So I finally got around to completing this. I know I am new around here, but I have been working online for the past 9 years.
One of the things that I have specialised in, over the years, is Permission Based Email Marketing.
Seeing that Matt added a new sub-forum out there for Emailers - I thought I'd write a detailed list that highlights everything there is to know about email marketing. I have been working on this for a little over 20 days now. It is over 10,000 words and is really detailed.
At first I thought I'd sell it as a WSO - but then I decided against it and now I am giving it away to the community instead.
So without much further ado, let's dive straight in.
Hope you enjoy reading this, as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Table of Content
- Email Marketing Terms
- Email Marketing Content Types
- Permission Based Email Marketing
- Market Analysis
- Email Marketing Tools And Service
- Best Practices And Important Tips
- Weight Loss Niche Email Series
- Gathering And Building The Email List
Welcome to the wonderful world of email marketing. This guide should act as a beginner or refresher resource for those interested in incorporating email marketing into their business marketing efforts.
The first part of this guide will give details on what email marketing entails, then get the reader familiar with terms used in email marketing, the advantages of using email marketing, tools to make managing this form of marketing easier, and finally the layout of an email series along with examples specific to the weight loss niche.
Email marketing is any form of direct marketing done via electronic mail for purposes of collecting data, selling, increasing awareness, requesting donations, and/or providing updates to those subscribed to receive these types of mailings, also known as subscribers. The term, email marketing, is often used loosely, but may involve:
- A merchant sending out a mass email message to current or past customers to strengthen the consumer-merchant relationship and encourage customer loyalty and keep customers engaged and updated.
- Sending email messages in order to make subscribers aware of new services and products from partner merchants during joint ventures.
- Sending email messages in order to get feedback on a new product or ideas for creation of a new product or service.
There are tons of advantages to email marketing and for good reason. Below are just a few reasons email marketing has become a favorite amongst those using it to effectively communicate with customers and prospects:
- Email marketing is fairly inexpensive. The bulk of expenses are put toward reliable hosting for subscriber management (to include forms used to collect data, sending to a massive amount of subscribers at once, and help staying in compliance with spam and consumer laws). Because email marketing is so inexpensive compared to other mediums, merchants often experience a high return on their investment.
- Not only is email marketing more cost effective than other mediums, but it's faster. Whereas traditional direct mail can quickly rack up in costs, time, and effort, email marketing is more easily managed and literally instant.
- Leads are often times more targeted, because they've opted to receive communication from the merchant versus a merchant communicated due to a broader interest expressed by each individual subscriber.
- Email marketing also gives the merchant better control over when emails are read, by analyzing data to see who in what part of the world opens and reads their emails the most and when.
Email Marketing Terms
Below are some terms that may be a bit unfamiliar to the new email marketer that should be acknowledged before proceeding.
Bounce Rate is the percentage of total emails sent but could not be delivered to the recipient's inbox.
There are two types of bounces, hard and soft bounces.
Soft bounces are less threatening as they only occur periodically with a valid email address is encountering some sort of network problem from the server. This can be from the recipient's end or the sender's end (sometimes tools used to send and manage emails can have a heavier than usual usage and cause the server to have delays). The recipient's server may deliver these bounced emails at a later time once the issue is resolved.
Hard bounces are the result of an invalid, closed, or non-existent email address, and sadly these emails will never result in a successful delivery and should be removed from the merchant's subscriber base to save space, time, and money.
Delivery Rate the percentage of emails that were actually delivered to recipients' inboxes. The delivery rate takes into consideration both hard and soft bounces and eliminates them from being calculated to give a more accurate percentage of emails successfully delivered. Though debatable, many marketers consider a deliverability rate in the 90 percentile to be good. 10 percent or less would be a somewhat acceptable rate of undelivered emails.
Keeping a track of emails that continue to fail to be delivered to along with records of receipts who seem to never open emails can help to lower this percentage and keep the merchant's delivery rate relatively high. Merchants should also consider if their emails are being flagged as spam by firewalls or major ISPs, causing messages to be blocked.
