Email marketing is a powerful tool for connecting with clients – both present and future. In fact, it’s one of my favorite types of marketing. Though it’s been around for decades, email remains a primary method of communication for companies to reach their current and potential customers and build lasting relationships.
To help you understand email marketing and how it can benefit your business, I’ve put together this little email marketing tutorial for beginners.
Who is this email marketing tutorial for?
This tutorial is for anyone who has even a passing interest in connecting with clients and customers through email. Whether you’ve done a bit of marketing in the past or are looking to get started soon, this guide is designed to get you comfortable with the basic concepts and thought processes that go into a successful email campaign.
This guide is not an exhaustive overview of the subject, nor is it intended to be. However, by the end, you should have a basic understanding of the concepts behind building a list and connecting with subscribers.
What is email marketing?
Email marketing is an umbrella term that encompasses everything that goes into connecting with potential or current clients via email.
This includes, but is not limited to:
- Getting people to subscribe
- Writing great follow up content
- Building a relationship with your subscribers
- Turning subscribers into customers
Each part of the email marketing pipeline must be handled brilliantly, or it will hurt – not help – your bottom line. If you follow this email marketing tutorial, you’ll have a better understanding of how email marketing works and how it fits into your overall marketing strategy.
Why write an email marketing tutorial?
Email is a powerful tool, but many – if not most – are using it incorrectly. My goal with this guide is to help correct some misconceptions people may have. See, the thing is email marketing can be a powerful tool in your belt, but it has to be used correctly.
If used improperly, email can actually hurt your business, push away customers, and damage your reputation.
This guide is designed to help you understand the basics so you can use email to bring in leads, connect with your target audience, and turn subscribers into lifelong customers.
Who should start email marketing?
It is possible that email marketing may not fully align with your goals. However, if your intent is to start and grow a strong brand, email marketing can be a powerful tool in your kit.
Whether your brand is currently small and unknown or growing and seeking to grow faster, email marketing is worth a good look.
What is an email list?
An email list is a… list… of people who have chosen to receive email communications from you. These people are referred to as subscribers. For one reason or another, these subscribers have decided to allow you to send them emails. In other words, they’re asking for your content.
Generally speaking, there are three types of email lists. Each has its own use, but each is valuable.
The first is a newsletter. Newsletter subscribers join your email list to hear from you periodically. This type is common for missionaries or those who are likely to send out periodic updates. This type can also be used for blog updates, etc.
The next type is a freebie list. People join a freebie list to get something for free. Typically, this is a free download of some sort – like a course, video, etc. These subscribers want your content, but they don’t have any monetary investment in your brand – yet.
The final but perhaps best type of email list is the buyers list. This type of list is made up of those who have in one way or another sent you money. They may have purchased a course, bought a product, or paid for a service. These people have a monetary interest in your brand and are more likely to spend more money with you in the future.
Why you should build an email list
I won’t tell you email marketing is always easy. Some aspects of it are, and some parts are tedious and difficult. However, I will tell you it’s absolutely worth the effort. Here’s why.
A list is a business asset
An email list is just as much a business asset as anything else your business owns.
Your list is, for lack of a better term, your property. No one can take it from you.
YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc are great, but they aren’t yours. Any of these sites could shut down your account suddenly, claiming you’ve violated their terms and conditions – without much recourse on your part. Your email list is yours to keep forever.
People prefer marketing messages via email
According to a recent OptinMonster survey, a major 77% of people prefer to receive marketing messages via email versus any other means of communication, like social media. Of those surveyed, only 4% preferred Facebook and a measly 1% preferred Twitter.
These stats should tell us something. If you have something to promote, email is the preferred way to do it.
Email is checked first and frequently
According to that same OptinMonster survey, 58% of people check email before any other platform – including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. That means your marketing message could be in front of your target audience’s eyes before they even check another platform.
Additionally, email is checked regularly. Of those asked, 91% of people said they use email at least once a day. Facebook was used daily by 57% of respondents with Twitter trailing with a sad 14%.
Email marketing drives targeted traffic
Targeted traffic is made up of visitors who 1) know what you have to offer and 2) want what you have to offer. These people click your links and visit your sites knowing what they’re getting themselves into. This type of traffic is craved by all marketers in all niches.
This is precisely the type of traffic a properly-maintained and motivated email list can deliver.
Email marketing builds relationships
Blogs are great. Videos are awesome. But they don’t do much to build a relationship with anyone. Email is unique in that it has the ability to connect with an audience in a way that another method of communication simply can’t.
