Email Marketing Basics and Tips

The first point you must remember is that email marketing is just a tool – not a new concept of doing business like Web 2.0 but a time-tested, hardened method for generating profits. In other words, email marketing is just like any other online business tool – affiliate programs, pay-per-click advertising, sales letters, minisites – one of many assets at your disposal. What makes email marketing so interesting (and important) is its focus on building a positive relationship with your customers. From a marketing perspective, email marketing is simply an online extension of the traditional marketing principle of acquiring “prospects” by taking their contact information and then sending them promotional information via email.

Think product catalogs, magazine subscriptions (advertising within a magazine is the “promotional material”) and newspapers (classifieds) – all of these involve the same two steps:
* Acquiring the prospect’s contact information (either by offering a freebie or a discount, or just by asking).
* Send regular promotional offers to the “list” – a collection of prospects whose contact information you have.

This is ridiculously simple. There are many more levels and much more depth to the subject (and we will be covering all of it today and in the next two lessons), but this is the essence of it. The issue that immediately comes out of this is: What motivation does the prospect have, first for providing their contact details, and second, for buying any products that are pitched to her? None at all.

Consider a social parallel – if you go up to a complete stranger and ask them to give you their name and email address (or worse, their home address as well) so that you can send them emails about what to buy, your chances of success are going to be very, very slim. Instead, you have to give the prospect a reason to hand over her email address. More so to tell you her name. And an even better reason for the permission to send her any sort of product or service promotions. In other words, you have to use the principles of “Permission Marketing” (a term popularized by Seth Godin) – provide the prospect with a valuable enough proposition for her to consider giving you the permission to “market” to her i.e. sell to her. All of this leads to the first principle of email marketing: Before anything else, give the subscriber something that she respects and values.

Creating Value.
Everyone has problems. Everyone is looking for answers to these problems. Marketing – effective marketing – is positioning your product as THE solution to a particular problem. Combine this with the first principle of email marketing, and you have situation where your first task is to create value for the prospect. In some cases, the “promise” and “proof” of a solution can be enough (like a sales letter). In other cases, you might want to try providing a rudimentary solution in the form of providing some information, and build that value over time by continuously giving more and more to your prospects (like an email newsletter).

Email marketing is all about providing useful information to your subscribers. First, you encourage them to give you their email addresses by promising a solution to their problems (for example, a short report on the real estate market if you are targeting investors). In turn, this translates into permission given by the subscriber to allow you to send them further information via email. The central core of this whole process is valuable, relevant information. Information that the subscriber is interested in. Information that the subscriber needs. Now many marketers make a hash out of providing valuable information and instead concentrate on “selling” to the list. Do NOT make that mistake. You first priority is to develop a bond of trust with your subscribers – this will only happen if you learn to give first and foremost.

Building Trust.
Once you’ve learned how to give, you’re ready to build your “list” by using any one or more of a number of lead generation techniques, all of which involve driving traffic to a special “landing page” where you make your “information pitch” (as opposed to a sales pitch) and request the prospect’s name and email address. But building your list isn’t the only thing you must do. Almost simultaneously, from the moment you have convinced someone to hand over their email address, you are on the road of building a positive relationship with your list. A relationship that is based on trust, where trust can include the following:
* Your subscribers consider you an expert in your field (and therefore someone they are inclined to believe and listen to).
* Your subscribers implicitly trust you to treat them fairly – this results from a commitment to give first, and sell later. In other words, invest time and effort in your list, and make it show.
* Your subscribers expect quality from you, and by extension, they consider any products or services you promote as valuable.

This trust is paramount in email marketing. If you can gain the trust of your subscribers, they will respond to your product offers (provided that you are selling something valuable and not just trash) and, eventually, make you rich. The money really is in the list. In the third lesson of this series where I discuss advanced email marketing strategies, I’ll cover in detail how you can follow simple steps to ensure that your subscribers trust you, and also a checklist of things that can break that trust (i.e. a NOT to do checklist).

Repeat Customers.
The greatest value in email marketing is that of repeat customers. In other words, through email marketing you can basically send product promotions to your list regularly and continue making money out of the same core list of subscribers. Of course, it’s a bit more complicated in that, but this principle of acquiring repeat customers is enlightening because it showcases an important fact about business: You can market different products to the same group of people. If you position it right over a period of time, you will have a situation where a certain group of people are buying new products from you every few months. Now this works, but only if you are able to identify your “target market” and are creating products and services that are the answers to the types of problems your subscribers need solutions to. Failing to do that will result in unhappy subscribers and a cold list – a list full of subscribers that are not interested in your emails, don’t want to buy what you are selling and are generally ignoring your emails.

Building a list you can contact again and again for continuing profits needs a lot of effort to build and maintain. A large part of creating repeat customers in email marketing is to maintain a long-term relationship with your list – this involves regularly providing information that is useful to your subscribers. When following email marketing, do not forget that other rules of marketing still apply – if you don’t give your customer what they want, they won’t hang around your website (or in this case, on your list) anymore.

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