How To Build Your Email Database And Make Money [Without Abandoning Your Ethics]
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The most powerful asset any blogger has is their email list.
Because when built carefully, your email list gives you direct access to your audience. No filters, no algorithms to contend with. You don’t need to pay money to get eyes on your content.
- Why Should Bloggers Care About Email Marketing?
- What Email Marketing Service Should I Use?
- Get Response – An Affordable and Full-Service Email Marketing Platform
- MailChimp – Full Featured, But Not For All
- AWeber – Still the Industry Standard?
- Constant Contact – Full-Service Email Platform With Loads of Features
- Comparison Table: Top Email Service Providers
- So, What Is the Best Email Marketing Service?
- Other Email Software Options
- How to Get More Email Subscribers
- Building an Email Marketing Strategy
- How to Increase Email Open Rates
- Common Email Marketing Terms You Need to Know
- Email Marketing Resources
Your email list gives you direct access to your audience.
And, if they trust you, their wallets.
If you want to learn why you should build your email list, what platform is the right one for you, how to grow your list, and how to get your subscribers to actually open your emails, this is the guide for you.
We are going to walk you through all of it.
If social media is the cocktail party, then email marketing is the ‘meet up for coffee’.
– Erik Harbison,
CEO of AWeber.
There are hundreds of ways to leverage a blog. You can use ads, sponsored content, build a membership site, host webinars, sell ebooks, or promote your own products.
Email marketing can be one of the most powerful ways to build a successful blog that generates income, but only if your list trusts and respects you.
First though, what exactly is email marketing?
Pretty simple. Any advertising, promotions, or even brand building done through email can be considered email marketing.
Why Should Bloggers Care About Email Marketing?
The concept of Push/Pull marketing is straightforward. The “push” refers to reaching out proactively to potential customers. This can include speaking at a MeetUp group or promoting your blog at events and conferences. “Pull” refers to tactics used to draw visitors to you. This could include advertising and special discount offers.
Let’s take a look at how the Push-Pull theory applies directly to email marketing:
Push: One-Time Visitors
Most traditional web strategies entice the visitor to their website with relevant and valuable content or a special offer.
Once the potential customer gets the information they were looking for they are off to solve their next problem.
Essentially, this strategy pushes information out there hoping that readers will find it.
Pull: Relationship Building
List building is different because customers request information from you. By building a list and maintaining a relationship with a customer, you have an enormous competitive advantage.
By subscribing to your list, your customers are requesting information from you. This is where the “pull” part of the relationship comes in.
When it comes to acquiring new customers, email outperforms Facebook and Twitter combined by over 40%.
—Source: McKinsey & Co.
The customers on your list are indicating they want the information you are going to be sending them. This is not only good for your bottom line, but you can now actually reach out to potential customers when you have something they will want to see.
This is a long-term strategy compared to SEO, PPC, or even CPM advertising because your list allows you to contact your audience without relying on external factors like search engines, social media sites, or ad companies.
What Email Marketing Service Should I Use?
If you are a serious blogger, then you understand the importance of building an audience. You can get repeat visitors by writing great content, but the best way to grow and keep an audience is by using email.
Email marketing services aren’t one-size-fits-all.
If you choose the wrong one, it could be a headache to switch services in the future and you could even end up losing part of your list.
That is why we have put together this handy-dandy list to give you the best and worst of each email marketing service provider.
Get Response – An Affordable and Full-Service Email Marketing Platform
GetResponse is a full-service marketing platform offering email marketing, landing pages, webinar hosting, and even marketing automation options.
It has been around for nearly ten years and remains a great full-service option.
Pros of GetResponse:
Get Response makes it super easy to transfer your existing lists over. We recently moved all of our lists over and it only took on to two days to get rolling on our campaigns. The process of transferring our lists was quick and painless.
We’ve also had a chance to test out GetResponse’s customer service over the past few months and have found they have excellent phone and email based customer support.
The drag-and-drop email creator is easy to use and powerful.
There are dozens of beautiful templates that you can choose from and you can even preview your email in all of the popular email clients and even several mobile devices.
