As a fashion copywriter who helps brands connect with their customers online, I'm all too familiar with the difference between a big-name business and an independent fashion brand: resources. These smaller fashion brands – often borne from a passion project-turned-Etsy-store-turned-fully-fledged-e-commercewebsite – work right around the clock with little to no help at all. Occasionally, they have a full-time job and run a side hustle, and sometimes they’re freshly green to the world of self-made empires. Like all new monarchs, they’re up to their neck in work…but they wouldn’t have it any other way.
One word comes to mind when describing these business owners – passionate. For a while I had a contentious relationship with the word ‘passionate’. It gets thrown around so much in the initial stages of the briefing process when I ask what makes their business different. It’s a word which rears its familiar head almost to the point where it’s become a tired adjective. I’ve realised recently that it’s not the cliché I thought it was. It just so happens that my less well-known clients really love what they do. It’s why they put their time, energy, creativity and personal sanity on the line every damn day.
So when my passionately earnest clients come to me, they’re not after something that might work. They operate on a lean budget, and they want results…yesterday. They’re not about to throw their money down the drain all in the name of supposition. They’re looking for something that is proven to work, and will help get them results in a short timeframe.
And one of those offerings is email marketing.
It took me a while to give my own email newsletter the legs it needed, partially because I’d convinced myself I was too busy to do my own marketing, and partially because I was scared of communicating so intimately with an audience. Sending an email to a bunch of strangers really freaked me out!
Now when I think of my email newsletter, I would not stop sending it for anything in the world. I always dedicate a particular time of week to developing content, and it always goes out nearly every second Tuesday morning at 9am.
Why? Because email marketing is still one of the most effective forms of online marketing.
Now and again, someone will write an article online lamenting the death of email as a successful marketing tactic. The perpetrator? Zuckerbook. Or Insta. But guess what? Facebook and Instagram have not killed email marketing yet.
If you're still not sure, here's a few things you need to know about email marketing.
1. Email marketing is not ‘spam’.
Once upon a time, email marketing was the #1 form of communication for marketers. The first mass emailing was conducted in 1978, when the ‘father’ of spam, Bill Thuerk, sent an email promoting DEC machines to 400 people using a very early iteration of the internet. This resulted in $13 million worth of sales for DEC machines.
Fast-forward to 1991, and the introduction of the personal email address (thanks Hotmail!) meant that marketers could contact everyone. Whereas email was once reserved for students and employees, Hotmail was the primary catalyst for direct email marketing.
Targeting was broad because data collection was still in its infancy, so marketing messages were vague and spoke to everyone. When this happens, marketing messages become diluted. When you try to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one. So with all these people receiving marketing messages that were in no way relevant to them (Viagra, anyone?), people started to see email marketing as ‘spam’*. Spam laws were created in 2003, forcing unruly marketers to back off with their penis enlarging products.
In 2016, it’s incredibly hard to get a person to hand over their email address (my ex-boyfriend usually told marketers he didn't have one!). So when a person gives you their email address, they genuinely want to hear from you. I’m being serious. That person is down with whatever you’re saying or selling. They might not be ready to commit to a business relationship yet, but they’ve just invited you into their inbox periodically. You are so in.
2. (Email marketing) Content is King.
You might have seen this idiom doing the rounds on various social media and marketing blogs – and for good reason too. Content is King, and not just because Google’s algorithm commands it so.
It’s true that content and design should have a sweet-sounding harmony. Beyonce does not make chart-toppers without feminist battle cries AND booty-poppin’ beats! Do me a favour and think for a minute about what we do when we want to tell someone about the song we can’t get out of our head.
We sing the lyrics. The message of the song is in the lyrics.
That’s why when it comes to email I recommend focusing your energy and creativity on the content of the email. Why? There’s a problem with a lot of email browsers – they’re so hell-bent on protecting us from spam that they’ll block anything. Including a beautifully designed header. Or sidebar. Or a social media icon. Outlook is notorious for blocking images, as are most email clients. Even when you turn off blocking automatic picture downloads, Outlook still finds a way to block anything other than plain text.
