Welcome to Part 2 of our series “Email Marketing for Computer Business”. In Part 1, I explained small changes that you can make to start writing more effective emails today. Using these techniques, you can significantly improve your conversion rate – how many recipients open your email, then buy your service. Read it here if you haven’t read it already.
Eventually, your sales will plateau, then start to decline. The reason is simple – email lists shrink over time. Research shows that an average of 25% of email recipients unsubscribe each year. They might not be interested in your services, bought your service already, or simply do not find them relevant.
To get more business via email consistently, you’ll need to address two problems:
- Add more subscribers to your mailing list
- Make your emails more relevant
First, a note on what NOT to do. Some companies sell or rent email lists. For a small sum, you can get access to thousands of local email addresses that fit your demographic. They might even claim that these are “opt-in” lists. Growing email lists can be hard, so this can be tempting.
However, emailing people who did not explicitly ask to hear from you will not only tarnish your reputation, but also land you on the bad side of your email marketing company. These companies are legally bound to fight spam, and the most reputed ones, like MailChimp and Campaign Monitor, are especially serious about this.
Being reported as spam can be very bad news for your marketing campaign. Even an innocent mistake like sending emails to deactivated accounts can get you banned from using their service (it’s happened to me!). You must tend to your mailing list like a garden, not use and abandon it like a coal mine.
How to create mailing lists
The fact is, high-quality mailing lists can’t be purchased. You have to build them. And the most efficient resource for this is your business website.
Whether someone does a Google search for “computer repair” or reads your column in the newspaper, they will land on your website. Once they are there, you have the best chance of getting their email address.
Remember – there’s no such thing as something for nothing. To get someone’s contact details, you have to offer something in return. It can be a one-time discount, a white paper (for businesses) or a blog that actually offers valuable ideas.
Use a brief form to ask for this information, with one text field (for entering the email) and two or three checkboxes. The intent is to know a bit more about your subscriber, but not put them off by expecting them to answer a full survey. Getting someone’s email address offers the best opportunity to collect some additional info, instead of begging them to take a survey.
But why do you need this information? To know what kind of content they’re interested in. After all, you wouldn’t want to tell an individual about your maintenance plans for companies, or a business owner about the best gaming headsets you offer. Simply put, when someone shares their email address, you need to decide what mailing list to add them to.
Another way to know this is to offer more than one freebie. Let’s say your website offers a discount coupon for a PC checkup, and a free report on how renting your hardware can save a business money – and you ask for their email address to send a download link. What they download will tell you what mailing list they belong in.
As your business grows, you will need more than one mailing list. Why? Because good email marketing is a mix of content and context. Part 1 explained how to create better email content – your message. Context is all about the recipient – how relevant the email is to them. Even the most compelling email will fail to convert if it’s sent to the wrong audience.
When your business is small, this can be simple enough. All you need is one, or at most two mailing lists (say, homes and offices). But what if your business has grown and you have more 300 individual subscribers in your area? That’s when it’s time to fine-tune your email strategy.
Here’s a question: Which of these two pitches should you use in your next email?
“Are you worried that you could lose all your family memories? Let us take care of it. For just $9.99 a month, we’ll back up all your data and keep your PC in peak condition!”
“Building a gaming PC? Our designs will blow your mind!”
This was a trick question. In fact, either of them will work – so long as they’re read by the right person. But if target one group, you’re risk losing subscriptions from the other.
Email works best when the reader thinks, “Hmm, this guy just read my mind! It’s as if we’re old friends!”
And that can be hard. This is why you need demographic data (collected at subscription time – and if you don’t have it, you could always do a survey over email or social media). Use this data – and your own experience – to create buyer personas.
What’s a buyer persona?
A buyer persona is a detailed description of a typical customer – one of each type. For the above example, for instance, you might create these personas…
“Bob is 45 years old. He owns a home in the suburbs and has an annual income of more than $35,000. He and his wife have three children, who visit for holidays. They have a small dog and two cars. Bob’s oldest child has two small children, and Bob loves seeing them on Skype. Preserving family memories is what got him interested in photography. He just bought an entry-level DSLR, but is terrified that one day, he will lose all the photos in a computer crash. He doesn’t understand technology well, so he’s confused about what his best options are. Bob is annoyed by all the “gizmos” that everyone’s obsessed with these days. He loves simplicity. Bob is in the market for a new laptop because he needs to travel for business meetings and wants to keep bags light.”
