The Freelancers' Show 114 - Email Marketing

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The panelists discuss email marketing.


CURTIS: See, maybe that’s the difference between Linux, Apple and Windows people. Anything I get, like I’ll get a new blender and I’ll read the manual before I even plug it in. That’s what I do on Linux – I’ll read stuff and read all the docs before I use it. Maybe it’s Windows or Apple people like you guys just get stuff and expect it to work. ERIC: That’s because it normally does.[Would you like to join a conversation with the Freelancers’ Show panelists and their guests? Wanna support the show? We have a form that allows you to join the conversation and support the show at the same time. Sign up at] CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 114 of the Freelancers’ Show. This week on our panel we have Curtis McHale. CURTIS: Hello! CHUCK: Eric Davis. ERIC: Hi! CHUCK: I'm Charles Max Wood from and this week we’re going to be talking about email marketing. We have our own resident expert here, Eric Davis. ERIC: Hi! CHUCK: So how do you do email marketing, Eric? ERIC: You write a marketing message and you deliver them through email. CHUCK: Alright, let’s get to the picks! ERIC: Okay, so that was great. I mean, it’s hard. When you describe email marketing, it’s like saying social networking or I have a website, it can encompass a lot of things. There's – not camps – but there's two ways that I do email marketing that I found that works good for freelancing-type stuff. The first one is the standard one where you have a monthly newsletter or weekly newsletter that's like news or you wrote some content for your clients or that sort of thing. The more technical term they use is a broadcast email. The way which I use a lot heavily now is an auto-responder drip content style, and that’s where – like I was talking on the pre-show – I have one where it’s 38 emails, each once a week, so that’s basically 38 weeks of content that someone signs up and they get it in order. The goal of it is you start from this known starting point and then you teach them from that point all the way to the very end. I've found the drip auto-responder style works really good because it gives you a lot of control and you can make it into any kind of training or education or lesson plans that you’ve had in school – it’s kind of similar to that style. And there's a couple of other styles of email marketing, but most of [inaudible] they don’t really work, or they don’t work really good for services like we’re having a huge sale, or Friday-style type of emails, or just blasting out stuff at your customers hoping they'd buy. That’s for services and for freelancing stuff; that’s not really – it’s not good for the relationship with your customer. CHUCK: One thing that I've also seen is where it’s kind of you sign up for the email list and it’s not dripped out to you, but they get in and they say, “Hey, I went for a hike the other day and I thought about this and that, and I have this object lesson from when I went.” It’s something that happened literally yesterday, you just get into the sequence wherever you get in. ERIC: Yeah, and that’s the broadcast way. If you look at it on a timeline, say, you do it every month – that’s a good one to use. It’s May when we’re recording this, so if you signed up right now and my newsletter comes out tomorrow, you're going to hear about that, but you're not going to hear about what happened in April or before that. That’s like a newsworthy stuff, or like you said, you went out for a hike and you had this idea – those are good for that style because it’s very timely, very topical, especially if there's major worldwide news or whatever – you can really reference it in there. That’s why a lot of people start with that kind of email marketing because it’s really easy to make it topical. The problem I ran into personally is that it feels like a treadmill, because I was doing it every week – every week I had to come up with something new; every week I had to write and had to make it compelling and make it so that my potential clients would get value out of it and it got really hard, and there were some weeks where I just didn’t wanna do it. You can ask my wife – I dreaded writing some of those emails. I kind of didn’t put as good of an effort into it and the emails were worse than they should have been. CHUCK: Mm-hm. Makes sense. ERIC: I think before you really think about email marketing or any kind of marketing, you gotta look at what your goals are, like why do you wanna do this? If your goal is to just stay busy, email marketing might not be the best-suited thing for you. It might be, but for me building relationships with both clients and potential clients is why I do email marketing. It’s a very long-term marketing strategy, but for relationship-building I haven't found anything better except for meeting someone in person. CHUCK: One thing that I'm curious about – I know that you’ve done Redmine in the past, and now you're doing Ruby on Rails. I don’t know if you’ve said this out loud, openly, to other people, but you're looking at doing an email marketing coding solutions for that kind of stuff. How do you wind up marketing, say, if you have one or two – more than one target market – or if you have two, your target market kind of overlaps two different areas of interest? Do you create two newsletters, or –? ERIC: It’s hard, and this is do what I say, not what I do. I actually got started with the broadcast like I said, like news about a little stream software this month, and I actually have archives from the first few months I was open. I started with that, and then I started doing a similar, the weekly broadcast for Redmine, like news, and I was giving out tips [inaudible] like that. I actually did a second list for that because I figured people using Redmine weren’t my target clients at that time, and so I actually had two lists. I was doing one week – and I think that was monthly – and then I kinda got into the freelancing audience, like making products and helping freelancers, and so then I had three and it kept expanding and expanding and eventually it overwhelmed me, and that’s where I was dreading it every week. I ended up merging almost all of those into one list, and what I do now is I basically say, “Okay, this list is about this one topic. If you're interested in other topics, I have other lists about it” but I focus on just one audience and also inside that list I also do some kind of segmenting. Right now, my list is basically targeted at freelancers, like people who are getting started at freelancing. That can be someone – well, it can be some people who are getting