If there's one thing that annoys me more than Michael Bay films, it's people abusing their email lists. It loses them money, it loses me money, it loses everyone money. One day long ago we used to read all our email, because it was all relevant. Then poor email marketing flooded our inboxes.
Suddenly, we became excellent at skimming and disregarding our email. It's more difficult than ever to break through. But when you do, it can easily be most profitable marketing method in your arsenal.
Startups are good at burning out their lists, because they have so much else on their mind. Others don't ever try, and miss out on the massive potential of email marketing done well.
So I thought the world of startups could use a short list of the most important email marketing best practices. The golden rules of email marketing for startups, if you like. They're proven, simple, time-efficient gems of uncommon sense.
1. Test Everything
This is more important than anything else.
You don't have time for spreadsheets and manual tracking. But you do need to test. There is no article in the world that can tell you what will resonate with your specific audience. You need to figure it out for yourself.
The email marketing software you use needs to make testing simple and quick, or you won't do it (let's be honest).
Be a scientist about it. Test only **one variable at a time**, and keep all others the same.
- Subject line
- CTA wording
- Image vs no image
Assume nothing. You'll often be surprised.
2. Either 1 or 0 CTAs
Choice overload is extremely easy to invoke.
With one CTA, they've still got two things they're weighing up in their minds: Click or don't click. With just two options, now they're debating whether to click or not click one or both of your links.
See how quickly that will spiral into a bounce? Busy people don't have the time to ponder something just because you've asked them to, and lazy people are distractible. Keep it simple.
Zero CTA emails are also a powerful tool, especially in a series designed to build excitement for an upcoming launch. Design an email that provides all its value within the body, and then hint at something exciting coming up to leave them wanting more.
3. Start building your list on day minus-92
Three months before launch is the latest you should leave your list building.
One of the most powerful sales tools is time.
With enough times, most sales objections magically evaporate. Also…(you won't like this)…it will take longer than you think to build this list.
Fortunately, it has a double purpose. Pre-launch list building is great for product validation.
1. Put up a landing page briefly describing the product or service you're launching.
2. Request email from people who want to know more and be kept up to date.
3. Nurture that list as it grows, making them feel like the cool early-adopters they are.
4. Use The Advantages of a Small List
At least, let it be as small as it wants to be.
Quality is *so much* better than quantity when it comes to email. If you let your list get larger than it should, (meaning a bunch of people are on it who aren't engaging and don't like your messages), it's a net-loss.
List purging is a common practice amongst seasoned email marketers, because barrel-scraping open rates and sky-high spam flagging is noticed by email clients. Keep that up, and your emails will be shunting into the spam folder before they get a chance to reach those who actually care.
Keep a stubborn focus on quality, on nurturing your fledgling list with content they really want. Send messages to individuals of this early list. Strike up conversations about their pains, goals, and opinions. It'll help you fine tune your marketing to a laser point.
These customer conversations can be amazingly valuable. Consider them assets…your intellectual property.
5. Segment When You Grow
As your list grows, you'll need a way to automate conversations somewhat. You can do this with segmentation. Give them a choice of two things and track the number of clicks through each.
This is not the same as having two CTAs. These links will be either pure value-offerings, or a direct question:
"We're curious. Which of these interest you more?"
If your email automation doesn't have a way to segment your lists, delete your account right now. It's that important.
In this day and age, people expect their media to anticipate what interests them. The fact that they're on your list is one level of this dynamic. Segmentation is the next.
1. You find out about a health food store opening up in your area. You hop on that list.
2. They say they found an article about barefoot running, and another about muscle-shock pads.
3. You think the muscle-shock treatment is ludicrous. You're all about natural methods. You click on the barefoot running article.
They didn't even need to write that article, and yet by tracking your click on that link, they now know you're interested in barefoot running, and probably other concepts that follow a similar philosophy of "the more natural the better".
Can you see how valuable that information is?
People get on your list because they believe you have something relevant to their lives. Segmentation allows you to get progressively more relevant to each subscriber over time, making them more likely to stay with you as time rolls on.
6. Look Great on Mobile
Your emails are being opened on phones. If they're not easy to read on a hand-held, then they're not easy to read.
According to Email Monday, as of 2015 the number of email opens had grown by 180% in three years. What does that mean in real terms? Well, more people now use their smartphone for reading mail than for making calls!
Your email software should make responsive email design easy, but there are a two things that are still purely up to you.
1. The subject line. On mobile, only 5-7 words are sure to be visible, so get the point across in that space.
2. The first line that shows up in the preview, after the subject line. In some mail apps, you'll get no more words here than the subject line.
7. Go beyond email
The 90s are over. We don't read every word of every email anymore. Far from it.
Email still boast the highest ROI of any other digital marketing method ($38 for every $1 spent, according to The Client Email Report 2015). However, there are many people who will simply miss your attempts to reach out. A third of the attention that used to go to email is now elsewhere.
Start with email, since it's still the big daddy. Then, when you notice a few people who never or almost never open your mails, don't assume they just hate your guts. Use the reporting features of your email software to separate non-openers and export them into a spreadsheet, and then use that list to find them on the socials.
1. Find a platform they're active on.
2. Find a question they've asked that has been met with crickets.
3. Answer it, and let them know who you represent.
And hey presto. You've just roped back the one who would have got away.
Take First Steps Now
If you're in business, you should be marketing by email. Maybe I just love to geek out about this stuff, but I believe it. It's just too effective to ignore.
Start simple, with a landing page and a welcome message with a question and invitation to respond.
Whatever you do from there, don't burnout your list.
Delight them into buying, instead.
How to Do Email Marketing Like a BOSS (Part 2)
If you're reading this in time and you're in the area, get yourself down to our favorite European tech-hub (Kraków, Poland), for our next event on the 14th of April, 2016. Register here!
FreshMail's own Maria and Paul will be getting into the nitty-gritty of email marketing, what you need to do and what common mistakes you'd better avoid like the plague.
If you can't make it, and you'd like to attend virtually via Periscope, let us know in the comments below.
And here is a sneak peak of the first meetup:
On Thursday 31st of March 2016, Freshmail's own Maria Wachal and Paul Jarczynski dove into advanced email marketing tactics for the crowd at Hub:Raum, Kraków. As with other digital marketing tactics, the devil can be in the details. Maria and Paul unpacked important topics like how to capture emails within social media platforms, how to read cryptic metrics like the "soft bounce" and "hard bounce", and what led to a careless email spammer getting thrown in prison on a holiday to America.