The Freelancers’ Show 074 – Email Lists

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Panel Curtis McHale (twitter github blog) Eric Davis (twitter github blog) Reuven Lerner (twitter github blog) Charles Max Wood (twitter github Teach Me To Code Rails Ramp Up) Discussion 01:41 - Subscribers 04:02 - Email Lists vs Blog Content Freelance Funnel 11:39 - Content Updates 16:31 - Layout, Servers, Services & Personalization MailChimp Aweber CSS Support in Email Eric Davis: My simple HTML email template 34:02 - Launching Products Nathan Barry: How To Launch Anything Soft Sale/Hard Sale Email Frequency 40:17 - Email Courses Rails Security Controller Refactoring Course Picks Aweber (Eric) MailChimp (Eric) premailer (Eric) Logitech C920 (Curtis) Zotero (Reuven) Unsubscribing (Reuven) Patience (Chuck) Twitter Bootstrap (Chuck) Book Club Book Yourself Solid: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling ! He will join us for an episode to discuss the book on September 24th. The episode will air on October 3rd. Next Week SEO with Mike Brooks and Stephen Gardner Transcript CHUCK: When I speak robot, I sound like R2-D2. [Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at bluebox.net.][you're fantastic at code, but do you have an action plan to take it to the next level? the upcoming book, next level freelance, will help you optimize your freelance business for happiness. the book is packed with actionable steps to make more money, case studies, tips to find more clients, and exercises for you to establish your desired lifestyle. extras include: 9 interviews with freelancers who make great money while enjoying great work-life balance, videos on strategies to find quality subcontractors, and videos on making more free time by outsourcing your daily tasks. check it out today at nextlevelfreelance.com!] CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 74 of The Freelancers' Show! This week on our panel, we have Curtis MacHale. CURTIS: Good day! CHUCK: Eric Davis. ERIC: Hello! CHUCK: Reuven Lerner. REUVEN: Hi everyone! CHUCK: I'm Charles Max Wood from DevChat.tv. This week, we're going to be talking about "Email Lists". One thing I want to say before we get started, one of the reasons I do this show is to help me kind of get business. It looks like I'm going to have a slight low, so if you need help with your Ruby programming, let me know. Alright -- ERIC: Hey, wait! Chuck, I need help with my Ruby programming, can I let you know? CHUCK: Do you have money? [Laughter] ERIC: Oh... REUVEN: This is not a typical interaction they help. [Laughter] CHUCK: Anyway, let's talk about email lists. I'm sure you guys, or at least some of you guys, have email lists that you manage, or email lists that you don't manage. CURTIS: Yeah, it's the both. CHUCK: [Laughs] Yeah, that's much more my case. I'm a little bit curious, do any of you have more than a few hundred subscribers in any of your lists? ERIC: I have a little less than 700 on my main list right now; I have the dashboard in front of me. CHUCK: Awesome! REUVEN: I don't run a list for my work, but I run a community list that is about 2700 people on it. CHUCK: Well, if you're talking about something like Ruby Rogues Parley, then I have one. [Laughter] CHUCK: I don't really think of it that way. I don't go and -- I participate in as opposed to send out updates or however you want to talk about -- ERIC: Yeah, the exclusive person on it. REUVEN: Right. CHUCK: Yeah. And maybe we can talk about those lists, too. But I was thinking more along the lines of the newsletter lists or the marketing lists or whatever you want to call them. CURTIS: My main one up until real recently was from my first book that I wrote about becoming a WordPress development professional. I've sent out a few emails on that,

Transcript

CHUCK: When I speak robot, I sound like R2-D2. [Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at bluebox.net.] [You're fantastic at code, but do you have an action plan to take it to the next level? The upcoming book, Next Level Freelance, will help you optimize your freelance business for happiness. The book is packed with actionable steps to make more money, case studies, tips to find more clients, and exercises for you to establish your desired lifestyle. Extras include: 9 interviews with freelancers who make great money while enjoying great work-life balance, videos on strategies to find quality subcontractors, and videos on making more free time by outsourcing your daily tasks. Check it out today at nextlevelfreelance.com!] CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 74 of The Freelancers' Show! This week on our panel, we have Curtis MacHale. CURTIS: Good day! CHUCK: Eric Davis. ERIC: Hello! CHUCK: Reuven Lerner. REUVEN: Hi everyone! CHUCK: I'm Charles Max Wood from DevChat.tv. This week, we're going to be talking about "Email Lists". One thing I want to say before we get started, one of the reasons I do this show is to help me kind of get business. It looks like I'm going to have a slight low, so if you need help with your Ruby programming, let me know. Alright -- ERIC: Hey, wait! Chuck, I need help with my Ruby programming, can I let you know? CHUCK: Do you have money? [Laughter] ERIC: Oh... REUVEN: This is not a typical interaction they help. [Laughter] CHUCK: Anyway, let's talk about email lists. I'm sure you guys, or at least some of you guys, have email lists that you manage, or email lists that you don't manage. CURTIS: Yeah, it's the both. CHUCK: [Laughs] Yeah, that's much more my case. I'm a little bit curious, do any of you have more than a few hundred subscribers in any of your lists? ERIC: I have a little less than 700 on my main list right now; I have the dashboard in front of me. CHUCK: Awesome! REUVEN: I don't run a list for my work, but I run a community list that is about 2700 people on it. CHUCK: Well, if you're talking about something like Ruby Rogues Parley, then I have one. [Laughter] CHUCK: I don't really think of it that way. I don't go and -- I participate in as opposed to send out updates or however you want to talk about -- ERIC: Yeah, the exclusive person on it. REUVEN: Right. CHUCK: Yeah. And maybe we can talk about those lists, too. But I was thinking more along the lines of the newsletter lists or the marketing lists or whatever you want to call them. CURTIS: My main one up until real recently was from my first book that I wrote about becoming a WordPress development professional. I've sent out a few emails on that, and it's turned in really good. But that's customers who have opted in and then checked out, so they're purchasing the product and say "I want this". It's fairly small list like it's under a hundred, but I'm getting 25%-30% click throughs and 70% opens, which is really high. According to tha MailChimp staffs, they're saying 1% is really good for click throughs, and opens are like 10 is really good, too. CHUCK: Yeah, but you've got people on that list that have bought stuff from you that are already engaged in what you're giving them as opposed to the more general list where it's like, "Hi! You came to my site! You want to know what's going on?" CURTIS: I had that up and I encourage some sign ups, too, for a while. But I had surprise a 90%, 80% of the list was people that actually purchased for my product. CHUCK: Yeah, makes sense. CURTIS: Eric saying on the chat, they're not prospect list, they are customer lists; people that are interested in the products that are coming out or other things that are coming up with it. Although, I haven't really milk that list a lot; I haven't used that list a lot, really. I just started kind of screening up on it regularly. Eric, milk, yes I have to [inaudible]... [Laughter] CHUCK: Get the bucket! REUVEN: [Giggles] Curtis, I'm sort of curious, even though I think I know