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How to Set Up an Email List For Your Small Business

Our last post talked about why your business needs to have an email list. Now, let’s take a look at the mechanics of the email list.

Getting the list set up is pretty simple, but before starting it is important to know that collecting email addresses and manually typing them into the “To” section of your email is NOT the way to go.

Aside from the hassle of such a process, it can cause problems with spam laws because the recipients of the emails do not have an opportunity to “double opt-in.” The double opt-in means that the customer signs up for the email list and then confirms their interest in the list by clicking a link in a confirmation email. This prevents customers from being added to the list if they do not want to be on it.

To begin an email list we need to do four things:

  1. Sign up for an email provider
  2. Create opt-in forms for your list
  3. Get people signed up
  4. Send them emails

1. Finding an Email Provider

Signing up for an email service provider is essential. It may be difficult to get yourself to pay for a service that you feel could be done yourself for free, but there are many benefits to doing so:

-Most providers start their service with a low-price or free trial and price only goes up as the number of your subscribers grows

-The service will automate the sending of email, even if you list has hundreds or thousands of members

-The service will automatically provide double-opt ins for list joining

-They will provide forms for your website that allow customers to sign up for you list by entering their email – you just have to copy and paste the form code

-They can automatically send pre-written emails in a predetermined sequence and timing to each customer that joins the list

-They will provide statistics about the number of customers opening emails, clicking links in emails, etc.

There are many email providers out there, but Aweber and Mailchimp are the two most well-known. You can compare and contrast the two, but in the end you need to just pick on and go with it. I have used Aweber for a couple of years and I love it.

2. Create Opt-In Forms

Email service providers will help you to easily generate sign up forms for your list and will provide you with the code for the form that you can easily copy and paste into your website, allowing visitors to join your list and get regular updates from your business.

You can choose the look and outlay of your opt-in form, and which fields are included.

As you have probably seen on many websites, most forms ask for your name and email address to sign up for a list. Some simply ask for your email. Some may ask for more information.

If it is relevant to your business you can ask for more information, such as phone number or zip code. The more fields you add to the form the lower your opt-in rates will typically be (opt-in rates is the average percentage of people visiting your site who signs up for the email list). However, the opt-ins that you do get from a form with more fields tend to be “warmer” customers who are especially interested in your business and your offerings – they took the time to fill in a long form with more of their personal information because they were so interested.

Once the form is created you simply paste the code into your site. The typical recommendation is to include an opt-in form on the top-right corner of your website and at the bottom of any blog posts (if they read your posts to the bottom the visitors are obviously interested in the information you are sharing).

3. Get People Signed Up

Once the form is up you simply allow it to collect members of your email list. You should not do this passively, however.

A good way to increase the rate of your opt-ins is to test different opt-in forms. You should try changing colors, changing designs, changing wording, and changing anything else you can think of. Test two versions against each other to see which gets a better opt-in rate, and then test a new version against the winner.

Another method for increasing opt-ins is to offer something free in exchange for signing up for the email list. It works best if this is a digital product that helps lead to the use of your services, and is included in the first automatic email as soon as the customer signs up for the list.

As an example, say you run a rental company that offers concession machines. You might offer a PDF guide that explains the proper concession offerings for different party settings.

It does not have to be elaborate, just useful. The concessions guide helps customers solve the problem of which concessions are appropriate for their event, which in turn helps them decide to do business with your company. It also encourages the customer to sign up for your email list to get the guide, and as a result they will get more useful updates from you over time.

4. Write emails

The tough part of managing an email list is keeping in regular contact with your members. If you go too long between emails your customer will forget who you are or why they are on your list, and they will probably unsubscribe.

If you send emails out too often the customers can get annoyed and unsubscribe.

There are two types of emails that can be sent through your email service provider, and a little bit of planning with them will help you maintain healthy contact with your list.

Autoresponders

The first type of email is an “autoresponder.” This is an email that is written in advance and is automatically sent out to each customer after they sign up for your list.  I like to have eight to twelve emails written in an autoresponder list. Each email provides some valuable information to the subscriber and does not ask for anything in return, except for any questions that the subscriber would like answered.

I set up my autoresponders so that the customer gets:

  • the immediate email with their free guide that I advertised to encourage their opt-in
  • another informative email the following day that gives them a quick win by helping them to solve a problem easily
  • the next email exactly one week after they opted in to the list
  • and then more emails every week or two after.

By the time the subscriber has received a dozen emails from me they should be familiar with me and trust me (and my business).

I set my autoresponders to go out on specific days each week after the first three are sent. My weekly autoresponders only go out on Wednesdays and Thursdays, which opens up the other days of the week for broadcast emails. We will get to those in a minute.

To illustrate my process: if the customer subscribes to the list on a Tuesday they will immediately receive an email with their free guide.

On Wednesday they will receive the informative “quick win” email.

