Today I’m speaking to Emily McGuire about Building Community Through Your Email List
Emily is the Customer Evangelist at AWeber – a people-first Email Service Provider. With lessons learned over a decade in tech, sending thousands of email campaigns, and working on email campaigns earning over $80 million in revenue, Emily loves sharing the mistakes and strategies of email marketing done well.
You’ll typically find her with a cup of coffee in hand because #momlife. When her head isn’t on her laptop, you can find her chasing her kid, reading a book, or binging trashy TV."In digital marketing, we're competing with constant distractions. We need to help our readers focus on the main goal of our campaigns rather than just throwing a ton of content at them hoping they'll find the right thing for… Click To Tweet
In this episode, you’ll learn about building community through your email list as well as…
- Whether we should really still bother with email
- What works well now to grow our email lists
- The Frequency sweet spot: how often is too much?
- The danger and warning signs of writing emails that are too transactional
- 3 big mistakes to fix to avoid people unsubscribing from your email list
- And so much more
Connect with Emily on:
Marketing Like We’re Human – Sarah’s book
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Email Sarah at email@example.com
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Imperfect Transcript of the show
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Sarah: [00:00:00] Hi, Emily. So good to see you speak to you today.
Emily: Hi there. Thank you for having me. Yeah,
Sarah: it’s We’re focusing on email marketing in this episode. And that goes under my, P of promotion because, , if you think email, usually you’re thinking, okay, I’m promoting something, even though you’re probably gonna tell us, well, it’s not just promotion , but that’s where I placed it under.
So, Yeah. With that, let’s just dive right in. , I think my first question would be, do you feel that email is still alive and kicking with all , you know, our over full inboxes? What, what’s your take
Emily: on that? Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, a lot of people like to say email is dad. They’ve been saying that since I started in email marketing, about eight years ago.
And, , you know, what I would say is, you know, email marketing, definitely isn’t dad, [00:01:00] the way we think about it is, and I, that, People had adopted email, originally as a direct extension of direct mail. And so, , there’s still some lingering ideas that email is this long form content where you can link, dump a bunch of articles and podcasts you’re listening to, or the latest book you’re reading in a newsletter and people are gonna read the whole thing.
And, you know, in today’s world, in digital marketing, we’re competing with constant distractions. And I think that we need to be really aware of helping our readers focus, , on the main goal of our campaigns, , rather than just throwing a ton of content at them, hoping they’ll find the right thing for.
Sarah: What I hear you say is, is this idea of the [00:02:00] newsletter, right? It’s like, here is my newsletter and there’s like 20 pieces of news. And I actually expect you to buy something from, from that newsletter, I think. Yeah. That’s what I’m hearing. And, and, and you’re right there, there is this tendency still, and that, I guess, Dates back from the days that we have these newsletters, whereas like, oh, I’m signing up.
I’m giving my email away for just to be on a newsletter and that’s just not true anymore. So, you know, I guess that makes me think of. , this idea of getting people onto you, your newsletter, or having them subscribe. So since this term newsletter clearly doesn’t work anymore. What’s the latest trend.
What works well now to grow your email list, to have more subscribers on, on your.
Emily: Yeah. So,[00:03:00] you know, always a lead magnet of some kind is going to help. So lead magnet, , I’m sure you’ve probably addressed this before, but in case not, or if anybody needs a refresher, is a piece of content or a freebie or something, you can offer somebody in exchange for their email.
So you are essentially setting up the relationship, whether you’re a subscriber by saying, Hey, I can help solve a, a pain point for you with, Again, with some sort of guide or workbook or, um, maybe a quiz or here’s a free discount or gift, , in exchange for your email address and that way you are, again, incentivizing people and not just saying, being really vague and saying, sign up for our newsletters.
Well, what does your newsletter offer to people? Value are you offering to people? And that’s where people, I think people really need to get specific around growing your [00:04:00] email list. Like, what is it you have to say and how are you actually helping folks?
Sarah: So these eBooks you’re saying they’re still work because they, they have been around for a long time as well.
