The Problem with Trying to Do Your Own Email Marketing

Web designers always bemoan online website creators like Wix and Squarespace for making it too easy to build a website and undercutting their own trade (and pricing). We’ve certainly battled with that at Harrelson Co over the years, especially given that our main client base is made of nonprofits, churches, small businesses, and generally those with very limited budgets.

However, I’ve realized over the years that the clients who complain about invoice costs and threaten to “move to Squarespace” are the types of clients I don’t enjoy working with in the first place, so it’s better to say “no” upfront and let them pursue those seemingly cheaper options (which never turn out to be cheaper).

This has become especially true with email marketing. Email is super hot right now in the online marketing world. There’s a reason every politician, church, business, NASCAR sponsor, and fast food company wants you to subscribe to their newsletter… it’s insanely profitable to have a highly engaged core group of people on an email list. Tools such as Mailchimp and Constant Contact and even SendGrid have come along to help ease the friction of setting up, desigining, and sending email newsletters to the point where it’s perceptibly “not that hard” to do it yourself.

But that’s not the whole story. Like having a poorly designed and optimized site using a “free” or “cheap” website builder, using these tools on your own or “in-house” takes not only a number of unplanned for resources, but also a level of expertise that most business owners or nonprofit directors simply aren’t aware of… and it will “cost” you much more in the long term if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Here’s a great post from the ZeroBounce team on some of the nuances of setting up and sending email newsletters… it’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking “free tools = easy” … but do your homework.

The very first condition of great marketing is to make sure your message actually reaches your audience. We know that many companies struggle to land their emails in their customers’ inboxes. If you’re one of them, you will find this guide to be a lifesaver. We used our knowledge and experience to create a complete set of guidelines to help you achieve a better email deliverability and maintain a healthier sending reputation.

Source: Email Deliverability – Complete Guide | ZeroBounce

Mailchimp Rebrand

They’re based in Atlanta…

The email marketing company Mailchimp, which today is announcing a complete rebrand, could have easily given up the quirkiness that defined its branding as a young company the way many other giants have. Instead, with the help of branding agency Collins, Mailchimp is doubling down. It’s keeping its logo-cum-mascot Freddie the Chimp, for starters, and using an analog typeface from the 1920s as its new wordmark, and illustrating its new brand with a series of almost childlike drawings that look unpolished and rough by design. Weird branding is alive and well in Silicon Valley.

Source: Mailchimp rebrands as an anti-tech company


Email Newsletters Still Alive and Very Well

For Email Newsletters, a Death Greatly Exaggerated -

Email newsletters seem like such a quaint and out-of-date form of marketing, but they are incredibly effective because 1) people still rely on email more than most anything else for relevant info and 2) email has a personal connection in the same way our phones once did.

That doesn’t mean that blasting out emails with no relevancy or context is a successful strategy. Like anything else in the world of marketing, connection matters most.

The NY Times agrees…

With an email, there is a presumption of connection, of something personal, that makes it a good platform for publishers. Newer email newsletter outfits like TinyLetter, which MailChimp owns, are simple, free and easy to use. TinyLetter has over 100,000 users who reach 9.3 million subscribers, and it has had an increase of 15 percent in the number of newsletters sent in the last year.

via For Email Newsletters, a Death Greatly Exaggerated –

We’re big fans of MailChimp at Harrelson Agency and use their services for a number of our clients. If you want to get your start with email newsletters, they are a good place to start (and understand the power of mobile!).


Update Your Email Lists Before July 15

Shawn Collins has a good post this morning explaining why you need to update your mailing lists before July 15 since Yahoo! is cleaning out inactive email addresses by then:

Clear Old Yahoo Addresses Off Your Email Lists – Affiliate Marketing Blog by Shawn Collins: “So you’ll either be mailing to dead addresses, which can impact your deliverability, or the new owners will start getting your newsletters, and will be upset that you are emailing them.

They will either unsubscribe or mark you as spam. The latter can negatively affect whether ISPs such as Gmail and Outlook accept your emails.”

