The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Email Marketing for Building Designers

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What is email marketing?

Email marketing is, in the most basic definition, using email to generate revenue.

Despite the fact that we all get way too many emails every day, it’s still the best way to reach your customers.

You can use it to build trust and authority while warming up your customers to purchase your services (or products, if you’re selling plans on your website).

But the most important part of email marketing is that you’re already in their mailbox. That’s a foot in the door. And unlike Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms, you don’t have to worry about that going away.

Unless they unsubscribe or close their email account altogether, you will always have your foot in that door.

Why email marketing works.

When someone visits your site, there is no commitment there. They’re just a visitor. They’re reading your content, and hopefully enjoying it, but they’re only a back button press away from never seeing your website ever again.

That’s not a good thing. We want them to buy our service, and they won’t buy our service until they trust us. They won’t trust us until we’ve proven we know what we’re talking about. For most people, that’s going to take more than one visit to the website. We want them coming back.

Email is the best way to get them to come back.

Once you’re in their inbox, there’s a lot of opportunity to get them to come back to your website and purchase your services.

You can offer more educational content to build trust and offer discounts or special offers, if that’s something you do in your business.

Choosing an email newsletter provider.

There are a lot of providers out there so it can be very daunting to pick one when you first start taking a look at them all.

You don’t want to just run with your regular email service and CC or BCC everyone. That’s going to cause a lot of headaches. Running a newsletter manually may also be not allowed by the email service provider.

One piece of advice we have is that you get what you pay for, most of the time.

MailChimp is free but we find it difficult to use and not user friendly at all, especially for someone new to email marketing or digital marketing at all.

Here at the AIBD, we use two email systems.

The main one we use is built into our association management software, Abila netFORUM. Most of our emails come out from here because we can target based on many factors such as membership, location, or chapters.

For example, if we only want to send emails out to Professional and Student members who live in Florida, we can do that automatically because our member database is integrated. We do have to pay for this full suite of association management services.

This is obviously not going to be the solution for you as a building designer. There are other systems you could use such as Infusionsoft that would be more geared towards a business and less towards an association like netFORUM is.

We also use ConvertKit for some of our newer marketing strategies. It’s not free, but it is an affordable investment.

ConvertKit is great because it’s easy to use and has really great automation features. One of our favorite features is the Sequences, which we used to create our free SEO for Building Designers email course.

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ConvertKit is our recommendation for a small business who’s just getting started with email marketing.

Your welcome email.

The welcome email is the first email that someone receives after signing up. Technically, it’s the second email because of the double-opt-in email which is just the “Confirm you want to subscribe” email they get. That one’s actually first, but we’re going to say the first real email they receive from you is known as the welcome email.

The welcome email is really important because it’s where you get to make a good first-email-impression. Obviously, you’ve already made some sort of first-impression with the subscriber because they’ve already opted to give you their email address. Now, you need to make another first impression with your emails so that they don’t regret it.

We’ve set up a template you can follow with explanations of each step:

  1. Start with welcoming them to the email list, and reminding them why they signed up. Sometimes people forget.
  2. If you offered a lead magnet, give them a link to it.
  3. Tell them a little about yourself. Why you’re qualified to to be sending them newsletters, who you’ve worked with, and any features you’ve been in.
  4. What they can expect from future newsletters. Talk about what kind of content you send and how frequently (hint: you should be sending valuable content at least once a week).
  5. Tell them about other places they can follow you such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  6. Ask them a question. You’ll need to make sure whatever email service you’re using allows replies. If you’re teaching something through your blog and newsletter (which you should be), this is a good time to ask people what they’re struggling with so you can get ideas for new content to write (or, if it’s something you’ve already written, reply back to them with a link!).

Using that template will get you started with a good welcome email. You can always tweak it as time goes by.

Then, you need to set up your email service to send the welcome email automatically.

Setting up automations.

We believe that if you have to do something more than once, you should automate it. Luckily, your email newsletter service most likely offers some level of automation.

For example, ConvertKit has two different types of automation: the “Sequences” section and the “Automations” section.

I know it’s confusing that one is actually called “Automations” and the other is not, but both are forms of automation and you’ll see how in a minute.

We’ll start with Sequences. Sequences are a series of emails that are automatically sent out at predetermined amounts of time. For example, our SEO for Building Designers free email course is set up as one of these sequences.

We have it set so that the first email goes out immediately after someone subscribes to receive the emails. After that, it sends each lesson one day apart from the last email. In ConvertKit, you can set these emails to be anywhere from hours, to days, to weeks apart. This is handy depending on what you need.

The Automations section has a lot of features that we could write a whole blog post about in itself, such as tagging subscribers, integrating other platforms and services, and more. We’re only going to discuss tagging subscribers because that’s something we found immediate use for.

Tagging subscribers helps you identify who is interested in what things. For example, let’s say your blog covers two topics: how to design homes and how to design light commercial buildings. In your welcome email, you could ask the subscriber:

Do you prefer to learn about:

  • Designing homes
  • Designing light commercial buildings
  • Both!

And then set a link on each one that takes them to a separate thank you page with more information about that subject. Then, use automation to tag which subscribers click on which.

