So you want to start building your email list? Great decision! Actually, that’s probably one of the best decisions you’d ever make for your business. That’s because the money is in the list. And the money will be in yours once you get going.
When we say the money is in the list, we are of course referring to your email list.
In just a moment, I will share some email marketing best practices for you, so you can start as an expert from day one.
But first, what is email marketing and why should you care?
What is Email Marketing? And What are its Benefits for Small Businesses?
Email marketing is the process of using email to send optimized commercial messages to people who gave you their permission to send them such emails.
Email marketing is permission-based marketing at its finest. It’s incredibly powerful because you’re basically talking to people who want to hear what you have to say.
There are numerous benefits to email marketing, far too many to enumerate here. However, I have set out 5 crucial ones below, plenty to thoroughly whet your appetite 🙂
#1- Largest Pool of Potential + Inherent Goodwill That Comes With Permission-Based Marketing
Research shows that 3.9 billion people have at least one email account. That same study says the number of email users will rise to 4.5 billion by 2024.
Email as a marketing channel is bigger than Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat and all other social networks combined.
Think about it.
Via email you can reach nearly everyone on the planet.
Also, people that are subscribed to your list want to see your content.
They subscribed for a reason and they consider you a brand that has something of value to offer to them.
#2 – Build Brand Loyalty and Trust
The more times people encounter your brand the more they’ll learn to trust it, to trust you.
We as humans trust the familiar, and when your brand’s name pops up in their inboxes again and again, that’s bound to build some solid trust equity for you.
Couple that with the value each email you send brings to them, and you have a long term winning strategy on your hands.
#3 – Turn One-Time-Customers into Repeat Customers
When someone buys from you once, they’re more likely to buy from you again. It’s similar to the Benjamin Franklin effect where if someone does a small favor for you once, they’re more likely to do you another and bigger favor later.
So your promotional emails will find exceptionally warm reception with the people who already bought something before.
#4 – Nurture Your Leads and Help Then “Uplevel Their Game” And Become Paying Customers
Everyone loves to uplevel their game, no:)
One effective way to nurture leads is to send them targeted content that resonates with their pain points.
Help them solve said problems by giving them helpful advice, and also by recommending product X or Y as a way to speed up the process, or a way to remove the problem for good and prevent it from ever coming back…
Not every one of your subscribers is going to be in the same stage of the buyer journey, and they won’t all have the same dilemmas and pain points.
The solution to this is to first tag and segment your email list (easily done in ConvertKit and with a free plan).
Second, build buyer personas around each tag and then create content that addresses the pain points of each buyer person i.e., each person you tagged.
Yes, it’s a lot of work upfront, but the ROI will blow you away.
However, this is pretty advanced stuff for someone who’s just getting into email marketing. I want this guide to cover email marketing best practice for beginners so I’ll curb the talk on list segmenting now.
Moving on to…
#5 – Content Promotion – Boost Your Posts Out Of the Gate
You can use email marketing to promote your newest blog posts. Besides getting new eyeballs on your freshly minted content and getting that all important repeat traffic, this also offer potential and strong SEO benefits.
When a new post gets published Google has zero signals on it and doesn’t really know where to put it.
But you can nudge Google to rank you higher than they normally would by getting some immediate traffic to the page.
That traffic will be highly engaged. They’ll stay and consume your content.
This positive user behaviour will make Google wonder “hey, this post is obviously awesome! Why exactly did we put it on the fourth page? Let’s rank it much higher so more searchers can find it easily”.
There’s more to email marketing benefits then this, but I think you know why you need to dabble in it.
And now’s the time to get into the crux of this guide…
16 of the Top Email Marketing Best Practices for Beginners and Newbies
Here then are 16 tips to help you succeed with email marketing on your first attempt.
Let’s go for it.
#1- Don’t Pay Until You Really Have To- Go For the Substance and Not Flash
Substance in this case is a free account with an email service provider (ESP) that gives you unrestricted contact access to a decent base of subscribers (1000 subs seems to be the industry’s standard for free accounts).
I have two free tools to recommend.
MailerLite is an ESP that I love and have been using on my blog for a long time.
They have an awesome “Forever Free” plan that gets you genuine email automation without paying a dime to them.