When you email your subscribers, no longer are you writing to the world at large. You’re writing to a specific group of people whose interests and needs you know. You can tailor your content to fit what you know they need.
As time goes on, these subscribers start to learn your style and understand you. They begin to trust that you not only know what you’re talking about but also have their best interests in mind. The relationship is born.
Email is private
This is possibly my favorite “feature,” if you will, of email marketing. Unlike a blog post, video, or social media post, email marketing creates a private channel of communication between you and your target customer.
Don’t underestimate how powerful this is.
If someone has a question or needs help, he can simply hit “reply” and send a message back to you. This message is between you and him. No one else. This can (and often does) give people the confidence to say something like, “I didn’t really understand what you were going for there. Could you elaborate?” or “I’m confused about this section.”
I have found people far more likely to ask questions when given the chance to do so privately.
Questions we need to ask (and answer)
This email marketing tutorial will ask and attempt to answer the following questions:
Why would someone subscribe to your list? We know that people don’t typically look for email lists to join. They need a reason.
How does someone get on your list once he decides to subscribe? What happens once the would-be subscriber decides to subscribe? Email lists aren’t made of rainbows and unicorns, so what happens behind the scenes?
What should you send to your new subscriber after he’s subscribed? Once you have an email lead, how can you keep him happy? What can you do to turn a subscriber into someone who wants to give you money?
This email marketing tutorial won’t answer these questions exhaustively, but I do want you to have at least a basic understanding of the process to build on.
Why would someone subscribe?
People won’t join your email list without a reason. It’s up to you to give them a reason.
That reason is something we commonly call a “lead magnet.”
The basic idea is this: you’re offering something for free to convince someone to subscribe to your email list.
No matter what type of lead magnet you create, it must be valuable. In other words, a good lead magnet is something someone would want and feel comfortable providing his email address to receive.
In effect, this is a purchase. While no money is exchanged, something perhaps more valuable is: personal information in the form of an email address (and possibly a name as well).
If your lead magnet doesn’t have a high perceived value, people will be reluctant at best to “purchase” it with their personal information.
In order to create something that’s valuable, a bit of research is required.
Think about your target audience and ask yourself three questions:
- What problem do they have that you can solve?
- What question are they asking that you can answer?
- How can I save them time or money?
Your lead magnet needs to address a problem, answer a question, or save someone time or money. This is how we create value – both in email marketing and in general.
Types of lead magnets
Lead magnets can take many forms, and the type of lead magnet you choose to create will depend largely on your niche and your target audience. The most common types are:
- PDF Downloads. These can be cheat sheets, whitepapers, eBooks, etc. PDFs do well because they are accessible on any device, can be saved for offline reading, and can be read at a subscriber’s own pace. (Note: PDF stands for Portable Document Format. A PDF file can be an article, eBook, or any of a number of items.)
- Videos. Videos go beyond plain text and connect with people in a different way. They’re great for demonstrating how to accomplish something and for getting your face seen, something that’s more difficult to do with text.
- Audio. These can be podcasts, audio books, audio training, etc.
- Webinars. These live video events offer real time training opportunities and give your subscribers a chance to ask questions and interact with your content.
- Email Courses. This type of lead magnet is actually one of my favorites. Over a period of days, send a series of emails to deliver value. For example, my course called ListBootcamp is delivered over a short period. Subscribers get one value-packed email per day.
There are, of course, other types of lead magnets. I’ve written a more comprehensive post that covers types of lead magnets with examples. Check out that post if you’d like more info.
Tools for creating a lead magnet
Obviously the tool or tools you use to create your lead magnet will depend on the type of lead magnet you decide to create. I’ll list here a few of my favorites for the most popular types of opt-in offers.
eBooks / PDF files
- Google Docs. This is Google’’s online word processor. It’s flexible and accessible from any modern device with Internet access.
- Microsoft Word. This is Microsoft’s paid word processor. While not my favorite piece of software ever
- Canva isn’t exactly a word processor, but it can be used to create some great looking page layouts.
- Adobe InDesign is Adobe’s version of a page layout and publishing tool.
- Affinity Publisher is a great alternative to the expensive Adobe InDesign.
- OBS Studio is a free screen recording and streaming tool. It’s one of my favorites.
- Screencast-o-matic is a free browser-based screen recorder with an optional offline recording app with a paid plan.
- Adobe Premiere is one of my favorite video editing programs or non-linear editors (NLE’s). It’s powerful but pricey.
