When I first started online in the early 2000s, if you wanted to communicate (digitally) with your prospects and customers en masse, it was either email, or… well, email.
Facebook wasn’t yet a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye; Twitter was even further beyond the digital horizon. WordPress didn’t yet exist – if you wanted to blog, you headed to LiveJournal.
Publishing content on a website often involved a well-worn copy of How to Use HTML (or similar!), and late nights spent figuring out <head> and <body> tags, and everything in between.
Oh yes! I’m almost forgetting the painfully slow dial-up Internet connection that made publishing even the most basic bit of content painfully slow. (Not to mention hogging the phone line while you did it. Fun times!)
Zoom forward to the current day and you can communicate with (and build up tribes of) thousands of people in your market on multiple platforms, and across a multitude of devices. And do so quickly and easily.
Email marketing remains vitally important of course. Through communicating one-to-one directly with a subscriber, it’s one of the most powerful ways to build trust, credibility and a sense of relationship.
It’s also just another such content platform…
Yet many businesses still approach email marketing without any thought to an integrated strategy that more effectively reaches and communicates with their marketplace across multiple platforms, and at the same time creates long-term content assets for their business.
Instead, their approach is disjointed. Each platform, including email, is treated as a completely separate entity, demanding completely different content.
The resulting and unsurprising sense of overwhelm gives way to an either-or mentality that restricts their reach, and even leads to a gradual decline of online visibility.
It’s not their fault. They just emulate what most other businesses seem to be doing. They follow incorrect, or at best incomplete, advice that hasn’t quite caught up with present-day reality.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. There is a solution…
In this post, I’ll share with you:
- Three common mistakes businesses make with email marketing.
- How you can leverage content to both resolve these issues, and lead to greater online visibility as a whole. (And the amount gained far exceeds the extra effort involved…)
Email Marketing Mistake #1: No Content
This is where the business owner has difficulties knowing what to send to their list.
Or worse, they’re scared to send anything in case people unsubscribe.
(TIP: Whatever you send, people will unsubscribe. It’s not personal. But it is natural. People’s needs change and/or aren’t aligned to what you offer. They weren’t valuable to you anyway. It’s good they’ve gone and helped clean up your list. To grow a responsive list, you need to (a) acquire more than you lose; and (b) email often.)
So they end up only emailing only rarely. When they do it’s often to promote something (they’re unsure what else to send).
The only problem is there’s no relationship on which to make the promotion successful. It’s like the friend who only calls when they want something.
Their list is stale. Their subscribers have forgotten who they are, or otherwise resent the intrusion. They unsubscribe (or shout spam) in numbers.
The business owner’s fears have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Few results to show for the mailing, other than a smaller list, spam complaints, and increased fear about mailing again.
But huge, untapped potential if only they approach it the right way.
Email Marketing Mistake #2: Single-Use Content
I see many business owners doing this.
They send regular emails with good, engaging content to their list, and build up good relationships. Off the back of the content, they suggest products and services to their subscribers that add value, solve problems, and ease lives.
All well and good.
The only problem is, the content they’ve spent crafting – often for an hour or two to get it right – is only used once. After they’ve clicked Send, and a proportion of their list has opened, read and otherwise engaged with the content, it’s gone.
It’s not used anywhere else.
There’s no long-term content asset created that continues to add value for their business long after the email’s gone out. Give it a few months, the business owner will likely forget the content ever even existed.
Yes, on the one side, they’ve got the results from the mailing. It’s all in line with their usual expectations. Success!
But there’s still half the pie left on the table. Unnoticed, forgotten, unloved. They can’t even see it.
That same content could have been leveraged effectively across multiple channels, rather than just used in a single email.
That same content they’ve now lost forever could be working long-term for their business. It could be increasing their authority and influence on multiple sites, attracting traffic, building their list, and growing their online visibility.
Email Marketing Mistake #3: Wrong Content
This is where some business owners focus almost entirely on value extraction rather than value-add.
They send a continual stream of offers and promotions to their list that aims to ‘extract’ maximum dollars in the shortest time frame before the subscriber decides to relegate the emails to spam or unsubscribe completely.
Unlike #2 above, there’s little respect for the subscriber, and little attempt to add value or build a relationship. It’s just about take.
The result can be an ongoing necessity for high levels of fresh, incoming leads to compensate for subscriber churn and tired response rates; rather than a loyal, responsive list, willing to share, engage and refer, that represents a long-term asset for the business.