the answer to this question, you're a WordPress guy, obviously, setting up a blog is not hard for you. You have a blog, you write on it regularly, why do you then have an email list in addition to the blog? And, do you post the same things on both of them? CURTIS: Not really. I used the WordPress list recently to kind of say, "Hey, I've got a new product coming out about running a freelance business. If you're interested, here you go, this is what it is. If not, then you're not going to hear about it again because it's not what you signed up for." I'm also using it because I want to probably add some WordPress courses specifically around things; I guess more a developer topic. So I'm going to use that, get or put a survey that look for them so they can help me decide which courses they want first, whether it's a transient, which is like a caching layer or users or whatever. So, that's how I'm going to use it. And then the email list for the new product coming up also is kind of getting updates as we go. I write an update today about who are we interviewing, where we are, and when it's coming out. CHUCK: Yeah, it makes sense. REUVEN: What sort of responses do you get? Like, every time you sent a note, do they actually respond or you're just sort of assuming, "Well, they want to keep updated, so it's as good as they're reading it, or receiving it"? CURTIS: Mostly, I'm not asking for a response specifically, so I judge response based on the click throughs that MailChimp gives me. If there's way, way high response -- it was like 20%, 25% is my click through on the latest email, that's way higher than the industry average which is like 1% -- that's the best response I can get. Moving forward, I'll ask them more about the surveys and about courses. I guess that's kind of more where I'm going than how I've used in the past. CHUCK: So when you're saying you're talking about the surveys and things like that, are you going to email them and say, "Hi! This is Curtis. I'm working on this, and I'd like to know something so go click the survey"? CURTIS: Yeah, that's the plan. I'll say, "Hey, here's the 3 courses, here's the basic outline of them. If you want say in which one, then you can grab the survey here, or you can just shoot me an email, too, if you want. Here's my email." That's all I'm planning on doing it, making it as easy for them. So you don't just have to do the survey and I'll take the emails I get back into account as well. But I'll say, "I have 3 or 4 courses, here's the basic outlines of them. I'm planning to do them all, which ones do you want first?" CHUCK: And this is to your customer list. CURTIS: Yeah, that's to the customer list. People who are already have purchased and wants to, and I'll say even "Forward along to friends that you think would be interested in" if I do some group discounts on things for the email list because they are existing customers. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. What about the general list? What kind of things do you do for them? CURTIS: I don't really have a good general list. I know people talk about you should have one for your business, and I just never have. I do 'Who do we talk to a few weeks ago', it's like email links specific to clients, "Hey, this would be a good link for you," as opposed to blanketing a whole email list with it. So I don't really have one for my business that's specifically for my clients sort of were just possible prospects that come through. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. REUVEN: I think I had a list of my clients years and years ago. And yeah, I sent out a few messages, but they didn't seem so excited and were just to my clients and it was [inaudible] at that point, maybe about a dozen people at the most. I decided, "Okay, I'm not going to continue with it." Probably, if I were going to do something like that nowadays, I would do a blog even though I know that emails are a little more in your face and going to lead people to do more as a result. CHUCK: Yes, but the blog is more generally accessible, and then you can have people self-select from there. You have to have something that people are going to go to in order to sign up for that list, and that's kind of where the blog comes in. ERIC: It can. I mean you don't have to. I think a lot of Peter Cooper stuff is like one page, sign up for every week if that's weekly, or whatever. But the blog is going to get you, the SEO, it's going to let you build a bit more trust because if someone opted in like giving you an email address does required them to trust you a little bit. So a blog, or even just a nice looking functional website can kind of build that trust up enough to get them to opt in, and then they're in your email list at that point. But I wouldn't say that a blog is a requirement for an email list. CURTIS: You know Jeff (Jeff is not with us today) has a couple of email lists as well. Right here is the Freelance Funnel, which is like job leads, and he's got the other one, it's like Freelance Business weekly. That's not the right name, but he's got that as well. I don't think he has a blog for that really, I just get the email. CHUCK: Yeah, but in that case, people are signing up because they're hearing, "Hey, you're going to get this content on it," whereas, it seems like the other newsletters is more about, "Hey, you want to keep up on what's going on with whatever." CURTIS: My long-term plan for the newest freelance business one is I'm going to put out one link a week, "This is kind of the most important business or thing that you can read, that I think you should read this week, and here's why," so there'll be a link in fairly short paragraph on why I think it's very important for you to read to keep your business kind of moving forward. ERIC: I did that with a couple of my lists where I did a link to my own writing or someone else's writing. In the email, I kind of give an extra paragraph or two paragraphs, either background or "Go read this other person's post, come back here, and then here's my opinion, or here's my thoughts on it," and that worked pretty well. It wasn't the greatest because I wasn't really trading a lot of value for the reader, but it worked. CURTIS: The reason I keep Jeff's email around about freelance business because he gets articles that I don't, that I just haven't seen that are good. I don't look at all the articles he links to, but there's one or two that are good in there that I read pretty much every week. CHUCK: The thing is this, with the approach that Eric's taking, you're providing value and you are kind of keeping that presence of mind because hopefully, you're sending those out pretty regularly. I've also seen lists where it's, "Hi! I had this experience, and I went and did this thing with my family. This is how it might applied to you," and stuff like that as opposed to, "I used this library or this technical resource; here are few paragraphs about it." I think both are valuable, it just depends on what you want to communicate through your list. ERIC: Right. And that's the thing, like we've already kind of dug into how we're using our list, but you have to think about what the point is. Some of my list, the point is I got a prospect on there, I want to build trust with them and have them buy a product that I'm selling. Some of the other list, like my main list, it's almost kind of an RSS feed for my blog; as I write new stuff, I send that out to the list so it's not as much of a huge business focus. I do business stuff on there, but it's a lot more just kind of letting people stay on the loop and build up trust. And then what I'll do is I'll say, "Hey, I'm working on a new book. I created another list so I don't send everyone a bunch of emails," and I'll get people from my main list on to the second list. But you