- DaVinci Resolve on the other hand is completely free. There is, however, a paid option available for a one-time fee.
- Audacity is a free audio editor with some professional level tools.
- Adobe Audition is a more robust, but expensive editor.
- Blue Yeti USB Microphone is my microphone of choice. I bought mine for about $100 USD at Best Buy.
- Affinity Designer is the brother of Affinity Publisher mentioned above. Designer is geared toward creating professional graphics and is very easy to use. (I actually like it more than Adobe Illustrator for most things.)
- Gravit Designer used to be completely free but has transitioned to a “freemium” model. There is a free option, but the paid membership is much better.
- Canva, mentioned above, is also excellent for creating graphics and charts.
Understanding the lead capture process
Before we get any further with this email marketing tutorial, I want to dive in and quickly cover what I call the lead capture process. This process is really the heart of our email tutorial. If you understand nothing else, I want you to understand what happens to get someone on your list.
Note that this description will be, in some ways, an oversimplification of what’s going on behind the scenes. But right now, I want you to wrap your head around the general process.
Here’s how it (usually) happens.
- A visitor lands on your lead capture page or opt-in form. This is the front door of your email list. Here, your visitor first encounters your offer.
- The visitor enters his name and email address, expecting to receive your lead magnet.
- At this point, two things happen. First, your email service provider sends a “Please confirm your email address” email to the address your visitor entered. Second, your visitor is redirected to a page asking him to check his email.
- Your visitor checks his email, finds the “please confirm” message and clicks the confirmation link contained therein.
- Your email service provider adds your visitor as a subscriber to your email list
Now, a quick note. You may have noticed that this process requires a potential subscriber to confirm his email address before he is added as a true subscriber. This is something called double (or confirmed) opt-in. Double opt-in is useful (and in my mind important) for a few reasons.
- It ensures that only valid email addresses can be added to your list.
- Only those who are willing to take action and confirm an email address will be added.
The alternative to this is called single opt-in. With single opt-in, there is no confirmation step. As soon as someone enters a name and email address and clicks the “sign up” button, he’s immediately added to your list. There is no mechanism that checks whether or not his email address is valid, so marketers who use single opt-in frequently wind up with invalid addresses cluttering their lists. That alone is a good reason to avoid single and stick with double opt-in.
More can be said about what goes on before step 1 and after step 5, but I want you to understand the basic flow. No matter your niche or your target audience, this process will be more or less the same.
Where will people sign up?
In order to subscribe to your list, your visitor needs somewhere to enter his personal information.
Usually, we use something called an opt-in form. This is a form into which our future subscriber will type his name (if asked) and email address.
Your email service provider should provide the tools for creating a decent looking opt-in form. If you prefer to use a third party tool, I recommend something like Elementor or OptinPress. Both integrate with a variety of email service providers and can create some great looking results.
Creating an opt-in form
Opt-in forms will vary, and this email marketing tutorial won’t try to cover all the various types and options. However, you need to know what they look like and the basic information a form should require.
At minimum, every opt-in form should ask for an email address. After all, it’s hard to build an email list without your subscriber’s email address. Right?
Some forms may also ask for a name. I tend to stick with asking for a first name and email address. Other times, I’ll stick with asking for an email address only.
The thing is, I don’t want to ask for too much personal information. After all, I have to understand that my would-be subscriber is effectively purchasing my free lead magnet with his personal information. I don’t want him to have to give up too much of his info. Now, there are times when you might want to ask for more information. If you need to be able to contact your subscriber by phone to schedule a consultation, for example. But in general, ask for as little info as possible.
Creating a landing page
If you prefer, you could create a full landing page. A landing page is a dedicated page designed to convince people to subscribe to your list.
Every landing page has an opt-in form, but an opt-in form doesn’t necessarily have to be on a landing page.
At minimum, a converting landing page should have the following:
- An eye catching headline to grab attention.
- A description of your offer. What exactly is it you’re offering? Is it an eBook? A course? A video?
- How your offer will benefit your subscribers.
- An opt-in form.
Some landing pages are very intricate and complex. Some are just a few sentences and an opt-in form. Naturally, the design and content of your landing page will vary depending on your niche, your offer, and your target audience.
Some email service providers, like GetResponse, have built-in tools for creating decent looking landing pages. I personally prefer to use a tool like one of the following. While these are available for an extra cost, they provide another level of flexibility and plenty of extra features that more than justify the cost.
