Email marketing is still the number one digital channel for driving sales for most small businesses. But the “newsletter” days of email marketing are over. In this article, I’m going to cover email marketing best practices for growing your list and generating at least $1 in monthly revenue per email subscriber.
You wouldn’t believe how many business owners I’ve coached who:
- Don’t have an email list.
- Have an email list, but don’t use it consistently.
- Use it consistently, but are doing it all wrong.
#1 and #2 are a mystery to me when you consider how powerful email marketing is for accelerating people through the “know, like, and trust” process and for creating a predictable, steady flow of sales.
Having an email list that you use consistently, and use the right way, is basically like owning a printing press to the tune of at least $1 in monthly revenue per subscriber.
While I initially couldn’t figure out why so many business owners were avoiding email marketing, it started to all make sense as I worked with more and more of them over time.
It’s not that they’re bad business owners who hate money, as you might think. It really boils down to two things:
- They don’t understand even the basics of email marketing.
- They’re intimidated by the whole process of email marketing. They just want to do what they already know.
By the end of this article, you’re going to have a clear understanding of profitable email marketing best practices and have all the actionable insights you need to turn email marketing into your number one profit channel.
What Are You Trying to Accomplish with Email Marketing?
Before you get lost in the weeds, I want to make sure that you know what the big picture looks like. Understanding the big picture means knowing what you want to accomplish and then knowing how to get there from where you are now.
Here’s how a lot of people think email marketing works:
- Get people on your email list by any means necessary.
- Send sales emails.
- Sit back and watch your bank account balance grow.
Nah, slow your roll there, Magic Mike.
Doing email marketing the right way means approaching it with the right attitude. Here’s what successful email marketing really looks like…
- Get the right people on your email list with intelligent strategies.
- Send emails with the right mix of entertainment and information to foster connection, trust, and community.
- Earn money by getting people to invest in products and services that add value to their lives.
Doing email marketing the right way is one of the most legitimate and sustainable ways of making sales online. There shouldn’t be a single shady thing about it.
And no, you’re not going to annoy people. When you do email marketing the right way, people will love hearing from you. In fact, many will reply and encourage you to continue emailing them…
How do you get there from where you are now?
Wanting to do email marketing is different from actually doing it. The first step is to get over the intimidation and mindset noise (some of the intimidation comes from the tech side of things, too).
The second step is to start executing, even if that means taking baby steps. Here are the five basic steps…
- Sign up with an email marketing service provider.
- Start growing your list.
- Commit to an effective email format and tone.
- Email your list consistently.
- Sell something in every email.
Now that you understand the overview, let’s get into the weeds a little bit…
Best Practice #1: Use a [Legit] Email Marketing Service
If you want to send bulk emails to a list, you need to use an email marketing service. This isn’t a place for tools like Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook.
There are a lot of email marketing service providers to choose from, all with varying features and price points. This is where the intimidation factor starts to creep in for a lot of people – just choosing a service presents an obstacle.
My advice here is: don’t spend too much time thinking about this.
I have a ton of experience in this area. All you have to do is listen to my recommendation, execute, and continue moving forward. I’ve made all the mistakes and done all the testing for you – there’s no need for you to spend a lot of time on this.
The email marketing service I recommend is Convertkit. If you want to know more of my rationale behind that recommendation, I outlined it in this post…
If you don’t yet have an email marketing service or you’re not happy with your current service, sign up for Convertkit.
If you already have a service you’re happy with, stick with that for now.
Best Practice #2: Grow Your Email List [the Right Way]
If you’re starting from scratch, but have an existing list of clients, your best bet is to upload all your existing/former clients into your email marketing service to seed your new list.
If you have no idea how to do that, reach out to my digital marketing agency and we can help you upload your list for a very reasonable fee.
The next thing you’ll want to do is establish strategies and tactics for growing your list by adding new people.
The faster you can grow your list, the more success you’ll have. However, you need to make sure you’re growing your list the right way.
You don’t want everyone to join your list.
You only want the right people to join your list (people in your target market). If the wrong people join your list, your fees will increase, you won’t make sales, and your spam complaints will go up.
You don’t want to trick people into joining your list or make it *too* easy for them to join.
If you trick people into joining, or people end up on your list without going through any hoops, your email marketing is going to be much less effective.
The people you’re emailing won’t know who you are and they won’t remember how they got on your list. That’s not good.
