How to build trust online with your profile photograph

The purpose of profile photographs in business is to look friendly and approachable.Do you find that an out-of-the-blue interaction with a nice, friendly, cheery person can make you feel all smiley and glowy inside?

That’s how I used to feel whenever I parked in my favourite multi-storey car park in Auckland CBD.

For inside this grey, gloomy building was a cosy pocket of warmth – known as the payment booth. An elderly (and generously proportioned) Pacific Islander lady with white hair and a jolly disposition resided in this booth. It seemed that no matter which hour, or which day, I visited the car park, she was always there. And always knitting. And always ready with a big smile.

In fact, I always used to look forward to paying for my car parking fee, knowing that the jolly Islander lady would be there! A sincere smile and chat with her made my day.

One day it all changed…

One time I arrived at the car park to discover that the barrier arms at the entry at gone. And Pay and Display ticket machines had been installed. And – horrors! – the payment booth was covered in metal shutters. Ugh!

For me, the whole vibe of the car park changed instantly. Instead of feeling safe, protected and looked after, it now feels cold, impersonal, and almost creepy.

It’s the personal touch that makes a difference

It’s the personal touch that can transform a routine transaction into something more pleasurable. Maybe even a relationship of sorts.

After all, that’s why people like to do business with other people

We all know this, but in this world of computers and websites and email, many business relationships veer more towards the impersonal rather than personal, warm and friendly. Yet friendly faces make us relax, smile and feel good about ourselves!

Wouldn’t you like a bit more warmth and friendliness in your working day?

Here’s an easy way to make business communication more personal…

It’s easy… you use a portrait photo of yourself in your marketing communications!

But I don’t look attractive enough to use a photo…

This is something I hear quite often from business owners. They think that they’re not attractive enough to use their photograph.

But here’s the thing: no-one expects you to look like a supermodel. (Heck, it would be a scary, intimidating world if everyone did look like Heidi Klum!)

Rather, it’s about you looking friendly, and approachable – and like you. That’s it. Nothing more and nothing less. Truly.

But I’m not very confident about how I look…

You and me both!

So before I had my profile photos taken, I spent some time with my beautician and hairdresser in order to look the best I could. And the photographer I engaged was excellent: she specialised in portrait photos (she’d even won some awards) and I really liked the shots in her portfolio.

How you pose in a portrait photo is important too, because the body language is so important. Here are my tips on how to pose for portrait photographs.

In short: with a bit of preparation, you’ll end up with shots that you will be happy and comfortable using.

You’ve got the photographs – now what do you do?

The photographs are no good sitting on a CD or on the hard drive of your computer, oh no! You need to use them!

Me personally, because I felt very uncomfortable about putting my photograph everywhere, I did it in stages.

Step 1: Put your portrait photograph on your website

Putting your portrait photograph on your website immediately adds warmth and credibility – and builds trust. Visitors like knowing that there’s a real person behind the business: dealing with a faceless persona just feels weird.

The key pages to add your photograph to are:

  • Home page
  • About page
  • Contact page
  • Sales pages.

There were unexpected benefits of using my photograph on my website…

I must admit that I didn’t really think about how putting my photograph on my website would benefit or affect me. In fact, I wasn’t really sure what to expect – I didn’t think it would make a difference to me, only to my website readers. Wrong!

After I started using my photo on my website, I’d notice that when I met prospects and new clients for the first time, they were noticeably friendlier to me! Not that people are normally unfriendly, but because these people had seen my photograph (and read about me), they felt like they already knew me a little. It’s a huge ice-breaker and rapport building tool!

I’m shy by nature, so it makes a big difference to me when the person I’m meeting for the first time not only recognises me, but also approaches me with a big smile. It’s wonderful!

Step 2: Use your photograph in your email signature

I can’t remember who suggested this to me, but I was very uncomfortable about using my photo in my email signature. It’s not something that’s normally done in New Zealand, and it just felt a bit cheesy and attention seeking.

But whoever told me to do it must have been very persuasive, because I did finally do it. And the results were very unexpected!

I instantly received an email from an A-Grade client saying how much she enjoyed seeing my photo in my email. She said that it made her feel like she was communicating with a real person, and that it took the impersonal nature out of emails.

Example: Here’s my current email signature. I change and update the design quite often, but the photograph is the one constant:

Here's an example of using a profile photograph in an email signature.

Here’s an example of using a profile photograph in an email signature.

The wonderful feedback from my A-Grade client gave me the confidence to keep using my photograph in my email signature.

I’ve noticed that using my profile photo in this way is great for building rapport with new clients – just like it does on the website. That was one result I semi-expected, but I was in for another surprise.

The surprising thing I’ve noticed since using my photo in my email signature is that the replies I receive are somehow… nicer.

It’s not that I’d usually receive lots of nasty emails from people, no. But because people see my face when they’re writing a message to me, somehow their tone changes, just a little bit.

Seeing my photograph makes people aware that they’re communicating with a real, live human.

And this slight difference in tone makes a huge difference to my day. We all like to be addressed in a friendly, courteous manner, so this directly impacts my happiness at work.

One thing’s for sure: I’m no longer scared or hesitant about using my photo!

Step 3: Other places where you can use your profile photograph

There are other places where you can use your profile photograph too:

  • Other website pages: e.g. newsletter sign-up pages, download pages, etc.
  • Email newsletters: This adds a personal touch to your mass communications.
  • Business cards: This helps people to remember you long after the initial meeting.
  • Proposal documents: Put a friendly, personal touch to quotes and estimates. Think about it from the reader’s point of view, who may find the document a bit scary and intimidating – especially if it’s a high-value purchase. Wouldn’t a friendly smile on the cover page warm you up to reading it?
  • Sales letters: I’ll often include my photograph in sales letters to clients, as it adds that friendly, personal touch.

In short: you can use your profile photograph in the same places where you use your digitised signature.

Are there any places where you shouldn’t use your profile photograph?

I do think that it’s possible to take the profile photograph thing too far.

For example, a few years ago I received a fridge magnet for a mortgage broker with his photograph on. Do I want to look at his photograph every day when I’m making breakfast? Um, that would be a no!

We also received a Shopping List pad from a husband-and-wife real estate team (people we have no relationship or connection with). That went straight into the recycling pile.

While it’s good to use your profile photograph to build a relationship, there is such a thing as being too “in your face”, so some common sense is advised!

Remember, the aim is to add a friendly, personal touch… not to freak people out!

I wish that the multi-storey car park owners in Auckland CBD realised that their facilities now freak me out, and I park elsewhere that feels friendlier. 😉

Summary: benefits of using your profile photograph in your marketing

Benefits to your prospects and customers:

  • They trust your company/brand more quickly.
  • It helps to put them at ease and makes them feel more comfortable… dealing with people whose names and faces you know is nicer than dealing with an anonymous entity (or a machine!).

Benefits to you:

  • It can help to boost your sales conversion rates, or speed up the decision-making process, because your prospects trust you more (and do so more quickly).
  • It’s a wonderful ice-breaker and rapport builder for meetings: people will feel like they already ‘know’ you, which puts both of you at ease.
  • People may communicate with you in a more courteous manner. It is easy to be rude or vent to an anonymous entity than a person whose name and face you know!
  • It differentiates your business and your brand against your competitors. There is no competition to be you!