Here is a quick rundown of GetResponses’ features:
- Drag-and-drop editor
- 1,000 free iStock images
- In-editor mobile preview
- Dynamic content capabilities
- List segmentation
- Perfect Timing to optimize delivery time
- Robust analytics dashboard
GetResponse also provides a landing page designer tool. This enables you to quickly draft compelling landing pages for ad campaigns and special promotions. No technical skills are required.
Our favorite feature of the email creator though is the ability to save my own templates and to save snippets (text or pictures) for frequently used material.
GetResponse has iOS and Android apps you can use to compose emails and check stats on the run.
One last pro for GetResponse is that they have a time travel feature that will deliver all of your emails at the same local time. This means you can time the emails to be delivered at 3 pm, and that email will be delivered at 3 pm in all time zones.
Cons of GetResponse:
The templates offered for emails make creating emails simple, however, they are a bit on the dated side. We would love to see some more modern template options.
There have also been a few complaints that they do not offer refunds of yearly plans if you decide to cancel, which does make some sense. Just something to be aware of if you are not sure you will stay for a full year.
Get Response offers a range of scalable pricing options based on the size of your email list.
MailChimp – Full Featured, But Not For All
MailChimp is arguably the most popular email marketing service on the market today, due in large part to their free trial up to 2,000 subscribers. It is very intuitive to use and MailChimp provides plenty of templates to make designing beautiful emails simple.
But, if your blog or emails have any affiliate ads, you cannot use MailChimp since their terms of service do not allow affiliate marketing.
Pros of MailChimp:
MailChimp ranks right at the top due to their customer service and abundance of features. It has almost all of the same features mentioned for GetResponse, including the inbox preview, time travel, mobile apps, and then some.
One of these is better social integration.
For example, MailChimp has better Facebook integration with like buttons in emails and the ability to easily add a web form to your Facebook page (You can do this with any email marketing service provider, but MailChimp makes it easier.)
Brick and mortar businesses will be especially interested in Chimpadeedoo, which is an iPad app that will let you collect emails while at trade shows, customer’s houses, etc. Anywhere there is not a convenient computer and/or internet access.
MailChimp also enables you to send print postcards to your email list.
The MailChimp YouTube channel features stories of how entrepreneurs are using MailChimp to improve business. In this interview, two entrepreneurs discuss how they use MailChimp’s “merge tags” to send personalized — and more effective — email to their prospects.
Cons of MailChimp:
Do keep in mind that your list is your lifeblood as an Internet marketer, and you could be risking that.
For smaller businesses, their “Forever Free” option is fantastic. Once you start growing (and hopefully making money!), their paid plans remain very affordable.
AWeber – Still the Industry Standard?
We used AWeber for quite some time before making the switch to GetResponse and we found them to be an excellent email marketing service provider. The service is decent, the options are good, but it is not as intuitive to use as other options.
Pros of AWeber:
AWeber doesn’t provide nearly as many features as GetResponse and MailChimp, but they are still a solid option for those looking to build a powerful email list.
AWeber has a good email creator and has other features such as RSS to email.
If you like to use images in your emails, AWeber also allows you to drag and drop images into your emails, which is a unique feature.
AWeber’s Curate app makes it easy to create a quick promotional email on the go via your smartphone.
Cons of AWeber:
Aweber appears to be a bit cheaper on the front end if you compare their prices with other alternatives, but you have to pay extra if you want to get analytics. At least this is what we experienced with our account at Aweber.
Besides that, Aweber does not compete when it comes to mobile apps, inbox preview, and many other features.
Aweber offers a free 30-day trial and then pretty competitive pricing after that. Tiers are based on the number of subscribers.
Constant Contact – Full-Service Email Platform With Loads of Features
Constant Contact is a full-service email marketing program, and there is a good chance you have heard of them due to their extensive use of commercials. So, are they worth the hype?
Pros of Constant Contact:
Constant Contact is easy to use and makes it simple to automate managing your contacts list. For a small business owner with limited resources, this makes it super simple to ‘set it and forget it.’
They will also connect you with marketing professionals for other services. For example, if you need social media help or a graphic designer, they can connect you with “Constant Contact-certified marketing professionals.”
Great if, again, you are a small business owner trying to do it all.