List Growth Rate
List Growth Rate is a term used to describe the rate at which a list is growing in number of subscribers and readers. Monitoring the growth of an email list can make it easier to know what works and what doesn't work to increase the overall performance of each email campaign, as well as save time and money.
To calculate the list growth rate simply subtract those who have opted-out (or chosen to no longer receive emails) and the hard bounces from the number of new subscribers gained in a 30 day period and divide that number by the original number of subscribers in that list. The email list growth rate is vital to email marketing success.
CTR (Click Through Rate)
CTR (Click Through Rate) is the number of subscribers who opened a given email and clicked an embedded link located within the email message. To determine the CTR divide the unique number of those who opened the successfully delivered emails the total number of clicks.
Monitoring email CTR is important because it helps the merchant to know if emails prompt readers to take the desired action and that the reader remains engaged and intrigued by the material the merchant sends.
Email Sharing is the percentage of recipients who clicked on a "share this" option/button to share that particular email with others. The sharing tool is usually something connected to a social networking website, but can be as simple as forwarding the original email to a designated new recipient.
Email sharing is an indicator that not only is the content within the emails relevant, but enjoyable or valid enough to share with others who will likely feel similarly. The more a merchant can get subscribers and readers to share the more the reach of their message can expand and drastically increase the reach of the message by tapping into the viral nature of subscribers through their personal and social networks.
Open rate is simply the term used to describe the number of subscribers that open and read an email versus the overall amount sent to all the subscribers in a set campaign. There are many factors that can impact the number of opens.
If any, embedded images are in a message and the recipient has blocked such features, the email may not hit the inbox. This means that even if the message is successfully delivered, it won't be included in your open rate, if the user does not see the complete content of the message due to their restriction settings in their email.
Conversion Rate is the number of subscribers who have clicked on an embedded link within an email and completed a desired action. The desired action can vary but it can be as simple as filling out survey, signing up for a new list, or purchasing a product or service. This rate is the most important measure of an email campaign's effectiveness.
The higher the conversion rate, the more relevant effective the campaign and the more likely the merchant is to have a better overall relationship with their subscribers.
Unsubscribe Rate is the number of subscribers who have opted out or confirmed they would like to stop receiving emails versus who keeps their subscription and continues to grant the merchant permission to send emails to their inbox.
Email Marketing Content Types
Email marketing includes a variety of different types of emails, separated by its general purpose, for example:
Service Emails are usually sent to update customers who have made a purchase. This can include (but in no way is limited to) emails sent to update customers about a recent or past order, special offers based on past purchases, or surveys to better merchants provide value to them in the future.
E-newsletters are more informative and usually include articles or links to articles that detail more in-depth an update or information about a new product or service that may be of interest to their subscribers. These types of emails may include information on how to obtain free or discounted products or services as well.
Press Releases are a bit more one-sided and serve to update subscribers on information about the company and update them on new products, events, company changes in management, policies, prices, etc, and other information made to the public on the status of a company and their business practices.
Surveys are used to build a better product, service, and/or overall customer experience by simply asking customers and prospects questions to get the info needed to provide more of what subscribers want, thus increasing sales and awareness.
Invitations are sent to make aware and invite subscribers of upcoming special events. If done right, this can bring a flood of old and new customers in order to not only get people with like interests in one room, but better connect with customers to help build a better future experience with the company.
Thank You emails
Thank You emails are simple notes to let your customers know you're grateful for their business. Use this time to also welcome new customers and explain your polices, contact information and business practices. This is also an excellent time to make them aware of other products and services they may find useful that the company readily provides.
With there being so many different types of emails, it's important to note how different emails work.
Transactional Emails are usually given directly after the end user has taken action to receive a product or service from a merchant. These types of emails may serve as a proof of transactions, similar to a recipient given in a store by the register. Because these emails are vital for customer's records, it's not uncommon for merchants to experience a higher than usual open rate, which makes for an excellent time to provide other vital information to their customer they may feel to be important for the on-going success of their relationship and future business.
