Email Marketing: The Ultimate Guide for 2020

So you’re ready to start taking email marketing seriously, huh?

In this guide, I’ll be walking you through the 3 core phases of email marketing, and how to pull off each one like a pro.

These are:

Why Email Marketing Matters

It takes around 5-7 touchpoints to close a sale.

In other words, a prospect will come in contact with your business as many as 7 times before they finally decide to make a purchase.

Now think about how a prospect lands on your site. If, like most of us, your business relies on Google for the majority of your traffic, then it’ll likely go something like this:

  • They do a Google search
  • They see your page ranking
  • They click on your page
  • They read your page
  • They leave

That’s one touchpoint. Congratulations.

Want to guess the likelihood that person will return to your site? Scrap that, we don’t do guesses around here.

The answer varies drastically from one industry to the next, but around 10% tends to be the benchmark for most marketing-related sites.

Looking at one of my own sites in particular, I can tell you this number is as low as 7.6% outside the marketing niche. So, for every 100 people that land on my website, only a measly 7 of those will return.

why email marketing matters

You see that little green slice? That right there represents the people who stick around longer, view more pages on your site, and ultimately, are more likely to buy products and services from you.

That’s the money slice.

The most effective way to beef this up is to capture email addresses, build an email list and leverage email marketing.

If that wasn’t enough, consider that email marketing allows you to:

  • Own your audience. Facebook can take away your reach, and Google can take away your traffic, but nobody can take away your freedom email list.
  • Communicate directly. Email is still one of the one most direct and personal ways to connect with someone online, resulting in higher engagement and more sales than almost any other marketing channel.
  • Funnel traffic anywhere. Let your audience know about new content, new products, and even send offers directly to their inbox. This is the closest you’ll get to printing money.

There are few better marketing strategies that will significantly increase revenue without pumping out more content or building more backlinks.

If you’re not using email in your business, you need to pay attention.

Phase #1: Building Your List

Ready for the big revelation? To build an email list, you need to ask your visitors for their email address.

I’ll give you a minute to gather yourself.

Here’s the thing: People don’t like giving out their email address anymore, and having just opened my inbox to 1,294 unread emails, I can hardly blame them.

In fact, the average email opt-in rate is only around 1.95%, which means even if you’re doing everything right, you can barely expect 2 of every 100 visitors to give you their contact details.

But why settle for average when I can show you how to double, and in some cases even triple that conversion figure?

Lead Magnets

A lead magnet is something you give in exchange for an email address. You can almost think of this as an ethical bribe.

Let’s start with the obvious.

Offering people “free updates” or “weekly newsletters” has never been the best approach, and it certainly isn’t going to cut it in 2020. You’ll be lucky to get over 1% doing this, let alone make average.

It needs to something tangible and highly actionable. Something they can apply right away and quickly get results from.

For example, on Buildapreneur, I offer an email automation lead magnet in the format of a mini-course:

an email automation

Keep in mind, the format of the offer isn’t nearly as important as the offer itself, but it’s still worth testing this once you have an offer that’s working.

Other formats to test include:

  • A downloadable PDF
  • A checklist or cheat sheet
  • A free coaching call
  • A list of resources
  • Access to a video or webinar
  • Access to a community

The problem with most lead magnets, and the reason why many won’t even break industry average, is because they’re used across an entire website. As a result, they’re almost always too broad.

The answer is to ditch the blanket approach and use content upgrades. In other words, create content specific lead magnets that are super targeted to each individual article.

For example, if you have an article about running Facebook ads to fill up a webinar, your lead magnet should perfectly compliment that topic, such as:

  • A list of your highest converting Facebook ad headlines
  • An over-the-shoulder recording of you setting up a high-converting ad
  • Your top 3 recommendations for webinar software

As soon as I started doing this on my sites, my conversion rate went from “meh….” to “holy sh*t…”

conversion rateconversion rate

Yes, it’s a lot of work. But we’re talking about a 2-3x overnight increase in email opt-ins without increasing your traffic by the same amount.