Cons of Constant Contact
Some reviewers report the system is glitchy and the dashboard can be slow to load. Sometimes ‘easy to use’ features limit customization options. For the provided features, the price is on the high side.
Constant Contact’s pricing is based on both features and list size, making it a bit more complicated to navigate compared to other options.
Comparison Table: Top Email Service Providers
This comparison table may help you assess these providers.
|Plans start at:||$20/mo||$19/mo||$10/mo||$15/mo|
|Free trial||60 days||30 days||Yes - free plan||30 days|
|Support||24/7 chat, by phone during limited hours||24/7 chat or email; by phone 8-8 ET||Email, live chat on limited hours||24/7 by chat or phone|
So, What Is the Best Email Marketing Service?
In a perfect world, we’d be able to give you a black and white answer. But the truth is, it depends on your budget, your skills, and the needs of your business.
Here is a quick break down:
If you are just getting started and want to send out beautiful emails on a small budget, go with MailChimp.
If you are a brick and mortar business or nonprofit, Constant Contact is likely your best bet.
If you are a blogger and need a good balance of power and price, select Get Response.
If you are price conscious and like tried-and-true, go with Aweber.
Other Email Software Options
The four options we listed above are our best bets. They tend to offer the best bang for your buck and are well-known for offering solid service. But, there are literally hundreds of other services out there. Here are a few more email software providers you might want to check out.
- Drip: This easy-to-use email builder focuses on automated email campaigns for e-commerce sites. Plans start at $49/month.
- iContact: Full-featured email marketing tool with an easy to use interface. Top features include a drag and drop editor, split testing capabilities, list segmentation, and the ability to save templates. Free 30-day trial, plans start at $32/month.
- ConvertKit: This platform is especially good for bloggers, as they make it super simple to add PDFs and other incentives to your welcome email. Plans start at $29/month for up to 1,000 subscribers.
- Active Campaign: More than just email, this is a fully integrated customer relationship management tool. Create triggers, automate follow-ups, and more. Their mid-tier plan is just $49/month. (The smaller plan lacks many of the best features.)
- HubSpot: This is a seriously powerful tool that combines marketing, sales, and service tools all into one easy-to-use platform. Features include lead generation, marketing automation, email tracking, meeting scheduling, ticket sales, SEO tools, and much, much more. Plans start at $50/month.
How to Get More Email Subscribers
Email lists are essential for any online business. From the moment many of us build our first website, we are told that we need to focus on building a list. But many times, we are left in the dark about just how to do that.
The right email list building strategy is going to depend upon your business, your target audience, and your needs.
The following strategies will get you started.
Do Not Buy (Or Borrow) an Email List
In addition to being unethical (and illegal, in many places), buying an email list simply isn’t effective. You want people who are genuinely interested in your brand and want to interact with you.
With a purchased or borrowed list, you risk your email getting sucked into spam filters and even getting booted from your email service for spam.
Protect Your Email Sender Reputation
Sending e-mail to addresses on rented or borrowed lists can lead to irate individuals filing complaints against you and it can harm your email sender reputation.
A bad email sender reputation will affect the deliverability of your emails: they may wind up being routed to spam folders, not delivered at all, or postponed for delivery hours after the original send time. (Imagine an email you sent at 3:00pm being delivered at 2:30am. It happens.)
Using borrowed or rented lists is considered by professionals to be a bad practice.
Just don’t do it.
Give Them Something
What are you offering in exchange for the email? An ebook, a worksheet, a recipe, a list of topic ideas, etc. The actual offering will vary based on your business, but you can’t expect anyone to give up their email for free.
This is a pretty common strategy that most sites leverage. Be sure to balance your desire for information with your desire to build your list. The more information you ask for, the fewer subscribers you will get.
This can be great if you want to build a super targeted list or terrible if you just want to get people to sign up for your newsletter.
Use a Popup or Light Box
Tempt People on Social Media
Everyone wants to be one of the cool kids. Use social media to hint at an offer or coming news you will be released only to your newsletter subscribers. Ask your followers to “join the club” so they, too, can be one of the cool kids.
The Skimm is a daily email newsletter that delivers popular news in an easy to read, slightly snarky format.
Their ambassador program asks subscribers to share what they love about the Skimm with their friends to earn swag and access to opportunities like internships and exclusive deals.
