EMAIL AND NEWSLETTERS: GETTING STARTED

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN
In this lesson, we will review and expand on using email to create continuing contact with both potential customers and active customers.
How Email Marketing Fits In

Branding
Promotion
SEO
Flow
Social Media
Email marketing is not a goal per se. It is a tool we can use to reach our goals. Email marketing comes into play in promoting your branding. Indirectly, it can also be used to enhance your search engine presence. Email marketing also assists you with your social media presence. It can be used to extend the flow of your content, allowing content to continue after the site visit is over–containing content that flows from the visit and that will bring your visitors back to the site.

The emphasis you place on Email marketing will determine your style of Internet marketing. Some see email as the most crucial step in the marketing process. Others, recognizing the lack of dependability of email being viewed, put less emphasis on it, while still recognizing its importance. In any event, email marketing is a necessity to any good Internet marketing campaign.

Don't Spam

The cardinal rule of email marketing is to avoid spam. Before you embark on an email marketing campaign, review Lesson 2 to refresh yourself on how to avoid spamming. To avoid spam, it is crucial to have an effective opt-in and opt-out process.

The Marketing Funnel

Although I don't believe we've used the "marketing funnel" terminology, we have discussed the processes involved in it throughout this course. The popular analogy is that the process of promoting your marketing campaign through the life cycle of a customer is like a funnel. Your target market is poured in at the top and must work its way through various sieves before purchasing your product or service. While there are several versions of the steps involved, a good comprehensive example goes like this:

Awareness 
This is what occurs when someone enters the funnel.

Interest
Those who, after becoming aware, want to know more.

Engagement
Taking active steps to become more familiar with your product or service.

Consideration
Those who, after learning more, think there might be something for them here.

Evaluation
Weighing the pros and cons of committing to your product or service.

Commitment
Accepting a free trial, joining your newsletter or following your social media.

Conversion
Becoming a customer of your product or service.

Loyalty
Buying more of your products or retaining your service.

Advocacy
Enjoying your product or service so much they enthusiastically promote it to others.

I bring this up now because discussions of email marketing and newsletters often involve the marketing funnel approach. The reason I haven't mentioned it by name before is that I believe the analogy has some problems.

The traditional funnel analogy is finally giving way to a more holistic view of the customer journey, however. While the funnel analogy conceives of customers being poured in the top and then dripping out the bottom, better analogies put the customer in the center of the diagram. It works better to think of the customer lifecycle more like an atom.

Placing the customer at the nucleus of the atom provides for a customer-centric focus. The various stages of engagement (from awareness to advocacy) can be thought of as electrons orbiting the nucleus. This more holistic approach avoids using a straight line to visualize something that, in reality, is not always a straight line. Rarely do customers follow the steps of the funnel in perfect order? They jump into their engagement with your company at different places and in different ways. The electrons of the atom are the various approaches to engagement at different stages in the customer "life cycle." Just as the charges from electrons react with the charges of the protons in the nucleus of an atom to keep the atom stable, the customer communications that were previously to be taken in sequential order through the funnel can now be taken in response to the customers' needs, as needed, when needed, to keep the customer relationship stable.

An even better and more simple way to think of this process, though, is to use the terminology we have consistently used in this course. It is simply a matter of flow. You don't want to pour customers into a funnel. You don't want to drag them through the sieves. Getting it right means that customers' experiences with your campaign will flow naturally, from the first encounter throughout the life cycle of the engagement. You want your site's content to flow with what is on the customer's mind when he or she arrives. You want the experience to continue that flow from interest to advocacy by following the customer's preferred path. You provide options for the customers to move from one stage to any other, according to their own needs rather than a dictated path. With the linking options available for websites, that is not difficult to allow. One of the options you will provide is the opportunity to join your newsletter. Your newsletter should then strive to maintain a relaxed flow from the content of your site and lead the customer back to your site at the point in the process chosen by the customer.