More specifically, Yahoo! will be deleting any email accounts that have been inactive for 12 months or more. The folks at AWeber also have a good post outlining what you need to do to clean those addresses of your mailing lists:

Updated: Yahoo Releasing Email Addresses Monday, July 15: “You need to identify what email addresses on your list will be released. Search subscribers from Yahoo who haven’t opened an email from you in 12 months – but were added before that point (so you don’t unsubscribe recent subscribers who haven’t yet opened an email). Save them as a segment.”

Go update your mailing lists and make sure you’re not going to be sending email to the wrong people (in case some of those deleted accounts get claimed by new owners). Yahoo! has said they’re taking measures to unsubscribe accounts on the hit list, but there’s no way to make sure they catch everything.

We use MailChimp at Harrelson Agency, so here’s their post on how to clean up as well:

Yahoo Is Recycling Email Addresses | MailChimp Email Marketing Blog: “If you don’t perform regular list maintenance, let me suggest you start. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to segment out any inactive Yahoo addresses.”

Why Email Marketing Still Matters

I got my start in online marketing in 2002 working for an email marketing group in Columbia, SC. I was fresh out of an Ivy League masters program with a degree in ancient religion and literature (and some archaeology experience). Needless to say, that wasn’t a highly valued skill set for a 22 year old just moving to South Carolina.

However, those years I spent with that email marketing (eventually affiliate and search marketing) company were the perfect trial-by-fire for finding my legs in the wider world of performance marketing. I realized some very important things about online marketing in general and email marketing specifically. It was a great education in the various ways of doing agency business in a post 9/11 but pre CAN-SPAM world of glitzy conferences, making lifelong connections and getting deals done with great agility and detail.

Although “the long tail” is a term that has lost much of its 2007 cache, there is still a great amount of truth to the term within the concept of online marketing. I’ve argued to clients and friends over and over that email is (and will continue to be) a very long term prospect of increasing returns over time in a world of short-lived Twitter and Facebook promoted posts as advertising.

The SumAll folks have a great post laying out a similar argument and some nice tips you should read at the end…

Why E-mail Marketing is More Valuable Than Ever – SumAll – Blog: “It’s been a widely held notion that after you’ve sent out your campaign, you have 12 hours to get the most opens you can before your e-mail is lost in inbox limbo. But based on our research, e-mails have a much longer tail than people are aware of. “

Whatever marketing channel you’re using, email is a great compliment and something you should bake in early in your campaigns.

I Love TinyLetter

Awesomely Simple TinyLetter Admin Page…

Yesterday, I wrote about the seldom discussed differences between RSS subscribers and email subscribers to websites. It’s an interesting discussion when you ponder what it means to actually engage visitors and create sustaining revenue channels and interactions beyond just a one-time visit.

One tool that I’ve been using on my affiliate sites of late to generate sustainable email lists is TinyLetter.

TinyLetter is a fantastic service that is a product of the awesome MailChimp folks (which is, itself a robust and very competent email subscription platform).

However, I love TinyLetter’s sense of style, ease of use and feeling of mutual respect between subscriber and news list owner. There’s a quirky feeling to it that leads to goodwill (or so I think).

After much testing (I’ll publish that info on the newsletter), I’m even going with TinyLetter for the PayPerTrends Newsletter (linked above or here you go):

PayPerTrends Newsletter by Sam Harrelson: “Get more in-depth information and examples of practical “Job to Be Done” case studies involving the frontiers of performance marketing in mobile and social media once a week or so (soon to be premium feature).”

Feel free to sign up if you’d like to see the walk thru process. This will be a “premium” feature in the near future (something like $5 a month) but will go into much more depth and actual case study type materials than most people are needing or want to read (plus, it is a ton of work and a lot of info on what I provide to/for clients).

Most people in the affiliate industry seem to prefer Aweber for email subscription platforms, but I’ve never liked the look/feel of their product. Plus, the testing I’ve done on my own sites suggest I’m not the only one that is more likely to join a TinyLetter list over its more “robust” competitors. Sometimes, small is indeed beautiful when it comes to conversions.

There’s something about TinyLetter that resonates well with me.