E-mail marketing can be massively valuable for your business. As more and more marketers lose sleep sweating on Facebook’s next steps towards reducing organic reach to absolute zero, smart businesses are learning that there’s significant and present opportunities in the ‘rented land’ of your social media properties. Hosting discussions on your owned assets, building direct connections between your brand and your audience is often a safer and more binding arrangement.
But as with establishing an audience anywhere, building and maintaining an e-mail relationship takes effort. You need to deliver consistent value and you need to stay in constant, or at least regular, contact. If you’re not in touch with your e-mail contacts once a week or once a month, the effectiveness of your e-mail marketing can be lost. The best e-mail marketers generally stick to a very rigid routine, posting updates on a certain day, at a certain time, this consistency enables them to stay in the recipient’s mind and helps them establish an expectation of what they’ll get as a result of signing up to their updates. Post erratically, and you risk fading into the junk folder, or worse, falling victim to the unsubscribe.
So how do you manage it? How do you ensure you’re maintaining a constant content flow in order to fuel updates that will be relevant and will increase click-through rates, and ultimately, convert subscribers in loyal customers. Here’s a few tips on how to maximise your e-mail outreach efforts and do it in less than an hour a day.
1. Establish a routine
The first element of effective e-mail marketing is establishing what it is you’re looking to communicate and how you’re going to do it. This comes before you even offer sign-up, before you even consider getting people onto your lists. You need to know what you’re offering with your content, how often you’re going to send it and what’s in it for your readers to sign-up. Answering these questions will enable you to plan out how much work, and how often you need to set aside time for your e-mail efforts.
For this example, we’ll go with a once weekly newsletter, sent out every Thursday at 11am. The day and time is important, as subscribers are likely to respond better to consistency, knowing when to expect your content. Having a set send time will enable them to structure their own reading and consumption time around your information, which is the ideal scenario for holding attention.
In order to ensure our newsletter is sent, we need to set a deadline of Wednesday close of business – so every Wednesday, by the end of the day, the newsletter will be ready to go. Have this scheduled, and ensure all relevant parties are aware of their requirements in this process.
You also need to establish the purpose of what you’re doing. Obviously, you’ll want to promote your own products and services in some way, but going all in on push messaging isn’t likely to work in your favour, so it’s best to consider what it is you want to convey and what value your readers will be getting from viewing your communications each week. If you have your own blog, this is a great opportunity to promote your latest posts, but it’s also an opportunity to share industry news and information directly relevant to your subscribers and their interests. An e-mail subject line specifically related to the latest news in my industry is far more likely to compel my click than a blatant sales pitch on a company’s latest product.
Whatever approach you take, you need to note down the purpose of your outreach and have that as your guide, then ensure you adhere to that goal with each send.
2. Provide relevant content
Probably the most time-consuming element of a regular e-mail marketing routine is filling it with relevant content. If you’re a prominent blogger then it’s a little easier, as you can include your latest posts in your send, but you also need to consider how many of your subscribers are also subscribers to your blog – do they need to read your newsletter informing them of your latest post when they already got a notification of it when you published?
As with maintaining an active social media presence, finding the right content, and the right topics of interest to your e-mail subscribers is key to building a reliable outreach presence.
So where do you find trending content? There’s a range of tools and options to help you filter the web down to your topics of choice:
BuzzSumo – BuzzSumo is a content discovery tool that enables you to locate the most shared and discussed content across social media platforms, based on topic, industry, or URL. BuzzSumo recently added a new ‘trending content’ feature which enables you to build your own tracking centre for your chosen key terms – so you could track ‘metal workers’ in your region and you’d get a feed of all the top stories on that subject fed through in real-time. This is a great option for keeping a finger on the pulse of your industry and uncovering the main issues of interest amongst your target audience.
Nuzzel – Nuzzel is an interesting option, as it analyses the content being shared amongst your connections on Twitter and Facebook and shows you what’s popular. You can also look at what’s being highly shared amongst the communities of friends, giving you a great overview of the main issues of discussion amongst related groups.
