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biz ladies: strategies for stellar email marketing

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Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from Tara Gentile, the DIY culture and lifestyle design expert of Scoutie Girl. Tara has previously contributed to the Biz Ladies series with her post on tips and reasons for creating digital products for your business, and today she shares with us 10 misconceptions and strategies for stellar email marketing. In addition to this informative post, you can register for Tara’s free email program on creating more action — and less procrastination — in your life! Thanks, Tara, for this helpful set of tips! — Stephanie

CLICK HERE for the full post after the jump!

Depending on whom you talk to, email marketing is either the greatest thing since sliced bread or the most annoying thing since the [insert breakthrough in male enhancement here].

Although I dabbled with email marketing previously, I’ve spent the last five months working on building a focused list. By examining my ideal customers, considering their needs and crafting content suited just for them, I have built a 3,200-person list. Each week, that list not only brings me sales but sends over 1,200 visitors back to my blog where they can further explore what I have to offer as a writer, thinker and business owner.

I am so grateful for each person on that list and the relationship they have with me.

Sadly, there are many misconceptions about email marketing that prevent many biz ladies from utilizing it to its full potential.

Below, you’ll find 10 common barriers to helping your business rise with email marketing. Not only will I dispel each myth, I’ll provide you with a strategy that you can take back to your business and implement today. This is not so much a “how to,” but a “what now?”

I trust that by the end of this post, you’ll be ready to make a commitment to email marketing and will be able to use the strategies I suggest to create powerful campaigns that build trust, relationships and sales.

1. People will think my email is spam.
If your business is in the extra-large condom market or selling a Midas-touch pyramid scheme, you might have a problem with this. If, on the other hand, you’re someone’s favorite brand of lip balm, the designer of the jewelry someone covets or the service provider someone relies on to make their business run, your email is welcome communication.

Email feels like spam when it’s something we don’t want and we didn’t ask for, or when it doesn’t provide a useful or entertaining experience.

Anything that doesn’t fall into those categories simply isn’t spam.

People have always wanted to have relationships with the businesses they buy from, and email marketing is one way to maintain that relationship with your customers. You can learn more about your customers, explain more about yourself, answer their questions and provide helpful reminders. Great email marketing is far from spam; it’s a tool for staying in touch with those who value you and what you have to offer.

Strategy: Send out a relationship-building email to your list. Share a story about how your business was started or a testimonial from a great customer. Make your email simple and friendly, and then ask your subscribers to reply to the email with a story or testimonial of their own.

2. My emails will just go to the spam folder anyhow.
This myth is related but different from myth 1. Emails go to spam folders when they have questionable subject lines, come from disreputable sources and when their content contains certain buzz words.

Always send mass email from an email service provider (ESP). My favorite? Mail Chimp. It’s their business to help make sure your email goes to your subscribers’ inboxes. It’s also in their best interest to help you craft emails that pass the spam test most of the time.

As for subject lines and buzz words, always consider the “friend test.” If you were emailing a friend, would you use that phrasing? Gimmick? Formatting? If not, rework your email into something conversational and simple.

Strategy: Craft an email offer for your business (new service, discount, promotion) that passes the “friend test.” Keep your tone friendly but direct. Ask your subscribers to perform a certain action (click, share, etc.) just as you would ask a friend.

3. Email marketing is a lot of work.
When you have something to share with your best friend, do you consider how much time it will take to draft the email? Probably not. You might even whip out your smartphone and do it on the spot.

Email marketing doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.

Don’t confuse email marketing with creating newsletters. Newsletters contain far too much information, too many things to do, too much extraneous formatting. They are as cumbersome to create as they are to read.

Keep your emails to one — maybe two — pieces of information. Ask your subscribers to do a specific action. And then sign off.

If time is truly an issue, take the 12 blog posts you write per month and reduce that number to 10 so that you can send out two emails. Take the hour that you spend on Twitter on Wednesdays and write one email. Investing your time in email marketing is almost always an investment that pays off.

Strategy: Think about the one thing going on in your business that you’d like people to know about. What would you like people to do? Read a blog post? Share a link? Reply with feedback? RSVP to an event? Pick one and create an email about that one item and action.