started, some people who have already started, some people who are trying to do it part-time on the side. Inside that list I’ll actually let people, by clicking links or joining second lists, let them kind of segment themselves into like, ‘Well, I'm doing it part-time so I don’t need certain information that [inaudible] to only full-time.” It’s hard, because if you send a lot of emails and they're not relevant to a person, like if you're sending topics about Redmine and someone’s on the list to do freelancing, they're going to unsubscribe, they're going to mark you as spam, or they're just going to delete your emails. And so if you ever want to sell them something relevant to them, they're not paying attention anymore; it’s a balance you have to strike. I've done separate lists, I've merged them; I've done a lot and – I don’t know – there really isn’t a good solution. I think your subscribers might speak up and tell you if they think it’s not working. CHUCK: That’s really interesting. And I like the idea of segmenting the lists – do you wanna talk about that for a second for the people who are not familiar with the terminology? ERIC: Yeah, so segmenting – it sounds technical, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s basically like you have this big group of people and some have a certain interest, some have a different interest, and those kinda overlap. They might not, whatever. And so the idea is kinda like what I said a minute ago, is you wanna send relevant communication to people, and so if I know someone who’s working as a full-time freelancer, and say maybe I know that they're working in the US. If I send them an email about new thing about moonlighting in the UK, they're not going to get any value out of it; it’s worthless to them. So if you segment it’s like I know this person cares about full-time stuff; this person cares about UK things – I can send certain emails to one group or the other. I think every email delivery campaign system now has segmenting. You might have to do a better work to set it up, but they all have it and it’s pretty easy to, say, send it to only these people or this other people. I mean, it’s just like with your clients – if you have some clients that are maybe in one industry, some that are in another, and you might not tell one industry news about that, like something else that’s irrelevant. It’s the same idea. CHUCK: One other question I have with segmenting is I keep having this idea that maybe I'd like to serve a particular segment, but I'm not sure. Should I create a segment for that, or should I hold off until I'm really ready to pull the trigger on that? Or similarly, if it’s a segment that I don’t ever intend to serve, do I just let those people unsubscribe, or just send them the content that I'm sending everybody else and if it’s not relevant then they’ll leave? ERIC: I think a lot of depends on how big your list is. If you have 20 or 30 people on your list, or 50, maybe even 100 or 200, you can do a lot of stuff manually. I actually have – I think my list is in the thousands and I still do a lot of stuff manually. What I'd recommend when you first get started segmenting is – especially for small lists – is if you are ‘I wonder if there's a large enough segment that cares about cute cat pictures.’ So you can send an email and ask people to reply or whatever, and based on those actions, if you get a bunch of people replying, you can say, “Okay, everyone that replied is interested in cute cat pictures.” So you can manually edit their subscriber accounts in MailChimp and AWeber and mark that, “These people care about cat pictures,” and if it’s about 80% of the list then, “Oh look! Almost everyone cares about it – that’s a large segment.” And then on the other hand, if no one cares about it, no one [inaudible] you see a bunch of unsubcribes, then you know, okay, cute cat pictures is probably not a good segment for my enterprise customer list and you can just phase that out or not worry about it from then on. CHUCK: That makes sense. ERIC: The technical thing in AWeber, you can use custom fields. I have one called ‘interests’ and that’s just a list of what people are interested in and it’s a [inaudible] separated list. Some actual ones I had was ebooks, marketing, getting started, developer, designer – stuff like that – and so I can actually say that, “Okay, who in my list are developers? Who are getting started? And who subscribed in the past week or so?” And so I can send a very targeted email to them about something. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. Even if it’s a target that you'll only send one email specifically to them every once in a while, it could be the thing that really gets them to buy or become engaged or whatever. ERIC: Right. And I also – I mean, this is something that I do manually – I have another customer field called replies. It’s a number field, starts at zero – that starts at nothing – and anytime someone replies to one of my emails, I increment it by one. And so at any time I can go in and say, “Okay, who in this list has actually replied to me or sent me emails the most?” and those are going to be my most or most true fans. I haven't done it, but for instance, I can look in there and say, “Anyone who’s emailed me five times or more, I can send them a custom email of ‘you're a very special customer to me; here’s an extra discount,” or “Here’s a bonus of my book that’s coming out next week; you get a free copy.” Whatever. It’s the idea of making your true, really good fans into even bigger fans. And this works the same for clients. If you have a potential client that’s emailing you a lot, you can use these kinds of things to track and say, “Okay, well I'm going to send them a specific email” or even just find out who they are and send them an email out of Gmail, or Thunderbird, or whatever, like a private one-on-one email. