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6 Email Marketing Best Practices For The Real World

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Email marketing continues to be the proverbial elephant in the room when it comes to getting the best ROI on your marketing activities. Email is consistently the high performing, conversion-making, brand-strengthening part of any smart marketer’s toolbox.

Are you thinking, “I’m using email marketing but am not seeing consistent return”? Then you just aren’t doing email marketing right or you simply aren’t going deep enough.

Email marketing still has a staggering 38:1 ROI ratio.

Here are six tips for resetting the way you think about your email marketing strategy.

1. No Email Marketing, No Funnel

People are surprised when I tell them their funnel doesn’t exist without email.

Email marketing is a topic I get asked about every day. I just got another DM last night from a faithful follower of The Modern Marketer who asked if I believe email marketing is a key component to business.

It’s not a key component, it’s the chest that the keys open.

Lol, but seriously.

Your sales pipeline does not exist without email. Your engagement from initial brand contact, to purchase, to brand advocate doesn’t exist without email.

The important thing to remember is that email is evolving.

So, yes, you have to choose more carefully how you use email now vs how you would have used it 5+ years ago. But, that doesn’t change the fact that email marketing software solutions are popping up every year.

Game changers even.

Remember our talk about digital assets? For the thousands of new Modern Marketer followers since I last mentioned that,

“your company needs to build its digital assets and stop relying on third parties to be the ‘equity’ of your brand.”

At a moment’s notice it could all be gone.

So, if I took away all of your social media followers, your networks, and broke your website and software solutions you use, what would be left? If your answer is nothing, then you need to fix that.

Because the answer should be “I have hundreds/thousands of custom content pieces, have a nurtured and segmented email list, and we could go right back to the market today.”

See the difference? Good.

Now you understand that email marketing is really one of the only things in your digital assets that ACTUALLY belongs to you 100%. So, focus on building your efforts in email marketing and controlling that ecosystem.

2. Send Messages People Are Dying to Open

Email campaigns that focus on the category of “hobbies” have the highest open rate, statistically speaking.

This is interesting because it proves that everywhere online, no matter what medium or platform, people respond to the things that they are most interested in.

Right?

So, even when it comes to email marketing, the category with the highest open rate is “hobbies.”

Makes sense.

Ergo, it’s important for us brands and SMBs to understand what it takes to be as relevant (or at least as close to as relevant) to a user as one of their hobbies. For example, you see a drum set in the background of this picture right?

email marketing tips

I love music. I used to literally be a professional musician, now it’s sort of a hobby.

Any time I see something in my inbox related to drums, 9 times out of 10 I am going to open it because it’s extremely relevant to things that I am deeply interested in. I’ve seen all there is to see in the drumming industry. I know the best brands—I have heard, talked to and played with the best drummers in the world.

My roots in music go deep, but it never loses its relevancy in my life.

I want you to think of how you can position your SMB (in regards to email marketing) to be not only a necessity for your users, but something that they are deeply interested in. Whether it’s because of your content or special offerings.

Become as relevant as a hobby.

3. Flip Your Funnel Right-side Up

One of the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make is taking marketing strategies that are meant for a certain part of the funnel and trying to use them for another part of the funnel.

Let me explain what I mean.

Email marketing and/or marketing automation is something that happens after the first two stages of the buyer journey—which, if you’ve read our content before, you remember that the buyer journey is:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Decision

Most users go through about 67% of the buyer journey before talking to a brand representative, from which they then become a lead and a sale.

Why then are brands trying to make users who have just come in contact with them give their information upfront so they can pound them with more messages? It’s because those brands are trying to use a bottom of the funnel tactic at the top of their funnel.

So, if you find yourself asking questions like, “how do I make people sign up for my newsletter…how do I make people follow me….how do I get people from social media to go over to my website…???” it’s because you are misusing strategies in the wrong parts of your funnel.

Extra Insight: Understand the buyer journey of “awareness, consideration, decision,” understand your sales funnel of “acquisition, conversion, engagement,” and make sure that your marketing efforts align with each stage.

I taught a course on this at the end of last year, and this was the graphic that I created for the course to help people understand what I was talking about:

ACE Digital Sales Funnel

So, as you can see, there is a true method to this madness. And your ability to understand your buyer’s journey is key to making sure your funnel isn’t upside down.

4. Plain Text Emails Are The Best, Use Them

 

77% of ROI comes from segmented, targeted, and triggered campaigns.

But I always find myself, along with most of you probably, in a conundrum of whether I should send designed emails or plain text emails.

Ahhhhh.

A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that the team and I mostly create plain text emails for clients of all sizes.

