In the first part of our email marketing series, we discussed why email marketing is really worth doing. Today we dig a bit deeper and discuss the email marketing tools that will help you capture new email subscribers, create professional email campaigns and automate the process.
The first thing to remember is that sending out mass emails via your Outlook or Gmail or Hotmail or bigpond account is just not on for these reasons:
- If you put everyone’s email address in the To field – they’ll all see each other’s email addresses, which contravenes the privacy act. If you put them in the BCC field so this doesn’t happen – then the email is appears addressed to only one person. And with either method you can’t personally address each email to the recipient – so it looks like mass email and quite unprofessional.
- You will find that the service provider will have a limit on how many emails can be sent at once. Many have a limit of 50 – so if your list is larger than this, you will need to schedule them to go out in batches.
- If your recipients are unhappy about receiving an obvious mass email from you they will mark the email as spam or worse still complain to the provider and your account will quickly be blacklisted and closed down.
- These email systems are not setup to cater for automated responses or scheduled campaigns.
So what do you use?
You use one of the many professional online email marketing platforms setup specifically for personalized mass emailing and automated campaigns.
ESSENTIAL EMAIL PLATFORM FEATURES
No matter which program you choose (and we’ll get to them in a minute) – there are some essential features you will need.
The first consideration is how to create a list of people to email to. The most obvious way is to import your customer list from wherever it is at present – maybe in your accounting program or a spreadsheet? You’ll need to prepare it first so it’s in the right format (usually csv or txt) and it’s been checked to ensure you have name and email and duplicates removed etc. Most programs will ask you to verify that you have permission to email to these people, to confirm that you haven’t collected the database via spamming or purchasing some random list.
In the list setup process, it’s worthwhile planning what type of info you’d like for each record and creating the fields if they don’t already exist (eg: Company, phone, gender, prospect or customer, etc)– whatever you want to record about your list. This info could come in very handy later when you want to start segmenting your list and sending specific offers to certain people.
Some email platforms allow you to create separate lists – others just have one big list and you “tag” or segment people in a variety of ways so you can filter them later.
Opt in Forms
Most email providers offer a feature whereby you can create and add a form to your website – or even on your Facebook business page - to capture leads and build your list. Some provide built in templates to choose from, so you can custom design the look of the form. Some also offer variable design features like inline forms and popup forms.
Some require double optin, other’s don’t. Double optin is where the person completing the form receives an automated email asking them to click on a link to confirm they want to receive emails from you. This is a good deterrent against spam signups, but is a bit painful because not every legitimate enquirer will see the email and click the link. Forms are used on Contact Us pages as well as on other pages of your site to encourage people to enquire or to download a free report.
You can choose to send out plain looking emails which look just like you’ve created them in your normal email program (eg: outlook, gmail, bigpond, etc). This can be a good strategy as they then appear to be one on one and not “official”.
Or you can build your brand awareness by using custom designed templates that reflect your company brand and contain some standard elements like your contact info, social media links, testimonials, product logos, links to your website – whatever you’d like to do.
The templates can be used for issuing “broadcast” emails or newsletters (emails that go out at the same time to everyone or your pre-selected segment), or for issuing auto responder emails.
Here’s some examples of custom designed email templates we’ve created for our businesses and for some of our clients.
It’s also possible with some email marketing platform providers to have several different versions of templates to use for different functions and promotions – eg: newsletter, auto-responder, seasonal promotion, etc.
Auto responders – one of the greatest inventions of all time - help you design a sequence of emails that are automatically sent out at pre-determined intervals.
They are triggered by the actions taken by the subscriber. For example, we have set up separate auto-responder campaigns for our clients – one series of emails goes out to prospects when they download a free ebook , another to prospects who fill out an enquiry form and yet another totally different sequence to new clients. With some email programs it’s also possible to setup special sequences to go out if people click on specific links in an email or on a website.
“NICE TO HAVE” FEATURES
Advanced features that are good to have include the following. (Not all email marketing platforms offer all of these though).
Split testing or A/B testing is a feature where you can create two or more versions of the same email. You may just change the subject line, the offer, the graphics or copy (we recommend you only change one element per version). This enables you test out and measure which version generates the best results (click throughs, purchases, bookings, etc). If your list is large, it’s a good idea to conduct a split test on a portion of your list first, then roll out the winning version to the rest of the list.
RSS Driven Newsletter
One of the coolest features that some providers provide as part of their standard package is auto generated newsletters. Using a specially coded template, the system checks your website for new blogposts and auto creates a newsletter for you by pulling in the heading and first couple of lines of new posts (often with the feature image) and adds a Read More link. It then automatically emails it to your list segment. How cool is that! All you do is create blogposts and the rest is done for you.
It’s important that marketing decisions are made from data analysis. Before choosing an email marketing platform, check out the “Analytics” capabilities. The Analytics report should include basic information such as number of emails sent, number of mails opened, number of clicks and bounce rate. Analytics reports help you to manage your lists and tweak future campaigns. Eg: if your open rate is low – then maybe it’s time to look at list segmentation or conducting subject line split testing.