The next email is scheduled to be sent at exactly one week after the initial email. The reasoning is that if they customer was free and able to subscribe to the list at 2pm on a Tuesday, they are likely to have the same schedule and be available and online at that time each week.

The remaining autoresponders are sent out once every week or two, but only on a Wednesdays or Thursdays. My goal with this is to avoid sending multiple emails to a subscriber on the same day by sending a manual broadcast email the same day that an automated autoresponder is sent.

Broadcast Emails

While autoresponder emails contain “evergreen” content that is pertinent to the reader no matter when they read it, broadcast emails are what I would call “current event” messages.

Broadcasts can be written and scheduled ahead of time, but they are sent out all at once to everybody who happens to be on your list on that given day.

The purpose of the broadcast email is to let your readers know about something that is time-specific, such as a sale that you are having, a new product that is available, or some other type of announcement.

As I mentioned above, I schedule my autoresponder messages for Wednesdays and Thursdays so that I can feel free to send broadcast messages any other day of the week without bombarding my subscribers with too many messages on the same day.

Get Started Now!

An email list is a vital component for any business in the internet age. It is essentially a list of your most interested prospects and customers.

Using a properly-planned sequence of autoresponders and broadcasts provides valuable information to your customers while building up a sense of trust in your company. This trust leads to more sales down the line.

Your email list will take time to grow. It will probably start as a slow trickle of sign-ups and will eventually grow into a steady stream. Putting it off will only hinder your ability to effectively market to your list, so don’t wait. The best day to start the email list is today.

I recommend you go check out Aweber. This is an affiliate link, meaning if you decide to sign up for Aweber after clicking on this link I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you. In fact, you can try it for your first month of use for only one dollar.

Also, to see an email list in action consider joining the Smart Rental Business email newsletter by filling out the form below.

5 Reasons Your Business Needs an Email List (Not Facebook)

Among the most common regrets of small business owners is not starting an email list for their company right away.

We all have lists to which we are subscribed. Maybe you subscribed to the email list for your favorite coffee shop to know when they are having deals. You might receive updates via email from your favorite sports team or even from a weather service.

What has become obvious as communication moves online is that you need to use email to get your message in front of your best customers .

Email is More Important than Social Media

It is a mistake to believe that building a social media following, like a Facebook group or a Twitter account, provides an adequate means of keeping in touch with your customers.

Social media sites can change their rules or disappear at any time, and you could lose your list of followers overnight.

In addition, the likelihood of your message reaching your fans on these sites is decreasing as the sites become more crowded.

Social media can be an effective way to interact with your customers, but it is secondary to email.

Why is Email so Great?

We have five considerations that make email stand out over any other form of online communication:

1. Email Gets Seen

How many times do you check your email each day?

Probably at least several times. Probably even dozens of times.

Do you at least look at the subject or sender of each email? Almost assuredly yes.

This means that you are seeing just about every email that comes to you, while you are missing updates to social media even if you check it often (a typical Facebook post by a business is seen by less than five percent of the business’s followers, even though they opted in to receiving updates from that business).

Without a doubt, if you want your message to be seen by customers that are interested in what you have to offer email is the way to get it in front of them.

2. You Own Your Email List

The wonderful thing about email lists, and what makes them indispensible, is that you own them.

If your website goes down you can still communicate with your customers who have joined your email list. If Facebook shuts down your page (and you lose all of your followers) you still have your email list.

3. Email Can Boost Your Offers

The customers who have joined your email list are hot leads. They are obviously interested in what you have to offer, and if you send out an occasional deal or promotion to your email list a percentage of them will probably jump at it.

If you build up your list over time you can get big results by offering the list a deal, even if the response rate is only a small percentage.

4. Email Can Build Trust

You should use your email list to build trust, not simply to pitch products.

Email providers make it possible to set up a series of auto-responders, meaning that each time new customer joins your list they can receive a series of emails that you set up ahead of time, on a preset schedule. This can help you to make contact with your subscriber steadily over time to build a level of rapport with them.

Let’s say you have a party rental business. When a customer joins your list you might have it set up to send them an email each week. One week they receive an email with a checklist of items to consider as they prepare to plan a party. The next week you send them an email about planning guest lists and what to expect for a rate of attendance. The following week they learn how to plan the number of tables and seats that they need for a given party. And so on.

The customer receives a valuable email that is useful to them without asking for anything in return. Your business builds trust with that customer and they come to see that you are the expert in your field. When the customer needs advice or products for their party, who do you think they will go to?

5. Email Keeps You Top-of-Mind

Finally, having a customer on your email list helps reinforce the top-of-mind positioning of your company with that customer.

Your services may not be needed on a regular basis, but when they are you will be the company that the customer thinks of first if they are receiving an email from you every couple of weeks. Also, the customer is more likely to refer you to a friend that needs your type of service if you are top-of-mind.

Read the next post in this series on how to set up an email list for your rental company