I know that as an online business owner, there are so many sources of businesses advice. From Facebook groups to online forums, and more experts than you could possibly count, there are plenty of people out there who will try and tell you the “right” way to do things.
And while most of this advice is probably well meaning, the reality is that business advice is not one size fits all.
This is especially true when it comes to email marketing.
Because the truth is that the kind of email marketing that works for an information based business is very different than the kind of email marketing that works for a product based business.
I know this because I run both kinds of businesses and use very different strategies for each.
Not only do these different strategies reflect the different products and services I sell for each, but they also reflect that the customers for each business have very different motivations for engaging with my list and making a purchase.
Since there’s so much conflicting info out there, I thought it would be helpful to explain how I use my email lists differently for both Designing an MBA (my info biz) and Megan Auman Jewelry (my product biz).
Before I dive into the differences, let me start with the similarities.
First off, you’ll never hear me refer to either list as a newsletter. That’s because newsletters suck.
They suck for consumers because no one wants to read a newsletter. Your customers are busy people, and the word newsletter conjures up long emails full of a million different ideas that no one wants to read.
And they suck for business owners because they make you feel like you have to send them too infrequently and jam them full of information. That means that when you think of your email list as a newsletter, you’re much more likely to take too long to write it, thus never actually getting it done.
Which brings me to the most important similarity between the email strategy of my two businesses. Whenever I send an email to either list, I focus on one idea per email.
And that’s it.
For either business, I’ve learned that simple is much more effective when it comes to getting your customers to take action.
Now that we’ve covered the key similarities, it’s time to look at the major differences:
1. The opt-in offer.
For my Designing an MBA list, I offer a free PDF download of my best blog posts. This makes sense and tracks with the advice you’ll hear from many an info marketer. That’s because people (like you) who come to Designing an MBA are looking for information.
For my jewelry biz, I offer no such content based opt-in incentive.
Now, I can tell you that I’ve experimented with the kind of opt-in incentives that info marketers love. My most recent experiment was a quiz that helped identity a customer’s style profile. And from the standpoint of getting people onto my list, it worked.
But I can also tell you that not a single person who joined my list through that style quiz has ever bought something from my site.
Not a single person.
And it’s not because my emails don’t generate sales. (My email list accounts for about 50% of my online sales, so I know it’s doing it’s job.) It’s because there’s no way to guarantee that someone who takes a quiz about finding their personal style is actually interested in my product.
So what does work to incentivize someone to join a product based list?
You want people on your list who actually want to buy your product. So the best incentives are those that encourage that. I like to use some combination of “be the first to shop,” “get access to exclusive sales,” and “get free shipping.”
The get exclusive access to sales offer works well when it’s made with a big sale on the horizon. I often use it as a call to action to get my Instagram followers to join my mailing list the week leading up to a big sale. It creates buzz and gives people a very specific reason to join the list.
I also find that I get good results from the “get free shipping” call to action. Ironically, I already offer free shipping in my online store for domestic orders over $125, but I still see people using my free shipping code even if they are above that threshold. The promise of something free (that makes it easier to get the thing they want) is a powerful motivator to join my list.
The bottom line here is that, if you’re selling information, information is a good tool to get people on your list. But if you’re selling products, you only want people on your list who are truly fans of your products.
This may mean that your list is smaller than the numbers infopreneurs are always throwing around, but the people on your list will be much more likely to buy, which is the only reason to have an email list in the first place.
2. Email frequency.
If I was equally focused on both businesses, email frequency would probably also fall into the category of looking the same for both businesses. But because my main focus in on my jewelry business, I actually email that list much more frequently.
As I already mentioned in this post, email accounts for a full 50% of my online sales revenue. The reason for this is simple. I make reaching out to my email list my highest priority.
What that means in practical terms is that I aim to email my list once a week, but I never let more than two weeks go by without emailing my list. No matter what else I’ve got going on.
With Designing an MBA, I email my list only when I’ve really got something to say. This works because I’m not relying on Designing an MBA as my main source of income. (That comes from my jewelry biz.)
But with my jewelry list, I have a commitment to send an email out every week or every other week, and knowing that, I make myself come up with something to say.
Every week. (Or every other.)
3. Email content.
The reason I can email my jewelry list every week (or every other) is that I keep the emails short and sweet.
With Designing an MBA, my emails are long form, text based, and content driven. That makes sense because I’m providing information to an audience that wants information.
With my jewelry business, my emails are mainly focused on images, with just a little bit of text and a strong call to action.
Actually, let me rephrase that.
With my jewelry business, my emails are ONE great image, a little bit of text, and a strong call to action.
That’s because, after sending more than thirty emails a year to my jewelry list every year for the last several years, I can confidently say that emails with exactly one image get the best clickthrough.
As soon as I add more images, clickthrough goes down.
And clickthrough is the second most important stat I pay attention to in email marketing for my jewelry business, because people can’t buy if they don’t click over to your site.
The most important stat is, of course, revenue, but the one image rule applies there as well. (Sidenote: I use Mailchimp for my email marketing because it’s integration with Shopify means I know exactly how much revenue I’ve generated from any particular email.)
The reason clickthrough goes down with multiple images is that too many images kills curiosity. With one great image, people get a taste of what you’re selling, but they have to click over to the site if they want to see more.
A single image gets them excited, but too many images leads to “eh, I’ve already seen enough.”
The other benefit of the single image strategy is that it keeps your emails focused on one idea and one call to action.
Not only does this make it easier to generate new email content week in and week out, it actually makes things easier for your customers. (I had a customer/friend tell me she looks forward to opening my emails because she knows she’ll always see a beautiful image and not a ton of text.)
4. The call to action.
The final way that my product based biz emails differ from info-marketing based emails is in the call to action.
Not all of my emails to my Designing an MBA list include a call to action. Sometimes, they are just me emailing out a blog post. (Just like this one.) In the case of these emails, I want to make it as easy as possible for my audience to get the information. So I drop the full blog post in the email and send it out.
But with my jewelry list, the goal isn’t to inform. It’s to sell.
Yes, sometimes I want to inform or inspire while I’m selling. (Because that’s what good salespeople do.) But ultimately, the goal is to sell a product.
In order to do that, I have to get people from my email list to my online store. And that requires a strong call to action.
To make it as clear as possible what I want someone to do, I’ll include a call to action at the end of the short text in my email that follows my one great image. But I’ll also repeat the same call to action below the text with a big, prominent button.
That way, if someone isn’t in the mood to read, that one great image plus a “shop now” button is enough to move them over to my online store.
Because that’s probably the biggest difference between email marketing for an info biz vs. email marketing for a product biz. With a product based business, visuals are king.
And while it’s the job of an info marketer to inform and persuade with words, in a product based business, it’s safer to assume your customers aren’t there to read. So let your visuals do most of the work when it comes to your email marketing, and leave the long, wordy emails to the infopreneurs.
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Need more help with your email marketing? Check out my class on Creative Live, Simple Email Marketing for Makers!