4. The less frequently I email my list, the better.
Many entrepreneurs advertise that, if you sign up for their newsletter, you’ll only receive four mailings per year — no SPAM!

Do you know what happens in the 129,600 minutes between your emails? Customers forget about you and what you have that they want. When your email pops up another time, it’s not a welcome surprise but a curious inconvenience. Delete.

Instead, I love the weekly or biweekly mailings I get from the people and businesses I love. I know when to expect them, I know their names, I dig their content. Open. Click.

Those that only send once in a blue moon train me to delete — I’m not interested anyhow. Those that mail me every week or so are training me to open and click.

Strategy: Consider how many times you could send out emails if you broke your content into smaller pieces. Consider how often you blog and whether you can use email to promote a once-weekly fantastic blog post. Look for opportunities to send email instead of making it a dreaded task.

5. Email marketing is pushy and it’s all about sales.
Similar to social media, email marketing isn’t all about sales. It’s about building relationships and inspiring action.

You know that Tweeting your latest sale over and over again isn’t a good strategy. You know that blogging solely about what’s new in your Etsy shop probably won’t get you many RSS subscribers. Instead, you look for shared interests and experiences, you blog about your creative process and you carry on two-way conversations with your best followers.

Email marketing should be pursued in the same spirit with a similar strategy.

Although it is important to regularly promote your products or services and let your customers know when you have a deal, email marketing should always be conceived with a conversation in mind.

Strategy: Consider a question that your ideal customer has about your business and what you have to offer. Craft an email campaign that addresses this question and offers a benefit to the subscriber.

6. No one will sign up.
No one will sign up if they expect an advertisement from you once a month.

If you offer advice on how to use your product, exclusive discounts or chances to test drive new services, your devoted customers will gladly hand over their email addresses.

The key is communicating that your mailings are not simply boring newsletters but lively pieces of communication that people would be silly not to subscribe to! Match the tone of your blog, Twitter stream or Facebook page with your call to subscribe and your confirmation emails. You might even offer a free style guide, video or ebook in exchange for their sign-up.

Strategy: Place a call to action for your mailing list in your email signature, Twitter background, Facebook page, blog and forum signatures. Make sure that signing up for your mailing list is the primary action you want prospective customers to take.

7. You need to have a massive list for it to matter.
While many professional marketers have lists in the tens of thousands, your business’s list can be extremely effective with a small number of engaged subscribers.

Instead of worrying about appealing to the masses, make sure your emails cater to your devoted fans. Consider their needs, questions and interests when you create each email. Help them to understand that your goal is to be of service to them.

Even if your list is 100 subscribers, when they all look forward to opening your weekly email, great things can happen!

Strategy: Make sure your subscribers know how special they are. Take the time to customize both the graphics and the text of your confirmation emails, thank you page and sign-up form.

8. Unsubscribes are bad.
When you send out emails, people will unsubscribe. But that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong, that they hate you or that your business is going to fail. It simply means they’re not your customer. And they’re not going to be.

In the end, unsubscribes mean you are focusing your attention on the people who are most likely to buy your products. These are people who have already made an investment in you with their trust and time. They’re the people who click your links and read your ideas.

Unsubscribes are the people who don’t. And they’re cool people, too.

They’re just not your people.

Strategy: Write emails for the people who stay subscribed, not the people who might unsubscribe. Be bold, be direct and be friendly.

9. My emails will be irrelevant.
It’s up to you to know your subscribers. It’s up to you to have a profile of your ideal customer. It’s up to you to anticipate their questions with answers and their needs with products.

Every exercise that you’ve ever done to help you understand your customers will help you craft relevant emails. Every craft show, blog post, Tweet, or Facebook update that gets you feedback about your work is research for your email marketing.

Further, you can use a survey to find out more about those who subscribe to your list already. Keep your questions direct, customer-focused and short. Ask for help and receive it.

Strategy: Create a survey or ask a question in an email that helps you better understand your subscriber. Use the answers to write another email a week later.

10. It’s just not me.
Twitter, Facebook, blogging, advertisements, press releases — you can pick and choose. Email marketing is something that will grow your business, boost your bottom line and ease your workload. I know because I’ve done it myself, and I’ve seen countless others do the same.

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for creating email marketing that works, but I can assure you that if you don’t try it, it won’t work.

