Email marketing is one of the best strategies for reaching out a wide but focused audience in any niche, this is why it is with no doubt the longest used technique in web marketing – let’s check out how you can create a mailing list in a few minutes.
Contents at a glance:
- Why is Email Marketing Effective?
- What is Email Marketing?
- Effective Email Marketing Strategy
- Email Marketing Software (that I use)
Why is Email Marketing Effective ?
Email marketing is very effective (compared to other solutions) because it works by using one of the most important personal information that a user can have: his email.
Many things change when time passes by: you have a new Facebook account, a Twitter account, a Linkedin account, an MSN/Live account, etc etc but there’s one thing that most people haven’t changed for years and that is their email.
This is also the reason for which it’s so difficult to obtain it, since we all hate spam and unwanted messages, it’s a hard task to obtain our email address – that is why you must gain people’s trust and interest before making them sign up for your newsletter / mailing list.
What is Email Marketing ?
Ok, now, let’s make one step back.
- What is email marketing?
- What is a newsletter and why should I have one?
- What’s the difference between a newsletter subscription and a RSS email subscription?
Well, by now you probably know the answer of the first question – Email marketing is a direct marketing technique used to deliver a (usually) commercial message to people using electronic mail (email).
Specifically, a newsletter is a system with which people can keep in touch with a website/person by receiving emails that have additional value.
This means that frequently a newsletter is made of content that is very related to the website on which we left our email but it has something more – this makes it totally different from subscribing to the RSS feed.
Ok, in a fraction of a second all of you have understood how this is truly amazing – creating an email list / mailing list allows you to reach your audience when you want, how many times you want and for how long you want! This is great!
Sounds perfect, but I must say that it’s not easy at all to get subscribers and keep them engaged.
First of all because you want a profiled list, with a highly targeted audience which reflects your interests, your niche and that you can somehow help.
Second, you must respect your followers (yeah, I love to call them followers and not users because all the people that is giving you their email is actually telling you that they trust you and they want to hear more from you).
In order to respect your audience you must provide great content, useful and helpful and never spam them – this is going to be a win-win solution. As always when you give something remarkable people are grateful for it and therefore are more than happy to give back (it’s based on persuasion but I prefer to think about it simply as thankfulness).
Effective Email Marketing Strategy
Getting started with email marketing and starting your newsletter can be tricky but if you follow these steps than you’ll realize that it’s basically a simple strategy and it can be very effective.
- Create and Install a Web Form
- Create a Thank You Page – Confirm Email Page
- Create a Confirm Email message
- Create a Thank You Page – After Email Confirmation
- Create a Follow Up
I’ve created a graph to make you better understand how the process works and where the flow goes.
To sum it up you have to: create a web form to capture the emails, create a thank you page which is the page that a visitor sees after he completes the form, create a confirmation email which is the first email sent to your visitor and it requires to click a link (double opt-in confirmation), create another thank you page (for confirming the subscription) and, finally, create the 1st follow up message.
Ok, writing it down seems much more complicated than what it is, so that’s why I’ve created the graph above – it’s a rather straightforward process actually as you can see.
How to do this? Well this takes us to the next section which is about email marketing software – the engine behind all of this!
Email Marketing Software
All of the steps illustrated above can be easily handled by using a good email marketing software and the one I’ve been using for years and that I strongly suggest is Aweber.
There are really a lot of solutions when you look for an email marketing software but going with one of the most important and trusted brands in the field is a plus in many aspects.
Aweber allows you to:
- easily create a web form and customize it to your needs choosing from the many form templates available
- create newsletters using plain text and HTML – also in this case there are many email newsletter templates to choose from
- setup an autoresponder for follow up
- manage your subscribers and segment your audience
- track the performance of your email marketing campaigns and perform split tests
Regarding the costs (starts from $19/month for up-to 500 subscribers), you get charged for what you use – so of course it won’t bother you paying more once you reach 500 – 2,500 – 5,000 etc subscribers since your return will be much much higher and you can use it for all your websites!