Sure, the free plan doesn’t have all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a premium version, But you can still send unlimited emails to up to 1000 subscribers. You also get access to their landing pages, embeddable signup forms, pop up signup forms (popups are really powerful stuff) etc.
Forever Free plan is a steal and you pay exactly $0 for it, forever.
ConvertKit is the tool we now use on this blog.
And we absolutely LOVE it!
It’s too lengthy a topic to discuss why exactly we’re so enamoured with this ESP (read more here) but the important thing for YOU to know is that with ConvertKit free plan you can automate your email marketing for up to 1000 subscribers.
You also get access to customizable domains, subscriber tagging (best feature of ConvertKit) and unlimited landing pages and forms.
And, did I mention it’s free 🙂
#2- Don’t Buy An Email List- It’a Waste of Money And Time
Never buy a list from someone. Even if you can get a “bargain” it’s not worth it and it could land you in a lot of (legal) trouble.
First of all, email open rates depend on people recognizing your name in their inbox. No one’s going to open an email from a stranger, and if that stranger is you it’ll destroy your email open rates.
With very few email opens your deliverability will plummet across the board as email providers’ algorithms learn to treat all your mail as spam. And that’ll be the death knell for your campaigns.
Second, sending folks email when they haven’t signed up for your list is spamming and illegal.
You can get sued and fined over it.
#3- Ask People To Confirm They Want to Be a Part Of Your List
According to CAN-SPAM Act it is illegal to send commercial messages to people who haven’t clearly opted in for receiving them.
The problem here is that not all people understand what they’re giving their email for.
They just want the freebie and yes, they might’ve subscribed but that wasn’t their real intention. And they certainly don’t want you now flooding their email inbox.
They could complain and file spam reports.
To prevent that ugly turn of events from happening, always send your first email as confirmation they want to start receiving your messages.
And make sure to tell them that nothing will happen if they don’t confirm it.
For example, here’s how Pedro does it with every new subscriber we get here at Astute Copy Blogging:
#4- Keep Your Email Within 500-650px Range.
500-650 pixels is the optimal email message width and any more than that you risk having your subscribers have to scroll to the right to read it.
That’s such bad UX on your part and you can’t really blame your subs for not reading.
Bonus points if your email’s CTA (the most important part of the message) is stuck “to the right of the fold” and is effectively invisible.
I’m talking about mobile UX here. Mobile screens are so small and it’s really cumbersome to not be able to see the message clearly and to have to scroll to the right.
I know I never don’t when I get such a message.
Finally, remember that 47% of all web users check email on their phones and tablets, and they’re not going to switch devices just to read your message, no matter how beloved your brand is.
#5- Optimize Email Preview (Called Preheader) For Better CTR
Average person gets 121 emails per day.
They don’t have the time and attention span to sift through it all and often important emails get brushed aside.
We as marketers can fight that to an extent.
Of course, a clever subject line is a must (I talk about them below) but one often overlooked element is the email preheader.
What’s an email preheader?
It’s the text snippet that is visible in your inbox before you click on the message.
Email preheaders are the very first few words of your messages, and if you put some thought into them,, you can make them enticing.
I recommend you give a brief summary of your email’s content.
Take a look at the image above. There’s even a CTA tucked in nicely. Joanna Wiebe has obviously put some thought in her email preheader.
#6- Personalize Every Email You Send
The two ways to personalize are:
Building Buyer Personas
Each visitor that subscribes to your list should be tagged based on their buyer persona.
So that future emails you send to them address problems specific to that buyer persona, and help move them along their buyer journey.
Using Their Name
Another and critical level of personalization is to simply use their name at the beginning of the message.
It makes people feel important, special and as if you’re talking to them directly.
Also, keep in mind that we marketers are familiar with email lists and list building as a concept, but most people aren’t. And I bet some of them will think you’re sending a message to them and ONLY them.
#7- Don’t Use “No-Reply” in The Sender’s Email Address
Not only is it very rude, it’s actually against the law to include “no-reply” in the email address.
CAN-SPAM Act research forbids this because it prevents recipients from replying back to you and also prevents them from unsubscribing which is something you should never do.
Besides, why would you want your email to be email@example.com. Who’s gonna want to stay subscribed to that? Who’s gonna want to engage with anything you send them?
Instead, use your real name with every message you send.