got to figure out kind of what's your goal with the list as why it's there. Because in the beginning, I actually made my list because I thought every business supposed to have a monthly newsletter. I didn't know what I was doing and I wasted a lot of time and generally do a bunch or write things because I didn't have an actual clear idea in my head of what I was doing with my list. CHUCK: I guess this narrows things down a little bit, I'm probably going to ask about a couple of different scenarios here. What kinds of things do you want to be doing on the list that basically contains prospects so that you don't lose them; you can keep them interested, that kind of thing? What do you send them? How do you format your emails to them? ERIC: I'm in two minds here. Do you want me to talk about prospects for a product like an Ebook, or prospects for a service like consulting and customer development? CHUCK: I was talking about consulting, but I was going to ask the other next. ERIC: For consulting, what I do, if you actually go to my main site right now, you can see I talk about what I do, that at the bottom, I say, "I'm not accepting clients. If you want to work with me in the future, sign up for my list and I'll let you know when I have availability." Then on the list, I can kind of do trust building, like write about software development, write about software companies, that sort of idea. And then when I have availability in my consulting calendar, I'll email the list and say, "Hey, I have 2 or 3 spots open. If you'd like to hire me, go to this page, you get the details, and then contact me through that page." In that case, I'm using the list as like this big pool of potential clients. Hopefully, by the time I email them, they would have seen dozen or half a dozen different emails from me talking about various things, and hopefully, 1 or 2 of those really built trust or helped them out or did something so that they can say, "Oh yeah, this Eric guy, he knows what he's talking about. I'm going to hire him." So it's kind of a passive waiting list in a way, but it's not just like, "Yeah, I'll put you on my list, and then when I'm able for hire, you can hire me," it's more of, "I'll put you on the list," and I'll build up the relationship. CHUCK: That makes sense. Anything, anyone else wants to add before I ask the next question that I've already foresaid that I'm going to ask? REUVEN: [Laughs] No. CHUCK: Alright, the next one is the product. To frame it a little bit, we are working on this Ruby Best Practice Patterns for Ruby Rogues. I talked to the publisher and I was like, "Can I put up a website and get emails and all that stuff so that I can keep people informed about what's going on with the book and keep them warm until we get it published?" They said "Yes" so what do I do? ERIC: Put up a website and an email list? CHUCK: [Laughs] So far, so good! CURTIS: And then what, Chuck? ERIC: I'd say, you want to update the [inaudible] are going, "Hey, we've gone through this chapters, we're looking at this," or "We had discussions about these different patterns," to get people invested. They are even emailing you and say, "Oh, did you think about this pattern," or "Did you think about this?" Right? CHUCK: Yup. ERIC: That lets them be invested in the product as well because they had a say and they communicated with you about it. CHUCK: Yeah, absolutely. I'm thinking about doing that and kind of give them the insider scoop on what's going on, "Hey, we decided on using these tools; we decided on using this process. Here's what we've got done, and here's the sneak peek into something that we're going to put into the book," and that kind of stuff. REUVEN: Right. It seems to me, Chuck, that in sort of books that you're talking about, it gives you a real chance to open it up to the community a bit more and gets them excited and feel like they're part of it. So there, having the website is nice, but having the email updates, even if it's once every week or two, "Hey, we've now finished 3 chapters about...If you have anything to say on that topic, we'd love to hear it also," that sort of engagement and excitement, I think, is a little different from a typical freelancing business, but I think it's going to be something that will make people more likely even to buy the book. CHUCK: Uhm-hmm. ERIC: There's a couple of things of it. Like, the big thing for any kind of marketing is you're building trust. So by having a list and being able to talk to them either about the book's progress or about your writing, or maybe you're investigating 4 patterns and found that 3 of them aren't a pattern at all, or details, stuff like that, based on your audience, that's probably going to build trust with them and be like, "Oh yeah, this is going to be a great book!" Another thing is also, it's going to obviously help with sales because once the book launches or if it's available for pre-orders, you have this list of X people that you can say, "It's available for pre-orders, go pre-order it now," it would actually boost this on the Amazon rankings or whatever, that could actually make the book a lot more successful, a lot more people read it, and a lot more people learn from it. And the other thing, like what we're talking about is, if you are able to kind of get feedback from the list, you can actually kind of edit the book on the fly. I did that with Redmine tips and basically a month or so, I was basically sending out chapters to them, it was getting edits, or others wasn't quite clear. It actually made the book a lot better because there was a lot more kind of pure review than me just send it off to one editor and getting it back. CHUCK: Yeah, that definitely makes sense. I'm also curious; do you guys use some sort of professional layout for your HTML emails? ERIC: Not anymore. CURTIS: I just go with MailChimp and stock template. ERIC: I used to have that would match my branding like the colors and the logo and all that. And then, I pick this up I think from Nathan Barry and Brennan Dunn, they went with a very clean, almost looks like plain text, but it's actually not (you can see bolds and underline and all that), and I switched my template to that. Since I switched over to that, I've been getting a lot better results. If there's HTML version and plain text version, the HTML version, it's basically like HTML 5 which container with some inline CSS to kind of make stuff a little bit nice like pick some better fonts, pump the font size up, that sort of thing. And it works great because then people can actually read it; it looks like an email from a person, not like a marketing type email. There's no images that have to load or any of that stuff. You can also still get links and all that so if you need to put a link in -- I think you can even do video; I don't know if that would work on all browsers -- it's nice and it's very simple and easy. You don't have to worry about, "Oh, I have this side com, I have to fill it from another post or something." REUVEN: I've never used any of these services, and I used to really pooh-pooh them. I was like, "Oh, come on! Who needs MailChimp? I can just set up MailMan on my server." But I can see, just from sort of propping to the site and experiencing it as a user, it does make a big difference because you no longer have to deal with the unsubscription and people not knowing what to do. And if it gives you these templates, that's a huge, huge win. CURTIS: The other thing you got to remember is that these email providers are already set up to not get caught as spam by like main servers. If you're a random service that might start sending thousands of emails, then that doesn't look nice. REUVEN: No, no, that's true. I actually have to deal with that every so often. I ran this community email list so, I don't know, once every