In the future, when you’re sending out emails about designing homes, you can segment those emails to only go to those who clicked on “designing homes” or “both!”. That way, people aren’t getting emails that are irrelevant to their interests, and they’re less likely to unsubscribe in the future.

Getting people to sign up for your newsletter.

Here’s the hard part: getting people to sign up for your email list.

It’s a foot in the door of their private life. Email inboxes are sacred and aren’t just shared all willy-nilly by most people.

However, there are people out there with hundreds of thousands, even millions, of email subscribers. How do they get them? There’s a few techniques marketers use that are tried and true.

First: just ask.

It’s that simple. Open up your phone and flip through the contacts list. Anyone you know on there you think would be interested, ask them. Just shoot them a text that says something like:

“Hey, I’m starting a newsletter for my website where I talk about [topics], and I thought you might be interested. Can I add you to the list?”

If they say no, thank them and don’t bug them about it. If they say yes, respond with something like:

“Awesome! Excited for you to see what I’ve been working on. What email is best for you?”

Repeat the process with Facebook contacts, Twitter, and anywhere else you can think of. If you’ve got a Rolodex, check that. Anywhere that you have contacts who you think might be interested, just ask them. Don’t waste time on people you know wouldn’t be interested.

The next thing to do is to get all the people who are visiting your site to sign up.

Your email newsletter service should offer some easy copy and paste sign up forms that you can just drop into the code on your website. Lots of marketers recommend you have a signup in the side-bar (if you have one), one in the header (if you can do it without it obstructing the rest of your header), and one at the bottom of every blog post and page. We prefer to skip the header signup to keep everything a bit cleaner at the top. Instead, we will often put a signup higher up in the blog post, if it makes sense to.

If you’re on WordPress and using ConvertKit, you can actually do this really easily with their WordPress plugin.

You’ll need to go to WordPress and install and activate the ConvertKit plugin, then go to you ConvertKit account and get your API key and API Secret key.

Then, in WordPress under Settings, you’ll find the ConvertKit plugin. Go there and put in your two keys. “Click Save Changes” and it will refresh with a dropdown of your current forms. You can then select which one you want to be the default.

In WordPress under Appearance, go to Widgets and you can drag and drop the ConvertKit widget into whatever sidebars you want it in.

To have it in the bottom of a post, you can select that option in each individual post, at the bottom of the page below the post text box.

What to send in your newsletter.

Now that you’ve got this email list, what do you send out?

Updates! Newsletters! Projects you’re working on!

Mostly, just things that are relevant to what you’re working on, that your subscribers would want to see.

If you’re using your blog to teach people, which you should be, then definitely send that information out in your emails as well.

One thing to make sure of is that you don’t constantly bombard your subscribers with advertisements of your services or products. That’s spam, and it’s bad.

Definitely do promote yourself, but don’t over-do it.

When to send out your newsletter.

You need to be sending out newsletters at least once a week. This keeps you on people’s minds and increases your chances of landing new sales.

Studies have shown that the more emails you send, the better your clickthrough rates. It’s important to make sure you don’t spam people, though. That’s a quick way to lose subscribers.

Marketers have been studying time of day and day of week to send out emails and it varies wildly.

CoSchedule compared 10 different studies and found that Tuesday is the best day to send email, and if you send two emails a week, Thursday is the best day for your second email. Wednesday was also a popular day.

As for time of day, they found that 10 A.M. and 11 A.M. are great, as well as anywhere between 8 P.M. and Midnight.

Our MondayMINUTE newsletter goes out on Mondays, but the time is different each week. We are happy with our open and clickthrough rates and don’t plan on changing that. Also, MondayMINUTE is a catchy name, so if we switched to a different day we would have to change to a less-catchy name.

Of course, this all depends on your audience. Your subscribers may operate at a different time. Being that your audience is mostly building designers (if you’re teaching design) and/or people who want to buy your services and products, they could operate at normal business hours. But, another industry could have an audience who are mostly night owls and thus open emails while the rest of us are sleeping.

The best thing to do is to try different days and times to figure out what your audience prefers.

Legal Stuff.

In the USA, according to anti-spam laws called the CAN-SPAM Act, you have to have a valid physical mailing address in your email newsletters. This address doesn’t have to be your home or office. It can be a P.O. Box.

It does have to be an address attributed to you where you can be contacted. You can’t just pick a random gas station address of of Google Maps.

We recommend you don’t use your home address for safety reasons, unless you’ve already put your home address openly on the internet. Generally, that’s not a good idea at all, so if you can take that down and set up an office or P.O. Box, that’ll be a much safer way to do things.

But also, don’t use a fake address. One single email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act can cost you as much as $16,000.

You also need to have an unsubscribe button in the email so that users can easily remove themselves from your list. There are lots of clever tricks some marketers use to confuse people who try to unsubscribe. The best policy is to make it easy. The people who want to unsubscribe aren’t your target audience, anyway, or else they wouldn’t want to unsubscribe.

You’re ready to get started!

That’s what you need to know to get started.

Get out there and start collecting newsletter subscribers!

Garrett Mickley is the Communications Director for AIBD and has over eight years experience working in digital marketing.

Free SEO for Building Designers Email Course

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