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. Let’s talk, unless you have other questions about this, Curtis? CURTIS: No, I just listening and thinking about my own marketing. I do some, again, for freelancers on a weekly basis and not a lot of drip campaign, and nothing really for clients at all aside of what I manually do to touch base with them marketing-wise, which we talked about in past shows. CHUCK: Mm-hm. ERIC: Well, here’s something that I'm going to do. Curtis, I know how your stuff’s set up and [inaudible] be a recommendation for you that might be too much work for the value. I've been doing a lot of white papers or – I call them guides, because a lot of people hate the term ‘white paper’ – and they're on different topics and so in order to get them, you sign up for my client services newsletter. When they sign up, they say, “I want this guide,” and so I know that going into it – and I haven't done it yet because [inaudible] I think about it, but I can track that this person wanted this guide when this signed up. And so if they get one – I think I just published it – about email marketing, I know going into it that this potential client has an interest in email marketing, or this one has an interest in hiring remote dev teams, or an interest in whatever. I can know that going into it and so I can actually look and say, “Okay. In this list, what percentage of people care about email marketing?” and so I can actually focus marketing messages or talk to them directly if I want to get an email marketing project. And Curtis, for you, I know you do a lot of stuff where your blog stuff goes out to email. I think that you're doing weekly series or whatever on a certain topic, so you could actually segment like who actually clicks through the blog this week and actually segment that into one group, and you can kinda track who cares about what topics, and that can either influence marketing messages, sales messages, or even just what you're going to write about next week. Yeah, and I started to look at – I started to mention this a couple of shows ago, ORBTR as well, for doing some of that. I'm not sure if I can tie it into MailChimp from my email portion as well; that would be interesting. CURTIS: Yeah. I use the third-party service from mine, but I've actually considered just writing a simple, little app that does it. It’s basically like a shortened URL service, but it’s shortened URL plus what email subscriber came from, and it just hits whatever API – Aweber and MailChimp – and does the backend stuff. You can even do it manually, just by using this email you can look at reports of who clicked and just go into the subscriber and put it in by hand depending on what volume you . CHUCK: I wanna change tactics a little bit and talk about actually writing emails. If somebody signs up and they do the double opt-in, which in my understanding is that's a good idea, then maybe we should explain what that is really quickly. Essentially, you get an email – when you sign up, it’s sends an email to you that says, ‘hey, you signed up for this newsletter; click here to confirm that you want to get our emails before you get blocked or marked as spam or anything.’ ERIC: Yeah. Double opt-in’s a weird thing; it goes back and forth, like it adds an actual step to getting a subscriber actually on your list and able to send stuff to, and so the intention is that way I can’t just go on to a site and just put in 50 bazillion email addresses and assign people up for newsletters they didn’t want. But I know some marketers who have actually tested single opt-in versus double opt-in, and it’s a weird thing. Sometimes you would think that extra step makes it worse, but in some industries, so audiences, double opt-in actually improves the rate because it makes you feel more legit, like you are trying really hard not to send spam. I personally use double opt-in on a lot of things just because I have a really technical audience and I think they understand that they're okay going back to their email to do the second step. I've heard some businesses that worked to a consumer level, or non-technical people, double opt-in just kills it because their audiences don’t understand how you actually do the second part of the opt-in, and they don’t understand why they're not getting the emails. CHUCK: Yeah, that’s true. I have seen those opt-in emails go to junk mail and cause that problem. I wanna get a little bit into actually writing the emails. Are there specific tricks or things that you need to pay attention to? For example, I keep hearing that the title or the subject is kinda the critical thing there, because essentially that’s what people are going to see and decide whether or not they're going to click through and actually read the email. ERIC: Yeah, and I've actually noticed that recently. I'm having my assistant kinda set up my emails for me and my opt-in rate is half – or my click-through rate is half after being consistent for eight months. Something I need to get her to learn more about and practice a little more first, or continue to practice; edit them myself. It’s certainly very true, though. CURTIS: Yeah. Basically, writing emails – you might have to write your content [inaudible] but the last stages you – it’s basically copywriting. The subject line is as important as the headline is on a blog post or on a sales page or anything like that. If you see on Twitter, like someone posted a link of a very boring link to a page, you're not going to click it; but if it’s very enticing – it could even be with the BuzzFeed or whatever, like 33 ways to make sure your dog does this scary tactic or whatever BS – that can actually get people to, in this case, open the emails. The problem you run into is if you spin it and it’s really, really scammy-looking, you might get more people opening the emails but they're going to hate you; they're not going to respect you, they're not going to do what you want. And so, it’s a balance. I try to make it so that the subject line is informative, like ‘this is what the email’s about’ but I’ll put it in such a way where it might have a little bit of a mystery around it or it might be straight into the point, like ‘this is the value you're going to get.’ Or what I found that’s been working good for me is kind of the emotional response of I'm teaching this certain information, but why am I teaching it? Am I teaching it so you don’t feel like a failure when you're on the phone with a client? Am I teaching it so that you don’t run out of money at the end of the month? That sort of thing. CHUCK: Yeah, totally makes sense. As far as the body of the message goes, or the actual message goes, I've heard a couple of different schools of thought there; I’d like to hear what you guys think. One of them is David Siteman Garland – he’s the guy that does the Rise to the Top. Anyway, he sends his emails out and they're kinda like just straight text. It’s like, “Hey buddy! This is me and blah-blah-blah” – just text, and maybe some pictures of whatever he had going on – “go buy my thing!” Whereas other folks, they insist that you get a strong brand, you have a strongly branded website, and then you have a strongly branded email template that you send along so that it has your company information at the top and it looks really professional and things like that. I can see tradeoffs to them, but I'm wondering, do you prefer one over the other? And why? CURTIS: For mine, I went pretty simple. I used a stock MailChimp template and