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25 Tips For Creating An Email Marketing Machine For Your Startup

Regardless of what you think about email there is one thing certain, email is not dead. 

For years people have been saying email is dead as a means to reach your clients and prospects. 

1000s of (self promoting) Social Media marketing gurus have pronounced the future of marketing is Social Media and that email is loosing its effectiveness.

Don’t listen to them. They are dead wrong.

Email is still the best way to communicate and have a direct relationship with your user.

Other methods of communicating with your clients such as social media are either too noisy or the social network controls you and demands you pay to access the very customers who follow you. 

It impossible to reliably, consistently deliver your story or message to users via a social network.

It’s estimated that most Facebook Pages have an average post reach of 5%. If you want to get it any higher than that you are going to have to pay Facebook to get access to the people who have already liked you page.

Im not saying don’t use social media, you should, it can be a great method of massively cheaply accelerating prospect acquisition. 

But once a visitor comes to your site its your job to convince them to let you start a conversation and turn them into a client.

An Example

I started this blog 28 months ago. We now have had about 1700 people on the email list and gaining 100 a week.

However I really only started collecting email addresses about 15 months ago and started getting serious about it a few months ago.

When I first started my daily signup rate was around 1%, by experimenting I have increased that to a ~2% subscribe rate.

I have had approximately 170,000 visitors since I started writing, if I had been focused on collecting emails from day one I would have double the subscribers, probably more. 

There is a multiplier effect that happens when you communicate meaningful actionable stories to your prospects regularly.

The more they engage and open your emails, the more they click through, the more people they refer and the more social media traffic they generate for you so the growth rate of the email list actually accelerates over time the more active your comm activities.

One of the largely unmentioned benefits of increasing email traffic is an increase in Search Engine Traffic. 

It is generally accepted that Google uses traffic stats from their Chrome Browser and various plugins to measure a sites popularity and direct traffic.

When Google can see increased email or direct traffic they assume that the site has something worth reading and therefore they give your domain more authority which results in more natural search traffic.

Start With Email Not Social

Most Newbie entrepreneurs think that Social media accounts and marketing is the first thing they should spend their time on when launching a new startup, I know I used to.

Whack up a Facebook page and a Twitter account and tweet all day and you will have users flocking to use your product. 

The truth is when you first start on social media you will be yelling into a vacuum chamber.

No one will be listening, no one will be following, so you can yell as loud as you like but unless you have a truly engaged social following (which most new entrepreneurs don’t) or some amazing content very little will come of your social media efforts. You will struggle to get above noise level.

I see 100’s of startup pitches a month, when I check their twitter accounts very few have any level of following.

Even more amusing we get pitches for Social Media Marketing Tools who have virtually no Twitter followers.

Few startups are really newsworthy, most don’t get picked up by major media sites. Most startups are not that interesting or fully developed.

You can build traffic to your site using social media but you should always try to turn that visitor into an email.

The email is the first step in getting permission to start an ongoing conversation with your prospect.

If you can afford to use paid advertising you must turn that visit into an email you just can’t afford to pay to attract the prospect to your site and not start a relationship.

Email really is the best way to consistently capture and nurture a relationship. You can’t do it with Twitter Followers or Facebook Fans.

Kickstart Your Email List

Here are 5 ideas to help you kickstart your product and user base

  • Put up a blog and start writing about your subject matter, this will give you something to share and establish you as a leader in the space
  • Make sure you have an email newsletter list from day one. 
  • Use Sumome.com Welcome Mat or List Builder Plugins to drive signups. You may be uncomfortable with popups but get used to them, in my experience Sumome.com plugins has driven at least 10x signups compared to passive signup forms I previously used on the sidebar of my. I have looked at a lot of these plugins and Sumome is my preferred due to the connectivity with outside services such as Mailchimp and Zapier.
  • It takes commitment to write daily, I don’t recommend it initially. It takes a long time to get into a flow where you can produce quality content every day, so my suggestion is to start out with a weekly story or two.
  • Experiment with ways to to get your users to either provide you content or to suggest content topics (asking questions, discussing problems etc)
  • As you go about your daily life, jot down things you learn into a text file, this will serve as a place for you to collect new subjects.
  • Write all your posts in a text editor, this cuts down distraction, only load it to your blog when its ready to publish.
  • This is where you do use Social Media, promote your posts regularly.
  • Use Hashtags
  • Repost on Twitter and other social media regularly. I advise setting up a TweetJukebox.com account and adding your posts to be repeated every few days at different times. Most social media is so noisy that you will get new people viewing this all the time, almost no one will notice you have reposted it.

Key Components

The key components you need are as follow

Capture

Sumome.com – Capture emails and Social Sharing. They have 4 different ways of capturing emails, popups, slideups, normal forms, full screen welcome mats. (Im testing the new Welcome Mat, which is working well).