Sponsorship Emails are the ultimate leverage because you can
a. Sell access to the list you've built for additional income orLead Nurturing Emails
b. Access the lists of other merchants in order to bring awareness to your brand and build your list. In other words, sponsored emails involve a merchant sending an email on behalf of another company to their list in order to help them expand (get new buyers, build their lists, and/or invite new prospects to events and presentations). A sponsored email may also be referred to as a solo ad.
Lead Nurturing Emails are emails with the sole purpose of educating users on valid reasons why doing business with them is a wise choice and one to be made sooner rather than later. Specials and discounts may be featured in these types of emails to encourage quicker action taken by readers.
Digests are similar to newsletters, but rather than full articles like what would be seen in a newsletter, digests give readers snippet like information pieces so that readers get more select information easier and faster than reading a full article about one particular segment.
Email Newsletters may consist of several articles which are aimed at fulfil one particular goal. Newsletter campaigns are usually longer and more in-depth than digests are also based on a consistent recurring schedule (i.e. quarterly, bi-monthly, monthly, weekly, or daily).
Permission Based Email Marketing
Permission based email marketing involves mailing to subscribers that have opted in to your email lists themselves and have given you permission to mail them what you've agreed to mail them at the time they've signed up. This is a favourite amongst subscribers and merchants for several reasons. For subscribers, it ensures that emails are welcomed and wanted versus emails that prove to be a nuisance and for merchants, it ensures a higher open rate, less complaints, and a higher quality of subscribers.
Permission based email marketing is highly recommended and preferred by subscribers. Emails that are sent to subscribers that haven't specifically given a merchant permission to send may be considered to be unsolicited pieces of information and may be reported as spam. Even worse, these types of emails are often ignored, which become a loss for a merchant. The value of each subscriber significantly increases when the subscriber has opted in on their own versus being mailed to at random.
- Always give valuable, relevant content to your subscribers. Never send information that is not align with your company's purpose or the purpose for the initial communication. Create a lasting relationship with your subscribers by giving them the information you've promised and the information they expect. If you neglect to do this, subscribers are more inclined to neglect to open and read your emails or even worse, report them as being spam.
- Consider requiring all subscribers to double opt in or simple confirm through their email that they've requested the info you've promised to send them when they signed up. Double opt ins are more targeted, often produce higher open rates, and ensure a lower spam complaint, because subscribers have taken that extra step to confirm they want and expect your emails.
- No matter what email management software service you use, be sure they allow your subscriber to opt out of receiving your emails easily. Giving subscribers an option to opt out is usually done by clicking a link at the bottom of an email where they'll confirm they do indeed, want to stop or limit the emails they receive from the sender. Make this option available and make it easy to do.
The Benefits of Permission Based Email Marketing
In the event it isn't clear as to why anyone would want to do email marketing, consider this, email marketing allows you to build a targeted audience that you have direct access with. It also gives you a greater opportunity to build a stronger relationship with prospects, more easily turning those prospects into customers. In the event sales for your company get slow, you can also offer other companies in similar niches an opportunity to advertise and expand awareness of their company for a nominal fee to you.
Permission-based email marketing also shows that your company respects and appreciates the time it takes to open and read each email. It also separates a merchant that respects sensitive information such as emails from those who do not...those that may be considered by others as spammers.
Lastly subscribers that have taken time to confirm they actually want a merchant's emails increase the chances that they'll be more interactive. A more interactive audience ensures that not only will more emails be read, but when action is called for, for things such as surveys, they'll be a higher number of participants leading to a better quality of feedback that will be helpful to the merchant.
Though many forms of marketing have seemed to become less and less effective or even available throughout the years, email marketing remains a consistent and in demand medium for both advertisers and for consumers that opt to stay updated by companies they've done or wish to do business with.
Email marketing usage has proven to increase at almost 100 percent annually. With its massive potential it's known as one of the most efficient and effective marketing mediums for virtually any and all types of businesses. With more and more people not only becoming aware of the power of email marketing, but taken steps to put it to use, now more than ever is it obvious that companies have the chance to build a closer, targeted audience base of past and potential customers for accomplishing long term business goals.