actually took any of the fancy stuff out of it so it’s a single column of text that would look nice in all your devices. And I even think it was Eric who looked at it on some mobile stuff and we bumped it up a text size after the first few editions just to make it look nicer. I always go on simple. I have a client who does a crazy one and it doesn’t – like after hours and hours and hours of trying we’ve sort of got it to maybe work on all email clients. ERIC: Yeah, that’s the basic compass. Do you have a minimal look, or do you have a pretty visual template? I fall very much on the minimal side. Not all the way – there's actually some people that just send it as text, like it’s plain text; there's no HTML. What I do, I started with – I think it’s also a MailChimp template because I started with MailChimp before I went to AWeber. I started with that and frankly, I do web development – I know HTML, I know CSS, like that’s my core skill set – but having to put my content into that template was such a pain, and getting the formatting and making it look right –. I spent a lot of time testing it on different email clients. I hated it; it was a barrier for me to actually get my emails out. Since then, I've stolen – in a way – but I've taken the idea that what Nathan Barry has, and Brennan Dunn has for their emails where it looks very basic, very plain, it is an HTML template but it’s basically a body tag, dump in your content as paragraphs and then you have links. That was me kind of – I can make links look good, I actually bumped the font size way up because I wanted to be very clear. And the other thing is it looks really good on mobile, which, mobile on email is kind of the new thing right now. But that way, I can do some fancy HTML stuff if I need to, but for the most part it looks like just a plain email. I don’t remember who said it, but one of them said that the reason why –. If you get an email from a friend, pretty much they're not going to put a standard “hey, how you doing?” email in a template; they're just going to write it. It’s going to be plain, or it might be kind of the very uncluttered HTML. So your email marketing, if you kinda follow that thing, you can look like a friend to people and it builds a relationship of “Oh look! Brennan’s email looks like how my friend Joe’s [inaudible]” so you feel like you're working with less of a company, less of a brand. And for me, and for, I know, Brennan and Nathan, that’s what they want; they want the more personal, like there's a person behind this company, versus a big, heavy-branded, Coca-Cola style. Once again, this goes back to what I mentioned earlier – what are your goals with email? Do you wanna look like a large agency that has a lot of people, a lot of power behind it, or do you wanna look like a single person that someone can actually communicate with? CHUCK: Yeah, I wanna push back just a little bit. As far as for me, for freelancing, even if I had an agency and had all bunch of people working for me, I would probably go the route that you guys are talking about. If I have a product or a brand that I really wanna make sort of pop or stick and I'm tying things very neatly to that brand, then I'd be tempted to go with a little bit more stylized template. However, I don’t like the ones that are like six columns and 40 million rows and nine links that are all ‘Read more, Click Here!’ For me, it’s more along the lines of what you're saying but maybe with a banner at the top, or something like that that really just says, ‘Hey, this is the –’ for example, if I was  going to put an email out for this show and that’s one aspect that we’re building into is you get the episodes, and so those will probably have the Freelancers’ Show logo near the top and clearly, ‘This is the Freelancers’ Show, here’s your episode.’ But yeah, I probably wouldn’t do much more than that beyond typography, maybe making the font a little bit bigger and clearly communicating what's in there. I'm not going to put 10 million things in there or a whole bunch of ‘Click This!’ and ‘Try This!’ and ‘Do This!’ It’s just going to be a basic template. But I do like the idea of putting some artwork or something in there at the top or maybe at the bottom that just kind of wraps it up neatly and says, ‘hey, you're getting this because you're part of our community.’ ERIC: Yeah, and actually, while you were talking Curtis’s newsletter came out, and mine came out today, so I actually just looked at them both on my iPhone. I know Curtis is using a template and you can kinda see a little bit of the template-y aspects, but they look really close. My font size is bumped up because I focus a lot on readability stuff, but if I didn’t know Curtis and I actually looked at the source for his email, I would think his was kind of a very plain template or it starts off with a personal email too. One thing you really gotta be careful with – and I did this for a long time – is to get a specific layout or images in there, you either need to add them as attachments, which is going to kill your believability because it’s going to be like ‘this is spam’ or people aren’t going to open it, or you need to have them on a remote site. If they're on a remote site, not every browser or email client will load images and all that stuff. You email might come through, and because it doesn’t have the CSS or anything to put stuff where it needs to be, it’s going to look ugly. Especially in the beginning, people may not trust you enough to load remote resources from your email, and so you might start off [inaudible] sending them an ugly email asking them to load a bunch of stuff and they might kick back and say, “No, I'm not going to.” I have some scripts that clean up mine so it’s very – like there's nothing on a remote server or anything like that unless I'm specifically putting in an image for the content, but that’s something to keep in mind to. It comes back to your audience – technical people worry about this, and I have a system administrator background, so my paranoia’s at a level 11, but some people won’t care. Some people don’t load all their [inaudible] images; it doesn’t matter to them, and that's kind of – it sucks, especially when you're starting, but it boils down to tests. I mean, send the design to half of your list, send the other design to the other half to see if there's better open rates or better response on them and go off with actual data for the people on your list. CHUCK: I really like that, the idea and the approach behind that where it’s like ‘yeah, just test it.’ ERIC: Yeah. It’s sucks, especially because when you get started you get low traffic of anything, so getting a test that you can rely on takes forever, but that’s marketing thing – there's no actual truism to marketing because all marketing there's a caveat of ‘well, this might work differently for the people you're talking to.’ And so, anytime you hear people talking about marketing stuff, that always comes back to ‘well, test it on the people who are actually going to be your customers, or your clients, or your leads, or whatever’ because they might respond differently than the general population and it might be significant enough that you go a different way than what everyone else is advising. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. ERIC: I don’t know, I guess one more thing. Especially if you're getting started with email marketing, if you don’t do a template –. I would actually say, just do plain text. Text plain, I think, is the [inaudible] type or whatever. That is so easy to get started with. You're just writing, and you're going to have to constantly be creating content, so that’s the purest form. You can start with that; make sure there are no roadblocks in your way, and then later on add a template once you have more numbers, once you see the value. It’s a lot less of a startup cost versus ‘we have to do a template and customize it and put your content into it, test it’ – all that. And so start with a minimum amount of effort you need and if you see value then continue. CHUCK: Very nice. One other question I have is I'm asking this more just out of general curiosity. I've pretty well decided that, for example, sending out emails that there's a new episode that’s going to go out every week because we have a new episode every week, and I want to send out tips, tricks, ideas surrounding whatever the topic is as well to people. And so I'm thinking about sending that every week, but is there a good period that you should repeat on? ERIC: The one you can maintain for the long term? CHUCK: [Chuckles] ERIC: Once again, it’s testing. I do it to build relationships, so if I send an email every quarter or every year, that’s not going to build a relationship. People would have forgotten about me. I did it for a while, where I send in every month, and that worked okay but it was slow. You're either sending them a ton of information to kind of catch them up, or you're sending very little and there's a lot of stuff you could have talked about, and so there's a lot of gaps there. I've settled on weekly because if it’s my style, I've actually built habits around doing stuff every day and every week around it, so it’s okay. I've also, like I said, scaled back in merged stuff so I don’t have that ‘I must produce every week.’ If you can, I recommend weekly. If you can write, if you can do blog posts and all that stuff, you can do email marketing every week. If you can’t, maybe look at every other week or monthly. The hard this is when someone signs up, you usually set expectations of ‘you're going to hear from me every week or every month’ and changing that is kind of – it might be a good thing, they might be okay with it, but it could also just really upset people and you'll get unsubscribes from that. That’s what a lot of people complain about – it’s like, ‘you're sending too much email’ or whatever, and so people unsubscribe. I actually don’t get that that much; I mean, if I'm sending too much email, then their expectations were set wrong. They're not really a good potential client for me, because that’s where I do a lot of communication. But yeah, weekly is kind of the gold standard, but if you can’t do every week don’t beat yourself up about it and do something you can sustain and figure. You're going to do this for 12, 24 months, so if you can do monthly for that long, great. That’s probably what you should start with. CHUCK: One other question I have is let’s say I've been writing a blog for a long time or putting up videos or podcasts or something. How frequently can I actually reuse information from the blog or podcast, or whatever? ERIC: Verbatim, like you're taking the entire blog post and putting it in there or [crosstalk]? CHUCK: I've seen people do it, but I don’t know if I would do that. Maybe restate or add something to a blog post, but maybe you can speak to both. ERIC: You can. I mean, most people – especially tech people, that’s mostly who my audiences are, they're pretty technical – we go through so much information on a day-to-day basis that you're not going to remember something you read six months ago unless it was groundbreaking, like “Oh, wow! This is the best post I've read all month!” If that’s the case, you sending it to them again is probably not a bad thing. The other thing is if you’ve reframed it instead of just saying verbatim which you wrote last time and say –. [Inaudible] last year, I wrote about how you do refactoring in Rails. Since that time, there's been some changes, so first, ‘why don’t you go check out what I wrote last time?’ Send them a link  to the blog post or you can even in line it, and then you can say, “Well, since that post I found that points one, three and five have changed, and so this is kind of the newer, more modern way of doing it that’s a lot better.” And so you kind of reopened the topic of the last blog post with the idea of ‘I'm going to be updating it and here’s the update’ – that works. Another thing that works is the short message of “Hey, for all my new subscribers and for people who haven't seen it yet, I have this great blog post on refactoring Rails. If you haven't read it yet, why don’t you check it out here” and make it really short. Most of the value is, if you haven't seen it, here it is. I think any of those three would work; it just depends on your circumstances. Like always, you can always take the concept and what you're trying to teach in it, the blog post, and just kind of revise and rewrite it, and have a new email or a new blog about it. CHUCK: Where should you put – I know that the answer is that you should put it in a pop up that comes up when your site loads – but where should you put your opt-in form? CURTIS: I have a separate page for mine. I don’t a good job at directing it now; I have a little bar that scrolls down when you’ve been in my site for a little while. I actually was just reading, in the last week, about a site that did a bunch of testing, and the one that they found had the best option was not even the popup because when you wave the popup [inaudible] people just left as soon as they saw it, it was not great. But having it, say, between right at the bottom of your content and before your comments, that’s where they found they had a really good opt-in rate. There was a good opt-in rate and the people leaving the site were really low, so that’s actually where I'm going to