Hardly every do we design emails.

It just isn’t super effective for your consistent communication touch points with customers, unless your brand solely relies on it’s visuals.

email marketing strategy

But, at the same time, we’ve worked with a ton of brands where basic communication is done in plain text, but their weekly deals, promos and newsletters are all designed up and mobile responsive.

Again, most of the time the plain text emails still have better statistics regarding open rates and click rates, but the designed emails play well when they are centered around one specific purpose.

Like a deal, event or product.

The conclusion that I’ve come to after split testing this for the last 2 years or so, is that plain text needs to be 80% of your email communication and designed emails only 20%. Now, some of you may immediately disagree because you see great results with your designed emails and you stun your customers every email.

So, take this advice with a grain of salt, but know that we’ve made our clients 10x more money with plain text emails than we have with designed emails. If you are going to design an email, make sure it has a centric value proposition and that you deliver the right message to the right segment at the right time.

Context marketing: the right message to the right people at the right time.

Don’t just blast out a design because it’s beautiful.

5. Spy on Who Opens Your Emails

Communication is the cornerstone of your business development.

Business owners literally get hundreds of email messages every single day and your ability to understand and control your communication ecosystem will determine your success.

Trust me when I say that this is very tactical and actionable.

 

Two tools that you can implement today in your communication are Yesware and/or Sidekick  by Hubspot. Both are email tracking tools and give you insight into who you are talking to.

I used Yesware for years, but have currently been using Sidekick for the past year or so.

I can see:

  • when people open emails
  • how many times they open it
  • what they click on
  • what device they were on
  • and where they were at in the world

I know that seems a bit much, but you would be surprised how efficient it is to be working and see that so-and-so opened your email via a push notification.

So, why talk about this in an article about email marketing?

Because this is the side of email marketing centered around business development. Without business development, you have no business. This is the tactical side of email marketing that isn’t automated, that isn’t triggered.

You still have to communicate 1-on-1, network and act like a human sometimes.

The other cool thing about these tools is that they show you key pieces of information on the person you are talking to, like their social accounts, latest posts and contact information. This is both helpful if you are communicating with customers and or decision makers for business development.

So, take a second and go install them into your email. It’s free to start with up to a certain amount of tracked emails.

6. Pop Up ‘Value’

Most people who visit your website aren’t ready to buy.

That’s a fact.

I think the benchmark is currently up in the 90th percentile. Because of that, you hear me talk about things like retargeting and lead generation a lot.

One thing that has forever worked well for myself and our clients is using what they call “exit-intent” pop ups. They are pop ups that pop when a user’s mouse leaves the browser window.

Now…HUGE DISCLAIMER.

We have all seen this done the wrong way. We all have those sites we’ve seen like 24/7 Sports in which we shun the brand because of their horrible pop up ad experience. We get it.

There is a right way and a wrong way to execute pop ups.

Imagine if you were getting ready to leave Dick’s Sporting Goods soccer section of their website and when your mouse left the browser window, a quick pop up with Rinaldo’s face and a play button says “Watch this video of Rinaldo and comment for a chance to win tickets to a game of your choosing. Plus get an immediate 20% off on all soccer equipment.”

That was a very random example, but my point is that relevance is the only thing that makes pop ups not spammy and annoying. You can, in fact, add more value through pop ups.

Email list growth hack

As one more example, one of our clients just ran a very successful online conference. The biggest in the world for their niche, literally. We threw up an exit intent pop up that offered a free book, and free course if they purchased a ticked by X date. That alone converted users who were on the fence at an insane rate.

Because all of a sudden we added value that they didn’t expect. So, don’t ever blame pop ups for being annoying. Don’t every blame ads for being annoying. The only thing that becomes annoying is when you use those tools to be annoying with your spammy messages and lack of value.

There is always a right way.

Conclusion

This was a pretty beefy article, so I encourage you to book mark it and revisit any time you go to execute an email marketing campaign.

Inevitably, you are going to keep seeing articles and messages on social media about how email marketing is dying or dead.

But it’s not.

It remains one of the only ways that you can generate an INSANE ROI from something that you 100% own. Unlike a social media account with 10k followers, an email list with 10k subscribers will forever belong to you.

Your job is to simply always be segmenting, nurturing and adding value to your list so when you ask for the buy, you get it. 

Conversion Rate Optimization

You Don’t Need a Website in 2018—Here’s Why

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You Don't Need a Website in 2018—Here's Why

Here’s the plain and simple truth: you don’t need a website to launch your business.

That might sound crazy or unconventional, but the fact of the matter is that while you think a website is what makes your brand or business “official” or “legitimate,” it’s not a priority for making sales.