 

The 3 different types of email marketing: what they are, and how to use them together

How to use the 3 different types of email marketing to grow your magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

How to use the 3 different types of email marketing to grow your magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

In the last article you saw why email marketing is so important in customer retention… but what is “email marketing”?

There’s often some confusion around this, so I’ve identified three specific kinds of emails that make up “email marketing”.

But before we get into the technical details, here’s a more human way to approach the different types of email marketing. Let’s look at email marketing in terms of personality types.

The three different email marketing personality types

Imagine that you had three co-workers:

  • Simon always wanted to sell you stuff: health supplements, holiday time shares, imitation designer accessories… just about anything! It gets really annoying, and you try to avoid bumping into him after a while.
  • Nigel is really smart and knows all the latest news and info… but he’s just soooo serious, you can’t have a laugh with him. You’re happy to hang out at work, but he isn’t someone you’d necessarily want to have a beer with too often.
  • Rebecca is like a walking reminder system. She always knows which meeting room to go to; what time; when the work’s due… it’s helpful, but again, she’s not really someone you want to spend time with outside of work.

Do you see how these three people are a bit, um, annoying in isolation?

Yet this is how many businesses approach their email marketing

Many businesses will just use one of these approaches (or personalities) in their email marketing: it’s all newsletters. Or it’s all sales offers. Or it’s all follow-up reminders.

Look at the newsletters you get in your own In Box: I’m right, yes?

But being a one-dimensional email marketer will affect your sales

Continually using the one, same tactic for your email marketing holds you back from achieving maximum sales. And that’s because you’re always talking to your prospect or customers in the same way.

Imagine if you mixed things up a little…

So imagine that you had a new co-worker: perfect Peter!

Peter’s a smart guy and he knows lots of news and topical information, just like Nigel. But he’s also a guy who likes to go out and have fun. He knows when the fishing gear or golf clubs you want are on sale… but he’s not pushy about it, like Simon is.

And yes, Peter is even a little bit like Rebecca, in that he’ll remind you if a sale is finishing soon, to make sure you don’t miss out on the stuff you like.

Peter really is the perfect, all-round buddy – at work, and outside of work.

Your goal is to make your email marketing well-balanced, like Peter

Imagine how much more engaging your email marketing would be if it communicated with your clients in these different ways. Your business would be seen as being interesting, helpful, relevant, on-the-button, personable and trustworthy.

And the benefit for you? Well, you’d be making more sales if you had such a well-balanced email marketing programme!

After all, if you command this level of respect from your readers, they’ll be more likely to open your emails. And they’ll also be more likely to click on your sales links.

Best of all, creating a well-balanced email marketing programme is relatively easy, and can greatly maximise the return on your investment.

How do you create a well-balanced email marketing programme?

For your email marketing programme to be well-balanced, you need to use all three types of email marketing available to you.

Let’s take a look at the three types of email marketing tactics at your disposal, and their pros and cons:

1. Sales offers

Announcing promotions and special offers are an important way to make sales… but if this is all that you’re sending your subscribers, they’ll soon tire of the constant bombardment of sales messages.

Non-stop sales messages are boring. They don’t add any value to your relationship with the reader. They get old very quickly.

Therefore, if all you’re doing is sending out sales offers, in time your email open rate will plummet, and your unsubscribe rate will soar. Not good!

2. Newsletters

On the other hand of the email marketing spectrum you have newsletters. Email newsletters inform and educate the reader, and add value to your relationship with them.

Newsletters are great for keeping at front-of-mind with your clients and generating repeat business and referrals – though that can be hard to measure.

The reason why newsletters are hard to measure is because the sales message is subtle, so it’s not a case of hitting “send” and your phone starts ringing like crazy. Instead, newsletters build long-term value and relationships in your business.

In fact, I’ve seen some newsletters that are so subtle I didn’t even know for sure what the sender is selling! (So don’t make that mistake either!)

With newsletters, I’d suggest keeping the content 80% value-added and 20% sales messages. The focus needs to be firmly on the value-added component, or it’s not a true newsletter. Do include a bit of a sales message, but keep it subtle, and near the end of your email.

In short: newsletters are very important, but they need some back-up to get the sales cranking.

3. Autoresponders

Autoresponders are a series of automated follow-up emails that are sent out at pre-determined intervals. They’re a common tactic in internet marketing, where you sign up to get a free eBook or something, and then you get autoresponder messages every few days thereafter.

Autoresponders in isolation can work phenomenally well. They’re a very soft follow-up message, which builds bridges with your reader, rather than being too pushy.

However, essentially autoresponders are still sales follow-ups, and if you’re not adding more substance to your communications (e.g. with newsletters), readers will tire of them. In the internet marketing world that may be considered an OK tactic, but if you’re in service business, or sell physical products, you’d be well advised to have a longer-term outlook. That is, to focus on building a long-term value-added relationship with your customers and prospects.

What if your email campaigns don’t fit any of these 3 definitions?

If your email content doesn’t fit these three descriptions, and they’re some kind of hybrid, that’s a problem.

And the reason that it’s a problem is that it can be confusing to readers. Moreover; they’re confusing for you as the email doesn’t have a clearly-defined purpose.

For example, I’ve seen so-called “newsletters” transform into sales emails when the business owner goes through a quiet patch. They’re desperate for sales, so the emails become all about the sales, and less about adding value.

These hybrid emails may work in the short-term, but in the long-term the open rates start dropping, and the unsubscribes increase. Not at the same rate as for purely sales-based emails, but it still happens… and that’s totally avoidable. I’d recommend that you pigeonhole the content into the three categories I’ve outlined.

So, for example, if you go through a quiet patch, keep your newsletters strictly as newsletters. Keep focused on adding value. But you can send additional emails with sales offers (and then follow-up on those sales offers with some soft autoresponder-style follow-ups). That’ll maintain your integrity as a value-added supplier, whilst still generating sales from your email list.

Let’s look at how these three email types fit together in a little more detail…

How do you use all 3 types of email marketing together?

The exact mechanics of your email marketing campaign will depend on your business, your industry, your resources, and how often you have promotions.

For example, some companies send newsletters weekly; others monthly, or quarterly or whatever suits. So the exact mechanics and timings will differ. But here’s how I’d approach things:

(a) Plan your newsletters first and foremost

Your newsletters are the most important element of your email marketing campaign, so prioritise these first and foremost. The other types of email marketing can then fit around your newsletters.

As to how often you send newsletters, go with what’s achievable. (Quarterly is an absolute minimum… otherwise people won’t remember who you are, and you may as well not bother!)

So get the newsletters into your schedule, and stick to that schedule.

(b) Plan your sales emails around your newsletters

When you’re consistently adding value via your email newsletters, it’s perfectly OK to send sales emails to your subscribers. (In fact, you should send sales emails! After all, you’re in business to make sales!)

Again, how often you send these emails will depend on your business, and what you’re promoting.

Example: Imagine that you send monthly newsletters already, and now you have a major new product to promote. Send the sales email 1 to 2 weeks after the monthly newsletter, to stagger the messages.

(c) And now for the automatic reminders…

Studies have shown that it takes numerous follow-ups to make a sale. That’s where your autoresponders come in.

Even with the best will in the world, clients who are genuinely interested in your offer will forget to buy it, because they have so many other demands on their time. (I’m sure you’ve forgotten to buy a business widget, because something else came up that was urgent.)