add mine soon. ERIC: Yeah, it’s the cold action area, right after the post. CHUCK: Can you put it there and have, say, a button or something somewhere that opens it up in a pop up if they click it? CURTIS: Yeah, I was actually reading another thing a while ago about having a ‘I want to sign up for it’ and then the button triggered the pop up and that was even better than putting the form right down. Although again, you should be testing there as well. ERIC: Yeah, there's a lot of research on this. One marketer I follow a lot of is Clay Collins. He had a business and he actually changed it; he’s doing a startup now called Leadbrite. They have a lead player which is like a video player and their big flagship product is LeadPages, which is like landing pages. He used to do a lot of heavy mass statistical stuff for his clients, optimizing their campaigns and they would share with people, and with LeadPages it’s gotten even more insane. I’ll put a link in the show notes. There's an interview with the group from Startups For the Rest of Us with Clay that kind of goes through what he’s seen and the more modern stuff. I use LeadPages; I've been a customer since they were founded and there's a lot of different ways, but the ways that I'm finding that works the best are kinda like what Curtis said. You have like a little thing in the bottom that either pops up – not pops [inaudible] - shows up and slides up as you reach a certain area, or actually [inaudible] has this too. It’s something, a drip, where it hangs out down there and then it will open itself up, and it’s a little self-contained. From what I understand of everyone who’s using that stuff, it works really good. The other thing that Clay’s been saying a lot of is, he calls it a two-step opt-in process, and it’s basically if you’ve ever seen websites that have on the sidebar, like ‘Here’s a form, subscribe for updates.’ That’s the one step, like you just go and subscribe. The two-step is where it’s an actual button. It might look like a little banner ad or something like that, but some kind of graphic. You click it and it opens a lightbox, which is like a pop up inside a page, and that’s where the form is. Listen to this episode; it talks a lot about the psychology behind it, but it’s the basics of the giving and taking. If there's an opt-in form on the page, you kind of think about it like “Oh, this person is really trying to get my email address.” It kind of makes you a bit more reserved, versus if there's actually a button and you click it, you're more likely to fill it in. I've been doing a lot of what Clay’s recommending and also at the end of the post works good, and some of my opt-in numbers are insane. I've gotten one – what was it? I think it was a 70% opt-in rate? I couldn’t believe how high it was. It depends on your market and I'm doing a lot of testing, so that’s a matter, but if you can, try all of them. Pop ups, actually – a pop up widget or an actual new window kind of piss a lot of people off, but your audience might be okay with it. Some people get great responses; some people, it drives everyone away and no one wants to share your site. CURTIS: Yeah, the other thing to remember there too is you're getting a lot of vocal people. I know I used to have – what's it called, a growbox? So when you scrolled far enough down the page, the forms slip out of the bottom of the page, off to the side and I felt fairly intrusive. I had one guy, and it was probably a 3,000-word tirade with profanity about how I was just a scumbag for doing that to him on my site. I looked at that and I was like, “I feel bad” and I was like, “Wait, wait, whoa, whoa, whoa. No, I don’t! You're an idiot!” ERIC: Yeah. I have a pet peeve of the lightbox pop ups that come up automatically. I'm okay with them, but a lot of times the website is not mobile responsive or is not mobile optimized, and the lightbox isn’t. So I'm trying to hit this x that is three pixels on my phone, and so I actually have to zoom in. some of them let’s you kind of tap outside of it to close it, which is a good thing, but I've seen some where you actually have to hit the x exactly. I've hit some of those x and just – it bounces back. And that’s actually a good way to tell if you're doing the aggressive pop up in your [inaudible] if you can put it on one page, put it on one page and watch your bounce rate and your time on page. If that shoots up, like if the pop up starts at 20 seconds and everyone leaves at 23 seconds, you know your pop up’s pissing people off and they're getting driven away. It depends on the market, I mean, I try to have it very laid back. I push people to opt-in because I think there's a lot of value there, but I don’t put it in their face, and that’s the balance I found that works. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. ERIC: So I guess, to kind of go all the way back to your question, the big areas are in your header area – maybe you have your logo on the left side of your webpage, have an opt-in on the right; on the sidebar, basically above the [inaudible] idea; after the post is really good, kind of at the bottom but at the bottom where it’s in your viewport, so like how Curtis’s slides up where the drip widget’s always hovering down there – that’s a good one. I actually use dedicated landing pages for a lot of stuff, so I’ll just have a normal link going off to the landing page, and that's where someone will opt-in. That’s pretty much most of them that I've seen, and I've used most of the latter ones I've talked about. CHUCK: So one more question and that is email providers. You have different providers like AWeber, MailChimp. I actually use Office Autopilot or ONTRAPORT, which has a lot of these features built in; it has all the segmenting and stuff. Are there pros and cons to them? I've used MailChimp briefly, I didn’t love it. I used AWeber for a long time and it was a lot nicer, at least in my opinion. But yeah, I'm just not sure where to tell people to go because ONTRAPORT or Office Autopilot is a few hundred dollars a month, and it does a whole lot more – it’s a full-on CRM. If you want something like that, go check it out, but otherwise, what do you tell people to go use? CURTIS: I'm investigating ORBTR, which I  mentioned before, and after having a talk with a friend of mine who – his company, which is a huge software company uses ONTRAPORT and has tried Pardot, everything really expensive – he personally was moving down to ORBTR, because that’s what he felt had all the features he really needed out of his main job, which is for his personal stuff, and that’s significantly cheaper. It’s $99 a month. ERIC: I wanna prefix this one thing because this isn’t brought up enough