The trick for email marketers these days is threefold: to avoid being categorized as spam, to get read, and to inspire action. Admittedly, hitting all of these targets sounds a bit daunting, but take heart: because of their relative low cost, online marketing generally has a better return on investment than traditional marketing techniques, and email in particular consistently provides one of the highest ROI among online tools. So it is possible to engage in successful email marketing. Let’s talk about how.
First up, your contact list. Specifically, how to grow your list organically:
Grow Your List:
- For the love of all that’s good, stop buying mailing lists. These are not targeted contacts. Sure, they might fit some general demographics, but they aren’t necessarily anyone who’s ever heard of you or has any interest in your services. It’s likely you’ll be flagged as spam; if this happens enough, you could be blacklisted. Instead…
- Leverage existing contacts. Encourage forwarding and sharing. Include social media sharing, email, and subscribe buttons in your emails.
- Present calls-to-action on your website. If you’re offering valuable content (whitepapers, guides, e-books, etc.), put this content behind a registration form on your website. If a visitor wants to access certain content, they’ll have to provide a valid email address. The downside: this might turn some visitors away. The upside: the ones who do provide an address will likely be very interested in your content and, by extension, your industry and services.
- Collect addresses through events and partnerships. Whether online (like a webinar) or offline (like a tradeshow or conference), give everyone you network with an opportunity to join your mailing list. Do the same for partnerships or shared projects. Be sure to follow up the event or joint venture with a personal email to solidify the effort and add legitimacy to future email outreach.
- Social Media. Share quality content and contacts will follow.
Remember to keep your registration process simple. Don’t ask for more than three pieces of personal information (such as name, company, industry, website, or location). Be sure to ask for the information that you can best leverage to nurture leads.
As you grow your list and get engaged, here are some best practices for solid results.
- Set goals. These can be relatively soft (offer industry-relevant content to educate readers and grow reputation); or more quantifiable (increase website click-through rate by X%, grow email list by X subscribers, lower unsubscribes by X%). It is best, when possible, to set goals with specific numbers. This will provide clarity and make it easier to quantify your successes.
- Don’t give a sales pitch. Let your content do the talking for you. If it’s relevant and high quality, it will sell you without the risk of a hard pitch pushing the reader away.
- Set a schedule. There’s no single right frequency. It will depend on your content and audience. Just make sure you’re predictable and dependable. If someone signs up for a weekly newsletter, make sure you’re sending a weekly newsletter.
- Find the right topics. Your content should be relevant to your mailing list and be consistent with your brand messaging. Topics should consist of:
o Announcements. Let your audience know about new content (e-books, whitepapers, etc.) and upcoming events (webinars, conferences, speaking engagements, etc.)
o News. Something big going on in your industry or your firm? Keep your audience in the loop; you never know when one of these developments is in line with their needs or interests.
o Hard offers. When the time is right, offer your audience the opportunity to engage with you more closely—not a hard sell, but something like a free consultation or review.
- Calls to action. In other words, give the reader something to do or a deeper way to engage with you. These can be fairly distant early in the marketing process, like giving the reader a link to a new blog post. Deeper engagement-level calls to action include participation in webinars or consultations. Here are a few best practices to ensure your calls to action are effective but non-intrusive:
o Limit one call to action per email.
o Repeat it. Present it twice, possibly three times in longer emails.
o If there’s a deadline, point it out. Create a sense of urgency.
Remember, the more your potential customers know about you, the more likely they are to trust you—and to understand the ways you can meet their needs. Grow your list organically and keep your content relevant and high quality. Your emails will become a valued and actionable contribution to your audience’s inbox—as well as a way of building relationships and growing new business.
About the Author:
Sylvia Montgomery is a Senior Partner at Hinge, a marketing and branding firm for professional services. At Hinge, Sylvia provides strategic counsel to national clients. She is a co-author of Inside the Buyer’s Brain and Online Marketing for Professional Services. You can follow Sylvia on Twitter @BrandStrong.
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