Seriously, don’t sleep on content upgrades.

This customization is easily accomplished using Thrive Leads, a WordPress plugin put out by Thrive.

Thrive Leads allows you to categorize all your blog posts, then serve up different lead magnets based on which category the post is in.

So you will notice in this post that there is a relevant offer popping up at you that pertains to email marketing (sorry if it's annoying).

My other posts about different subjects get different lead magnets.

Email Capture Forms

An email capture form comes in various… uhh… forms. And if you’re a big fan of the internet, you’ve likely seen them all.

The least aggressive and perhaps most traditional type of opt-in form is the inline widget. These appear in the sidebar of a website as well as after (and sometimes inside) the main content area.

mail capture form

This will vary based on your industry and the lead magnet on offer, but these forms typically convert at less than 1%. Often closer to 0%.

Some people believe they’re not even worth the real estate they take up on your site, but having more forms on your site will push up your average opt-in rate, so it’s a collective effort.

Slightly more aggressive types include sticky ribbons, which appear in a fixed position at the very top or bottom of the website, and slide-ins, which appear in either corner of the page.

bottom form

These have much higher visibility since they’re stuck to the screen, so they often convert slightly better than static widgets.

Again, this will vary based on industry and lead magnet, but you can typically expect an opt-in rate of somewhere between 1-2%.

I tend to market rather aggressively with multiple popups and widgets and have found I can get that number up to about 7%.

Moving on, by far the most aggressive type of opt-in forms are popups and screen-fillers.

popups opt-in forms

Yes, everybody hates popups. But you know what? Popups and screen-fillers convert the best of any form type, by FAR.

It’s not uncommon to see opt-in rates of over 5% using these bad boys.

Finally, you can send traffic to dedicated landing pages for some of the wildest conversion rates you’ve ever seen.

dedicated landing pages

Email opt-in rates for landing pages are among the most versatile, but some savvy marketers have seen up to 90% conversions with a finely tuned offer and highly targeted traffic.

Remember, you don’t have to commit to just one of these. Having multiple form types on the page will increase overall conversions.

Email Capture Software

If all this is starting to sound complicated, don’t worry — you don’t need to be Bill Gates to build an email list.

Plenty of tools exist today that makes the process considerably easier than it used to be, so let’s run through your options.

When it comes to building landing pages, you’ll find an endless supply of recommendations. Unfortunately, most of them are primarily designed to look pretty as opposed to convert.

I use and recommend ClickFunnels.

ClickFunnels

This platform has generated well over 20,000 emails for me to date, and has been responsible for the majority of my list growth over the years.

With that being said, if you’re not planning to create sales funnels, a ClickFunnels subscription may be a little overkill (and pricey) for building out single landing pages.

At $49 per year for a single site license, Elementor Pro is a great alternative for anyone who runs a WordPress site. This established landing page builder is easily one of the best in the industry.

Elementor Pro

Elementor will also allow you to things like sales pages and webinar pages that you send your subscribers to during product launches.

When it comes to capturing emails from your blog content, you’ll want to use something that supports the various form types I talked about in the last section, such as sticky ribbons, popups and screen-fillers.

As it happens, Elementor Pro has all that baked in.

Elementor Pro

The only catch is that it doesn’t currently have native reporting, meaning there’s no analytics dashboard to see how well your forms are actually converting. And you can forget about split-testing.

I’ve started using Thrive Leads, which is a cheap plugin that lets you create forms, test forms, and gives you amazing analytical data to use.

Thrive Leads

There are semi-complicated workarounds such setting up Google Tag Manager and tracking it through Google Analytics, but if that makes your head spin, I have one last recommendation.

Thrive Leads is a WordPress list building plugin. It supports just about every form type you can think of, a real-time analytics dashboard, and split-testing environment built-in, all for $67 one time.

They’re all very viable options, so pick your poison.

Phase #2: Managing Your List

With your opt-in forms and lead magnets at the ready, you’ll need to know how you’re going to store and manage your subscribers before you flip the switch.

What happens when a prospect submits their email on your website? And how do you organize hundreds, if not thousands of contacts?

This might not be the sexiest part of email marketing, but it lays an important foundation for the next phase. Don’t skip it.

Email Marketing Platform

Your email marketing platform—or what people often refer to as an “autoresponder”—is the gatekeeper to your list. You can think of this like web hosting for emails.

Since your list is a valuable business asset that can generate sales on demand, you don’t want to give the keys to just anybody, right?

In a nutshell, you want a platform that:

  • Is easy to use right out of the box
  • Has high email deliverability rates
  • Allows subscriber tagging and custom fields
  • Supports email automations and workflows
  • Supports site tracking (for advanced automations)
  • Allows affiliate links in emails
  • Integrates with your email capture software
  • Doesn’t cost an arm and a leg

If you’ve read any of my stuff before, you’ll know that I’m a HUGE advocate of ActiveCampaign. It ticks all the points above and is very reasonably priced.

ActiveCampaign

Some platforms like MailChimp and MailerLite offer generous free plans with automation included.

You won’t be able to pull off complex automations and you will have to accept some light branding on your emails, but it’s a good starting point if you don’t already have a list and aren’t getting much traffic.

 MailerLite

If you have the budget or just want to avoid switching in future, I’ve found that ActiveCampaign will give you the most bang for your buck long-term.

Email List Segmentation

If you’re using the right email email marketing platform, you’ll be able to segment your subscribers based on what they do on your website and how they respond to your emails.

Segmenting subscribers allows you to send more targeted and personalized emails, which ultimately increases opens, clicks and conversions. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to sending in the next section).

Most email marketing platforms use tags and custom fields to help you group subscribers by certain data points.

  • Tags: A value that you can add to or remove from a subscriber when they perform specific actions, such as visiting a page on your website, reading an email or clicking a link.
  • Custom fields: A value that is less likely to change in the future, and is usually applied on a permanent basis. This could include their sex, occupation, or even favorite color.

With ActiveCampaign, you can apply tags and custom fields to different lists, allowing you to divide your lists up even further.

ActiveCampaign

A common use-case for segmentation is tagging subscribers based on the type of content they consumed on your website.

For example, you’re currently reading a guide about email marketing where I offer a lead magnet about email marketing. If you happen to opt-in to my list for that lead magnet, it’s pretty safe to say you’re interested in email marketing.

In that case, I could easily tell my email marketing platform to apply a tag (via my capture form) to anyone that signs up for my email marketing lead magnet — allowing me to segment out those people later.

I know it sounds crazy, but when you only email people about things they actually care about, you get a much better response from them.

Phase #3: Mailing Your List

Just because someone subscribed to your list, it doesn’t guarantee they’re going to open your emails, click your links and buy your products.

The average American worker receives around 126 emails per day according to one study, so it’s hardly surprising that open rates dropped to 22.1% in 2019, down from around 24% in previous years.

That means, on average, less than 1 in 4 subscribers will open your emails. Even then, fewer of those who open your emails will end up on your website or landing page as a result.

Once again, we don’t settle for average and neither should you. So let’s talk about ways to increase the effectiveness of your emails.

Email Automation

Traditionally, when you email your list (or a segment of your list), you’re drafting and blasting a single email to everyone on that list.

This is called a broadcast email, and they still have their place in email marketing when it comes to time-sensitive information.

broadcast email

With platforms like ActiveCampaign, however, you have the ability to automate this process using a series of pre-written emails, which are sent out only when certain conditions are met.

This creates a highly targeted and personalized experience for each individual subscriber. You send the right email, to the right person, at just the right time… all without lifting a finger.

Email automation

Most people know this as an autoresponder sequence, but autoresponders trigger on a single condition; an opt-in. Email automation goes so much deeper than that, and the use-cases are infinitely larger.

