4 Steps to Email Marketing

(Episode 2 of 2 with Ryan Phelan)

4 Steps to Email Marketing

Nearly 90% of marketers use email marketing to send out content and 81% of small businesses rely on email marketing for customer acquisitions, with the average open rate for a welcome email at 82% (Source: Oberlo.com). 

In today’s episode, we’re going to continue our conversation with Ryan Phelan about email marketing and discuss how to begin an email marketing campaign in four steps.

1. Set a Goal

Before we begin designing a newsletter or email marketing strategy, we need to determine our goal. Every email we send should have a strong purpose and offer value to our customers. Do we want our customers to go to our website, download our ebook, or make a purchase? Depending on our answer, our emails will look very different. 

Ryan said that most of the time, people make the mistake of setting a goal as abstract as “to make a revenue.” Instead of setting a broad, immeasurable goal, we should set S.M.A.R.T goals. SMART goals stand for Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. By setting SMART goals it will be easier for us to determine if our campaign is successful. For example, a good goal could be to increase our website traffic by 50% in one month. At the end of the month, we can evaluate our campaign to determine if we are meeting our goal, or if we should try to develop a new strategy. 

Nearly 90% of marketer_Blog

As we make our goals, we need to remember to keep the customer in mind. How will our email bring value to our customers? If we can’t answer that question, it is very unlikely that our campaign will be successful. What value do we want to provide? Another great goal could be to direct 50% of our leads to our ebook where we teach them how to market effectively. 

2. Build an Email List

If we are going to do email_Blog

Before we can start an email marketing campaign we need to have someone to send it to. We need to build an email list. 

Growing our email list takes time and requires patience. We should never try to take the easy route and buy a list. Instead, Ryan recommends we use our email marketing budget to advertise our email program. For example, we can advertise our newsletter to the people that attend our demo or work with our SEO and pay-per-click teams to sell our newsletter. 

A lot of people think they can just buy a list and instantly achieve big results but it almost never works because users in that list didn’t give us permission to contact them. Even if they are our target audience, they didn’t choose to be on our list so we end up being an annoyance. If we’re going to do email marketing, we can only do it when we have permission to do it.

In order to direct our customers to subscribe to our email list, Ryan recommends doing three things. 

Put the Subscribe Button at the Top of our Website 

The first key thing to do is put the email subscription button at the top of our website. This can be in the header or navigation bar, it just has to be up there so people can easily opt-in. From the tests Ryan has done repeatedly throughout his career, they had a 50% increase in acquisition rates when the subscription button was at the top versus the bottom. 

Some websites even have a pop-up that appears on their website after a viewer has been on the page for a certain amount of time. This pop-up often asks for a customer’s name and email in return for promised value. 

Show Customers What the Newsletter Will Look Like

The second thing we can do is have a button that says “sign up for our email” which directs our customers to a landing page that shows them what the email looks like. We should tell them how many times we’re going to email them and why. 

Marketers assume their customers want to sign up for our newsletters just because they like our brand and that’s not true. Just as we have to sell our customers our products and services, we have to sell them in our newsletter. We should explain why the newsletter will be of value to them and what they can expect to receive from us each week or month. 

Ask More Questions at the Beginning 

The third thing we should do is ask our potential customers more questions after they sign up for our email. It’s called progressive profiling. At this point, our subscribers are willing to tell us about themselves. After we ask them questions, we can develop automation to echo their answers back and build relevance.

These questions will help us understand our customers’ wants and needs. As we understand our customers better, we will be more capable of providing value and keeping them on our email list. Just because someone signs up for our email once, doesn’t mean they will stay subscribed forever. 

Ryan said the average consumer list is about 65% inactive. Marketers look at this number and think they need to reactivate all of those people but it would be a waste of time and money. Instead, we need to focus on the 35% that are using their email. But how do we find out who that 35% are? We ask questions. These are the ones we can market to effectively and design a strategy that works. We can look at what they are interested in and what tone of voice they want to hear. If we have asked our customers questions in the past, we will be better suited to know how to improve our email and who to target our messages to. 

