Do you think your email list is a cash cow?
Do you believe if you get enough people on your list the money will just roll in?
Are you convinced a certain template will magically convert droves of subscribers?
The harsh reality is that you can’t paint by the numbers and hope to get a Picasso. You might get a nice picture of dogs playing cards, but is that really what you want? If profiting from email was really that simple wouldn’t we all be rich?
This post is part of the June Word Carnival. The topic is The Care and Feeding of Your Email List. Click the link to get a variety of perspectives from an amazing group of small business experts.
How to Profit from Painting Outside the (Email List) Lines
Size Does (Not?) Matter
When I began to promote my business online I was bombarded with the message to grow my list or else….
You know what I’m talking about. That feeling you’re being surrounded by vendors, each shouting a little louder than the next to buy their list building services right now. If everyone is saying the money’s in the list, and the list must be huge, then shouldn’t you be building a gargantuan list?
It’s not the size of the list but the quality of the list. Would you rather own a tiny painting by Monet, or a large paint by numbers painting of Elvis on velvet? (If you picked Elvis, well what can I say? Elvis? On velvet? I think you may need a style intervention.)
Ahem. Back to email list size. There are two other numbers that are much more important than the size of your list; Open Rate and Conversion Rate. Open Rate is simply the percentage of emails you sent out that were actually opened by the people on your list. While there’s no one perfect source for the average email open rate, most commentators fall in a range of 20 to 25%. Clearly a list of 500 with a 70% open rate reaches far more than a list of 10,000 with an open rate of 1%.
Someone read your email, great. What you really want is for them to buy something right?
To put money in the bank you need to focus on your conversion rate.
Conversion rate is the percentage of people who actually purchase something promoted in your email. You can have a list with 1 million people on it, but if your conversion rate is 0% you won’t make any money.
If you believe everything you read on the internet, conversion rates can span from 1% to over 20%. If you’re a cynical so-and-so like me, you believe that the legitimate number is around 3 to 4%. Of course the higher quality list you have, the higher you can expect this number to go.
The Numbers Whisperer™ caveat – if you have zero people on your mailing list it will be very hard to profit from it, so yes size does matter to some extent.
Goldilocks of Email – Strident, Silence and Sublime
Should you send an email every day? Once a week? Once a month? On a full moon? What about every blue moon? Every so-called expert will tell you something different. Here’s my take…
Timing is everything with email. Send too often (strident), and you’ll get ignored or even start losing people. Personally unless the sign-up clearly states “daily”, I’m going to unsubscribe if you bombard me every day.
On the other hand silence is not golden with an email list. Wait too long between emails they may forget who you are, forget why they care, and even worse, forget they signed up and mark you as spam. While I blush to admit I have gone longer than I should, I recommend sending emails at least monthly.
If you’re not sure how often is often enough for your list, why not ask them? If you’re building a new list, I suggest you state the number of emails they can expect right on the form. Your subscribers are as unique as you and your business, sublime for you may not be what works for others. Remember a list is useless if you’re constantly adding new names to replace lost subscribers.
The 80 / 20 Rule
I know, I know. I said profit is not by the numbers and here I’m giving you a number, two in fact.
What can I say? I’m a rebel at heart.
80% of the content in your emails needs to be informative, fun, entertaining or useful in some way that does not directly make you money. No more than 20% should appear to be selling. Otherwise you’re simply the annoying people in the mall kiosks who harass everyone as they walk by.
Bonus Tip (Courtesy of Aladdin)
My 3 year old daughter is going through an Aladdin phase. She loves the Disney animated version, and I’m thankful it includes some great humor by Robin Williams as the voice of the genie.
You’ll see plenty of email templates available online. The authors claim you can just insert a few key words or terms and they work like magic. I beg to differ. Your subscribers want to hear from you. Like it or not, those templates sound like someone else (and they’re usually BORING).
Take the ideas shared in the templates and make them your own, in your own voice. That is what your subscribers signed up for. Not an echo chamber of the internet’s latest spiel.
What are some numbers you’ve found work or don’t work with your list? How do you care for your subscribers? What are some things that have worked in driving sales? What has failed?
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