The cost effectiveness of email marketing has made it one of the most sought-after marketing specialties this decade. Studies show that consumers are increasingly receptive to this type of marketing, particularly in the lucrative younger demographics, including young professionals. This guide will walk you through the process of beginning a successful email marketing campaign while avoiding common pitfalls.

Things You Will Need

  • A reliable web host that allows bulk emailing, or a separate SMTP email account for sending.
  • A mature email marketing solution such as ActiveCampaign's Email Marketing software.

Step 1

Email marketing is like any other type of marketing in that you must understand who it is that you are trying to sell to. This is where knowledge of formal marketing and advertising can be extremely useful. If you or someone on your team has formal education in this field, you will be well-prepared to start email marketing, because it offers some unique features for the informed marketer. If you do not have this benefit, it may be difficult to sort through the thousands of books, articles, and blogs about this topic, so an introductory marketing class at your local community college is advisable to help you become an informed consumer of the tremendous information that is available.

The basic message that you need to understand is this: different types of people react to different things in different ways. So you need to determine who your target demographics are, and then assess what types of factors motivate them to take the type of action that you want them to take.

Step 2

The first thing that pops into most people's minds is "Where can I buy an email list?" This is entirely the wrong question to ask, for a couple of different reasons. First of all, a quality "opt-in" list is going to cost you a lot more money than you are likely to make from it, because the people you are emailing have almost no chance of actually wanting to receive your message. Even an expensive, supposedly highly qualified mailing list will give you a very poor conversion rate, and very likely a 0% conversion rate.

The second reason not to buy an email list is that every person who marks your message as spam makes it less likely that all the other potential recipients will ever see the message in their inbox. Spam filtration is largely collectivized now, which is good for consumers and bad for spammers. So don't be a spammer. If you're going to succeed at email marketing, you want to make sure that nobody gets your messages unless they want them. Email marketing software makes it easy to require that your subscribers opt in a second time by clicking a confirmation link from their browser, and it is highly recommended that you take advantage of this feature. You should also be sure to include an obvious unsubscribe link in every message, to prevent would-be unsubscribers from simply marking your messages as spam.

If you take the time to build your mailing list, and send out quality content to that list, you will enjoy high rates of reader retention and conversion. Some techniques for building your mailing list include: offering giveaways, discounts, or other incentives for joining; providing exclusive content to your subscribers that will have inherent value to your target market; and directly asking visitors to your web site and brick & mortar location to join.

Step 3

Copywriting is another issue that some formal education can be helpful in, but the basics are simple. First and formost, create a compelling narrative for your readers. Use vivid and interesting language, share stories that relate to the issue at hand, and demonstrate how the issue relates to the reader personally. Next, offer up a unique selling proposition. This is simply the reason why the reader stands to benefit uniquely from what you have to offer. Focus on emotional benefits, rather than feature, and explain in plenty of detail how your product or service solves an important problem in their lives.

Try to come up with a list of objections that you imagine your reader might have to your proposition, and systematically counter them. By doing this before the reader has time to think about what objections they might have, you are able to innoculate them against these types of impure thoughts. Finally, when the benefits are clear and the objections are eliminated, make a clear and specific call to action. Tell the reader exactly what you want them to do and how to do it.

Step 4

The reason I have recommended ActiveCampaign's Email Marketing software over all the other packages on the market is that it is the most mature application for this critical step in the email campaign: evaluating the response your messages are getting and adapting your strategy accordingly. This software allows you to split your lists based on the types of actions that the recipients have taken. So you can, for example, segregate all the people who have never responded to your messages and start A/B testing different types of approaches on them that might be too daring for people you have already seen some response from. Over time, you can get to know exactly which groups of readers respond to which types of messages, and send them each only what you already know will work.
Email marketing is as challenging as any other form of marketing, but the barriers to entry are decidedly lower. Take the time in the beginning to follow this guideline so that you don't alienate some of your best leads early on. And don't be afraid to ask people to join your list; you are likely to be surprised how many of your clients will be interested enough in what you have to offer.

Tips & Warnings

  • To maximize the percentage of recipients who open and read you email, think about what day of the week and time of day they will be most likely to have a lull in their activities and be able to entertain your message. For many business-oriented clients, for example, afternoons in the middle of the week tend to see the highest response rate.
  • You can also improve your open/read percentage by making sure the first line of the message is compelling. Many email clients display the first 50 characters or so as a kind of teaser, and readers use these teasers to decide whether the messages are worth their time.