E-mail marketing has come a long way. But it still carries the baggage of the early years.

E-mail marketing has it's origins in SPAM - unsolicited e-mails selling things we aren't at all interested in. We all still have filters to remove such messages every day, even though they are technically illegal.

When you ask a crowd of people what they think of when they think of e-mail marketing, they will sometimes say things like "annoying, intrusive, pestering." These negative reactions are rooted in years of prior experience with disrespectful e-mails. So, some businesses have a difficult time with the notion of sending e-mails to a list of people that might just get deleted or be percieved in this way.

Even I struggle to use the term "e-mail marketing" because of the connotations it carries. I prefer to say "digital communications campaigns," which prevents those issues from coming up. (Although it's a little jargon-y, which is another issue altogether!)

However, e-mail marketing has evolved into the best tool for connecting to your target audience. The rules for allowing people to opt-in and unsubscribe puts the power in the hands of the recipient. When asked specifically about these types of e-mails, people have a completely different reaction. They expect to receive them since they signed up for it. They know the person or business it is coming from. They have control over whether or not to continue receiving it.

In fact, customers say that e-mail is the preferred way to receive information about products or services from trusted sources.

So it is time to get over your hang-ups with e-mail marketing and begin using this effective tool. Just be sure to do the following three things to make sure your recipients will be happy to hear from you.

#1 Honor the rules
These should be obvious. Be sure to allow people to opt-in to your list. Never add people without their permission. And always have a clear option to unsubscribe. For starters, breaking these rules is illegal.

But it is also important that your list feels that they are in control. Remember, the primary value of the people on your list is that they are choosing to be on it. So, they have to be able to make that choice. Don't sweat the unsubscribes. Focus on the ones who are choosing to stay.

#2 Provide value
Creating valuable content takes effort, but sending e-mails without value to the recipient is a recipe for a shrinking list. It's like a version of that saying my mom used to use: "If you don't have anything to say, then don't send anything at all." Of course, not sending anything isn't going to do much for you. 

You provide value to your clients through the work that you do in your business. It should be possible to share little pieces of that value in your communications. It gives them something worthwhile and helps to build a connection with them so they will want to continue hearing from you.

#3 Respect your list
The people on your list signed up for something they are interested in, and that is what you should give them. Don't send too many things from other businesses (cross sales) and certainly don't share your list.

It's also important to respect their time. Don't send too often and don't send repetitive messages.

If you follow these simple, common-sense rules for authentic e-mail marketing, you will be able to gain the trust and loyalty of those on your list, and eliminate any hang-ups about e-mail marketing.


 
 
Creating a good e-newsletter or digital communications campaign requires several different skill sets. It is important to identify the skills that you have as well as the ones that you don't. It is rare for one individual to have all of the skills. But, at least you can determine what gaps you need to fill in. 

The four primary skill sets involved in creating a good e-mail campaign are:

Marketing Strategy  
Before writing a single thing, you need a plan. What is the goal of your communications? Who is the target audience and what message are they most receptive to? What is the call to action? A good plan should answer these questions and outline the entire campaign (or in the case of a newsletter, a particular time period) including the contents of each individual communication. Additionally, who will receive the communications? How big is your list? What other online marketing strategies will you use to build your list and increase the reach of your campaign?

Writing
Creating written content is a critical skill in building a successful communications campaign. The articles and introductions should convey your personal voice while providing value to your readers. How are your writing skills? What is your editing process? Writing in a vacuum is never recommended. Do you have a group of people or professional service to bounce ideas off of, proof your work, and offer editorial help?

Design
An e-mail that is poorly designed will turn the reader off before they read a single word you have written! Good design can help communicate your message. Use of images, colors, and branding give the recipient another level at which to understand your message. It can trigger emotions and help build a relationship. However, poor design that looks unprofessional or is visually unappealing can be very detrimental. How are your design skills? Are you a visual person? 

Technology
The final, but equally important, skill set is the ability to use technology. Some sort of e-mail marketing software is required in order to manage your list and send group e-mails. There are hundreds of options out there that provide different capabilities and require varying degrees of training and technological expertise. It is always helpful to have some basic programming knowledge. Besides the communications themselves, you will need to be able to add things to your website, such as opt-in areas, or create separate landing pages. You'll also want to track the effectiveness of your campaigns, which is logged in the statistical area of the software. Do you love learning new software platforms? Are you comfortable working with your website? Or do you need a little help in this area?

Don't feel overwhelmed by the skills that go into making an e-mail campaign. As I said, it is very unlikely that you will have all of these skill sets yourself. Focus on your strengths. Which of these areas are your strong suits? Which areas are weaker and may require a little outside help? Identifying the areas you see yourself in can guide your own communications plan.

I hope that knowing this will help you improve the quality of your e-mail marketing!

-Sarah