Once you’ve signed up with Aweber you have to follow these steps to start rolling:
1) How to Create a New Email List
As you can see from the screenshot you have to click on the link next to the Home tab which is named “Create and Manage Lists” and after you have to click on the green button “Create a New List”.
From this point on there’s also a setup wizard which pops up from the bottom of the screen and that will assist you in order to complete the steps required.
Now you have to complete all the required fields:
- list name: a name that will help you recognize the list
- from name / address: the email address from which your newsletter will be sent (the sender field) – your readers will see this
- contact address: this must be a real physical address where you can receive postal mail – required by the CAN-SPAM act
These are just the required fields, of course you can fill in the rest (for example if you wish to be notified each time there’s a new subscriber, if you want to insert your company name and signature, etc.).
One thing I suggest you to do is to click on the “Confirmed Opt-In” tab and personalize the confirmation message – the email that is sent to verify the addresses. On the same panel you can also disable the double opt-in which I strongly discourage since there would be no check for real emails with potential spam issues.
Another important thing is to setup a success page – the page that a new subscriber sees immediately after he has confirmed his email address. It’s important since you want to give him a confirmation that everything went ok.
2) How to Create a Follow-Up message
Once a person has subscribed to your great mailing list you have to give him/her an immediate feedback by creating a follow-up message.
This step is very important – you have to use this moment of high attention since it is extremely valuable, it’s the beginning, the first impression. So, you could present your newsletter, your intents, give the gift you promised for signing up and so on.
The cool part here is that it’s totally passive! Yeah, you set it up once and then you basically forget about it. Each time a new subscriber signs up he’ll get your message automatically without you doing anything. Very cool!
With Aweber you go to the “Messages” tab and you click on “Follow Up”, you’ll then see the screen above, I’ve put an arrow on the “Spam factor” because you should always check carefully that this number is low, very low, best if zero because otherwise your message could be blocked by the spam filters and it could never appear in the users inbox. So pay attention with it!
Creating a message is very straightforward, it takes really just a few moment since it’s like writing an email. There’s a rich text editor which allows you to personalize your message in many ways – check it out from the screenshot below.
The editor is the same that you’ll use for creating “normal” broadcast messages and one of the coolest features is the possibility to personalize your messages by inserting tags that represent variables. For example, you can click on the “Personalize” button and insert the “First Name” tag which, when the email is sent, will be replaced by the name of the subscriber. There are many tags that you can use and that can be very handy depending on what you want to say in your message.
3) How to Create a Web Form
Ok, I’m sure many of you are wondering: how does a user subscribe? The answer is: using a web form.
Also in this case using AWeber is really straightforward both from a creation and a management point of view. Let’s see why.
So, to create a web form you have to click on the “Web Forms” tab and then on the green button “Create a New Web Form”. These actions will load the web form creator, which allows you to choose from many different templates and themes that you can customize as much as you want.
As you can see from the screenshot above, there are three sub-steps in the web form creator: design, settings and publish.
The design part is easy and point-and-click, you basically have to adjust the web form with your website layout. The settings tab could be a little bit more tricky since it asks for the “Thank You Page” – here you can use the default AWeber page or you can use a custom page that you’ve previously created on your website. I prefer using customized pages since it looks more personal and not just like “the others” style.
If you want to make changes to your already installed web form you simply have to go back to the web forms tab and edit the design – the web form will automatically update without you having to change the code. Nice one!
DONE! That’s it, you’ve completed all the required steps to create a real newsletter – now you’re able to create a mailing list, setup an auto follow-up, craft and customize a web form for collecting subscribers!
This is it for my newsletter guide but, of course, there are many other little – yet important – things that can help your mailing list reach the next level such as split testing your web forms in order to understand which performs better, segmenting your audience for a higher customization, creating more follow ups, etc.
So, if you want to receive updates with more tips and guides on email marketing don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter!