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3 Basic Building Blocks All Email Marketers Must Master

3 Basic Building Blocks All Email Marketers Must MasterEmail marketing is remarkably easy to do—or so many people think, usually people new to the practice. In truth, email is extremely difficult to do correctly. But, it’s easy to get email addresses and send messages, so there is a perception of ease to it.

In reality, however, effective email marketing is complex. It must be done both strategically and carefully. For anyone new to the field, this kind of complexity is out of sight and admittedly out of reach. It’s like learning to drive a racecar: You don’t start with the racecar as your first car as a teenager, right? You start out learning how to drive something much more basic, like your parents’ car.

In the same way, you start out with the email basics. Later, as you get more into email marketing, you will inevitably learn about most if not all of the many moving pieces that make up email marketing, pieces such as list building, list hygiene, segmentation, automation, triggered emails, responsive design, mobile marketing, reactivation campaigns, dynamic content, deliverability issues, IP addresses, sender authentication, email copywriting, subject lines, preheader text, calls to action, HTML and text-only emails, rendering, CASL and CAN SPAM compliance, bounces, cross-channel marketing, graylisting, email analytics, and more…so much more.

Do you see why email is actually far from easy, and that the newbie is not going to jump right in and start driving that racecar?

However, you have to start somewhere, right? So here are three pointers that will help you get off to a good start as an email marketing newbie: 1) stop selling, 2) focus on list building and 3) be consistent. If you can master these basic mindsets from the start, you will be a better email marketer as you start learning the more advanced techniques.

One: Stop selling, start serving

Don’t misunderstand me. At some point, you must be selling. Otherwise, there’s little point to your email marketing. However, many newbies make the mistake of only selling via email. And that’s a turnoff for the people on the receiving end, plus a brand buster. If all anyone gets from you is a “buy now” message, how many emails will it take before they either ignore you, delete your emails without opening them, unsubscribe, or report your emails as spam? Because all four are very likely options!

So from the very start, back away from the sell, sell, sell mentality of email marketing. The best email marketing makes your subscribers and customers feel like they are getting something of value from you, something besides the kind of “buy now” messages they will get from your competitors.

Here’s a concept for you to wrap your head around: Your email exists to do more than push for profits. Your email exists to build relationships with your prospects and customers.

Does that change how you think about email?

Another article here on the IMA website makes this point so well by illustrating the contrast between the “buy now” approach and the helpful one. Although the author is talking specifically about Pinterest, the point she’s making is valid to possibly every marketing channel. You need a mix of selling and telling, meaning selling your product on the one hand and telling your subscribers useful information, on the other.

With your email marketing, your end goal is the still same: to convince people they need to buy from you. But sometimes it’s a matter of repackaging your content to take a different approach.

Second, ABBYL

Yes, ABBYL, as in Always Be Building Your List, and yes, I made that up.

The more people on your email list, the more potential customers (and sales) you will have. A strategic approach to list growth will do you more good than a haphazard one, however, because you want to build a quality list, not a quantity one.

A quality list is one populated with the names of people who want to hear from you. Choosing to build a quantity list instead is a very common mistake made by both novice email marketers and seasoned ones alike. But think about it: If you have a list of 1,000 names of people who want to hear from you vs. a list of 10,000 names of people who don’t, which list do you think will generate better results over time? It seems counterintuitive to strive for a smaller, better list over a bigger one, but it pays off in the end.

The best way to go about building a results-oriented quality list is to develop a strategy for your list growth. Resources abound for this. Here are a two of my favorites: an article on list building basics published here at the IMA site, and another on email list building 101 published on my company’s blog.

Third, be consistent

So the first mindset you’re going to master is to be helpful by giving your subscribers useful information. The second mindset you’re going to master is to focus on constantly building your list. And the third? The third is to strive for consistency, in several ways.

You want to send your email on a regular, consistent basis. You want your emails to have the same voice each time and the same general look. Why? Because you want to get people into the habit of seeing your emails in their inboxes. Don’t repeat yourself every time, which goes back to the first point of avoiding constant “buy now” messages. But don’t sound casual and chatty one week then formal and stiff the next. Don’t switch templates with each send, and try to consistently portray your brand with each email.

This applies to frequency too, also known as cadence. Decide what your sending schedule will be and stick to it. Don’t send emails twice a week for two months, then once every two months. Don’t send daily one week and monthly thereafter. You’ll want to test to see which frequency works best, but that comes later.

By maintaining this kind of consistency, you will train people to watch for your emails and anticipate them, especially when you’re providing good and useful content as in step one, and sending your emails to people who really care as in step two.

Does this sound boring when really all you want to do is get into that race car and speed your way to email marketing success? Probably. So think of these three pointers or mindsets to be building blocks to later success and greater knowledge in the email marketing field. Master these three as a newbie and grow from there, knowing you have the basics covered, and later you’ll be able to master the more complex parts of email marketing with better speed and agility…just like you’re tearing around that racetrack.

Photo Credit: gillianmurphy Flickr via Compfight cc

This post was first published on Integrated Marketing Association.

Marco Marini