A trickle of autoresponders will gently nudge people back to your sales message. You don’t want to repeat the sales message – that’ll make you look like Simon in the story earlier on.

No, you want to gently nudge your client to buy. And a well-written autoresponder will do that – and without being pushy or offensive. Just drip-feed these emails every 3 days or so for 3 weeks (during which time your reader will receive another value-added newsletter).

Won’t people mind the follow ups? Will they unsubscribe?

Yes, there is a good chance that some people will unsubscribe. But rather than getting too worried about it, you should thank these people for keeping your email list clean.

If you’ve got good email content, you really shouldn’t worry about the people who unsubscribe. They’ve either identified themselves as not being in your target market, or they’re cheapskates who will never ever buy anything from you anyway.

So don’t worry about the cheapskates: you’re not here for them, you’re here for those clients who will (and do) buy from you.

Now your email marketing will be Peter-perfect!

With newsletters, sales messages and autoresponders all working together in perfect unison, your email marketing will be humming!

Sure, you will need to test and measure and make some tweaks and tucks, but a well-rounded email marketing programme will be a good friend to you – and to your clients.

Remember: people like to buy, if the process is enjoyable and what you offer adds value to their lives. And with the approach I’ve outlined in this article, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. You’ll be as helpful a person to them as your buddy Peter is to you. Awww! 😉

Summary:

The ideal email marketing programme is made up of all 3 types of email marketing:

  1. Newsletters: A long-term tactic that adds-value and builds trust and credibility, and thus your relationship with the reader. Put the newsletters into your marketing programme ahead of any other kind of email marketing.
  2. Sales offers: A short-term tactic to generate revenue, but it’s best used sparingly or it’ll annoy your readers. Fit your sales offers around your newsletter schedule.
  3. Autoresponders: A short-term tactic that’s essentially a soft follow-up to your sales offers. They’re written in a personal way that build trust with the reader, so they’re not as brazen or as annoying as sales offers. Fit your autoresponders around your sales offers.

This balanced approach to email marketing will help to grow your sales in both the short-term and the long-term.

 


PS. Would you like to know more about Autoresponders?

Autoresponder copywriting booklet

Get this FREE easy-to-read info booklet to discover more about email follow-ups.

If you’d like to know more about how create them and use them, check out my copywriting services website, Words by Cornelia.

You can get a FREE easy-to-read info booklet “How to sell more to your prospects – with minimal effort (and without being pushy)″.

The info booklet shows you:

  • How to follow up in a way that your prospects will find helpful and useful.
  • How to automate your follow ups (for the sake of your sanity!)
  • It even includes some sample follow up scripts to help you get started.

Get your FREE info booklet now!

 

Why email marketing should do the donkey work in your customer retention campaigns

How to use email marketing to grow your magic beanstalk of customer loyaltyHanging the laundry out…

Phoning your parents…

Paying a bill on time…

… These are all little chores that we usually manage to do on time, but from time to time they slip our minds, right?

The same thing happens in our businesses when it comes to customer retention

In our heart of hearts, we all know that it makes sense to keep in touch with our existing clients.

But in the everyday busy-ness, it just gets forgotten sometimes. It takes a definite and concerted effort to keep in touch consistently and regularly, and to grow the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

That’s why email marketing is so important in customer retention

In my view, email marketing should be the solid core of your customer retention: other customer retention activities (such as phone calls, social media, etc.) can then fit around the email marketing.

The reason why email marketing is so well-placed to the donkey work for 5 reasons:

1. Emails get seen by your customers

When you do an email campaign, the message gets delivered to their In Box, until they action it in some way. (Which makes email far more effective than social media, because there’s a good chance your customer will never see the updates you make there.)

Even if your email gets deleted without being read, your customer will still have been reminded of your business just by seeing your message there.

(Hint: If your open rates are low, you need to write more appealing subject lines – and also make sure that your content is relevant to the readers’ needs.)

2. Email marketing is low cost

Even if you pay for copywriting and email marketing software, there’s no cheaper cost-per-customer way to communicate en masse in a short amount of time.

Imagine how much more expensive it would be to send snail mail to everyone! (I’m not saying you shouldn’t use snail mail – in fact, snail mail can work very well – but for most businesses it’s just too costly to mail their entire customer database each month.)

3. Email marketing is time efficient

Emails let you communicate with your customer base very quickly. Imagine how long it would take to phone each client to tell them your update, or if you had to set up meetings with all clients. Again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t phone or meet your clients, but emails are certainly very time efficient.

4. You can personalise your content

Using a “Firstname” salutation in email marketing is easy. And if you have an email marketing system that’s integrated with a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, you can do some really neat personalisation based on customer preferences, purchase history, and so on.

For example, imagine that your customer bought a Purple Widget from you. You can then follow up with updates relevant to the Purple Widget, e.g. matching accessories you sell, or a fun article on celebrities who own Purple Widgets.

5. Email marketing can be automated

This it the most important factor of all: email marketing can be automated.

You can set up your campaigns in advance (e.g. during a quiet time), and schedule your messages to go out automatically.

Note that “automated” does NOT have to mean “impersonal”. In fact, it’s important that your email marketing is as personal as possible, so client birthday or anniversary emails are a really good idea.

But by automating the emails as much as possible, no matter how busy you get (e.g. hanging out the laundry, phoning your parents, etc.), your customers are still getting communicated with regularly and consistently.

And that’s exactly what you want your email marketing to do for you: to take the load off your shoulders… you’re busy enough!

Does email marketing still work? Isn’t email marketing dead?

Email marketing absolutely works. If it’s not working for you, it’s because your strategy or implementation is out of whack… check out the step-by-step email marketing recovery plan.

Summary

  • Email marketing should be at the core of customer retention strategies because it:
  1. Gets seen by your customers
  2. Is low cost
  3. Is time efficient
  4. Can be personalised to readers’ preferences
  5. Can be automated
  • Supplement email marketing with other customer retention tactics (e.g. phone calls, face-to-face, social media, snail mail, etc.), but let email marketing do the core donkey work for you.

 


PS. There are three very different kinds of email marketing, and each type has a clear role and purpose.

In the next article in this series on customer retention and customer loyalty, we’ll look at what these three types of email marketing are, and how to use them together.

Why article writing is the reluctant marketer’s best friend

Ugh. There it is. Scrawled at the bottom of your To Do list: “Marketing”.

Just the sight of it makes your heart sink.

Ah well, you tell yourself, you’ll get round to that once you’ve done everything else on your list.

Of course, that dreaded marketing task never gets completed!

This is a familiar scenario for many small business owners: even though they realise that marketing is important, they don’t enjoy it and find it time-consuming and frustrating.

The good news is that there’s a highly effective marketing tactic that’s quick and time-saving

Time-saving marketing? Is it possible? Yes – if you use articles as part of your marketing tactics.

Articles? Why use articles?

Articles are a wonderful marketing technique, because one article can be used in many different ways:

Article writing is a smart marketing tool, because you can use the one article in so many different ways.

Article writing is a smart marketing tool, because you can use the one article in so many different ways.

1. Newsletter content

Include the article in your newsletter as it’ll remind existing clients of your expertise. Good quality articles add value to the relationship with your clients, and put you ahead of your competitors.