And it feels almost like. Maybe that’s done too, but you’re saying like, if the, I guess it depends on the topic. If the topic feels like, okay, this is going to help me, then I would give my email an exchange for the ebook.
Emily: Yeah. I mean, an ebook is still, you know, is still a strategy. Some people use, but you know, you can do many courses that you deliver over email.
Mm-hmm , it doesn’t have to be fancy. Like you can even take an ebook that you already have and turn it into little lessons that you drip out to your subscribers and, you know, send an email. What, after the other, so I think that, you know, starting with an ebook is a good place to start, but like, thinking about how are you interacting with your audience?
How are you really engaging them with [00:05:00] the lead magnet will help again, get people really excited about your brand instead of you dumping content. On them and saying here here’s a 10 page, 10, 20 page PDF to read. , I know because everybody’s busy, right? Like I said, everybody’s busy. , and so how are you, , giving people smaller chunks, right.
Of information that is easy to digest.
Sarah: Right. So, so let’s talk about then the emails. You know, if they’re not newsletters, what are we putting in those emails? And, and you’re kind of talking about emails that are transactional, transactional, and, and some warning signs where we can tell. Okay. There’s something not working.
People are not opening our emails or they’re unsubscribing. So what are some signs of maybe, emails that are too transactional and then how do we fix that and how do [00:06:00] we make them non transactional?
Emily: Right. So I like to encourage people to think about, Different, email campaign categories.
Mm-hmm that they want out. So, you know, obviously you’re gonna have different goals for your emails. You might have, you might want to be pushing, you know, sales more often. Right? Of course, you’re, everybody’s trying to make money. Right. We gotta pay the bills. but you know, sending sale or emails that are really, only around.
Getting a sale or conversion. If you’re only sending emails like that, you’re gonna start seeing high unsubscribed rates, right? Mm-hmm and, uh, list churn is what they call that mm-hmm . And so you’re not engaging people, you’re not giving, you’re only asking right. For them to give you their money. And so a varying that, I mean, having sale oriented emails is important, but also putting in content that is engaging.
So maybe. You know, talking about, thought leadership [00:07:00] what’s thought leadership in your industry having one email. So I recommend at least sending one email per week to keep. Engaged. So maybe one email a month is dedicated to that’s more sales focused, one email a month. That’s dedicated to thought leadership, around your specific, subject area.
Another one that’s more personal, you know, because people wanna connect with you as a human. So do you have a story to tell about your business? Maybe what’s going on behind the scenes and how can you show your humanity? And then maybe one that’s a customer focused success story. So how are you helping your customers?
What is something that, what are successes they’re having? So you’re sort of giving a whole picture to your business, keeping folks engaged, but also selling. Right. So metrics to look at for that are, you know, there are industry benchmarks that people like to cite. I’ve seen those very widely [00:08:00] across businesses.
I don’t think that they’re very accurate. What I recommend people doing is setting your own internal benchmark. So what are your open rates for the past three months? Look at that. And then if something is dipping below that or jumping above that, then you know, you’ve got some successes or you’ve got some warning signs.
So, open rates, I like to tell people. Anything over 20%, you’re doing pretty good. Obviously you can do better. Anything under 10%. There’s a problem. And usually when you’ve got, when open rates might dip, there’s usually something else going. Else going on and that’s usually a result of your list health.
So it might be something going on with your subscriber base. Maybe you’ve got a lot of really unengaged people that need to be reengaged. Maybe they’ve never opened an email. If you have really low clicks on your email, then you need to start looking at, okay, what are you asking people to click on?[00:09:00]
Are you giving them incentive to click through to something else? And is that click really gonna get you where you want them to go? So is that going to lead to a sale or is it gonna lead them down their buying journey with you and then, and then another one is unsubscribe. So I already mentioned that, you know, just keeping an eye on that.
What’s your benchmark for your business over the last three months. And if you’re starting to see your unsubscribed rates tick up and up, people are unengaged, with your emails. They’re not there. There’s something wrong with the content of your email, and then you need to come back and look at what were my most successful emails.