unless you follow email marketing, you're in it enough. A lot of the features that different providers have are nice, but that doesn’t matter in the long run. Like I said, I worked as a system administrator in the past life and I actually manage an email cluster and we were actually – we started actually sending out email newsletters basically from our outlook SMTP servers, so it came from our main IP addresses, and we got blacklisted so many times. It was the kind of thing that we didn’t know what was going on until we actually started questioning people and it was someone on their computer was using Outlook and doing BCC, CC for the newsletters. The most important thing of any email provider is their deliverability. You can find some that has the most awesome features, but if their email sending servers have been blacklisted, that means your emails aren’t going to be getting to people and they might be getting got people marked as spam. That basically kills your marketing. If you can’t reach the people who even want to hear from you, your email marketing’s worthless. With that said, I try to stick with well-known providers or providers where I have a good relationship with them. That’s not to say that a new startup can’t come out and actually make a great product and have good deliverability, but they haven't been running a long time so that’s a little bit of a risk you have to take. I'm not going to bash anyone who I know has a really bad deliverability, but [inaudible] of freelancers to use AWeber or MailChimp – both of the do a really great job on it. I started with MailChimp, I went to AWeber for feature reasons; their deliverability was fine. I'm very happy with AWeber, but either one of those is great to start with. ONTRAPORT, I've heard some good things about them, some bad things, but I think their deliverability is up there too. Other providers, hit or miss. I mean, you're going to find people that hate them or like them. If you pick one that has a great deliverability, especially if there's a way for you to actually get a trial account and test it, that’s actually going to help you out a lot. After that, then it’s just whatever features of those that'll work, but if you remove people that have really bad deliverability, you're going to find there's not very many you have to pick from. CURTIS: Yeah, one thing that I looked at just today was that ORBTR does connect with MailChimp so they have a WordPress plugin and you can actually create your MailChimp emails right from in the WordPress admin and send it off through ORBTR and through MailChimp. And they do segmenting where they call it orbits, which is circles in Google+ or tagging, so you can actually tag people, and then you can even change how your marketing goes on your site. I don’t have enough data yet to really dive into that and I have the WordPress plugin installed to start collecting all that data for the last [inaudible]. ERIC: Yeah, and that’s a good thing I've seen a lot of companies do now where MailChimp, AWeber and a couple of others have great deliverability and they have an API and their API in terms of service allow third parties to send through their system. If you can hook it up through that, so you know you have a known good system, and you can use, say, ORBTR where it’s better features that you want, but sending it through MailChimp – that’s like the best of both worlds. You're probably paying a bit more and it’s probably a bit more complex and you might have more bugs here and there, but if that's features you need versus if you go with ORBTR and maybe – I don’t know them – but maybe their deliverability is not as good as MailChimp. There's half a dozen different infrastructures as a service companies that provide email deliverability, and so some of the better [inaudible] are actually using those like SendGrid, or Mailgun, or – there's a third one that I use, I forget the name. Those services have great deliverability, and so a new startup can actually use that to get great deliverability and build features or build the system however they want, so that’s another thing to look at. If you're getting started and you feel overwhelmed, pick MailChimp or AWeber. I mean, flip a coin if you don’t – it feel like the same thing. They're pretty equal as far as what they do. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. What's the third party that you use for your stuff? You said you use a third party to do the segmenting and things? ERIC: For the segmenting, I use a tool called AWeber Pro tools. Basically you get custom links that are associated with an email address, and so I can track that this specific subscriber clicked this link, and so I can do custom actions, and so I can tag people, I can move people to different lists, I can copy – that sort of idea. Basically it’s the idea of like there's a certain trigger of someone clicked the link or they visited a specific webpage and the action is doing something in the mail system. For the most part, I just tag people. Like I said, that interest thing I was talking about earlier – I just tag them and add, like this person cares about email marketing. I don’t do a ton of automation around it because some of this is just easier to do manually. AWeber Pro tools – it only hooks up with AWeber, obviously. I know Office Autopilot or ONTRAPORT, they do the stuff built in, so it’s a nice feature they have. CHUCK: Yeah, they do the segmenting and the links and everything, all of that, built in, so it’s pretty awesome. Are there any other things that we should cover with this that we haven't? ERIC: Like I said, the important thing is writing the email. All the technical, the integration aspect’s like – it’s fine, if you like that sort of thing, but that doesn’t actually deliver the value. What delivers the value is your email – how you write it, what you're doing. I kinda [inaudible] if I try to educate people, I try to give education training, that sort of thing, in my email. That’s 90%, maybe 95% of my emails, and then the other 5% or 10% is more marketing-related, like I have a new book out or I'm doing a launch, or I'm looking for new clients type of stuff. And a lot that is just because I enjoy writing; I enjoy educating people, training people, so I produce more of that content than a lot of the sales messages. Even though I do a lot of email stuff, I actually fall down a bit on the sell side just because I'd rather be helping people than pushing really hard. But it’s important to figure out what's going to work for you, what style, how are you going to write it – all that. The nice thing is you can decide today to do email marketing and spend the next few days, the next few weeks actually