Email marketing has continued to gain popularity through difficult economic times because it requires very little upfront investment and offers extremely high returns. However, it can be intimidating when you’re just getting started. This article will help you to tackle the two major hurdles to launching a successful email marketing campaign: building up your list, and designing your content.
Building Up Your List
The basic principle behind building an email list is simple: you need to ask people if you can send them information, and you need to give them a reason to say yes. Where and how you ask people to subscribe to your list depends upon what type of business you run and what ways you are already engaging your customers. If you are the proprietor of a brick and mortar store, then ground zero for email list signups is likely to be your cash register. You may have noticed many large chains now asking for an email address at the checkout, as this is a highly effective technique. If you do most of your business through the web, then you will want to make sure your signup form for the mailing list is prominent on your web site and that it makes a compelling offer to potential subscribers.
Most people trying to build up new email lists are doing so through the web. This is a perfectly acceptable approach, but I do want to stress that offline approaches can be even more powerful. To convert your web visitors into email list subscribers, you first have to make sure that your signup form is noticeable. Too many sites have tiny signup forms hidden in a sidebar, or off on a page of their own. If you are serious about building your list, you have to commit your prime real estate to it. Think of this as free advertising for yourself. Sites tend to have the best response rates from large, attractive signup forms placed above the fold on the front page of the site — if not on every page of the site. Some site owners also report good results from flash or CSS-based “scroll-up” boxes, which display the form in a div that hovers over their actual page content. I would not recommend using a popup window to display your subscription form, as most web browsers now block popup windows by default.
Designing Your Content
The next issue, content design, revolves around you unique proposition to subscribers. What is it that you have to offer them that will be a genuine value? Simply sending out sales pitches repeatedly will cause people to unsubscribe from your mailing list fairly quickly, as will boring company newsletters. You must find a need within your market that can be fulfilled by your mailings. A good strategy is to sign up for some of your competitors’ email lists and think about what types of content you do or do not find value in from them.
By focusing in on these two essential processes, you can begin to develop an email marketing campaign that has a solid foundation. Once you have your mailing list in place, you can begin to experiment with more advanced processes, such as autoresponder campaigns, split testing, and market segmentation. But the real meat and potatoes of email marketing is simply this: asking people to sign up for your mailing list, promising that it will be useful to them, and then delivering on that promise.