Setting It Up

As stated above, the first step is to provide an opt-in, i.e. a signup form. Then, you need an effective means to deliver your newsletter to all your subscribers in a timely manner. You need to provide a working opt-out option as well. The easiest way to do all of this without need for hours of programming or paying a programming is to subscribe to an email newsletter service.

While there are several to choose from, there appears to be few choices for independent entrepreneurs on a limited budget. At the time of this writing, many such entrepreneurs are choosing Mailchimp as it allows up to 2000 subscribers for free. You can then send up to 12,000 emails per month to these subscribers, also for free. Its upgrade prices are competitive with the other services when you need to expand.

Integration Of Your Newsletter Service

Recall that earlier in this course we discussed adding Contact Form 7 and Flamingo as plugins to your WordPress site. Contact Form 7 allows you to make contact forms on your WordPress site. Flamingo keeps a database of all your contacts, including people who comment on your site. You can use these in addition to a newsletter service, or you can just use one of the signup forms that your newsletter service provides, or you can integrate them.

For those of you who sell goods or services directly from your website, your newsletter service should also allow you to integrate with popular shopping carts so that you can correspond with those who purchase your product or service in addition to those who sign up for your newsletter.

Creating Your List(s)

Creating and organizing your list of subscribers is of crucial importance. You should allocate the time and attention required to do this correctly.

We just talked about flow and how your newsletter content should flow with what's on each individual customer's mind. Thus, ideally you would want to send different content to different customers at different times to best match what's on their mind at the time. How would we do this? We do this by using personalization techniques. The first step in personalization is to obtain and record information about each customer.

It is burdensome to potential customers to be asked to provide detailed information about themselves other than their name and email address. Unless they already see great value in your product or service, they will not do so. Thus, the trick is to collect and record all the information we can ascertain about them without asking our potential customers to actively provide the information. It is important, in this regard, to be mindful of privacy concerns of our potential customers. Your site needs to include a privacy policy that explains what information you will collect, why you collect it, and how you intend to use that information.

Once you have determined what information is available, you need to collect and include that information in your list and sort your list in various ways. It is best to keep a master list and then sublists, with the later sorted according to your needs.

Types Of Email Communication

As I've said numerous times in this course and the previous course, the days of buying an email list and blasting out cold emails to thousands of people at once are long gone. That technique is now relegated only to the worst of the spammers and scammers. We use email differently in our marketing today.

There are three main types of email communications.
 One, we should respond by email when someone contacts us by email or takes action on our website. We should welcome them and thank them for joining our newsletter, purchasing a product, or signing up for a service. We should promptly reply when they send us a contact form message from our website. Two, those who have signed up for our newsletter should receive periodic content of interest to them. Three, there are times we need to send reminders to particular people.

When someone who has been actively involved in commenting on our website disappears, it is appropriate to email them that their input is missed and inquiring if all is well. If someone leaves something in their shopping cart without completing the transaction, an email reminder to complete the transaction is appropriate.

As for the periodic content of newsletters, that should ideally be tailored to the type of customer and their stage in the customer life cycle. We can use the information we collect about customers and potential customers to know what stage they are in.

Conclusion

Email marketing should be integrated into your overall Internet Marketing approach and used as a valuable tool to help you obtain your goals. The first and most important rule for email is to avoid spamming. Learn the spam rules and principles and follow them. Rather than the traditionally popular "Marketing Funnel" strategy, design a strategy that is customer-centric and allows for more flexible response to your customers' needs.

The easiest and most practical way to create a newsletter is to join a newsletter service such as Mailchimp. If you use WordPress, integrate your newsletter service with your Contact Form 7 and Flamingo plugins. Set up a sign up form. If you sell products or services directly from your site, consider integrating your newsletter with your shopping cart or payment service. Next, you need to create your list, preferably using a master list and a number of organized sublists based on the information you have decided is important to your campaign.

Make sure you have everything carefully configured and ensure that you are responding timely when someone sends you an email or interacts with your site. Design newsletter content to appeal to potential customers at different stages of the customer life cycle and send the right messages to the right potential customers at the right time. Remember to also send reminders when appropriate.

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