Email Marketing: An Overview for Beginners

email marketing

If you’re a new e-commerce business owner, there’s a good chance that you’ve spent plenty of time online looking for advice about how to get a leg up – and one of the things you’re likely to see most often is that you need to start a mailing list because that’ll help you generate more revenue. Thinking about your experiences as a consumer, though, you’ve probably read that advice with at least a little disbelief. After all, you see mailing list invitations almost every time you shop online, and you’ve rarely – if ever – willingly signed up to receive advertisements. If large corporations can’t get you to engage with their email marketing attempts, how could you expect to do better?

As you’re about to learn, email marketing isn’t quite as difficult as you might think it is. It takes an enormous amount of time and effort to earn substantial income from a mailing list. Email marketing requires very little money, though, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s perfect for a small e-commerce business. In this email marketing overview, we’ll explain why having a mailing list can be so valuable and what you need to do to get started.

Why Should My Business Have a Mailing List?

When people talk about the value of having a mailing list, they tend to talk about it in only the simplest way: A mailing list can generate revenue for your company. That, however, is only a partial answer to the question of why having a mailing list is so important. The full answer is that having a mailing list gives you a source of traffic that you can influence directly.

Google will always be your most valuable traffic source because people who find your website when they’re looking for something to buy are very likely to become customers. If your website ranks well for a wide variety of different search terms, you’ll probably earn plenty of money. The success of your business, however, is not Google’s concern. Google can update its ranking algorithms at any time – and when that happens, your rankings can drop.

If you depend on search engine traffic for all of your revenue, that puts you in a very precarious situation because an unfavourable algorithm change could drop your revenue to nothing with no warning. What would you do then? That’s why having a mailing list is so important. If you start building your mailing list now, you’ll have an alternate source of traffic that can sustain your business during difficult times.

What Results Can I Expect from Email Marketing?

With some forms of email marketing – shopping cart abandonment messages, for instance – response rates can be quite high. When you’re just sending a general message like a sale announcement about a new product such as a new flavour of Puff Bar to your entire subscriber base, though, you should expect the response rate to be very modest. Probably less than 5 percent of your subscribers will read the message. Of those, less than 5 percent will click through to your site – and of those, less than 5 percent will complete a purchase. In other words, your mailing list won’t be a significant contributor to revenue until you have thousands of subscribers – so now is definitely the time to start building a subscriber base.

Note that while the response rates for general email newsletters aren’t particularly high, personalised messages – such as the shopping cart abandonment messages mentioned above – tend to do much better. Once you have a bit of experience with email marketing, you should definitely consider implementing some more advanced techniques.

How Do I Start a Mailing List?

Starting a mailing list is actually surprisingly easy and requires almost no technical knowledge. All that you need to do is sign up with an email marketing provider such as MailChimp or Constant Contact, and they’ll handle most of the heavy lifting for you. The email provider will give you a snippet of code that you can paste into your website, and the code will create a subscription box on that page. The email provider will maintain your mailing list for you and will also provide an interface that you can use to create your messages. All that you need to worry about is attracting and communicating with your subscribers.

How Do I Get Subscribers for My Mailing List?

As you know from your personal experience as a consumer, it’s extremely hard to convince anyone to sign up for an email list. You already receive more commercial email than you have time to read. You’re not exactly in a hurry to sign up for even more – and yet, that’s exactly what you’re going to have to convince your customers to do.

You’ll find that the best way to get people to subscribe to your mailing list is usually by offering something in return. One option is to have your website automatically generate and send a personalized single-use coupon code to each new subscriber. You can also consider holding a monthly giveaway if it’s appropriate for the types of products that you sell. If your subscribers are eligible to win prizes as long as they remain members of your mailing list, it’ll encourage them to keep their subscriptions active.

How Do I Use Email Marketing Effectively?

Email marketing isn’t just a good way to bring traffic to your website and earn extra revenue. It also helps to keep your company at the top of customers’ minds if they haven’t returned to your site in a while. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to email often enough that your customers won’t forget about you. You don’t want to email so often, though, that people end up deleting your messages without looking at them. With time, you’ll find the right balance.

The second important element of effective email marketing is writing the content. The body of an email message is important, but the subject line is perhaps even more so because no one will read the body if the subject line doesn’t entice them to open the message. When you write a message, you should spend at least as much time on the subject line as you do on the message itself – and when it comes to the body of the message, make sure that you always respect the reader’s time by providing value. Whether it’s useful information, a great sale announcement or both, providing value helps to ensure that someone who opens one of your messages will want to continue doing so in the future.


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