Note: This post is part 1 of a 3 part section on List-Building Strategies in The Email Marketing Strategy That Works series.

Email Marketing 101: Mindset

Fundamentally, the most important part of email marketing is to bring value to your audience. To be allowed into a user’s inbox alongside emails from their boss and their mom is still a privileged place to be. So before we begin, make sure you answer these two questions:

1. Who do I want to help?

2. How will I help them through email?

Try to reaffirm your answers before every email you send. There may be another medium that is better suited to the message that you’re trying to spread, so I’m going to have you answer one more question:

3. Does this *need* to be an email?

Often, the answer is no, at which point it may be better to communicate in another way. But if you know your message needs to be in a subscriber’s inbox because you are sending them something they need to read to feel better/be equipped with the tools they need to succeed in an area of their lives, by all means: send that puppy!

But First, Know Your Email Law

There are a few more rules you’ll need to learn about starting an email newsletter, so be sure to read about the CAN-SPAM Act which put several email best practices into actual law. Not obeying CAN-SPAM guidelines carries a hefty fine from the FTC. It’s worth the five minute study.

Build Your List: Opt-in Forms

For the purposes of this tutorial, I’m going to assume you already have a website. Whether you have a company or personal website, if you want to do email marketing, you’re going to need a place for subscribers to sign up. These are called “opt-in forms.”

Opt-in Forms (aka “sign-up forms”) are where visitors fill out information to subscribe to your newsletter. The placement of these forms on your website as well as their structure can heavily influence how many new subscribers you recruit per day. While opt-in forms should balance the design aesthetic of your site, ( meaning: if your site is simple, the opt-in form should also be simple) the best places for opt-in forms typically are:

  • On the top of your sidebar of your blog page.
  • After a single blog post (meaning, after every blog post)
  • In the footer of the site
  • In the About page
  • In a bar across the top of the site
  • In a lightbox pop-up on select pages (but not on pages that already have the option or have other forms)

The content of the opt-in form should have at least one sentence telling the reader what to expect, including the delivery frequency (will they get emails every Tuesday morning? once a month?) and common topics of the newsletter. When you set the reader’s expectations going in, they’ll be less likely to unsubscribe.

The Double Opt-in Rule

Have you ever received an email newsletter that you *really* can’t remember signing up for? It feels pretty weird and, at the very least, makes you a bit suspicious of the sender. This is why the double opt-in rule is a best practice in email marketing: it asks a subscriber to confirm that they indeed want to subscribe, from the email they listed. That way, no one else can enter your email address and sign you up for a zillion newsletters: you have to log in to your email and confirm your decision to subscribe all on your own. It’s a good thing for your subscribers to say “yes” twice to subscribing, and ultimately it’s good for you too. After all, you only want to email people who really want to hear from you.

Here’s how it works. When a user first signs up using one of your opt-in forms, you can:

  1. Redirect them to what I like to call the “almost there” landing page. This explains to the reader that they only have one more step to complete to subscribe: they just need to check their email to find and click the link you just sent them that will confirm their subscription.
  2. Have a message appear at the bottom of the opt-in form telling them to check their email for the link to confirm their subscription. This is a great option if you want the user to stay on the webpage they signed up on, perhaps because it has products listed on it!
  3. You may have guessed, but next you should be sending the user that confirmation email automatically when they click “subscribe” on that opt-in form. This email will have the link that confirms their subscription. When they click the link two things need to happen.
  4. First, the user will be taken to a “subscription confirmed!” landing page. This is where you thank them for subscribing and maybe write a nice welcome message.
  5. Second you automatically send them a “Welcome” email to thank them for subscribing and letting them know when they’ll be receiving their first newsletter.

What I’ve just gone through is a marketing automation process for getting a user signed up for your email marketing newsletter the right way. Automation is when you use tools to automatically accomplish tasks when certain triggers are set, like when a user clicks “subscribe” a confirmation email is “triggered” to be sent to that user. To set this up, you’ll need a tool to help you create the:

  • Opt-in forms
  • Landing Pages (“Almost There” and “Subscription Confirmed”)
  • Automated Emails (“Please Confirm Your Subscription” and “Welcome”)

There are a few tools out there that can help you with this, but I personally use and recommend ConvertKit. It’s a really simple and beautiful way to do everything you’ll need in an email marketing strategy that works.

The rest of this post will take you through video tutorials for creating opt-in forms and automated confirmation emails in ConvertKit. If videos aren’t your thing or you’re pretty sure you have this part down, you can access parts two and three of the list-building strategies, below:

Part 2. How to Attract Subscibers: Inbound Strategies for Email Marketing
Part 3. How to Recruit Subscribers: Outreach Strategies for Email Marketing

How to Create and Embed Opt-in Forms with ConvertKit

If you’re interested in trying out ConvertKit, you can sign up here.

Aweber is another great tool for email marketing. Here’s their newest video on opt-in forms. Happy form-building!