“Rick is 21 years old and just started working his first real job. He’s a MMORPG gaming enthusiast. He first got into it with World of Warcraft. He also plays CS:GO and Star Wars: Battlefront. He’s big on social networking and is active on Facebook, Instagram and Reddit. Rick is a PC gaming enthusiast. He’s researching whether to save up for an Alienware machine or build his own gaming PC. Rick is smart and keeps up with technology. He also wants what his friends have. He understands complex terms and concepts, and if he doesn’t, he finds out what they mean. He researches everything online before making up his mind – and then he treats anyone who disagrees as the “other team”. Rick doesn’t hesitate to try new things and is an “influencer” in the young demographic.”
There. Now you have a better idea of what to write – or rather, who to write for. Emails guided by buyer personas are more likely to convert because readers feel that you understand their problems perfectly. You could create as many personas as you want in order to describe the majority of your market. A minority of your potential customers won’t fit into any persona, but that’s fine. Personas exist to make marketing easier for you. They’re a tool, not a rule-book.
We’ve written before about how to identify your ideal client, if you want to dig into the topic further.
How we buy stuff
There’s something else you must consider while populating mailing lists – the buyer’s journey. Broadly, whenever someone buys your service, they go through four stages: awareness, research, action and experience.
Awareness is when someone knows that they have a problem and are searching for answers. They read blogs and product reviews. Ask their friends. To win over someone in the awareness stage, you have to educate them. Offer information, tips and freebies without selling your service aggressively.
Once these customers understand the nature of their problem, they study possible solutions. This is the research stage – when your emails need to explain how your service can solve their problems. During the research stage, buyers will compare your service to your competitors and other alternatives. Your emails should now focus on driving toward a sale. You should explain what makes your service special and how they’ll benefit from it (see Part 1 for ideas).
After researching you and your competitors, the customer will, hopefully, take action and intend to buy your service. Now is the time to try to make the sale. Create a sense of urgency. Perhaps make special offers or bundled deals.
How can you know what stage a customer is in? Good question. Well, you can’t always know that, but you can provide a reasonable mix of emails to drive them to make a purchase.
Let’s say that you send out weekly emails – that’s 24 emails in 6 months. You could write 15 educational emails for the awareness phase, 5 for research, and 4 for closing the sale (action). Keep your prospect on the mailing list for 6 months. If they do not make a purchase in 6 months, remove them from your mailing lists for good. After all, email marketing services cost you money, and if someone didn’t buy your service after six months of persuasion, they probably never will. (numbers used here are merely for illustrating the point)
However, what if they do buy your service? Well then, it’s time to move them to a different list altogether – the “experience” list. You need to build strong relationships with your existing customers, so that they buy from you, time and again. Offer them more educational information that they’ll enjoy. Offer exclusive deals, periodically. Upsell to more expensive, high-end services. The hard part is already over – they have bought from you. Now comes the (relatively) easy part of keeping them happy.
Build an email library
Writing emails can be hard and time-consuming. You probably do not feel inspired to write a new email each week. The good news is, you don’t have to.
Part 1 discussed how to write better emails. As you get busy growing your business (and making more money), you could hire a copywriter to create a series of emails for you. Or you could even write them yourself as a one-time task.
Let’s say you have 3 mailing lists, send weekly emails, and decide that 6 months is enough time to pitch your services. That’s 72 emails. You might want to have a few additional emails in your library to make special offers – say, a New Year deal – and you’ll still have less than 80 emails.
And if you decide to email your existing customers bi-weekly, you will need barely 30 emails for the whole year, including exclusive holiday offers.
So with around 110 emails, you could build an email library, which you could use year after year. It’s a one-time effort that will pay for itself many times over.
Email marketing might seem like too much work, but when used right, it provide the best returns for the least effort. Unlike blogs and social media, you can reuse (or tweak) the same content year after year. Unlike blogs, potential buyers do not have to discover you using Google, nor are you ignored as is often the case on social media.
In 2004, PC Quest ran a story titled “The Death Of Email”. Twelve years on – an eternity in modern times – email is stronger than ever before. Use it right, and your business will grow better than you ever dreamed it could.