15 Lead Nurturing Email Examples & Templates That Work in 2017

Disclosure: We sometimes use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.

Even in 2017, email boasts some of the highest engagement rates of any modern marketing strategy. The ability to target people on an individual basis with personalised messages is only really possible with a strategic, segmented email marketing strategy.

Get it right and you’ll be turning blog readers into paying customers, clients into repeat buyers and your regulars into brand loyalists who find it difficult to go elsewhere. Of course, this all hangs on sending out the right kind of emails, so here are fifteen lead nurturing email examples and templates to get you started.

#1: The personal, plain-text approach

Infusionsoft is one of the industry’s leading email marketing tools and the first email template it recommends is having no template at all.

Er, what?

Here’s the thing. Despite all the email design best practices and people saying they prefer HTML emails, study after study has shown that plain-text emails perform better. In fact, it turns out, as the number of images in an email increases, click-through rates generally decrease (HubSpot).

Now, these studies don’t tell us everything – it’s another case of correlation vs. causation but, for a lot of businesses, this holds true. In my experience, this is more common for B2B brands than B2C but not exclusively, by any means. So don’t rule out the possibility of some plain-text emails because you could be in for a surprise.

#2: Knowing when to use images

Like I say, there’s a place for plain-text emails in many marketing campaigns but it’s important to know when to use images. This template from email marketing platform SendinBlue simply wouldn’t cut it for an eCommerce fashion brand without the visuals. It’ hard to think of a situation where you’ll want to promote retail products without images so, while the studies I refer to in example one are legit, they don’t mean you should ditch the visuals altogether.

#3: The typographic approach

Source: Hubspot Blog

Casper shows how much you can achieve in an email marketing design without using images. With bold, branded typography and clear calls-to-action, there’s no doubt in the recipient’s mind about what they’re supposed to do next.

Casper isn’t trying to be clever, amusing or anything else with this email. It’s getting right to point and choosing to avoid any distracting images works perfectly in its favour here. At the same time, strong contrast, bold text and plenty of whitespace mean this email is anything but dull – a fine example of minimal design.

Okay, so there’s one picture in this email: a product picture of an item the recipient left in their basket. Which also makes this a great example of the kind of lead nurturing email you should be sending to visitors who pulled out at the final hurdle.

#4: The ‘newsjacking’ approach

Source: Hubspot Blog

Newsjacking is the art of jumping on on a current news story and using it to boost your marketing efforts. It’s a classic strategy but one that’s not always easy to pull off. However, InVision gets it spot on by capitalising on news that’s of genuine interest to its users rather than latching on to gimmicks or cliches.

#5: Making the most of holidays and events

Here’s another template from SendinBlue and the lesson here is to make the most of national holidays and shopping events, like Christmas and Black Friday. It’s hard to resist special offers when you have things to buy for people (or yourself) and you can go one step further by personalising these emails with product suggestions based on people’s buying history or other interactions with your brand.

#6: Holidays aren’t just for B2C marketing either

Source: Reallygoodemails.com

Don’t make the mistake of thinking public holidays and consumer events aren’t relevant to those in the B2C game. If they’re relevant to your target audience, they’re relevant to you too. This design from Square calls on its prospects to take advantage of the Valentine’s Day rush with some email promotions of their own and, for good measure, there are some convincing stats thrown in to make that “Get Started” CTA hard to resist.

#7: Calling on those deep desires

If you’re lucky enough to be in one of those industries that grabs people’s attention, make the most of it. Airbnb has got to be the best example these days, not only because everyone wants to travel but because it really does make the most of this universal desire.

Travel isn’t the only thing people crave. Success, riches, beauty, popularity and all kinds of human desires are the most powerful selling points in marketing. Find this sweet spot in your email messages and the templates will basically design themselves.

#8: Making the complex simple

Another email marketing platform I use a lot is ActiveCampaign and one of the reasons I’m a fan is it comes with a great collection of templates you can quickly edit and get sent out a wide scale. This particular template does an incredible job of turning a complex, multimedia email into a minimal design that doesn’t overload the senses.

You’ve got text copy, images, calls-to-action, video, audio and social media elements in a single email there, yet ActiveCampaign manages to cram all that content into a sleek minimal design that’s a pleasure to scroll through. Bravo.

#9: Knowing what appeals to your target audience

Source: Hubspot Blog

In this example, Freelancer calls on some tasteful graphic design to tell its story in a quick, concise manner. Which, for a platform that’s largely used by graphic designers and people looking for freelance designers, makes this a cunning choice of visuals that proves Freelancer knows what its target audience wants.

#10: Breaking up your message into digestible chunks

Source: Reallygoodemails.com

Skillshare had a challenge on its hands with this email design, trying to promote multiple services and promotions in a single piece. This isn’t like an eCommerce email where you can simply use product images to break up your message but Skillshare strikes a fine balance here by clearly dividing its message into digestible chunks and using subtle background images to compliment its bold use of text.

#11: Mastering the art of visual emails

Source: Reallygoodemails.com

For proof that busy visual designs can work, this example from MOO combines playful copy with equally inventive visuals to capture its brand personality in this email design. This kind of approach can be tricky to pull off but if you’ve got the right designer on board or access to quality templates, it can be done. Just make sure you’re getting the right kind of brand message across if you take this not-so-minimal approach to email design.

#12: Matching your brand image

If you’re selling luxury items, you don’t want pictures of hamsters wearing glasses setting the tone for your email campaigns. Whatever approach you take to designing your emails, staying true to your brand image and the products/services you sell is vital. People on your email list have already connected with your brand on some level and you’ll want to stay true to that initial connection with your email marketing messages.

The template above is one of ActiveCampaign‘s designs for a luxury range of items. Of course, if you have a wide range of products to promote – some luxury; others not so much – then you’ll want to create different campaigns and segment them to relevant audiences, based on the actions people took on your site.

#13: Targeted, personalised newsletters

Source: Reallygoodemails.com

 

It’s not often you see a great newsletter design but LiveChat nails it with this personalised and powerful graphic approach. Addressing the recipient directly gets things off to a good start and things get even better by promoting targeted content based on the kind of content the user originally signed up for. And then you have the design itself, which combines strong headlines with bold CTAs for every item on the newsletter. Great stuff.

#14: The reminder email

Source: Reallygoodemails.com

Yeah, these ones are tough. There’s a real art to sending reminder emails without annoying your recipients but TheZebra focuses on the classic promise of saving people money in this example. Notice how there’s no fooling around on this one. TheZebra gets right to the point, makes it clear what people have to gain by taking action and hits them with the CTA. Done.

#15: Telling a (short) story

Source: Reallygoodemails.com

Normally we associate storytelling with long landing pages, video content or multiple emails sent out over a period of time – but it doesn’t always have to be like this. Wealthsimple tells the story of a lifetime in one simple image and a single headline, while calling on people’s desire for wealth (see #7). There isn’t really much else to this email and there doesn’t need to be.

Now it’s your turn

As you can see, it’s not always the biggest, boldest design that gets the best results. Knowing what kind of message your target audiences will respond to and targeting them individually, based on what you know about them, is vital to everything you do in email marketing. This goes for the format and designs of your email as well.

So, whether you’re creating your own designs from scratch or using templates from your email marketing tool, ask yourself why people signed up to your list in the first place and use this to bring them one step closer to doing business with your brand. Even if this means sending out a humble plain-text email.

ActiveCampaign Review: How we Automate Sales, Marketing & More

Disclosure: We sometimes use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.

Over the past four years, we’ve used ActiveCampaign on eight of our ventures.

In this guide, I’ve shared 20 ways that you can use ActiveCampaign to scale up your business via automation and a more systemised approach to sales & marketing, based on our experience using their platform.

If you’re not using ActiveCampaign, you can create a free trial here – you won’t regret it.

What’s in this guide?

The article is split into six sections – feel free to click the link to get to them:

  • Sales funnels, CRM & lead scoring – This section includes how to use deal pipelines and lead scoring in ActiveCampaign to put your leads into different ‘buckets’.
  • Marketing automation & lead nurturing – The short, mid and long-term automation workflows we use to nurture leads into paying customers for our sites. Email marketing hacks to boost your open & click-through rates.
  • Customer success, NPS & client account management – How our customer success team uses ActiveCampaign to collect Net Promoter Score (NPS) data, check-in with customers, and ensure client accounts are healthy.
  • Weird and wonderful – See how we’ve experimented with automating aspects of our recruitment process, employee onboarding & accounting using ActiveCampaign.

Why ActiveCampaign is awesome

When I started Venture Harbour, we had no CRM system for two years. It wasn’t due to lack of trying – We had tried Pipedrive, Salesforce, Zoho and several others. But they all required so much manual effort to keep them up to date.

After getting my ass kicked by a friend for not having a CRM system, I turned to my Twitter followers to suggest which CRM to use.

Recommend a CRM Tweet

While I did receive several good suggestions, none of them was a good fit. CRMs and Venture Harbour just didn’t seem to mix.

Then, a couple of months later, I came across ActiveCampaign while researching marketing automation vendors. I signed up for a trial and saw that ActiveCampaign also had a built-in CRM, but with a difference.

Unlike other CRMs we had tried, ActiveCampaign’s CRM could be almost entirely automated using rules and workflows…now we’re talking.

We signed up for ActiveCampaign about three years ago. Since then, we’ve moved all eight of our ventures over to their service. Here are some of the ways we’re using it.

Systemising sales funnels, CRM & lead scoring

One of my favourite things about ActiveCampaign is their deal pipelines. If you’re familiar with agile or have used ‘kanban boards’ in the past, these will be familiar. ActiveCampaign’s deal pipelines are basically just applying agile to sales.

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1. Break your sales funnel into stages

Building a deal pipeline in ActiveCampaign forces you to break your entire sales cycle into a series of steps. Rather than viewing sales a messy and unpredictable beast, you can start to visualise the stages that your deals must go through in order to reach completion.

For Leadformly (the software we created for building conversion-optimised lead capture forms), we break our sales funnel into five stages – from cold leads to paying users.

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2. Create a deal pipeline for each customer segment

It may not make sense to put all of your deals on the same pipeline. After all, if you serve enterprise and small business clients, these deals will probably vary so much that any report on average deal size or average time to close will be skewed.

Thankfully, ActiveCampaign allows you to build as many deal pipelines as you like, so you can just build different pipelines for your various audience segments.

For Leadformly, we have four pipelines; Enterprise leads, startup leads, agency leads, and SMB leads. This makes it easy to quickly view all of our leads in each category and to compare reports.

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3. Leave no leads hanging

Rumour has it that Salesforce.com had a rule where if a salesperson ended the day with any of their leads not having a task assigned to them, that salesperson would be fired.

Tasks ensure that you know when you will next follow-up with every single lead in your database.

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In ActiveCampaign, you can easily see if any leads do not have a task assigned to them. While Salesforce’s approach may be a bit extreme (and illegal in some countries), you can still train your sales team to ensure that every lead always has a task assigned.

4. Assign deals

Have multiple salespeople? ActiveCampaign makes auto-assigning deals to different sales people easy. You can assign deals based on value, a round-robin approach, or you can setup your own automation rules to assign deals to people based on other criteria e.g. geographic location or lead type.

