Monday, June 8, 2015

Q&A: Starting an Email List

I like to answer questions from my tribe! In today's blog post, I respond to a reader who has a question about starting an email list.

Question:

I've been doing some Internet research regarding email marketing. MailChimp says I have to ask permission before I send email marketing. How do I do that? (I'm not using them - I'm going to do it myself) Do I send a first email saying in the subject line: "Asking permission to email monthly newsletter - NO email marketing service used"?

Another question: It has been suggested that I put a privacy policy right up front. Is the following enough? 

Privacy policy: I am not using an email marketing service - I am distributing the monthly email newsletter myself. There will be complete confidentiality. Your email will not be given to anyone. Please let me know if you're interested in receiving it. Below is what you will see.


Answer:
I'm thrilled you want to start using email to market/communicate! It's one of the most valuable tools you can use to generate repeat business, referrals and even new clients!

You want to get people to opt-in to your email. I believe you actually SHOULD be using an email marketing service -- doing it yourself (i.e., copy-and-pasting email addresses into a BCC list) has two major disadvantages: 

  1. lower deliverability of email messages (some email systems associate the BCC method with spam and will block messages from you -- not just the bulk ones, but they'll "blacklist" your email address and when you try to individually email these clients later, the message may not get through. 
  2. You won't know who opened your email messages. All email marketing systems track "open rates" -- and while they're not infallible (people have to either click a link in the email or click "load images" to be registered as an "open,"), knowing which of your messages are enticing people to read them is valuable information. (Imagine if our clients could send their resumes this way, and they'd know if their resumes were actually being "opened" and read! I'm sure that day is coming! *smile*)

Okay, back to opting in. The best way to do this is to invite people to JOIN your email list. But it's not like the old days (5-10 years ago), when you could say, "Sign up to get my email newsletter!" and people would join it. No, people want valuable information in exchange for giving up their email address, and a "monthly newsletter" isn't enough of a draw. The easiest way to get them to sign up is by giving them a valuable special report. A lot of my BeAResumeWriter.com Bronze members adapt their Pass-Along Materials for this purpose. Another advantage of using an email service is that it automates the opt-in and delivery of the freebie. 

YES, you can send an email to each of your current clients, but I wouldn't use the subject line "Asking permission to email monthly newsletter." Instead, I'd tailor it to your bonus. For example: "Follow-up to resume services: Making more in your next job." This one-to-one email can be sent to each of your clients you've worked with (and, on an ongoing basis, to each client you work with in the future, after you send their resume documents). The email would have a link to opt-in to the email list AND when they sign up, it AUTOMATICALLY sends them the link to download the special report. (And they're added to your email list.) That's the basis of permission-based marketing.

If you want to use your email list to generate prospects (not just communicate with existing clients), you can also add the opt-in box to your website and social media profiles. You use it the same way -- you offer a valuable opt-in incentive (it can even be a DIFFERENT one for prospective clients vs. existing clients!) and you put an opt-in box on your website, blog, Facebook business page, etc. to get people to opt-in to receive it (and thus be on your email list). Most of the email marketing services will also include tools that allow you to spread the word about getting on your list (including "forward this email" buttons and links to your social media profile tools).

Many of the services also allow you to upload lists but ONLY do this if you have the permission of the people to add them! For example, if you have a booth at a job fair, you can offer to send them your salary negotiation guide if they put their name/email on your sign-up sheet. Then, you can enter those names into your email service database manually and it will both send them the guide AND add them to your email list.

As for WHAT to send to folks once they're on your list, make sure you follow the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of your content should be valuable career-related information (without sales tactics) and 20% can be promotions/advertising -- whether that's for your own services or affiliate products/services. You want people to STAY on your list, so make sure you're communicating with them REGULARLY (at least once a month) and giving them valuable information.

But that brings me to reason #3 to use an email marketing service: automatic unsubscribes. The #1 rule you need to follow in email marketing is actually a LAW -- the CAN-SPAM Act defines email marketing. If someone asks to be taken off your list, you need to do that. And it's easier to allow them to unsubscribe themselves (ALL email marketing programs have this option built-in to each message you send) than to manage getting the replies to you one by one by one. Here's the CAN-SPAM Act guidelines:

The #4 reason to use an email marketing service is they offer you pretty templates you can customize when sending the information. Instead of a plain email message, you can incorporate a "theme" template -- customizing the colors and fonts to match your business logo/colors. Once you set up this template, you can use it over and over again, making it easy to send your monthly messages. 

All in all, email marketing services offer some major advantages over sending messages yourself. And frankly, most people don't actually MIND that you're using an email marketing service to manage your list. The messages look more professional, getting on and off the list are easy, and they still can be personalized (you can set up your messages so they drop in the recipient's first name in the subject line or in the body of the message itself).

And they're not too expensive. (EVERY resume writer I've worked with on this has said their list pays for itself in terms of repeat business, referrals, affiliate products/services sold, and new business generated, if they follow the guidelines I've outlined here). The cost can be as little as $5/month, but the average is $20/month. I personally pay about $50/month for mine, and it's TOTALLY worth it.

I use (and recommend) these three email marketing services -- I've included pluses and minuses, and my affiliate links for each:

VerticalResponse. Offers a pay-as-you-go option (you can pay for email "credits" to start out, instead of a flat monthly rate -- although you can change to a monthly subscription at any time), so it's very affordable to get started. VR offers some basic templates; but does not include free graphics. It can host your sign-up form for you too. Setup difficulty level: Medium
http://www.kqzyfj.com/click-5727729-10683714

Constant Contact. One of the most popular services. A little more pricey than other options, but offers a TON of templates and lots of free graphics (plus access to paid stock photography services). Good sign-up tools for getting people on your list -- integrates with your Facebook page easily to provide a sign-up form. Also offers other services: survey tool, event management/sign-up tool, and a Groupon-like service. Offers a free trial for new customers. Setup difficulty level: Easy

AWeber. This one requires more technical proficiency than the other two, but offers a way for you to provide both single email messages AND email "courses" to prospective clients or current/past clients using autoresponders. I use it to deliver both free AND paid programs -- you can set up a series of email messages that are delivered automatically -- for example, my Leveraging LinkedIn class is 8 email lessons delivered once a day for 8 consecutive days. I set it up once in AWeber and people can subscribe to the "course" and the messages are delivered to them automatically. It also offers great opt-in forms -- giving you the code to put on your own page or AWeber will even "host" the form for you. Setup difficulty level: Harder

Why don't I recommend Mailchimp? Mainly because of email deliverability rates. Because Mailchimp offers a free level of service, their OVERALL email deliverability rates are lower, because some email service providers block ALL Mailchimp messages because some people use the free service irresponsibly. (Because there is no cost, it's used quite a bit by folks selling multilevel marketing products or low-cost services/products). I prefer using a paid service that monitors its members and makes sure they are following the rules (not just adding their entire email list to their account and sending messages without permission).

As for the privacy policy, YES, it's fine to include it, but it does NOT need to be the first thing in the message (nor will that help you entice people to subscribe and/or stay on your list). The #1 way to build trust with your list is to SHOW, not TELL. It's not enough to say that you won't share or use their email without permission -- SHOW that. Do NOT add send "bulk" emails to people unless they've requested to be added to your list (by opting in to receive your freebie). It's fine to send ONE email message to people you currently work with (or have worked with in the past) to ask if they want to receive your freebie, but don't just ADD them to the list. People hate that. :-)

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