Email Marketing Basics: All You Need To Get Started

By Daniel Scocco

email marketing basicsEmail marketing is one of the most effective marketing channels on the Internet. You can use it to promote your websites, to interact with your customers, to make money with affiliate offers and so on. Yet, the vast majority of bloggers and website owners still neglect email marketing.

That is why I decided to write a quick guide with all you need to know to get started on email marketing. Enjoy.

What Is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is a form of direct marketing that uses email as its communication channel. Direct marketing is an umbrella term used to describe all marketing forms that go straight to the end user, thus not passing through the traditional advertising channels, which include television, print and radio.

Companies using email marketing basically collect the email addresses of prospects and clients, and then send email messages to those subscribers, containing information about the products, special offers and so on. The company must explicitly ask permission to collect the email address and send future messages, and this is usually done with a double opt-in process (where the subscribe must fill a form with his name and email address, and then click on a confirmation link sent via email).

Why You Should Use Email Marketing

Over the last years email marketing started being used by a wide range of individuals, including bloggers, website owners, affiliate marketers and small business owners. This happened because email marketing proved to be one of the most effective marketing channels online.

Email messages get delivered straight to the subscriber (as opposed to blog posts, banner ads or online articles, which require the person to visit your website). Secondly, if you craft the content of your email newsletter carefully, you’ll be able to build a solid relationship with your subscribers, which will yield really high conversion rates (i.e., your subscribers will pay attention to what you recommend to them, and will actually take action based on it).

Finally, email marketing is very flexible, and it can be used for a wide range of purposes. You could use it to drive more traffic to your website, to promote affiliate offers, to build a relationship with your existing customers, to launch new projects and so on.

Email Marketing is NOT Spam

Many people are reluctant to start using email marketing because they associate it with spam. In other words, they believe that email marketing is the art of spamming other people and trying to make money while doing it.

This is obviously a confusion between the tool and how you use the tool. Email marketing is just a marketing tool. How you use it is a completely different story. Sure, some people use email marketing to spam, but you’ll find that most use it legitimately and ethically.

In fact if you subscribe to the email newsletter of any reputable company, blogger or online marketer I am sure you’ll be surprised by the quality of the content you’ll get from it.

It is perfectly possible, therefore, to use email marketing without annoying your users. You just need to make sure the content of your email newsletter will be top notch and relevant to your subscribers. If you do that they will actually thank you for your newsletter, and that is what modern marketing is all about.

The Effectiveness of Email Marketing In Numbers

Let’s use an example to illustrate why email marketing is such an effective marketing channel.

Suppose there are two bloggers, Mark and John. Mark focuses exclusively on growing his traffic and RSS readership, while John focuses on growing his traffic and his email list. After six months or so Mark is receiving 1,000 unique visitors per day, and has 3,000 RSS subscribers. John, on the other hand, also is receiving 1,000 unique visitors, but he has 3,000 email subscribers instead.

Now suppose both bloggers launch a paid eBook. The content and price of the ebooks is very similar. Mark promotes the launch of his eBook by writing a post on his blog about it. John, on the other hand, writes a post about the eBook but also sends an email to his list, encouraging the subscribers to purchase the eBook.

Who do you think will get better results? I am ready to bet that John would sell at least twice as many eBooks as Mark. Why is that? Because John has a much stronger relationship with his 3,000 email subscribers (provided he sent them quality content over time) when compared to the relationship Mark has with his 3,000 RSS subscribers. On top of that, once John send his email message he is sure most of his 3,000 email subscribers will read, while only a fraction of Mark’s 3,000 RSS subscribers will do the same.

Getting Started in 4 Steps

Are you convinced that email marketing rocks? Good. Below you’ll find four simple steps that you must follow to get started with it.

Step 1: Getting an Email Marketing Software

The first thing you need is an email marketing software. That is, a software that will let you collect email addresses, send a messages to them, create an auto-responder, get statistics and so on. There are basically two types of email marketing software: self-hosted and hosted.

Self-hosted means that you’ll need to install and host the software yourself, on your own server. This option is only recommended to people with technical skills and time available.

Hosted solutions are a better option for most users, as the company will host the software for you, and you’ll just need to login on their website to manage your email lists.

When choosing an email marketing company you need to pay attention to two factors: the deliverability rate, which is what percentage of the emails they send actually reach the end user, and the features available (e.g., pre-made web forms, auto-responder options, scheduling options and so on).

I use a company called Aweber.com, and I recommend them exactly because they are very good at both factors I mentioned above. Their deliverability rate is considered by many as the best in the industry, and their control panel has more features than you could ask for. The basic plan starts at $19.90 per month.