The below infographic, though a few years old gives you a very clear idea about the growth of email. If the conditions were that high 5 years ago, you can imagine the situation now.
Customer Segmentation and Targeting
Transforming a lead to a buyer isn't necessarily an easy task, but with the help of email marketing, it can become simpler. Through segmenting your subscribers, by interests and actions taken while reading your email, you can more easily and quickly determine the right products and services for each of your subscribers. While analyzing your subscribers over a period of time you'll notice who opens the most and at what times. You'll also begin to notice patterns that you can use to your advantage when sending your emails. Even more interesting, you'll notice what type of subscriber takes more interests in one email's purpose over anothers.
Segmenting your lists involves adjusting how you categorize subscribers using traits based on demographics, or the behavior of subscribes classified by age group, sex, hobbies, finances, career field, purchase history, psychology etc. Take common and important traits of recent and past buyers to better determine who might like your products/services in the future.
Analyze these demographics often to more easily and quickly determine trends and take action toward using those trends as leverage to attract more customers and turn leads to buyers.
Note: Write to your prospects in a way that relates with them. If your audience uses a particular type of terminology or jargon, then make sure your emails include them. If your audience is familiar with a current issue in the media, bring it to their attention and make them aware that your company is aware as well. Do your best to not only write to your subscribers, but for them.
Email Marketing Tools & Platforms
AWeber is the leader in the email marketing industry and is trusted by over 100,000 businesses worldwide for their software's highly reliable email deliverability, expert customer support, user friendly interface, and secure system for those trusting them with one of their most valuable business assets, their subscriber list(s).
AWeber features include -
Auto responders enablers which allow you to set the date and time you want an email to be sent to some or all your subscribers stored with AWeber. You're also able to set up your emails in a series that are mailed in a sequence you set from when a subscriber first signs up to indefinite. You can organize these emails to be sent on a specific day during a specific time or in specific intervals as you see fit.
Email and Web Form Templates, which make it easy for any non-designer to take full advantage of presenting beautiful and professional designs for both their emails and the opt in forms used to collect subscriber information. AWeber has hundreds of easy to customize templates that include single and multiple column designs. AWeber makes it easy for even the most technically inexperienced user to nice, professional emails and forms that match their site and brand.
Analytic tools which make analyzing data for better marketing very simple. A user can easily track who's opening emails, clicking links within emails, and proceeding to make purchases. You can also segment subscribers using this information for better targeting and a higher response from those segments. AWeber makes it easy to send targeted messages to subscribers based on information from analytics such as the information gathered at sign up or even location suggested from IP addresses.
Split Testing which allows a user to know exactly what elements of an email work better than others. For example, a user can take a small group of subscribers and send half of them one subject line and the other half another to see which gets more opens. When the results are in, the user can then use that subject line to send to a wider audience that will likely result in a higher overall open rate. A user can do the same for opt in forms to see what an audience responds better to.
Apps are also made available by AWeber to easy & simplify integration with social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, along with popular blogging platforms like Wordpress, Blogspot and more.
AWeber also welcomes users to use their API to create an app for your own business solutions. You can also use AWeber in combination with your RSS feed for your blogs and sites that already use them.
AWeber also integrates with:
- Unbounce: Subscribers from your Unbounce pages are added to your list
- Drupal: Add a sign-up form to your Drupal site
- PayPal: Customers become subscribers after a purchase through PayPal
- And many more third party utlities.
MailChimp is known for one for one of the most user friendly email marketing platforms this industry has seen. It's fairly easy to use design visual works of art, manage subscribers and track an email's performance. Advanced tools like segmentation, a/b testing and return on investment (ROI) tracking make analyzing data simple.
MailChimp also helps manage emails that bounce back and help to ultimately decrease that rate. It strategically breaks down bounce backs into hard or soft bounces. Soft bounces are email addresses that are valid, but for whatever reason, they couldn't be delivered. An example would be a unknowingly busy server, whereas hard bounces are from email addresses that no longer exist. Knowing this data alone allows a user to easily remove invalid emails, saving time and money on emails that are no longer an access to a subscriber list.
