Are you worried that email marketing comes across as automated spam?

Do you know how to manage your mailing list so that your messages arrive almost by magic to solve your customers problems at just the right time?

Helen Lindop helps small businesses set up lists that make your customers feel special, not just an anonymous part of your sales and marketing machine.

This is a transcript of a live Q&A.

Helen Lindop  I’m not going to teach you sales tips because I’m not a sales expert. But one thing I see a lot is people assuming that email marketing is just another marketing channel (and an older, less-sexy-than-the-latest-social-media-platform one) and therefore just one more marketing job they don’t have time for.

But I’d like to give you a different perspective. Think of your other marketing channels as ways of reaching out to new people and starting off a relationship with them. Email marketing asks them to go a step further – usually offering a gift of some kind in exchange for an email address – and that means it’s about following up, carrying on with the relationship-building, then closing the sale.

If you’ve ever been frustrated by not selling as much as you’d like on social media, it’s very possible that you’re missing this piece of your marketing strategy, or at least leaning too far towards reaching out to new people and not putting enough focus on following up and closing. This is also good for people who feel a bit uncomfortable about selling… because an email does that bit for you – if you do it right.

How to avoid looking like spam

Helen Lindop There are lots of ways to avoid the dreaded spam label: First make sure you’re following the rules – GDPR fills a lot of people with terror but it’s not so daunting for small businesses and a lot of it is just transparency and courtesy anyway.

Then, send info that people actually want to read – help, educate or entertain them. Send something they’ll look forward to reading.

Check your stats e.g. if your unsubscribe rate is high, drop the frequency a bit and see if it improves. Test your headlines to see if they have spammy words in them – many email marketing platforms have a headline checker.

How you gather email addresses matters too. If they already know and like you from social media or a presentation you ran then you already have a relationship with them before they subscribe. Then you need to develop that.

Don’t let GDPR put you off

Helen Lindop For any micro biz owners nervous about GDPR, this might be reassuring…/assessment-for-small-business…/

How well do you comply with data protection law: an assessment for small business owners and sole traders

Q. What’s the most effective way to get replies? Is it header/content/CTA? or a combo?  I’m sure it depends on what the relationship I’ve built with them is, and where they’re at in terms of sharing info with me and when we can meet. Ideally I want to meet up and chat as that’s when my ‘sales’ get done 🙂

Helen Lindop If you want to move them towards interacting with you I’d encourage that right from when they subscribe. So in the welcome email, ask them a question like ‘What’s your top challenge with x? Hit the reply button and tell me, I promise to reply’. That way they know you’re a real human being and will respond. Often people assume email marketing is a one way communication so they need a bit of encouraging. Then write your emails as if you’re writing to one individual, make it feel really personal. Similar to the way you approach social media, nothing like a dry newsletter.

How to get started building a list

Helen Lindop Start with a goal – what do you want to achieve with it? E.g. more design clients? I know that sounds really obvious but it’s surprising how much this varies. E.g. I had one client who was an accountant who didn’t have any space for new clients so the only purpose of her list was to stop people forgetting she existed when she did need a new client!

Q. That’s pretty much my goal – attract more clients and remind existing ones I’m still here. However, I don’t feel comfortable adding existing clients to a mailing list. Obviously I’d ask for their permission, but “can I add you to my newsletter list” just sounds lame.

Helen Lindop I think ‘newsletter’ is a very boring word with undertones of ‘I’m going to try to flog you stuff from time to time’. Can you think of a way of giving it a brand all of its own that it makes it sound like a product in its own right, e.g. The Design Times. You can still be transparent about what’s in it on your landing page.

Q. OK, so I’ve created a landing page and sign up form… how best to get people to actually sign up? (Is it a good idea to have a sample amount of content or similar?) Then publicise the new landing page on social? What’s the protocol for inviting existing clients to sign up – send an email inviting them to do so, or be more subtle, just adding a link to it in my email footer etc.

Helen Lindop I think you need to sell it a bit – it’s fine to put it in your footer but in itself I’m not sure you’ll get many subscriptions from that. With clients you speak to I’d just drop it into conversation. A landing page with good ‘what’s in it for me’ copy is a great idea, I’d just treat it like a product you’d sell…except it’s free. In a way it is ‘a sale’ because they are paying for it with their email address.

There are loads of ways of promoting your list – a really effective one is to do some kind of event that’s closely related to The Design Times – online or off – and mention it there (more on that here…/how-to-build-your-mailing…/ ). You can do a straightforward tweet or social media update with a link telling people why they should sign up, I put mine in related blog posts, too.

How to build your mailing list using online workshops

Using the right platform

Q. Should all bulk emailing be done via a dedicated platform and not from a personal email address and why?

Helen Lindop Yes, definitely do it from an email marketing platform because to bulk mail from your own email address looks spammy. And it’s WAY easier to manage it from a platform. Plus there are all kinds of data security issues with bulk email from your own address.

Q. What kind of numbers of people would you consider bulk email Helen?

Helen Lindop You can get email plans that start from free (Mailerlite for example) so if you have any intention of building a list I’d start right now with one subscriber. That’s not to say free is best, it depends what your goals are – you might be better with one of the paid platforms. But it’s just not worth the risk and hassle of emailing even 10 people with your personal email.

What if no-body buys anything?

Helen Lindop If you find yourself with a list of people who love your content but don’t buy, then check things like are you making offers frequently enough? Are they hidden in a load of text that people skim read over? Are they the right offers for that audience? Are they at the right stage of the buying process?

Some people are so scared of being spammy that they never really sell anything in their emails.

Q. Helen Lindop Is this a good subtle way to do business or a fear that needs overcoming??!

Helen Lindop Often it is a fear that needs overcoming and it’s hard to get over it unless you do it. Both from a point of view that it gives you confidence that you can do email marketing without people hating you (you totally can), and you’ve then got some stats to work with.

It’s subtle in one way in that you don’t need to sell face-to-face, but you still need to be confident in presenting offers in emails.

Q. How does it work to segment a list so that people who are interested in one thing don’t get offers for things they’re not interested in?

Helen Lindop Most email marketing platforms allow you to tag subscribers, so you could tag someone who subscribed at your event with #event and someone who has shown an interest in online training with #onlinetraining. Or even both, because most allow you to have multiple tags. You can apply tags manually e.g. if you import subscribers who signed up on a sheet at a live event, or you can set it up that subscribers that join your list from a specific landing page are tagged #event, for example. This means that you can send emails about events to those people who are most interested in events. That’s a really simple example, you can also tag people based on what they bought in your online store, whether they’ve clicked a specific link on your site, if they’ve abandoned your shopping cart and many more.

In terms of platform, Convertkit and Active Campaign are great for doing this, Aweber is a good lower priced solution that’s maybe a bit less powerful but still good, Mailerlite is not that strong but does have some features, Mailchimp is infuriatingly clunky. *other opinions are available!

One significant change with GDPR for email marketing is that you can no longer say ‘download my freebie’ then subscribe them to a mailing list and sell them stuff. You either have to a) be transparent on the landing page that they’ll download the freebie and be added your mailing list where they can expect to receive x, y and z or b) let them download the freebie then get their consent to add them to your mailing list after. Many people got so scared by this they either stopped giving away freebies or added a load of confusing tick-boxes to their landing pages. Just wanted to mention this as it is still possible to use lead magnets, and they can still be very effective.

If you are stuck for what to write to your subscribers I have 9 free templates you can copy, paste and fill in the gaps here (yes that’s my freebie!)

Newsletter and awesome freebies

If you have any other questions for Helen you can find her at on Twitter @HelenLindop and LinkedIn