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You spend time and effort, a LOT of time of effort, building up your social media accounts. Your facebook page is full of engaged and happy customers. Your instagram is driving new business to you every day. Life is good.
Then, disaster strikes.
*needle scratching on the record*
You get hacked or someone reports you for a perceived violation and your accounts get shut down. Oh snap! You’ve lost all your followers and have to rebuild from scratch. Bust out the pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a box of wine, it is time for a serious pity party.
Now, this is fiction but it happens. I’ve seen it happen to friends and it is brutal.
There is a way to reduce the damage if you lose your accounts or your organic reach is throttled by Facebook’s algorithm.
You need to build an email list.
I know, it sounds so old school. Email is for squares, right? Nope. Email is the QUEEN. Bow down!
If your social media accounts go down in a blaze of glory, your email list will survive. You own that sh*t. No one can take it away from you. If disaster strikes you can send a mass email and beg people to follow your new social media accounts. You can rebuild.
Start building your email list now!
Your mailing list is not just for damage control. It is a powerful marketing tool. You should be collecting customer emails at every opportunity. There is a reason they always ask you for your email address at that shop you love in the mall. They know that they can lure you in with new products and sales by sending you regular emails.
Heck, the other day I bought new jeans because a local shop sent me an email about a BOGO sale. Email marketing works.
So, how do you start an email list?
First, you need to sign up for an email list management service. These services are crucial because they help you comply with anti-spam laws. There are a number of services out there at a variety of price points. Many people love Mailchimp. I do not.
Mailchimp is free until you reach 2000 subscribers. They also have a bunch of fancy template features that are easy to work with. If you want something super basic, it is a reputable and reliable service.
But, here is the deal. I don’t really like all those fancy design features. I say this as a design professional. Those emails loaded with photos and graphics often end up write in the promo/spam file because they are so “salesy”. Also, they take way too long to design. I’m sure there are things you would rather be doing.
You know what type of email marketing works for small business? Simple, text based emails are best for conversions. An email that looks like it was sent by a friend is going to get a better open rate than one that looks like a sales pitch.
That is why my email service of choice is Convertkit. Convertkit keeps things simple by limiting your template options. Yes, I’m advocating the use of a service with FEWER design options. I’m not crazy, I swear.
What Convertkit lacks in design options, it makes up for in other feature.
You can use Convertkit to…
…create simple, attractive sign up forms.
…segment and group your contacts.
…send autoresponders or an email series.
…schedule one-time emails.
…design a custom landing page.
Those are the basics. If you are into experimentation, you can integrate Convertkit with a bunch of other tools to increase its power.
The basic plan for Convertkit is $29 a month for up to 1000 subscribers. That is usually sufficient for early stage businesses.
I’ve got an email provider. Now what?
Once you’ve setup your email service, you need to put some sign up forms on your website. A lot of people put them in the footer, but I think that is one of the worst places for them. When your customers view your page on mobile, they will have to scroll all the way down. It is better to put a form somewhere that will get eyes on it quickly.
On desktop, I like the slide in pop-up. Not the kind of pop up that covers all your content. I’m talking about the one that just jumps on in a corner and is easy to get rid of. On mobile, you want to avoid annoying pop-ups because Google will penalize you for using them. http://searchengineland.com/interstitialgeddon-google-warns-will-crack-intrusive-interstitials-next-january-257252
Instead, your mobile site should have an inline form that is placed somewhere near the top of your site, after the main or feature content.
If you really want to encourage people to join your list, you should give them an incentive. Offer to send them something special if they sign up.
Some popular opt-in ideas include:
- Discount Codes
- Cheat Sheet
- Planning Sheets
- Email Courses
- Access to Private Groups
- Free Consultations
If you are connecting to customers offline, get emails and signatures of consent so you can get them on your list. Create a form that they can fill out and keep it near your counter.
Be consistent and your email list will grow in no time.
Now, send them something worth reading.
Don’t you hate junk mail? Me too. If you want to WIN at email marketing, you should send out useful content. So, don’t be that guy that only sends emails asking people to buy.
Use your email list to tell people about…
- Upcoming events and appearances
- Blog posts you have written
- News/media articles that are aligned with your brand vision
- Your new product launches
- Tips and tricks that are related to your business
- Coupons and Giveaways
- Other small businesses you support
You should be sharing and giving as much, if not more than you are asking and taking. That is how you keep people on your mailing list.
Don’t be sad if people unsubscribe. It happens. People will opt out and that is okay. It’s more than okay. If they opt out, they save you money. If you are paying for each subscriber on your list it is better to have a list of engaged readers. In fact, it is recommended that you clean your mailing list from time to time.
Most email providers will let you run reports to see who is ignoring your emails. You can send these slackers an email to try to re-engage them, if they don’t bite you can delete them.
You need an email list. It is non-negotiable. It is the best way to directly target your clients because they have opted in to receive your emails. If you send useful and helpful content, you will build a loyal clientele. If that wasn’t enough, remember, your mailing list will save your butt if your social media accounts fail.