MailChimp will remove an email automatically for a user if over the next five campaigns the email continues to prove itself invalid. Equally important, MailChimp uses a spam filter checker or Inbox Inspector to tell you exactly what an email's spam score is, and suggestions on improving the score, making the chances of the email's deliverability higher.
MailChimp prides itself on its analytically technology that includes a powerful abuse-detection aspect called Omnivore. Omnivore studies patterns in bad campaigns and predicts a campaign's behavior before a user sends future emails. MailChimp's video merge tags can save you a lot of time if a user includes videos in their email campaigns. MailChimp makes it incredible easy to see how many people are clicking links and which links are being clicked the most.
Users can also see how many people have unsubscribed.
NOTE: Both AWeber and MailChimp make it easy to view what percentage of people opened mails (known as the open rate).
MailChimp also gives users suggestions on their subject line for each email they create. A user simply enters words or phrases related to an ideal subject line and MailChimp will compare it to all subject lines ever used in their system, resulting in the best open rates.
Constant Contact is another popular provider for email marketing management. Constant Contact is known for its wide variety of options for customizing emails. They have one of the largest selections for both the non-designer and the more experienced designer. Using Constant Contact's Advanced Editor a designer may use their own HTML design by simply copy and pasting it into the custom template.
Testing your email in any email management software is important. Each provider listed above provides testing tools to ensure your email is delivered as planned as well as gives the user an idea of how the settings will be outputted to future readers. When you send a test email, keep in mind what folders the email lands in, if any and all links go to their correct designation, custom designs appear correct and aligned, and the email's presentation is satisfactory.
Some different aspects to be tested include:
- Days of the week that get better open rates
- The time of day that work best for promotions that result or anticipate results in sales
- The time of day that work best for informative "newsletter" campaigns
- Types of subject line style works best (long, short, subject lines including the company name, subject lines that act as questions, subject line, etc.)
- A company's name in the "From" line, or a human's name
- The time of day that work best for higher overall click rate
There are however some disadvantages to split testing if not used over a lengthy period of time and properly analyzed, which isn't always the easiest thing to do. Often time split testing only tests one element at a time, not multiple elements that may or may not offset results of another element.
Split testing can also result in inefficient data collection for some or all of your subscribers due to testing what works better than others. Split testing can pick only one type of data at one time. Multivariate tests can make much more efficient testing by collecting many variables at one time.
Best Practicies and Important Tips
Though Constant Contact provides one of the best features for customizations for the user, all of the mentioned tools allow a certain level of customization using HTML. A few advantages to using HTML to customize emails include:
- HTML makes it easy to build a company's brand, allowing the display of company colors, logo, custom fonts and images.
- Animations can act as links and prompt a higher click through rate. Some editors may allow the embedding of video, which has been proven to keep readers engaged and increase the desired action of the viewer.
- HTML email templates also make it fast and easy to create new emails and stay consistent with the look and feel of emails presented to subscribers.
Whether using a HTML or a text editor it's important that emails get to their desired destination. Some words will stop that from happening due to filters built in by popular emails providers such as AOL, MSN, and Yahoo. These spam filters take a close look at words with in the subject lines and body's of each email. Below are a list of commonly used words and phrases that trigger these spam filter:
- Act now
- All new
- [number]% off
- Call now
- Earn money
- Double your income
- You're a winner
- Cash bonus
- While supplies last
- Why pay more
- Excesses use of punctuation marks and symbols and capital letters.
Easily decrease your chances of having your email not be delivered by following these simple steps:
- Use the above listed trigger words sparingly, if at all.
- Be mindful of the audience and the language they use and are familiar with. If in doubt, don't use the language being questioned.
- Merchants should avoid linking to or writing anything in emails about drugs, multi level or pyramid marketing, gambling, alcohol, weapons, pirated materials, obscene language, vulgar actions of violence, pornography, escort services, instructions on making or purchasing illegal goods or weapons, instructions on how to commit any type of illegal or fraudulent activity.