This post contains affiliate links. If you sign up to an app using one of those links, I’ll get a small commission. I only recommend systems that I love and use in my business or with clients.
Maybe you’ve heard many online marketing experts say that you need to focus on building your list rather than growing your social media following. However, it’s not a straightforward choice between these two options. As I shared in a previous post, you may need to do both if you want to reach as many potential clients as possible.
Why your need an email marketing tool
The major drawback of social media platforms is their algorithms (and their constant changes!). Because of these algorithms, your followers may not see your content. I’m sure you’ve noticed that for yourself. There may be some accounts that you follow that you haven’t seen in a while. And yet, when you go directly to their profile you can see that they’ve posted an update recently – it just didn’t appear in your feed. If you don’t see the latest posts from these accounts, it also means that your followers may not see your updates. So you may be spending a lot of time creating content that very few people see.
Another concern with social media platforms is what would happen if they were to shut down today. You may think that it’s unlikely that Facebook or Instagram would. Still, it happened to Vine and Google Plus. And let’s face it, we really live in uncertain times right now – so, if Facebook or Instagram were to disappear, then how would you get in touch with your community?
The answer is list building. You need to create a database of leads (or potential customers) by capturing their email addresses. This way, you can stay in touch with them and let them know about your products and services as they become available.
List building is the first step you need to take before you even consider launching any of your services or products. If you don’t have a list of potential customers, then who will you announce the release of your new service to? I previously shared the 5 steps to create your first funnel and capture your visitors’ email addresses.
One of the tools you’ll need to create that funnel, and many others, is an email marketing platform, such as Mailchimp, ConvertKit or my personal favourite, MailerLite. In today’s post, I share the 5 features your email marketing tool needs to have to so you can launch successfully and grow your business with ease
Must have #1: custom fields + personalisation
Given that your email marketing platform is used to build your list, you obviously need to be able to efficiently manage your contacts. This means that you need to be able to capture more than their email address. You’ll want to be able to collect their first name as well and any other information that can help you personalise their experience.
For example, one of my clients has a lead magnet that is based on the seasons. Since the seasons are different based on which hemisphere you live in, she needs this information to be able to send a lead magnet that is relevant to her audience. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere like me, you’ll know how frustrating it is to receive journaling prompts about Winter, when you’re right in the middle of Summer! So to avoid alienating her potential customers, I created a custom field so my client can ask her subscribers which hemisphere they live in when they subscribe.
Another way to manage your contacts and personalise their experience is through the use of tags or groups. Note that this feature may have a different name based on the platform that you use.
Tags – or groups – are a way to organise your subscribers based on a product they purchase or the funnel they come from (for example, your lead magnet). Groups and tags are usually the triggers for your automation or a condition to send your subscribers on one path over another.
As you become savvier with your marketing, you’ll also want to segment your database based on your subscribers’ behaviour, such as whether or not they open an email. Segmentation is powerful, but it may not be a tactic you use right at the beginning when you’re only just starting your business. Still, it’s something that you’ll want to do at a later stage.
Bear that in mind when deciding which email marketing tool to use. Will you need to move to a different platform as your business grows, or will you simply need to upgrade the one you’re currently using? There is no need to pay for features that you don’t use right now, so don’t get excited and invest in a system like Kartra or Ontraport. These are great and have their advantages, but not when you’re only just starting. All they’ll do is overwhelm you!
Must-have #2: embedded + pop-up forms
Organising your contacts isn’t enough. You also need the ability to capture their details. This is done through forms. You’ll want to use 2 types of forms:
- Embedded forms
Embedded forms are simple forms that you add on a page on your website using some code that your email marketing service will provide. You’ll have different options on how to embed the form. You’ll usually have the straightforward option of copying and pasting some code that you cannot modify. You may also have the option to change the code. That second option is best left to developers and people who know CSS and HTML. You usually don’t need this option, as you can design your form inside your email marketing platform to match your branding. If you can’t, maybe it’s time to upgrade and change your service provider!
To embed a form on your website, you’ll need to have access to add code. Depending on your platform (e.g. WordPress or Squarespace), you may not have access to do this or may not feel confident doing it yourself. In this case, landing pages are a great alternative. I’ll talk more about landing pages below.
