More than 40 years after the first message was sent email remains a hugely popular form of communicating. According to the research firm Radicati there are 4.6 billion email accounts worldwide, which is more than one for every person on the planet.
But just because everyone has an email account doesn’t mean they want to give you their email address or respond to your emails. Email marketing, like organic search, can be a slow burn. Building an email database and nurturing the people in it both take time.
The shortcuts – like buying email lists – are the equivalent of black hat SEO and have similar results (occasional short-term wins, but more harm than good in the long run). If you want to do email marketing well it’s best to put in the hard yards.
The content you create is your key to adding more addresses to your email database. If people visiting your website find your blog articles or landing page content useful, helpful and informative there’s a better chance they’ll sign up if you offer a newsletter subscription. Better still, if you invest in some high value content like a whitepaper or ebook you can put it behind a form and capture their email as well as other useful info in exchange for a download.
Once you’ve got someone’s information you need to do more than spam them with special offers every few months. Your email database needs to be nurtured and your content marketing is an excellent way to do that. Sending targeted, valuable content to segments of your database will help you build stronger relationships with potential customers and learn more about them in the process.
MailChimp is a great place to start your email marketing, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. Creating brand-consistent custom templates is super simple and it uses a freemium model, so you can send small campaigns at zero cost.
When we have smaller clients who aren’t doing regular email we always recommend getting started with MailChimp. It gives us a chance to prove the concept by getting campaigns up and running quickly and for free.
Once we’ve built the database to the point where the client needs to start paying, we’ll have some analytics data that shows how their emails have been driving qualified traffic back to their website, which makes investing in credits to send to a bigger list a much easier sell.
We can then start to explore some of the more sophisticated options, such as running drip campaigns that segment recipients based on their actions (opening the last email, clicking on a particular link etc).
MailChimp, like other similar email platforms, doesn’t get close to the functionality offered by a full service marketing automation platform, such as Marketo or Pardot, but it is also nowhere near as expensive, even when you’ve built a huge database and are utilising all the pro features.
When a client already has email marketing up and running we’re looking for opportunities to create content that helps nurture their database. Nurturing an email database is like watering seeds. They all need watering but you get the best results when you treat them differently depending on how they respond.
On a really simple level, a recipient who never opens your emails is a very different kind of prospect to one who’s regularly clicking through to your site. Similarly, a user who’s visited your landing pages on “topic x” maybe shouldn’t be in your list for “topic y” updates.
Nurturing your email database is about dripping out regular, relevant and high quality pieces of content to remind your audience that you’re there and that you’ve got some value to offer. If your content is good enough it will provoke a response and you can use that data to continuously improve what you send out.
Content marketing is usually a long-term play. The content you create hooks in relevant people from search or social media or an online ad. The value you offer through your content builds awareness and trust. Then, when that individual is ready to buy what you sell they’re more like to come to you rather than a competitor they have no relationship with.
Email nurture campaigns can maintain that connection between the point at which they discover your brand and the point where they’re ready to make a purchase.
Whether you’re starting out with a 100,000-strong, segmented and qualified database or you’re building one from scratch you always need new leads. Content marketing won’t always deliver quick wins in the form of blog-inspired purchases, but one thing it should always be able to do is generate leads.
Step one is promoting your emails on your blog and around your website. If your content is compelling enough, users reading and interacting with it might also sign up for regular updates via email. Often though you need to offer something a little more enticing.
A tactic that works really well for convincing a user to hand over their email address is a free download. A whitepaper, eBook or case study that catches the eye is often enough for users to agree to trade their contact information to get a look.
Putting high value content behind a form is also useful for people already in your database. Promoting your downloads in your emails and targeting them towards your most relevant segments can help you learn more about your audience. And the more you learn, the closer they get to becoming customers.