For example, my sender email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s branded, builds trust, and from the size of my list, from the growth I’m seeing and from the engagement I’m getting from my current subs, I can confirm it works superbly.
#8- Don’t Make Your Emails Look Like A Circus Freak- Use No More That 2 Typefaces and Fonts
The less cluttered your email is, the more your CTA will stand out and more conversion you’ll get.
I suggest you limit your email to having 2 typefaces and 2 fonts.
For example, Ramit Sethi’s emails are usually text heavy, but also very readable because he breaks up his paragraph nicely.
He uses two typefaces only and 2 slightly different fonts which are paired with each of his typefaces. (The quotes he uses are written differently than the rest of him email body).
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More Email Marketing Best Practices
Eight gone, eight to go!
Eight more tips to help take your email marketing to the next level.
#9 – Have An Email Signature
According to Brian Dean’s study, email signatures boost email open rates by 9.8%. True, he was talking more about cold email open rates but the point is sound, and you have to consider that if “cold” strangers react so positively to signatures, then it’ll affect “warm” subscribers much more.
Note: As you can see from the image above, email signatures don’t need to be anything fancy. Pedro has only his name and our website’s link. And since in that specific email he was promoting our content marketing checklist, he has a CTA for it right below.
#10 – Use Your Brand’s Logo
Some eye tracking studies have shown that as soon as someone opens an email their eye immediately wanders to the upper left quadrant of the page.
It’s because legit websites usually have their logos in the upper left quadrant. And because some (savvy) marketers are already stamping their brand’s logo to every email they send.
So web users are already half trained where to look 🙂
You need to brand your emails too. Make it easy for people to know the email is from you even before they’ve read a single word of content.
#11- Have One Goal Per Email
Common internet marketing adage says that you need to have one goal per page or the person reading won’t know what to do after they’ve done reading. They won’t know and they’ll simply leave.
The same rule applies when sending emails. One goal per email and that’s it.
Will it be to get them to visit your new blog post? Or click on an affiliate link? Or buy your new course?
No matter! One geal per email!
Pro tip– this stone-carved rule can be extended into- one goal; but several CTA’s.
Let your email build suspense. Let the magic of your words have readers yearn to reach the end so they can click that button behind which unbelievable treasures lie…
Make it so; but also, have your CTAs strategically placed above the fold and somewhere in the middle too.
Cater to those that lack imagination to be easily impressed by strong copywriting. And cater to those who’re just distracted.
#12- Craft Compelling Subject Lines
Subject lines are the first thing someone sees of your email and are crucial for boosting email open rates.
So pay special attention to them.
How to write compelling subject lines?
The easiest ways to boost open rates are to offer incentives, arouse mystery, or offer personal growth benefits
For example if you offer X% off next order that’s bound to put a spring in someone’s step.
Because they probably already wanted to buy so why wouldn’t they buy for cheaper.
Here’s how SEO Butler tries to get me to shop some more in their store. Lucky for me I’m an expert and can see right through their shenanigans:)
Next, striving to develop as a person and human being is universal to us humans. So if you promise a tangible benefit they’ll get by reading your email, you will get lots of opens.
For example, here Ramit Sethi promises to teach me how to do away with distractions for good. Which is exactly an area where I need to improve in order to better my life.
Finally, people are by nature curious creatures. In fact curiosity is what drove our ancestors out of the caves.
Arouse their curiosity and “force” them to open your emails.
Neil Patel is the master craftsman of curiosity laden subject lines.
I find myself simply unable to resist opening his emails, even though the marketing part of my brain keeps drumming it’s just clever copywriting and nothing more.
#13- Add a Subscribe-to-My-Newsletter Button
Do it at the end of your emails so they see it after they’ve finished reading your Post Scriptum (btw, 90% of people read the P.S. section first)
Now I know what you’re going to say, “but they already are subscribed to my list, why’d they want to re-subscribe”?
They wouldn’t. But, thoroughly impressed as they are bound to be, they’ll wish to forward your email to their friends and then their friends can subscribe to your list.
You think there’s a slim chance of it happening but you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you try it out.
And you have nothing to lose because it’s a 1 minute job to make and insert the button. And the effect will compound over time.
So just do it!
No excuses 🙂
#14 – Match Email Goals to Link Destination
What do I mean by this?