Best Practice Step #3: Commit to an Effective Email Format & Tone
The first thing you have to remember here is that email newsletter marketing for online business is dead.
Sending a monthly or weekly email newsletter that looks pretty and has a bunch of links to “update your audience” on what’s going on at your company is some tired old 2006 shit.
While it can still work to a degree (especially for brick-and-mortar and e-commerce), it’s not going to meet the $1-per-subscriber target we want to hit in monthly revenue for most online businesses.
Even for brick-and-mortar and e-commerce, newsletters are a bad strategy for anyone other than people who are already clients/buyers.
For most online businesses trying to convert prospects into leads and leads into sales, plain text emails are the way to go.
Your emails should look like emails and they should be a mix of entertainment and information.
Understand this: nobody wants to read emails.
People get too many emails these days and are starting to unsubscribe from lists left and right. If you want email marketing to work for you, you can’t be yet another annoying marketer showing up in their inbox.
You have to be people’s entertaining friend who also happens to be useful. That’s how you avoid becoming a victim of people’s slasher-style unsub rampage.
Once again, I’m not going to just spoon-feed you all the secrets. If you want to see exactly how the game is played, though, a good starting point would be to get on my email list and pay attention to what I do.
Best Practice #4: Email Your List Consistently
There are three primary reasons (and all of them are bad) why people don’t email list their list consistently:
- They don’t want to bother their list.
- They don’t want people to unsubscribe.
- They don’t take the time.
Let me break each of these down because each of them has the potential to kill your email marketing efforts…
“I don’t want to bother my list!” – You’ll only bother your list if you email them with boring newsletters and emails that aren’t entertaining or useful.
“I don’t want people to unsubscribe!” – Unsubscribes are a fact of life in email marketing. Every email you send means more people will unsubscribe. That’s not a bad thing, though. You want people to unsubscribe because those people were never going to buy from you anyway. They’re just taking up space and adding to your email list hosting costs.
“I don’t have time!” – This is code for, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” If you know how to do email marketing, and you don’t hate money, email marketing naturally becomes a priority in your business.
“How often should I email my list, Kevin?”
This is a personal question. I think that once you get to the once per week minimum mark, there’s no “wrong” answer.
If you email your list less than once per week, you stand a strong chance of people forgetting who you are.
Best Practice #5: Sell Something [Just One Thing] in Every Email
Here’s the last email marketing basics tip I’m going to give you…
Sell something in every email and just sell one thing.
Now, you have to know what I mean by “sell.” It doesn’t always mean selling a product or something that costs money.
What I’m saying is, never send an email that doesn’t sell someone on taking some sort of action.
Most of my emails promote a product or service that costs money, but even the ones that don’t are selling people on listening to a podcast, reading an article, etc.
Once you understand that everything is sales, every email will naturally have the same format and tone regardless of what action you want the person to take.
Also, the reason I say, “just sell one thing” is because people’s attention spans aren’t very wide.
Notice that I didn’t say, “long.”
The idea that people’s attention spans aren’t long is absurd. You’ll hear this all the time from the gurus: “make short videos,” “write short emails,” “record short podcast episodes,” etc.
That’s bad advice. There’s nothing wrong with people’s attention spans, there’s only something wrong with your content.
Nobody has a long attention span for boring, useless content.
If your content is entertaining and useful you’ll notice that your audience has an attention span that’s significantly longer than all the “experts” claim.
It’s the width of people’s attention spans that’s the problem. In other words, they can only focus on one thing at a time.
If you give them an email with 7 different potential things to click on, most of those calls to action are going to get overlooked. They’ll choose one and forget the others.
So, every email should have one single purpose and one single call to action. This isn’t any different from how a landing page or any good sales page should be designed.
It’s not new or revolutionary advice. It’s just that for someone reason people fail to apply this same good advice to their email marketing efforts.
If you have a lot of different things to tell people about, send them more emails instead of packing all that stuff into one email.
How to Be an Email Marketing Rockstar: 21 Tips to Double Your Sales
Done with the beginner stuff? Ready to do email marketing like a rockstar? Want to generate the revenue you deserve from the email list you’ve worked hard to build? Follow these 21 email marketing tips and you can double your sales practically overnight.
I’m shocked at how many small business owners and even online business owners still aren’t using email marketing consistently.
For the ones who are, I’m shocked at how many are still doing email marketing poorly – as if email marketing is an after-thought. Or they’re still stuck on email marketing strategies that were popular in 2008.
