Email Marketing and Technology
When building your email list, there are many email or autoresponder programs from which to choose. At its core, an autoresponder is deigned to automate the email delivery process. Many autoresponders also help you create a sign-up form and manage the subscription process.
A word about the subscription process…
Here’s how the process generally works:
- Someone fills out your sign-up form and click the sign-up button.
- They’re taken to another page, usually with a message that says, “Check your email.”
- In their inbox is a confirmation request where they must click a link to verify that they want to receive email from you.
- In their email inbox is an email with a message about how to access the opt-in. Opt-ins can be delivered via email or you can send your subscribers to a protected web page. For example, if you’re sharing training videos with them then you’d send them to a protected page where they can view the video.
- If someone decides to unsubscribe, they can click on a button in your email message and your autoresponder will automatically remove them from the list. This keeps you in compliance with SPAM laws.
In short, you create a form and embed the form on your website. People fill out the form, which usually just asks for an email and a first name. When they fill out the form they automatically receive an email with a link or with the opt-in offer attached. You now have a new email subscriber and another person who wants more of the information, solutions, and offers you provide.
So let’s talk about how to choose your autoresponder.
Choosing Your Autoresponder
There are dozens of autoresponder services to choose from. Some of the top rated options include:
- Aweber – http://www.aweber.com/autoresponders.htm
- Mailchimp- http://mailchimp.com/
- Infusionsoft – http://www.infusionsoft.com/
- iContact – https://www.icontact.com
- Constant Contact – http://search.constantcontact.com/index.jsp
- VerticleResponse – http://www.verticalresponse.com/
As you investigate your options, evaluate each using the following criteria as a starting point:
- Ease of use. How easy is the tool to use? Many products offer screenshots, free trials and demonstrations. Make use of them.
- Compatibility with current technology. Does the autoresponder fit with your blog and/or website technology? If you have a shopping cart or payment system, make sure that your autoresponder works with it.
- Does it provide the features that you need? For example, can you email documents or do you have to redirect to a webpage? Do they provide analytics? Can you segment your list and if so, can you segment by demographics and behavior?
- Customer service. How is their reputation for service? If you have technical questions or issues, you want a fast response time.
- Price – How much does the service cost? Many start out free but increase in monthly price as your subscriber list grows.
Setting up and Using Your Autoresponder
Once an autoresponder has been chosen, you’ll need to do before you start using it. We’ll quickly address those and then we’ll talk about your email marketing efforts and the message content.
- Your Sign Up Form
Your autoresponder will have a tool to create your sign up form. Some allow you to embed the form on your website. Customize your form and add it to your blog or website. It’s generally a simple cut and paste. Cut and paste the code for the form into a custom menu or widget, depending on where you want it to show in your WordPress theme. Your autoresponder will have step-by-step instructions, which explain how to create the form.
At a minimum, your form only needs to ask for an email address. However, it is a good idea to ask for a first name if you think you might personalize some email messages. For example, “Dear Betty Lou,”
- Your Confirmation Message
You may also have the opportunity to decide how you want subscribers to confirm. For example, do you want a double opt-in? You can also instruct new subscribers about what to expect from your email list and tell them how to white list your emails so they don’t end up in the spam folder. The message that your subscribers receive can be customized and branded with your written voice, style, and even your company logo.
- Follow-Up Messages
Next, upload your follow up messages. These are the messages that deliver your opt-in material. It might be one message or a series of messages that you need to upload.
For example, if you have a ten week home study course then you’ll upload and schedule ten messages. You may also want to include a thank you message to deliver to your new subscriber right after they’ve been added to your list.
Before you exit your autoresponder, test your messages and sign up system. Head to your blog or website and fill out your sign up form. Check your email and follow the same process your subscribers will follow. Click on the links and make sure that everything works the way you intend it to.
Next, we’ll take a look at tips and best practices for writing and delivering email messages.