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5. Lead scoring

Lead scoring is one of those features that can make or break your entire sales process. When it’s set up correctly, it creates clarity around which leads your people should focus on and how good a job your marketing team is doing at nurturing cold leads into warm leads.

For Leadformly, we use lead scoring to determine whether a lead is cold, marketing qualified, or sales qualified. We also use it to measure the health of existing customers.

  • Cold lead (has a lead score below 7 points)
  • MQL (has a lead score between 7-14 points) – We apply points when people register for our webinars, visit key pages on our site, and engage with our emails. The purpose of this is to separate engaged leads from unengaged leads.
  • SQL (has a lead score above 14 points) – We use the BANT (budget, authority, need, timeframe) methodology for this. Once we know all four of these criteria and they’ve above our agreed thresholds, the lead is considered sales qualified.

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Setting up lead scoring in ActiveCampaign is extremely easy and makes it much easier to set clear KPIs for marketing and sales. You can also identify whether the % of leads that you’re converting into marketing-qualified or sales-qualified leads is increasing or decreasing, and much more.

Marketing Automation

ActiveCampaign has one of the most visual and intuitive marketing automation builders I’ve come across. In fact, it’s so intuitive that almost everyone in our company has built an automation sequence in ActiveCampaign with virtually no training.

If you’re new to ActiveCampaign’s marketing automation builder, it looks like this:

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Here are some of the ways we’re using marketing automation to systemise our lead nurturing and marketing campaigns.

6. Short-term and long-term nurturing sequences

At Venture Harbour, we used to have one big lead nurturing sequence that initially may educate leads on a daily basis but gradually becomes less frequent as the lead gets colder.

We’ve since found it more manageable to break lead nurturing into a short 2-4 week sequence and then a long-term nurturing sequence that leads are added to when they complete the short-term sequence.

The short-term nurturing sequences are primarily educational in nature, making leads aware of relevant blog posts, webinars, interviews and other resources we’ve put together that help them develop their knowledge while positioning our ventures as authorities. We highly segment these to make them as relevant as possible for the different types of leads that enter our marketing funnel.

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The long-term nurturing sequences are more about checking in with leads after certain intervals (e.g. 3 months, 6 months, 12 months), or when a certain behaviour indicates they may be thinking about our solution again (e.g. if they visit our website).

It’s worth noting here that the goal of these nurturing sequences is not to convert leads into sales, but instead to convert leads into marketing qualified leads and then sales qualified leads based on our lead scoring system. This helps us separate the leads worth speaking with from those that are currently too cold.

7. Use goals & automation split tests to refine email sequences

In 2016, ActiveCampaign announced a feature that I had been waiting for since 2014 – email automation split testing.

While email split testing is nothing new, very few marketing automation tools allow you to split test emails that are a part of an automation sequence. ActiveCampaign is among the first to do this well.

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Theoretically, this means that your automated email sequences can only get better over time because you can setup unlimited split tests to refine your emails over time as you capture more data.

While this feature is quite new, we’ve already managed to increase the open rates of some of our key email campaigns by up to 300%.

8. Use reports to identify when you get highest open rates, then update the time your emails are sent out

One quick win that boosted our overall email marketing performance by 10-15% was using ActiveCampaign’s open rate report to identify which days and hours our emails were getting the highest open rates.

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We then used this information to add ‘waits’ in our marketing automation sequences so that important emails were sent on Tuesdays at 10 am when our open rates were up to 4X higher than average.

It’s a simple tweak, but it worked.
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9. Use goals to identify the time it takes someone to do something (e.g. visit to purchase time)

When we first launched Leadformly, we spent days trying to build a system for measuring the time between learning about Leadformly and becoming a paid user. We hacked something together with Zapier, Google Analytics & Google Sheets, but it was far from sophisticated.

Then, at the end of last year, ActiveCampaign announced goals – and my jaw dropped.

This meant that ActiveCampaign could now tell you the average time it took someone to reach a certain point in an automation sequence. So we built an automation sequence that triggered when someone signed up for Leadformly and then fired a goal when they became a paid customer.

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As you can see, ActiveCampaign not only tells you the average completion time but also the completion rate. You could use this to identify the % and time taken for a customer to leave a review, the % and time taken for a customer to upgrade or buy a new product. The possibilities are endless.

10. Use conditional content to make your emails hyper-personalised

One tactic we’ve experimented with a lot is using data captured from our Leadformly form to personalise the content in our ActiveCampaign emails using ActiveCampaign’s conditional content feature. Basically, this allows you to personalise the content in your email campaigns using rules like ‘If contact’s organisation type = agency, display X, otherwise display Y’.

Here’s an example of a fully-automated email we send out using conditional content.

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This email gets a 44% response rate, which is pretty incredible for an automated email. I suspect the reason is because it sounds natural and includes enough personalisation (it references that they’re running an agency) that people suspect it’s been written manually.

We’ve even received a lot of praise from people who’ve identified that it is automated, but are still impressed!

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11. Send the same email with a different subject line to people that didn’t open your first email

If you want to increase your email campaign engagement by 10-20%, just send all of your emails twice, but the second time around only send the email to the segment of people that didn’t open it the first time round.

This means that everyone who didn’t open your first email due to bad timing will now get to see it. While the open rate won’t be as high as the first campaign, it’s still going to be opened by some of your list who wouldn’t have otherwise seen it.

12. Send follow-up emails to people that open emails but don’t engage with your offer

If someone opens your email but doesn’t click through to your offer it means that they were intrigued by your subject line, but the offer wasn’t quite right for them.

In ActiveCampaign, you could create a follow-up campaign for these people either asking them what wasn’t attractive – or offering something else that might be more suitable for them.

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13. Use in-email surveys to get personalised feedback

One of our most responded-to email campaigns is a simple email that we send to everyone who attends a Leadformly webinar but doesn’t sign up for an account. It looks like this:

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If someone clicks ‘Yes – but I have a question’ or ‘No’ it opens up an email addressed to me with the pre-filled text ‘Hi Marcus, I’m not ready to use Leadformly because…’. We receive hundreds of emails every month from customers like the one below telling us what’s stopping them from signing up, which is an extremely valuable source of feedback.

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Customer Success

When we first started investing in tools for our customer success team at Leadformly, we tried Intercom, Drift, Promoter.io, and several others. After several months we realised that most of the functionality we were using in those tools could be replaced by ActiveCampaign.

Here are some of the ways we’re using ActiveCampaign for customer success.

14. Using deal pipelines to manage client onboarding

To quickly see where our new clients are in the onboarding process, we use ActiveCampaign’s deal pipeline functionality. While it’s meant to be used for managing sales pipelines it works well work managing any process that has a clear set of steps – like onboarding.

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We’ve created automation sequences to automatically move clients between different steps of this pipeline based on what pages they visit or events they fire from within the Leadformly application. That way our CSMs don’t need to worry about manually updating which column each client should be moved into.

15. Collecting Net Promoter Score

I have to admit, collecting NPS scores in ActiveCampaign is not easy. We had previously used Promoter.io to collect NPS, which is (in theory) a plug and play solution. We struggled a lot with their service, which was one of the reasons for centralising it in ActiveCampaign.

Rather than explaining how we set it up here, I’d recommend reading brilliant article that ActiveCampaign published, which we followed to collect and automate NPS collection.

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We then took this one step further and built an ‘NPS pipeline’ so that we can visually see which customers are detractors, passives, promoters, or yet to respond to an NPS survey.

16. Automated client onboarding & training

In order to educate our clients and make them successful as quickly as possible, we put all of our customers into a 7-day onboarding sequence, which drip feeds a series of tutorials, videos, and white papers that they can use to learn our software and get better results from their lead capture forms.

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This automation sequence takes some strain off of our support team, as it means that we can answer questions in these tutorials that may have otherwise become support tickets/emails. This also helps our clients get better results from their forms.

17. Automated client cancellation sequences

When someone cancels their account or requests a refund for one our ventures, it’s important that we learn what caused this.

In ActiveCampaign, we automatically trigger a sequence that asks the customer what made them leave, and then adds/removes them from the correct lists and sequences.

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It’s simple but is one less thing that our customer success team need to think about.

The weird and wonderful

While marketing automation is primarily designed for trigger marketing and sales emails, there’s no reason why you can’t use it to streamline other areas of your company. Below are some of the ways we’ve used ActiveCampaign to automate aspects of HR, finance, and employee training.

18. Automate employee onboarding

When a new employee joins Venture Harbour, an automated email sequence is triggered that drip feeds information on how we doing things at Venture Harbour and why.

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This ensures that all new employees have a consistent onboarding experience, and are aligned with the company’s bigger picture vision and goals. We can also constantly fine-tune the information we share with new employees to make their first few weeks as good as possible.

While unconventional, using marketing automation to streamline our new employee onboarding has made this process a lot easier.

19. Automatically filter out bad job applicants

We don’t read CVs at Venture Harbour. Instead, we ask all candidates that apply for a job from our website to complete a short quiz that tells us more about them and how they solve problems.

About half of the people who apply for a job complete this quiz, which immediately rules out 50% of bad-fit candidates. At the end of the day, if you’re not willing to complete a 10-minute quiz to be considered for a role at Venture Harbour, you’re definitely not the right fit.

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It also gives us a lot of insightful information about candidates. For example, one of our values at Venture Harbour is to never stop learning, so in our quiz we ask ‘What are the last three nonfiction books you read?’. This is perhaps one of the most insightful questions, as the books a person reads reveal a lot about them as a person.

This quiz is sent through a marketing automation sequence, which frees up hours of emailing back and forth with potential candidates, and ensures that we only consider the very best applicants to come in for an interview.

20. Automate the emails you hate sending

I used to hate chasing up invoices. While the majority of our clients paid their invoices on time, there were always a few that needed a nudge or two.

One day I decided to remove myself from the equation and create an automation sequence that automatically follows up on unpaid invoices. By sending the email from a ‘[email protected]’ email address rather than my personal email address it depersonalised the message and came across more as an alert rather than a person asking for an invoice to be paid.

Not only was it just as effective as me emailing them, it meant I could stop sending an email that I hated sending – and it saved me time!

Thinking of using ActiveCampaign?

There are few tools that I wholeheartedly recommend on a daily basis, but ActiveCampaign is one of them. If you’re still on the fence – they offer a 14-day free trial, which I’d recommend giving a try. If your experience is anything like ours, you won’t be disappointed.

7 Email Marketing Tips to Amp Up Your Digital Marketing Efforts

Disclosure: We sometimes use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.

So you’re on the lookout for tactics to draw in more customers through an effective digital marketing campaign. Maybe you’ve been focusing your efforts on digital marketing and website optimisation, which have yielded good results. But have you tried optimising your email marketing tactics? With email being one of the most effective online customer acquisition methods, you could achieve even better results with an improved email marketing strategy.

Take a look at some of these email marketing tips that can help you make serious improvements to your digital marketing:

1. Welcome Your New Subscribers

When someone decides to subscribe to your marketing emails, make sure you engage them from the start. It’s common knowledge that you should send a welcome email to your new subscribers. But don’t wait too long to send yours. You may want to send it a few seconds, minutes, or hours after they hit the subscribe button. Either way, the ideal timing for welcome emails is on the same day as the initial subscription.

Smytten sends out welcome emails on the same day a user signs up for their app. The email contains a quick guide to the app, and reminds the user what they can do using Smytten. This is an excellent way to start engaging your new subscribers as you’re helping them get to know more about your service/business/products.

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2. Avoid Being Too Spammy

Are you sending your marketing emails and newsletters too often? You may want to keep updating subscribers about the latest products in your store or you may want to inform them about daily deals and offers. But that doesn’t mean you keep spamming their inboxes with marketing emails.

Limit yourself to one email a day at the max. And even if you do send out daily emails by default, make it easy for recipients to customise their email preferences. Instead of limiting the options to only an “unsubscribe” button, give them the freedom to choose how often they receive emails from you.

Inbound.org gives their subscribers an option to update their email preferences. As you can see in the screenshot below, subscribers can opt in for certain types of emails that are relevant to them. Through this, Inbound can avoid spamming their subscribers’ inboxes with irrelevant updates.

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3. Optimize Your Subject Lines

Your subject lines are one of the first things people will notice about your marketing emails and newsletters. It’s where you make the first impression, which could determine whether the email gets opened or ignored. So you need to write email subject lines with a few goals in mind:

1. Grab the recipient’s attention
2. Make it relevant for the recipient
3. Get straight to the point
4. Keep it short

Think about yourself as the recipient when you’re trying to come up with an effective subject line. Come up with a few drafts, and ask yourself if each of those subject lines is relevant to you and stirs your interest. And instead of beating around the bush, make sure the subject clearly conveys the content and purpose of the email.

For newsletters, you could try using blog post titles or ebook titles to draw inspiration for your subject line. Klear did this recently by using the titles of one of the blogs included in their newsletter – “5 Instagram Tools to Try in 2017.”

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For normal marketing emails, you could try stirring their curiosity or adding some humour to your subject line. You could even try creating some urgency to compel recipients to open the email. Indian eCommerce website, Koovs does a great job with their marketing email subject lines.

As you can see in the screenshot below, the subject line is casual and it gets straight to the point telling the recipient about a 40% off deal for shoes. The way the sentence has been framed is as if it’s a conversation between friends.

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Here’s one more example, where they’ve used a pun to add some humour to their email subject line. The subject line invites recipients to nail the nitty-gritty of winter dressing, but they’ve replaced “nitty” with “knitty.” The wordplay is perfect as the mail is intended to promote winter clothing such as sweaters.

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But even without witty puns and humour, you can still grab the attention of your audience through your subject line. For example, something as simple as, “Yes… Everything is at half-price!” could stir the curiosity of the recipients and compel them to open the email.

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Whichever subject line you choose, consider A/B testing your subject lines to ensure that your ideas are increasing your open rates.

4. Optimize The Sender Name

Along with the subject line, the sender name of an email plays a crucial role in making a first impression. Emails coming from a “No Reply” email address may seem impersonal, and may not do much to help you with marketing. Instead, keep it personalised by including the name of an actual person. Using an individual name as a sender name can add a human touch to your marketing emails.

But some businesses and brands opt to send marketing emails using their company name to maintain reliability. They may feel that subscribers will be more likely to open those branded emails than emails coming from some person they’ve never heard of before.

However, you can add a human touch while still ensuring credibility by combining an individual name and a company name. For example, BuzzSumo sends their newsletters from, “Steve from BuzzSumo.”

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And NinjaOutreach newsletters and updates come from, “Mark at NinjaOutreach.” Using an individual name can add a human touch to your interactions. Including your company name reassures recipients that the email is coming from a reliable source. So you get the best of both worlds by combining the two.

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5. Optimize For Mobile Users

Are you creating marketing emails with mobile users in mind? Litmus conducted a study of 13 billion emails around the world and found that 55% of emails are opened on mobile devices. This can only mean that businesses need to optimise their marketing emails so that mobile users can easily open and view them.

Just put yourself in the shoes of the email recipient. You’re going through your inbox, using your phone, and you find an email that intrigues you. But when you open it, you realise that the design does not look good at all. Some of the images won’t load, the buttons don’t work, and you have to zoom in to read some of the text.

What would you do in such cases? Would you delete the email? You may even be frustrated enough to unsubscribe from the mailing list altogether. A 2016 study by Adestra found that a majority of people across all age groups would delete an email that doesn’t look good on mobile.

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6. Choose The Right Timing

Maybe you’ve constructed the perfect body and subject line for your marketing email. But if you’re sending the mail out when a majority of your recipients are inactive, you might be unable to get optimal opens. To ensure that you get more email opens, try to choose the right timing to send out your emails.

There are conflicting opinions about the best day and time to send marketing emails. But an analysis of 10 studies by Coschedule has concluded that Tuesday is the best day of the week for sending out your emails. This is followed by Thursday and Wednesday. And the best time of day to send emails is 10 AM, followed by 8 PM to midnight, and then 2 PM.

While this is the case, it would be best to experiment with different days and times when sending out your emails. This can help you determine the best timing to reach your audience and generate high-quality leads.

7. Don’t Forget A Killer CTA

You may be regularly updating your subscribers with the latest products and deals. But are they taking the desired action? It’s not enough that you send out your updates. You need to make sure that your audience takes the next step – whether it’s to read your latest blog post or to buy your latest product. This means you’ll need to come up with a killer CTA (call-to-action) that compels readers to take action.

Instead of putting your call-to-action as just a link, create a CTA button to include in your emails. It could say anything from, “Start Shopping,” to, “Grab Your Deal” The rule is to keep it short, and straight to the point. When eBay sends out exclusive coupon codes for discounts, the CTA button includes the special code people can use for an extra discount, and invites recipients to use the code.

picture10

Conclusion

Now you have a clear understanding about some of the best ways in which you can pull off a better email marketing campaign. The tips given in this post will help you create more effective marketing emails, and engage your audience better. Got any of your own ideas to add to the list? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. And if you have any questions about how to rock your digital marketing campaign, you can always get in touch with me.

This guest post is written by Shane Barker, a digital marketing consultant that specialises in influencer marketing, product launches, sales funnels, targeted traffic and website conversions. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, influencers with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities. Interested in writing a guest post on VentureHarbour.com?

10 Best Email Marketing Software & Automation Tools

Disclosure: We sometimes use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.

As a digital agency, we’ve used a lot of email marketing tools over the years. In this post we want to share with you an in-depth review of the following services, based on our experience.

ServicePricing*Ease of useEmail templatesFree trial?
Active Campaign$24.65 /mo5/55/514 daysGo to Website
GetResponse$25 /mo4/54/530 daysGo to Website
Mailchimp$35 /mo4/53/52,000 contactsGo to Website
ConvertKit$49 /mo4/54/5NoGo to Website
Aweber$49 /mo2/53/5500 contactsGo to Website
Constant Contact$55 /mo3/53/560 daysGo to Website

* Pricing is based on 2,500 subscribers.

It should be immediately obvious that there’s no one-size-fits-all email marketing tool. The best tool for you will depend on your budget, the size of your list, whether you require marketing automation, which integrations you require, and much more.

The table above provides a good starting point, and enables you to toggle between the best beginner and advanced email marketing tools. In the next section, we’ll take a deeper dive into the pros and cons of each of these tools – starting with my favourite: ActiveCampaign.

ActiveCampaign

If there’s one tool that I recommend above all other solutions it’s ActiveCampaign.

ActiveCampaign is the backbone of all of our ventures here at Venture Harbour. It’s easy to use, and easily the most feature-packed email marketing / marketing automation tool for small to medium-sized businesses. On top of that, it’s also one of the most affordable tools.

What sets ActiveCampaign apart is the fact that it has its own CRM system for managing leads, and marketing automation for nurturing your leads into customers. In short, it’s an all-in-one platform for handling small business sales and marketing. Unlike some of the other tools that do this, ActiveCampaign is affordable starting at $9/month – a twentieth of the starting cost of tools like Infusionsoft, Hubspot and Ontraport.

activity-campaign-pipeline

Pros

The best thing about ActiveCampaign is the ability to create marketing automation sequences affordably and with ease. For those unfamiliar, marketing automation is the ability to create pre-built sequences of emails that are sent out to people on your list when certain conditions are met. See a quick example of an automation sequence I’ve built in ActiveCampaign below.

basic-marketing-automation-sequence

What’s particularly powerful about this is it means you can look at any person in your list and see a full history of which emails they’ve opened, replied to, which pages on your site they’ve visited, and much more.

You can then build automated email campaigns to different segments of your list. For example, if someone on your list hasn’t bought your product but suddenly visits your pricing page, you could instantly trigger a targeted email campaign to that person based on their behaviour on your website.

Here’s an example of what an individual contact’s page looks like in the CRM contacts section.

activecampaign-crm

On top of this, ActiveCampaign enables you to add conditional content to emails, so that you can personalise your emails based on information you’ve collected on your leads / subscribers. You can also create ‘goals’ in ActiveCampaign, and even score leads, so that you know how ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ a prospect is based on their activity.

lead-score

ActiveCampaign’s customer support is extremely responsive. While I’ve probably submitted less than three tickets in total, every one of them has been responded to in under an hour.

They also have a Zapier integration, which means that you can connect ActiveCampaign to 600+ other services, including Salesforce, LeadFormly, QuoteRoller, Xero, Calendly, Acuity Scheduling, Evernote, GotoWebinar and much more.

Cons

To be honest, there aren’t a lot of bad things to say about Active Campaign.

In fact, the only weaknesses that I can think of are things that all of the other email marketing tools also struggle with, so I’m not sure it’s fair to single ActiveCampaign out.

One area they could be improved is their reporting. While it has all of the insights you’d expect to see, I find that it’s not as easy as it should be to interpret my stats.

active-campaign-stats

The second con is that ActiveCampaign currently don’t allow you to A/B test different emails in an automation sequence. Although this is something that they’re going to be releasing shortly (I cannot wait).

And… that’s where my list of cons ends.

To summarise, you’re going to be hard-pushed to find a better all-in-one email marketing, marketing automation and CRM solution than ActiveCampaign without spending in excess of $1,000 / month. And even then, ActiveCampaign will give them a run for their money.

Over the years, I’ve used ActiveCampaign as the backbone of our agency, as well as for managing Leadformly’s sales pipeline (a B2B software company we run). Last year, I also implemented ActiveCampaign as the CRM for a fintech firm I advise who have a global sales team managing hundreds of deals. In every instance, it’s worked beautifully.

As a long-term customer of theirs, I can vouch for ActiveCampaign as being arguably the best email marketing & CRM tool for small/medium-sized businesses.

ActiveCampaign starts at $9/month and has a 14-day free trial.

GetResponse

GetResponse comes in at a close second place.

So, what’s so great about them? In short, they get the important things right.

Pros

GetResponse’s pricing is very affordable (and, unlike other services, stays affordable as your list grows). Their platform is easy to use, and importing your lists takes seconds.

They have 500+ beautifully-designed email templates (all optimised for mobile), making it easy for beginners to create professional looking newsletters and autoresponders. Their customer support is impeccable (all of the issues we’ve had have been solved quickly with no fuss).

newsletter-templates

For more advanced users, GetResponse have done A/B testing very well. Whether you want to split test the body content, subject line, sender name, or even the time of day, GetResponse make this really simple. Their API is also very good. At Venture Harbour we’ve had to do a lot of custom integration using their API, and we’ve never had any problems. Of course, they also have many off-the-shelf integrations with services like WordPress, Salesforce, PayPal, Zendesk, and Shopify.

There are a lot of other specific features that I love about GetResponse (TimeTravel, single opt-ins, good deliverability rates, mobile inbox preview, landing pages etc), but the gist is that they’ve put a lot of thought into the important things that really matter.

So, let’s move onto what I don’t like about GetResponse.

Cons

Firstly, their form builder is below average. While it does the job, I always find myself spending longer than I’d like customising forms in their not-so-intuitive form builder section. Secondly, there are a few things (like deleting a list) that are unusually hard to do. In fact, even after using GetResponse for over three years, I’d have to Google it to find out how to find the list delete page.

Besides the minor user experience issues, the main reason why we don’t use GetResponse on every project at Venture Harbour is due to marketing automation.

GetResponse have fantastic autoresponders and a good automation tool that allows you to automatically remove/move contacts between lists when certain conditions are met (e.g. removing a contact from a list called ‘leads’ when a lead makes a purchase). Beyond this though, their automation rules are quite limited.

getresponse-automation

For some of our projects we require more automation functionality than this, which is where we would typically turn to a service like Ontraport, Infusionsoft, or ActiveCampaign (we’ll review these in a moment).

Considering that GetResponse is around one tenth the monthly cost of these more powerful email marketing tools, it’s definitely my pick for any project that needs to send out newsletters, autoresponders, and segmented emails.

In terms of GetResponse versus services like Mailchimp and Aweber, we originally had four sites using Mailchimp and one using Aweber. While I prefer the general features and ease of use of GetResponse over these services, my own experiments also suggest that GetResponse have superior deliverability and opt-in confirmation rates – meaning you get more subscribers, and more emails landing in your contacts’ inboxes.

If you’re interested in trying GetResponse, they have a generous 30-day unlimited free trial.

Mailchimp

Before migrating our lists over to GetResponse, Mailchimp was our go-to tool for creating newsletters and autoresponders. Our decision to move away from Mailchimp was primarily due to them enforcing subscribers to double opt-in (which was reducing our list size by about 15%), and the fact that we could do virtually everything we needed in GetResponse for almost half the price.

Since then, Mailchimp have made a lot of changes. While I still personally prefer GetResponse, Mailchimp’s user interface is very well-designed and stupidly easy to use. In addition to this, their functionality has actually become quite powerful.

mailchimp

So, what are Mailchimp’s pros and cons?

Pros

For me, there are three things that really stand out about Mailchimp. The first is that it’s probably one of the easiest email marketing tools to use. Their campaign builder makes building campaigns a breeze, even for the total beginner. Importing and exporting your list is also made really easy.

Secondly, they’re the only email marketing service to offer a 100% free account. This catches a lot of people out though, as it doesn’t allow you to access many features. If, for example, you want to use autoresponders – you’ll need to upgrade and pay for that.

The free account also has a low send limit and contact limit. It’s great if you just want to send a few newsletters to a few hundred contacts though. Just bear in mind that Mailchimp can become (relatively) expensive when you need to upgrade. Mailchimp also offer two payment types – pay as you go or a monthly subscription. While expensive, the pay as you go plan is good if you’re sending emails sporadically.

mailchimp-pricing

Finally, Mailchimp has a huge variety of integrations. There aren’t many services that Mailchimp can’t connect to. Whether you need to connect to LeadPages, Instapage, WordPress, Hubspot, Unbounce, Facebook, or virtually any other popular marketing tool – Mailchimp will integrate with them.

Cons

One of the biggest disadvantages with Mailchimp is that they force users to double opt-in to join your list (first by opting in on your website, and then again by confirming their email).
While the rationale for this is sensible (it reduces your email bounces and helps Mailchimp keep their email delivery servers whitelisted), it does impact the size of your list.

From our experience, we found that around 15% of our (legitimate) subscribers were failing to confirm their email address, resulting in them not being added to our list. This was confirmed when we saw an immediate increase in our list growth when we moved over to GetResponse and began using single opt-ins.

Another disadvantage with Mailchimp is the homogenisation of their email templates. Because so many marketers use Mailchimp, their newsletter templates look familiar. While you can obviously customise them, they somehow always have seem to look like a Mailchimp newsletter.

Finally, Mailchimp is quite pricey for such a basic email marketing tool. They’re able to justify this because they have the most well-known brand in email marketing. While not ludicrously expensive, it is about 40% more expensive than GetResponse – which offers a very comparable (if not better) overall product.

ConvertKit

ConvertKit are a new kid on the block, but lately they’ve been getting rave reviews from the blogging community.

convertkit-course

Designed specifically for bloggers, ConvertKit includes a range of unique tools to make it easy for bloggers to build their list and promote their content. Being new to ConvertKit myself, I decided to learn more and see what’s driving their positive reviews.

Pros

It’s immediately obvious that ConvertKit is extremely well-designed, with a lot of attention paid to the small details. For example, one thing I particularly like is that the bar chart that displays how many new subscribers you’ve received is broken down into chunks to show which blog posts or traffic sources are driving your list growth.

convertkit-reporting

In addition to the usual range of web forms, email blasts (which ConverKit calls ‘broadcasts’), and automation, ConvertKit also has a dedicated section for building email campaigns around web courses. For bloggers and information marketers, this is an invaluable feature.

Similarly to ActiveCampaign, the automation features in ConvertKit are kept very simple – but not at the expense of functionality. With a simple ‘if this happens… do that’ style automation builder, it makes it easy for anyone to build a range of segmented drip campaigns.

convertkit-automation

Finally, ConvertKit has a lot of non-standard integrations with services likely to be used by authors, publishers, and bloggers. For example, they integrate with BookLaunch, Gumroad, and lots of membership site plugins.

Cons

While not unreasonable for such a targeted service, ConvertKit is on the higher end of the price spectrum. In fact, for 2,500 subscribers ConvertKit is double the cost of GetResponse.

Besides this (and the lack of a free trial), there’s not a whole lot bad to say about ConvertKit. For authors and bloggers, it does everything it needs to. ConvertKit starts at $29/month, and you can learn more about their product here.

Aweber

Despite looking a bit outdated, Aweber sits in a sweet spot of being cost effective and easy to use. It has all the important features you’d want, without being too feature heavy.

For those starting out, it has great reporting to help you learn what does and doesn’t work. Their email campaign creator is great at walking you through how to setup your signup forms and newsletters.

If you’re more advanced in your email marketing, Aweber has some good features, such as split testing. Split testing enables you to send different variations of a campaign to different segments of your list. This allows you to compare and improve your open and engagement rates.

They also offer auto responders, RSS-to-email, and a ton of third-party integrations. Perhaps their most useful integration is with WordPress. Their WordPress plugin enables you to add email signup forms to your website in a single click.

Aweber

The thing that I love about Aweber is that it’s so simple, yet still has everything you need to get the job done.

I’ve switched between Aweber and Mailchimp for some of my own projects several times. Despite Mailchimp’s slick design, I find the functionality and reporting of Aweber much better.

With Aweber, you’re not locked into any long-term contracts. Their pricing starts at $19/month, and allows you to send unlimited emails to up to 500 subscribers.

Aweber is a bit more expensive than GetResponse. Although only by $4/month, so it’s really a matter of preference.

Infusionsoft

InfusionSoft is an interesting option.

In some ways it’s wrong to compare it with services like Aweber and GetResponse, as it’s not just an email marketing tool. Infusionsoft is a full sales and marketing automation tool. Email marketing is just one of the many tools provided.

That said, it’d be naive to not feature Infusionsoft in this post. For many businesses, their platform is a complete game changer.

So let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room; InfusionSoft is expensive. Their pricing starts at $199/month, plus you have to pay for a kick-starter package that costs $1,999.

For most marketers and business owners, this is way out of budget. For some, though, this is a fraction of the return that Infusionsoft generates for their business.

InfusionSoft is a full CRM system, with marketing automation and eCommerce tools. So what can you do with InfusionSoft that you can’t do with other tools reviewed here?

In short, you can automate your sales and marketing based on customer behaviour.

Infusionsoft

I was speaking to a friend recently who was telling me that his company created a virtual sales person on Infusionsoft. Bruce, as they named him, keeps in contact with thousands of customers for them. He checks in every few weeks with different messages depending on what each customer has or hasn’t done.

For example, if someone adds a product to their shopping cart but doesn’t checkout, an email can be triggered reminding them to complete their order.

Perhaps you want to automatically send discount coupons to customers on their birthday? Or, maybe you want to create funnels that turn your non-paying subscribers into customers. With Infusionsoft this is all possible.

It’s a complex tool that’s as powerful as it is addictive. The biggest complain I hear from Infusionsoft customers is that you can spend days creating sequences!

If you’re interested in learning more, we’ve written a more in-depth review of Infusionsoft here. In general, Infusionsoft only becomes a good investment when you’re turning over at least $150k per year. It also only really makes sense if your business revolves around selling products online.

If you’re just starting out with email marketing, InfusionSoft is almost definitely not the right fit.

Constant Contact

I’ve never been a fan of Constant Contact, as I find their user interface a bit dated, and their overall service very mediocre. That said, it’s been 3-4 years since I’ve used their service on a client and it does appear that they’ve picked their game up somewhat.

Constant Contact

Constant Contact’s selling point used to be that they were the most cost effective solution. Many of our clients used them because they were free (in return for including a Constant Contact logo at the bottom of every email).

It seems that’s changed, as their prices are now quite expensive relative to some of the other options.

Constant Contact charge $50/month for 2,501-5,000 subscribers. To put this into perspective, GetResponse only costs $25-$45 for this amount of subscribers.

In my opinion, Aweber and GetResponse both have better integration capabilities, reporting, and templates. So, it’s hard to understand how Constant Contact are justifying their extra cost.

That said, Constant Contact do have a few interesting features worth mentioning. First of all, they offer every customer a personal marketing coach to assist with any questions or problems you have.

For first timers, email newsletters and auto responders can be quite a challenge to set up, so I can see how this is quite a valuable feature.

Constant Contact appear to be creating a one-stop shop for marketers. With event registration tools, feedback forms, and surveys, it looks like they’re branching out.

This is a brave move, considering that there are excellent free tools like Eventbrite and Survey Monkey.

In general, I find Constant Contact’s offering just a bit too dull. There’s no clear USP or compelling reason why I’d use them over competing services.

SendinBlue

I first came across SendinBlue while searching for a transactional email service to send invoices and general admin emails from for one of our ventures (Leadformly).

While they may not be very well-known in the email marketing space, SendinBlue have a reputation as being one of the best and most reliable transactional email services.