Placing your opt-in form
Where should you place an opt-in form? The simple answer is: wherever your potential subscribers will be most likely to see and interact with it.
Opt-in forms work well in places like (but not limited to) the following:
- At the end of a blog post. Place your opt-in offer after a well-written, relevant blog post. If the post answered a question or solved a problem, it’s likely a visitor will want more content from you.
- In your site’s header or footer. We know people look at a site’s header and footer. Put your opt-in right where their eyes will be.
- In your site’s sidebar. Content in the sidebar – if your site has one – appears to the left or right of your main content. This is a great place to grab attention.
- On a landing page / lead capture page. This is a dedicated page designed for the sole purpose of selling your lead magnet and convincing people to join your email list. These pages can be very effective but take a bit more time and effort to create.
What to send after you get a subscriber
What happens after your subscriber is added to your email list is critical to the success or failure of your email marketing efforts.
The welcome email
99.999% of the time, I recommend sending every new subscriber a “welcome” email. This message has a few purposes.
First, remind your subscriber how he got on your list. How many times have you received an email and wondered, “why am I getting this!?”
Second, introduce yourself. Tell your new subscribers about yourself. Why should they trust you for correct, useful information? You don’t have to get too personal here, but try to be relatable to your subscribers.
Third, start building the relationship. This is your first chance to express an interest in your subscriber’s success. Show him you want to help succeed. Let him know he can reach out to you if he has any questions or needs help.
Finally, deliver your lead magnet. This is an ideal time to deliver your lead magnet to your subscriber. Usually this is done by providing a link either to a download page or a link to download the file directly. (My personal preference is to use a download page as it just feels more professional and polished.)
Following up over time
Going forward, you need to follow up with your subscriber.
Think about your goal. Why do you want to build a list? Do you want to turn your subscribers into paying clients? Do you want to sell an eBook or other product? Will you be promoting third party products as an affiliate?
Your answer will determine the types of followup emails you write.
Much can be said about following up with your email list, but for the purposes of this email marketing tutorial, we’ll cover a few of the basic types of followup messages.
Teaching emails tell subscribers how to do something or otherwise teach a lesson relevant to your niche. These are somewhat in depth.
Quick tip emails aren’t nearly as in depth as teaching emails. Send one of these if you have a quick how-to or tip to send to your list.
Check-in emails are for checking on your subscriber. See if he’s doing okay. Ask if he has any questions or if you can help with anything.
Freebie emails are great for sending over a free tool or resource that your subscriber will find helpful.
Selling emails promote a paid product or service. These can be used to promote either your own products or products for which you are an affiliate.
As you correspond with your subscribers, it’s likely you will use most of the above – and more. Much more could be said here, but I hope this gets you thinking about the types of emails you can send to your email list.
Building a relationship with your subscribers
Don’t skip this section of this email marketing tutorial. Many list owners neglect this very important part of building an email list. See, even though you may have a hundred or even a few thousand email subscribers, your work isn’t done until you’ve started to build and nurture a real relationship with them.
What do I mean by “relationship?”
I mean you need to get your subscribers to the point where they understand that you care about their wellbeing and success and that you are there to help. You want your subscribers to see you as a valuable, relatable resource – not just someone who wants to sell them a product or service.
So how do you go about getting to that point?
Show interest in your subscriber’s success
Sometimes people need a cheerleader – someone they know wants to see them do well. Make it clear to your subscribers that you want to help them achieve their goals and do well.
What those goals are, of course, will vary depending on your niche.
Think back to why your subscribers joined your list. Did you promise to help them accomplish something? Save money? Create something? Do something better? As you follow up with your list, keep these goals in mind. As you help your subscribers achieve their goals, you will earn their trust and loyalty.
Ask questions and ask for feedback
I’ve found that people love to give their opinion. I’ve released several courses over the years. After my subscribers have a chance to digest the material, I like to ask for their thoughts. Is there something I could have explained better? Should I have done something differently? And so on.
This does two things:
First, it gives people an outlet to either complain about or commend your product or service. Inviting feedback gives people a sense of ownership in your product or service.
Second, it shows subscribers that you’re not above honest feedback. People like a person who invites honest feedback and criticism. It shows humility and honesty.
This should go without saying, but I think it’s important to mention. Every email you send – even if it’s promotional – should provide value to your subscriber.
Teaching emails should be thorough and complete.
Quick tip emails should be concise but accurate.
Promotional emails should promote only products and services that are high quality and truly helpful.
If you wouldn’t want to read your email, don’t send it to your list. Period.