If you’re doing email marketing the right way, you should be generating at least $1 per subscriber from your email list. And that’s from a large list. For small lists, it should be even more than that.
If you’re ready to get your email marketing game on point, here are 21 best practices you can implement immediately to start driving more leads and sales…
Tip #1: Be a real person, not a brand.
As much as you might aspire to be Apple, you’re not Apple. Or Victorias Secret. Or any of those other household name brands.
Even if your website is a brand name and not a personal brand, you’ll likely find better success with email marketing if your emails are sent with your personal name in the “from” field.
Personally, I use a best-of-both-worlds strategy. My email from field says, “Kevin (Six-Figure Grind).”
This makes the email more personal but also reminds people what site they signed up at.
Tip #2: Segment your list.
In 7 Features Your Email Marketing Software Must Have in 2018, the ability to segment your list with tags and other data was one of my main recommendations.
I’m not just recommending segmentation for all the advanced stuff you can do – it’s necessary even for simple stuff.
I can’t tell you how many people continue to send blatant sales pitches to people who have already purchased that product. Or, they send the same emails to everyone regardless of the subscriber’s interest.
If I email entrepreneurs who are already doing six-figures with emails like, “Here’s how to get your first sale,” it’s not a great look.
Sending the wrong emails to the wrong people at the wrong times is going to harm the long-term quality of your list. That’s not a recipe for doubling sales.
Use a high-quality email marketing service like Convertkit that allows easy segmentation, sequencing, and automation and start segmenting your list as much as possible.
One way you can segment your list is with a segmentation-driven welcome sequence…
Tip #3: Use email sequences to create a consistent experience for new subscribers.
First impressions are everything, right?
If you believe that, which I do, then you need to be in complete control of the first impression for every single subscriber that gets on your list.
Create an email welcome sequence so all subscribers go through the same onboarding process before entering sales sequences or receiving your general broadcasts.
You can also use that welcome sequence to learn more about your subscribers and segment them in your email marketing software.
Tip #4: Email your list more often.
This might be a scary proposition for you, but it works.
If you currently email once a month, try emailing once a week. If you email once a week, move to twice a week. Whatever your current rate is, increase it. If that means you’re going to be emailing daily, do that.
Sure, the thought of unsubscribes might terrify you. There are two realities, though:
- Most people won’t unsub unless you’re boring and useless.
- Of the people who do unsub, they were never going to buy from you anyway. They’re not your tribe and you’re better off without them.
If you email your list more often, using all the best practices in this article, I can guarantee that you’ll increase sales.
Tip #5: Write the full URL to links instead of using anchor text.
This is just a little tip that I’ve found pretty helpful. Instead of highlighting text and turning that text into a link in your email editor (what’s referred to as an “anchor link”), put the link in parenthesis after specific mentions of what you’re promoting…
People are used to seeing anchor links on the web. It starts to blend in and they’re used to skipping them. By putting the full URL, you break up the content even more and make it super obvious that you’re providing a link that should be clicked on.
You don’t have to put the link in parenthesis, of course. If you want to put the link on its own line you can do that, too.
Also, in my experience, this makes tip #9 more effective.
Tip #6: Make each email have one single purpose.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is talking about too many things in one email. The next mistake beyond that is linking to all those separate things.
As I explained above, people don’t have an issue with length, they have an issue with width.
In other words, they can handle long content, but they struggle to handle content that spans multiple topics.
Keep every email focused on one thing. If you were wondering how to increase the volume of emails you send (tip #4), this is one obvious way. Break up a 3 topic email into 3 separate emails.
Tip #7: Only include one call to action in each email.
Now that each email only has one specific purpose, it should only have one call to action.
I say should because people will link to their main call to action and then, for some reason, can’t resist the urge to also say things like…
“p.s. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Skype, and this MySpace account I haven’t used since 2006.”
Stop doing that unless you hate money.
Now, this doesn’t mean your email can only have one link. You can use the same link more than once (e.g. once at the beginning and then again at the end), just make sure it’s the same link and the same call to action.
When you put all your focus on a single call to action and you stop distracting people with a bunch of shiny objects, you’re much more likely to achieve the desired result.
Tip #8: Sell in every email.
Teach your list from the very beginning that you’re not a charity. You will be entertaining, useful, and informative, but you’ll also be selling things.
Not only will you be selling things, but they’ll love you for it. Why? Because you sell things that are super useful.
When I say, “Sell in every email,” I really do mean *every* email.
