If you ask me what my number one marketing tool is, my answer might surprise you. It is my electronic newsletter. Yes, that thing that most entrepreneurs abandoned years ago.
Some people believe it’s too time consuming to write, that it just ends up in spam folders, and no one reads it. And for some, this may be true. Recently, I read in Smartblogger.com that newsletter publishers are “now the sad old fuddy-duddies of the online marketing world, hopelessly outdated, clinging desperately to a dying technology, destined to be crushed by new and savvier competitors.” But I disagree. I have earned thousands of dollars over the years sharing my tips, tools and advice with others.
I started writing my newsletter, The Protocol Post, in 2001 when paper, mail-away newsletters fell by the wayside. Email became the quickest way to communicate and e-newsletters became extremely popular. As the years went on, most people stopped sending newsletters and started a blog. A couple of years later, social media became the preferred method of marketing and communication and newsletters become almost extinct.
Don’t get me wrong. I do all of the above, but I am “old school” therefore I keep my newsletter going for a variety of reasons:
Although there are many popular email marketing services out there including MailChimp, iContact and others, I choose to use Constant Contact. I pay a modest monthly fee that is calculated on the amount of subscribers I have. When I do the math, I know I receive a return on my investment if at least one or two subscribers decide to purchase one of my products or books a seminar or speaking engagement.
It keeps me in touch.
I try my best to send out a newsletter at least once a month. Any more than that and I might be labeled a pest. Less than that and it’s probably not worth my while to pay for the service.
I share personal stories.
I receive numerous emails from people who love to read about me, including my accomplishments and trials and tribulations. When I started writing my newsletter years ago, I kept it all business related. Then I decided to open up a bit and everything changed. I started receiving more subscribers. Each month, I personalize the greeting in every newsletter and share what was going on in my life. Over the years, I have talked about subjects that most people are apprehensive to discuss including my mother’s death, my divorce, my move into a boathouse, and the passing of my beloved four-legged companion, Oliver. When you connect from the heart it makes you more relatable and human. That adds up to dollars and good sense. My stories keep people coming back and interested in reading what I have to say each month.
I announce my latest products, classes and services.
I never inundate my readers with a lot of ads. That’s the quickest way to lose followers. Instead, I prefer to I send out a special announcement or class schedule if I have a seminar or promotion coming up. This way, I can cover more important topics in my monthly e-newsletter.
It builds credibility.
A newsletter is as the perfect place to post articles, podcasts and TV appearances. By doing this, I direct readers to my YouTube page, my website, and my Entrepreneur.com author page.
It can be recycled.
After each newsletter is published, I share it on my social networks, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. This ultimately gets my face in front of even more potential clients.
It keeps me top of mind.
Someone once said, “Out of sight is out of mind.” That’s definitely the case when it comes to marketing. If your clients see or read about your competitors but they don’t see or read about you, they are going to forget you and hire someone else. My newsletter keeps my name, face and tips in front of more than 5,500 dedicated subscribers. For me, email marketing is the key to building and maintaining relationships. It could be said that “your list is your lifeline.” When people think of etiquette, my hope is that they are going to think of me first and foremost.
Unfortunately not everyone understands how to use email marketing in the most effective way. In fact, you could be making common mistakes that actually cost you customers rather than enhance your relationships with them.
Here are a few tips for best practices when it comes to email marketing.
Only send to those who subscribe.
It’s best to grow your list organically through personal contacts or interesting content, like a free report or first chapter of your book. Put a link on your website encouraging people to sign up. You won’t get the best results if you purchase a list or send your email to those who do not subscribe on their own.
Weed out your list occasionally.
Give people a way to opt out if they no long want to receive your emails. Take them off your list as soon as they ask, and respond quickly to any correspondence.
Make it easy to subscribe or unsubscribe.
People will get irritated and lose interest if they have to go through a multi-stage process to unsubscribe or complete a transaction, or uncheck a list of subscription boxes. One click of a button should direct subscribers to where they want to go, with clear and polite instructions.
Don’t overwhelm them.
One way to get blacklisted is to send emails far too frequently, especially every day of the week. Send emails on a scheduled basis so people anticipate their regular arrival, or send them only when you have something substantial to say.
Try not to put too much information or include too many pictures or images that take too long to load. Consider that people scan their emails and read quickly, write to the point and put your most important information up front. Take the time to craft a well-written, cleanly-formatted message and run it through spell-check at the very least. Don’t copy and paste text from other sites or plagiarize text. If you’re not a writer, hire a professional copywriter.
Customize your subject line.
Communicate clearly and offer a subject line that hints at what is to come. Compel people to read further. Stay away from exclamations like “Read This!” or “Exciting News!”
The best newsletters are genuine, sincere and contain valuable, useful or worthwhile content. Email marketing is still the most viable, affordable way to get your point across. Once you build trust and develop your relationships with your readers, you will have to work less to keep your customers and clients forever.