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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.)

The New Marketer’s Toolbox

toolsMore than once those that follow what I do have asked me how I seem to get so much done in a day. I have to admit that I get a lot of help from the man behind the curtain and from you my readers and subscribers. That’s the part that many don’t see, but the rich set of, often free, tools out there now make it much easier to run your business and increase your productivity.

I use a power set of tools throughout the day to write, collaborate, bookmark, filter, find and conduct commerce. Here is my current list of favorites, although like so much on the Internet, some of these could change in the blink of an eye.

Google Alerts – Free service from Google allows you to conduct customer searches for your brand, competitors, industry mentions, and journalists and have any mention of these terms online sent to your email inbox on a daily or as it happens basis. Key tool for monitoring your reputation in real time but it can also serve as a great client relationship building tool as well.

Central Desktop – I use this tool to collaborate with providers and clients alike. The set of features and flexibility from this tool is incredible. I was a hard core Basecamp fan, and still am, but Central Desktop just does so much more. You can manage projects, teams and schedules, but my favorite use is the built in WYSIWYG wiki editor. I use this to build web based operations manuals and document processes for my team.

Google Reader – I subscribe to and scan and read about 100 blogs and think you should too. I get some great ideas, hear about the next new thing, and find tools like I ‘ve listed here by adhering to this practice. Google Reader puts them all in one place and is very mobile browser friendly so I can jump on the site and read a few blogs any time I’m standing in line.

TweetDeck - This desktop application makes it very easy to keep up with what I want to follow on twitter. I create searches for key terms and form groups of people I want to follow closely. The tool also allows you to RT, tweet, DM, follow and unfollow directly from the interface. A mobile app is available as well.

Firefox – Firefox is, as I’m sure you’ve heard by now, simply a browser, but it’s so much more due to the fact that you can extend its functionality through plug-ins and add-ons. I use it subscribe, blog, bookmark, filter and aggregate much of what I find online all day. I use it to help with web design, SEO and competitive analysis.

Flickr -In addition to optimizing and sharing images online I use the Creative Commons Licensing of images on Flickr to grab great photos for my daily blog posts. (I wrote about how to use Flickr for blog images here)

Snapz Pro X – This $29 software sits in the background and allows me to do screen grabs and video screencasts with the push of a few keys. There are free programs that can do some of this but the added editing and file format options of this program make it worth the money. I’m always adding screenshots in my blog posts and PowerPoint presentations.

Adium – I’m a pretty big fan of IM for internal office use as well as to use with my key collaborators. Adium is nice as it allows me to communicate with people using IM no matter if they are on Yahoo, AOL, Skype, or GTalk.

ScreenFlow Pro – Another paid program but this is simply the easiest, yet feature rich, video screen capture program I have ever used. I use it to turn many of my web and offline presentations into short movies to share on YouTube.

su.pr - This is a my tool of choice for much of my tweeting. When I use su.pr to post a tweet with a link it shortens the link bu also sets up a rich set of tracking so that I can view how many view, retweets and mentions the tweet received. In addition, because the tool is part of the StumbleUpon network it gives me the opportunity to receive or send traffic from this network to the pages I link to.

Email Center Pro – This tool allows me to create mailboxes for departments of information, such as sales, service, media requests, etc. and then, if I choose, assign emails to those addresses to various internal and external resources to address. I can create responses to many common questions and allow anyone to interact from that department. In addition, I can see the entire archive of any of the discussion threads that might occur in any conversation from a dashboard. Great customer service tool.

Jott – This tool allows me to use my phone to “jott” a message that is transcribed and sent to my email. I use this all of the time when I am driving along and am hit with a thought for a blog post. Additionally, you can set-up groups and contacts on Jott so you can send anyone you set-up emails via your voice messages. You can post appointments to Google Calendar and, if you speak very slowly and use simple words, post tweets.

SimpleNote – Every morning I make a to-do list based on what I want to get done that day. I’ve been doing this for years and it keeps me productive. I started using note pads but now I use SimpleNote on my laptop because it is simple (duh) and it syncs to an online page and my phone so I can have access to my daily list no matter where and how I choose to access it.

