Everyone who works in online media or selling digital goods, has noticed the importance of email marketing. But I’m not gonna lie to you: neither I’m an expert about this, nor I pretend to be. However, I can assure I’ve learned a few things “putting my hand on the oven” (a colloquial expression from the country I come from), something that I will share with you today.
A few years ago I started a digital blog that focuses on environmental and sustainable news, articles and educative resources, and right away I understood the importance of newsletters. They are focused on audiences that need first-hand information and news about environmental issues, mainly about new developments in technology and science. My newsletters have no intention of selling something (at least, not selling products or services) but I am aware that I might do that eventually. However, their main goal is to share information.
I’ve always strived for education. I mean, even though if you sell something, it’s important to share something useful with the people who subscribe, or even better, educate them: make them learn something. I don’t have research data or statistics about this, but I don’t know the first person who’s anxious about receiving a product’s newsletter, not even the religulous Apple fans we’re used to find, but if your content is entertaining and knowledgeable, your subscribers will be thankful to stumble upon one of these once in awhile.
So in this first part, I wanna show you 4 things I’ve learned about newsletters that can help you save time, efforts and headaches by the time of executing an email campaign.
1. Being wrong it’s OK, don’t worry
I start with this because, even though you follow all of these advices as mantras, you won’t be excent of making mistakes. As in life, there are things we do that don’t make us proud, but the problem lies not in the fact of you doing those things, but in you not learning about them. In email marketing we make many mistakes that help us learn as well.
For me, spam and respect to people come hand by hand. Each time I get an email I didn’t ask for, is like someone leaving trash at my doorstep. Our inbox is, in a public world, one of the places in which we can have some privacy, sort of like home. That’s why it’s fundamental to understand that someone who gives us their email address is trusting enough in us to let us in, and that gives us important clues on how to act.
Some of the mistakes we make in email marketing are:
- Adding thousands of email addresses without express authorization of their owners: even though you never buy email addresses or mailing lists, and searching for those emails takes time, it’s still a bad thing (even illegal) to import them to any of your lists. Every country has regulated massive email sending in one way or another, with penalties that range from a simple address blockage to harder measures like jail.
- Sending emails frequently: even those who have chosen to receive a daily summary on any subject, will end up bored, unsubscribing or sending your emails to spam (which can be bad for you).
That is why some simple solutions that can help you to avoid these problems are:
- Avoid ‘bulks’: this practice is about doing things in ‘mass’, and although I am aware that they are a great option in several aspects, such as erasing contacts, bulks can create irreversible errors (such as erasing complete lists).
- Use the double opt-in: tools like Mailchimp (which I love) have this very clear. The double opt-in (giving the user the option to confirm whether he wants to receive our emails) allows us to get into the inbox of those who really want to know about us, avoiding spam problems, and enhancing not just our audience engagement, but probably our sales.
- Avoid sending daily newsletters: if you have a lot to tell, you can always make summaries and send them two times a week, weekly, bimonthly, or monthly. This will not only release you from the workload of creating newsletters, but does not annoy your audience.
2. Quality is better than quantity
One of the mistakes that every beginner makes (even many people who have been sending newsletters for a long time) is recollecting emails of thousands of people and importing them in a spreadsheet. This can create a huge database of ‘subscribers’, which you may use to brag, but it won’t be very useful, since the engagement and sales rates in this kind of lists are incredible low. The 3 main reasons for the bad results are:
- Your lists are made of inactive emails.
- Your lists are full of wrong email addresses.
- People never asked for your emails.
To address this, it is recommendable to avoid using the ‘import contacts’ function (unless you have collected the emails directly from the people, as in an event), and also avoid concerning if your subscribers increase slowly. A list that grow organically has higher than average engagement rates, and your subscribers will be more motivated to buy your products or services, as somehow they are interested in what you do. On the other hand, clean your lists continuously, analyzing which subscribers are disenchanted of your newsletters. For this, one of the things that I do is to automatically delete subscribers who haven’t open the newsletter for 6 and 8 email campaigns, a process that I will explain further on an upcoming article.
3. Appearance is everything…
The newsletter design will always be an important part of the entire email marketing campaign, and this is something that basically applies to all humanity disciplines and labors. It is well known that a great design scores points at the beginning. However, the design is not only about making the content looking nice and organized, but being functional. These 3 advices will help you achieving an attractive, and above all, practical design:
- Try to have a standard template that you can work on: this will not only maintain a visual consistency that will give identity to your brand over time, but will save you time in the newsletter construction, which can be tedious.
- The fact that you like it doesn’t mean that your audience is going to like it. Try to find a balance between shapes, colors, and fonts that will allow your audiences to easily interact with your content.
- Your design must adjust to mobiles. You have no excuses to avoid it. Whether you like or not, your email will be read from a mobile device, being a tablet or a smartphone, and if you don’t adjust your newsletter to it, you may be losing an important portion of your audience and potential customers.
4. …but content is still king
Do not let yourself be captivated by a pretty face. Newsletters with a great design should always have an even better content. Content is the reason why people give you their email addresses in the first place, not the nice appearance of your web, so pay special attention to what you say and how you say it. To improve this aspect, these clues may help you:
- Write catchy, short titles that call to action. Make an experiment: visit different websites and social networks, and analyze which titles catch your attention. You will see that many of them meet certain patterns that you can apply on your own titles.
- The simpler, the more digestible. There is something you don’t need to fight with anymore: very few people will read extensive, descriptive paragraphs that you love and dedicate plenty of time writting. Write simple, friendly, and concise lines.
- Accompany the content by images: images are powerful tools to catch people attention because they have the power to simplify complex ideas. Always use images of excellent quality, related with the subject you are talking about.
Remember that contents do not necessarily need to be about your web, product or service. Including information from other sources adds two critical values: with this you are indicating your audience that you are not selfish and that you are capable of understanding others value, and moreover, you are empowering your readers, giving them access to other types of perspectives and contents, different from yours.
In the next part we will see the remaining 4 keys for a successful email marketing campaign, and remember that I will continue to deepen on each of these points on future articles, so subscribing to the newsletter is a good idea :)