3. Be Deliberate in Email Content and Design 


After we have set our goals and built an email list, we can begin to design our newsletters. If we want our customers to click on our emails, we have to provide value and be deliberate with our content. We shouldn’t send out a newsletter or email just because someone said it’s a great way to acquire customers. We also need to be very conscious of design. Where something is placed on a page can have a huge impact on our success rates. We need to keep our goals in mind as we format our newsletters. 

Ryan gave two strategies for email design. 

Include the Site Navigation in Our Promotional Emails 

Emal is a great lead_Blog

We should put our site navigation, or at least an abbreviated version of it, at the top and bottom of our promotional emails. If we look at where people click in an email, the majority of clicks will come from that toolbar at the top of the toolbar at the bottom. The email may not have what people are looking for so they will want to visit the website to find it. Email is a great lead generation medium that sends qualified traffic to our website. 

Monetize Transactional Messages

Our email doesn’t have to be designed as a newsletter to increase our sales or website traffic. We can also send out transactional emails.

Ryan believes that anything digital can make money. Most marketers on the B2C side have transactional messages such as order and shipping confirmations. Many companies don’t look at those transactional emails as money-making opportunities, but Ryan said that if we monetize transactional emails, we can use 20% of these messages as cross-sell or upsell promotional messages. For example, when we send a purchase confirmation to our customers, we can attach links to other relevant products they may like. We can also direct them back to our website to continue shopping. 

With every digital outreach, we have to be thinking, “What’s the opportunity here?” As we design our emails with these goals in mind, we will find we are more successful in meeting our goals. For example, a newsletter is most likely better for increasing traffic to our blog whereas transactional emails can be better at encouraging our customers to make a second purchase. 

If we monetize_Blog

4. Solve a Problem and Run Tests


After we have sent out our emails, we should monitor our engagement. This step is often the most important. It helps us learn what we are doing right and what we need to improve. Do we have a high click-through rate? Are our customers following the links to our blog? Are they downloading our ebook?

The most effective email marketers are the ones that sit down and find where they have a problem and then determine how they’re going to solve it. Between the problem and the solution, they come up with a written testing plan. Marketers should keep the strategy piece in front of them and ask, “What am I going to do every week to get to my point?”

Ryan said testing is deeper than just testing subject lines. It’s about learning what statistical significance means. It’s about knowing how to read the results and put together a plan. A lot of marketers don’t do that. Instead, they just test for a day and if it doesn’t work, they don’t try again. 

Ryan said that most of the time when he looked at those “failed” campaigns to see why they didn’t work, it was because marketers missed one thing or another like sending it to the wrong people, using the wrong CTA, or sending it at an inconvenient time like on a Saturday at 4 a.m. Testing is not about testing once. It’s about testing and validating until we can repeatedly get the same result.

Key Takeaways

Thank you so much Ryan for sharing your stories and knowledge with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

1. Email is a great lead generation medium that sends qualified traffic to our website.

2.Before we begin designing a newsletter or email marketing strategy, we need to determine our goal. Every email we send should have a strong purpose and offer value to our customers.

3. If we’re going to use email marketing, we can only do it when we have permission to put people on our list. We need to build our email list, not buy one. 

4. We can encourage potential customers to subscribe to our email list by placing a subscription bar at the top of our website, showing our customers what value our newsletter will offer, and asking questions to determine our customers’ wants and needs. 

5. We have to be deliberate in our email design and content. 

6. Testing is not about testing once. It’s about testing and validating until we can repeatedly get the same result.

Connect with Ryan

If you enjoyed this interview and want to learn more about Ryan or connect with him, you can find him on LinkedIn. You can also visit his company’s website at www.rpeorigin.com.  

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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