Tim Watson Email Marketing Expert Interview

One of the most surprising things about business in the world today, is how many brands still aren’t online or even have a mailing list of their own. Something that we have continually seen over the years is brick and mortar companies go out of business simply because they haven’t adapted with the changing environment around them. Building an email list isn’t just something that every brand or business should be doing, it’s also something that is costing you heavily as new subscriber opportunities are missed daily.

As we continually stress the importance of building a mailing list and converting your site visitors into valuable subscribers, we also want to get opinions and expertise from outsiders as well. In this week’s featured email marketing experts interview, we have Tim Watson.

Tim is an online marketing expert who has been in the game since 1994 and knows a thing or two about how to find success in the world of online marketing and email. Through his site at ZettaSphere, Tim offers a wide range of email marketing solutions, with the common goal of getting more ROI out of every subscriber on your list.

Take a few minutes to discover what Tim had to say about email marketing today, and how to get even more out of your email marketing efforts.

tim_watson1 – Please briefly tell us about yourself and how you got started with online marketing.

I’ve always been an early adopter of technology and was online from around 1994, having used bulletin board systems prior to that.

I launched a piece of shareware software using email around 2000 and not long after was offered a position to join one of the early movers in the email marketing industry.

I’ve not done much else since and have been working as an email marketing consultant for many years. It turns out it’s the perfect combination of marketing, technology and analytical approach that I really enjoy. And the reward comes to see the response after sending a campaign.

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?

It’s certainly up there amongst the best channels, typically in the top two or three. Of course, the brand makes a difference. I consult with brands on email marketing where the channel contributes anything up to 70% of the online revenue. Though more typically the figure is between 5% and 20%.

One thing is clear, email can deliver value for all brands. After all, retaining customers is what all brands desire and the directness of relationship with email is hard to beat.

The need for social networks to make money has let email retain its high value. With organic reach on social media so low, social media has become pay to play. When a customer trusts you and allows you to contact them by email it’s powerful and cost effective.

That’s not to say social media doesn’t have a role in marketing. Just that there is no sign it is replacing email.

Mobile has been great for email. Mobile means many people are checking their email inbox several times an hour. The combination of email and mobile makes it an always on 24/7 connected channel.

3 – With so many different email platforms to choose from, what should marketers specifically be looking for?

There are certainly hundreds of vendors offering email services. I always advise to look at your email marketing needs first and then find the right solution, rather than look for a platform that has lots of shiny features and expect to then work out how to use them.

The pain of switching email platforms means that a platform needs to have the capabilities for your next two years minimum – or better the next five years.

  • Capability. Does it enable you to implement your chosen strategy? Now and for your vision.
  • Ease of use. Whilst it may be capable, is it easy enough to use? A great platform that needs too much resource to drive, inevitably means half of the great email marketing initiatives never get completed.
  • Help resources. Is there extensive and searchable online help to get quick answers to using the technology? How about help videos or active user community?
  • What level of phone and account support is provided? Do you want to be able to talk to the vendor when needed? If you are being offered an account manager how many other clients does the account manager handle? You may find your dedicated account manager has less than 1 hour a week available to your account.
  • Integration options. Does the vendor provide integrations with other platforms? Either themselves or through an active third party market place of integrations.
  • Availability of third party expertise. If you are likely to want to get external help, is there a plentiful supply of people who know the platform well?
  • Does the vendor have a history of keeping up with changing technology? Don’t get saddled to a vendor with few resources or inclination to keep pushing the platform forwards.
  • Cost and hidden extras or options. What are the costs for email volume, overage, license, per user costs and so on.

4 – What is your preferred method of collecting emails and building your list?

Simply speaking, my preferred method is to ask for an email address as often as possible in as many different places as possible. The more you ask the more you get. Of course ask in the right way, at the right time and with a clear benefit.

In terms of specific techniques, popups are highly effective. Even though everyone says they hate them, they continue to work well. Note that starting January, Google has said they will rank mobile pages with popups, that obscure the searched for content, lower.

To really put popups on steroids as an email address capture technique, make the incentive used in the popup custom to the content and context of the page the customer is viewing. That increases the relevance of the popup and improves the capture conversion rate.

5 – What are your best tips for writing effective email titles/content that get opens and clicks?

I find it amazing that even after a dozen years or more of talking about great subject lines we are still doing so. And not without good reason, they are important.

Subject lines are much like headlines for articles. With the difference of an added need for bit more curiosity and teasing. Tease a little and appeal to emotion in the subject line. Here are several examples of question-based subject lines

There have been many studies about subject line length too. Some of these even contradict each other. Of course front load a subject line to get the important hook words at the start. But don’t worry so much about the length, focus on the message not the number of characters.

Remember too that more people won’t open your email than will. However, many of those who don’t open, do see your subject line. So make sure many of your subject lines carry a message about your brand and offer that conveys information for non-openers too.

6 – Based off your own experience, is it better to send long form or short form written content in emails to your mailing list?

Make it as short as possible to achieve your objective. Most campaigns have the objective of getting a click, with the sale happening on the landing page.

That doesn’t mean make is short just make every word count. It’s often said write your copy, half it and then half it again. Then it will be about the right length.

Long copy can work when well-constructed, short paragraphs that link together building up a convincing story.

If your objective is to get a reply, someone to pick-up the phone or walk into a shop you’ll probably need to make it longer. Those are higher commitment responses, and more copy will be needed to be persuasive.

7 – What is the best way to setup an effective autoresponder series?

Again there is no universal answer. Though most people probably have too few emails in an autoresponder series. Why just one welcome email when someone joins your list? At that moment of strong brand interest and engagement it could be three.

Is your autoresponder in response to an inquiry? Then use an autoresponder sequence that starts off with higher frequency and gradually reduces. Better still, increase the marketing pressure again if the contact shows engagement again.

Autoresponders are good to include in your strategy but email automation also has limits.

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?

I’d put the money into creating a compelling offer for someone to provide their email address. Create something that is going to be valued that you can give away to each person who signs up.

9 – Lots of site owners and marketers have mailing lists, but they aren’t making money with them. What are they doing wrong?

There are many reasons why this could be the case, though to be honest this isn’t the case with most of the people I meet.

Perhaps the list itself is not of great quality, an organically grown permission-based list has 5 to 10x the response rate of third party data.

Or maybe not enough emails are being sent to the list, in some verticals the right email frequency is surprisingly high. Some marketers worry about people unsubscribing or being offended by being sent an email. If they gave you permission to contact them then the worse that can happen is they unsubscribe. Don’t worry that you get unsubscribers, that’s normal, it turns out that not everyone who signs up is perfect for you.

If the list is solid then consider the offer. Is the right offer and content being sent? A compelling offer is more important than the email design. So making a great design with a poor offer really won’t work well.

10 – If you could tell online marketers and brand one thing that could improve their email marketing and list growth, what would it be?

Find your own uniqueness as a brand and in your email style. Try to provide something that is engaging, even for those people who aren’t going to click today. If the email content is interesting, entertaining, thought provoking or helpful then at least the reader will be happy to keep on reading your emails until the day they really do need your brand.

Special thanks to Tim Watson for taking the time to share his email marketing tips and expertise. Check back weekly for a new interview in our Email Marketing Experts series!