Mm-hmm what were. With and how can I take those lessons and replicate it for future emails?
Sarah: Mm-hmm yeah, I don’t do that enough. yeah. And the one thing that you didn’t mention, but I guess would also play into that is when you actually get [00:10:00] replies, that’s my favorite, you know, when you send an email and then you get replies, people telling you their stories and that’s when I’m.
Wow. I just love my lists. They’re , you know, they’re right there. They know that I’m the one sending the, the emails and then they can tell that it’s personal and it’s not, obviously it’s automated because that’s what we do nowadays. We use these tools, but they, if they hit reply, they feel like, okay, I can talk to Sarah and she’s, she’s gonna reply back.
Emily: Right. Exactly. Yeah. Replies are a great one too. Not everybody, some people might have a contact center that is managing those replies for them. But yeah, if you’re managing your own list and those replies are beautiful, they’re, they’re a great way to gauge engagement.
Sarah: Yeah. Yeah. And then you talked about, opening rates and, and I know I have heard this number before the 30% or 20% is.
Still always surprises me. Like it seems [00:11:00] so low. Right. But that is just a sign of how overly busy we all keep ourselves and how much email. Stuff were subscribed to you. Like it just always, this just surprises me. I always tell my clients and my listeners to unsubscribe from the things that they’re not actually using, but I, I guess the big majority of people are just, yeah, they still have too much stuff in their inbox.
Emily: amazing. Yeah. Yeah. Well, and that’s why, Well, but it also presents you an opportunity, right? So I like to tell people to resend their emails, , cuz people really have a lot of concern around redundancy. Mm-hmm . You know, well, if I already sent that content out in an email, people have already seen it before.
They’re not gonna wanna see it again. And it’s like, well, if a good open rate is 20%, that means 80% of your E your list never [00:12:00] sought to begin with. Right. Yeah. And so that, that’s a really great to me. It’s a great opportunity to, , recycle your content, send out the same email content, you know, maybe three months apart, pick out your best performing emails and queue them up.
So if you’re having a busy week or, you know, you’re, you’re, you’ve got writer’s block. You’re not sure what you wanna send out that week. You’ve got a queue of old email. That you know, people like that you can resend. , yeah. And
Sarah: would you then target it in a way that the ones that had opened it wouldn’t get it again or you’re like, doesn’t matter.
Emily: It doesn’t matter. I think a lot of people assume that just because somebody opened an email, , they think that it means that a they read it. not everybody does just because they opened the email, , B that they, remember. Everything or remembered what was in the email? Mm. And C , took the [00:13:00] action.
They intended to mm-hmm . Again, we are competing with distractions. And so in my opinion, , you know, repetition is helpful. It’s not a burden, it’s not annoying. you’re just reinforcing the points that, you know, people need. , cuz you’re, you’re listening to your customers and you know what help they need and hopefully your emails are helping.
Sarah: Mm. Yeah. I, I kind of struggle with that idea cuz I feel like, well then what if you know, 10 people already read it and they’re like, Sarah are, you know, are you ING with what’s wrong? Like why are you sending me the same email? Like that? yeah, but, but I guess if you just kind of make the intro a bit differently or, or like rapid.
Yeah. I, what I started doing actually. Uh, and I heard that on, on Jenny Blake’s podcast is, Using the email. So a single email and then adding it to a sequence because [00:14:00] people who are on my list now, well, they’re getting it now, but then if I add it to a sequence, then these people will get it once they get to that sequence.
And so that I, I have started doing and. Stopped again, but do do that again. I think that that’s a great strategy because you’re right. It, we create so much content and, and especially those emails that, you know, resonated with our audience. Why not reuse them again? Sometimes I even used the email text and then just post it on LinkedIn, the same text, because you’re right.
Maybe they didn’t see it on LinkedIn or they didn’t see it on, on email. Yeah.
Emily: Yeah, exactly. I think, you know, we. Because we are so in our own content that people are not paying as close attention to it as we are. Yeah. You know, we know our content, but our audience, you know, they, they mostly don’t care.
right. Yeah. And you know, I’ve gotten, you know, from my own email list for,[00:15:00] , when I had a consulting business, I. I had a couple emails that people loved that I would send out once every six months. And I had the same people replying to that email saying they loved it every single day. like, remember that they got it before they had remarkable, you know, we have very short memories.
