Don’t Make This E-Newsletter Mistake

hammer and egg

A commercial photographer commented on Bob Bly’s blog last week complaining that email marketing has been destroyed by spammers. That anyone who signed up for one would invariably get spammed.

Another reader said she’d signed up for one, gotten the offer of a free consultation, and the sender never followed up.

What’s really wrong?

It’s not the newsletter (that’s just the tool). It’s the way people are using (or abusing) it.  It’s like trying to break an egg with a hammer.  It will work, sort of, but it will make a horrible mess.

Email without permission, build your newsletter the wrong way, or abuse the permission you received, and your readers will opt out, ignore you, or even report you.

Trust is essential

However, if you create a real relationship and they trust you, they will eagerly want to know what you have to say.

Say, for example, our photographer saw a newsletter from a digital photography software company. Instead of selling software directly, it had tips on how to use the software, where to get the best prices on equipment, and how to earn more money with fewer clients?

And, that newsletter offered regular, free, useful advice, without being annoying? What if subscribing got him access to exclusive ebooks or discounts? Or what if he got those things before they were released to the general public?

The problem with the free consultation offer was that it was never followed up. Not a good way to earn trust – regardless of whether the offer was delivered via email or snail mail.

If you want to break an egg, skip the hammer.

Image via art-core

Is Your Email List Worthless?

No Sale

No Sale (Photo credit: Steve Snodgrass)

Some people think that email is a dinosaur. A leftover from the Pleistocene era before Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. You know, 5 or 6 years ago. It’s dead, they say. You can’t make any money from it.

The truth is far different.

An email list can be one of your company’s biggest assets.  Imagine, a large built-in audience of people who really want to hear from you, and trust you with their time and email addresses.

Or, it can be a worthless compilation of names, the wrong audience, or people who don’t want to buy anything (and never will).

How do you tell the difference? And how do you know exactly what a list is (and isn’t).

How to Spot a Bad Email List

  • A bunch of names you scraped from website email and contact pages.

First of all, if it says “info@___” or “service@___” it’s likely to be a low-level person with no authority to buy from you.

Secondly, they didn’t ask you to contact them with your offers. Those addresses are there to help their customers (or potential customers), not to field sales pitches.

Don’t start your relationship off on the wrong foot!

  • Names on business cards you’ve collected from networking events and speaking engagements.

Conversations with real people are great. So is exchanging cards. Follow up when you get them. Do it a year later, and those people will think you’re spamming them (not helping them).

It’s technically legal under CAN-SPAM to do either of these things.  CAN-SPAM isn’t opt-in, it’s opt-out (more about CAN-SPAM rules here). It’s not a good idea though. Do it too often, and your ESP (email service provider, like MailChimp or AWeber) will think you’re a spammer too; and they may threaten to suspend your account.

  • A bunch of names that you bought (and now “own”); particularly if they were really, really cheap (such as $100 for 10,000 names), think services such as SalesGenie.

None of those people asked to be on those lists. Use them, and you’ll get labelled a spammer. There are some email lists available for rent (one-time use), but they’re very expensive ($300 for 1,000 names). If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

How to spot a Good Email List

  • People you spoke to personally, who expressly asked to be on your list (offer them a free bribe).
  • People who signed up directly from your website, and thereby gave you permission to continue to contact them
  • Your existing customers and prospects: people you already have a relationship with
  • Attendees at your webinars.

Make sure you ask the webinar attendees for permission to continue to contact them. Offer something in return (a recording, a set of slides, or a white paper).

  • Subscribers to your auto-responders. They’ve said they want to hear from you (repeatedly).

Inboxes are crowded, and people are pressed for time.  You want to build a relationship. Get them to know you, like you, and trust you.  Once those people are on your list, nurture them (don’t spam them with offers for expensive products right away).  You wouldn’t ask someone you just met to marry you, would you?

P.S., All of this can be a lot to digest. If you want to have a quick conversation about this, email me here (no charge).

Start Your Email Newsletter Without an Opt-In List

email icons

A “reprint” from the archives:

Catherine on LinkedIn asks:

I need advice on what email newsletter service to use. Mail Chimp and Constant Contact require me to have email addresses that already have opted in. This is my first newsletter so I don’t have this. I have a list of emails from all my business cards. How do I do this?

If you’re starting your first newsletter, like Catherine, it can be a bit daunting. Most email providers want you to have opt-in names for your list, but you’ve got no list, and no permission, so how can you email? You do have a stack of business cards though. Is that OK?

Email list opt ins and opt outs

While CAN-SPAM technically requires opt-out, rather than opt-in, the top email service providers require that you get explicit permission first. It reduces their (and your) spam complaints and improves email deliverability. Plus, while it’s not legally necessary, it’s much more considerate and helpful to ask first (rather than just starting to shout at people).

how to get email list opt inS

For clients, or prospects you’re already talking to, send a personal email (don’t do it en masse, and don’t let them see each other’s info), telling them you’re starting a newsletter.  Ask them to opt-in to your email list.  Include a few points about the types of topics you’ll be covering, how often you’ll be sending it, and how it will help them.

If they are people you met recently, send a personal email saying it was nice to meet you at X, I enjoyed talking about Y, and including the opportunity for an email list opt-in (again with info about what they’ll receive).

Then add an email list opt-in form to your blog or website, repeating the bullet points, and asking readers to sign up. Mine includes a free ebook called “Get More Business Now.” Get it here.

 

 

What Every Email Marketer Should Know

Sea of blueAfter Tuesday’s post, you should know quite a bit about email marketing lists. But the list isn’t everything; you’re going to need copywriting, an offer, timing (when to send), and formatting.

How do you sort out all of that?  I have a free (yes, free) 10-part course that can help you do just that. It’s called the “Smart Email Marketing Course.”

No tests, no quizzes, and no term papers; just lots of great information that will help you stay out of the spam filter, get more people to open your emails, and boost the number of clicks you get.  Find out more here.

Tuesday Travels: Secrets of Email Marketing Lists

English: icon for mailing lists

Image via Wikipedia

“The money is in the list.”

You’ve probably read that a lot. I know I’ve said it a lot. It means that the list you rent (or build) is the most important part of your marketing. A bad list means bad results (you’ll never make money trying to sell parrot food to cat owners).

Here are some tips on email list building and marketing.

Start Your Email Newsletter Without an Opt-In List- what if you don’t have a list? or you’re just starting out?  then what?

How Big Should Your Mailing List Be? – how many people do you need? is bigger always better?

The Truth About Buying Email Lists – there are plenty of lists for sale and for rent; should you use them?

The $100 Marketing Campaign That Packed the Room – you don’t need a big budget (or a big list) to get great results