The IT Marketing Crash Course

Written by Raj Khera
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Chapter 9: Email Newsletters

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." — Benjamin Franklin

Nurturing Leads Till They Are Ready to Buy

The Direct Marketing Association reports that every $1 invested in email marketing results in a $40 return. That's the highest ROI for any form of direct response marketing and it can really change the game for you as you explore your MSP marketing strategies.

If you aren't using email newsletters to keep in touch with prospects and clients on a regular basis, you are missing out on major opportunities to build trust, establish your company as a thought leader, and — most importantly — stay top-of-mind until a prospect is ready to buy.

Email newsletters are the ultimate keep-in-touch-tool because they offer a pressure-free way to communicate with prospects on a continuing basis. Let's say you meet someone at a networking event and you have a nice conversation, exchanging business cards at the end. If this contact is not sales-ready just yet, what do you do?

Instead of just adding her to your customer relationship management database and forgetting about her, you could add her contact information to your email newsletter list. This gives you the opportunity to engage with her regularly, providing helpful information and keeping you top of mind for the particular services you offer.

If you only send her sales pitches, offers or requests to attend your free webinars or lunch-and-learn sessions, she will eventually unsubscribe because the emails are not providing any value. However, when you send her IT tips, ideas, checklists and other educational pieces that help her business, you build your expert status in her mind.

When she is ready to have a dialog or make a purchase, your company will be on her short list because you have kept in touch and provided valuable knowledge.

Email newsletters are an incredibly effective relationship builder that can lead to real revenue for your company. Many companies, large and small, report that email marketing is their single most important IT marketing component. It is inexpensive and has a very high impact. Let's take a look at how to get your email marketing program off to a great start.

Who Should You Email?

One of the first things you'll want to know when starting an email marketing campaign is who to send your campaigns to. Two groups of people that should definitely make your list: contacts that you have met at networking events and your current customers. You can include past clients if you parted on good terms.

What about buying, borrowing, or renting a list? Wouldn't that save you time and effort?

Absolutely not! You should never, ever buy, rent, or borrow an email list — even if the seller tells you all of the names have opted in to be on the list. The reality is that nobody, not a single person, has ever opted in to be on an email list that is for sale. Think about it. When was the last time you gave someone your email address and said "sure, sell my name and email to anybody?" That never happens. If you use someone else's list, you are setting up yourself and your email service provider for major blacklisting headaches.

Purchased lists also may contain addresses called "spam traps." These may be old or fake addresses that are used to detect if someone is sending unsolicited email. Sending to one of those will get your company put on a blacklist very fast. So, never use third-party lists.

The best practice for building a genuine email marketing list is to get permission before adding someone. You can do this in a number of ways.

You may want to advertise on the web through a service like Google Adwords, or on a particular website where you know your target audience likes to hang out. When people click on your ad, you usually don't want to send them to your homepage. Unless they see the type of information they are looking for right away, they will leave the page. Instead, send them to a custom landing page — a page on your website designed to get the reader to take action. Of course, if your home page is designed this way, then by all means use it.

This landing page should include a form to capture visitor's information and allow them to opt into your newsletter. Offer them something in exchange for the opportunity to connect with them through email. You can offer a free white paper on a topic you know they will find useful, or offer a slide deck on a subject that is relevant to their industry.

If you use an email marketing service, like Presstacular, a lot of the work will be done for you. Presstacular automatically creates HTML code for a form that you can copy and paste onto your website to collect contact information from prospects.

At the very least, put a newsletter sign-up form on your website's home page above the fold so nobody has to scroll to see it. You can also put it, or a link to it, on your blog and other content pages so that you can capture contact information from those who find you through web searches.

What Kind of Content Should You Send?

Repurposing

The next thing to decide is the type of content you'll want to send out. The best subject matter for your content will be useful, relevant information that your audience will care about. Think of ways you can educate your audience so they will learn something new by reading your content, and so they will come away thinking of you as an expert on the subject.

Some examples of IT articles you can write are:

  • Computer Security/Threat Alerts
  • "5 Reasons to Move to the Cloud"
  • "How to Prepare Your Business for the Storm Expected This Weekend"
  • "10 IT Best Practices for Your Doctor's Office"
  • "6 Simple Ways to Improve Your Website Right Now"
  • "How to Cut IT Costs Without Cutting Quality"

Newsjacking

Newsjacking is the process of evaluating the news for stories that have relevance for your customers, and then creating a story based on that news for your blog or newsletter. Read the book, Newsjacking, by David Meerman Scott for more details.

Here are some additional ways you can harness newsjacking to create timely articles:

  • Write an article about what happens when your staff is out for the holidays, but you need to keep in touch with them. Publish it in December before the holidays, or at the beginning of the summer.
  • Publish an article with tips for preparing your business for a storm that the weather forecasters announced is coming.