EMAIL MARKETING PLATFORM PROVIDERS
There are many email marketing platform providers to choose from. Rather than provide an exhaustive list, I’m just going to share my personal opinion about the ones that we have used in our business.
Check it out here: mailchimp.com
If you are just starting out, then we recommend Mail Chimp as a great low cost platform with plenty of great features. You can actually use it for free if you have less than 2000 subscribers in your list and don’t send any more than 12,000 emails in a month. The free service is for broadcast emails though – not auto-responders. With the pricing, you can opt to buy credits or start on a low monthly fee of $20. It all depends what you want to do.
- A range of predefined templates which you can customize, or design your own from the scratch.
- Clever auto-responder campaign options
- RSS Newsletter option
- It easily integrates with a huge variety of other software programs
- Analytics reports include comparison against industry benchmarks for “open rates”.
- Split testing
Functional issues we’re not happy with are:
- The double optin requirement when you use their forms on your site. You can get around this by using a third party form creator.
- The list segmentation and grouping is quite complicated and doesn’t always work like it should. For example if you have everyone in the same list, your options for notifications are limited – ie: you can be notified of every new optin, or none – you can’t filter it to just receive notification of optins by prospects (if you have them setup as a segment). You can only have one form per list – which means you can’t create two or more forms with different “thankyou” page redirects after completion.
- If you use multiple lists – you have to create multiple versions of a campaign (email) to send to each list.
- They won’t allow you to include affiliate links in your emails
Check it out here: aweber.com
Aweber is one of the most popular email marketing platforms. You can start with a free trial for 30 days, then its $19 per month or more, depending on your list size.
- A large range of pre-designed templates which can be customized
- Conversion tracking – ideal for ecommerce businesses.
- Ability to send one broadcast campaign to multiple lists at once
- Excellent support
- Can use one account for multiple lists across multiple sites
- Split testing
- RSS Newsletter option
- Double opt in required to move between lists. If subscribers want to join another list, they need to fill in another form as well.
- In working out your number of subscribers for billing purposes, they count people who have not confirmed their subscription and people in multiple lists.
Check it out here: getresponse.com
Polish based provider GetResponse is well priced option also – with a free trial and then starts from $18 per month. However the interface and terminology is quite different to other systems, at first glance. It does take a little getting used to – but once you’ve played around it’s got some nice features.
- A/B Split testing
- Ability to set up landing pages using their templates (but hard to customize)
- Can use one account for multiple lists across multiple sites
- Time and action based auto responders
- Fast support
- Doesn’t require double optin for imports or on forms
- They use unusual terminology – eg: lists are called campaigns
- Can’t add Google Analytics or Facebook tracking to their landing pages to track results
- RSS Newsletter option doesn’t work very well
- The support is not that good
Check it out here: Infusionsoft.com
Infusionsoft is a more sophisticated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool that provides a lot more options than the previously mentioned email marketing platforms.
There is no free trial and pricing starts at $199 per month, and I don’t recommend it for startups or businesses with very small lists. I suggest that you really should have in excess of 1000 people in your list before even considering it.
It has several modules too – so you can start with the just the email marketing module and add on Sales Automation and Ecommerce modules.
We use this system in our business and in several clients’ businesses and we love it.
The key features we like best are:
- Campaign Manager - a fantastic feature that allows you to graphically design campaigns by dragging in forms, emails, time delays, tags and notifications. You can set up all sorts of auto-responders based on events – eg: if someone clicks link A they get campaign A, if they click link B they get campaign B etc. And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to smart things you can do.
- Tagging – the ability to tag each contact in infinite ways and filter all contacts by one or more tags. Very useful for identifying people who fit certain criteria and following them up by email or phone or message.
- CRM – countless fields, well organized, which makes it easy to add notes and have a full history of contact info with a person or company in front of you while you have them on the phone.
- Other features – a good base level ecommerce system – ideal for charging subscriptions, and an excellent prospecting/sales management module for keeping track of your sale pipeline.
- Support – support is excellent.
- It is quite expensive – starting at $199 per month for the basic level, and they insist on charging a hefty startup training fee to get you setup, and their training is not that good. We provide this service for our clients.
- It doesn’t provide the very useful RSS to feed function to auto generate newsletters. You can purchase this app for a separate monthly fee
- The WYSWIG email template creator is very clunky to use – other systems have done this much better
- It doesn’t come with a library of ready made well designed email templates
- There’s lots of addons – but they all come
WHERE TO NOW?
So, if you’re at the point now where you can definitely see the merit of implementing email marketing into your business – my best bit of advice is Just Do It. Every day you wait is another day you’re losing sales.
But of course if choosing a system and setting it up all sounds a bit confusing – let us do it all for you, as we have done for many of our clients.
Check out our Email Setup Service here – this is for smaller systems. If you think you might be ready for a bigger gun like Infusionsoft – then give us a call on 1300 554 495 and we’ll answer your questions objectively so you can make an informed decision. We can also help you set it all up correctly and provide training and management if you wish. We manage Infusionsoft for several clients.
Whatever you need - we'd be delighted to help, so you start getting results quickly.