year or two, everyone who subscribed to my list who's on Yahoo or some other service, stopped getting email. Why? Because it's tagged as spam or someone at Yahoo tagged it as spam; you have to go in and beg Yahoo to re-allow it. So, that would be just fatal if you were trying to do something business wise. Even when I set up an email list for something work-related, much as I have pride in running my own server, it seems pretty clear to me that for a variety of reasons, using one of these services is indeed the way to go. ERIC: I'll be honest, unless you're a system administrator with hundreds of servers and you know about everything there is to know about DNS, Servers, Postfix, all of that stuff, you should not send email through your own server like flat out; you're going to probably lose half of your mail. If your business is relying on this, don't do it. It's just a bad idea. MailChimp is free for I think under a thousand subscribers or something; there's no reason not to use MailChimp. I paid $29 to Aweber a month, and that's probably some of the best money I spend every month. CHUCK: Yeah, I'm on Aweber as well. It's really, really a nice service; I really love it. ERIC: To put that in context, I was a system administrator, I guess I still am for a couple of years, and I ran the mail servers for a small mid-sized software company. We were losing like 10 hours a week easily for that, and it was just a 2 or 3 mail servers. It's just such a pain. If you're going to send the email and newsletters like I can give you a list of whole bunch of the different services you can use, it's so easier just to pay someone to deal with that problem than to do it. REUVEN: Right. It seems like it would more than pay for itself in the time that you would spend configuring servers to avoid things. Someone just recently asked me if I know how to set up, I forget what it's even called anymore, the DNS stuff, to avoid getting caught by spam. Was it SPF, I think? ERIC: Yes, that. REUVEN: My only experience with that has been horrific. And right, these various services have full time people who are specialists in that. ERIC: There's also a lot of agreements behind the scenes because I use MailChimp because they're more well-known. But they know people on Gmail's team and Yahoo's team and they can say, "Hey, we're starting to see a lot of bounce backs coming from you guys. What's going on?" They can actually get some priority access for stuff like, "Oh, this is MailChimp's server talking to us so we're not going to flag it as spam." That stuff you can't do unless you're at a large scale. CHUCK: Right. REUVEN: Very true. CHUCK: Going back to the layouts a little bit, several online marketers that I've talked to or have emailed me or that I follow, they don't even go as far as using CSS to kind of nicely layout the just text email that they're sending out. A lot of times, it's just this crappy little straight text email that I get in my inbox and that's it. I know they're kind of trying to go for the email kind of like the one you get from your buddy who sends it off from his email -- ERIC: A personal email. CHUCK: Yeah. It kind of works. But when you get the marketing emails or even the newsletters, like we talked about Peter Cooper's Ruby Weekly or JavaScript Weekly, they do still feel a little bit -- they're almost too polished so they feel market-y; they're not personal. And yeah, it really does kind of have that effect on me where I look at it and go, "Oh, okay this is just an email from this guy," and he just happens to be a guy that I follow as far as business and things. ERIC: It depends on how you do it, too. If Peter Cooper makes no kind of illusion that his emails are personal to you, whereas I've seen some of these, they looked personalized from some of the higher end marketers, and they are made to look personal, but they're not. It's basically kind of a bit of dishonesty. You can get some good results from it for a short amount of time, but you end up eroding the trust of your subscribers versus like what I do, what Brennan Dunn does, and Patrick McKenzie, we might have a little bit of a template and it might make it look a bit nicer, but people know that this is kind of a bulk email; it's not an email that we sat down and wrote individually one by one. It looks nicer I think, in my case especially, just because I want to show a little bit more of the professional - I work on the web stuff; HTML email is HTML so I want to look a bit nicer than just straight plain text. But I don't need it to go as far into like the design realm as somewhat like templates like built into MailChimp bar. CHUCK: Yeah. And most of the ones that I'm getting from these marketers; it's not a "Hi! (Insert name)," it's "Hey guys! Just so you know, this is what's going on," but I still feel like part of group, I guess. I don't know. ERIC: Yeah. I mean with anything, there's a scale of people that are completely righteous, greats, everything. And then on the other side, it's like a swamp land. I've heard in the swamp land area that people actually suggest having typos in your subject line intentionally to make people think that you typed it out and made a mistake, and they send that out to thousands of people. So you got to be kind of away from that swamp land area and just do things that you think is right, that's going to build trust to your audience. That's all you got to really do. CHUCK: Yeah, I think it is a little bit disingenuous to go ahead and deliberately enter mistypes in there. ERIC: My fingers do it for me automatically. It's like I don't need to do it on purpose. REUVEN: [Chuckles] Eric, I will say like as someone who's received your email newsletter and some of the other that you mentioned, it does hit the sweet spot between feeling like a -- yes, I know it's not a personal message -- but I think the important thing is not how many people is going to, but how it'd sort of phrase and how it looks coming out. So it doesn't feel like a mass marketing message. It feels like, "Hey, I have some knowledge, I have some expertise. I know that you're interested in sort of expertise that I provide so I'm going to give it to you and I'm going to give you in a nice package," but not sort of an over the top marketing package. ERIC: Yeah. A lot of it also depends on your content, too. If you got good content, if you're writing about stuff, or even like what Curtis was talking about where he might write a paragraph and then send a link up to someone else, that's valuable to the reader; that's good! If it's like, "Hey, just come buy my stuff," which is actually what I did when I first got started years ago because I didn't know what I was doing, that's crappy. No one's going to buy it or no one's even going to open it, and they're going to just unsubscribe. CHUCK: I have a friend that has done exactly that, "Hey, come buy my stuff," but when you sign up for his newsletter, the first thing you get is a notice that says, "Hey look, I don't post at this regularly; I only post to it when I have something to sell. If you are interested in buying stuff from me, then stay subscribed. Otherwise, I'm sorry if this isn't what you want, but it's not what you want." ERIC: Yeah. CHUCK: And then yeah, I get emails from him periodically, "Hey, I have another class going. Hey, I just released a video," but you kind of know what you're getting when you get into it! And it works for him, that's the thing. I think a good suggestion for anybody is: Put something in when people are subscribed; it lets them know what to expect. And then you can kind of go ahead and do what you need to do as long as you're kind of following those guidelines. If you change it, then you change that initial email, and you also email your list and let them know, "Hey, I'm kind of changing the way