SendinBlue

If you’re just looking for an email marketing tool, I would probably not recommend them over something like ActiveCampaign, but their email marketing and marketing automation tools are certainly not bad. If you’re looking for a tool that combines transactional email with email marketing, SendinBlue are worth considering.

In Summary

It’s clear that there’s no such thing as a one-size fits all email marketing service.

While ActiveCampaign made our #1 spot, and is the tool we recommend most frequently at Venture Harbour, there may be instances where you might want to use something else. The right tool for your business will depend on your company’s specific requirements.

I hope this article has been useful and has given you some ideas around which tools you might want to explore in more detail.

If you still have any questions about email marketing software then feel free to post them in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to answer them for you.

My Experience With & Review of GetResponse

Disclosure: We sometimes use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.

Just over a year ago, I moved all of our mailing lists at Venture Harbour from Aweber and Mailchimp over to GetResponse.

Since that move, our delivery rates have increase, as have our open rates (by 48%) and click through rates. I’ve also experimented with many of GetResponse’s innovative features, such as ‘time travel’ and automation, which I’ll talk about in more detail below.

GetResponse

In this post I want to share a few of the pros and cons of using GetResponse. While I do believe they are by far the best and most cost effective email marketing tool available, there are a few things about their service that are frustrating and are worth knowing before you become a customer.

Let’s start off with what GetResponse do well:

The Good

Pricing – Last year I wrote an in-depth comparison of the six major email marketing software companies. Of the six, GetResponse came out on top as the most affordable service at virtually all pricing tiers.

If, for example, you have 5,000 subscribers, GetResponse will cost $45/month (whereas for the same list size, Aweber would cost $49/month, Mailchimp would cost $55/month, and Constant Contact would cost $75/month).

On top of this, GetResponse have a free 30-day trial that doesn’t require a credit card.

Powerful Auto-responders & automation rules – One of my favourite features about GetResponse is the ability to set up autoresponders in a calendar view. Unlike other services that show autoresponders in a list, this makes it easy to see what emails are being sent throughout a given month.

On top of this, GetResponse have began adding automation features, that allow you to automate campaigns to be sent out when a subscriber clicks on a link, buys a product, or triggers a handful of other actions. While their automation offering is very limited in comparison to dedicated marketing automation tools like Ontraport, it’s an incredibly useful feature for the price (most automation tools cost $200-300/month alone).

A/B testing – Another feature that GetResponse do very will is enabling you to run A/B tests on subject lines, content, delivery times, sender names, and list segments. While most email marketing tools do enable A/B testing, most only allow you to split test the content and subject line.

A/B testing

As I’ve written about before, email A/B testing is so powerful that when Barack Obama ran an A/B test on two subject lines, he found that one subject line generated $403,600 in donations, whereas the other variation generated $2,540,866.

In short, if you’re not split testing your emails, you’re leaving money on the table.

Responsive email design & inbox previews – While this feature is becoming common across most email tools, GetResponse have been slightly ahead of the curve in making mobile newsletter templates, and allowing you to preview your message across multiple mobile devices and email clients.

Great reporting – While GetResponse’s at a glance reports aren’t anything too special, they make it easy to do side-by-side comparisons of campaigns, as well as letting you segment your campaigns to see which portions of your campaign worked better than others.

Reporting

On top of this, you can track the social media impact of your emails, and email ROI by installing a tracking code on your website to see which emails have the greatest impact on driving conversions.

Deliverability – According to third-party deliverability review site, Return Path, GetResponse have a 99% email delivery rate. By nurturing relationships with ISPs and using automatic feedback loops to improve list hygiene, GetResponse have become one of the best email marketing services for achieving high deliverability rates.

Time Travel – This is an extremely useful feature that enables you to set a specific time that your campaign arrives in the inbox of subscribers, regardless of their time zone. For example, if you set your campaign to go out at 9am, it’ll be sent to your subscribers in London and Tokyo at 9am their time.

This is a huge time saver, as it prevents having to either segment your list into lots of different country buckets, or having to send out your message to a portion of your audience at sub-optimal times.

The Bad

Email builder is clunky – One of my biggest gripes with GetResponse is the clunkiness of their drag and drop email builder. While there’s no specific issue, the interface is generally unintuitive and I often struggle to do simple things that shouldn’t require any though, such as correctly aligning content sections, and inserting images.

Hard to segment list by location – One feature that I love about Mailchimp is the ability to automatically collect a subscriber’s location based on their IP address and then segment email campaigns to specific users based on that criteria.

While GetResponse do collect IP information, I’ve never figured out how to segment an email campaign based on location without having to explicitly ask the subscriber to enter their location in an email capture form.

Automation is limited – While GetResponse’s automation features are very powerful for the price, they’re quite limited in terms of functionality. Currently there are only about seven rules that you can use to automate actions.

On top of this, their automation rules only allow you to automate adding or removing a subscriber from a specific list.

Automation

I imagine this list of rules will expand as GetResponse develop this aspect of the product over time.

Unintuitive user interface – GetResponse’s UI design ranges from slightly unusual to outright hard to use. From using non-standard labels like ‘statistics’ instead of ‘reporting / analytics’ and ‘messages’ instead of ‘newsletters / campaigns’, to having about three different menus, getting used to GetResponse can take a bit of time.

UI

In Summary

Having used other popular email marketing tools, GetResponse is by far my favourite, even despite having a few features that aren’t as ironed-out as I’d like. When you take cost into account, GetResponse is also one of the most affordable services.

If you’re not too sure, you can take GetResponse for a test drive with their free 30-day trial here.

5 Best B2B Lead Generation Strategies (That Work in 2017)

Disclosure: We sometimes use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.

When it comes to B2B lead generation, what really impacts the bottom line?

In this post, we’re going to talk about how one health-tech company generated a 5,100% ROI from a $1 million integrated online marketing campaign. We’ll also look at how a major accounting firm generated $1.3 billion in pipeline revenue from content marketing.

But before we jump into the case studies and discuss specific strategies, it’s important that you get the foundations right and ensure that you’re able to capture and convert a large percentage of leads from your campaigns.

Avoiding the leaky bucket effect

Many B2B marketers spend a lot of time, metaphorically, pouring water into leaky buckets. Rather than fixing the bucket (the marketing funnel), they pour more water (traffic) into the bucket to keep it full.

This is a recipe for inflated acquisition costs and below-average results.

The biggest culprit here are landing pages and, in particular, your forms. Forms separate your leads from non-leads, and have a huge impact on your conversion rates and overall lead generation results. If you haven’t already, I’d recommend optimising your forms – or using a tool like Leadformly to ensure that you’re not leaving leads behind from your marketing campaigns.

Let’s say you send 1,000 visits to your landing page at a cost of $3 per visit. If your form converts at 1% you’ll get 10 leads at a cost per lead of $300. If, on the other hand, your form converted at 3%, you’d receive 30 leads at a cost per lead of $100.

That’s 3X more leads for one third of the cost per leads without spending a penny extra – just by improving your lead generation form.

Leadformly

Once your funnel is well-optimised and you’re confident that there’s no more opportunity to improve your landing pages / funnels, it’s time to acquire traffic – but which channels or lead generation strategies should you use?

Which B2B lead generation strategies work?

The answer to this question depends on who you ask.

If we were to go by Hubspot’s study of the best B2B lead sources, we’d conclude that SEO is the best (identifiable) lead generation channel.

B2B lead sources

If, on the other hand, we used Chief Marketer’s data on the same question, we’d conclude that email marketing is the most effective channel for B2B lead generation. Needless to say, there are similar surveys reporting that social media and content marketing are also the most effective forms of B2B lead generation.

B2B chief marketer stats

Why so much variation?

The likely answer is to do with audience biases. A survey conducted by an email marketing provider is almost certainly going to have different results to one conducted by PPC management tool, as their audiences have different skillsets and biases, skewing the results of their sample. As such, we should take the specific ranking of different strategies in these studies with a pinch of salt.

Inconsistencies aside, the online strategies that consistently come out at the top are:

  • Email marketing
  • Search marketing
  • Social marketing
  • Content marketing

 
We’ll look at each these in more depth in a moment, but bear in mind that how you use a lead generation channel is more important than what lead channel you choose.

Twitter can be used to close a $250,000 lead for a B2B business, or it can be used to spam potential leads and tarnish a brand. So, while the channel/strategy you choose will play a large role in how effective your lead generation is, how you execute your campaign will play an even bigger role.

With this caveat out the way, let’s look at some of the ways that B2B companies are using the four strategies listed above to generate impressive results.

5 Ways to Generate B2B Leads Online

In this section, we’ll cover the four strategies outlined above, as well as a strategy that hasn’t been mentioned in any of the studies, yet it enabled one B2B company to generate a 5,100% ROI from a $1 million investment.

First though, let’s talk about one of the oldest strategies in online marketing: email marketing.

1. Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the few online marketing channels that has stood the test of time. In fact, email is 23 years old this year, and it still trumps the top spot on many B2B marketer’s lists of B2B lead generation strategies.

One of the biggest trends in email marketing at the moment, that has generated great results for many B2B businesses, is marketing automation.

Not sure what the fuss about marketing automation is? Read this. In short, marketing automation tools are effectively hybrid email marketing tools that connect with your CRM to enable you to automatically send highly targeted emails to leads that are personalised specifically to them.

When Thomson Reuters upgraded to a marketing automation solution, their revenue increased by 172%. Another company increased their revenue by 832% (going from $80,000 in debt to $2 million in revenue) in just three years.

While traditional newsletters and email marketing are still important, the ability to capture more data on users and use behavioural-triggers has enabled B2B marketers to get a lot smarter with how they target users in the inbox.

2. Content Marketing: From Blogging to Microsites

By creating a total of 48 infographics, videos, and Q&A blog posts targeting C-level prospects of large market cap financial institutions, the public accounting firm Crowe Horwath generated $250,000 in revenue attributed to content marketing.

If 6-figure growth doesn’t get you excited, perhaps 10-figures (a billion) will.

In 2012, Xerox created a microsite offering relevant tips to business owners. The result? 70% of the companies targeted interacted with the microsite, adding 20,000 new contacts to their pipeline, 1,000+ of which scheduled appointments. The value of those appointments exceeded $1.3 billion in pipeline revenue.

Given the broad scope of content marketing, a good question to ask is what type of content should B2B companies be focusing on to generate leads?

Well, you could go by which tactics are most commonly used by other B2B companies (displayed below). The risk of this approach is that, by definition, you’ll be doing what everyone else is doing.

B2B content marketing

While there is some wisdom in following trends, there’s a good argument to do exactly the opposite of what other marketers are focusing on.

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

Whether you’re a contrarian marketer or prefer to stick to what’s working for others, a good content marketing strategy requires a degree of diversity and experimentation to understand where the biggest growth opportunities are for your business.

So, by all means, experiment with the common and uncommon tactics. Whether you use microsites, blogging, research reports, or infographics, the important thing is to test what does and doesn’t work so that you can gradually refine your lead generation over time.

3. Search Marketing

Organic search marketing is arguably one of the most valuable long-term strategies for generating B2B leads.

About 5-6 years ago, I was working on the SEO campaign for a major business stationery brand. It was one of my first ‘big campaigns’ that I was allowed to manage in my previous job.