WordPress – There are many ways to create web sites and blogs but I just love WordPress. In addition to being one of the simplest ways to create and manage all your web pages and content, the developer community that creates add-ons, themes and tutorials is hard to beat. I encourage most businesses to use it for their entire site, it’s that good.

Google Analytics – Tracking traffic, trends, searches and conversions is a necessary and basic marketing tactic if you want to grow your business. Google’s free analytics package is a no brainer and can give you so much feedback you’ll wonder how you lived without it. Take the time to read and understand everything it can do and you will get even more. Combine it with Site Optimizer and you can begin to do the slightly more sophisticated A/B split testing and find out how to really fine tune your web site.

InfusionSoft – I use Infusionsoft to run the CRM, ecommerce, email marketing and affiliate tracking aspects of my business. There are individual tools that do each of these functions quite well (In fact I also use ACT!, SwiftPage and Vertical Response), but Infusionsoft is the one tool that brings all of the functions under one roof. It’s not for everyone, but it is a nice tool that keeps getting better.

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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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The Best Things In Life Are Free!

Have I got a deal for you!

One of my strategic partners, InfusionSoft, has asked me to conduct a webinar Wednesday, June 18th at 3pm CDT called “Infusionsoft & Duct Tape Marketing Reveal The Must-Know Secrets of Small Business Growth”

Duct Tape bookInfusionsoft makes marketing automation software that helps small businesses keep track of leads, lists, orders, opportunities and campaigns. I spoke at their user conference and recently converted my marketing automation effort over to the service. This company is going places.

The 1-hour session is free of course, but here’s the kicker – anyone who registers and attends (you must attend and we will know if you do!) will get a free copy of the paperback version of my book Duct Tape Marketing shipped from Amazon.

Go here and send your customers, network and prospects to enroll

Feel free to pass this link and offer along to other folks and blog about it – let’s sell this baby out, shall we?

Now That’s a Lead of a Different Color

Leads, leads, leads, every business needs them, some are actually good at generating them, but . . . there’s a really important thing you must understand about leads – not all are created equal.

istock_000004521146xsmall.jpgNow, I’m not talking about leads that are different because your marketing is unfocused and sends mixed messages with mixed results. I’m assuming you have read and heard me stump for a narrow ideal customer focus and laser sharp message of differentiation. I’m talking about the fact that if you are marketing consistently and systematically leads will come to from different points of view, with different levels of education and in need of different solutions – and you need to intentionally address them all with differing types of follow-up.

    You need a follow-up process for leads that come to you by way of:

  • referral – this is a special lead with built in trust – treat it that way
  • public relations – this is a lead that has heard something about your story, there’s a connection, but little education
  • workshops – this kind of lead has usually experienced a lot, move them logically to the next step quickly
  • advertising – offer information of value and nurture this lead based on the actions they take (measure!)
  • search – this is the new yellow pages, this lead probably has a need, but doesn’t know you – follow-up with that in mind
  • trade show – speed of follow-up is key here, these leads were pretty amped up when you met them at the show, don’t let them get cold

One of the keys to understanding your follow-up approach is to understand what the customer is thinking when they find you, acknowledge where they are and how they’ve connected (tell a referred lead they are a special referred lead) and start moving them logically to the next step.

I know that follow-up, let alone the highly personalized type of follow-up I’m suggesting, is yet another thing you must do, so this is a great place to employ automation technology. Much of the follow-up you should be designing can be created ahead of time and executed with CRM like tools. Used properly, you can create email follow-ups, letter and postcard follow-ups, call lists and fulfillment requests and put your follow-up steps on autopilot

Here are some tools I would recommend for designing follow-up campaigns
Infusionsoft – Hi powered CRM and marketing automation tool that allows you to create sophisticated follow-up routines. (I use this tool in my business)
Swiftpage – Their new Drip Marketing add-on allows you to set-up letter mailing, emailing and call list creation. I love this tool for the individual sales person as it connects with ACT! or Outlook and allows you to easily determine the interest of your prospect during each follow-up step and focus your attention on the hottest prospects based on their action
Vertical Response – email marketing provider with the added integration of postcard mailing