No joke.

I have seen entrepreneurs waste up to 12 months just trying to create these extravagant websites along with educational materials, sale copy, social media presence, and branding. And this is all before they’ve even began to focus on actually selling.

Selling needs to be priority in order for you to actually make money, right? So why spend months of your time on a super involved website and platform if you don’t even know it’s going to sell once it’s setup?

Websites are not a prerequisite for brands or businesses.

Look, most of us are small business owners with limited budgets. Unless you have millions and millions of dollars at your disposal to launch your business, you’re not going to want to waste your resources on anything that you’re not sure is going to give you a good ROI.

So forget the belief that you need a website in order to launch your business. Forget the so-called “checklist” of things you need to do to be a legitimate business.

Instead, you need to focus on a process that effectively sells. I’m going to lay this process out for you step by step. It’s the same process I’ve used with clients time and time again to build their business and ramp up their sales.

I’ve helped clients make $250,000 in less than 2 months, I helped a fashion brand make $3 million in 24 months, and it’s all been using The Modern Marketer’s ACE Method. (If you don’t know what that is, join The Modern Marketer private FB group and start asking questions.)

So, instead of the website, here are the steps you need to take:

1. Create a Landing Page

Landing pages have one purpose: to drive action.

It’s almost like the distilled version of a website.

It’s the action page you would want any visitors on a full-blown website to eventually arrive to.

But the main difference between a landing page and a full-blown website is the simplicity of it all. Your goal with the landing page is to convey a strong message in the most beautiful and direct way that you can with no distractions.

  • no menu
  • no sidebar
  • no external links
  • no footer content/menu

That’s the thing with a website— there’s more information on it to occupy a visitor’s attention and they are less likely to take action than initially being exposed to a landing page with a simple call to action.

The reason I’m emphasizing simplicity is that I see way too many landing pages that are completely cluttered with information.

You don’t have to supplement the simplicity of a landing page.

Think about it.

Every landing page is a point of arrival.

It’s like landing from a flight in a country you’ve never been to. You wouldn’t want to be overwhelmed by new information all at once in a new place, so why do that to the people coming to your landing page?

You can give people necessary information on landing page without 1,200 words of copy, 10 pictures, and 15 links. I suggest you check out software like Unbounce which promotes the type of landing pages that do exactly what you need them to do without extra frills.

reason for driving traffic to site

Every last element on a landing page needs to encourage a specific action to be taken. This action will be for the purpose of generating leads. That’s the only reason you are driving traffic there, and the only reason people should be there.

So whatever that specific action is, make sure that your landing page is not only optimized for the desired action, but also tracked so you can re-engage people who are visiting the page.

But what exactly should this “specific action” be?

2. Create a Lead Magnet

A lead magnet can go by different names— an opt-in, a freebie, trip-wire, etc. But no matter what you call it, it’s the first touch point you have with your users before attempting to nurture them into customers.

This is the value you create that inspires people to take action from your landing page. People will have to want that value enough to give you their information. That’s how you get your leads.

So what kind of value should you be providing in exchange for people’s information?

This value should be in the form of content.

This content needs to serve two main purposes: to provide a solution to a specific problem and to demonstrate your expertise.

your value

There are many different forms of content you can provide. Here are a few examples:

  • Video email series – nurturing emails that educate recipients in installments
  • Checklist – easily consumable and actionable list
  • Ebook – a longer, more comprehensive form of content
  • Cheat Sheet – like a checklist, but with a list of guidelines or a process
  • White Paper – an authoritative and in-depth report on a specific problem that provides a specific solution
  • Long form content – a long blog post (around 2,000 words or more)
  • Tutorial – either a video or a PDF that teaches how to do one specific thing
  • Infographic – an illustrated format for information
  • Webinar – an educational video or audio format thats occurs at a specific tim

These are just a few examples, and there are so many more. You want to choose one format that will work for your business and industry and make it highly valuable.

At the end of that content, you can promote your product or service.

This is where you begin to sell.

Now that you’ve gotten people’s attention, provided them value, and proved your expertise, they are much more willing to buy what you’re selling.

Expert Tip: Don’t sell multiple products or services. Focus on selling one thing well.

However, most will not buy right away. Nor should they have to. That’s why you’ve collected their email address with your lead magnet. Now you can have multiple touch points with them directly in their inbox.

3. Automated Email Marketing

After you’ve provided your lead with some stellar content, you want to stay in contact with them because they are still a lead. They’ve made it this far through your funnel, right? You have to keep engaging them if you want to sell.

This is the decision stage of the ACE method.

