I recently spent some time talking email marketing with a friend who owns a small business at the Delaware beach. Her pet-centric business includes obedience lessons, pet sitting, and pet photography. She targets seasonal visitors to the beach and has built an impressive email list of past clients. Her challenge is how to convert more of those past clients into repeat customers. We discussed how to use email marketing to achieve those results.
Her dilemma provides the perfect backdrop for a larger discussion about some easy-to-implement strategies to maximize your email list. If the phrases “marketing automation”, “nurture marketing”, or “segmentation strategy” are still foreign to you, then this article is just what you need.
It’s Never “One and Done”
My friend mentioned that she just returned from an educational vacation. Two photographers, from whom she had taken classes, hosted an educational retreat in Spain. I asked her why she decided to take the class. She said the emails (plural!) were so interesting (and persistent) she eventually decided to do it.
Most business owners think more than one email can appear pushy, desperate, or rude. But the reality is we all need time, and gentle reminders, to make purchasing decisions. One email to your customers about a sale, product, or opportunity is never enough. Similarly, you can’t start emailing someone Tuesday about an event on Friday. People need time. They need to be reminded. They need to be guided.
Your marketing emails should be targeted and relevant. If you are sending a series of emails, each one should be different. Once you get comfortable with basic segmentation strategies, you can begin to schedule email marketing follow-ups and even automate the process.
Segment, Segment, Segment
Segmentation is a complex subject. With the right tools, there is no limit to how complex you can build a segmentation strategy. We are not going to get into that now (definitely a topic for another post). Instead, I am going to use my wife’s business and the simple strategies she used when starting her health and wellness company as a great example of where to begin.
In the early days of free + abel, my wife used to do a ton of workshops on nutrition and wellness. It was a great way to get out to meet people, network, and build a list. She also sold private wellness coaching sessions as her core product. When it came time to communicate and market to her list, she found segmentation to be very helpful.
Segmentation is simply the concept of sending different messages to different people based on criteria you set. Most email platforms like MailChimp and Constant Contact allow you to “tag” contacts to make segmentation easier.
When it came time for Liz (that’s my wife) to segment her list with tags she followed two simple rules:
1. Where did she meet you / How were you added to the list? (in person at a workshop, social media, newsletter subscriber, etc.)
2. What have you bought / What events have you paid to attend? (did they purchase a block of coaching lessons, pay to attend a workshop, etc.)
Once the tagging was complete, she could apply some logical rules. All names on the list would get the newsletter. Workshop attendees would receive special discount codes for coaching lessons. Past coaching clients would receive news about new coaching programs. And names on the list who had never made a purchase would get discounts or invites to free workshops.
This simple strategy allowed her to build a revenue pipeline, graduate clients from free events to paid workshops to coaching, and remain engaged with relevant, valuable offers and content. It’s a great example of Segmentation 101.
Newsletters vs. Marketing
If you poll ten digital marketing experts on this topic you may well get ten different answers. Newsletters should have the broadest reach across your list (include all segments). I believe a good newsletter is more of a nurturing asset rather than a pure marketing asset. A good newsletter is a constant reminder of why you are the expert at what you do. It engages an audience with enough frequency that you remain top of mind.
At the heart of the newsletter is trust. You are being invited into a sacred space, the “Inbox”. In return for access to the inbox, you are expected to provide valuable and interesting content. To fill your newsletter completely with marketing offers is a violation of this trust and you will see opt outs grow. Newsletters should absolutely contain a call to action, information on upcoming events, news about sales and products, access to discounts or other rewards – but all of that marketing needs to be offset by free, valuable, no strings attached content. Respect the inbox.
Content Rules, Always
I am often asked, “How often is too often?” And my answer is always, “Well, how interesting are you?” Nobody ever gets sick of a great storyteller. I believe frequency is dependent on the quality of content. If you can consistently produce quality content on a weekly basis, then build a weekly newsletter. You are not going into the publishing business. So if it needs to be twice monthly, or monthly, or even quarterly so be it. Just make it valuable and relevant.
The other issue with content is creative tunnel vision where you just post the same kind of content over and over again. You own a business because you either know how to do something nobody else does or you know how to do it better. So share whatever it is you know how to do as proof of your skill or expertise - share tips, recipes, fixes, preventions, how to videos, pictures of finished works, etc. Allow your unique expertise to be your guide while creating content.
I guarantee that when you put these four methods into practice you will see an increase in sales. In every example, we put the needs of the customer first, valued their time and attention, rewarded them with valuable, expert content, and respected the sanctity of their inbox. And when you put that much time and attention toward the needs of your customers, you will be rewarded with their business - over and over again.