As I mentioned in tip #11, every email campaign you launch should have one goal attached to it. And attaining that goal usually means the user has to click a link in your email.
So, wherever that link leads need to be exactly what you promised in your email.
In other words, users need to “know” what’s on the other side and they need to see they were right when they click and land there.
Being transparent builds trust for your brand and you simply sell more and earn more money.
#15 – Fine-tune Your Email With the Help of Humans
You’ve got friends, right? Sure you do. Everyone does.
So pick 3-5 of them and send them your email.
Ask them “what do I want you to do with this email?” And “is it easy for you to do it?”
If they say something like “you want me to click and go here” and that’s really what you intend, then that’s great, good job.
But if they ponder and then get it wrong. Or ponder and get it right but it took them 5m, then you need to go back and review your work
No use in sending email you know won’t perform.
#16 – Make it Easy To Unsubscribe
It is illegal to send spam and commercial messages to those who haven’t given you their consent.
It is also illegal to keep sending emails to those who’ve opted out. (This is one major gripe we recently had with ActiveCampaign. With them you had to be very diligent about removing people out of several lists manually. Read more about it here).
Finally it’s illegal to not have or to hide the unsubscribe link so that people can’t unsubscribe from your list.
Instead have it and roll with the punches. Here’s Pedro’s:
Pro tip: sometimes people unsubscribe by accident They didn’t mean to do it, but it sort of happened.
To ensure you don’t lose valuable subscribers so easily, set up a “didn’t mean to unsubscribe page?” where you can ask them if they’d like to subscribe back in.
Here’s how MyThemeShop do it.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Email Marketing – Answered
Now to the Q&A on email marketing best practices.
It’s good to have questions. it means you’re determined to make email marketing work and are willing to learn. It’s even better to have the answers to those questions, because then you can begin to take action and get the results you want.
Let’s get into it!
#1- Is email dead? Why do I even need to build a list?
No it’s not dead. It’s alive and kicking.
Here are some stats (borrowed from this post) to blow your mind away:
- The average worker receives 11,680 emails per year with an average of 32 per day.
- 42% of all email in a person’s inbox is considered essential or critical.
- Email is still considered by most to be the best collaboration tool for teams and individuals.
- People use email for more than sending messages: 76% use it to exchange documents and 50% to archive important messages.
Finally, 4 billion+ people have active email accounts. That’s more than all social networks in the world combined.
Email’s got staying power like none other and it’s not too late for you to start building your list today and from scratch.
#2 – Is email marketing free?
No it’s not. At the beginning you don’t need money to start. For example, MailerLite, MailChimp and ConvertKit all have excellent free plans that’ll get you started with email marketing pretty quickly.
But email marketing costs your time, especially in the beginning.
You need to create a lead magnet; you need to place opt-ins around your site; you need to nurture and spoil your list.
You need to prune your list, you need to do regular A/B testing…
To be honest, the work is never ending, but the good news is that it gets 10X easier as you become more experienced.
And when you start to actually make good money off your list, you’ll want to work harder on building your asset because you’ll see your hard work is starting to pay off.
#3 – I want to get started with email marketing today. How? And which email service providers to pick?
I used to recommend ActiveCampaign, but now I recommend ConvertKit. They have an excellent free plan which lets you build your list up to a 1000 subscribers.
With it you also get customizable domains, subscriber tagging and unlimited landing pages and forms.
Free ConvertKit is an optimal starting point for you. And when you get to the point you need to go premium, you’ll already be making good money from your blog and list and it’ll be a cinch to pay $29/mo for the first tier premium plan.
#4 – How can I make money with email marketing?
You can make money with email marketing starting today, provided that you have a big enough list and that you’ve buttered them up over a period of months.
Successful list building is all about sharing ample value over a lengthy period of time. First you earn their trust, and then you sell to them.
For example, and not to toot my own horn here, but I’m pretty decent (far from perfect though, there’s always room for improvement) at this.
If you join my list now and download my Inbox Magic you will see in the following day how I deliver value to you upfront without asking for anything from you, and I especially don’t ask you to buy.
So, how to make money with your email list (4 simple ways)
Option #1- Promote a product you created
Selling courses or even simple ebooks is the way to make a substantial amount of money in a short amount of time.
Here’s how it works. First, over a period of months warm up your list by providing value for free. Second, create a product you know they’ll like (use subscriber surveys to learn what’s bugging them).