If you regularly send your clients quality articles, in time it will help to increase both your customer retention and word-of-mouth referral rates.

2. Website and blog articles

Having an informational article on your website or blog will be appreciated by both your readers. These readers could be existing clients, or they might be prospects who are umming and ahhing about contacting you. A meaningful article might just prompt them into taking action.

Customers and prospects aren’t the only ones who’ll appreciate your articles: so will the search engines. They rate websites that are rich with unique, high quality information, and if you regularly add well-written articles, you should see your website rankings increase over time.

3. Social media updates

Once the article is on your website or blog, it’s a doddle to link to it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or any other social media network. It can be a good way of driving more traffic to your website.

Seeing your article on social media sites not only reminds existing clients of your expertise (and help your customer retention rate), but it may even introduce new prospects to your business

4. Free reports and eBooks

What do you call a collection of articles? It’s a book! You could put your content into an eBook format, and either sell it online, or give it away to clients and prospects.

5. Information sheets

Put your articles into an Information Sheet format with your logo on the front, and all your contact details in the footer of each page. You can then give these Information Sheets to prospects at sales meetings, or send a PDF copy after the sales meeting.

By adding value in this way, and proving your expertise, this inexpensive method can boost your sales conversion rates.

6. Guest blogging

Other websites and blogs are always hungry for content, and if you can get your article in front of a targeted, quality audience, it can (a) drive more traffic to your own website, and (b) introduce new prospects to your business.

There are various ways to make this work, but the most important thing is that you edit the article (and its headline) before you post it elsewhere. Remember how I said in point 2 that search engines like unique content? The search engines actually downgrade sites that have ‘duplicate content’. So if you get the opportunity to post your work elsewhere, make sure that you edit it – and that the article or byline includes a link to your own website!

But what if you don’t like writing – let alone article writing?

Many people who don’t enjoy writing are great at talking. If that sounds like you, dictate your article: you can either use speech recognition software, or else get a secretarial service (such as a Virtual Assistant) to type up your dictated article.

Your other option is to get a copywriter to write your articles for you. Professional article writing is worth the investment, as the articles bring so many different benefits to your business over an extended period of time.

Summary

Article writing is a powerful marketing tactic because one article can be used in so many different ways:

  • Newsletters
  • Website and blog articles
  • Social media updates
  • Free reports and ebooks
  • Guest blogging

A marketing tactic that helps with customer retention, referral rates and introduces new customers to your business – what’s not to love?! Article writing is an investment that can yield you returns for a long time to come.

 


PS. Yes, I can help you with article writing!

Don't enjoy article writing? You can still use article marketing as a tactic, for example by engaging a copywriter to help you.

Don’t enjoy article writing? You can still use article marketing as a tactic, for example by engaging a copywriter to help you.

Read more about  copywriting services from Cornelia Luethi at The Leaky Bathtub.

“Cornelia writes the text for our newsletters and some website updates. She did a great job of taking our rambling thoughts and turning them into professional, easy to read copy. We’ve had a good reaction and it has had the desired effect of prompting some existing clients into starting new projects with us.”   – Nigel Smith, Transformer Design

 

Why you shouldn’t ask prospects to ‘subscribe’ to your newsletter

If you want your email marketing to zoom along nicely, you shouldn't ask people to 'subscribe'. Discover why 'subscribe' is a poor choice of word - and what's a better alternative.

If you want your email marketing to zoom along nicely, you shouldn’t ask people to ‘subscribe’. Discover why ‘subscribe’ is a poor choice of word – and what’s a better alternative.

Why you shouldn’t ask prospects to ‘subscribe’ to your newsletter

Eh? That sounds crazy, right? Surely you’d want prospects to subscribe to your newsletter?

After all, my last article was all about how to get more email newsletter sign ups from your website.

Let me clarify: yes, you do want to grow your email list

While you want to grow your email opt-in list, you need to be very careful about how you ask people to do that.

Your choice of words has a big influence on how your readers will react to what you’re offering… and the word ‘subscribe’ is a big turn-off.

Why the word ‘subscribe’ is off-putting

As Derek Halpern points out in his article on Copyblogger, ‘subscribe’ has negative connotations for people.

You subscribe to magazines and newspapers: i.e. you pay money to receive these items.

You also subscribe to services such as internet plans, telecommunications, and so on.

Let’s look at how the Cambridge Dictionary defines the word subscribe:

  • to pay money to an organization in order to receive a product, use a service regularly or support the organization
    She subscribes to several women’s magazines.
    I subscribe £10 a month to the charity.
  • specialized to offer to buy something or pay an amount for something as part of your business activities
    Existing shareholders subscribed to only 49% of the new share issue.
(Definition of subscribe verb from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

Thus people to tend to equate the word ‘subscribe’ with expense, commitment, hassle… stuff they don’t want.

So how do you get people to sign up?

It’s simple: instead of using the word ‘subscribe’, you use the word ‘get’.

‘Get’ is a lot more casual. For example, people get a bottle of milk from the shop. They get a haircut. They get a present. Or get a hug.

We use the word ‘get’ freely, and it doesn’t imply commitment or hassle. (Even if it does sometimes cost money to ‘get’ something.)

Here’s are two of the definitions of ‘get’ in the Cambridge Dictionary:

  • to obtain, buy or earn something
    He’s gone down to the corner shop to get some milk.
    We stopped off on the motorway to get some breakfast.
    Where did you get your radio from?
  • to receive or be given something
    I got quite a surprise when I saw her with short hair.
    I got a (telephone) call from Phil last night.
    What did you get for your birthday?
(Definition of get verb (OBTAIN) from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

Does using the word ‘get’ really make a difference to newsletter sign up rates?

Apparently, yes, it does. Here’s an article on how one person improved their sign up rate by 254%.

Sure, that’s just one person, but I can see how that might work. People react very differently to certain words. So if I were you, I’d recommend that you tweak your website to use the word ‘get’ instead of ‘subscribe’. It’s a quick job, and one that could make a very big difference to your business!

Summary

Instead of asking people to ‘subscribe’ to your newsletter, ask them to ‘get’ your newsletter. Then test and measure to see what effect that has on your sign-up rates.

 

How to get more email newsletter sign ups on your website

The key to getting more email newsletter sign ups online is to appeal to both Tentative Tom and Decisive Dan.

The key to getting more email newsletter sign ups online is to appeal to both Tentative Tom and Decisive Dan.

One of the questions I get asked a lot by clients is, “how can I get more email newsletter sign ups on my website?”

The very first thing I do is to look at the client’s website to see if the sign up process will appeal to both Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom.

I’ve written about Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom before, and how they behave differently online. In previous articles you’ve seen how you need to take both user types into consideration when structuring your website content, and also when creating sales pages.

But you also need to take both of these website user types into consideration when you want more email newsletter sign ups.

Here’s how you can get both Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom to sign up to your email newsletter.

Both Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom need to be enticed to sign up

It seems that eeeeeveryone is offering email newsletters these days. And you have to earn (a) your place in prospects’ mailboxes, and (b) getting your newsletters read, rather than trashed.