that this works," and then they can decide if they want to stay subscribed or not. ERIC: Yeah, exactly. That's a sure better way of saying it if your list, like most of my list, are "I'm going to give you free information that's going to be occasional messages about my products or services". But if you say, you're signing up for this list just to hear when I have stuff on the market, every message can be a sales message. If that's what people are signed up, that's what they're expectation is. On the other hand, if you're saying like, "Sign up for my list. I'm just going to send you 30 emails about subject X," and there's not going to be any sales messages in it, and you put a sales message in it, that's abuse of the trust. So I think, it kind of gets back to the goals like, "What are your goals with the list?" If it's to just announce if you have something for sale, then it's probably fine. You're not going to have as many subscribers obviously, and you're not going to build as much trust because you're not being able to do the kind of the trust building type stuff. But if it's just a sales list, that's probably completely fine. CURTIS: [Inaudible] think is you can change the purpose of your list; you just need to let your users know. ERIC: Yeah, it's hard, though. I've tried to do that a couple of times. I actually found it's better just to make a second list and say, "Hey, I had this new list, it's going to be on this other topic or this other purpose. This list that you're on now is going to be discontinued," and they just archive all their email. When they come back, they can be surprised they're getting sales messages all the time. CHUCK: I'm a little curious then, we kind of talked about books and things like that, are there different things that you do for other products - videos or what have you? Or, do you kind of approach it as the same way? CURTIS: I think you'd approach it at the same way. A product is a product regardless of the medium in many cases. Like, even with the courses I'm coming up with, like I'll dam all the courses and I'll say, "Hey, I'm going to use a plugin that does like quizzes and surveys and stuff to write your course," I'll show that off as I build the first issue. It's just, again, showing people what it is, what they'll get, and then kind of why it's cool and [inaudible] has some input. ERIC: There might be some technical differences like if you're going to send a video product, you weren't be able to give them a sample in the email; you might have to have them click through. I think selling a product/service in email is pretty much the same, I think, across the board. CHUCK: Yup. CURTIS: Actually, with the video interviews I'm doing for the book, I'm going to put it up on YouTube and give the email lists kind of advanced notice to see it so they'll get the first public links of it. CHUCK: Have you guys found that you can embed videos inline? Or, is it usually better just to say, "Go here and watch it"? CURTIS: Just 'go here and watch it'. ERIC: Yeah, 'go here'. CURTIS: As Eric is saying, that's how you can kind of get it to work. But I still build the occasional HTML email and even just getting an email to look right is nothing short out of pain in the butt. So I think anything like embedding video is even bigger pain in the butt [chuckles]. ERIC: Gmail did some stuff. Like, I think if you would send a YouTube link, it might embed it because it's same property. But I heard some stuff, it'd only work if that was sent into as your address book; it was very fragile. You got to also think some use Outlook, which is actually using word's HTML browser, which we can probably guess how great that supports for video. CHUCK: [Laughs] The other thing that I've seen is, I bought a responsive template that I'm going to ditch. I bought it off of ThemeForest.net. Anyway, it's supposed to look great in all of these different email programs -- CURTIS: [Inaudible] CHUCK: Yeah. But the problem is that there are so many out there. I've looked at it in a few like on my phone and things where it's supposed to look good, and it still doesn't always look quite right. So I think what it really boils down to is, if you can do what Eric suggested earlier and just go with some CSS that makes it look good and just do some minor formatting, "Here's a paragraph, here's the header," and keep it to that, then I think you're pretty safe. It'll look nice no matter where you're at. ERIC: There's (I'll put a link in the show notes), but Campaign Monitor is another one of those like mail service server providers. They've done a lot of research on what CSS, what HTML works in which mail client/browsers. You can use CSS and you can kind of like keep it simple and it works. By the way, you have to actually fall back to tables and stuff like that -- that's how poor a lot of email clients are. REUVEN: Again, not from a business list, just from a community list that I run, it's the number of email programs that people use. Yes, many, many of them are going to use Gmail or Yahoo, but you're going have all sets of people who are using all sets of crazy programs that are either not up to the latest version or [inaudible], who don't do internet standards the right way. So if you're not really careful about how you format your email, it's going to come out horrible. And of course, it'll end up horrible for the one person who's likely to be your client. ERIC: That's why I like going to the simple template. My original one used to be kind of like a div type thing for the header, a div for the body or the contents or whatever, and then a div for the photo part. My new one, it's literally like, I don't know if it's a div, I think it's just Heading 1, Heading 2 content, and then like bold, it's all that. If the mail client screws it up, it's just text. And there's always that the actual plains text fall back option which is, since I write on markdown, it's basically the exact same thing. CHUCK: Yeah, just easier to read. Or, easier to read if the formatting works right. ERIC: Yeah like links you don't copy and paste, you just click. CHUCK: One other thing that I'm wondering about, when you write it out, Eric, do you typically go, "Hey guys! Eric here, here's what's going on, here's the body of my email, Thanks! Eric" or more of an email letter sort of format? Or, do you just jump right in and, "This week, we're talking about this"? ERIC: It depends really. Most of the time, I get right into it. I treat my email a lot like my blog so a lot of posts are just what title/subject line is, what it's going to be about, get into it, talk about it, close it out, sign it with my name. Sometimes, even it's like internal someone else's post, I might intro it saying, "Hey, it's Eric again. I found these coupons on pricing, click through to read it first. When I get back, I'm going to talk about my thoughts and why I think this person is wrong" or something. And then link, and then paragraph of my stuff. It really depends. It's pretty free-form and...I don't know. I just got the thing I want to communicate which you want to get across and just write for that. The one thing I do not like is the January newsletter. "Hey, here's 3 topics," and getting into it and they're kind of very corporate feel. I think that's just not my business, it's not my culture. And I don't like it when other freelancers might [inaudible] just doesn't feel quite right. That's the old kind of argument of, "If you're one-person shop, can you talk about 'we' on your webpage?" CHUCK: [Laughs] The Royal We or the Nintendo Wii. REUVEN: [Laughs] CHUCK: Curtis, how about you? Do you typically do the, "Hey reader, this is Curtis. Here's the stuff. Thanks! Curtis” or do you not go with the letter quality type of email? CURTIS: I was just reading through my last one to see...sorry. The