PopURLs – PopURLs shows you the most read content from major websites, separated by industry. For example, you can click on ‘Tech’ and it’ll show you all the most shared stories from TechCrunch, The Next Web and The Verge for that day. You can customise the display to your personal preferences, giving you a quick and easy way to see what’s generating discussion and what’s likely going to be of interest to your communities.
Twitter – And of course, you can always use your Twitter feeds to focus on specific users who share content relevant to your industry. Twitter lists are great for this purpose – you can create lists based on topics and locate the Twitter users you really need to be honing in on for each subject. Using targeted lists, you can ensure you stay up to date by keeping tabs on the most crucial Twitter feeds for your interests, as opposed to trying to keep up with every user you follow.
Using these sources, in conjunction with the content you create, you can ensure you’re staying up to date, and that you’re keeping your e-mail subscribers up to date with the most relevant information in your sector. This will keep your content fresh and give your messaging a clear purpose in the eyes of your audience – if you can make your weekly e-mail update the source for industry news, you’ll be onto a winner and on the path to establishing yourself as a trusted resource. One recommendation – always share your insight along with any news or updates you share to highlight your own expertise.
3. Allocate time
So now you have a purpose, a schedule and places to source content information from, the next step is allocating the right amount of time to get it done. And time, as we all know, is something not many of us have a lot of. This is particularly true of small to medium business owners who are often wearing many hats – for your e-mail outreach to be effective, you need to be consistent and you need to add value, so it’s important that you do set aside dedicated time to get it done.
So going with our weekly newsletter, let’s say we’re going to allocate an hour per week to getting it done – how would you divide that time?
Content Creation Re-Purposing – 15 minutes
So we’re not talking about creating a whole new blog post, but rather re-purposing your content for your e-mail. As noted earlier, many of your subscribers will also be subscribers to your blog, so you don’t want to spam them with repeat messages. It’s important to change it up for your newsletter, providing a different angle or re-framing it for this unique purpose. As it’s not creating a whole new post, this should only take around 15 minutes to add into your e-mail template.
Content Curation and Listing – 30 minutes
Using the tools noted above, go through and locate all the top stories and issues you want to highlight to your subscribers, adding your own insight on each. The more focussed you can make your content targeting in those apps, the better, as it will narrow down the field of data you need to work with. It should take around half an hour to establish the most relevant trends and info and add your own updates or thoughts.
Offers, Advice, Sales – 10 minutes
Here’s where you add in the more overtly promotional elements and ensure you’re maximising the benefits of your e-mail outreach efforts. Any sales or offers you’re putting forth, note them in the relevant sections of your template with a strong call-to-action on each. It’s also worth double-checking all the content you’ve curated to see if there’s any links to your latest offers – if there’s a discussion on new tax requirements and you’re offering a new service advising on the liabilities related to the change, it might be worth noting that specifically within your insights on the relevant update.
Proofreading – 5 minutes
Proofreading and editing is a crucial step. Poor grammar can absolutely kill your credibility and make people more hesitant to click-through on your future updates. You need to read through each line and ensure everything’s in its right place, ‘i’s dotted, ‘t’s crossed. It’s an aspect that’s far too often over-looked.
And that’s it – once you’ve determined your purpose and clarified the sources you need to utilise to build your e-mail newsletter, it should be possible to provide a valuable, fresh and informative document each week in an hour of dedicated work. Of course, this is not prescriptive, everyone will establish their own methods and process in creation, but hopefully these notes help you visualise the best way forward for you, and maybe reduce the sometimes daunting prospect of the effort required to deliver a relevant and useful resource, week-after-week. It’s totally possible, and really, the key is to just start, then you’ll more accurately work out what you need to do and how long it’ll take you. Do this before you even start sending it out and see what works best and what you can come up with – when it feels ready to go, get onto your followers and connections, build up your subscriber list, and go from there.