Written by Tom Ewer on 09 December 2013
You may have heard the phrase “The money is in the list” and dismissed it, thinking it only applies to internet marketers or big organisations with a budget to match. But in fact, building an email list is one of the easiest and most effective ways to market your business, even as a solo freelance web designer.
So what exactly is so great about email marketing and why should you be using it to promote your services? In this post I’ll explain all.
A More Personal Approach
Unlike other marketing methods, email allows you to talk directly to your customers by name and personalise your content towards their unique needs and preferences. With careful list management and segmentation you can send emails that are targeted at certain demographics, such as clients in a particular geographical area, with ease.
When done well, this personal approach has a much higher conversion rate than normal advertising as your clients feel like you are talking directly to them, rather than just sending out a generic mass marketing message.
Stay in Communication with Clients
In today’s fast-paced world it is very easy for clients to simply forget about you and your business, even if you’ve enjoyed a successful working relationship in the past. Publishing a blog is one way to keep your name in their mind but there is no guarantee that your clients will read it.
When someone signs up to your email list, they are inviting you to communicate with them, rather than more passive forms of communication like blogging. Because of this, you can assume your emails are more likely to be read than normal online content, particularly if they are personalised and there is some kind of incentive, such as a special offer or discount, for opening them.
You can stay in touch by sending out a weekly or monthly newsletter with useful content, industry news and updates, but if this sounds like too much work, it's also easy to set up an auto responder series that sends out pre-written emails on a set schedule – you also have the option of outsourcing the content creation to a copywriter to save yourself even more time.
Bring in More Business with Special Offers
Emails provide a great opportunity to bring in more work during slow periods. If you find yourself twiddling your thumbs and waiting for clients to come to you, simply send out an offer to your list offering 20% off your normal rates for a limited time, for example, and watch the work come rolling in!
Emails are also easy to share and you can encourage this and grow your client base by offering double benefits – for example, “If you share this email with a friend, you'll both get 20% of your next order.”
Build Your Authority
Sending great content to your email subscribers is a great way to show that you are active in the industry and demonstrate your knowledge. Publishing information that is helpful and informative for your clients is the easiest way to become an authority figure in the field of web design or any other business area you specialise in.
Giving your knowledge and information away for free may seem counter-intuitive when you could be charging a consultation fee or selling premium content, but it is actually a great way to build an audience that trusts and respects what you have to offer.
Stretch Your Marketing Budget
Email outreach is one of the cheapest forms of marketing there is. Many mailing services are free up to a certain number of subscribers and offer pricing structures that can grow with your business and list. Expect to pay just a few pennies per email, so your monthly budget will depend on how often you email and how many people are on your list. Even when sending thousands of emails, the outlay will be significantly less than other forms of advertising.
It is also worth remembering that the people who have signed up to your list are generally already interested in your services and what you have to say in the first place. This makes conversion rates from email outreach significantly higher than other forms of marketing.
Easy Tracking and Statistics
Email marketing software lets you see at a glance the number of subscribers and unsubscribes, opened emails, forwarded emails and links clicked within the message, all broken down by the demographics you specify. This makes it really easy to measure the effectiveness of individual campaigns and focus your marketing efforts.
How to Get Started with Email Outreach
Starting an email marketing campaign may sound daunting but getting started is as simple as putting a simple signup form on your website. Even if you don’t know exactly what sort of content you'll be sending to subscribers, it is always a good idea to start building that list of potential customer contacts as soon as possible.
Email services like MailChimp and AWeber make things so easy – all you have to do is copy the code they provide to integrate into your website and wait for people to sign up. It can also be a good idea to include some kind of incentive for signing up. Ebooks are a common incentive (easily outsourced if you don't have time to write one!) but you could offer anything from a discount on their next order to free consultation, videos or anything that will be valuable to your client base.
Once you have a list of names and email addresses, no matter how small, you can start sending them emails. The form that these emails take will depend on your business, your clients, and how you wish to market your services.
You may want to consider some of the following:
- A regular newsletter with industry news
- Money saving offers and discounts
- Links to your latest blog posts
- Helpful and useful information for your clients
- Links to funny and entertaining articles and videos on the web
Your emails don’t have to all be about you – on the contrary you should make them helpful and useful for your clients so they actually want to read and share them. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that because you're a web designer you can only talk about web design. For example you could offer tips to your clients for using their website more effectively, ideas for increasing traffic or anything else useful or interesting.
It is also a good idea to set a regular schedule for your emails, rather than sending them haphazardly so your readers know when to expect them. If you send no emails for a couple of months and then several at once, you're almost sure to get unsubscribes!
The most important thing is not to get caught up in planning elaborate campaigns or worrying about conversion rates – just start collecting emails and communicating with your clients. Install a simple form on your website, make sure you link to it from your sidebar or blog so clients can find it and welcome to the world of email marketing!