So you need to have an email automation in place as soon as you get your lead’s information. These emails will guide your leads through to the bottom of the sales funnel.

When you have a lead and their information, you should use a triggered email message to engage with your audience that respond to their behavior.  

According to Epsilon, triggered emails get 119% higher click-through rates than “business as usual messages.”

send leads 3-5 emails

You definitely don’t want to pound your leads with email messages. All it should take is three to five emails with only two or three of those emails including a call-to-action.  

It’s best practice to segment your email lists to provide the most personalized emails possible. This is what will drive engagement, and ultimately, get you the most sales.

4. Advertise Your Funnel

If you’re going to spend advertising dollars on anything, it needs to be on this sales funnel.

You want to get people onto your landing page so you can guide them through the rest of the process. Getting ads out in front of targeted audiences will not only get you qualified leads, but will also be far more effective than just hoping the right leads end up on the landing page of your website.

Facebook ads are the way to go.

These ads are so highly targeted and inexpensive that it’s almost stupid not to use them. The more targeted these ads are, the more qualified the leads you will get.

You can also advertise through a PR campaign or cross-promotion. Consider the influencers of your industry. They can also get your landing page out in front of the right people.

advertise your funnel

No matter avenue you take, make sure you seek qualified leads to get to your landing page.

If you run traffic to this funnel for 30 to 90 business days, I promise you will make 10 times the amount of money as if you’re trying to get your ducks in a row for months and months.

Conclusion

There’s no need to burn through all your time and money to creating websites, taking the perfect pictures, waiting on things to be in place, or writing amazing content. While those are all important things, you need to be first and foremost prioritize your basic business competencies.  The best marketers in the world are salesman. If you’re going to launch something new, you need to streamline the process to prioritize making sales.

So don’t spend so much time trying to perfect your funnel, your brand, and your presentation. Just get a landing page and some valuable content up, get some data, get some traffic, and test it out. Then at least you have a legit business that’s killing it in sales, and then you can worry about spending money on your website, culture, team building, and more advertising.

Get your marketing priorities straight.

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Digital Advertising

Advertising 101: How to Crush Campaigns on a Budget

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How to crush campaigns on a budget

Everyone wants to find the cheapest way to advertise their business. It can get pricey to get your products or services in front of the right people, particularly if you don’t understand your audience.

But when you’re a small business and working with a tight budget, it can be especially challenging to determine how best to use your advertising dollars.

However, there’s a trick to digital advertising… are you ready?

It’s not necessarily about understanding your audience, it’s about understanding what you’re trying to get your audience to do.

If you understand your objectives, you will be able to spend your limited budget in the right way.

Understanding your Objectives

A lot of marketers make out advertising to be a matter of “figuring it out.” But when you’re advertising digitally, there isn’t anything to “figure out,” because the information is all there.

What’s key in making decisions for investing your ad dollars is knowing your objectives, and then split testing the right things. There’s no “right way” to advertise on a budget, there are ebbs and flows.

This is why we split test.

You may be reading this and think you really do know your objectives… but do you really?

Once on a sales call with a client I asked, “What is your objective for this campaign? What would you consider to be a successful campaign?”

They responded: “Honestly, the goal is to drive a ton of traffic to the page and hope it converts, right?”

It’s a typical response we hear, and there’s a chance you think that’s your objective too. But it’s very seldom the true objective in advertising.

“Driving traffic” is very general, and perhaps an overarching goal in advertising. But it’s not nearly specific enough. You have to go deeper with your objectives.

So perhaps you’re rethinking your advertising objectives now. Here are some questions you should be asking yourself:

  • Who do you really want to connect with?
  • What actions do you truly want a prospect to take?
  • Are you going to rely on the law of averages to convert 1-3% of your prospects into sales?
  • If not, what type of nurturing touch points are you going to have with the prospects to guide them towards conversion?
  • How will you retarget nurtured prospects to get them to buy?

Keep in mind that while the maximum amount of traffic and lowest cost per lead may seem like reasonable objectives when you’re working within a tight budget, it’s not a strategy that will yield a profitable amount of conversions.

creating profitable conversions

For example, for a client of ours it cost us $15 per ticket to sell out their conference. The cost of tickets were $125, so obviously the profit is $110. If our cost per lead was only $1, but we sold 20 tickets instead of 300, that wouldn’t have been nearly as effective a campaign.

In other words, casting the largest net won’t get you the best fish. When it comes to sales, you need to put quality of leads over quantity of leads.

Define your KPIs (key performance indicators) based on quality, not quantity. It’s easy to get caught up in vanity metrics and think your advertising dollars are being well spent.