As a case in point, I know of at least one ‘big name, big list’ marketer who knows he only has about a month to extract all the value he can out of a new lead (there’s little language of ‘relationship’) before they become entirely worthless.
Most of what he brings in goes straight back out on lead acquisition; most of the wealth and perceived high levels of income, illusory.
The good news is that all three mistakes or issues can be resolved by leveraging content effectively as part of an integrated content marketing strategy.
The first key point is to fully grasp that email is just another content platform…
In the same way you would publish content to your blog, to LinkedIn Pulse, Medium, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, SlideShare, YouTube, and so on… so you would publish content to your email list.
The general approach is that all content is published first to your blog.
Your blog acts as the root of your whole content tree that then spreads its branches far and wide online, building your visibility and exposure, and attracting quality traffic, leads and other opportunities back to you.
Or to use another but similar analogy, each post on your blog is the seed from which other content across multiple content platforms – including email – can then grow.
By focusing first on your blog, you create a content asset for your business that can then work to your benefit in multiple ways.
I’ll summarize just 3 of these (if you want more, here are 6 big benefits from blog publishing), and then bring it back to how email marketing fits in.
Increasing Organic Search Traffic
With regularly created content, you build up your rankings and authority on search across a range of related keywords that attracts your market.
(Related post: How I Grew My Traffic From Organic Search By 1,465% In 12 Months)
This steadily increases the amount of traffic your site quite naturally attracts over time. Traffic from search is targeted and high-quality, and significantly more likely to convert into leads than traffic from some types of advertising.
Leads from search have a 14.6% close rate, compared to a 1.7% close rate for outbound leads (e.g. direct mail or print advertising)
Search Engine Journal
A Growing Knowledgebase
Your blog becomes an effective knowledgebase you can refer prospects and customers to in future.
For example, by pointing a potential customer to content on your blog in answer to a query, you:
- Provide a more comprehensive response than an email reply could reasonably give them.
- Gain trust and build authority with them.
- Through comments on the blog, gain a certain level of social proof and legitimacy.
It also means you’re less reliant on customer support operatives to provide the right information, and their work becomes easier for them and more cost-effective for you.
Building Your Reach
I’ve already mentioned how content on your blog acts as the seed content from which other content can then grow.
Each platform is different and has its own nuances in terms of how content should be presented.
For example, while long-form content (2000+ words) generally works best on your blog for maximum search visibility (including link attraction), it wouldn’t be appropriate to send that length of content out in an email.
…posts with 1800 or more words have a much higher average of linking domains.
You may find that shorter versions of your content work best on say LinkedIn Pulse and/or Medium to attract maximum engagement. Engagement may be your primary motivation on these channels, rather than long-term search visibility, and shorter content can work more effectively for that.
So the key is to repurpose the content over time for individual platforms.
What’s more, by repurposing the content in this way, you’re creating different content. So it gives you multiple more chances to show in search.
Why? Can’t You Just Stick With Your Blog?
The truth is, as useful as it is to publish content on your blog, by only publishing there, you’re missing out on all the engagement you can achieve on other platforms.
The good news is this engagement can often be far higher than you get on your blog alone.
Here’s an example of exactly what I mean.
My recent post How I Grew My Traffic From Organic Search By 1,465% In 12 Months has so far attracted just 239 views, along with 3 comments and a few shares:
However, content on the blog is largely a long-term play, and traffic to the post will of course increase over time. It’s already attracting Google traffic for example.
I also repurposed the same content as a post on LinkedIn Pulse (view it here), and it has so far attracted:
- 2,260 views – that’s 10x higher than my blog post
- 254 likes – each like gives the content more visibility
- 22 comments – that’s 7x higher than the blog post
In addition, and unreflected in the stats above, the post also attracted 65 shares, some 20x higher than the social shares on the blog post alone.
While this is just one platform and one post (it doesn’t happen every time), it shows what’s possible. By building your network and your content on a particular platform, you make such engagement levels more likely.
Okay, I Get It! How Does This Relate To Email?
So that’s the bigger picture.
In terms of email marketing, here’s how it helps.
Let’s revisit the three email marketing mistakes I shared above.
1. No Content.
Once you’re publishing content to your blog regularly, it solves the problem of not knowing what to send to your list, or worse, not communicating with them at all.
When you’re not communicating at all of course, you lose what should be primary business asset, and a profit driver.
Instead, each time you publish content to your blog, you’re leveraging that content by using it to communicate effectively with (and add value to) your list. You simply repurpose the content for a broadcast email, just as you might for any other content platform.