There’s a simple solution for this: make sure the most important parts of your marketing message are text parts of the email.
3. You don’t need a huge email newsletter subscriber list – just a really engaged list.
When I’m browsing for articles related to email marketing, I come across a lot of ‘how-to-grow-your-subscriber-list’ articles. There’s also a few online courses which teach you how to do this organically. It goes without saying that growing your email subscriber list should be a marketing priority. If you want to get more customers, you need to make more sales, correct? Therefore, you need more people on your subscriber list.
When building your subscriber list (often referred to as ‘data-driving’), it’s important to focus on quality and not quantity. You could have a huge data list worth bragging about at your next BNI, but if none of those subscribers are actually engaged – that’s opening, reading and clicking your email – then you don’t have a quality list.
You want to create a connection with your readers. You want them to feel valued, and you want your offerings to resonate with them on a deep level.
The key is to collect email addresses with a genuine, authentic approach to communicating with your prospective brand advocates.
Don’t ever buy email addresses. Don’t offer free e-books, then try and sell to your subscribers in the second email. Don’t run a contest that captures email addresses and then never send a prize. Don’t add people to your list without their permission.
4. Opt-in email newsletter offers work, but if you have one, make it worth the extra disk space.
Free e-books have become somewhat of a staple in a small business owner’s arsenal of sweeteners. You can find a free e-book about almost anything – yoga, psychology, Reiki, writing, productivity, branding, and my personal favourite, Alexandra Franzen's 50 Ways To Play With Yourself.
If you opt to lure in potential customers with a free e-book, make sure it’s something valuable. Make sure it’s written and designed professionally and won’t crash a computer. It should also be easy to consume within 10-20 minutes.
Ideally, your opt-in offer should
1) Invite your ideal audience to join your brand’s conversation with a taste of what you have to offer;
2) Solve a problem. Like how to form good habits. Or how to organise their wardrobe;
3) Be small enough to download within a few minutes.
My own opt-in offer gives people new to my brand an easy-to-scan SEO check list. I chose to do this because it immediately gives a person a tiny piece of what I do FOR FREE, helps them solve their SEO problems, and is easy to consume because it’s just a one-page PDF from me with a few tips for their website copy.
Not a subscriber yet? Sign up below.
5. Don’t send email for the sake of having an email marketing campaign. You need to have a goal.
Ok, ok. I’m positive you’re a moderately intelligent being, so you’ll more than likely understand by now the importance of email marketing for your business.
Not to do a complete 180, but this is me telling you not to rush over to MailChimp and create an account.
There’s a habit business owners have when they jump over on to Facebook or Instagram. It’s exciting being able to post and communicate and update and share photos. If all of these activities are performed without a bit of strategic direction or a goal in mind, it’s really just pointless posting.
When starting up an email marketing campaign, it’s important to think of your email marketing as a path of sorts (marketers call this the conversion funnel).
You want to lead them down the garden path, but slowly. You want them to stop and smell the roses. Eventually, you want to get the hell out of the garden and get to the damn party already.
But would you just up and go to a party with a stranger? Probably not. Think about the situation if it were you. You just want to enjoy this garden for a bit. Then maybe, if you trust them, you’ll consider a dance.
Am I making sense here?
Have a goal, but take it slow and sleady.
Let’s wrap this up.
The aim of this post was to help you realise that email marketing is one of the best ways to communicate with your prospects. You don't need a particularly sophisticated email template design - in fact, many successful people send plain-text emails, like Ramit Sethi and Alexandra Franzen. This works for them because they've already made a name for themselves, but also because their email marketing campaigns have explicit goals and clear, persuasive calls-to-action.
I want to hear how long you've been sending out your emails for. What's your goal? More clients? More engagement? And what's your biggest struggle? Scheduling? Content? Copywriting?