writing your emails. I don’t even worry about signing up for a system or hooking stuff up and just write a series of emails you wanna send out, and so when you sign up you have that ready to go and you can load it up and you can maybe have a month or two month’s worth of content done for you right when you start so it doesn’t feel like this, “Oh, I have to do this, I have to do this” feeling. CHUCK: Alright, I think that’s it. I think we’re – let’s go ahead and do the picks. Curtis, you wanna start us with picks? CURTIS: Sure! I'm going to pick Double Your Freelancing Rate (Version 2.0). It’s just launched today by Brennan Dunn. I read this shortly after the first one came out and it really helped me change my thinking about how I was charging freelancing and helped me up my rate. I think at the time I was happy to even move from $50 to $75 an hour, and yes Eric, you were in version 1.0 for sure. I remember that. ERIC: Was I? I don’t remember. CURTIS: You were in version 1.0, you were a case study. And I'm actually in version 2.0 as a video interview in version 2.0. ERIC: Trying to one-up me now, huh? CURTIS: Always. CHUCK: Awesome. Eric, what are your picks? ERIC: Okay. My picks – one is a service I know the founder, Rob Walling – it’s Drip. It does email marketing. He’s targeting SAS companies, but I signed up for it and I've been kind of working a lot with him on some new features he’s rolling out. He’s talked about it publicly, but they're not actually live. But he’s bringing a lot of the [inaudible] automation stuff that we were talking about that I use AWeber Pro tools with and Chuck used with ONTRAPORT. The nice thing about Drip is it’s very focused on the auto-responder style of you have a series of five or six emails and I found, at least for client services, like that’s when [inaudible] working really good for kind of a – someone comes to my site, they don’t know me and I wanna introduce myself, and so I actually do it through email now and it’s been working really well. Low numbers, but that’s kinda the expected for heavy, custom-development services. Drip’s really good; they're, I would say, it’s probably the easiest to get started with system that I've seen. The editor and all that’s really simple and they have that little widget I talked about at the bottom, that you can get a pretty good sign up rate just from embedding that. That’s my pick for today. You can use their system as it is, or you can integrate them with MailChimp and AWeber – just send stuff through that – or, like what I said earlier, if you wanna use just MailChimp or AWeber to do this by hand too. Those are good options. Oh and then a second pick. It’s kind of relevant, kinda not. Chuck mentioned I'm doing custom development for email marketing for larger software companies; I actually wrote a white paper guide about the Absolute Minimum Email Marketing that they need. I was thinking about it through the show; it might actually be relevant to freelancers, so I’ll put a link in the show notes of how you can get that. You can just email me if you want to, it’s just a pdf, so it’s free; no obligation [inaudible]. CHUCK: Very cool. Alright, I've got a couple of picks. The first one, we talked about how important it is to have a good headline or subject on your email, so I'm going to pick Headline Hacks. It’s done by – I think it’s done by the Copyblogger folks, I'm trying to remember. But it is, it is wicked good. It’s got 52 ideas or something, of ways to get better headlines. You can also use this for conference titles or blog post titles, so if you're doing a call for proposals or something like that, then it’s good to just flip through it and get an idea, “Okay, that’s right. This is the kind of stuff I wanna do in the headline.” Another one I'm going to pick is the HTML EMAIL BOILERPLATE. If you look at it, it’s like this massive in-line CSS style and then this little space for you to put your body in, but the thing that's interesting about it is that I've talked to a friend of mine who worked for a company that did deliverability stuff, and so they get really awesome deliverability. He said that this EMAIL BOILERPLATE is a good basis for emails because it will basically set it up so that you won’t get flagged for reasons linked to your layout. You still have the other issues – too many links, too many attachments, the wrong kind of attachments, all that stuff that would get you flagged – but sometimes there are just stuff that’s wrong with your layout that isn’t clean that this fixes, that make it so that you have better deliverability, and so I'm going to pick that. The last one I'm going to pick is I've been looking around at different ways to get a standing desk, and I have this IKEA standing desk thing that I set up, but I don’t always use it as much as I ought to, and I'd really like a desk that I can actually flip a switch on or push a button on and it raises up, and then push the other button and it goes back down. I found an article, and I’ll put that in the show notes as well, on how to build your own standing desk – electric, adjustable height desk – and what they did is they got some linear actuators and then they just built the rest from scratch out of pinewood, and it looks really, really good, and so I'm really considering trying to do something like this myself. Disclaimer, I haven't used this; but non-disclaimer, I really want to so that being said, I’ll put that link in the show notes as well, and those are my picks. Thanks for all of your wisdom and knowledge, Eric. ERIC: Yeah, this was stuff I learned. I mean, it changes all the time. I'm not an expert by any means on the marketing side of it; I know how the technical stuff works but you can learn 10%, 20% of it and actually be effective with it and I hope that I gave you enough of that, CHUCK: Yeah, I think you did. There's a lot of actionable stuff here that we can go after as we get started with it, so. ERIC: Yeah, and I mean if anyone has questions, or they want me to look at how they're doing, shoot me an email. I'm pretty sure I'm on the sidebar [inaudible] somewhere; I'm pretty public [inaudible]. I can look at things; I've done that for a few people already, helping them target on what clients are looking for. CHUCK: Yep. And if you work for a software company that needs help with their email set up, then Eric’s your man! ERIC: Yup, yes I am. CHUCK: Alright. Well I guess we’re done. We’ll catch you all next week! [Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at] [Bandwidth for this segment is provided by CacheFly, the world’s fastest CDN.  Deliver your content fast with CacheFly. Visit to learn more]

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