How do you do that? With a free enticement of some sort. This freebie needs to be something that:

  • Recipients receive immediately. Instant gratification is key; if there’s a delay they’ll have forgotten about you. Therefore delivery needs to be automatic and automated (which is why email newsletter software such as AWeber and MailChimp is so neat, it does all that for you).
  • Is in some kind of digital format… after all, the computer will be delivering it for you. This digital file is something that people can either read, view, listen to or watch on their computers. It could be a written report; or an audio file; or a video… or for best effect, a mixture of these. (Why a mixture? Not everyone likes all formats – some people are visual, some are auditory, some are kinesthetic. The more people your offer appeals to, the wider the take up.)
  • Encourages foot traffic. Digital content isn’t suitable for all business types. Or you might want to do something a bit extra. For example, if you’re a retailer you might want to offer a digital “buyers’ guide” – but you might want to supplement that with a time limited offer to receive an in store consultation.
  • Adds value to what you do. The freebie should be something that helps to answer a problem that all your prospects share. It’s something that’ll help them in their lives, and establishes you as a credible expert.
  • Has enticing packaging. Packaging sells! Even though you’re sending something digital, get a graphic designer to make it look like a real product. There’s special software (for example Cover Action Pro PhotoShop add-on) that can mock up books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, and a whole lot more.
The business cards above aren’t real. Neither is the DVD case. Nor is the magazine. They’ve all been created by someone using Cover Action Pro.

The business cards above aren’t real. Neither is the DVD case. Nor is the magazine. They’ve all been created by someone using Cover Action Pro.

Both Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom will love this enticing packaging. There’s not much point in having a great freebie on offer, but it doesn’t look enticing. Give it some zing!

That’s where Dan and Tom’s similarities end… from now on, they want different things from your website. Yes, you can please them both – here’s how to do it! We’ll start with Decisive Dan…

Decisive Dan will want the minimum fuss and hoopla

To entice Decisive Dan to sign up to your newsletter, you need to make it easy for him. And the best way to do that is to have a sign up form right there, on most pages of your website.

(How do you get a sign up box onto your website? If you use an email newsletter system such as AWeber or MailChimp, it gives you a code that you or your website developer will need to add to your website.)

This sign up box should be in a prominent position, rather than tucked away somewhere down the bottom.

Very often, a Decisive Dan kind of person won’t scroll down the page, so you need to make it obvious!

How to make the sign up box obvious

A good way to make the sign up box obvious is to feature it prominently on every web page. My preferred space is at the very top of the right hand column (side bar), so that people can see the sign up box without having to scroll.

For example, on my own site, the sign up box appears at the top of the right hand column of most pages, as follows:

To attract as many email newsletter sign ups as possible, this box appears on most pages of my website.

To attract as many email newsletter sign ups as possible, this box appears on most pages of my website.

My sign-up box is quite subtle (I’m not into garish colours!).

But the email sign up box on this website, below, is brightly coloured to make it stand out:

You can spot the email sign up box on this website very easily! (Hint: it's the bright yellow box on the right.)

You can spot the email sign up box on this website very easily! (Hint: it’s the bright yellow box on the right.)

It’s not the prettiest looking website (or sign up box), but Randy Ingermanson has more than 30,000 email subscribers, so it definitely works for him!

Other techniques to get more email newsletter sign ups from Decisive Dan

There are other techniques you can use to grab Decisive Dan’s attention. These include pop-up boxes, which can be programmed to appear immediately when someone visits your site, or after a set amount of time.

I was happily starting to read a website article when this pop-up sign up box came up, blanking out the rest of the page. Many websites use this as a ploy to capture more email subscribers.

I was happily starting to read a website article when this pop-up sign up box came up, blanking out the rest of the page. Many websites use this as a ploy to capture more email subscribers.

Personally I don’t like these pop-up boxes, they really annoy me… though apparently they do work well. I don’t want to inflict them on my readers, seeing as I dislike these pop-ups myself!

But there’s a subtler way to grab Decisive Dan’s attention, and that’s with a Hello Bar.

The 'Hello Bar' is the bright horizontal strip across the top: this is an obvious but still subtle way to get users to take action, e.g. sign up to your email list.

The ‘Hello Bar’ is the bright horizontal strip across the top: this is an obvious but still subtle way to get users to take action, e.g. sign up to your email list.

The Hello Bar lets you use any call-to-action you like (be it a newsletter sign ups, or whatever). You can use colour to make it stand out, yet without being too garish. And it can stay at the top of the screen even when people scroll.

For example, here it is on my website:

The Hello Bar is visible at all times, even when people scroll down the web page.

The Hello Bar is visible at all times, even when people scroll down the web page.

I’m trialling the Hello Bar at the time of writing this; it’s early days yet, but it seems that my subscriber numbers have increased since I started using it. Yes, mine is quite subtle in colour, but garish colours aren’t for me. 😉

So there you have it: Decisive Dan wants it to be as easy as possible to sign up. He likes the sign up box to be attention-grabbing and with no excess information or blurb to hold him up.

What about Tentative Tom? Oooh, I’m glad you asked…

Tentative Tom will want more information before committing to signing up

That’s hardly surprising, that Tentative Tom wants more information before giving you his email address. He wants to:

  • Be assured that your newsletter is worth receiving – and including testimonials from other newsletter subscribers will help to sway him.
  • Get an idea of how often you’ll email him. Of course, you can change the frequency, but it’s nice for people to know if you’ll be emailing them daily, weekly, fortnightly, quarterly, etc.
  • Know that you won’t spam him, or use his details in an underhand way (e.g. sell or give the database to other people or organisations)
  • Be reassured that Unsubscribing will be easy, if he does change his mind
  • Want to know more about the freebie, to be sure he’ll like it (even though it is free!)

Wow, that’s rather a lot of information! Far too much to fit into your sign up box. That’s why it’s worth having an extra web page with more details.

Notice how I have a little link in the sign up box on my website?

The newsletter sign up box on the right-hand side bar of my website includes a link to web page with more information on my newsletter. This is for Tentative Tom!

The newsletter sign up box on the right-hand side bar of my website includes a link to web page with more information on my newsletter. This is for Tentative Tom!

That link is there especially so that Tentative Tom can find out everything he wants to know. The link goes to a special page that answers all his questions; gives some reader testimonials; – and yes, there’s another sign-up box there too.

Another benefit of having such a page is that you have a website address (URL) that you can link to easily, for example from other websites, or social media updates, and so on. In my case, I mostly point people towards http://wordsbycornelia.com/marketing-newsletter/

If you don’t have a special newsletter page, it’s harder to drive people to your site for the specific purpose of signing up. So there’s two-fold benefit for having this separate page: it encourages Tentative Tom to sign up, and you have a page that you can link to.

Anyway, here’s a visual of the web page that the link leads to:

This is my main email newsletter sign up page: it's a very good idea to have a dedicated page you can link to.

This is my main email newsletter sign up page: it’s a very good idea to have a dedicated page you can link to.

Notice how the sign up box is visible without scrolling; this is for Decisive Dan’s benefit, in case he ends up on this page.

If you scroll down, you’ll see the blurb that will answer Tentative Tom’s questions:

By scrolling down, Tentative Tom will be able to read more about the email newsletter subscription to put his mind at ease - and entice him to sign up!

By scrolling down, Tentative Tom will be able to read more about the email newsletter subscription to put his mind at ease – and entice him to sign up!

Sneaky bonus tip to get more email newsletter sign ups

I actually have two email newsletter sign up pages on my website. Notice how the one above talks (unsurprisingly) about the newsletter?