Sarah: It’s like goldfish memories. How much should we worry about these unsubscribed rates? When clients tell me, you know, they’re always like freaking out when, when people unsubscribe and I actually try to tell ’em, well, maybe it’s a good thing. Depends. You know? So what’s your take on that and, and, and then maybe also tell us how can we avoid unsubscribes at at least.
You know, big numbers of unsubscribes cuz the, the equational one, I think it’s
Emily: actually healthy. Yeah. I mean it’s [00:16:00] healthy, right. You know, not every, you know, not everybody’s good for fit for us all the time. Right. , and you don’t want people who are not interested you in you on your email list, cuz that drags down your engagement.
Right. But there are a couple things that you can do to help with unsubscribes. One is, you know, if you see a spike in unsubscribes, something’s wrong, you know, and usually what I see in that is, you know, maybe, , your subject line over promised what was in your email, right? Those things match up. You were not matching expectations up correctly for people.
So I, I see people trying to get a little bit tricky and click Beatty with their subject lines. Yeah. And that ultimately, , loses trust with your subscribers, right? Yeah. The other thing you can consider is, , what I’ve done. For, businesses and myself, , is allowed people to pause their subscriptions.
Mm. So you can, instead of saying, I let’s break up [00:17:00] forever, you can say, you know what, I need a bit of a break three or six months, you know, you can decide that number for yourself three months seems to be a good option for folks and all you have to do. You know, depending on your email service provider, you can have a little button, or add a button above.
Your unsubscribed link that says, you know, I need a break, something like that pop for three months and click, when they click it, send them to a really simple landing page that says, , you know, that confirms that their subscriptions paused. And again, depending on your email service provider, you should be able to tag somebody if they click that link.
Right. And then them in an automation. that has that tag on them for three months. And at the end of this three months, you remove that tag and then all you have to do [00:18:00] is make sure that in your newsletter segment or your regular email campaign segment, you’re excluding that tag. So, yeah, that’s another option you can do is that you, they call that opting down instead of opting out.
Sarah: I like that. Yeah. , I’m not sure I’m using Kajabi. I, I would need to check with, with them if they offer that option. But it, I think that’s a great idea. , it’s kind of like I’m, I’m on a. You know, email sabbatical, please, you know, please, please pause me for six months. Yeah,
Emily: yeah. And I’ve also done this for, you know, if you’re running a, a campaign over a few weeks that is more maybe sales focused or if you’re running, a challenge or, or something else, if instead of having people unsubscribed, if they’re not interested in that particular thing, I let them know, Hey, you’re not interested in this right now.
You can pause for the duration. Yeah. Yeah. So, , it’s another option to save those subscribers.
Sarah: Yeah. Any, any other, , [00:19:00] tips to yeah. Have stop people from unsubscribing, I guess also in terms of the. the links, , before you said, you know, it’s, it’s not a good idea to have this newsletter with a hundred links.
So is the idea then to just have one link per email that used to be the, when I studied email marketing, that used to be the message. Is that still the case or how do we
Emily: approach links? Yeah. I mean, I would, you know, depending on what’s in your email campaign or your newsletter, , you know, just being really intentional about putting links in your email.
So, you know, if you are, you know, writing on a piece of thought leadership, right? If you’re talking about something in your industry, if you have. Relevant to that piece that people might find helpful then, yeah. You know, hyperlinking it in the text saying, you know, if you need more help with this here’s this resource.
And then, to help [00:20:00] you with conversions have. Between one. And at the end of your email have one between one and three calls to action that are related to helping guide people through your sales process. So whether that’s, Hey, if you need more help around this topic here, here is, , a list, another resource mm-hmm
if you wanna talk about this topic more, here’s how to get in touch with somebody mm-hmm . And, , or here is another piece of content that will help with this, right. Making sure that you’re really intentional about, , guiding people through your sales process, and relating it back to how you’re helping them in adding value.