Check in occasionally
This is something I’ve found very helpful. Even if you don’t have anything to promote or anything to teach at the moment, you can still send a quick email to your list just checking in. Ask how people are doing. See if they need any help. It’s possible they’re all good and don’t need anything. But you may get a few people saying, “Yeah, actually I could use a hand with….”
Email marketing and the law
Email marketers need to know and comply with several important privacy laws. These laws govern how personal information can be obtained, what can be done with it, and what rights an individual has to control your use of his information.
Now, as a quick aside, I’m not a lawyer, and Magnetic Vector is not a law firm. Please don’t take this as legal advice. I’m happy to answer to the best of my ability, but since I’m not a lawyer, if you have specific questions, please consult a law professional.
This email marketing tutorial won’t (and can’t reasonably) provide an exhaustive treatment of the legalities of email marketing, but there are a few things you can do to ensure you stay on the right side of the law.
Don’t add someone without permission
Now, we need to make one thing very clear here. The only people who should be on your list are those who have explicitly opted to receive your emails. No one should ever be added without his knowledge or against his will.
This is important to note for three reasons:
First, in some jurisdictions, obtaining, storing and processing someone’s private data (like an email address) without permission is expressly forbidden by law. That means you’re not allowed to collect names, email addresses, phone numbers, location – anything – without express consent.
You may think, “ah no big deal” now, but if you get caught, you can expect major fines. We’ll get into the legal aspect of list building in a bit.
Secondly, those who are added against their wills tend not to become customers. Think about this. How likely are you to make a purchase from an email list to which you never subscribed? Not likely at all. Are you not more likely to mutter under your breath that you never signed up for this garbage and delete it?
Third, unsolicited email is a highway to a ruined reputation. Whether your business is big or small, old or new, you need to pay attention to this warning. Email marketing is so powerful, but adding someone to your list without permission is one of the fastest ways to lose a potential customer, ruin the reputation of your brand, and push people away.
Always get permission to add someone to your list.
If you take nothing else away from this email marketing tutorial, I want you to understand that your email list – any email list – is not your personal list of people to harass with marketing messages against their will. Understand that at the other end of the screen sits a real human being who has a real problem or question you can solve.
Don’t share subscribers’ personal information
Privacy is no joke. When they sign up for your email list, your subscribers are trusting you with their personal information: usually a name and email address.
Some companies are in the habit of sharing any personal information you share. Not only is this a jerk move, but it’s quite illegal in some jurisdictions.
Treat every name and email address you receive with confidence. Understand that while you own your email list, you do not own your subscribers’ information, and it is not yours to do with as you wish.
That means you may not give away or sell any information about your subscribers – just as you would not want information about you released without permission.
Respect requests to unsubscribe
Sadly, sometimes subscribers will want to unsubscribe from your list. Even if you’re providing excellent content and building a relationship with your subscribers, some people just won’t have it.
And that’s okay. Let them go.
Some list owners, however, are in the habit of not respecting unsubscribe requests. Instead of allowing subscribers to leave their lists, they keep people subscribed against their wills.
That’s a jerk move on the best of days, but in some jurisdictions, that’s very illegal.
If someone wants to unsubscribe, you have no right to keep him or her on your list.
Keeping someone on your list against his will does two things:
- It hurts your reputation and damages trust. If you can’t be trusted to use this little bit of personal info wisely and respect the wishes of your would-be-ex-subscriber, how can you be trusted with more sensitive data, like payment information?
- It pushes people away from your brand. If you don’t let someone unsubscribe from your email list, you can bet he won’t be spending money with you. Annoying someone is no way to convince him to buy your product or pay for your service.
Beginning email marketing
Building an email list is very simple, and it’s very easy to start email marketing.
This email marketing tutorial is certainly not exhaustive. Much more could be said about each of the above sections. My goal here, however, was to give you a basic understanding of the concepts involved so you can start email marketing at your own pace.
If you remember nothing else from this tutorial, I want you to remember at least the following:
- Why someone would subscribe to your list.
- How the lead capture process works
- What you should send after you get a subscriber
- The fact that you should never ever add someone to your list without permission.
Again, much more could be said, and I plan to explore each of these points in other posts.
Those who are interested in a more in depth look at email marketing and how to start building your list, check out my free email marketing course. That course will walk you through brainstorming a great lead magnet, writing content, building a relationship with your subscribers, and more.
If you have questions, comments, concerns, flying fruit, etc, please let me know. I’m here to help you build and grow your brand.