Writing content that connects with a news story usually gets a high response from your email recipients.

Optimal Emailing Frequency

When it comes to email communication, you should consider testing to see how you readers respond to the frequency of your campaigns. Once per month is a good pace for staying top-of-mind with customers without overburdening them.

In marketing, there is an axiom that states that it takes seven touches for a prospect to become sales-ready. So, if you're only sending out a newsletter once per quarter, the touch is so infrequent that you may miss out on needs your prospects and customers are having right now. The right frequency can help you stay in their minds so that when the time is right, you'll have already established a relationship.

If you think that sending out an effective newsletter on a regular basis will take too much time and effort, you'll be surprised. Services like Presstacular offer a library of content, attractive templates and custom designs so you can create a polished newsletter with ease.

What to Expect From Your Email Newsletter Strategy

One of the best things about implementing an email marketing strategy is that you can measure your results, which can help you achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Email marketing services offer a wide array of metrics for tracking how many people are opening and clicking on your newsletters. Once you've gained access to this data, you can compare your metrics with other companies to see how well you are doing, see MailerMailer's Email Marketing Metrics Report (you can also search Google for "email marketing metrics"). Track and compare metrics like who opened your campaign, who clicked on the links in it, and which addresses bounced so you can measure how well your email is performing.

Clever Ways to Use Email Analytics

To get the most from your email analytics, you'll need to take action. Knowing exactly who is engaging with your content can help you work smarter instead of harder.

Suppose you want to reach out to your prospects every few months. Instead of calling everyone on your list, you can use email analytics to hone in on those prospects who are the most sales-ready.

Look through your data and extract the 5 or 10 people who are opening and clicking the most. You will save considerable time and effort if you call these people first since you know they are the most primed to hear your message.

Important: don't call them up right after you see they clicked and say:

Hey, I just noticed you clicked on my article about setting up a disaster recovery plan for your business.

That comes across as creepy. Instead, wait a couple of days and call with a more thoughtful, warm approach like this:

Hi Sally, I hope things are going well. I'm calling because we're noticing several companies like yours take a closer look at disaster recovery to protect their assets and I wanted to check in to see if you'd like to explore some options for <name of Sally's company>.

You know very well that Sally has disaster recovery on her mind. After all, your analytics report shows that she clicked on your link about this topic within minutes of getting your newsletter. By looking at your email metrics reports to see who is opening your newsletter and who is clicking on which links, you learn who your warmest leads are. When you see the same prospects clicking on articles in future newsletters, you will know you should follow up with them quickly. This added interest in your content shows that they are getting close to buying and you can see which type of articles they are reading to help guide your conversation.

Again, avoid the creep factor by resisting the urge to reach out as soon as you notice they've clicked on your email. Wait a couple of days to give them a call so your conversation won't be clouded by a Big Brother vibe.

When you do call, you will be reaching out when you know the prospect is facing a particular problem or issue. Now, you have the chance to become the solution.

If you call and the prospect is still not sales-ready, you can still be helpful. Offer the prospect a tip sheet that talks about things they should be considering or a guide to implementation problems they might face. Use the insight from email analytics to arm yourself with the information you need to nurture the lead or close the sale.

Talk About Yourself, a Little

When you provide educational IT content on a regular basis, your customers will not mind an occasional marketing campaign. When you use a two-column newsletter format, you can put an introduction from you followed by article teasers on the left side and information about an upcoming event that you will be at, a new contract you won, staff profile or client testimonial along with contact information on the right side.

Include links that invite recipients to access even more of the helpful resources you offer on your YouTube channel, LinkedIn page or blog. That right column can be used for ads, too. If you offer Office365, include an image that readers can click on to find out more (have the ad link to a page where the reader can fill out a request for a demo). Anyone who clicks on that ad should be called pretty quickly — they are your hottest leads!

Email marketing provides an incredibly effective way to position your company and to communicate with many customers and prospects at once. It offers a way to nurture leads along the sales funnel, and to measure exactly what is working (and what is not) so that you can focus your efforts better and save money. Best of all, it creates an environment in which you can sell to customers who have learned to trust you because they view you as a knowledge leader in your industry.

Checklist: Your Next Steps

  • Who will you send your email newsletter to? How will you reach them, and how will you get permission to contact them?
  • What kind of content will you send? How can you incorporate repurposing and newsjacking into your strategy?
  • How frequently will you send your newsletter?
  • How will you measure your email campaigns to see how well they are performing? What specific metrics will you track?
  • How will you use the information gained through analytics?
  • Create an editorial calendar for your newsletter content, just as you did for your blog. Make sure you have an interesting mix to keep your audience reading. Sprinkle in the occasional marketing campaign, but be sure it is surrounded by educational campaigning so your audience won't opt out.
  • Create a free trial on Presstacular to see if it's a good fit for your business.