For example, you can fire an email when a subscriber:

  • Opts-in from a specific blog post
  • Opens your email but doesn’t click your link
  • Stops opening your emails suddenly
  • Reads several of your articles on one topic
  • Attends your webinar but doesn’t finish it
  • Looks at your sales page but doesn’t buy
  • Buys your course but doesn’t complete it
  • And literally hundreds more…

You can even build automations based on segments in your audience, including those tags and custom fields we talked about in the previous section.

Here’s a screenshot of one of my own automations:

build an email automation

Seriously, invest some time setting up email automations for your business and they will pay dividends for years.

Email Copy

Your email copy, or the words you use in your emails, is what grabs attention and keeps people engaged in what you have to say.

If you think about why people sift through their inbox for in the first place, it’s to find emails that are personal to them. Friends, family and coworkers will always take precedent.

The “trick” is to talk to your subscribers the same way. You know, like a friend, in a casual and conversational tone. Don’t write the way you think you should talk, write the way you actually talk.

email copy trick

(Hint: If it sounds like a letter from the Queen, you’re doing it wrong.)

Let’s start with subject lines.

This is the single most important factor when it when it comes to improving email open rates. If you get this wrong, everything inside the email is irrelevant because nobody will see it.

Here’s what a friend would not write in their subject line:

  • [Sale] Get 30% Off This Black Friday
  • New Blog Post: Email Marketing in 2020
  • 7 Powerful Blogging Tools You Must Try

And here’s what a friend probably would write:

  • Thought you might want this discount
  • Finally published this beast
  • Using any of these blogging tools?

Can you feel that? Can you feel the difference in how these come across?

Same goes for the body of your email. You absolutely need to maintain the same personality throughout.

Jill Stanton from ScrewTheNinetoFive.com is exceptional at writing conversational emails, such as this one:

conversational emails

In particular, notice how she:

  • Talks directly to the reader as an individual
  • Makes it from her specifically, not her company
  • Uses short sentences and paragraphs
  • Scraps perfect grammar and sentence structure
  • Uses informal words and phrases (even curse words)

Finally, you need to end every email with a call to action.

Whether it be to read a post, register for a webinar or buy a product, you need to be CRYSTAL clear about what you want your subscribers to do after reading your email.

Email Types

Before we wrap this up, let’s cover the two most effective types of emails you should be sending to your subscribers.

Let’s start with relationship building emails.

This is all about connecting with your subscribers on a personal level in order to build trust and rapport. It goes without saying, but the idea is to do this before you start pitching your products or services.

The best way to pull this off is to offer a mix of:

  • Pure value: Give the people the insights and actionable takeaways they signed up for. Subscriber exclusives always work a treat.
  • Storytelling; The only way to connect on a human level is to share human experiences. Don’t ever be afraid to open up to your audience, they’ll love you for it.

relationship building emails

These emails get responses like these all the time and do wonders for your brand.

relationship building emails

If you need a framework to follow, the Soap Opera Sequence is a technique made popular by Andre Chaperon, and it works REALLY well.

It involves sending a series of 5 emails every day, each emulating an episode of a Soap Opera.

And finally, let’s not forget about sales emails.

Assuming you’ve put in the work to build trust and rapport with your list, this is where you can start putting offers in front of them.

I could write an entire blog post on the science of sales emails, but there are fewer better places to start than using proven copywriting formulas — like PAS.

  • Problem: Start by talking about why they’re on your email list in the first place. In the words of your audience, what are they struggling with? This is where you call it out.
  • Agitate: This is where you explore deeper, more emotional aspects to the problem. What does it actually look like in their daily lives? What would happen if they ignored it? What it would it mean to solve it?
  • Solution: This is where everything clicks into place and you get to introduce a solution to the problem; your product or service.

This formula not only applies to writing sales emails, but it’s also widely used for sales calls, sales pages, and even sales webinars. You better believe that’s no coincidence.

 sales emails

Conclusion

The core principles of email marketing have remained virtually unchanged since the beginning, and yet it’s still one of the most valuable assets for any online business today.

While it’s hard to say how email marketing will develop over the coming years, it’s safe to say that email isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.

It’s time to get on board, or get left behind.

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