Five Things to Keep in Mind About Email Marketing

Rubix Cube

It can be a bit of a puzzle getting an outbound email marketing program going and the whole process can seem a little overwhelming.  Keeping the following five things in mind should simplify and demystify the process for you.

Develop a Clean, Focused Email List

When putting together your email list you may think: “If 1,000 names is good 100,000 will be da bomb.” but this  is not the case.  You should keep your email list at 5,000 – 10,000 names is about right and you should rigorously focus it on the verticals, titles, size of companies/organizations and geographies you have identified (See my post from a couple of weeks ago “Who Am I Selling To?” ).  You can purchase email lists – do not rent them – from sources like DemandBase, JigSaw and NetProspex but their lead quality is mixed and so it is better if you research them yourself.  Excellent work for a student intern.

The quality of your email list matters much more than the quantity: I have a client that purposely kept their list small, researching it themselves and then carefully segmenting the leads by title and location.   Their open and click through rates skyrocketed, jumping from a respectable 1 – 3% to over 20% in some cases.

Use Authentic Content

This is probably the toughest part for a small company:  the content you share needs to beauthentic, relevant to your audience and something that your audience will genuinely want to consume.  Quality is key.  Put yourself in their shoes:  when they are evaluating your offering, what do they need to learn about?  Remember my golden rule of buying behavior.

It is best if you write the content yourself – a time commitment I know – and do so from a neutral point of view – you are not selling your product.  Do not recycle other folks’ material and try to stay away from having a copywriter produce the material (even though this will save you time): copywriters are great but, for some reason I’ve never been able to put my finger on, their material sounds…well…a little inauthentic.  Like marketing copy.

Ideally, you will use a piece of content three times – say, first in a blog post, then as part of a white paper, then in a short video clip and finally as part of an ebook.

Be Systematic, Organized

You should set up an editorial calendar that lays out what content you will product throughout the year and a schedule on which it will go out.  Ideally, you want to send out material not less than every two but not more than every four weeks.

You should get your content out on your schedule and keep it going no matter what other crises you may be managing; your audience needs to come to expect the short email with amazing content from you as much as the tree I wrote about last year  expects to be watered.

Keep it Simple

When you start your email marketing, use a simple email tools (e.g. MadMimi, ConstantContat, MailChimp, ExactTarget) and manage it yourself – I call this “Poor Man’s Marketing Automation”.  You won’t be able to do things like profiling, scoring or lead nurturing that more sophisticated Marketing Automation Systems (Marketo, HubSpot, Eloqua, Act-On), but the administrative overhead is much lower.  That is consulting-speak for managing MAS software will eat up too much of your time.

Be Persistent

I have a rule of thumb that a marketing activity yields benefits 6 – 12 months after the event.  That is a long time – for an early stage company an insanely long time.  Of course, you will do whatever can to shorten that “marketing-to-lead” cycle but above all, you want to keep at it.  Your outbound email marketing is all about being systematic (above) and persistent.  Your marketing activities are like the flossing your dentist insists you do: the benefit isn’t immediately apparent but will be and when it is it will be substantial.

Finally, if you are not ready to commit to a systematic, disciplined schedule of outbound email marketing that targets a focused email list and uses really good content, you be best not to do it.  The odd email with someone else’s content to a random email list you’ve purchased will do little good – it may actually damage your brand –  and the time you take putting it together could be better spent on other things.


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