Here’s how I currently approach it. You can see all the different elements that help connect with the subscriber, build relationship, and encourage click-through to content that will benefit them:
Obviously it doesn’t have to be this involved. Allow it to evolve and improve over time.
The above might look complicated, but in fact only takes a few minutes to put together.
I use a bit of software to enter in the intro, post title, post content, featured image and feedback, and click a button. The HTML I need is spewed out and ready to paste into my email software to send out. Even the section for the older content is automatically retrieved based on my most recent posts.
If you’re just getting started, begin with a simpler plain text email, and build up from there.
If you do move to HTML email at some point, or if you’re already there, remember to ensure the email is responsive. That means it should display equally well regardless of whether the subscriber opened the email on desktop, mobile, or tablet.
This is important because stats show a large proportion of emails are now opened on mobile. The exact number ranges widely between 15% and 70%, depending on niche. If your email can’t be read, you’ll be affected by reduced response rates and lower deliverability as your emails get relegated to spam.
Here are some resources that may help:
- Litmus provide a free download of responsive email templates (email required). For email designers, they also have paid plans available to access their web-based editor.
- Zurb also provide a free download of responsive email templates.
- To check your HTML emails, a free tool from Contactology allows you to paste in your email’s HTML and view it across various email clients, both desktop and online.
So, by starting with this strategy, rather than a cold list, you’re now communicating regularly with the people on your list, and building up that relationship.
When you run promotions to that list, the list is warmer and more receptive. You can spread the value your business offers more easily, and become more profitable as a result.
What’s more, you get all the significant benefits from having a growing blog as well. It’s transformative.
2. Single-Use Content.
As a quick reminder, this is where the list owner is sending great content to their list, often evocative, interesting and engaging. But that’s where it ends. It’s once-only, single-use content.
They’re not leveraging that content for further, ongoing benefits. They’re essentially throwing a lot of value down the toilet.
This is their current model:
Yes, you get traffic, and hopefully generate some profits, when you send out the email. But the traffic is not the sustainable, ongoing kind.
The traffic might even be going some place else, if they’re say recommending a third-party product or service.
This is all fine if you only think short-term. But there are long-term benefits waiting to be claimed with a slight shift in strategy.
(And history shows us business owners tend to ignore the long-term at their peril).
Yet, they have the content already created in order to take full advantage of those long-term benefits, simply through using the content more strategically.
Here’s how the revised model might look:
Instead of, What content shall I create for this email?, the thought process shifts to What content shall I create for my blog that I can then repurpose for my email, and get multiple other advantages out of too?
This doesn’t preclude sending out promotional emails where the content simply wouldn’t work as a blog post or as content elsewhere.
Nor does it mean always sending out the type of email in the section above where you’re linking back to a post.
It might just be that the content you would have ordinarily just sent out in an email would also work well as a blog post (they don’t all have to be 2000+ words!), with a few adjustments, for long-term gain.
The main point is this. It is about recognizing the possibilities that exist and extracting maximum leverage from the content you do create wherever possible.
3. Wrong Content.
For list owners focused almost entirely on short-term value extraction, a shift in focus to creating blog first content that works for the long-term benefits of the business, necessitates creating value for the reader of that content.
Otherwise there will simply be no long-term benefits. A blog full of spammy, buy now type posts will get little search visibility; and the same posts won’t work too well published on other content platforms either.
Instead, through creating blog content first, and then using that content as the basis of more positive lead communication, they begin to build a more sustainable, profitable and healthy business.
Deliverability goes up; subscriber churn goes down; response rates increase.
It’s the type of business people will feel warm (rather than resentful) towards, will gladly refer others to, will naturally see as authoritative within a niche, and will purchase from repeatedly on the basis of that relationship.
Finally, effective email marketing is now just one part of building a community and an audience across multiple different content platforms, such as social media sites.
Studies show that companies that communicate across channels see significant gains in growth, conversion, and profitability versus those that don’t. In short, it’s no longer sufficient to talk to customers in one place. You need to reach them across the spectrum…
Think about how much more receptive a prospect will be to you when they don’t just hear from you via email, but get mixed-channel communications. In fact, if they have a positive relationship with you on social media sites, they’re more likely to open your email.
So they also see your content when they’re on social media; they can refer back to your blog for that post they found so useful; they come across your content on different content platforms through search or as they browse the web in general.
It’s all part of how you can Be Everywhere for your marketplace and build a significant online presence through the effective use of content.