Pop-up forms are not an alternative to embedded forms. They’re an additional strategy that you can use to capture your visitors’ details. You’ll need to have your own website to use them. It doesn’t have to be complicated – a couple of pages where people can find out more about you and your services.
Pop-up forms are shown when you’ve been on a site for a set amount of time or when you’re about to leave. Many people complain about pop-ups, including myself, but this usually is because they aren’t implemented correctly.
To make sure that your pop-up grabs your visitors’ attention, rather than deter them from ever coming back to your site, you’ll want to:
- Make sure it’s off on mobile and tablet (as it can be tricky to close)
- Remove it from your sales page (you don’t want to distract your visitors)
- Make sure the close button is prominent (so your visitors can close the form, instead of leaving your website)
Must-have #3: landing pages
A landing page is a website, minus all the distractions such as the top navigation and the footer. If you already have a website and feel confident creating beautiful landing pages there, you may not need this feature in your email marketing tool.
However, it’s a nice feature to have as you’ll have access to various templates based on the type of promotions you’re doing. Plus, it’ll take you very little time to create. The integration with your list will also be effortless as it’s all in one place.
If you use your website for landing pages, then you can use embedded forms as I shared above, but it may be a little bit more tricky to make it look exactly the way you want.
Must-have #4: automation
This is where the power of email marketing lies. You want to be able to email your subscribers when they take a specific action. For example, when they sign up to receive your lead magnet, you want to send it to them instantly. And you also want to follow up daily to introduce yourself.
Automation is also essential when you launch a product or service. You’ll want to take your audience through an email sales sequence where you share more about your offerings and how they’ve helped your existing customers.
These sequences are different from a regular newsletter or an email campaign. Each email in the sequence is dependent on the previous one, either from a time perspective (i.e. sent at specific intervals) or from a behavioural point of view. For example, if your subscriber clicks on a link in Email #1, you want to send them Email #2, if not they’ll get Email #3. Once again, this is slightly more advanced and not something you’ll want to do for your first launch, but it’s worth knowing that you’ll need it at some stage, so you can pick an email marketing tool that supports your business as it grows.
Must-have #5: statistics + insights
If you can’t track how your emails are performing, then you won’t know what’s working and what’s not working. Therefore you won’t be able to make the necessary adjustments to get the results that you’re looking for.
You’ll want to track your open rate and click rate for all emails that you send. From a launch perspective, you’ll need the statistics for both the workflow and each individual email within the workflow. This will help you understand how well your automation is converting overall, as well as where people are dropping off and where you need to tweak your copy.
More features to consider
These 5 features are standard in most marketing platforms these days. They weren’t when I started my first business in 2011.
However, not all platforms are created equal. Some are very easy to use, others not so much. So, on top of the 5 features I’ve just shared, you’ll also want to consider:
- Pricing. Pricing is often based on the number of subscribers. However, most platforms also charge for additional features such as automation. MailerLite doesn’t (as long as you have less than 1,000 subscribers and send less than 12,000 emails/month), and this is why I recommend it to everyone who is only just starting their business.
- Ease of use. If your business is new and you’re not too tech-savvy, the learning curve to create an audience or a workflow may be a bit steep. Still, after getting your bearings, the tool you’ve chosen should be easy to use, or you won’t use it. Take advantage of free trials to make sure you test multiple platforms before making your final decision.
- Potential for growth. You don’t want to change your email marketing platform too often. It’s not hard, but it can’t be overwhelming based on the amount of data that you have. So make sure the service provider that you pick will support the growth of your business, from a features point of view, but also from a pricing standpoint. Most platforms charge more, the more subscribers you have. So it may be worth doing your numbers now before you get a big surprise later.
- Integration. You’ll rarely use your email marketing platform as standalone. So, it’ll need to talk to other software, especially when you do a launch. You may need it to connect with your webinar platform (such as Zoom) or your payment gateway. Most software will be able to talk to each other via Zapier or Make (fka Integromat) if they can’t speak to each other directly. Make sure you do your research first before opting for a platform.
Every online business needs an email marketing platform in their toolbox so they can build a list, stay in touch with their audience and launch successfully. At a minimum, you’ll want your email marketing tool to have the 5 features I’ve described above.