Well, sometimes I don’t want to promote the newsletter; I want to promote the free eGuide.

For example, the reverse of my business cards talks about the free eGuide. If I pointed these people towards the page above, they’d be confused, because the connection between the newsletter and free eGuide isn’t obvious at first glance. (Well, not to Decisive Dan, anyway.) Because the connection isn’t instantly obvious, it would make people scratch their head. And that’s dangerous, because while they’re scratching their head with their left hand, their right hand is hovering over the mouse to hit the ‘back’ button and navigate to some other website. Therefore we need to avoid that head scratching! And that where this second page makes a useful landing page.

So when I want to promote the free eGuide, I have a second (hidden) page, that only people with the link can find. It’s: http://wordsbycornelia.com/free/

It’s same-same but different to the other page, in that the prominent message is the free eGuide. Sure, it mentions the newsletter too (I don’t want to be misleading!), but the emphasis is different:

This sign up page has more emphasis on the free eGuide, than on the email newsletter. This makes it a useful landing page for when I'm promoting my eGuide.

This sign up page has more emphasis on the free eGuide, than on the email newsletter. This makes it a useful landing page for when I’m promoting my eGuide.

I’ve found it incredibly handy to have two different newsletter sign up pages, and I suggest that you do this too. You can even start measuring to see which page gets the best conversion rate, and learn from that.

Summary

There are many things you can do on your own website to increase the number of email newsletter sign ups:

  • Offer an incentive for signing up. And ensure that this incentive is
    • in digital format
    • delivered immediately
    • adds value to what your business does (it must appeal to all your prospects)
    • attractively packaged
  • Decisive Dan will want the sign up box positioned prominently on the website
  • Tentative Tom will want a detail page that gives him more information
  • Have two slightly different detail pages (one focusing on the newsletter; the other focusing on the incentive) give you extra flexibility in your marketing.
Once you’re sure that your website is set up to maximise email newsletter sign ups, your next task is to drive more traffic to your website so you can start growing your list in earnest.

 


Next step: like these website tips?

At last! Easy-to-read and plain-speaking tips to help you get to grips with your website.

At last! Easy-to-read and plain-speaking tips to help you get to grips with your website.

Then you’ll love the Website Owner’s Manual eBook I’ve written. It’s designed to rev up your website… and for less than the price of a tank of gas. It outlines in clear English:

  • Website updates: How often should you update your website? And what on earth could you possibly add to it?
  • Conversion: What tweaks could you make to your website to turn more visitors into customers?
  • Links: Why is it important to have quality websites linking to your website? And how can you go about getting these links?
  • Communication: How can you communicate with your customers online? And what sort of content could you use?
  • Measurement: What exactly should you be measuring? And how?
  • Real world strategies: What can you do in the real world to encourage people to visit your website?

Discover more about the Website Owner’s Manual eBook →

 

Email marketing breakdown? Here’s your recovery plan

Has your email marketing broken down? Chances are it's fixable... here's your recovery plan.

Has your email marketing broken down? Chances are it's fixable: here's your recovery plan to help you rev up your email marketing.

If you own a car, chances are that at some stage it’s broken down. Whether it’s a flat tyre or something more serious, most of us have been there.

But just because your car’s broken down, does that mean that you decide that cars in general are broken? And you vow to never use a car again?

Unlikely!

You’re far more likely to get your mechanic to fix the car. (Or if all else fails, you might get a new car.)

Yet when email marketing breaks down, people are quick to say that “email marketing is dead”.

Is email marketing dead?

No, email marketing isn’t dead: it’s simply evolved over time. Just like there’s more traffic on the roads; and we no longer use crank handles to start a car engine, technology changes and evolves. And that’s what’s happened to email marketing.

Yes, you might be finding it harder to grow your opt-in list. Yes, your open rates might be down. And yes, your unsubscribe rates might be up. But that doesn’t mean that all email marketing is broken; it just means it’s time you tweaked it. Just like a car needs fixing and servicing, so does email marketing.

Still not convinced that email marketing works?

If you need convincing that email marketing works, here’s how my own email marketing is looking at the time of writing. In the past year my email opt-in list has grown by 36%; open rates have increased by 34%; and my click-through rate has increased by 414% (yes, you read that correctly). And in terms of earning dollars, my email list provides me with a regular flow of repeat consulting and copywriting work, referral business and eBook sales.

How did I achieve these results? By following the tips I’m about to share with you. Nothing more and nothing less!

I should also mention that colleagues of mine who are black belts in email marketing are getting even better results than I am: they have larger lists, and through this they are able to make sales on a daily basis. What they’re achieving is inspiring, and shows us what’s possible – and they’re getting these results without spending very much money on their marketing.

Email marketing is possibly the most cost-effective customer retention method

Customer retention is a vital marketing strategy; and email marketing lets you communicate with your Customers, Members, Advocates and Raving Fans cost-effectively and time-efficiently.

Can you think of any other communication method that lets you communicate directly with all your fans for just a few cents? At this point you might be thinking ‘social media’ – but this doesn’t let you communicate directly: there’s a very good chance your updates may not be seen. With email, they’ll see your message in your InBox… and even if they don’t open your email, at least you’re still front of mind.

So yes, email marketing still reigns. If you’re not getting the results that you used to get, it indicates that it’s time to give it a re-tune and tweak.

Here’s your 11-point email marketing recovery plan:

1. Review your costs

Are you finding email marketing expensive? If so, you need to look at the costs. In particular:

  • Email newsletter software: if you find your current system expensive, shop around. Many of my clients are raving about MailChimp‘s free plan; it’s very good. (Personally I use AWeber, and that works well for me.)
  • Labour costs: many business owners dislike writing newsletter content and setting it up. You have two main choices: either learn to do it yourself; or outsource it. One thing you don’t want to skimp on though is the content: we’ll come onto that later. Whoever does this needs to know what they’re doing, as it’s the content that will make or break your email marketing. So if you decide to write your own content, make sure you brush up on your copywriting skills.

2. Attract new subscribers continually

Just like cars need fuel, subscribers are the lifeblood of your email marketing and you need to work at continually attracting new (quality) subscribers. Make it easy for people to sign up to your list, for example by having a sign-up form on your website. And be sure to tell subscribers exactly what they’re signing up for: reassure them that their personal data will be kept private, and let them know how often you’ll contact them. Setting expectations upfront is a good thing.

These days it’s certainly become harder to entice new subscribers, and for this reason it can be a good idea to offer a high quality enticement. This could be a free eBook, Report or White Paper that subscribers receive in return for signing up. This gift should be geared to a common need your subscribers have; be of good quality; and not overly long (because you actually want them to read it!).

If you use social media, make sure that you’re regularly enticing your followers to sign up to your email list. It’s far more important that you grow your email list than your Facebook fans or Twitter followers.

Why? You want to own your customer data; you should not rely on a third party (such as Facebook). You have no control over Facebook. Imagine if the site closed down overnight for some reason: all your fans would be gone along with it. That’s why it’s so important that you focus on growing your email marketing list first and foremost: you shouldn’t build your business on someone else’s land, so to speak.

3. Email subject lines must be amazing!

Subscribers will choose whether to open your email or not based on your subject line. And to write an enticing subject line means you need to have good headline writing skills. Click here to see what makes a good headline.

If your headline isn’t strong enough, the rest of the content is immaterial. So writing a good headline is essential.

