Email marketing and lead generation is something we can discuss all day, however, if you aren’t actually implementing the best practices and methods that we outline… well, you might as well not be doing email at all. This is something we commonly see and hear in the industry, as there are just so many great ways to promote your brand and business, but not enough time or resources to get it all done.
One of the best ways to accomplish everything you’d like to focus on, is to try and outsource or automate the process. In most cases, going to an outside party, agency or email marketing expert might be your best option. It’s very likely that your business is a success, simply because you know how to run your business. This means you should be focusing on your strengths and not trying to spread yourself thin on other areas that might not be your expertise.
With all of this in mind, we wanted to feature an email marketing expert that has followed this same model and practice within their own life and business. Today we have Brenda Stoltz, who is an email marketing and automation expert, and is also the Chief Strategist at Ariad Partners. In this expert interview we will learn how Brenda works with business owners and marketing leaders to help grow their businesses through email marketing.
1 – Please briefly tell us about yourself and how you got started with online marketing.
I left my corporate career in 2005 to start consulting. I found that, as a strategist, I can give the best strategy in the world but “execution proves strategy.” I saw a lot of clients struggling with execution. For example, they didn’t understand how buyers were leveraging content and social media to research and make buying decisions. I launched Ariad Partners in 2010 to address that need. We now provide the strategy, technology, and execution to help our clients generate leads and revenue online.
2 – Is email still the most effective marketing platform today… and how has it changed over the years with the addition of social media and mobile?
Despite the “email is dead” headlines and the growth of social media platforms and advertising, email continues to be the most important platform for any company. Why? Because of the ROI. According to the DMA (Direct Marketing Association), for every $1 spent on email marketing a company makes $38. There is a saying among marketers – “email is where the money is” – and that still holds true today. Social media and mobile are important channels and not to be ignored, but they can’t touch email for ROI.
Having said that, email is evolving. Leveraging social media platforms can increase the reach of a well-executed email campaign. Leveraging social intelligence and “Like,” “Share” and Retweet” links can get you in front of new prospects who may be interested in your products or services.
The explosion of smartphones and tablets means marketers must factor in mobile requirements as well. More email is read on mobile than on desktop email clients, according to Litmus “Email Analytics” (March 2016). Smart marketers are changing their web and email strategy to take advantage of these trends.
3 – With so many different email platforms to choose from, what should marketers specifically be looking for?
There has been such an explosion in email and marketing automation platforms. That will constrict as mergers and acquisitions continue. Marketers need to look for the solution that will be around next year that also meets their needs and budget.
The tricky part for marketers is understanding their needs. Start by listing requirements and then marketing them low, medium or high (ex. automatically kick off an email nurture drip to all new prospects that download an offer on the website).
Then, determine any integration points with other platforms (ex. have all new leads from the website automatically go into the CRM system).
Next, conduct a vendor review of high quality vendors in your price range. Look for vendors that are best of breed, they have been around for a while and are strong financially. Look for vendors who can scale with you as you grow.
I recommend getting an entry level package with a vendor who has more functionality than you need currently. You can move up to a higher subscription level as you grow versus a point solution that you quickly grow out of and then must start all over again with another vendor. If you’re doing your inbound marketing right, you’ll grow out of your entry level requirements before you know it.
4 – What is your preferred method of collecting emails and building your list?
All of the above! I’m a big proponent of A/B testing and suggest that you experiment with different CTAs (calls-to-action), offers and different ways of introducing those CTAs. Your website and email list are two of your biggest assets and both should get continuous marketing love. Sumo Me did a great blog post that listed 85 ways to grow your list. I think it is far more important that you have a solid strategy behind what you’re doing. Whatever method you use will fail if you’re not targeting the right person at the right time with the right message.
5 – What are you best tips for writing effective email titles/content that get opens and clicks?
It all starts with strategy. As I mentioned above, the method you use, or the catchy headline you write, will fail if it’s not going to the right person at the right time. It is critical that you understand who your buyer is and develop solid buyer personas, understand their buying process and what content they need at each stage of the process. Once this is mapped out, the writing comes much more easily.
As for writing, everyone is busy, so I prefer to keep things short and direct. Make sure your title and content answers the all-important buyer question, “What’s in it for me?” Then run A/B tests to see which headline resonates.
6 – Based off your own experience, is it better to send long form or short form written content in emails to your mailing list?
The majority of companies I work with are selling to other businesses (B2B) and, like most people, their buyers are busy and impatient. They prefer clear, easy to read content that doesn’t take long to read. I don’t try to trick them and always lay out the benefits (what’s in it for them; why they should bother reading) upfront. As mentioned above though, we always A/B test emails and track and analyze the analytics so that we don’t just “think” we know what our audience wants, but we have hard data to back it up.
7 – What is the best way to setup an effective autoresponder series?
That depends. There are about a dozen different types of email campaigns – lead nurturing, lead generation, re-engaging old leads, upsell/cross-sell, etc. – and the answer may vary based on type, industry, audience segment, etc. To gauge effectiveness, I recommend watching email analytics such as unsubscribes, which will help you determine if you’re emailing too much, for instance.
For example, if we are doing a lead generation offer we may send an automated email immediately with the requested content, then send 5-7 emails over the couple of weeks, and then do once per month from there. A good rule of thumb for a lead nurturing sequence is the length of the sales process – if your usual sales process takes 6-8 months, then build a nurturing sequence that is at least that long. Use the emails to answer objections and questions you would expect to get in the sales process and offer content to educate and keep the prospect engaged.
8 – If you had to start over from scratch and only had $1,000 to start a new mailing list, how would you spend it?
Great question! I would create a piece of valuable content – a webinar with a panel of experts for example (make sure to record it) – and get the experts to promote to their list. If you can’t get the experts to promote it, then I would recommend Facebook advertising (in addition to all of the other channels to promote such as your website, social media, etc.).
9 – Lots of site owners and marketers have mailing lists, but they aren’t making money with them. What are they doing wrong?
I would say the #1 issue I see is that companies have a list, but aren’t using it. They may send out an ad-hoc email once or twice a year, but that’s it. There also is a serious quality issue with the emails they do send out. They look like they’re coming from an amateur, and these impressions matter – it reflects on your business.
The second thing I see is that they have no strategy. They may send an email to keep their list up to date but have no real strategy with goals and specific campaigns.
The first thing I do for any new Ariad Partners client that needs leads or revenue quickly, is ask them if they have a list and get started on email marketing. It’s that important of an asset.
10 – If you could tell online marketers and brand one thing that could improve their email marketing and list growth, what would it be?
Strategy, strategy, strategy. Make sure you have nailed your buyer personas (who you’re targeting), what their #1 pain point is and how you can solve it for them. Write all your offers, ads and any other content as if you’re talking to that person only. As I mentioned above, all the tools in the world won’t help you if you don’t have this part down.