Whether you’re about to start a company or just looking for new ways to help your small business succeed, launching a marketing channel can feel daunting.
That’s certainly how Davis Nguyen, the founder of the consulting-job-search program My Consulting Offer, felt when adding email to his marketing mix two years into his business.
“There’s so much to figure out,” he told Insider. “What type of emails? How frequently should I send? Is there a best time? What software should I use?”
Two and a half years later, after having worked through these challenges, he’s reached more than 50,000 email subscribers, and 75% of his clients come from that channel.
“They join because they’re interested in what we do but might be a few months to even a year out from wanting to submit their résumé to firms,” he said. “However, because we have an email list, we can stay in touch.”
On the flip side, Tanya Dalton needed to spin up a new email list fast after closing down her first business and losing her sole source of income to open the planner company InkWell Press.
“We really needed to hit the ground running,” she said.
It paid off — on launch day, she said, they had no problem receiving orders.
She added: “And that was because we were very intentional with growing our email list.”
Nguyen and Dalton shared with Insider the steps they took to make their email programs simple yet successful.
Nguyen said if you’re nervous about anything related to setting up email marketing, there’s someone out there who could help.
For instance, when he was feeling overwhelmed picking an email-marketing platform, he crowdsourced some information.
“I emailed a bunch of my friends who had email-marketing campaigns going and asked, ‘What software would you recommend if you were starting today?'” he said.
He also suggested posting on Facebook groups for advice, hiring someone on Upwork, or even reaching out to the email-marketing tool of your choice for help setting things up.
“All the email-software companies want you to get started, so their customer service is usually awesome,” he said.
Beyond directly asking for help, Nguyen started paying attention to what other people in his industry or similar industries were doing with their email programs.
“I would hope they’re not just spending money on campaigns that aren’t working so you can see what resonates and how you can improve it,” he said.
One of the best ways to grow your email list, Dalton said, is to give people something in exchange for their email address. In marketing speak, this is called a lead magnet, and both Dalton and Nguyen suggested creating one that’s low-effort for you to provide but high-value for your target audience.
Nguyen figured out his early lead magnets by tapping into his existing marketing channels and materials he’d created.
“For example, if someone attended our free workshop, and they wanted the slides, I would send them to a page to input their email to get a copy,” he said, adding that he would do the same when sharing resources on forums or during podcast interviews.
Dalton found success by doing a giveaway to win a planner every year for life.
“That sounds huge, but at the end of the day, how much does it cost me to give away one planner a year? Not much,” she said.
Her target audience got super fired up about it, she added, and people were happy to share their emails to enter. She also increased visibility by giving people more entries if they shared the giveaway with others.
Once you have people on your list, you have to figure out which kinds of emails to send out and how often, and which kinds of subject lines will get your audience’s attention, among other things. Nguyen recommended not overthinking this in the beginning. Instead, he said you should make your best guess and then look at the data.
He said he started out by thinking about his goals with email marketing — to educate his audience and build trust — and which type of content he thought his audience would be most excited about. Then, his team started sending out emails and seeing what happened.
“Some of the emails got a bunch of responses back, so we figured people really loved this content,” he said. “Others got low engagement and open rates, so we figured that’s probably not relevant.”
He also looked at more granular aspects of his emails, including by A/B testing his subject lines — something most email-marketing services allow you to do to understand what generates more engagement. That resulted in three email types Nguyen sent regularly: Consulting-industry updates and advice, information about upcoming workshops, and a behind-the-scenes look into his company.
But, he added, he’s still constantly experimenting with types of emails and unafraid to ask his subscribers what they want.
“Twice a year, we send out an email asking our audience what kind of content they want in their inbox,” he said. In other words, the simplest approach is often the best.