While I can’t take the credit (their in-house SEO team and previous agencies had laid a great foundation for us), I watched the site’s revenue from SEO increase by over £4 million, just from a handful of keywords reaching #1 on Google.

Getting to #1 in Google is a lot harder today than it was five or ten years ago, and it can barely be summarised in a few sentences.

If I were to attempt it, though, I’d probably say that good SEO in 2015 is largely a bi-product of doing things well in other areas e.g. design, conversion rate optimisation, content marketing, and social. While there are exceptions, this is increasingly looking like the rule.

4. Social Media

Calling social media an effective B2B lead generation strategy is a controversial discussion to be starting.

While social media scored very well on both of the aforementioned ‘studies’, we can just as easily find reports where social media channels are regarded as the least effective lead generation strategies.

B2B lead generation

The bottom line is, social media isn’t inherently a poor channel for B2B lead generation. The reason social media is sometimes rated poorly on these aggregate studies is because most B2B companies have an ill-fitting social media strategy, to put it politely.

While tens of thousands of companies blast out self-promotional drivel, a minority of businesses use it generate and nurture millions of dollars worth of leads. In this instance, it’s best to learn from the minority rather than the majority.

One of the most obvious ways to generate B2B leads from social media is using LinkedIn. An commodity risk management company managed to generate over $2 million in pipeline value through their lead generation strategy.

Another consideration is that social media is an integral part of content marketing, and to some extent, search marketing. How successful will your blogging or infographics be if no one’s following your company’s updates on social media?

5. Integrating it all together

It’s said that success leaves clues. Well, when a $37 billion company generates a 5,100% return on investment on a million-dollar marketing campaign, it might be a pretty good clue.

From a $1 million investment in an integrated marketing campaign that included display ads, email marketing, campaign websites and content marketing, the healthcare technology company Optum generated $52 million in new business.

So, what’s the clue?

I believe it’s this: exceptional lead generation results come from a relentless willingness to experiment with different tactics, and to combine tactics across multiple channels.

Only by experimenting, can you truly know what does and doesn’t work, and when you know this, you can use your time and budget more effectively to generate higher returns on your investment, and better lead generation results overall.

I hope this post has given you some inspiration on what’s possible with B2B lead generation, and which areas are best to focus on. As always if you have any questions, or are interested in getting touch, feel free to comment below or drop me an email here.

10 Lead Magnet Examples That’ll Get You 300-400% More Leads

Disclosure: We sometimes use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.

With tens of thousands of businesses diverting their lead generation budgets towards areas like content marketing and marketing automation, there’s more competition over capturing email addresses than ever before.

As such, marketers are having to step up their game and create increasingly compelling lead magnets to persuade users to hand over their email address.

Lead magnets come in many shapes and sizes. From free online tools to free shipping coupons, their scope covers anything designed with the intention to attract and capture the contact details of a potential lead.

Below, I’ve listed some of the most effective lead magnets and acquisition techniques to help you boost your website’s rate of lead signups.

1. Offer your readers a ‘content upgrade’

One of my favourite tactics for capturing more leads from blog content is to offer a content upgrade through a tool like Leadpages or Unbounce.

Essentially, if you’ve written a post on ‘10 Tips to Grow Your Small Business’, you could create a content upgrade, like the one displayed below, enabling readers to access another 5 tips if they enter their email address.

When Brian Dean tested this tactic on Backlinko, his conversion rate of readers to subscribers increased from 0.54% to 4.82%.

Content upgrade

2. Build a lead capture tool

Free tools are one of the most underused tactics for capturing leads. By giving your visitors something personalised and valuable straight away, you can usually capture leads at a 30-40% conversion rate, based on my experience with this tactic.

The easiest way to build multi-step ‘tools’ that use conditional logic and rule-based redirects is to use a service like Leadformly. Alternatively, you can hire a developer on Freelancer.com – though this will likely take longer and cost more.

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 10.49.24

Hubspot’s marketing grader is a great example of this tactic in action. After entering your website’s URL and email address, the tool generates a report on how you can improve your website.

Hubspot marketing grader

3. Offer a free-trial or sample of your product

If you have a service that delivers an electronic product (e.g. an audit, checklist, or proposal), you could capture leads by offering a free sample of your product sent to their email address.

The Bidsketch website does this particularly well by offering a free sample proposal as a lead magnet to capture potential customer’s email addresses.

Bidsketch

Another common technique, particularly in SaaS, is to offer a product demo. In the financial industry, most trading platforms offer demoes that allow you to test drive their platform by investing with fake money.

This is a great way to kill two birds with one stone, as it shows off your product while also capturing a potential lead’s email address.

Free demo

4. Give your visitors expert advice

If you offer a service, or are positioning yourself as an expert in your field, you could experiment with creating a lead magnet that offers your visitors the opportunity to receive a free expert review.

One of the best-executed and most unique examples of this that I’ve come across is from Unbounce’s webinar Page Fights. The webinar is basically a chance for webmasters to have their landing pages critiqued by a handful of smart CRO experts.

As you can see below, the opportunity to have your website featured on the show is used as a lead magnet to capture email addresses for Unbounce.

Page Fights

5. Uses quizzes and surveys as lead magnets

Why do site like the Oatmeal and Buzzfeed feature so many quizzes? In short, they generate huge amounts of social engagement and are great for capturing email addresses.

Once a user has taken a quiz, they’ll likely be willing to hand over their email address to receive their results.

Quiz lead generation

In fact, from the comfort zone calculator that I built a few years ago (which uses a 3-step survey / quiz to generate a user’s results) we found that 84.3% of users who start the survey enter their email address to receive their results.

Exclusive Bonus: Download our Lead Gen Form Checklist for a step-by-step guide on how to boost your conversions with high-converting lead gen forms.

6. Offer a free guide with an exit-intent pop-up

If you’ve spent more than five minutes reading digital marketing blogs over the past year, you’ll likely be familiar with the exit-intent pop up.

This type of pop-up detects when a user is about to leave your website (based on mouse movement) and then displays a pop-up encouraging them to download something in return for their email address.

Pop-up

You might be wondering, isn’t this ludicrously annoying for users? It’s hard to deny that these pop-ups are a bit annoying, but they do seem to perform well.

Mauro D Andrea shared a case study on Unbounce showing that he was getting a 14.47% conversion rate from popups, which is unheard of from most standard web signup forms.

It’s important to be cautious with this strategy, as it can easily tarnish your brand if done too aggressively.

7. Create a video series or mini-course

Another powerful idea for a lead magnet is to create a mini-course or video series that provides a solution to one of your customer’s main problems.

Here’s an example of a 7-video course lead magnet that Timothy Sykes uses.

Timothy Sykes

8. Give away free shipping or discount coupons

Increasingly, I’ve noticed more and more Ecommerce websites offering free shipping or a discount coupons as lead magnets to capture their visitor’s email addresses.

While promo codes and free shipping have been used as a basic component of Ecommerce marketing for over a decade, the idea of making a visitor ‘work’ for the discount by entering their email address is interesting, and provides a powerful hook for Ecommerce sites to build up a mailing list of potential customers.

Ecommerce lead generation

9. Run a Competition or Giveaway

One of the most straightforward ways to capture a potential lead’s email address is in return for an entry to win one of your products.

Competition

10. Use Social Contests

There are few lead acquisition techniques as powerful and cost effective as running a social contest on Facebook. A few months ago, I wrote about how we ran a contest for a client that captured 681 email addresses, 78 of which signed up for their $10/month service, for just $37.

Social contests

If you haven’t experimented with using Facebook contests as lead magnets, it’s worth a try.

Email A/B Testing: How to Scientifically Optimise Your Emails Like Barack Obama

Disclosure: We sometimes use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.

During his election, Barack Obama raised $690 million in online fundraising. The majority of this money came from email marketing.

What was his secret? Obama’s team obsessed over email A/B testing.

AB testing Barack Obama

In one A/B test, Obama’s team found that one subject line generated $403,600 in donations, whereas another variation generated $2,540,866.

That’s a $2.1 million difference.

Seems like David Ogilvy was right when he said “When you’ve written your headline, you’ve spent eighty cents out of your dollar”.

Hopefully, those numbers speak for themselves as to why email A/B testing is worth talking about.

In this post I want to deconstruct what’s testable in email marketing, and go through some powerful A/B tests that you can run to increase your open rates, click through rates, and of course, conversion rates.

The 4 ½ Testable Components of Email Marketing

There are four (and a half) broad components to email marketing that are testable.

4 types of email AB test

1. Your subject line
2. You (the sender)
3. Your content
4. Delivery time

The half point? Audience context.

While a bit trickier to split test, the context of why your subscribers are on your mailing list, and the relationship they have with you, plays a huge role in their likelihood of opening, clicking, and converting.

Through careful segmentation, we can experiment with this to understand how building trust and offering value ahead of time impacts the success of future emails.

But before I get ahead of myself, we first need to ensure that our email marketing software enables thorough A/B testing.

Getting the Right Email Software for AB Testing

Surprisingly, not all email marketing software make A/B testing easy.

If you ask me, this is nuts. It’s one of the easiest ways for email software providers to improve the performance of their user’s campaigns, increasing their likelihood to continue as paying customers.

Thankfully though, a few do make it easy. There’s a detailed comparison of email software providers here with a column for A/B testing, but the quick summary is that if you want A/B testing, I’d recommend GetResponse or Infusionsoft.

I won’t go into the pros and cons here, but having used a myriad of tools (Mailchimp, Aweber, Sendy etc.), these are the only two that really let you go to town with A/B testing.

Once you’ve got a good email marketing tool that enables A/B testing, you can begin experimenting to find what does and doesn’t work.

So, let’s start off with one of the most important components: the subject line.

A/B Testing Your Subject Line

Last week, I ran an interesting subject line A/B test on a campaign that I sent out to subscribers of one of our music industry projects.

I created three subtly different variations. Despite the subtle differences, the winning variant outperformed the losing variant by 100%. It’s pretty amazing to see, empirically, how small differences can have such a huge impact.

Email subject line experiment

A great subject line does three things, and three things only:

  • It clearly describes the contents of the email
  • It stands out in the inbox
  • It compels the recipient to open the email

At a strategic level, that’s all there is to writing amazing subject lines. On a tactical level, each of these points could be a monster of a blog post in itself.

Here are just a few tactics that you can experiment with.

1. Personalisation – Anything that makes your email more relevant to the recipient will, generally, improve engagement. Using the recipient’s name or location in the subject line is an easy way to improve its relevancy.

2. Behaviour & contextual information – If you use an email marketing tool like Infusionsoft that allows you to gather behavioural data, you can make your subject lines hyper-relevant. For example, if a potential customer abandons the shopping cart, you could set up an email to be sent twenty minutes later with the subject “[Name], we noticed you left our site 20 minutes ago”.

3. Using symbols – 99% of subject lines are a combination of the same 26 letters and ten digits. Using non-standard characters, like ☞ or ☻, in the subject line is an easy way to catch the recipient’s attention.

