An email list is exactly what it sounds like – a list of email addresses that you can use to communicate with. It is a vital part of any marketing toolkit as it should hopefully be the contact information of everyone you know of who is interested in you, your products, and your knowledge.
But why email?
Isn’t email dead? Didn’t Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat, whatever – kill it? No! We rely on our emails, that isn’t changing anytime soon, it’s how we identify ourselves online and it’s the most personal one-to-one communication tool that everyone still uses!
Still not convinced? Here are three reasons why email should be your main marketing focus:
- It’s direct: Email allows you to communicate directly with another person – no algorithms, no percentages, no filters (except the spam filter anyway) – you send an email, that email gets received. Your success or failure then depends solely on your relationship with that person and the quality of the messages that you send. If you do it right, you will find that email is your most effective marketing channel for delivering real business value (£££) and not just vanity metrics (hits, likes, reach).
- It’s customizable: Your email strategy can be whatever you want it to be and doesn’t go through any 3rd party filters. You can choose to build incredibly personal one-to-one connections with your audience, or you can be more corporate and formal. The point is, you choose what you send to your list, there are no restrictions on content, frequency, design or format (except that it has to be an email obviously). This means you can deliver what your customers want, how they want it.
- It’s controllable by both parties: Facebook could decide tomorrow to kick you off its system and you lose everything, then what? An email list is under your control, you decide what you do with it and how you use it. That said, the individuals on your list also have the right to control it too – and can vote with their unsubscribe button at any time if you don’t live up to your promises.
Obviously, email shouldn’t be your only communication and marketing tool (otherwise how would anyone hear about your email list…), but it should be the gold standard of your communication and your end goal for collecting customer information – not Facebook likes or Twitter followers.
My golden rules for building an email list
Remember two words: QUALITY and RELEVANCE
These are the two most important words when building an email list, both for your list itself, and how you communicate with it. When building an email list, you need to make sure that the people on it are high quality (real people who have chosen to be on your list, not bots or spam) and relevant (they actually are interested in you and your products). This also applies when emailing your list, your email content must be high quality and relevant to who you are sending it to (e.g. no emails about your sci-fi books to your erotica email list). If you do not keep quality and relevance in mind at all times, your emails will produce poor results – low conversion rates and high unsubscribes and complaints.
Use empathy to determine the contents of your email
This will obviously vary, but use the rule above and think about what your customers are interested in and what they would want to receive emails about. Actually try to use a little empathy here and don’t be a self-important shit about it – ask yourself what would be GENUINELY useful or interesting to your customers? List out everything you can think of and try and categorise it into themes, this will be the subjects that your emails will cover.
Give people a reason to sign-up, then make sure they know about it
First, you should determine what your emails will be about, their design, the frequency you will send them, and who that will be relevant to. Next, add signup forms/links to your website (particularly around your blog and product pages where people will be interested in staying up to date) and any physical or digital locations you can think of. Remember to give people a reason to sign up though, explain what they get by being on your list – otherwise they won’t join! Finally, consider creating a more compelling hook – a key reason for someone to join the mailing list that is complementary to the mailing list itself. This could be a free ebook linked to the subject of the emails, a recurring discount that is linked to the product alerts they have signed up for, etc.
Segment your list where appropriate
Related to the previous point, the best way to keep your emails relevant is to segment your list by their interests – a good example of this would be a nationwide chain of gyms – there would be little point sending an email about the latest kickboxing classes in Edinburgh to a yoga enthusiast in London. Either ask your mailing list what they are interested in, or determine it from how they sign up to your list – then keep your emails relevant based on this information.
Remember that email is about trust and permission
Build trust wherever possible with your list and never do something that would risk breaking it. Easy ways to do this are by making it clear that you will never share their details (and never do!), not asking for more personal details than is necessary, always giving them the option to quickly and easily unsubscribe, and give them control over how often you email them and about what.