Example of a Sumome Popup

Example of a Sumome Popup

They also have a great control panel where you can set up and test all of the components while on the front screen of your site.

You may feel uncomfortable with using some of these methods until you see a >10x improvement as I did compared to my original signup form in the sidebar (note you still need one, people often say no to the popup but subscribe later anyway).

You can use the Mailchimp popups but they are just not as good.

Sumome.com integrates and pushes your new subscriptions into about 20 Newsletter and CRM services and it also integrates with Zapier which means you can transfer data to just about any online web service.

Send

Mailchimp and Mandrill (both owned by the same company).

mandrill

If you are doing weekly emails Mailchimp is a nice product. Great templates and designs.

If you are going for daily emails you can still manage it on Mailchimp but its a lot of work to cut and paste the images and blog post.

mailchimp

If you have multiple articles a day you might want to think about setting up templates using Mandrill for bulk email. (there are a lot of tricks to bulk email, get it wrong and you may be dumped in the spam folder forever more, Mandill has a bunch of tools to help keep you out of the spam folder, as well as rock solid delivery capability)

Frankly there is a missing component. If you are publishing multiple times a day but want to be able to customise your sending for example only send the articles you want to send or only send once a day with your own message the choices are pretty poor.

Running a large email list is a topic on its own which I will save for another post.

Blog 

WordPress, self hosted. This is the standard. Using Themes and Plugins there are so many ways you can customise both the look and the functionality. Don’t waste time looking for anything else.

Bonus Points

Here are a few things you can do that will really turbo charge your acquisition strategy;

  • Use the Mailchimp Contacts Integration to capture additional details about your new prospects i.e. social media accounts, job details etc
  • Use the Zapier integration to send your contact details to a CRM such as AgileCRMStreak, Highrise or Insightly
  • Use Intercom to engage your customers and sync the data with Zapier with your mail list or use Intercoms internal mail tool to run your customer communication (more suitable to those building an app or a platform that need to be able to communicate in near real time to their clients)
  • Use Zendesk to take all customer contacts and sync this to your email list

Basically any new contact your site generates should be generating a new email address.

but you absolutely need to do this from day one. If you are already operating, take the time to go back through your company inboxes and dig all the emails out and personally reconnect with them.

Words Of Warning

  • You need to make sure you are complying with appropriate Spam laws.
  • Legal issues aside your newsletter or hosting provider will just shut you down if you get too many spam complaints or place heavy restrictions on your sending
  • Make sure you setup all the Mandrill requirements for DKIM & SPF which are means to ensure your domain is verified.
  • Make sure you keep sending regularly, only hitting your email list every few months will mean people will forget you or the list they signed upto and mark you as spam.
  • You will get bounces, rejections and spam complaints. It goes with the territory when you send large amounts of email, in some cases the ISP will be doing this, sometimes its an individual. You need to remove these from your mail list, keep it as clean as possible. Mandrill has some tools to help with this, use them.
  • Double Opt in or Not. There are arguments on both sides, I prefer single signup, a lot of people forget to do the 2nd confirmation or don’t realise it has to be done and your successful signups will be cut significantly, on the plus side some newsletter companies use this as a quality indicator and will give you more privileges such as higher sending rates.
  • Make sure your Unsubscribe Link is Working. I had a lot of trouble with my Newsletter Provider/Hosting/Sending company not recording unsubscribes, drove me crazy for weeks and resulted in a bunch of pissed off people and spam complaints. Turns out one of the links wasn’t working, but on top of that it seems like the there was a conflict between the Newsletter plugin and the mail sender. Test your signup and your unsubscribe links at least once a week.

Conclusion & Actions

Hope this has been useful, if you are starting out you need to implement a way to capture emails, if you are already going, going back through your emails, personally reach out and start the dialogue again.

I started getting serious about sending daily emails about 2 months ago and during this time I have learnt a lot and made a bunch of mistakes, but now it is making a big different to engagement and traffic,  if you have a particular question please feel free to drop me a line.

Startup Business Ideas – WordPress

WordPress is a web juggernaut. There are an estimated ~70 million blogs powered by WordPress and a good portion of those are businesses. 

While I love WordPress and have been using it for 9-10 years it is still lacking in some hardcore business functionality.

If we accept WordPress is a huge play in the business market and we accept that a critical aspect of marketing and customer acquisition is attracting and communicating with existing and potential customers then these ideas are pretty critical to fulfilling that mission, however the existing solutions just don’t cut it.

Here are some pressing needs for entrepreneurs looking for business ideas.

Newsletter Platforms

Newsletter management on WordPress is a nightmare. It is not a native function so there is no core functionality that supports generating a newsletter from your posts. 