Many email newsletter systems let you send “split test broadcasts” (or “A/B testing”), which will let you test and measure different headlines to see which gets the best open rate and the best click-through rate. Give that a try, so you can see what your subscribers respond to.

Hint: if you did this a while ago (say a year or two ago), do it again. The world has changed since then, and so have people’s needs and motivations.

4. Develop a strategy for your email marketing content

This is where many people trip up, as they’re not clear on what they should be doing. There are 3 different kinds of email marketing, and you need to be clear on what they are, and the difference between them.

  1. Email newsletters: Most of the content (around 80%) should be focused on adding value to your reader, e.g. an article that they will find interesting or beneficial in some way. A maximum of 20% of the email should be sales-based. (And be sure to feature the value-added article first, and only then the offer.)
  2. Sales emails: Pure sales emails are an important tool in your email marketing toolkit, but use them sparingly as readers tire very quickly of being bombarded by sales messages.
  3. Autoresponders: These are a series of automated emails that arrive in short, sharp succession after sign-up. After all, you are most at front-of-mind when people have just joined your list. Autoresponders are generally short; have a personal tone; and are about adding value. Here’s some information on Autoresponders from AWeber.

All of these require a different approach. And the content for each of these will be very different… and ideally you will be engaging all 3 techniques. After all, if you were to drive your car just in one gear, your journey would be slow and frustrating, so you use all the gears available to you. Same with your email marketing: to get it cranking, you need to use all the techniques at your disposal.

You will need to suss out a way to mix the different email marketing methods: the email newsletters, sales emails and autoresponders should be working harmoniously together.

If that sounds hard, I’m afraid you should grit your teeth and do it, it is OK! It is worse to keep doing what you’re doing (and not get results) or to omit email marketing from your marketing campaigns altogether. After all, a mechanic often has to do diagnostics to find out what’s wrong with a car, so this is you doing the same thing for your business.

To give you a starting point, here is an email marketing calendar suggested by AWeber.

5. Create the content that fits your strategy

Now that you have a strategy to work to for each email, the goal of your writing work becomes a lot clearer. And be sure to treat your list like the VIPs that they are and give them quality information.

Quality content means including graphics and captions, as well as good writing. And be sure to provide links to your website where your readers can find more information.

Hint #1: Less is more. Rather than cram in lots of content and lots of articles, let one high-quality article be the feature of your email marketing. One clear theme will be more memorable than a multitude of messages.

Hint #2: This is the bit where most people get stuck; they’re not sure what their readers find most interesting/beneficial, and what they don’t like. There’s only one sure fire way to find out for certain. And that is covered in the next step:

6. Ask your readers for feedback

Email marketing can be a weird feeling: you spend hours toiling over it; hit send; and often you get zero feedback. If it weren’t for your statistics, you’d be wondering if the emails ever got sent!

If that’s how things are feeling to you, you need to get some feedback from your readers. And not just any old readers, but your biggest advocates, i.e. the kind of A-Grade customers you’d like to have more of.

If you know them well enough, ask them personally: be sure to ask open-ended questions to get their feedback, i.e. questions beginning with: how, why, what, when, etc.

Another option is to do a quick online survey to see what readers think. Just make sure you keep it simple (just 3 quick questions), and offer a prize draw incentive for those who take part. After all, their feedback is vital for your business, and as no-one really enjoys filling in forms, it’s wise to acknowledge that they’re sticking their neck out helping you by offering a reward.

There are free online survey tools you can use: SurveyMonkey is a popular option, and there are plenty of other services too. (Just do a web search for “free online survey”.)

7. Are there any treats in your email newsletters?

… or in other words, do you treat your readers like dogs?

Dogs love treats. And once you start giving them treats, they’ll want more and more. In fact, they’ll start expecting the treats – and boy will you get big, sad looks if you come up empty-handed!

Same thing in your email newsletters. Is there a little extra something you can easily slot into your emails? This Copyblogger article will give you some ideas and tips on creating this kind of email content.

By doing this in each newsletter issue (and yes, just newsletters, not sales emails or Autoresponders), your readers will start looking out for them.

8. Ensure your template is appropriate

All this wonderful content you’ve created needs to go into a branded email newsletter template. This should look smart and professional. But most importantly of all, your template needs to be smart phone compatible. Why? An increasing number of people read emails on their cell phones, so if your template is a few years old or not specially designed for cell phones, people might be unsubscribing and deleting your emails simply because they can’t read it.

Test and check your template; if it’s not cell phone compatible, you need a new template urgently.

9. Write a sequel (or two)

Have you noticed how many popular books (and movies) have sequels? For example, there are seven books in the Harry Potter series. ‘The Hunger Games’ is a trilogy. So is ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. Many authors and publishing houses have realised that readers want more and more and more. Each book leaves you wanting to read the next book.

Use the same approach in your email newsletters: rather than making each one a stand-alone blockbuster, write a mini-series. And then tell the reader that that’s what you’re doing, because then they’ll look out for the next email newsletter, as they’re already anticipating it. This does wonders for your open rates!

I’ve been using this approach myself, (a) by sometimes writing a mini-series in my email newsletters, and (b) including a short blurb with a teaser in a section entitled In the next issue. My open rates have never been looking healthier. Sure, it means you have to plan your content in advance (read: being organised and planning ahead), but it is very well worth it.

10. Re-evaluate the frequency

Are you sending your emails too often – or not often enough? Generally speaking, the more frequently you can send email newsletters (with quality content that adds value), the better.

If your email newsletters have broken down, rather than send the newsletters less often, you should tend to the items on this recovery plan and then send your newsletters more often!

Why? Life is incredibly fast paced and is speeding up. You need to keep up, rather than slow down, if you want your business to thrive. You can slow down when you’re retired. 😉

11. Be consistent

The biggest email killer by far is not being consistent in your frequency. Getting the newsletter out on time, every time is essential… no excuses. If you do not do this, believe me, it gets noticed. Your customers and prospects will start questioning your professionalism: they’ll wonder if you’re so slack in all aspects of your business. Whilst that sounds harsh, remember that people will judge you based on what they see (or don’t see), and will make assumptions about your business based on that.

So how do you get your newsletter out on time each time? My tips are to:

  • Draw up a production schedule for the next year. Identify (a) the send-out dates and (b) the materials deadline dates. Give yourself some time to put the newsletter together.
  • Write these dates and deadlines in your diary… and stick to them!
  • Use quiet times to your advantage and pre-prepare content in advance. Email newsletter systems will let you queue things waaaay in advance. So if you know you’re going to be on holiday, get that newsletter set up a week or two (or more) before you leave.

Summary

Email marketing continues to be the most cost-effective way to build relationships with your customers and to generate sales. If your email marketing isn’t delivering results, it’s not the medium that’s at fault, rather the implementation of it. So get under the hood and tinker and fine-tune till it’s humming again! (It may even perform better than it did before it broke down!)

If you follow this recovery plan, your email marketing could be zooming along more quickly than ever!

If you follow this recovery plan, your email marketing could be zooming along more quickly than ever!

 

What’s a “normal” open rate for email newsletters?

Sending email newsletters can be a weird experience. Sure, you have a feeling that you’re doing the right thing by keeping in touch with your clients… but how can you tell if they’re actually having an impact?

