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5 Ways To Make An Email Newsletter Your Best Sales Tool

email newsletterNo matter how enamored you may be with social media, email still outpunches just about every tool out there when it comes to cost effective lead conversion.

Now, done correctly, what this really means is effectively using email communication in conjunction with efforts to produce educational content, amplify content throughout social media channels and turn Twitter followers into email subscribers.

It’s integration as much as anything that makes email work, but there are a handful of things that you need to do to get the most out of the email component of the mix.

Grab Attention

It’s not enough to have an email subscribe form tucked into the sidebar of your home page. If you’ve got a great offer to put in front of your visitors you need to make it impossible to ignore, without being obnoxious.

A new breed of popups makes grabbing visitor attention and turning it into email list subscribing almost pleasing. I’ve been experimenting with a rather new WordPress plugin called Pippity.

Once installed and configured this tool will note when you have a visitor that has not been offered your email subscription and briefly take over the screen to make them an offer. The visitor still has lots of control over the screen, but this tool positions your list in a way that’s hard to ignore.

I know there are some that don’t like this tactic, but Pippity gives you so much control, including A/B testing, that you can fine tune the tool’s use to make it work for you. Like it or not, with the right offer, most people see 300-400% jumps in subscribers using this kind of approach. (One tip: Turn it off for mobile browsers, as there’s no way to make it a pleasant experience on a mobile.)

Exchange Value

Giving people a reason to subscribe is even more important than simply grabbing their attention. In order to get willing subscribers these days you must sell the value of what you have to offer and most likely exchange something like a free ebook or report that sounds too good to miss right at the point of subscription.

The act of giving an email address comes with a price these days because all of our email inboxes are jammed. Your free stuff better sound as good as most people’s paid stuff if you want to get subscribers.

Of course, this also means that you need to keep the value exchange high if you expect to keep subscribers. Turning email subscribers into paying customers is not a one-time event; it’s accomplished through a process of building trust over time.

No matter what time frame you choose to offer your email newsletter, once a week or once a month, each issue should be something that people look forward to. It’s great to have a large list, but if less than 10% actually open your emails then you won’t get much return on your efforts.

Serve Snacks

I’ve been producing a weekly email newsletter just about every week since some time in 2002 and I’ve played with different formats, different content, and different ways to present information.

A great deal of what I’ve always tried to do is evolve with overall communication trends and my best advice is that you subscribe to lots of newsletters and pay attention to how others present information and how they change their presentation over time.

Currently, my newsletter format is designed to offer several compelling article abstracts grouped into a set of topics that I believe my readers expect from me. I author about 50% of the content and then hand select a couple blog posts from blogs I read that related.

When I switched to this snack sized, scannable format, I immediately noted that my response and engagement increased dramatically.

Be Sharable

Smart marketers have always employed tools that made it easier for people to share their email newsletter with friends, but these days that means making your content easy to share in social media as well.

Most email service providers have added social media sharing options that you can embed in your content so that a reader could tweet that they just read your article.

The content itself must exist online in order to use this most effectively. Most service providers also allow you to create an online archive version of your newsletter and I recommend you use this approach to socialize your content sent via email.

Go Solo

Once your readers come to appreciate your valuable newsletter content you may earn the right to send them offers. This is something that takes a little bit of experimentation and you can certainly erode trust by sending too many offers or sending offers that just don’t make sense.

While you can mix an offer or two into your regular email newsletter format, I’ve found that sending the occasional offer for a product, program or even joint venture with a product or service you truly believe in, using what is called a solo email is the best approach.

A solo email is designed to do only one thing, deliver the story and make a case for your offer. This can be a straight out offer to buy something or even an announcement for a free online seminar where you intend to make an offer, but it must be about one thing and one thing only.

Let me repeat, sending offers is something you earn, just like earning the subscriber in the first place. You must take care that you treat this trust with respect or you will lose it. Keep the value of your offers as high as the value of your content and your readers will appreciate getting both.

My recommended list of email service providers. (Each allows you to accomplish the things mentioned in this article)

How I Use Email Marketing

This post is part of a creative marketing series sponsored by HP

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With the advent of social media, email marketing has taken a bit of a back seat in terms of buzz – but not with marketers that understand the power this tool has for long term trust building and short term conversion.

I’ve been an advocate of this tool throughout the rise of social media and find it telling that many bloggers and social media types that have built followings online are now turning to email marketing to cash in. I don’t mean cash in as a bad thing, I mean that they have found email marketing to be a way to generate customers in this more commercially acceptable avenue.

Email marketing is a central tool I still employ for building trust, doing research, announcing new products, selling products and services, educating customers, and expanding the awareness of my web presence beyond my web site.

While there are many ways to use email marketing I thought today I would share a little about how I do it so you could have one simple and practical road map.

My email marketing routine

List building – Obviously for email marketing to be an effective play, you’ve got to possess a list. Don’t ever, ever buy one! You must build your list and you must do it by offering value, that’s it.

You should, however, employ some tools that make it easy for people to subscribe. I place a sign-up form on most pages (it’s over there in the left sidebar if you’re reading this on my blog) and I use a drop down script from dynamic drive to offer the newsletter to site visitors. I know some folks don’t like these in your face forms, but there’s no denying how much more effective they are.

I offer people a free report for signing up in addition to the offer of the newsletter and this definitely drives sign-ups. I also make a special offer to buy my books through a thank you page once someone does subscribe. This is a low cost product that I add lots of valuable bonuses to and it often starts the relationship deepening very quickly.