, I think that is, it’s just being really, really intentional about what your goals are. For your emails, what your subscriber’s goals are and marrying those two with, , guiding [00:21:00] them through your sales process. What’s the next action they need to take in order to get help, right? Yeah.
Sarah: Yeah. I get that. , We used to also say that the PS in the newsletter that like sometimes people read the, the subject line and then they, you know, scroll down and, and so the PS had this big importance.
Would you still recommend putting something in the PS as well?
Emily: Yeah. And that’s where those three calls to action to live. Yeah. And bullet rate those don’t make it a long block, a big block of text mm-hmm bullet. So they’re easy to scan and read.
Sarah: Okay, great. And is there a difference between a hyperlink and a button link?
Like is there stats that show the people click more than one or the other.
Emily: It I’ve seen stats very widely on that. And I think it depends on your, the kind of campaign you’re running. I recommend, you know, at least [00:22:00] having one bold call to action with a button, , unless your email template is more of a letter format, then that might not make sense, right.
With the, with the style and feel of the email. Mm. And then, you know, having some hyperlinked links in your text, if it’s relevant and it’s not a distraction for your subscriber, if it will help them and guide them further down their sales path.
Sarah: Hmm. Yeah. I’m also thinking you just mentioned design, like back in the days we used to have, or some people still have that, like the header and then the signature block, and it looks like this branded email.
Right. , but then there was a trend where people were saying actually, what works better is just like text that looks just like any regular email. What do you recommend to your clients?
Emily: Yeah, I mean, it depends on the business. Again, I’ve seen, I’ve [00:23:00] tested those kinds of templates and results have varied widely mm-hmm I’ve seen a lot of success with text based emails.
It’s a really good place to start. It’s a lot, it’s a lot lighter load on somebody. Building emails. And I think that’s definitely something you have to consider. Yeah. If you don’t have a designer on a dedicated designer on your team or they’re stretched really thin, , then, , yeah, it just bogs down the process.
And so, but some brands are very visual mm-hmm and that makes sense for them. Mm-hmm so I think, , again, I do a mix typically, depending on the type of campaign, but, , text very simple text formatting works really, really well.
Sarah: Nice. Okay. The last topic I wanted to talk to you about, and, and you brought this up.
When we had an email exchanges, this idea of community building, so using email for community building, [00:24:00] and that is of personal interest to me because we, we have our humane marketing circle, our community. So, so yeah. What’s your experience there? And, and how do we use email for community?
Emily: Yeah. So I think, , you know, particularly in the last couple of years, you know, globally, we have seen a lot of, really hard things.
Right. And. . I have seen a lot of businesses really miss the mark on it. Hmm. And instead of taking it as an opportunity to address people’s humanity and the very real anxieties and fears people are experiencing, they instead use it as an opportunity to just give updates about the company mm-hmm . And although that information can be really important.
I think that it. You know, ultimately human beings are emotional. We are emotional things who like to think we are [00:25:00] rational thinkers and, addressing people’s emotions is just as important as educating them. Right. Mm-hmm because emotions can stop us, from doing the work right from showing up fully.
And so, , I have seen brands, Incredible strides with their audiences and really bond, with their brands and build community by addressing their emotional states, especially when it comes to public crises. So, I think it’s I, and, and it doesn’t have to be something that big, but really thinking about what are your people struggling with emotionally?
What anxieties do they have around the work that you’re trying to help them do? , or. Personally, and really speaking to that, lets them know that you see them not only, or that, , you see them not just as a business [00:26:00] transaction, you see them as a whole human being and that builds trust and likability very quickly.
Sarah: that reminds me of, , something I saw on LinkedIn. And I can’t remember what brand it was, but basically it was mother’s day and they were acknowledging that, you know, it being mother’s day and usually there was like a mother’s day sale and this was just after COVID and so they were acknowledging that.
, it probably was a difficult day for a lot of people who, well, they had lost their moms. Right. And so instead of just sending out another sales email, oh, happy mother’s day, they addressed that. And there was a lot of, yeah. Very positive feedback. , and it was, you know, going viral on, on social.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember that company name, but still, it was a really good example.