They even provide a “cheat sheet” with tips on how to get your friends to sign up.
Send Great Content
How many emails are in your inbox right now? Five? A hundred? Are you one of those people with thousands of unopened emails?
An estimated 269 billion emails are sent every day. The average office worker receives 121 emails each and every day.
If you want to stand out, you have to send great content people will actually want to read. There are many strategies to increase your open rates, such as testing time of day, using engaging headlines, and segmenting your list, but it all starts with sending content people actually want to read.
The entire point of building your list is to be able to influence your subscribers, and it all starts by building trust through sending them content that they find highly valuable and relevant.
Building an Email Marketing Strategy
Part of choosing the right email marketing platform is knowing what type of email strategy you plan to build. Below, we’ve outlined some of the most common types of emails a blogger might send and how they might fit into your email marketing strategy.
Newsletters are regular emails that often include updates and news about your brand or your industry. It can be a powerful tool for bloggers to drive traffic to new blog posts, build thought leadership, and generally keep your brand top of mind. This is the basis of most email strategies.
New Post or Roundup Posts
As a blogger, one of your main goals is going to be to drive readers to your blog. A new post or weekly roundup of the top new posts is an effective way to do this.
Some email services will automate this process, which can be effective if you are only publishing once or twice a week.
Trigger emails are messages sent in response to a certain event or series of events. They are highly targeted and are used to encourage the receiver to take a very specific action.
For example, you could create a trigger to send an abandoned cart email after 24 hours if a customer places an item in their digital cart but doesn’t check out.
Or, you could create a trigger that asks a new customer to review a product two days after they receive their package. Not all email marketing services will have this capability, so make sure the one you choose does offer this if you need it.
Welcome Email Series
Welcome series emails are customized types of trigger email that is activated whenever someone joins your email list. They are customized to your business, making them an effective way for a subscriber to get to know you as a brand.
You can use these to educate, start them down a long sales funnel, or just introduce them to your personality and encourage subscribers to follow you on more platforms.
Promotional Email Series
Promotional email series are designed to move potential customers through your sales funnel. You may create a series around the holidays, or use it to cross-sell or promote a new product. Particularly important if you have an e-commerce business in addition to a blog.
You will notice that many of the emails here are automated emails. Automated emails make it much easier for bloggers to ‘be everywhere’ by allowing you to write an email once and use it over the course of months or years to keep your brand top of mind or encourage subscribers to take an action.
How to Increase Email Open Rates
Email marketing is a very affordable and effective tool for driving traffic if it’s done right. And the first step to successful email marketing is getting your audience to open your emails.
How do you do that?
We are going to cover the top strategies to increase your open rates right now.
The average email open rate will vary based on industry and a variety of other factors, but according to research done by MailChimp, the average open rate hovers around 20%.
Keep in mind, different types of emails won’t get the same open rates. For example, “password reset” will get opened a lot more often than a newsletter.
The tips we are going to share have earned us open rates averaging 40% or higher. Just keep in mind what works for us might not work the same for your business. Testing is always important!
Is Your Email Subject Working?
In any type of marketing, headlines are immensely important. In email marketing, the subject is a headline. Here are a few guidelines:
- Be attractive: When we decide to send an email out promoting this post, we will not write an email subject that reads something like, “Get More Email Opens.” Instead, I could write, “3 Easy Ways to Maximize Your Email Open Rate.” Be truthful, but in an appealing way. Try to include numbers and action words.
- Be Brief: Headlines are meant to grab attention. A long headline will likely not be read.
- Be Personal: The Final headline we send out will likely look like, “Eric, Here Are 3 Ways to Maximize Your Email Open Rate.”
For a more in-depth discussion on headlines, we highly recommend Copyblogger’s Magnetic Headlines series.
What Do You Want the Reader To Do?
If you study emails that come from well-known Internet marketers, you will notice that all of these emails include a call to action.
This could simply be telling the reader to click a link, or the email could include a colorful button with text that reads something like, “Click here for your free trial!”
Bottom line, you must:
- Tell the reader what to do
- Remove any obstacles for the reader to complete that action
We usually achieve this by prompting readers to click a link. Prompting the reader lets them know what to do next and the embedded link makes it easy to complete that action.