After all, whenever you hit that “Send” button, it can be like sending your message into the Great Online Void. And that can play havoc with your feelings.

How to deal with the emotion-sucking Great Online Void

First of all, if your email newsletter campaigns feel like a Great Online Void, you need to remember why you’re sending the emails in the first place. And that reason is to stay in touch with your customers, and therefore stay front of mind. It’s all about communicating with them; making them feel valued; and maintaining a relationship with them.

If that doesn’t give you warm and fuzzies, then the fact that these newsletters are likely to be producing repeat business and also referrals should definitely leave you feeling good!

But tell me about facts, not just about emotions…

Facts are vital when it comes to email newsletter campaigns, and that’s why using specialised email newsletter software is such a good idea. The software measures your campaigns, and gives you data, with one of the key measurements being the “open rate”. That is, how many people opened your email newsletter.

But what does this open rate data mean?

Having the open rate data by itself can be meaningless…. how are you meant to know if the numbers are “good” or “bad”? You need something to benchmark against.

Email newsletter benchmarks

Here’s that all-elusive benchmarking information… and that is, that a good email open rate is considered to be between 20% and 40%. If you’re in a business-to-business industry, then the open rates should be at the higher end of that scale; and if you’re dealing with consumers, then the open rates are usually at the lower end of that scale.

Side Note: those are the percentages I’ve always worked to. While researching this article, I did find some recent statistics from email newsletter providers Mail Chimp and Constant Contact. However their percentages tend to much lower than those my clients achieved. I’d be very unhappy if my clients’ open rates were this low!

But wait-a-sec, that seems really low – most people aren’t opening my newsletters!

Ah, but let’s remember WHY you’re sending your newsletters. And that is, to keep in touch with your customers so you stay front of mind. And you’re doing that just by them seeing your company name in your In Box. OK, so it’d be nice if they were to open your newsletter, but it’s done its job to some extend if (a) your customer has seen your name, and (b) they don’t Unsubscribe.

Of course, it would be nice in the ideal world if everyone were to open your newsletters all the time, but we don’t live in that ideal world. We have to be happy with what we’ve got, and work our darndest to improve things by continually sending top-quality newsletters. It’s a constant effort to maintain (or increase) those open rates.

What does it mean if open rates start dropping off?

If your open rates are falling issue after issue, don’t panic straightaway. There are a number of different reasons as to why open rates fall off:

  • The database is ageing: open rates tend to fall over the years, as people tend to switch jobs and make other changes in their lives, meaning that their email address becomes invalid, or that they don’t need your product or service any more. That’s totally normal.
  • You’re not attracting new subscribers: the issue in the previous point is enhanced if you’re not regularly attracting new subscribers. Gaining new subscribers takes continual effort.
  • The subject lines are boring: many people will decide whether to open your email or not based on the attractiveness of your subject line. If your subject lines aren’t enticing, many people will stop opening the emails. Great subject lines are vital, and some split-testing around this will help you discover which subject lines work best for your target market.
  • The content is falling short of expectations: if people aren’t enjoying your content, they’ll stop reading your newsletters. However, this is the first conclusion that many business owners jump to, yet you need to look at the previous bullet points first of all before making any radical decisions about your newsletter content.

Summary

If you do spot your email open rates dropping off, the above list gives you a remedial tool kit to work through. However, don’t be tempted to change everything at once – you could be throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Do some tweaking and testing over a number of issues to see how that goes. And if you’re not getting anywhere, then try something else.

The main thing is that you do keep communicating with your customers, despite any hiccups in your open rates. Keeping the relationship going is vital.

And that’s exactly what you need to remember if you ever get the feeling that you’re communicating with the Great Online Void: you’re not, you’re communicating with your bestest and nicest customers. Even if you don’t hear from them in response, you should allow yourself to feel some warm, fuzzy feelings in the knowledge that you’re maintaining your relationship with them. Besides, regularly communicating with your best customers is the best kind of marketing you can be doing, so keep it up!

 

Are your email newsletters suffering from the “message in a bottle” approach?

When you were a kid, did you ever think of sending a “message in a bottle”?

You know, scrawling a note, sticking it inside a bottle, sealing the bottle, and then casting the bottle into the ocean, wondering where it’d end up and if it you’d ever hear back from the recipient.

Wondering if your message got anywhere is fine for childhood playtime, but not so good in business

Are your email newsletters suffering from the "message in a bottle" approach?Yet in the business world, so many business owners take the “message in a bottle” approach to email newsletters. By that, I mean that they send their email newsletters from their desktop email programme (such as Outlook).

Why is it a problem to send email newsletters from Outlook?

There are a number of problems with sending your email newsletter from Outlook (or any other desktop email system):

  1. Deliverability: There is a very good chance that emails sent this way will get blocked by spam filters, as they can pick up that emails sent “en masse” could be unsolicited (spam) emails. This could even mean that you get permanently “blacklisted” by certain email systems – this is something you want to avoid at all costs!
  2. Lack of reporting: you have no way of measuring if your email got delivered; how many people opened it; and how many people click the links in your email newsletter. So you’re really just sending your email, hoping it will arrive at its destination, not knowing for sure if it has or not.
  3. Formatting: emails sent from Outlook might look OK at your end, but they might not look so great at the recipient’s end. (And don’t be tempted to send the newsletter as a PDF attachment – it’s very unlikely it’ll get opened!)
  4. Legal compliance: it is very easy to ignore the legalities of sending email newsletters. Amongst other things, it is a legal requirement to offer an Unsubscribe option, and to include a postal address of the sender within the email.

So how should you send your email newsletters?

The best way to send your email newsletters is via special email newsletter software. The features differ from system to system, but most of them offer the following benefits:

  • Reporting and analysis: you can see how many people opened your email, and how many people clicked on the links. This allows you to find out what interests your customers and prospects the most.
  • Split testing: you can test and measure what your readers respond to best, for example by changing the subject line or offer. Over time, this will help to make your emails newsletters more focused and removes a lot of the guesswork involved in the “message in a bottle” approach.
  • Spam word testing: various words can trigger the spam filters, and if your spam count is too high, there’s a good chance your email will be blocked. Most email newsletter systems will let you know how your newsletter scores, and which words might cause issues. This increases the likelihood of your email being received by the recipient.
  • Templates and formatting: email newsletter systems allow you to set up a template, giving your emails a professional look.
  • Subscriber management: the system gives you a sign-up box you can put on your website so prospects can sign up for your newsletter. Plus your subscriber database is stored with the email newsletter system, so it’s always ready to go. And if a subscriber wants to Unsubscribe, they can easily do so by clicking a link, without you having to do anything at your end.

What are the most popular email newsletter systems?

There are a wide number of email newsletter systems. Most of them are web-based, so you can access it from any internet-connected computer in the world.

Some popular choices for web-based email newsletter systems include AWeber and Mail Chimp. If you do an internet search for “email newsletters” you’ll find many other suppliers too.

The way the prices are structured varies from supplier to supplier, so check them out. Most systems offer you a free trial so you can try it out first. Many also offer really good resources and information on how to get the most out of your email newsletter campaigns.

Once you get the hang of the email newsletter system (yes, like most software, it takes a bit of getting used to), you’ll never want to go back to the “message in a bottle” approach again. You’ll love the fact that your email campaigns are so much easier to manage and measurable, so you know exactly where your emails are going.