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Email Marketing for Freelancers

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There’s some talk around the Web that email marketing is becoming a thing of the past due to the popularity of social networks. I beg to differ. Consider this: According to a recent Direct Marketing Association study, email marketing’s average return on investment (ROI) is a whopping $45.05 US for every dollar spent. That makes it the highest return of any marketing channel. Even other Internet marketing methods pale with an ROI of $19.94 for every dollar spent.

If an e-newsletter or or other email tool isn’t in your marketing toolbox, the above fact alone should pique your interest. Here are some other bits of information to excite your inner email marketer.

E-newsletters are dirt cheap to produce

When compared to postal mailings, email wins, hands down. Producing a postcard, self mailer or other mailing piece requires a few basic things. You’ll need to have it printed, you’ll need a list and you’ll need to buy postage. Sure, you can print it on demand with an inkjet printer, but the results will likely be somewhat less than professional. Plus, you risk poor positioning in the recipient’s mind when they think, “Hmmm ... must not be doing very well if they can’t afford to print a simple mailer.”

Beyond this, you may need to rent or purchase a mailing list, usually from a list broker. Typical mailing list pricing is based on a cost per thousand (CPM) and typical B2B lists average around 16-30 cents per name. Plus, many list brokers have a minimum fee of $500, regardless of the size of the list.

Postage for a 5” X 3-1/2” to a 6” X 4-1/4” will set you back 28 cents in the US. That’s $250 for a mailing of 1000. Even with a bulk permit, it gets pricey pretty quick. Add a mailing house into the mix and you’ll be digging even deeper into your pockets.

E-newsletter services, on the other hand, charge either by the number of emails sent or by the size of your subscriber list. Typical starting fees for top-rated email marketing services range from $9.95 US to $15.00 US per month. Plus, most offer a free trial. I doubt the Post Office will give you one of those.

Email Marketing Services Pack On Loads of Features

Typical feature sets from most services include:

  • Generating sign up form code to add to your website
  • Opt-in/out management
  • Autoresponders
  • Easy to use templates (no coding necessary)
  • Ability to use your own design & code
  • Email preview
  • Imports contacts from CSV, TXT, manual entry, cut & paste
  • Contacts management
  • Contact list segmentation (multiple lists for this and that)
  • Automatic removal of unsubscribes & opt-outs
  • Email campaign statistics – Sent, Bounces, Spam Reports, Opt-outs, Opens, Clicks & Forwards
  • Exportable reports
  • Phone, live chat & email support
  • FAQ & help sections

Response cycles for email are pretty darn quick

When you send a marketing piece by mail, it will take at least several days before you get any response. Recipients of your emails can immediately click a link, contact you or take other action. Plus, you can begin to track your email statistics within minutes of delivery.

Email is an effective method to drive visitors to your Website

Email is an online tool, the same as your site. Subscribers can open your message, click on a link and be instantly whisked away to your site or a special landing page about an offer in the message. Snail mail requires the recipient to see, and hopefully read, your poignant promotion. Then they’ve got to take the long walk to their computer and type in your site address. Considering that your prospects are busy, that’s a lot to ask. A phone call or other interruption and easily sidetrack them. They may come back and visit your site ... or not.

Email is highly trackable

You can track who open your email, when they opened it, what links were clicked and more. That’s great information to learn what’s important to your audience. If you require a name during the sign up process, you can track opens by name. That’s pretty handy.

Emails are forwardable

When was the last time you received a marketing piece in the mail and was so taken by it that you popped a label and stamp on it, ran to the mailbox and sent it to a friend or associate?

Email marketing isn’t all that tough. A large part is coming up with a topic that will resonate with your audience. If it doesn’t, folks will opt-out after just an edition or two. Your email marketing efforts should be more than simply showing off your work. Your topic might be solutions to common audience problems, tips and how-tos, case studies or a combination.

One of the biggest problems with email marketing is running out of ideas to write about. Bookmark blogs, links, articles, etc. that you can use for content research down the road. Take some time to draft a list of potential message topics. Conducting an online survey is also a good idea. Simply ask your subscribers what type of content would be of value to them.

Another big e-newsletter killer is getting busy and not having time to prepare your newsletters. Forget a couple and you’ll lose subscribers faster than a jackrabbit after a triple espresso. It’s a good idea to prepare a few in advance. Most email marketing service will allow you to create messages and schedule them for later delivery.

You’ll also want to give some thought to frequency. Will you be sending out emails once or twice per month? Perhaps weekly is better for you? A large part depends on how much quality content you can put together. Your email marketing service is also a factor. As previously mentioned, some charge by the message, others by the size of your list. Keep this under consideration when deciding on how often you’ll send.

Building Your List

After you’ve found a great topic, set up an account with an email marketing service and decided on how often you’ll send emails, the big challenge rears its head – getting subscribers and building your list.

List building, at least initially, is a stumbling point for many a marketer. With a little planning, it need not be. Start with your friends, clients and colleagues in your address book. Send out an email announcing your newsletter, why it’s the bee’s knees and what benefits they’ll get by subscribing. Be sure to include a line asking them to forward the announcement to their friends and associates.

Don’t forget to promote your newsletter with various social networking channels such as the big three – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. A retweet here and there can go a long way toward jump starting your list.

Crafting Your E-News

When it comes time to putting your email together, here are few things to keep in mind:

  • Subject lines are important

Some email marketers spend as much time on the subject line as they do on the message content. Email marketing service, MailerMailer, did a study and found the best length is 35 characters or less. In fact, that length resulted in an average of 5.1% higher open rates.

  • Avoid using all caps in the subject line. They’re perceived as shouting.
  • Avoid common spam word such as “free,” “discount” and “save.” Also avoid multiple dollar signs ($$$$), especially with exclamation points ($$$!!!!!!).
  • Test various subject lines and test some more.
  • Test sending on different days.

Finally, check your email tracking statistics. Over the course of time, you’ll learn what’s important to your readers by seeing what links they click on. Checking your open rates will aid you in drafting better subject lines. Don’t forget to check the days and times subscribers open your emails to learn the best day and time for delivering your news.

Email marketing, when done consistently with great content, is an easily affordable and potentially far reaching tool for savvy freelancers. By providing true value, you’ll soon find yourself converting subscribers into clients and maybe even evangelist for your business.

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