4. Urgency – Economists have proven over and over again that loss aversion is a stronger motivator than the desire to gain. When you include phrases like don’t miss out or [24 hours only] in your subject lines, you’re tapping into the innate need to avoid loss.

5. Cliff hangers – Just like in all those dodgy TV soaps, when you build anticipation, it makes people want to know what happens next, or what’s inside.

6. Ask a question – Questions prime our brain for curiosity. Studies have found that even seeing a question mark stimulates our brain to come up with an answer.

7. Have a call to action – You may want to experiment with adding ‘click to find out’ or a similar call to action to see whether that prompts recipients to open your email.

8. Humour – Email subject lines tend to be quite dull. One way to stand out is to have a humorous subject line.

9. Offer incentives – What can you offer to sweeten the deal for the recipient? Why should they open your email?

10. Imply value – If you can imply that the recipient will benefit from opening your email, they’re more likely to open it.

We’re really only scratching the surface here. Just remember, anything that makes your emails stand out, compel the recipient to click, while clearly describing the contents is worth testing.

A/B Testing You

Don’t worry. When I talk about A/B testing you, I’m not suggesting we make clones or change your name…

That might be a little excessive for optimising open rates.

What I mean is playing around with the ‘from’ field. Mailchimp have suggested that, in some cases, the from field can be just as important as your subject line.

Remember the Barack Obama case study I mentioned earlier? Here’s one of my favourite email campaigns that his team sent out.

Hey email from Obama

Toby Fallsgraff, the head honcho behind Obama’s email campaigns, said in an interview:

“The subject lines that worked best were things you might see in your inbox from other people. ‘Hey’ was probably the best one we had over the duration.”

What makes the email above so awesome is not just the subject line, but the combination of subject line and from field. If the from field was ‘Team Obama’ or ‘Organizing for Action’, I doubt it’d be nearly as effective.

So, what can you test in the from field? Here are a few ideas:

  • If you’re a company, experiment with your company name vs. name of your marketing person vs. name of your CEO / founder.
  • Your full name vs. first name – Seth Godin likely gets a higher open rate using ‘Seth Godin’ opposed to just ‘Seth’. I’ve also found that the open rate is sometimes higher when using the first name only, as recipients confuse your email as being from someone else they know with the same name.
  • Different email addresses – if you’re sending emails from noreply at yourcompany.com you may want to test this against name at yourcompany.com.
  • Male vs. female – Depending on your audience, you may want to experiment with having a male vs. female sender.
  • Name connotations – We associate certain connotations with names. As such, we’re likely to perceive an email about modern fashion from ‘Betty’ differently to one from ‘Jessica’. Depending on your audience, this may be worth experimenting with.

A/B Testing Your Content

I’m extremely skeptical about studies suggesting that visual content outperforms plain text or vis versa.

So much depends on the creator’s ability to write compelling copy, or design persuading visuals. As such, you can take any statistics you hear about one bettering the other with a cupboard full of salt.

There are two contradicting schools of thought at play here.

On the one hand, it’s hard to argue that a picture doesn’t convey a thousand words. Visual content tends to be better at influencing our emotions, and conveying messages more efficiently. +1 for visual content.

At the same time, emails from our friends are written in plain text. Therefore we’re right to associate visual emails as being more likely to be promotional. Plain text is a more personal format for email marketing. +1 for plain text.

Here’s my perspective:
Step 1. Learn to write awesome copy.
Step 2. Learn to design awesome visuals (or hire someone who is).
Step 3. Experiment with visual content vs. plain text.

What I’m getting at is that if plain text works best for you, it’s probably because you’re an awesome writer, not because visual content sucks. If visual content works best, you can high five your designer (self high-five if it’s you).

Understand your strengths, and play to them.

A/B Testing Delivery Times

There are countless studies on the best times to send your emails. I’m going to reference precisely zero of them. Here’s why.

They’re based on averages across multiple niches, and as the adage goes, “averages lie”.

Combine this with the fact that when everyone adopts a best practice, it no longer remains a best practice, and these studies become almost entirely redundant for practical use.

Delivery time experiment

So, how do you know when to send your campaigns? By running your own experiments.

One of the easiest ways to do this is with auto-responders.

If you set up auto-responders that get sent out X days after someone joins your list, your emails will eventually be sent out at different times on every day of the week.

You’ll soon reach a point of statistical significance, where you can see which times and days produce the highest engagement rates.

If you’re just sending a normal email newsletter, you should be able to A/B test different delivery times on a small portion of your list.

All in all, this is probably the easiest thing to split test.

A/B Testing Your Audience

The best online marketers don’t start A/B testing with A/B testing. They start by understanding their audience.

Here’s why.

You can have the greatest subject line and email content in the history of email marketing, but if you send it to a poorly qualified audience, it’ll produce poor results.

That’s why I think it’s important to talk about testing our audience, and seeing how different on-boarding methods influence the effectiveness of email marketing.

Identifying how trust influences email marketing effectiveness

As illustrated below, this a great way to understand the impact of building trust with your mailing list subscribers.

It’s considered best practice not to sell anything to your subscribers when they first sign up. Here’s how you’d split test that theory to know whether it holds true for you or not.

Change how you build trust

Let’s say that, from doing this, you find out that you have the highest conversion rate when sending one ‘trust building’ email to your subscribers before trying to sell something.

Now, you might want to identify whether the way in which your subscribers sign up to your list impacts that conversion rate.

Imagine that Audience A are people who signed up to your list from a blog post. Audience B are people who downloaded a free eBook, and audience C are people who signed up from your contact form.

Change audience

With this data in hand, you know that people who sign up for a free eBook are most likely to convert into paying customers. You may then decide to increase the prominence of your free eBooks to drive more high quality subscribers.

In an ideal world, you could take this concept to the extremes to find the best performing email sequences for various demographic, behavioural, and contextual ‘buckets’ of subscribers. In reality, that’s probably overkill for everyone except the likes of Amazon and Ebay.

In Summary

One of the founding principles of the field of science is to question everything.

When it comes to scientifically optimising your email campaigns, don’t rely on other studies. In fact, don’t even rely on anything mentioned in this post.

Set up your own experiments and find out what works for you.

Image Credits: Joe Crimmings, Justin Sloan

A Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Email Newsletter & Building a Mailing List

Disclosure: We sometimes use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.

It may seem like every man and his dog now has a newsletter, but for good reason; email newsletters are one of the most effective digital marketing channels. If you’re not convinced, consider this…

Email inbox

Why would you want to run a newsletter?

The reason for setting up a newsletter is simple; it’s a scalable and effective method of communicating with your audience. It’s a powerful tool for spreading your message, selling your products, and staying on the tip of your audience’s tongue.

When you post a message on your Facebook page, you’re lucky if 5% of your audience sees it. When you tweet, you’re lucky if 1% of your followers are online. However, with email it’s not unusual to receive a 30-50% open rate if you know what you’re doing. On top of that, emails drive business…

Last year, 44% of email recipients made at least one purchase last year based on a promotional email. For every $1 spent on email marketing, $44.25 is the average return on email marketing investment. It’s no surprise, then, that email marketing budgets have been increasing by 10% year on year.

While these stats may inspire hope and confidence, there is a dark side to email marketing that we’d be naive not to acknowledge.

Over 84% of emails are marked as spam, which means that consumers are increasingly weary over how they filter their emails and what they sign up to. With services like Unroll.me, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get inbox real estate, unless you truly earn it.

In this post I want to walk through how to set up a newsletter in a way that ensures that you not only dodge the spam folder, but that offers incredible value to your customers and generates a huge return on investment for your project or business.

As I wanted to make this post a really comprehensive guide for anyone starting a newsletter, i’ve broken it up into three parts, which you can skip between if you like (click the links below to skip to the most relevant part):

How to start your email newsletter

When starting a newsletter, we need to go through a few simple steps, which i’ve illustrated in the following graphic. This whole process should take less than 15 minutes when using this guide.

Starting a newsletter

While these steps are all quite intuitive, i’ve talked through each one individually below in-case you’re not sure about anything.

Step 1. Sign up for an email marketing service

To begin creating a newsletter, we need a piece of software that will manage our email list, allow us to build newsletters, and provide us with the insights to see what is or isn’t working.

I recommend using GetResponse.

Over the past six years or so, I’ve played around with dozens of email marketing services, from Aweber to Infusionsoft and GetResponse. Out of all them, GetResponse is my overall favourite. Why?

It’s extremely affordable (starting at $15/month), while incredibly powerful and easy to use. I also find that GetResponse have some of the best newsletter template designs around. Aweber is another good call, but I find their user interface a bit outdated and clunky (plus, their pricing starts at $19/month – not a big deal, but considering they’re not quite as good as GetResponse IMO this pushes the needle in favour of GetResponse even more).

If you want to weigh up the different options in more detail, i’ve written a comprehensive comparison of email marketing software providers here, but to cut a long story short – GetResponse are probably your best option unless you need a complex behaviour-triggered email marketing service.

Step 2. Add your contacts

If you’re using GetResponse, the first step is to add any contacts you already have to your default list. Don’t worry if you don’t have anyone to add yet (you can just skip this step), but if you have a database of customers or readers, this is where you can add them.

From the main dashboard, click the big button that says ‘add contacts’ and you’ll be forwarded to a page that looks like this. You can then either add your existing contacts by importing them from a CSV file, or copying and pasting their email addresses into the import box.

This will automatically start building your default list.

Step 3. Create a web form

The next step is to begin building our web form, which will likely be our main method of collecting new mailing list subscribers.

To do this, click the large red button that says ‘create web form’ and choose a template to begin editing from the row of default web forms.

You can then customise the web form so that it fits your website’s colour scheme and layout. Here you can also add images and extra text. Also, if you know a bit of HTML and CSS, you can hack around with the code to change how the form is displayed. However, this is not entirely necessary, as their drag and drop editor is pretty decent.

Once you’re happy with your web form, it’s time to create your thankyou page. This is the page that your subscribers will see once they’ve entered your email in your web form and confirmed their email address.

Step 4. Set your thankyou page (optional)

While GetResponse does have a default thankyou page that’s absolutely fine to use, I would recommend creating your own customised thankyou page, either now or in the future.

Why? Well, this is a great opportunity to promote an offer to your customers or direct them to something that may be of interest on your website. It also looks a little bit unprofessional leaving it as a blank page with the standard GetResponse branding.

To create your own customised thankyou page, you’ll need to create a page on your website with the information that you want.

Step 5. Install your web form on your website

Once you’re happy with the way your web form and thankyou page looks, it’s time to install your web form on your website.

The easiest way to do this is to just copy and paste the HTML embed code that’s provided under the ‘publish’ tab into where you want your web form to appear on your website. However, if you’re not comfortable doing this, you can always click the option ‘my web designer will install this form’, which will allow you to email a link to your code to your web designer.

Once this is done you should be able to test your web form live on your website to make sure that it’s working as it should.

And that’s all there is to it. You have the foundations of a newsletter all up and running. All that’s left to do is start building your list and begin building your newsletters.

Collecting email addresses and building your list

When it comes to creating a newsletter, getting set up is the easy bit. The real challenge is building up your mailing list of engaged recipients. So, how can we do this in a way that ensures we get the right people on our mailing list?

