Sometimes a new trend comes along that’s so huge that it overwhelms everything in its path.
That’s how I see the relationship between social media and email marketing.
Social media is the darling of digital marketing these days, and while there are ways social media can be used to build a business, email marketing will ALWAYS be an integral part of the savvy online marketers’ toolkit.
(Side note: for an excellent discussion of social media vs. email marketing, check out Aubrey Stork’s post here.)
So this post is focused on the love of my life. That neglected redheaded stepchild: email marketing.
In this post, you’ll learn four advanced email marketing tactics that I use to build tighter relationships with my subscribers (and achieve much higher sales):
- Using auto-responders to build relationships
- Segmenting email lists for better targeting
- Use an opt-in form to get inside your prospect’s head
- Monitoring progress through key metrics
Advanced Email Marketing Tactic #1: Use Autoresponders to Build Relationships
Quick: what should your #1 goal be for your email marketing campaigns? I alluded to it in the sub-title above:
The goal of your email marketing should be to build trust with your subscribers.
That might seem a little counter-intuitive. I can hear you saying “Shouldn’t my goal be to drive huge sales and make lots of money?” No doubt we all want to make money from our online business. But sales (or donations, or whatever behavior you’re trying to motivate) only come after trust is established. You’ve heard the saying before that people only buy from those that they “know, like, and trust”? Well, there’s quite a bit of research to prove that trust is a huge factor in purchasing decisions.
In a study, conducted by the International Journal of Engineering Research and Development (yes, that’s right), when compared to Social Presence and Past Experience, it was determined that “Trust was the strongest factor to affect the intention to purchase online and in the decision-making process”.
In his book, “Email Marketing by the Numbers” (highly recommended, by the way), Chris Baggott outlines a number of ways that trust can be built through email. Here are two that I think are especially important:
1. Send relevant content. This is a no-brainer, right? We should only send to our subscribers the content that interests them, or applies to their needs.
Unfortunately, many marketers take the “spray-and-pray” approach, where they send out the same messages and offers to their entire list. I’ll bet you’ve been on the
receiving end of an internet marketing “guru” who follows this practice. And I’ll wager that you eventually unsubscribed from their list out of disgust.
The solution to spray-and-pray is to (1) find out exactly what information your subscribers are looking for, and then (2) set up your email marketing system so it only sends out that information. I’ll tell you how to do both below.
2. Send messages at the right time. This follows from the previous point: along with the right content, you want to send email messages at the right TIME.
Marketing is all about making the right offer to the right person at the right time (which is why pay-per-click advertising can be hugely powerful).
If you had an email system that presented an offer to someone at the exact moment that they expressed interest, wouldn’t that be awesome?
It turns out that such a system DOES exist! It’s called an email autoresponder.
What Is An Email Autoresponder?
An email autoresponder is simply an email service that you can use to pre-load strategic messages into and program it to send those emails out to your subscribers at pre-determined intervals.
Have you ever signed up for an e-course? Well, the emails that you received after doing so probably weren’t sent manually – they were pre-programmed into an auto-responder by whoever created the e-course.
One example of an extremely popular auto-responder service is Aweber.com. Aweber allows you to load up as many email messages as you want, then set the interval for how often those emails should go out.
I was an Aweber customer for years, and built lists in health niches of up to 12,000 subscribers (per list). Typically, I would load up to 30 autoresponder messages per list, and program them to go out 4-7 days apart. The messages were split 80/20 (or maybe 70/30) between pure useful content and offers.
I now use a more sophisticated email autoresponder service called Ontraport (formerly Office Autopilot).
The biggest difference between Aweber and Ontraport is the latter uses “tags” that allow your subscribers to self-segment themselves.
Sound a little confusing? Let me go through an example to make it more concrete.
Say you have a website on woodworking, and you sell information products (such as ebooks and online instructional videos) that show your customers how to build their own shed, deck, and so on.
On your homepage you might have a lead magnet, say a 7-day e-course on the most popular types of decks. In that e-course, you would cover the 5 most-popular types of decks in the U.S.
Now, say you also sold an ebook on each type of popular deck for $47. In your e-course, an autoresponder series, you’d want to educate subscribers on the various types of decks, but you’d also (ultimately) want to sell your ebooks.
The best way to do so would be to find out from subscribers which type of deck(s) they were interested in. How could you do that?
With regular autoresponder services, like Aweber, you can track your subscriber’s clicks on the email links you include within the series.
So, one way of determining which type of deck a subscriber is interested in would be to include links to articles on particular deck types in your emails. You can then monitor which links each subscriber clicks on.
If that sounds pretty onerous, you’re right! That’s where services like Ontraport come in.
Ontraport lets you set up your autoresponder, so that when a subscriber clicks a link in an email a “tag” is automatically assigned to that subscriber’s account.