Even if you’re not selling something that costs money, you still need to sell something.
Sell them on reading a blog post. Sell them on watching a video. Sell them on replying to you. And never forget, everything is sales.
Tip #9: Sell contextually instead of explicitly.
Even though I recommend you sell in every email, I hardly ever recommend hard selling.
The point of this article isn’t to teach you the intricacies of email marketing, though. The best I can do for you right now is to tell you to get on my list and pay attention to what I do.
Sales should mostly be contextual, though. It’s selling through inference and recommendation rather than selling outright.
For example, when I was selling my Six-Figure SEO Master Class, I sent a bunch of emails teaching people various little things about SEO.
And in those emails, I’d simply mention that what I was teaching was going to be covered in much more detail in my class, among many other things.
That’s an example of contextual selling. And so are the previous two sentences, by the way.
Tip #10: Be the “Magic School Bus” of your industry.
It took me a long time to figure this out, but it’s true. No matter how much I try to prove the concept wrong, I can’t.
The first person that helped me catch on to this was Nathan Fraser.
I was on a mastermind call with him and he made the point that teachers make less than entertainers.
It’s true in pretty much every facet of society. People want to be entertained. They pay the most attention to entertainment.
That doesn’t mean people don’t want to be informed or educated. People are interested in learning new things, especially if those things will greatly improve their life.
And, of course, in order to make sales, you have to inform and educate people. They have to know you’re qualified to help them, right?
So, what’s the solution?
The solution is to be the Magic School Bus of your industry…
The Magic School Bus is an American edutainment media franchise. Each of the stories within the franchise centers on the antics of a fictional elementary school teacher, Ms. Frizzle, and her class, who board a “magic school bus”, which takes them on field trips to impossible locations, such as the solar system, clouds, the past, and inside the human body.
Magic School Bus did a masterful job of teaching inside a vessel of pure entertainment. And that’s the recipe you need to follow to some degree – hide what you teach inside of entertainment.
That’s what captures and keeps people’s attention. The information is secondary.
Think about all the celebrities that have everyone’s attention. When they say jump, their fans jump. When Kim Kardashian says “buy,” people buy.
That’s the power of being an entertainer.
I’m not saying this is easy or that I’m an expert it at it. I still think I have a long way to go, but it’s the reality of the world we live in.
Tip #11: Tell stories, especially case studies.
How do you entertain people and wrap the information inside of entertainment?
Well, you have to be interesting. You have to have a personality. But one way you can do it is through stories.
Some of the most powerful stories that will sell your products fairly effortlessly are case studies.
Seriously, if all your email marketing consisted of was telling entertaining stories of your clients and how your product improved their life, you’d make mad sales.
So, if you’re not entertaining or interesting, just do that. You’ll get a long way on case studies alone.
If you’re more interesting, tell all sorts of stories. Get people wrapped up in your personality. Get them to know, like, and trust you. Not by being an encyclopedia, but by being an interesting human.
Tip #12: Write like you’re writing to a friend.
Keep your emails casual. That’s part of being entertaining. Nobody is entertained by corporatespeak.
If you have trouble with this, forget that you’re emailing a list of hundreds or thousands of people. Pretend like you’re drafting each email to only one person. And pretend like that person is a close friend.
Don’t write long paragraphs. Make it feel off the cuff.
Don’t use a bunch of headings, bolds, italics, etc. Don’t make it pretty. It’s just an email.
Tip #13: Write killer subject lines.
This is one of the hardest parts. You don’t want the subject line to give away what’s in the email, but you don’t want it to be super vague, either.
It needs to be intriguing and it needs to not sound like marketerspeak.
It also needs to be simple and short, so that it doesn’t get cut off in certain email clients.
It needs to be a lot of things, which is why it’s so hard.
But understand this: If your subject lines suck, your open rates will suck.
Email marketing doesn’t work if people don’t open your emails. 80% of the subject line needs to be geared toward getting them to open. The other 20% needs to allude to what they’ll find inside.
Tip #14: Never fake people out.
We were just talking about subject lines, so this is a good time to point this out: if you fake people out, it’s bad for business.
People don’t like to be tricked at any stage of the game. If you write a subject line that gets opens, but the email itself doesn’t align with the subject, you’re going to lose people.
So don’t fake people out with your subject lines. And don’t fake them out with anything else, either.
Don’t fake promotions. Don’t fake scarcity. Don’t fake results and testimonials.