But if you understand the buyer journey and have objectives for each step of the sales funnel, you can more readily measure the success of your ad campaigns— not based on the number of leads you end up with, but the actual profit on conversions against what you’ve spent.

Focusing in on the Funnel

Too many people quit their ad campaigns too soon because they focus on entry level data rather than their actual objectives.

I’ve had clients that say, “oh, that campaign didn’t really work out,” when they don’t get the results they wanted and I ask them to explain what “didn’t work out” means.

Then when we start talking about the actual objectives, then they realize that the campaign is working, it’s just one part of the sales funnel that needs fixing.

Remember that in your advertising campaigns, if you’re not getting the results you want, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not working. No, it means that only a part of your sales funnel isn’t working up to par.

part of your sales funnel isn't working up to par

Don’t dump your entire campaign just because it’s not working the way you wanted it too. You need to step back and see the bigger picture. Look at the campaign within the context of the stages of the buyer journey:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision

Awareness

Are you connecting with the right people? Are the people you’re connecting with taking the action you’ve set out for them? Is your lead magnet offering enough value?

Lead magnets are a great way to attract the right people into your ecosystem. By offering some sort of value in exchange for the user’s contact information, you can quickly pull that person in and turn them into a lead.

But if your lead magnet isn’t interesting or doesn’t offer enough value, people will have less incentive to give you their information.

This is where split testing comes in handy. Try different lead magnets and see what works.

Try targeting half your audience with an ebook lead magnet and targeting the other half with a video tutorial. There’s lots of ways to attract leads in.

So experiment. Try new things. Remember, there’s no “right way” to do this.

your lead magnet must offer value

Consideration

Are you relying on the laws of averages to get those conversions? Maybe it’s time to more actively connect with your leads.

You will get some leads to convert without much effort, but not many at all. If you want to maximize conversions, you have to stay at the top of the leads’ minds.

This means not passively sitting back and waiting for leads to decide to buy. It means touching in with them, feeding them a little more value, reminding them you’re there.

Decision

What kind of nurturing touch points can you have with your leads to guide them to buy?

If you have a substantial list of email subscribers, your best bet is to schedule out a nurturing email campaign. After several nurturing emails, you can send them emails with calls to action. This is what will drive more leads to buy.

If you lack an email list, Facebook retargeting ads are a great way to prompt your leads to buy, and can be easily tracked.

Whatever route you decide to take, you’re going to get the most bang for your buck if you more actively nurture your leads and retarget rather than passively leave the buying decision up to them.

Creating Loyal Customers

Are you continuing to engage customers after they’ve bought from you? If not, you’re missing a crucial opportunity for growth.

How can you continue to build relationships with customers so that they return and advocate for you?

I say it all the time: you cannot grow your business from the first sale. You need a second, third, fourth, fifth sale in order to grow. This doesn’t mean that you need a lot of customers, it means you need loyal customers.

This stage of the buyer’s journey is ultimately what will pay off your limited advertising budget multiple times over. If you seek to build relationships with these customers rather than use them for the transaction and forget about them, you have the capacity to pay off your advertising 3x.

After the sale, you can continue to engage these customers with email marketing and retargeting ads. They may not buy from you again right away, but you will be kept in mind and they may even refer people they know to your business.

It’s not rocket science. You’re trying to maintain a relationship with another human being. These are important touch points.

So if your ad campaign is struggling to get the results you want, it doesn’t mean the marketing advertising isn’t doing its job. It means a part of the funnel isn’t working.

So focus in on the funnel and identify what needs to be fixed in terms of the objectives you’ve set out for the campaign.

Conclusion

Like I’ve said multiple times throughout this post, there’s no right way to do this. With any ad campaign, there will be ups and downs, ebbs and flows. Think of your ad campaigns as ongoing experiments.

If you’re going to focus on experimenting with ad campaigns on any platform, make sure it’s on Facebook.

Facebook is a great advertising platform because it marries native advertising and interactive media. Whether it be canvas ads, bleed ads, video ads, there are literally brands being built off of this platform. So I really advise you lean in and experiment there.

Understand there’s multiple levels to advertising. So if you’re working within a budget, it’s crucial to define your objectives. Make your KPIs about quality, not quantity. It may seem like it’s worth your money to cast a large net, but it’s not.

You need good leads, not the most leads.

I get it, ad campaigns can be nerve racking when you put money into them and you’re not seeing the results you want. But don’t react by breaking off the campaign. Focus in on your sales funnel. Focus on the objectives of each stage of the funnel. Fix the parts that aren’t working up to par.

This will allow you to optimize the funnel you have and crush every campaign on a limited budget.

Let’s get it.

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