Market a Small Business Via Email & Ebooks
By Justin Premick May 31, 2007
Many businesses use “ethical bribes” such as ebooks and free reports to collect opt-in subscribers. Once they’ve gotten what they came for, though, you have to continue to offer value in order to turn them from “freebie seekers” to active, engaged subscribers who you can convert to paying customers. Our latest case study looks at Marc David and how he’s using email newsletters as well as automated follow ups to build a legion of raving fans in a hotly-contested niche: personal fitness and bodybuilding.
Many businesses use “ethical bribes” such as ebooks and free reports to collect opt-in subscribers for their email marketing campaigns.
Once they’ve gotten what they came for, though, you have to continue to offer value in order to turn them from “freebie seekers” to active, engaged subscribers who you can convert to paying customers.
Our latest case study looks at Marc David and how he’s using email newsletters as well as automated follow ups to build a legion of raving fans in a hotly-contested niche: personal fitness and bodybuilding.
Marc set out in 2001 with a clear purpose:
“I started my fitness business to help educate people about proper nutrition and training. I distinguish myself from all the other ‘fitness gurus’ by being the Beginner’s Expert. Somebody you can come to without any prior knowledge of fitness or bodybuilding and get a simple education without a lot of hype and the need for a science degree. Somebody who would help guide [you] depending on [your] goals.”
A few years into his business, he created an ebook, as many online marketers do, and began to market it through his website Beginning-Bodybuilding.com. However, he took an unusual approach: rather than talking at people in his book, he wrote it as a conversation between a typical beginner (his audience) and an expert (him):
“This was a 250 page book that… was questions and answers from beginners just like you.”
Marketing Before AWeber (Mostly Online)
Marc doesn’t do much offline promotion – he has business cards that he can pass out, and T-shirts available through CafePress.com, but his marketing is focused around his website.
However, marketing online without email follow up wasn’t cutting it for him. He was posting to bodybuilding forums to drive traffic to his single-page website but wanted to do more.
Marc Adds Opt-In Email Marketing
So, he started running an email campaign through his web host:
“Thru the advice of Tom Venuto, I decided to put an opt-in page on my sales page and start writing WEEKLY question and answer newsletters… he urged me to write live newsletters and send them out. That way I could react to news, have specials and generally keep a constant pulse on the market.”
After a while, he determined that he needed a more deliverable system, and he wanted to add autoresponders into his email marketing mix, so he joined AWeber.
Marc collects subscribers via an inline form on his sales page:
He complements his newsletter with a series of about 2 dozen autoresponder and follow up messages that address various bodybuilding and training needs and questions. That way, even between newsletter issues, Marc has the attention of his newest subscribers and is turning them into loyal fans.
Results To Date and Goals Going Forward
The two most pleasing results, Marc told me, were the increased email deliverability, and consequently, increased opens (open percentages in the 30s to 40s) he’s realized since moving his email management away from his webhost.
I can certainly see why he’d be pleased with those – deliverability and opens have a direct influence on sales and customer/subscriber retention.
More importantly, he’s reaching his audience more reliably and helping more people achieve their fitness goals:
“I feel that keeping in contact with people in a live fashion has kept me on their radar. I’ve received many responses from people who truly have been helped.”
As he works to make his email marketing efforts an even more powerful part of his small business, Marc has set a number of goals:
- Increase open rates even further by writing subject lines that “draw people into my newsletter”
- Increase sales/conversions by incorporating more promotion into his campaigns
- Build more trust & credibility in his follow up messages
- Maximize deliverability by avoiding content filters
Suggestions to Achieve Better Results
I read over the messages that Marc had set up and I found them informative and well-written. He has a great feel for who his audience is (no doubt because he’d once been in their shoes as a beginner).
Likewise, his inline opt-in form was well-done – it stands out among other elements as you scroll down the page (partly due to its size and partly due to the design of it) and effectively makes the case for subscribing to the e-course.
Even his confirmation rate was pretty good, because he holds subscribers’ hands through the confirmation with audio and text on his thank-you page, and a brief, easy-to-understand confirmation message.
However, I did have a couple of ideas on how he could achieve some of the goals listed above.
1. Thank-You Page: Put the Confirm Message Subject
Marc was using audio and text effectively on his thank-you page, but when subscribers went there, they didn’t know exactly what to look for in their inbox, because they didn’t know the message subject.
So, I recommended that he start putting the subject of that confirm message on his thank-you page. That way, when someone hits that page, they know exactly what to look for among the other messages in their inbox.
2. Try Out Different Confirm Message Subjects
You should test your confirmation rate often, just like opt-in forms, calls-to-action and any other aspect of your email marketing campaigns. By improving it, you can increase the number of active subscribers on your list without increasing your overall website traffic.
Marc’s confirm rate was pretty good, but in the interest of making it even better, I advised him to start testing different subject line wording.
3. Send Confirmed Subscribers Straight to Download
Several free reports are offered as a bonus for signing up to the e-course, and wisely Marc requires people to confirm in order to receive the download link. He includes the link in the first autoresponder message to subscribers after they confirm.
However, he was missing the opportunity to send subscribers to the download page immediately after they confirm, rather than having them wait for the email. This instant gratification not only builds trust, but hey, it gets people reading those reports right away. I pointed this out to him and he adjusted his confirm message.
4. Ditch the Misspellings
Like many people that we talk to, Marc was attempting to use misspellings on words like “free” to avoid content filters that might pick up on those words.
The truth is, by misspelling words intentionally, you:
- Make Yourself Look Like a Spammer
- Increase the Chance of Your Messages Getting Filtered
- Confuse Your Subscribers and Damage Your Credibility
ISPs are smart. They dedicate a lot of resources to delivering wanted mail while keeping unwanted mail off their networks. The filters they use are far too sophisticated to be fooled by FR.EE, C’lick, or any other variation.
Plus, your deliverability depends in part on your reputation. And what do spammer tactics like intentional misspellings do to that reputation?
Until Next Time
We’ll check back in with Marc later in the year to see how his campaign’s going since implementing our suggestions.
In the meantime, check out our other case studies.