If you research around you’ll find that this is the standard price. It is not cheap if you are just getting started, but it should be worth it. Remember that apart from the deliverability rate factor, there is also the compliance with the anti-spam laws. By using a company like Aweber you are sure that your email lists and messages are compliant with everything.

Step 2: Getting Subscribers

Once your signed-up with an email marketing company you’ll just need to login into your account, create your first email list, and then create a web form that your visitors will use to subscribe. Most companies have very simple graphic interfaces to help your create your forms, and you’ll just need to drag and drop the fields around. Aweber also has a wide range of pre-made forms you can choose from. The result will be a piece of code (either a JavaScript or HTML) that you’ll need to paste on your website.

You should consider displaying your subscription form in two spots: on top of the sidebar and at the bottom of single posts. These two spots are very visible, and usually they have highest conversion rates. The spot below single posts performs particularly well, because people will look for something to do after they are done reading your content.

Aweber also offers a feature called “Light box,” which will display your subscription form like a pop-up. This feature is a bit intrusive, but usually it has a very high conversion rate, so it is worth a try. You can also specify how often visitors should see the light box, so you won’t need to annoy your visitors permanently.

There is one thing you can do that will drastically increase the number of subscribers you’ll get, regardless of where you’ll display your web forms: to offer a freebie as an incentive for people who join your list..

The most common freebie is an eBook or a report that you give away to people subscribing to your email list. But depending on your niche it could be something else, including a software, a collection of icons or images, audio or video files and so on. It just needs to be something valuable to your audience, as to encourage them to subscribe.

Once your freebie is ready you’ll just need to adapt your subscription forms accordingly. For example, you could include an image of the freebie (e.g., the eBook or software cover), and you could use the headline to call people to action (e.g., “Subscribe to my newsletter and get a free eBook!”).

Delivering the freebie is very easy. All you have to do is to upload it to a secret folder inside your website, and them to create an auto-responder sequence on your email software, where the first email is sent to new subscribers right way, containing the download link for the freebie. Note that on Aweber the auto-responder found under “Messages” and then “Follow-Up.”

Step 3: Building Relationships

The value of an email list is a consequence of two factors: the size of the list, and its responsiveness. In other words, focusing on growing the size of your list alone is not enough. You need to make sure that your have a good relationship with your subscribers as well, else they will just ignore your messages. How do you achieve this? By sending top quality content to your list.

It would be a good idea to create an auto-responder sequence that all your new subscribers will go through. The first email on the sequence will be sent right away, and it is just an introductory message with the download link to your freebie.

The second email should be sent 2 or 3 days after the first one, containing something really useful to your audience. It could be a tip that will help them solve a problem, a tool that is available online and that they will find useful, and so on.

The third email should be sent 7 days after the second one, and it should contain another really useful piece of content. These first 3 or 4 emails are really important because they will set the tone of your newsletter, and build an initial trust with your audience. If you fail to deliver value right away, many of your subscribers will unsubscribe (after all they already got the freebie they were looking for).

Step 4: Promoting Your Stuff

After the third or fourth email you should have already have a good relationship with your subscribers, so you can start promoting your own stuff (e.g., your products, posts on your blog, affiliate offers and so on). Just make sure to make it with moderation, else people will unsubscribe.

For example, you could send one promotional message every two or three content messages (e.g., messages with valuable stuff). This way your subscribers will keep getting value from your email messages, and they will actually look forward to receive them every week.

As for the frequency of the messages, there is no right or wrong, but weekly tends to be the standard around the web.

That is it! If you have any questions or doubts let me know through a comment below and I’ll be glad to answer them.



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43 Responses to “Email Marketing Basics: All You Need To Get Started”

  • Mike – negocio en internet

    E-mail marketing is the most important aspect of an online bussiness.
    very interesting basics on this article i really agree with all of them, they say “the money is in the list”

    i think the basic points in this article are easy to follow.
    thnks for sharing all these points.

    As you said in the article many people dont use e-mail marketing.

    no matter how many times we repeat to people about the list importance they some of them never seem to understand.

    Cheers!

  • Juan – Vender Desde Casa

    Email marketing is one of the most effective ways in marketing online as it effectively manages the purposes of article publishing and direct selling. This is why opting for this method is a great decision, especially if you’re just starting out your online marketing venture.

    Thanks!

    Juan

  • Joy

    Hey Daniel,

    A very timely post for me. I have been blogging now for 3 months and do not have an email list, two reasons, cost and nervous about the whole process. You have convinced me that it is necessary, so will try an organise finances and get a move on with an email list. I really wasn’t exactly sure what I would put in an email series, but thanks to your post I feel more confident. Thank you

    Cheers

    Joy

  • Sorin

    Hey Daniel,
    The Money is in the list!
    Really great post, to the point and simple to follow. You are right about not enough people using email marketing, it’s powerful stuff.

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