same with recent and my last one, and it have been a while so I start of off saying, "Hey, it's been a while," and introduced the new product, and it said, "Here's the future kind of what we're going to do with this email newsletter." So it's really conversational, and then I made spelling mistakes. ERIC: Is that a quote from Michael Port on his "email newsletters are kind of signature line to sign up"? He's like, "I don't charge extra for typos." CHUCK: [Laughs] CURTIS: [Laughs] CHUCK: One more question for you guys, do you put like, "By the way, you have 2 weeks left to buy my product!" at the end of your emails? Or do you mention this out now? CURTIS: I will. On Smashing Magazine, there's a post called "How to Launch Anything". I'm forgetting the name of the author, but he, when his email launched in sequence, he'd let all his email subscribers know that the product was coming up, and then he'd let them know like, "Hey, the coupon I gave you expires today," so at the end of the day, and he said he sold like $4000 increase. And then he say that was like, "Here's a spike from the first email, and here's a spike that's half as high again from the second email later on the day," because when I call it leave it to later, I'll leave it to later, and then like I didn't have to use my coupon right at the end. I guess that's more of, I guess a launch sequence exactly. So I won't do that forever, but I will do that like when I'm launching a product or when you're coupons are going to expire or something, "Hey, this expires within the next couple of hours, so if you wanted to use it, you need to use it." ERIC: Yeah, and I've done the same. There's two kind of terms that people use: there's kind of a "Soft Sell' and a "Hard Sell". The soft sell is like, maybe you have some content like I'm writing a book on freelancing stuff so I'm writing a lot about freelancing to my list, but I was writing about some stuff about freelancing, and then at the end, I was like, "This is kind of part of the book I'm writing. If you like to be interested, click this link and sign up for the newsletter and all that you know when it comes out." The hard sell on the other line is basically the entire point to the email list's sell. So you don't have this kind of like, "Hey, by the way" at the end, you have this, "My book's available, it's this price, here's a coupon code. It's only available for the next 24 hours," and then there might be another hard sell like, "The coupon code is going to expire in 2 hours," and then maybe a third email, "That coupon code is expiring in 5 minutes," those kind of what's called "Hard Sell", where it's like the whole point is to sell the product or service you're talking about there. Most of the advises, you kind of have to mix the two. If you're launching a product, you can do a lot more hard sell, but you're going to do hard sells that often. You can do hard sells on products that have been out for years, too. CHUCK: Interesting. REUVEN: But just in general, I found marketing perspectives saying to people, "You have unlimited time to act on something." I hate to admit it, but I'm also a sucker for that sort of thing because I don't procrastinate everything until the last moment. So if I'm told, "Oh, I only have until today," I'll actually act on it. CHUCK: Well, especially if you really want it, right. REUVEN: Even I don't really want it, or if I'm sort of on the edge, I'm like, "Well, you know it's only a $10 eBook, and I love thinking of using it so I probably will get it." ERIC: The kind of the point is someone might have read your email on the side that they're going to buy this eBook, but "Oh, I'm at work. I don't have my credit card with me," or "I got to go to meeting in 2 minutes," and they leave it. By the time they get back, they forgot that they actually made a decision to buy it. So the whole point of that stuff, basically with the launch sequence, is to remind them, "Hey, this is going off the market," or whatever and this people that are like, "Oh, I made a decision, but I actually didn't buy it." I know in the past I've actually made a decision to buy something, I thought I bought it, and then waited up to the very last minute and realized like, I didn't actually buy that thing and had to rush to get it, and there was like 5 minutes left, I think. That happens all the time. Everyone is distracted by stuffs so you have to kind of do that if you're going to actually launch a product. CHUCK: Yeah, I need to send one of those out today for my Rails Ramp Up Class because it starts tomorrow. ERIC: Yeah. CHUCK: And I know that there were some people that are on the list that wanted to sign up and I don't think they realized that time's kind of snuck up on them. ERIC: One thing I got from Amy Hoy, I'm pretty sure she got it from someone else, but the rule of thumb is, If you're launching something, that day, you need to send 3 emails; you need to send one in the morning, one halfway through the day, or whatever, and then one an hour or two before it closes because people are going to forget it. My wife doesn't check her email stuff like maybe every other day, and if then, it's like at night time. So she might have missed an email or it might have been buried. So basically, Amy's advice was to send out 3 emails on your launch day and that can pretty much capture most people that had the intention of buying, but they actually forgot or got distracted. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. ERIC: It might sound like a lot, but realistically, if someone signed up to hear about your book launch, they're going to want to know when that launches. Most people are really good about filtering an email like if you made a decision not to buy it, one button just archive that message that you don't want to read. So I wouldn't worry about that. I think I've had 2 complaints in 7 years time that I send too much email. CHUCK: The other thing is this, you're always going to have people that feel like you don't send often enough, and you're always going to have people that feel like you send too much. CURTIS: Yeah. And you always do a daily podcast now, or maybe you should go to once a year, you can't keep everyone happy. CHUCK: Yup. REUVEN: Aside from product launches -- product launches it sounds good to send that something out just before the deadline and maybe even 3 times on the day. But, if it's just sort of general updates of your company, is once a week a reasonable amount of time? ERIC: I used to say once a week was best, but honestly, it's -- I don't have the same stance as blogging -- send as frequently as you're able to do it, as comfortable as you are. For me, it's about once a week, maybe every other week. If you get writer's block, you can only do it once a month, do it once a month. It's the consistency and keeping it going is more important than sticking to one schedule. CHUCK: Yeah. REUVEN: So pick your schedule and stick to it rather than trying to cram it all in and then lapsing for 2 months. ERIC: Yeah. I used to run a list where it was every week, I would send out a tip about something, and I dreaded because I think I sends it on Wednesday, so I have to have it done and finalize and load it up by Tuesday. I dreaded it; it was too much and I overcommitted on that. I ended up stopping and completely killing that list because it wasn't something I was interested in. But if I set it up or I send it every other week, by that time I was super busy, so if I send it every month, it would probably still be active. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. Alright, let's change tactics a little bit. Eric, you mentioned in the chat, Email Courses. I've heard a little bit about these; I think there was one about Rails Security that was put up by the folks who do Code Climate. ERIC: Yeah. With their cool, little spotlight, that was a great opt-in page. CHUCK: I haven't actually seen it, but I'm curious as to how effective something like that would be. It seems like you'd be able to establish yourself as an authority and hopefully have them continue to buy products. Was this something that they're charged for? ERIC: No. I'll give you a bit of background. I'm not going to say it's advanced, but it's a bit higher than send out weekly newsletter. Most people that send a newsletter, it's kind of a broadcast where you click send and it goes out to everyone. If all you guys are on my list, Curtis and Chuck, you're both going to see the same message from me when I hit send. Another size is what's called "Autoresponders" which shouldn't be confused with Vacation Responders in email, they're whole separate beast. As a programmer, it's very easy to understand it. If this subscriber signs up and they've signed up 6 days ago, send them this email; if they signed up 8 days ago, send them this other email. Basically, what you do is you're building a sequence of emails that go out and it goes out based on when the subscribers signs up, not actually the day. So like, railssecurity.com is Code Climate's one that (I'll put a link in the show notes), basically, when you sigh up, you're going to get (I don't know how many they're sending) but maybe, we'll say 8 or 9 different emails, and everyone's going to get the first one, everyone's going to get the second one, you're going to get it in order. But if I signed up today, Curtis signs up a week from now, I'm going to get a different email tomorrow than Curtis is because it goes off the sequence to sign ups. That's basically kind of what autoresponders are and kind of what email mini-courses are about. Now, on the content side, what it lets you do is you can actually think through what you're writing about and have your subscribers go through the exact same training progression. So if you're talking about security, maybe first thing is you talk about secure your passwords and then after that, "Okay, secure access to your servers and then match you down those big thing as you're going to work on across that script or something, and then you walk them through step-by-step. The other thing, if you did like a broadcast, someone might come in at the very end of that and they might get an advanced security topic, and they don't know the beginning stuff. So they are like, "I don't know what this guy's talking about." So the thing is you get a lot of control over kind of what people see, how they see it, and all that. It's also nice because it's one of the few marketing tactics you can actually create, set it up, and walk away from it, and it still works. In one of my books, I did this (I'm trying to load the page real quick), I created one 2 years ago maybe about Refactoring Rails Controllers. Still to this day, actually today, someone signed up for it. I have almost 200 people subscribed to it, and it's 8 or 9 email course that talks about Refactoring Rails Controllers. I think at the end of each one, at the very end, it talks about the book I have on it, but it's something I set up once, made sure it was good content, and tested all the sequence for it, and it still works and it still brings in sales. I actually found that it actually gets me more sales than sending someone just to my product page without actually knowing who I am just because of the trust build up. So that's kind of the introduction to email courses, I think, for freelancers because they're very hands-off. This is like a silver bullet to really help you out. CURTIS: That's what I would like to do with my freelance business list. Even people who joined out later are still going to get all the old content, and every so often, I'll remind you of the book or something. CHUCK: I actually have a mailing list sign up on FreelancersShow.com, and it says that you can get the 7 Secrets to Successful Freelancing; I think it's what it says. ERIC: That's super! CHUCK: It does actually send out emails, like you said, every week after you sign up. I want to make it a little bit more involved so that as you're getting those, you're also getting the periodic updates, "Hey, I wrote this whatever, whatever," or "We talked to David Allen on the show, and here's what I'm doing with what he said," or whatever. But I haven't been able to make that as much of a priority, but you still get those emails; you still get the benefit of being on the list. ERIC: Yeah. And like I said, the one I made on the Rails Controllers, I actually did it as a test. I was like, "I don't know how this works," this is before as very popular like heavy marketing people did, and that's where I borrow the idea from. But in the tech area, it wasn't very popular, and I did it. Actually a full AB Test on my site, I just turned it off last night, it was running for years. And it proved without a doubt that it was a better sales process than any other marketing thing I've ever done. So it works. It's hard to get right, but it's one of those things that you can get something out there and tweak it as you go. If you find that people are not opening the 5th email of the sequence, you can go and rewrite that email and everyone from then on will get the new rewritten email, and you could even do AB Test on that to see if it's actually better. CHUCK: On top of that, you can also, if you rewrite it, you can at least in Aweber, you can say, "Send this out to the list." So, you can send it out to your existing subscribers as a, "Hey, I reworked this and I thought you'd be interested in the update," and then new people just get it as part of the, I forget what they're called, but part of the plan sequence that they get. ERIC: Follow up. CHUCK: Yeah, their follow ups, that's what there. ERIC: I found that not to be a huge thing. I actually have 5 or 6 ideas that I'm probably, once this book's out there and published, I'm probably going to put in play like they're not that hard to create once you understand them. And like I said, it's been maybe half a week put in together, put it up there, and then it's just sort of paying your dividends. One of my email actually for the controller one, I talked about one refactoring and I end with, "Okay, now you seen how this refactoring is, here's the instate of the code. What do you think that tomorrow's email is going to be? How do you think it's going to change?" I actually get a lot of responses about the people trying to guess kind of what I'm going to do next. It's really nice because some people, they get it, they know what's going on, and other people aren't sure and then sometimes, I even get better refactoring suggestions from that. CHUCK: Yup. Cool! Anything else we want to talk about with Email or Email Lists? ERIC: Start it now. CHUCK: Yeah. The other thing that I want to point out is that several people that I've talked to have had list of like 20 or 30 people, or even 100 people, and have done really well with the people on their lists. So you don't have to have like 10,000 people on your list. You can get away with having 20, 30, 40, 100 people. If those are the right people and they're engaged and you're giving them what they want, then they will buy or whatever it is that you want them to do - email you, contact you, whatever the payoff is. ERIC: Yeah, quality over quantity. CHUCK: Yup! ERIC: And it's like that with the emails, too. I'd rather send out one large good quality email than 5 shorter ones. CHUCK: Yup. CURTIS: Even if you are not sure about the market you can go, you can use email list to kind of have a list of either clients or potential clients and say, "Hey, setup my list." If you set up a very simple mini-course autoresponder type system (this is an idea I had and I want to use), your first email can be an