At the end of the day, email marketing lets you speak to your audience in a format that’s accessible and familiar to just about anyone. And while the barrier to entry with email marketing is low, the possibilities are sky high. How to tap this promise and take your business to the next level with email marketing is precisely what we’ll be exploring throughout this series of articles.
Examples of How People Use Email Marketing
Email marketing comes in many forms. But there are two basic types of marketing emails you’re likely to see out in the wild:
- Autoresponder series
- Broadcast emails
Let’s talk about both of them briefly.
Maybe this scenario sounds familiar. You sign up for the email list of an entrepreneur you want to hear from more often. Right after you sign up, you receive an email welcoming you to the list, and perhaps a link to a free resource as a thanks for joining the list (also known as a lead magnet). Then, a couple days later, you receive another email asking you what you thought about the lead magnet.
“Wow,” you think. “This person is really on top of this email thing! They know exactly when I signed up, and exactly when to follow up with me!”
That’s all true, except for one not-so-minor detail that exists behind the scenes. The marketer isn’t manually drafting and sending those emails in real time. Instead, all the magic is happening because of an automated email sequence the marketer has created: an email autoresponder series. An autoresponder series is a fancy term for a number of automated pre-written emails that get sent to your subscribers in a sequential order.
An autoresponder series makes it easy to take people through a series of emails (which begin on the first day a new person subscribes) without ever having to do any work, since you’ve already written the emails. They’re great for guiding people through an email course, reintroducing old content to new subscribers, promoting affiliate products, and much more.
Of course, not all marketing emails are pre-written and automated in this way. Sometimes, These emails are called broadcast emails. They’re also known as bulk or mass emails. Marketers usually send a broadcast email when they have news or a one-time announcement to share.
Broadcast emails are a great way to share news and new content, ask questions, promote your products and services, and notify your audience of issues. They can be scheduled in advance, like a regular weekly email newsletter—or sent more spontaneously, like an email announcing a flash sale on a product or service.
Every Email Needs One Goal & One Call to Action
Stepping back a little, no matter what type of marketing email you’re sending, you need to keep in mind one basic concept to ensure the email has the intended effect. Whether it’s a broadcast email or an email in an autoresponder series, when you’re crafting any email, you should always ask yourself: “What’s the purpose of sending this email?” Framed another way, “What action do I want the reader to take after reading it?”
Each email you send should have one specific goal, and it should also have a single call to action—a request or suggestion for the action you want your reader to take. Later in this series we’ll talk a lot more about how to write great emails with clear calls to action, but for now, know that by having a specific goal and call to action for each email you send, you’ll be on the right track.
My goal with this email was to help people grow their email list and improve the performance of their marketing emails by joining my three-day 0 to 100 Email Challenge. The call to action was to click on a link to a landing page where they could learn more about the challenge and sign up for it.
You’ll also see that in this email I didn’t just jump right into talking about the email challenge.
I began with a personal anecdote about a mistake I’d made earlier in my business life when it came to my email list (not starting one at all). Then I shared how I wanted to use what I learned from that mistake to help others avoid a similar dilemma.
Finally, I made sure to only include a single call to action. Although you can see two links in the email, they both go to the same page on my website.
So in this email, I’m telling a personal story to connect with my reader and express interest in sharing what I’ve learned to help them avoid a business problem I’ve encountered. Then I’m making it easy for them to take the intended action by only providing links to the page where they can take that action.
Be relevant, be of service, and be clear. Show that you care, offer value, and make it easy for your reader to take the intended action.
Now, the email above is definitely not the only way to put together a marketing email, and we’ll see lots more examples of great marketing emails in the rest of this series. Before we move on, though, I want to talk a little about the technology behind a successful email marketing system—and why going it alone might not be the best option for you.
The SPI Email Marketing Cheat Sheet
Learn to Write Great Emails.
The Epic Guide to Email Marketing walks you through how to set up your email marketing program, but once it's set up, what should you write?