Do I have to keep giving you examples? Don’t be a fakey fakerson, okay?
Tip #15: Encourage people to reply to your emails.
Never forget that the real purpose of email is two-way communication.
Too many marketers are obsessed with talking *to* their audience. I prefer to talk *with* my audience.
Why? Because good things happen when you start conversations with your prospects and leads.
One of my most profitable email templates is also my simplest, and it gets sent an hour after people join my list…
Hey, real quick, can you tell me what you’re struggling with most when it comes to XYZ?
Reply and let me know. I want to help you get a quick win.
People reply to that and it automatically invites me to start pointing them in the direction I want them to go.
The people who reply to that email and get into a conversation with me are exponentially more likely to eventually become a buyer.
Getting people to reply and converse is huge.
No, it doesn’t scale. But one of the secrets of success is committing to doing stuff that doesn’t scale. Trust me.
People are always amazed that they can communicate with me in 1-1 fashion with no gatekeepers. That’s valuable.
Tip #16: Use cliffhangers.
Not every email has to exist by itself. This is obvious when you’re creating a sequence of emails, but the same holds true for broadcasts as well.
If you email people pretty often (like I do – I email every weekday) then you can use cliffhangers to great effect.
Leave people hanging in an email and let them know you’ll be back tomorrow for the big reveal.
It’s fun. It’s entertaining. It’s engaging. It teaches people to look forward to you showing up.
Don’t do it all the time – just mix it up.
Tip #17: Tailor your email length to your email marketing frequency.
People always ask me how long their emails should be, so I think it’s important to address.
I see a lot of “gurus” giving blanket advice like, “people don’t have a lot of time, your emails need to be short.”
That’s all bullshit.
Ramit Sethi sends super long emails and people read them. And he’s rich, so…
Here’s what I’ll say: tailor your email length to your email frequency.
If you email daily, it’s probably best to go for shorter emails. You don’t want to give people a chore every single day.
Regardless of how entertaining you are, reading takes a lot of work.
Long daily videos are fine. Casey Neistat proved that (and he’s another perfect example of how being entertaining is the real golden ticket).
But for email, I like shorter if you email frequently.
If you only email once or twice a week (or heaven forbid, less than that), you can go longer format.
Tip #18: Always take a side.
This is another sub-tip of being entertaining.
Quit being a wishy-washy people pleaser who never wants to upset anyone.
Take a side. Take a stand. Fight the good fight. Be a leader.
Nobody gives a fuck about centrists. Get your name in people’s mouths for one reason or another.
Tip #19: Promote other people, not just yourself.
Your email list is yours. You own it (that’s why it’s so powerful). But that doesn’t mean you should just promote yourself and your own stuff all the time.
You’ll build more credibility with your audience if you share other people with them. Plus, you probably don’t know it all, right? So find people who know certain areas better than you and introduce them to your peeps.
If you’re smart, you’ll find ways to profit off this (but it’s not necessary).
Tip #20: Track which emails generate the most sales and use them again and again.
Not a lot of people are doing this, at least not the way I’m doing it.
I have a ninja-style method of tracking exactly which emails generate the most sales and then I use that data to super-optimize my sales sequences.
I also use that data to create videos, podcasts, and blog articles.
If something works, you should beat it to death. But, you have to know what works first.
If you want to learn my secret ways, get on my list. I don’t have anything concrete to sell you yet, but it’s in the planning stages, for sure.
Tip #21: Talk more about the subscriber than yourself.
If your emails are all like, “me, me, me, me, me. And more me,” then you’re probably not going to be super effective.
Remember what I taught you about making your About page convert like crazy? Use that same principle in your emails.
It’s all about your subscriber. Never forget that.
At risk of stating the obvious: You won’t double your sales from email marketing if all you do is nod your head. You have to actually implement these email marketing best practices if you want the results.
Also, this all assumes that you have a sizable email list to work with. You’re probably not going to double your sales with a few hundred people on your list.
If you need help with growing your email list and growing your online business, definitely check out The 250K Society.
The 250K Society is an exclusive community for online business owners making less than $30k/mo in revenue who want to make a bigger impact, grow their business up to $250k in annual personal income, and have more freedom in life.
Kevin Michael Geary is the founder of Digital Ambition. After building three successful online businesses in three separate niches in less than five years, he turned his attention toward helping men and women all over the world start an online lifestyle business so they can escape the rat race, make an impact, and live life without limitations.