introduction to you, your skills/experience. Maybe another email can be about some past projects you've done and vague terms about big one to me. The third one could be your project management methodology, how you work. Basically, a lot of stuff that would typically tell someone over the phone or over email as it is, you can build into that and basically kind of pre-qualify all of your leads. CHUCK: Yeah, it makes sense. Alright, we've been talking for about as long as I usually let this go before we get to the picks. But I want to make sure that there's nothing else that we can cover before we do the picks. ERIC: There's plenty more, but this is probably good. CURTIS: I think the big thing to remember is that the primary goal of your email list or even your blog or any of your marketing in general is to provide value for your clients. So providing value for those people on the email list that they want to stay signed up for is just way better than just hard sell every 4 seconds so you have a high churn rate. CHUCK: Yup. Alright, let's get to the picks then. Eric, do you want to start this off. ERIC: Sure! I've picked this before, but it's relevant. I use "Aweber" for my mailing list software. They've been great, I think I'm paying $29 a month. It's inexpensive and they charge you more as you get a bigger list, which as you have more potential customers, you should be paying more because you should be making more. I've also used "MailChimp" in the past. They're great, too. I think they have a user UI so it might be a bit easier to get into. I have some actual custom scripts I've written around Aweber to do graphing, statistics, and I have kind of a workflow where I'd write my email and Emacs and then it gets converted on top of format and throw them to Aweber. I think MailChimp has an API, too, and it's pretty good. MailChimp or Aweber, either those is great if you don't know what you're doing with email stuff and you only get started. Aweber actually ported my old list from MailChimp into Aweber, and I think MailChimp will actually port it from Aweber into MailChimp so you don't feel like you're already getting locked in with one or the other. It's going to be a bit of a pain to migrate emails and all that stuff, but you can do it. I think that's it. One thing I do, I use a Ruby gem called "premailer". It's supposed to be used in an app, but I have it in my scripts. What it does is takes all of the CSS for your what would be a webpage and makes it inline. So instead of being like reference scene or like up in the head, it actually puts it on the actual elements itself. I use it in my scripts so I actually take the markdown, create HTML file, run it through premailer so I get this one page of content that actually has all the CSS applied directly where it needs to go. That does quite a bit for the spam filters and stuff and actually makes it so you don't have to actually load a file in an email client. So if you are a Ruby developer and you want to build some kind of similar system, if you run your template through premailer, it can actually make it a lot better spam wise. I'll put that in the show notes, too. It's a bit more advanced, but it's a pretty cool little trick. CHUCK: Cool! Curtis, what are your picks? CURTIS: I'm going to pick the webcam I got just a while ago. It's a "Logitech C920", which is a high-def webcam and it cost just over $100 and it's been really nice. The worst thing about it is it's really widescreen, my office is in my bedroom so I had to move around a lot of stuff so you don't just see random bedroom things. CHUCK: [Laughs] Nice. Reuven, what are your picks? REUVEN: I have 2 picks such as a reminiscent of past shows. Few shows ago, I recommended something called [inaudible] for bibliographies. I do the task, but it turns out, it also has a bit of a problem with Microsoft Word which I am forced to use for my dissertation work. I found out about this other thing which probably blows becomes water called "Zotero". Not only that it works across platform and it's open source and it's free and it's safe thing within the cloud, and [inaudible] more about the bibliographies. So for the two [inaudible] out there who actually cares about the bibliography of the stage, I highly recommend it. The coolest thing about Zotero is that it have the plug in for Chrome and for Firefox that if you go to say Google scholar and you got a list of other calls, you can say, "Yeah, I want to import this and this and this," you can do that. My second pick is not a specific thing, but two shows ago, we talked about just saying no or I think we said just saying no. Last time we talked with David Allen of Getting Things Done so I've been on a kick of really trying to get my inbox down to few messages every day. Part of that involved reducing my email load. So I think I'm unsubscribing like mad from all of these newsletters and updates and Google alerts and Chrome stuff, and also the stuff that was filling my mailbox. And it's shocking to me to see how little email I get that's from (I'm not lonely, folks!) like little email I get from actual things that really demand my attention. I feel so much firm, and so much better. So I definitely recommend to people to try that out. I think someone mentioned it with a blog post and we got to set it up like it's either no or hell yes, and that was the approach that I try when I'm unsubscribing things. So if you want peace of mind and extra time, try "Unsubscribing". CHUCK: Yup. You inspired me when you mentioned that at the beginning of the show and I unsubscribed from a few myself. Well, I've got a couple of picks. My first pick is actually something that I've been working on; really, it just comes down to people being patient with me. A couple of my other shows have really large RSS feeds and people have been really nice about some of the problems that we've been having. Basically, what happen was the feed was too big for FeedBurner so it wasn't updating. So I turned it down and then people couldn't get all of the episodes so then I took it out of FeedBurner, but then the feed was so large that it was taking 25 seconds to load. Anyway, this is primarily for Ruby Rogues, but just people being "Patient". I'm really excited to see where some of this goes. Another pick that I have that I just want to put out there that I really, really like is "Twitter Bootstrap". I've been using it for another project where basically I'm going to be putting up some of the crazy ideas that I have. I'm pretty sure that I will also be putting a mailing list on there and it's really going to do what my friend did and basically say, "I'm not going to email on this regularly, I will email you updates related to this crazy ideas and what kind of feedback I need on them." Anyway, I'm really excited to see where all this goes, and this was just a really awesome and inspiring episode. So yeah, I kind of talked to my ware on picks and I haven't have anything solid, but that's what I got. So, we'll wrap up the show. Thanks for being experts and awesome guys! CURTIS: You're welcome! ERIC: Anytime. CHUCK: [Laughs] CURTIS: You can enjoy my awesomeness. There's no charge for 'awesome' as Kung Fu Panda says. CHUCK: Nice! CURTIS: [Laughs] ERIC: Well, Kung Fu Panda is not a freelancer, is he? CURTIS: I don't know! CHUCK: He acts like one sometimes. [Laughter] REUVEN: Freelance philosopher. CURTIS: [Laughs] CHUCK: Alright, we'll wrap up the show. We'll catch you all next week! REUVEN: Bye everyone! CHUCK: Oh, I do need to mention... CURTIS: Uh-oh! CHUCK: Our next book club, we're going to be reviewing Michael Port's "Book Yourself Solid", and Michael will be on the show on September 24th. So pick up the book, start reading that now, and we'll talk to you about it then!

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