For example, if one of the emails in your e-course was on “The 3 Least-Expensive Decks You Can Build Yourself”, you could include in that email links to web articles on each of the three types of deck.
When a subscriber clicks to read about platform decks, for example, Ontraport would automatically tag them as being interested in that type of deck.
What’s even better about systems like Ontraport is that you can automatically assign subscribers to a new autoresponder sequence when they click on certain links.
So, to continue the example from above, if a person clicked on a link to an article on platform decks, you could set up the tag so they are automatically assigned to an autoresponder mini-sequence on platform decks. (Of course, you would have to let the subscriber know that you’ve signed them up for the mini-course! But you get my point – this is powerful stuff.)
Examples of Interactions That Should Trigger an Automated Email
Beyond clicks on email links, here are some “transactions” that you can also use to trigger an automated email according to Baggott:
– A purchase – You can use this opportunity to sell related products or resources that can enhance their purchase experience.
– Attendance at a webinar – If some one attends a webinar, you can offer them a resource at the end of the webinar that helps them put the knowledge they’ve learned in the webinar in action.
– Download of a white paper/report – The fact they downloaded your content tells you that they’re interested. Use that information to send similar content of interest.
– Registration or email opt-in – After they give you their coveted email address, it’s time to flex your muscles! Show them the benefits and the awesome value that you have to offer.
– Customer service call – Follow up with your customers and request feedback to ensure that you have a happy customer.
– Email interaction – Send emails to your audience and ask them to reply with their top questions about DIY decks, or whatever service you offer.
– Shopping but not purchasing – Have you ever gotten an email or a phone call from a company website where you were shopping, but didn’t seal the deal? It really says something when companies take the extra step to respond to the customer’s needs and give them a second chance to make their purchase. This is a sure way to stand out from the rest!
– A break in pattern – Have a subscriber that usually opens your emails right away, but hasn’t done so in while? Engage them again with a special response to show them that you are paying attention to their behaviors. The customer gets the feeling that they aren’t just a number to you and that they really matter to your business.
– A completed survey – Reward users who take the time to answer questions that are valuable to your business by sending them bonus content or a special offer. Your users are insanely busy just like you. If they took the time to contribute to your cause, treat them like gold and be generous!
Advanced Email Marketing Tactic #2: Use an Email Opt-in to Get Inside Your Subscriber’s Brain
they’re taken to a lame “thanks for signing up” page.
HUGE mistake! Marketers who follow that “plain Jane” approach are missing a big opportunity to collect valuable information on their subscribers – information on WHY the person just opted in, and what exactly their needs are.
Here are three ways you can use your opt-in process to get inside your subscriber’s head:
(1) Add a “What’s your most important question about x” question to the opt-in form.
(2a) Include a brief survey on the opt-in thank-you page
(2b) Allow subscribers to customize the content you’ll send them on the opt-in thank-you page
(3) Include an invitation to a brief survey in the autoresponder thank-you email.
LeadPages experienced a 60% increase in email conversions by using a two-step opt-in process to determine how often subscribers would like to receive emails. The first step was to ask the multiple-choice question: How often would you like to receive updates? The second step was to request the user’s email address.
You can use a plugin like OptinSkin to create a custom opt-in box to convert your audience with advanced email opt-in features.
There should be an authentic balance between the importance you place on your audience’s desires and the weight placed on the offer. If you sell too hard, you may repel potential customers. Baggott also mentions a great rule of thumb: the 40-40-20 rule. Which means 40% weight on the audience, 40% on the offer, and 20% on the creative. Brilliant! I completely agree with that weighting.
A two step email opt-in process gives you the flexibility to build relationships and trust throughout the email opt-in process while gaining valuable information that can help you better serve your customers.
Advanced Email Marketing Tactic #3: Segment Your Email List
Instead of barreling all your subscribers into one pool, you can use segmentation to give your audience the personalized customer service they deserve.
Segmentation personifies your subscriber base and categorizes them based on their interests. This is a great way to get to know your audience. “Segmentation” simply involves grouping your email subscribers by characteristics that they have in common.
Why would you want to do that?
Simple: by grouping your email subscribers, you can send messages, tips, and offers that MEET THEIR NEEDS EXACTLY.
Take a second to read that again, because it’s hugely important. In my opinion, the ultimate goal of marketing is to influence behavior – to get someone to do
something. That something could be purchasing a product or service, making a
donation, or any other action that a marketer has in mind.
Johnny Cupcakes wanted to improve the response from their email marketing campaigns, so they started using a new segmentation list, dividing their 80,000 customer base into categories by gender, preferences and media habits.
By devoting special attention to the nuance’s of their customer base, Johhny Cupcakes saw a 42% increase in click-through rates and a 123% increase in conversion rates!