The first thing to realise is that people don’t sign up to mailing lists for no reason. In fact, most people actively do the opposite, which means we need to think about the following question from your audience’s perspective:

What’s in it for me?

We all visit hundreds of websites every day, and there are very few sites that don’t want us to hand over our personal information, so how can you stand out from the crowd?

By offering more value than everyone else.

That may mean writing incredible content so that people want to be updated as soon as you write a new post. It may mean having to create something like an eBook or free guide to give away in return for their email address.

There are hundreds of great blog posts written about building your mailing list, so I won’t cover this in too much depth here, but I will share a few good examples from mailing lists that i’ve subscribed to.

#1 Using ‘Hello Bar’ to drive subscribers

Hellobar is a powerful free widget that appears at the top of every page on your website once installed. You can customise the message and call to action, as well as A/B testing different messages to optimise your conversion rate.

For driving mailing list subscribers this is a great opportunity to attract attention with an incentive such as a free eBook or entry to win a prize in return for an email address.

Hello Bar

#2 Using Pop-ups effectively

Pop ups are a controversial tactic for driving subscribers, as many people find them extremely annoying. Despite this, many marketers have found that they’re extremely effective at driving newsletter subscriptions.

If you plan to go down this route, I’d recommend using something like BounceExchange, which only triggers a pop up when a user is about to leave your website.

ConversionXL popup

#3 Adding email captures at the end of your blog posts

One of the most common methods of building a mailing list is through blogging. We’ve written about this in more depth here, but here’s a great example of it being used in action on the KISSmetrics blog.

KISSmetrics email capture

At the end of every post on KISSmetrics’ blog, they link to a white paper or free eBook, in which a reader must offer their email address for to download.

Creating your first newsletter

To begin building our first newsletter we’ll need to go back into GetResponse and click the green ‘create a newsletter’ button on the dashboard. That should bring you to a page that looks something like this:

Create a newsletter

From here, click on the left ‘new email creator’ button and then follow through the step-by-step editor. One of the first things you’ll need to do is decide on your subject.

How to write a subject line than stands out

Many of your recipients will receive tens or perhaps even hundreds of emails every day. Your subject line has to catch their attention and convince them that reading your email will be valuable to them. Here are a few pointers to consider:

  • Keep it short – while most email clients display up to 60 characters in the subject line, many mobile browsers only show 25-30 characters. Make sure to convey what your email’s about in the first 30 characters.
  • Don’t use filler words – with so few characters available, don’t waste them on words like ‘hi’, ‘hello’, or ‘thanks’.
  • Be clear about the contents of the email – before trying to maximise interest and appeal, your subject line must be specific about the contents of your email. Remember, a high open rate is pointless if it annoys recipients and leads to a low engagement rate.
  • Use urgency and scarcity – where relevant, it pays to use urgency and scarcity in your subject lines. For example, you might start the subject line with [Urgent] or ‘3 Days Remaining’. This conveys that they must not procrastinate on opening your email.
  • Personalise it – this is the oldest trick in the book with email marketing. A subject line that includes the recipient’s name is virtually guaranteed to have a higher open rate than one that doesn’t.
  • A/B Test – One of the benefits of using GetResponse is that you can split test your subject lines i.e. send 25% of your mailing list a version of your newsletter with one subject line and 25% a version with another subject line. You can then compare which subject line is more effective and send the remaining 50% of your list the best performing version.

When you’ve written a subject line that you’re happy with, you can then click next and begin choosing your newsletter template. After choosing one that you like the look of you’ll end up in the newsletter designer window, which looks something like this.

Designing your newsletter

Using the drag and drop editor, you should be able to easily customise your newsletter so that it fits with the branding and design of your business. Once you’ve designed your first newsletter and have written what you want to say, it’s time to send it out to your list!

And that’s all there is to it! From here, you should find time every month or perhaps every two weeks to create a newsletter to send out to your followers. Each time, you will hopefully have more subscribers to send your newsletter out to.

In summary

Starting a newsletter and building up your mailing list can be incredibly rewarding when done right, so stick with it. As with many great things, it will take time.

However, to maximise your chances of seeing great results, constantly experiment with what works and keep improving all aspects of your email marketing.

I hope the recommendations in this post have been useful. I’m aware that we’ve tried to cover a huge range of things in one post, so don’t be discouraged if it seems overwhelming! At the end of the day, it all comes down to building your list and writing a newsletter that your audience enjoys.

If you have any questions about starting an email newsletter, building a mailing list, or anything email marketing related, feel free to post them in the comments below and i’ll be sure to respond.

Aweber vs. GetResponse Review: Which is Best for Email Marketing?

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Over the past 15 years, different marketing platforms and tactics have risen and fell. There’s one channel, however, that’s withstood the test of time; email marketing.

Email marketing is absolutely essential to the long term success of any online business. The ability to maintain a list of contacts and customers will ensure you are able to build a relationship that enables you to grow.

GetResponse email marketing

When it comes to email marketing services, Aweber and GetResponse are two of the best email marketing services to choose between. So, how do the two services compare, and which would most suit your needs? I’ve used both Aweber and GetResponse extensively across various side projects and client projects, so I thought I’d compare the pro’s and con’s of each below.

Costs

Both email marketing services charge recurring fees, so overall cost could be a major factor in your decision. While the pricing structures can appear complicated at first glance, they are based on the number of subscribers you acquire. Typically, your business will generate more revenue as your list grows, meaning the extra costs will be absorbed.

Aweber offers a basic package of up to 500 subscribers for $19 per month ($1 for the first month), an extra $10 for a further 2000 subscribers and additional increments up to $149 for between 10,001 – 25,000 subscribers.

Aweber Pricing

GetResponse offer a 30-day free trial, after which you would be paying $15 for up to 1000 subscribers, $25 for 2500 and then additional increases as your list grows.

GetResponse Pricing

Both Aweber and GetResponse have large enterprise packages, suitable for high volume customers, and also offer discounts if you sign up on an annual basis. Overall, GetResponse is slightly cheaper than Aweber, but there is not a vast amount of difference between the two.

Functionality

Aweber has developed a great reputation for the simplicity and usability of their service. They have continually looked to make things easier for their customers, while also adding to their graphics and templates options.

One of the major benefits of Aweber is the ability to make things as simple or as complex as you require. If you want a ‘set it and forget it’ email marketing service, you can simply use their drag and drop system to quickly load a series of emails. Templates and email opt-in forms are in abundance and look slick and professional. However, if you want to use their HTML editor you can build emails to your own specification and send them at specific times of the day for optimal results.

Drag and drop editor

GetResponse, in previous years, had a reputation for being slightly less user friendly and provided limited options in terms of templates and opt-in forms. They have addressed these issues though, and introduced ‘Autoresponders 2.0’, which is a huge upgrade. The scheduling uses an attractive calendar system, making things very clear and intuitive for all levels of user.

GetResponse Autoresponder 2.0

There are plenty of nice templates and graphics to suit a variety of markets and also for generic use, while their scheduling and cycle management is as sophisticated as Aweber offers.

Reporting and analytics

We have come to expect beautiful design when it comes to reports and analytics online, so it is no real surprise that both Aweber and GetResponse provide ample graphs and tables to help track emails.

They are both well formatted, so you can quickly and easily find out a great deal of information without too much effort. The usual data is available – email open rates, unsubscribe rates, which links were clicked – but there is also a great deal of extra important information, including what your return on investment (ROI) is, found by placing a tracking code on your website.

Both services offer a huge deal of reporting options, but GetResponse may just edge this as they have put a great emphasis on their ‘Intuitive Email Intelligence’, which really delivers.

GetResponse email intelligence

Managing subscribers and segmentation

Email marketing and promotion, in its simplest form, does not require a great deal of work when a campaign has been set up. But if you want to really make the most of your campaigns and generate a high ROI, learning to manage your subscribers effectively is essential.

Aweber allows you to segment your lists in a variety of ways, including who opened your emails, where they are located, what product they purchased and more. When you first begin to collect email addresses, Aweber allows you to add custom options in order to segment people onto different lists. This is particularly effective as you can then create custom emails to really hone in on a niche, providing a more personal experience for the reader.

GetResponse also provides a vast array of options for managing and segmenting your list. They offer very similar options to Aweber, also allowing the option of creating multiple groups so you could create an almost unlimited number of segmented groups for extremely focused targeting. This could get very confusing, but thankfully GetResponse, and also Aweber, make the segmentation rules easy to follow and you can start very simply before adding any complexity.

If you have lists from other email marketing services or address books, Aweber and GetResponse will also allow you to add them to your various lists, making list management a breeze. The contacts will be required to confirm they wish to be added to these lists though, to be compliant with the relevant rules.

Landing Pages

If you want to be able to create landing pages, you’ll need to go with GetResponse, as Aweber doesn’t offer the ability to build landing pages.

For me, this is a deal breaker as it’d take hours coding landing pages manually, and the landing page editor on GetResponse makes it quick and easy to build a landing page that matches our design.

GetResponse landing page

Currently, GetResponse offers over 100+ landing page templates, all of which you’re able to customise without needing any HTML knowledge. All of the templates are mobile responsive, and can be A/B tested.

Integration

For many customers, integration with a 3rd party service is essential. Aweber allows easy integration with the popular shopping carts like Paypal, 1 Shopping Cart and Authorize, so you can add customers to a list. As all business owners know, a list of buyers is extremely valuable and this integration allows this to be done immediately. A customer can make a purchase and receive a ‘Welcome’ email from your Aweber buyers list right away. You are not limited to shopping carts either, as Aweber has a variety of social apps allowing you to get new subscribers from sites like Facebook and WordPress.

GetResponse also do a great job of integrating with 3rd party services. They have an ‘App Center’ which features various eCommerce and social sites that you can gain subscribers from, and the functionality is excellent.

GetResponse App Centre

They currently list 94 different websites they support, including major names like Google Checkout, Amazon Payments and WordPress. Aweber and GetResponse have excellent integration services but the sites they support do not always overlap, so make sure to check both services if you have a particular need in this department. If one site does not offer integration it is highly likely the other does, especially if you are dealing with a well known 3rd party company.

Final thoughts

Changing your email marketing service is something you typically will only want to do as a last resort. For this reason, it is hugely important to make the right decision from the beginning. As you can see, Aweber and GetResponse have earned great reputations for a reason – they have continued to develop and innovate their products, while putting functionality and usability at the forefront.

If price is a major factor for you, GetResponse currently offer a slightly more affordable service. The difference may be negligible but recurring costs can add up. Aweber has a slight advantage when it comes to design and template options, though GetResponse has made considerable improvements and much of the difference is now down to personal taste.

The core services they offer in terms of deliverability, segmentation, analytics and scheduling, are now at a very even level, meaning you can use the services to a very advanced level and not suffer a loss in performance whichever company you use. Both companies have clearly spent time and money to stay ahead of most of the competition.

If you are still unsure about which option to take, you may like to make use of their trial options. As mentioned above, GetResponse offers a 30-day free trial, while Aweber charges $1 for the first month. This can be a great way to get a feel for the products before you make the final decision.

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