The Epic Guide to Email Marketing walks you through how to set up your email marketing program, but once it's set up, what should you write?
- Universal Rules
Email Service Providers & Why You Need Them
We haven’t spent too much time yet on the mechanics or logistics of getting started with email marketing—we’ll tackle that soon! That’s because it’s important to lay the groundwork of a successful email marketing system by getting clear on what really matters: cultivating a healthy relationship with your audience.
Thankfully, email is a really accessible tool to do that. Pretty much anyone with a computer and an email address can send and receive emails. From there, it’s just a short step to creating a basic email list to stay in touch with the people who want to hear from you.
How would an email list work in the most basic form? It could be as simple as collecting email addresses manually, creating a group of contacts in your email software, and manually sending emails to those contacts.
This could be fine if you plan to keep a small list that you only want to email occasionally and never want to segment (i.e., send emails to different groups of the list at certain times). But this is where things start to get interesting. If you ever decide you want to use your list in a more sophisticated way, you’ll quickly find yourself in over your head!
Yes, you might be able to implement some more advanced email marketing strategies without the help of outside software or services beyond your basic email client—but it would be pretty tricky, and you’d be limiting your potential and wasting your time.
And email marketing is already tricky enough on its own without the added burden of doing things manually. Just making sure what you’re doing is legal can be a lot of work. Specifically, all email marketers need to abide by a piece of law call the CAN-SPAM act, which helps ensure that marketers are not abusing their access to people’s email addresses. And more recently, marketers also need to follow the rules set by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a set of laws that puts in place privacy protections for citizens of the European Union (EU). The GDPR has some pretty complicated requirements that may not be easy to comply with if you’re doing your email marketing manually.
We’ll talk a lot more about both of these laws in a later chapter, but for now suffice it to say that they strengthen the case for not trying to do your email marketing “the old-fashioned way.”
Thankfully, we live in the golden age of software as a service (SaaS) companies. Some of those companies exist specifically to serve entrepreneurs, marketers, and artists who want to better serve and connect with their audiences via email. These companies are called email service providers (ESPs), and they provide platforms that allow you to send and receive emails—and a whole lot more, including automating emails and creating sequences, managing lists within your email list (called segments), and even integrating with other services you use to run your business.
I’ve used a few different ESPs for my own business throughout the years, including Aweber and InfusionSoft. But the one I currently use and recommend is ConvertKit. ConvertKit makes managing your email list and setting up autoresponders super easy and user-friendly. It’s also awesome for segmenting email subscribers into groups so that they receive content specific to their individual needs—something we’ll talk about a bit later on. [Full Disclaimer: I am a compensated advisor and affiliate for ConvertKit.]
For a look behind the scenes of how I use ConvertKit to manage my own email list, check out this demo video:
If you’re raring to go, click here to get started with ConvertKit and get your first month free. [Full Disclaimer: I am a compensated affiliate and advisor for ConvertKit.]
And if you’re just starting out with your email list and don’t think you’re ready to commit to an ESP, that’s okay! Stick with us in this epic guide, because in the next chapter we’ll walk you through how to get started with email marketing.
Before You Begin, Remember It's About People
There’s one more thing I wanted to touch on before we close things out here—this is the “last but definitely not least” section of things. Like everything I teach when it comes to online business, I believe successful marketing—email marketing included—is based on these three principles:
- Your audience is made up of people, not dollar signs.
- Your primary goal is to serve your audience, not sell to them.
- When your audience succeeds, they will look for ways to pay you back.
Some people say “the money is in the list”—but this isn’t quite true. The money is in how you use the list. It’s not just having an email list; it’s what you do with it. And what you do with the list has to be about more than just making money. If you’re not using email to serve your audience and respond to their needs and desires, then the money-making potential of your email list is going to be seriously diminished. But if you put your audience first, the sky’s the limit with email marketing.
Yes, you can use email marketing to take your business to new heights if you go about things the right way. If you’re ready to get started, let’s talk about exactly what you need to do to hit the ground running with your very own email marketing system in Chapter 2.