Emily: Yeah, that seems to be a growing trend in email marketing, where people are very aware of, you know, mother’s day and father’s day. And these relationships can be very complicated. Yeah. Um, [00:27:00] and, you know, allowing people to opt out for that season, again, opting down instead of opting out, Addresses their emotions and makes them say, Hey, we know you’re a human being too, like yeah, yeah.
Not just a potential dollar sign. Yeah.
Sarah: Yeah. And, and I think it does this human side should really be. All over, you know, your emails, , especially for our listeners who are more like entrepreneurs. So entrepreneurs, coaches, consultants, you are the business, right? So it’s all about community building for you.
Of course. Yes. It’s also about selling, but it’s. Much more about community building because that will lead to the sales. So, so that human aspect is, is so important. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I agree. Wonderful. Any, any final thoughts? Anything else that we didn’t touch on that you wanted to add here to this wonderful [00:28:00] conversation?
Emily: Yeah. And I wanna address one specific, anxiety that I know that people experience with email and people get really anxious around hitting that send button. , and because, you know, we wanna be, we wanna do it right. We wanna do it. We wanna make sure we didn’t do any errors or typos or wrong links.
And I just wanna let people know that the next time you make an email mistake, we’ve all done it. , I’ve done it. , more than once and done it with teams who have five people reviewing the email. And so, , just wanna let you know. It’s never gonna be perfect. And again, people appreciate the humanity sometimes and sending out that oops, email afterwards where addressing the mistake, , sometimes those do even better than the email you intended to send out that day.
Yeah. So, , nobody’s perfect and we’re all just doing our best. And so, um, I wanna make sure people know that, , to not let that get in the way of sending out that next. [00:29:00]
Sarah: Yeah. In fact, it really shows you, which people should not be on your list are the ones that, you know, point out that you have misspelled this or that word or that, you know, I’m like, you know what?
Yeah. Can be bothered. Exactly.
Emily: They’re trying to get along. Exactly.
Sarah: Yeah. I’m just, you know, a one woman show here. So I don’t have time to like, yeah. People sometimes suggested that I have a, you know, someone edited my emails and, and I’m like, look, it’s pretty clear that English is not my mother tongue. I’m not gonna hire a copy editor for each email.
that’s just not gonna be authentic anymore. But yeah. I think you’re right. It is. Idea for perfections that we have to overcome first. And then, and then eventually you get to the point where you’re like, you know what? Yeah. Things happen. Yeah. Let it go. Yeah. [00:30:00] Wonderful. Well, Emily, why don’t you share, with people where, they can find you and maybe you have a, a free giveaway.
Well, as well that they can download, tell us
Emily: all. Yeah, so you can, I’m pretty active on LinkedIn. I like sharing things about email marketing there. You can find me on LinkedIn, , Emily McGuire, , and also, you know, I’m the cur I’m the current customer evangelist at AWeber, , which is an email service provider.
And, we do have free accounts. So if you’re looking for a new email service provider, feel free to head over to E aweber.com and check it out.
Sarah: Wonderful. Yeah. I used to, , use AWeber , when was that? Before I switched to active campaign and then to Kajabi, but I think if I had to switch again, I would probably go back to AWeber.
It’s a, it’s a really good service. So, , yeah. Thank you. The last question that I always ask all my guests is what are you grateful for this week? Or
Emily: today? Today. I am grateful for [00:31:00] sunshine. I’ve been getting over a cold and so I’ve been inside a little too much. And so this morning, even though I’m not feeling a hundred percent, I’m like, I was like, I’m taking a walk around the block and I’m gonna get some sunshine gonna get that vitamin D in.
Yeah, definitely. Especially, you know, in I’m in Michigan, in the us. And we have very long winters, so I’m soaking it up while I’ve got it. .
Sarah: Wonderful. Yeah. Wishing you a speedy recovery. Take care of yourself and thanks so much for your
Emily: time here. Thank you.