Third, send a relevant offer to a relevant group of people. You will get lots of signups if you did the first two steps right.
Option #2 – Affiliate marketing
Ah, good old affiliate links… They never fail at getting sales. The key is to provide value in your emails and slip in a few affiliate links. Those have to be on point relative to the topic of your email and they too must provide value to the person reading.
Here’s how Doug Cunnington of nichesiteproject.com promotes Niche Website Builders Service in an email he sent me.
Notice an affiliate link somewhere?
Option #3 – Selling sponsorships
Partner with a service you love and trust and let them sponsor your email blast. In return you write a blurb about them with a link to their site.
There’s more to email monetization than this. But this is a beginners guide to email list building or email marketing best practices for beginners. Add too much and it might cause “action paralysis” 🙂
The most important thing you can do today is start building your list…Today! Money will quickly follow.
Speaking of new beginnings…
#5 What is the best time to start with email marketing?
There are two schools of thought to this.
One school says that you shouldn’t waste time with email marketing until you have a decent number of daily visitors to your site.
At least 100 per day, but really 500-1000 per day.
Before you reach that point, collecting emails won’t be profitable and you will waste time writing emails no one reads, instead of publishing indexable content on your site. Content that will get you the traffic you need to start building your list.
There is logic to this, I have to admit.
Another school of thought says that you need to start building your list from day one, and that each email subscriber you get is the one you wouldn’t have gotten had you not started from day one.
Uff! What a mess of a sentence, I know:)
And each subscriber is one step forward to making your blog profitable as soon as possible.
Note- Realistically, speaking, you can expect to make money from about 1% of your list and about a $1 on every subscriber, so it pays to start building those numbers quicker.
Which school of thought do I adhere to?
The second one.
It’s all about the mindset. You need to start building your list today because the act of starting is the crucial point from which you will only progress forward.
Don’t put it off because it will eventually turn into a heavy load on your back and you will always have a ready excuse for why you haven’t started building your list; and an even better one on why you can’t do it today.
You’ll feel bad and as if you were missing out on something. So do it now and once you get started, it’s easy to get going and there’s always a way forward.
#6 – How Can I Start to Get New Email Subscribers?
Here are 4 simple ways to to it
Option 1- Have a sidebar optin
Sidebar opt-ins are not that effective, but it’s still better to have them than not. They’re also non-obtrusive and a passive way to get new subs regularly.
Option 2 – Use Content Upgrades
Content upgrades are little post enhancements that act as bait for people to leave their emails in exchange for something
They were popularized by Brian Dean (he gave them that catchy name) but now everyone uses them.
Option 3 – Slide In Forms
This is a sign-up box that appears from the right side of the screen after the reader has reached a certain point on the page.
Slide-in forms are very unobtrusive and work superbly if you have a relevant content upgrade to offer to the person who’s reading your post.
Here’s an example from Hubspot.
Option 4 – Use Your Premium Course
Not applicable to everyone, but if you have a premium course that you sell, when people sign up for it they will give you their email and thus be subscribed to your list.
Just make sure you have them confirm they want to receive emails from you.
#7 – Can Email Marketing Help With SEO?
That’s not what it’s known for, but yes, sending emails to an engaged list can help a ton.
First, a newly published post on your site feels like an orphan. No one’s seen it and Google doesn’t appreciate it.
But if you promote that post to your list and a bunch of people click through, that article will explode in positive user metrics Google closely follows.
When people flood your post and seem to enjoy it, Google notices and gives you a rankings boost.
Second, Some of the people on your list will have blogs and could potentially link to your post if it’s high quality and resonates with them.
People link to whom they know and trust and since they’re on your list you’re obviously not a stranger to them.
For example, Brain Dean built Backlinko’s huge link profile with heavy and persistent cold email outreach.
However, nowadays he no longer emails strangers. Instead he sends his posts to his 250K-strong list and it always results in fresh links coming to that post.
His list is ginormous and the odds are in his favor.
The Top Email Marketing Best Practices for Beginners – Now Your Turn
These were email marketing best practices for beginners. This is NOT all you can possibly know about the topic.
But it is more than enough to get started with building a profitable list.
So, are you going to do it?
Let me know in the comment section below, thanks!
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