The worlds biggest Newsletter platform Mailchimp and the worlds biggest Website platform WordPress don’t play nicely together.

I know you can hook up a form to Mailchimp & dozens of other email services to send your newsletter, however none of these are actually integrated with WordPress.

They might pass an email subscription across but you can’t select a WordPress post to be included in a newsletter from Mailchimp or select a Post in WordPress and have it published to the newsletter, its a completely manual process to make a newsletter and if you do this daily it takes a stack of time so we have for the moment avoided it.

In any of these popular newsletter tools you have to copy the images, posts and links then paste it all into the campaign repeat 2-4 for each story and make sure its formatted properly and then send. 

Life’s too short to do the same menial hack work every day, why not just allow an integration that allows you to insert WordPress posts from the Mailchimp control panel?

Every possible solution you can cobble together has some sort of bug or issues which don’t work for a high volume daily newsletter.

Cobble is really the key term as none of them are tightly integrated.

We currently use the Mailpoet plugin sending via the transactional mail service Mandrill.

Mandrill we like a lot, Mailpoet less so (I will do a separate blog on how to get a working solution for a high volume mail service and why you would use Mandrill not the standard WordPress onboard email).

Mailpoet lets you select posts from inside the WordPress which is great.

The trouble is so far I have had some many problems with their plugin. I get frequent reports that the unsubscribe function is not working, the plugin has failed to record the transaction. Numerous problems with layout, responsiveness etc, always finding problems.

Mailpoet has advised that they have stopped supporting their current version and will not release any bug fixes instead working on a completely new solution from the ground up so that gives you an idea of the sort of problems we have experienced.

Mailpoet also doesn’t talk to anything else in WordPress so if you don’t use their forms (which are very basic and don’t provide a popup or any of the other useful pretty useless) then you have to manually copy new emails in and you have to manually check that bounces, unsubscribes and rejections are being transferred from Mandrill to Mailpoet. Its a 20 minute operation every day that shouldn’t have to be done. 

Also you can’t automatically share usage or customer data with outside systems like a CRM.

So why am I still using them? Because despite days of research and experimentation I have not been able to find a valid alternatives without incurring a stack of extra work every day.

Mailchimp would be the obvious choice however every newsletter is a completely manual setup. Cut, paste, link, upload, format, resize for each story and link in each newsletter, its labour intensive and I am already peddling as hard as I can.

You can use a Mailchimp RSS feed Newsletter but its poorly formatted and requires extra plugins from WordPress to get the images working and they look terrible.

Here is a checklist for a good Newsletter solution

  • Sends via Mandrill, Sendgrid or other dedicated transactional mail service
  • Allows you to compose automatic daily or weekly newsletters from existing posts
  • Beautiful formatting of both the newsletter and the images
  • Allows you to send ad hoc newsletters
  • Responsive for Mobile
  • Integrates with Zapier or WordPress Webhooks
  • A subscribe form that included A/B testing, popups and slideups, images
  • Collects all new emails that are added for all transactions on WordPress
  • If a user has unsubscribed this must be preserved even if their details are uploaded again, unsubscribes need a manual override to send to them again

Have to think there are 100s of thousands of sites like me that need a better solution, the existing solutions just feel like they are held together with brown paper and string.

If anyone can suggest a great alternative that fits the above requirements please message me or comment below.

CRMs

No one seems to have a tightly integrated CRM that couples various WordPress plugins, capturing all data as well as user visits. Leadin by Hubspot has an interesting product which seems to capture most emails and visits except the popup for email subscribers we use from Sumome but suffers from occasional missed data.

I haven’t been able to find a well integrated CRM that works well with WordPress.

Must Have

  • Capture all emails submitted, comments, visits etc
  • Send to an external service
  • Record every transaction ie emails, visits, offers, forms submitted

Data Connectors

WordPress has become the default platform for launching a standard web presence. It has been customised in so many ways it now provides a method to sell, to capture leads, to sign users up to services, to sell product as an e-commerce site, as well as the traditional uses of publishing and blogging.

The trouble is most of the plugins don’t talk to each other. WordPress really needs a Plugin that can take any data from any other WordPress plugin or core and push it to other platforms. There is a plugin called Presshook but it only works on WordPress API and most plugins are adding capability to the core so this won’t work for them.

  • WordPress is not the ideal place to store your data (most are hosted on dodgy hosting companies where security may or may not exist) so ideally data should be stored off site.
  • Ideally the plugin should send data to the outside word via a gateway service such as Zapier or IFTTT or web hooks and should be secure/encrypted.

There are probably dozens of other niches you could occupy, the mistake most of the developers make is assuming a transactional mindset, that is they price their product as a once off sale price and support it accordingly, rather than an ongoing relationship and monthly fee.

Image is what WordPress looked like when I started using it many years ago