Are Your Emails Arriving at the Right Time?
GetResponse recently tested almost 21 million emails to determine if the time you send emails affects the open rate.
They found the top engagement times are between 8 am – 10 am and 3 pm – 4 pm.
However, you may find it is different for your industry or business. The key thing is to experiment and discover which times work best for you.
Anecdotally, we have found 1 pm, right after lunch, is a great time.
If your emails get read at work, try 7 am so you are at the top of their inbox first thing in the morning.
If your audience is mostly teachers, 3 pm right after school lets out might work well.
Make sure you test what time works best for your audience. Don’t take our word for the best time.
Retarget People Who Didn’t Open Your Email
Most email subscriber platforms will allow you to retarget people who didn’t open your email the first time.
This can be a gold mine when used correctly!
For example, say you send out an email promoting your next webinar. Some people open it, a few sign-ups, but nearly 60% don’t even open your carefully crafted email.
Was it your headline? The timing?
You can segment out the people who didn’t open your email the first time and resend the email. Using a headline such as “Don’t Miss Out!” or “Last Chance!” will help create a sense of urgency.
We have actually had success increasing open rates by 2x using this strategy.
Common Email Marketing Terms You Need to Know
Bounce Rate: In email marketing, this refers to the number of emails returned by an email service. This can happen because an email address isn’t valid, a subscriber’s inbox is full, or because their server was down.
Delivery Rate: The percentage of emails that actually reach sender inboxes. If this percentage is low, you may have been blacklisted, have inactive emails on your list, or a host of other issues. Low delivery rate tells you there is a problem, but you’ll need to dig to figure out what the issue is.
Double Opt-In: An authentication method that requires two actions from the subscriber. For example, entering an email and then clicking on a link in their inbox. This helps to ensure you only add verified subscribers who want to get your emails.
ESP: Email Service Provider: An acronym that refers to the company you use to build and send emails. Examples include MailChimp and AWeber.
GDPR: General Data Protection Regulation: EU law that outlines data privacy laws in Europe. Most ESP will build in requirements, but you may need to reverify all subscribers if you haven’t done so since May 2018. This is a great resource about GDPR and email marketing.
Multivariate Testing: Sometimes called A/B Testing, this is a method of testing one or two (in A/B testing) or more versions of an email or headline to see which subscribers respond best to.
Personalization: Method of using information subscribers provide to offer a more custom email marketing experience. Can be as simple as including their name in the heading or sending a happy birthday email.
Segment: In email marketing, a segment is a portion of your email list that shares a similar trait. For example, all subscribers who said they were interested in learning about upcoming events or who downloaded an ebook.
Email Marketing Resources
Ready to learn more about how you can leverage email marketing for your blog? We’ve provided a ton of great information in this guide, but there is so much more to learn!
Here are a few email marketing resources you need to check out:
7 Design Mistakes That Will Make Readers Trash Your Emails | Constant Contact
Most people get hundreds of emails a day. How can you make sure yours doesn’t end up in the trash can?
15 of the Best Email Marketing Campaign Examples You’ve Ever Seen | Hubspot
If you need a little inspiration or just want to see how it is done, you will want to check out these examples. There is a wide range of examples including BuzzFeed, the non-profit charity: water, and Birchbox.
Why Purchasing Email Lists is Always a Bad Idea | Hubspot
You’d think this would go without saying, but apparently, it does not. Do not by email lists. Ever. Here is why it is a waste of your money.
How To Write Emails that Sell (and that People Love to Read) | Copyblogger
We mostly focused on how to build your list and get people to open your emails. This post digs into how to write amazing copy that will actually get people to click “buy.”
10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work | Copyblogger
Learn how to write awesome email headlines that people will actually open using these formulas.
Ten-step course that shows you the ins and outs of email marketing including all the basics, list segmentation, testing, analytics, and more.
Email marketing is a powerful tool for bloggers. It can be used to drive massive amounts of traffic, sell products, and build strong relationships with your readers.
When done well (and ethically), your email list can be the most powerful tool in your marketing arsenal.
However, like anything worth having, building a strong email list takes time and focus.