If we take a “shotgun” approach to our email marketing, we’re simply blasting out
the same messages to all our subscribers. A much more targeted approach is to group our subscribers and send them messages that are targeted to their specific needs.
How to Start Your Segmentation
Before you even start trying to segment your email subscribers, you need to answer this straightforward question:
“What do I want to achieve from segmenting my list?”
Easy to ask, not so easy to answer! Most people will answer this question by saying “I want to make more money!” Wrong answer, in my opinion.
We all want to make more money from our online businesses, but keep in mind that email marketing is all about building relationships, and the best way to use email to increase revenue is to improve the relationships you have with your prospects and existing customers.
So here’s what the objective of my email segmentation is: “To send out the most relevant, targeted information and offers to my list as possible”.
In other words, I segment my list, so I can do the opposite of the “spray and pray”
approach taken by some internet marketers. I want to send tips, advice, and offers that are highly-relevant to the needs of my subscribers.
Once you’ve established the OBJECTIVE of segmentation for your business, you’ll find it much easier to determine HOW to segment your subscribers. In the section below, I describe the most common ways of segmenting subscribers or customers, and I also tell you how I segment my own email list.
5 Ways to Segment Your Email List
There are many ways that you can segment (or group) your email subscribers. Here are — (I’ve borrowed a few from Chris Baggott and added a few more):
(1) Segment by demographics (such as age, sex, marital status, etc.) This is a good starting point, because it will allow you to start to visualizing your “ideal” customer.
The problem with demographic information, though, is that it doesn’t tell you what’s going on inside the head of your audience, nor is it a very good predictor of behavior.
For example, let’s assume you’ve surveyed your list and discovered that one of your email segments consists of males in their 50s. Within that segment there could be 55-year-old white farmers living in Iowa, and 52-year-old Chinese immigrants in New York City.
Now, those two groups COULD have a lot of similar needs. But I think you get my point: just because people share the demographic profile doesn’t mean they think the same or have similar needs, wants, or aspirations.
(2) Segment by “psychographics”. You can think of psychographic information by the initials “AIO”: Activities, Interests, and Opinions.
(3) Segment by behavior. Some marketers (and psychologists) consider past behavior to be the most accurate predictor of future behavior, simply because human beings are such creatures of habit. Think about it: are there things that you do day-in and day-out, without fail – even if those things aren’t good for you?
One way to assess a customer’s value is by using the RFM model, Recency, Frequency and Monetary Value.
Recency – how recently did the customer make a purchase?
Frequency – how often does the customer buy?
Monetary value – how much does the customer spend?
If you look at the customer’s past purchasing behaviors, you can better predict what they will do in the future and position your business to be in the right place at the right time.
(4) Segment by subscriber needs. This is the way I segment my list for my health websites.
My sites provide information on treatments for a particular health condition, and I also sell information products with in-depth information on those treatments.
But not every treatment applies to every one of my subscribers. Whether a treatment will work or not depends on the cause of the health condition. So I’ve segmented my list based on the CAUSE of a subscriber’s health condition, because this allows me to send only information on treatments that are relevant to the subscriber.
Advanced Email Marketing Tactic #4: Measure What Matters (6 Key Email Metrics)
Measuring your progress can help you figure out the best changes to make in order to grow your email list.
QualityStocks began testing various aspects of their email opt-in form by adding a lightbox on their About page along with other minor changes discovered by measuring email metrics and increased their email conversions by 99%.
Here are the key email metrics that I track:
– Deliverability rate: Measure how many emails were actually sent, without bouncing back.
– Open rate: How many people actually open your emails when it comes to your inbox? Pay close attention to how your subject lines perform in relation to your open rate.
– “Engaged” vs “disengaged” subscribers: I periodically search my email database for subscribers who haven’t opened a message in the past 90 days, and I send them a message asking if they’re still interested in hearing from me.
– Clickthrough rate: Keep track of who’s clicking on which links to get an idea of what topics and links interest your subscribers.
– Unsubscribe rate: This is a significant indicator of which type of content particular users prefer, and what types of content annoy your users.
– Conversion rate: Out of the people who opened the email, how many people completed the course of action that you intended, such as downloading a report, replying to the email, watching a video, buying a product, etc.
If social media is George Clooney, email marketing is Shane MacGowan: unglamorous, but a workhorse with a long track record.
If you already have a list and want to build better relationships with your subscribers, I’ve outlined three advanced tactics in this post: get your autoresponder going, segment your list, and make sure to track your progress by measuring what matters.
And if you’re interested in learning more about email marketing, here are some other great reads:
- Chris Baggott’s excellent book Email Marketing by the Num8ers
- Aubrey Stork’s Email Best Practices Checklist
- Email Marketing: How to Start Building a List and Developing Relationships in Your Sleep
- How to Grow an Email List: 7 Steps to Get You Started