On a daily basis, you write emails to friends and family. You sit in coffee shops and make conversation with business contacts. You attend conferences and meet new people. You craft witty sayings in 140 characters or less.

This is you and you can do it.

Strategy: Give it a try.

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24 Comments

Raychel

Thanks for busting these myths. I like the suggestion to keep the tone as if talking with a friend. I tend to over-think things then give up. Like most things, it seems like it’s a learning process, but you’ve got to jump in and try.

Wit and Whistle

Really great points. Although for me #4 is true. I definitely prefer to be emailed less frequently. If a business sends me weekly emails I immediately unsubscribe. One email every month or two is plenty!

NOTyourrunofthemill

Wow! Thank you for the informative article. Whenever I get a “please remove me from your list” I am crushed, I take it way too personally. Although they originally asked to be put on my “list” … you are right they are not my target demographic. Just nice people who may have changed their mind. It’s allowed!

Jane

Great advice Tara. This has given me the motivation and understanding to give email marketing a go. Thank you!

gretchenmist/belinda

thanks so much Tara for this piece. perfect timing ~ am just about to embark on my first email tomorrow.
this has helped to focus my thoughts and energy :)

Eva @ Four Leaf Clover

Great post! Thank you so much for writing and sharing it with us! Will definitely strongly consider sending out emails! I’m bookmarking your site and Mail Chimp!

Jeanie

I’ve been to busy to sit and write an email because I kept thinking it has to be like a newsletter. I was over joyed when I read it’s better if it’s not! YAY. Emails are something I’m keen to do, I’ve just been too fearful of where to start. This helps a lot. Thanks!

ann wood

Thanks so much for this. Great and insightful information thoughtfully and clearly presented – the very best article on the subject of email marketing I have ever come across – thanks again, I learned a bunch.

Meagan

What a great article Tara! I love how you reiterate that email marketing should be simple! I get totally overwhelmed when I see a “newsletter” from someone {even a business I like} that is long & covered with words. It’s overwhelming. I’m busy & I don’t have time to read a book – even a short one! LOL! I like emails that give quick, straight-to-the-point advice or a call to action. Thanks!

Tania Welch

This was briliant! I think the biggest piece of wonderful I take away from this information is the fact that it’s ok to email more than once a month AND when I do it doesn’t have to be of the “newsletter” kind. A quick e-mail is ok. So good to know. :)

Nowvintage

Excellent piece! So many true things for me.. Writing like its your friends email is so powerful! I am still on step one tho, being both an artist and a vintage seller seems to keep me from starting a blog. This is a big balancing act I seem not to be managing.. You are amazing at using visualizations that stick! Thanks for the post.

Tsilli Pines

Hi Tara — I’m a long-time admirer of all that you do. This is a great primer. One question for you: if you have multiple brands, do you recommend one central list? Segmenting? Separate lists?

Lindsay

What great advice, thank you! We have been using Mailchimp for just over a year now…and they are fantastic!!! I highly recommend them as well. I’ve been playing around with our email formats and frequency and I am excited to see that a lot of my findings are on this list, along with tons of new ideas. Thank you!

Sara

Can I just say thank you? I’ve been growing my email list, but didn’t know what to do with it. After reading this, I did as you recommended. I stopped working on a post and set up my first email campaign (in Mail Chimp). I basically asked my subscribers what diy tutorials they would like to see. I was very nervous sending it out. But, I was remembering that unsubscribes are not bad. And what’s the point in having a list if you aren’t going to make it work for you. Much to my surprise I’ve gotten responses four times more than unsubscribes. Thank you SO much for encouraging me to make this huge step I knew I needed to make.

Pretty Inspirational

What a great article! I just used Mail Chimp for my very first email campaign. It went great. It drove a ton of readers to my blog and their reporting features are fantastic. Facebook has been good too but I’m finding many of my ideal clients either don’t have a facebook account or use it too infrequently. I was thinking of doing just a monthly email but after reading your post I might make it twice a month. Just hard to juggle facebook, blog, and email campaigns plus serve my interior design clients! Thanks again for your article.

Jessy

Thank you for such a wonderful blog post. Wow, it got me totally inspired. Ideas are running around the brain…Thanks!!!

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