The general topic for this month’s Carnival: “The Care and Feeding of Your Email List.” And our topic on SPM today could be alternatively titled “Getting Your Email $&!# Done In Your PJs.”
Others might write about growing an email list, or what to include in your emails to your list, or how often to send out emails, or which autoresponder service to use.
But none of that will matter if you can’t find the time to squeeze in email marketing tasks into an already insane schedule.
Here’s how to do that.
Tools, Tips, & Strategies: Each Has a Place in Email Marketing
If you want to incorporate email marketing into your digital marketing plan without becoming absolutely overwhelmed in the process, you need to pay attention to three separate components:
- Tools: these are the apps, services, and websites that will help you systemize email list tasks and save time on repetitive actions.
- Tips: just a few habits and mindset shifts that you can easily make will simplify your list management tasks.
- Strategies: getting crystal-clear on the whys and the whos and the what-fors of your email list will help you avoid wasting precious time on non-essential, non-productive email list tasks.
Let’s look at each one in turn …
Tools: Curation & Collection For Your Email List
If you’ll be incorporating other people’s content into your newsletter (which you should consider), you’ll want a system for collecting possible items and keeping them in a fashion that allows you to easily recall those items when you’re ready to work on your list mailing.
I use Evernote, though there are plenty of other apps and tools that will serve the same purpose. I like Evernote because it’s free, cloud-based, cross-platform, and taggable.
Install the Evernote browser clipping tool, and then, whenever you see a page or post you think might make good newsletter content, simply copy the part you want to include, click the tool, click “Paste into new note” and then Evernote creates a new note with that content already pasted into the note.
After your note is created, taking the time to perform 3 additional steps will go a long way to saving you time and effort when you build your newsletter or mailing:
- Add tags. I use subject tags, tags based on the site name and/or author, and (most important) a tag for the list itself. Then, when I’m ready to create the mailing, I open Evernote and click on the list tag. Poof – all the notes with that tag line themselves up for me neatly.
- Add source URL. Click the little “i” icon on the note and paste in the URL for the copied content, so you can easily copy that link and add it to your newsletter or mailing for proper attribution. This makes it as easy as possible for both you and for your subscriber.
- Sort the note into a dedicated notebook. Keep one notebook in Evernote just for your newsletter items. This helps keep your Evernote inbox from looking like an out-of-control email inbox and helps you sort through notes quickly.
Tips: Keeping Email Marketing Simple and On Message
A few simple tips can help you stay on task and your email newsletters on message.
- Be very clear on who you’re emailing and why you’re emailing them. What do you want them to do after reading your newsletter? What purpose are you serving? If you don’t know — don’t bother. Wasting your subscribers’ time and inbox space and (worse!) attention will not help your business. Promise.
- Choose a publication schedule and stick to it. Make sure the time between mailings is workable for you. “Weekly newsletters” is fine and dandy, but if that’s going to keep you from getting your actual work done, or make you just resent the crap out of that damned list and everyone on it — well, sweet pea, you need to lower your expectations somewhat.
- Stick to text-centric designs. Fancy-dancy email templates that match your WordPress theme exactly are all well and good, but too much visual crap distracts from your message. Also, the less code you have to futz with in preparing your emails, the less time it’ll take.
- Plan the use of your list proactively before a big launch. Your list is super-valuable when it comes to actually selling stuff — much more so than your Facebook page or your Twitter feed or even your website itself. It’s a powerful weapon, though, so make sure you use it appropriately. Take half an hour and whip up a quick mind-map on paper to figure out how you’ll structure mailings for any pre-launch period. It’ll save you much more time in the long run.
Strategies for Making the Most of Email List Task Time
The principle of chunking is especially helpful in email list work. It takes different mindsets and skills to collect and curate information, to write personal notes or messages or articles, and to proofread and format an entire newsletter’s worth of text. Instead of setting aside, say, “Saturday afternoon” as “list stuff,” chunk up your efforts over time. Perhaps Mondays for planning, Tuesday through Friday for collecting curated content, Saturday for drafting an article, and Sunday afternoon for putting it all together.
Consider including your email list planning in your monthly preview for your blog. Just as I advocate creating a simple editorial calendar for your business blog, I think it’s helpful to include your email list in that planning process. The two go hand-in-hand, so it only makes sense to consider both channels together.
Don’t shy away from selling. There will always be people out there who willingly and knowingly sign up for a site’s list, and then complain when they “get sold to” or “marketed to.” That makes no sense to me or anyone, frankly, but at this point, we have to accept it as a fact of life. (These are probably the same people who unsubscribe and report you as spam, even when they signed up for the newsletter to begin with, making it not-spam.) But if you educate your list from the get-go about your intentions and purpose, there’s less of a shock factor there, and the message will be more readily received.
Finally, make up your mind right this very minute to celebrate unsubscribes. Your list is weeding itself out, and that’s a GOOD thing. You don’t want people on your list who don’t find your content useful, who don’t jibe with your personality and style, who just don’t fit perfectly within those “ideal client” parameters. Having those folks fall off is a good thing because it creates a much tighter fit between list and subscribers.
Now, if you get a mass of unsubscribes — an unusually high percentage, that is — after a single mailing, you should absolutely take a step back and analyze just what happened with that mailing.
A Few Last Resources That Might Help Improve Your Email List Management & Outreach
Some of my favorite pieces on email marketing and list management from around the web:
- AWeber: Industry-Specific Email Marketing Guides
- Hubspot: “9 Email Marketing Best Practices to Generate More Leads“
- Small Business Trends: “Email Marketing Best Practices“
- Copyblogger: “7 Steps to an Email Opt-In Page That Works“
- Social Triggers: List Building 101
And, of course, last but far from least, be sure to check out all the other amazing posts in today’s Word Carnival!