I think this is where most people have difficulty. Looking for ideas to write about, looking for images, trying to make sure that the spelling and grammar are correct.
Since I don’t believe anyone could cover all the aspects of great email campaigns in one blog post (best practices recommend that blog posts aren’t too long), I’ll try to hit on a few high points.
Grab their attention at the start – have an attention grabbing first sentence.
Have short concise paragraphs
Remember to add some interesting personal stories when appropriate
Have a clear call to action (best practices recommend buttons)
Include links – to your blog, to your social media, and to your website.
Include events, webinars, new offerings, specials on old offerings.
Write TO YOUR CLIENTS. Pay more attention to what your audience wants to HEAR and less attention to what YOU want to SAY.
Finally, I understand that some businesses are cash strapped, and I understand that some people are highly independent and want to do it all, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with reaching out for help when you need it (heck, I only get paid if people need help so I’m a big fan here.) If you need some names of some great copywriters, feel free to contact me. If you have any recommendations you’d like to make, please leave them in the comments.
At the VERY VERY end of this post (if you care to keep scrolling down) I have some “recipes” from some newsletters that I edit and that I read.
Mary Wu, Virtual Assistant – Typically, my newsletter consists of a short paragraph of a personal nature, an excerpt from a recent blog post (with an invitation to continue reading and a link to my blog post – to drive traffic back to my website), a segment I call “Other Great Reads” that are articles related to my “topic of the week” (or as the spirit moves me), and sometimes a promotion about a package.
Michelle Smith, Z and B Consulting – Michelle will typically have a short personal paragraph, an excerpt from a recent blog post, promotional information (when she has a promotion going on), she sometimes includes a “where’s Michelle” segment, where she talks about different networking events she’s attending. Michelle regularly tries to spotlight a client or business partner.
Evie Burke, One Insight Closer – Has a very similar plan, with a short personal paragraph, she will often post an entire blog post (but with a link if you wish to comment), promotional information (when she has a promotion going on), a “where’s Evie” segment, where she shares thedifferent networking events she’s attending. Evie typically will have a segment called “Evie Recommends” where she promotes a colleague or client. (She’s really good about that).
International Coach Federation Chicago – Has a “letter from the president” that spells out information going on in any given month (Murray will often lead with a quote). The next month’s Chapter Meeting is listed, with a short excerpt about the meeting and a link to the eventbrite page so people can register for the meeting. In the sidebar we list all of the small group meetings and the ICF Core Competency Call, and there is an area called “Coach Chat” where there might be a reminder if dues are due and articles of interest to coaches.
(Transparency — I edit my newsletter, also the newsletter for Z and B Consulting, and also the ICF Chicago newsletter)
All of the above have links to social media and websites, and social share buttons. (If you look at last week’s article I talked about templates, the “links” and “shares” can be set up with the template).
One of the reasons I’ve decided to start focusing more on communication in my own business is because THIS is what I would call
THE FUN PART!!!!!!!!
Okay — the first part of this might not be fun because you will need to decide where you’re going to be setting this up.
You have to choose which mail platform you should use. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of them (MailChimp), so it might be difficult to decide which one to use (MailChimp).
I’ve worked with AWeber, iContact, and Mailchimp. When I was using AWeber (over a year ago), I found it rather clunky to use (there’s a technical term for you, “clunky”). It seemed as though it would be easier to work with for people who have strong html skills. I’ve heard that it’s gotten more user-friendly, and AWeber does have a 24-hour support team, so if you’re struggling, there is help at hand. MailChimp does not have 24-hour support, but personally I find it much more intuitive. I use iContact on a regular basis, but since my mother told me, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”* I won’t say another word about iContact. (I’m not mentioning Constant Contact because I do not have any hands-on experience with it).
Once you’ve determined which email service you will go with (MailChimp), you can log in and start setting up your service.
There are differences between each of the applications, but the basic steps are the same. You’ll create a template. THIS is where you actually go back and look at information you look at in Step 1 (remember that homework I gave you?) You started thinking about your ideal client. When you are building your template, keep that person in mind. While you want this to be something that appeals to YOU you also want it to appeal to YOUR CLIENT (and that person is more important.
