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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How My Email List Outperforms Industry Open Rates By 250%

It would seem that Rule #1 of making money online is “build an email list.”

And with good reason — an email list can grow to become your greatest asset. And believe me, a targeted and engaged email is an asset in the traditional sense — it can be leveraged to generate a return.

I know this from personal experience: my blog’s email list makes me money directly (from affiliate product referrals and my own product sales) and indirectly (via word-of-mouth referrals and ongoing engagement).

The purpose of this post is not to spew out the usual list building tips that you have probably read a hundred times before.

Instead, I want to share with you the approach I have taken in order to build a list that enjoys an open rate that dwarfs the industry average.

What Can You Expect from an Email List?

Let’s start with the basics: an email list is only useful if those people on the list are interested in what you have to say. Engagement is the real marker of success, not the amount of subscribers you have.

Let me put this into perspective by giving you a real life example. My email list subscribers is arguably as powerful as an “average” email list that is 2.5X bigger. Why? Because I enjoy an open rate of nearly 50%, which compares very favorable to an overall average of 19.7% (across all industries) Furthermore, links in my emails are clicked nearly seven times more often than the average.

It is not the purpose of this article to get into the specifics of expected open/click through rates, but the above should demonstrate that I appear to be doing something right in the world of email marketing. Now I want to share my strategy with you.

Build a Brand and a Personality

If you want people to open your emails then I think the most important thing is to offer them more than information. Offer them a brand and a personality – give them something to get attached to.

That may sound rather ambiguous, and in a sense it is. I am not talking about how good your content is — I am talking about creating a persona that people can like. You want to create a kind of emotional connection that will compel them to open your email as if it were from a friend.

Personally, I have built my brand on honesty and openness. In my emails and on my blog I reveal everything about the successes and failures I have experienced in my path to quitting my job and building a successful online business. I don’t hold back. I show a human side that is missing all too often in the world of internet marketing. People recognize and enjoy that.

How you choose to reveal your personality is of course individual to your business and yourself, but make sure that you do.

Create Compelling Content

This should go without saying, but you’re far more likely to enjoy high open rates if you create compelling content for your email list. However, can you say that you have spent as much time on your email autoresponders and broadcasts as you have your best blog posts? Because that is what you need to do.

Why? Because email is a very intimate form of communication (relative to the web) and you have to earn your spot in your subscribers’ inboxes. If you do not respect that spot, you will soon lose it.

I think that some of your best content should be in your email autoresponder. Ideally your emails should be relatively short and highly actionable — especially the first couple. If you get off on the right foot with a subscriber by giving them something they’ll really appreciate up front, they’re likely to be more forgiving down the line.

So give it your best straight off the bat and look to sustain quality content throughout the life of your autoresponder. People can (rightfully so) be quite fickle and kiss your list goodbye if the quality of your content begins to slip, so don’t let that happen.

Don’t Sell (Much)

The “traditional” approach email marketing is to sell, sell, sell. I’m not saying this approach is wrong (as I am sure it has worked very well for many people) but it doesn't align with my style. Instead, I took the opposite approach with my list and decided to sell as little as possible.

The vast majority of my emails do involve any kind of selling. I do not promote affiliate products or my own products in 90%+ of the emails that I send out. I believe that results in three things:
  1. Trust: subscribers realize that I do not have an agenda.
  2. Higher Open Rates: subscribers are happy to open because they know they’re not going to be sold to.
  3. Engagement When It Counts: when I do choose to sell, subscribers will pay attention.

Obviously I’m not making money of every email. But when I do throw a sales pitch into the occasional email, my subscribers don’t mind. On the contrary, they will generally sit up and take note.

I should add that my “sales pitches” are very un-aggressive and might not even be considered sales pitches by some people’s standards. I like to take the approach of a friend offering advice more than a stranger trying to sell.

Be Yourself

There’s a lot more to building a successful email list than I have mentioned above, but these are the foundations upon which I would personally build any list. They are the golden rules that I will probably always abide by.

How you choose to go about building your own list will be very individual to you, but I feel that the above standards should apply. Above everything else, be yourself and offer the subscriber something to hang on to. Not just words, but a real human being behind them.

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