I also promote my list when I speak and encourage you to consider ways to build your list from your other offline activities as well.

email marketing

Image: RambergMediaImages

Getting started – I use an autorepsonder to reply once someone subscribes. I send an evergreen issue of my newsletter so they get a taste of the value right away. A few days after they subscribe I also send what feels like a much more personal thank you note from me. This is a text email that is very simple and tells them I am glad they subscribed. I get constant feedback from people that, while they may know it’s not really a personal note, love the personal feel. I suggest you adopt this tactic. (The content of the note is on page 215 of Duct Tape Marketing, you know in case you want to buy the book.)

Content – Your readership will grow and spread only if they find your content valuable. While I do send occasional product pitches, I choose to do these in solo emails (a tactic that makes the offer stand out) and choose to fill my weekly newsletter with content that I think readers have come to value. Increasingly this is snack size tips that lead them to other great resources.

Format – I send my weekly newsletter in HTML format as reading and engaging with the content is much more enjoyable in the visual format. I do also send a text version for those that don’t allow HTML and as a further tool to help get through some spam filters.

I have moved to a format where I point out a lot of great content that I’ve written or that others have written. I used to include the full content in the email, but have found over the years that people have grown very comfortable with the digest format that allows them to click through to the full content online. One word of advice, as so many people now read email online through Gmail and Yahoo make your links open in a new window so they don’t have to keep coming back to find the email. (You simply add target=”_blank” after your link in HTML code to do this.)

As stated above I use text only email when I am doing a straight pitch for a product or service offering or promoting an event. I don’t include anything extra in these emails as I’ve found that total focus on one topic, in this format, generates the highest response. (A/B testing of your emails is a standard offering in most email services.)

ESP – ESP is the acronym for email service provider. If your list is more than a dozen names you need to use a service to send your emails. There are many great, low cost solutions for this that allow you to easily create, send and archive your email newsletters, offers and campaigns. These services also help you build and maintain your list and comply with CAN-SPAM laws.

I use Infusionsoft as part it’s part of my CRM and shopping cart set-up, but I’ve also experienced good things over the years from Constant Contact, Vertical Response, AWeber, MailChimp and iContact. In my opinion any of these services will meet your needs.

MailChimp wins the award for education. Take a look at their list of email marketing ebooks.

Integration – Email is a great way to expand beyond the newsletter communication to build deeper engagement in your community. Certainly it’s become very standard to include all of the ways for people to connect with you online in your email communications. You should add Twitter and Facebook links to your emails, but also cross promote your blog content, archive your newsletter issues as web pages on your site, and promote your new issues in Facebook status updates as well. (Here’s an example of an issue of my newsletter online.)

Applying Drip Marketing to Your Staff

drip trainingA very effective approach to lead generation and nurturing is something called “drip marketing.” The idea behind the tactic is that you design a series of contacts, via email, postal mail, or phone, that are routinely dripped out to a prospect as a reaction, for example, to them signing up for an event. The power of this technique is that for the most part the entire process, once designed, can be automated with technology. This automation makes it easier for you to focus on other forms of engagement with the prospect knowing that they are receiving consistent touches and gentle reminders that you are there when ready to serve their needs.

I believe this same autoresponder drip marketing approach should be utilized internally as well as a way to supplement the training of staff. Small business are usually pretty bare when it comes to training. Who has time, right? Basic job functions are usually about the only thing that’s taught, but everything else that’s going in the company, important as it may be to the total engagement of the team, is often left to chance after the first day of orientation.

Why not set up a series of emails delivered over a 90 day period to each new hire do things like

  • teach important product and service features
  • share detailed information about the ideal customer and core differentiators
  • contain real live customer success stories and testimonials
  • outline the marketing plan for the coming year
  • feature other staff members and their stories

I’m not suggesting that you can use this approach to replace processes, manuals and human interaction, but even in very smallest of organizations, this type of drip training would allow you to go much deeper that you might, while helping your new team member feel much more a part of team, no matter what the job title. Remember, marketing is everyone’s job and the best way to send this message is to educate your staff as though they were a customer.

You can employ a low cost autoresponder tool such as AWeber, iContact, Constant Contact to handle the automatic delivery of your content. All you have to do is write the series of email once and then enroll each new employee as part of the hiring process.

Image credit: Steve Beger

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10 Small Business Lead Nurturing Tools

lead nurturingLead nurturing is the act of following up with leads in a consistent and, hopefully, logical way moving them gently along the path of becoming a customer.

In some high end, long decision process selling environments it’s the only way a sale is made. “Hi, glad to meet you, call me when you’re ready to buy,” isn’t a very nurturing approach.

In today’s marketing world smart companies are tapping powerful nurturing tools and technology to help their prospects get to know, like, and trust them, make sales when competitors can’t get past the front lobby, and charge a premium for their products and services.

In some cases it’s a matter of automatically dripping more and more information, in others it’s case of knowing exactly when your prospect is showing interest and in still others it can come down to gaining greater knowledge about your prospect by simply using technology to understand their behavior. (Don’t worry, none of this need be done in a creepy way, it’s all a matter of using technology and the information your prospects willing share.)

The secret is to stay top of mind and continue to educate, but do it ways that have impact.

The following ten tools are ones that I would suggest to most any small business owner to use in tandem with a cadre of education based marketing content in the form of ebooks, audio, video, newsletters, surveys and seminars.

1. BatchBlue – a lightweight CRM tool with a twist. BatchBlue makes it very simple to add your prospect’s social media profiles thereby having access to their blog and twitter feeds right at the point of interaction. Really great for your journalist target market too!

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