From personal experience and from seeing what others have done, you want to get your FIRST template right the FIRST time (because once you’ve sent that first email – you might use the same template over and over for months or years). Luckily, for the first template, you have as much time as you choose to allow yourself. (But don’t wait until it’s perfect, or it may never get done).
A few bullet points on the template design:
Branding – you’ll want to use your logo, you’ll also want to plan to have your template go with your branding colors.
Social Follow – you’ll want to make it easy for your readers to follow you on the various social media platforms on which you are ACTIVE. (Yes, I have a Pinterest page; no it’s not listed in my email because I look at it maybe once every few months if I’m trying to hunt a recipe)
Social Shares – in case people want to SHARE your email (because your mailings will include content that people WANT to share)
Contact Information – yes, they can hit reply – but you might want them to be able to phone you or find you in other ways.
Website – you ALWAYS want to drive traffic to your website (after all, this is where there’s a lot more great information about YOU and YOUR products and services — make it EASY to find).
Call me a geek, but I LOVE to do platform setups, even when I’m fighting to figure out how and where to fit everything (maybe even especially when I’m trying to figure out how and where to fit everything).
Once you’ve got your first template set up – make some kind of short, draft email and test drive it. Send it to yourself, your spouse, your kids, your parents, your coach, your accountability partner and anyone you know who will be non-judgmental AND honest (but gentle). Once you get that set up … well we’ll talk about that next time.
Both MailChimp and Constant Contact have tutorial pages that you can access even if you do not have an account. You can look at these pages and get some ideas about setting things up.
In the “Related articles” section, I’ve included a few articles that compare various email marketing services. If you’re thinking of getting started, I’d suggest reading the articles. Since these are opinion articles, I’d ever encourage reading the comments section as sometimes people will disagree in the comments (and you want a wide range of opinions).
ON THE OTHER HAND – I was reading an article by Tania Lombrozo at NPR about how we store information in other people’s brains (Storing Information in Other People’s Heads) and I find this is very common. If I have a question about jazz music, I might call my friend Deb. If I have an obscure law, question I might ask my friend Brian or my friend Linda. Once I needed a new camera and I bought the same one that my friend Tim had just bought. So if you want to take advantage of the information in MY brain – I’d say MailChimp. I find it easier to use, easier to track, and it’s really easy to “share” if you want to add a user. There are 4 different levels, viewer (can access reports) author (can edit but not send campaigns), manager (full access except user management and list exports), and admin (full access), and if you ever want to remove one of these people, you don’t even need to figure out a new password.
We’ve already given some thought to your target audience (your clients and strategic partners) and your free offer. Today we’ll talk about your sign-up form. In the “Related Articles” section below, I’ve added instructions from MailChimp and iContact on how to add a Sign-up Form. Most email marketing platforms have fairly good instructions for how to set up. But how do you actually get people to sign your form? Here’s some ideas. Put it EVERYWHERE. If someone knows you they should EASILY be able to find out how to sign up for your email list. Some of the ideas I’ve seen used:
Email signature file – everyone you send a email to, be it a client or a vendor or a joint venture partner or someone you met networking and you’re following up with, sees your email and your signature line. Mine has “Sign up for my newsletter and receive 3 Simple Steps for Getting Started in Social Media.” It’s one line at the bottom of my email, it doesn’t interrupt any messages; but if someone does take time to look for contact information, they do see a way to receive my email.
LinkedIn – In my LinkedIn summary, I have the following sentence: “To get weekly insights into client communication through social media, blogs, and newsletters, sign up for her newsletter at http://bit.ly/MWuVaList.” While it doesn’t allow someone to go directly to the link, by the use of a bit.ly and a simple name, they can easily find their way.
Website – Link to your sign-up form from your website.
Invoices – Add a sign-up form link to your invoices.
Trade Shows – Collect names at trade shows (make sure it is clear you’re adding someone to your list – we’ll talk more about this next week).
Speaking engagements – Offer a drawing or incentive to people when you’re at a trade show or when you’re speaking at a networking event (again, make sure to make it clear you’re adding them to your list).
Facebook Sign-up – If you have a Facebook Page for your business, one of the options available is to link to a sign-up form. If you look at the picture below, you’ll see where the Sign-up icon is on the Social Media Examiner page.
As you can see, there are many ways to get the word out about your mailing list. Do you have any great ideas? Leave a note in the comments. Related articles