Email Marketing > Merchant Voice

Lessons on starting an email list

FringeSport’s email list has been one of our best investments in terms of connecting our brand with our customers, and also in terms of direct sales.

In this post, I’ll offer pointers, based on our experience, on starting a list from the ground up.

What’s the purpose?

First, be clear why you are starting a list. Begin with the end in mind. In my case, I wanted to connect my brand with our customers and also sell products to those customers. Others may have a different reason. For example, a friend of mine wants to connect with people who might buy his photography services or book him for photo shoots. He should, in my view, try to help those end users, while also giving a light sales pitch on his photography services.

Next, figure out what your ideal subscriber looks like. For FringeSport, it is someone who is very fitness minded, such as functional fitness, CrossFit-style training, or a barbell enthusiast. It could also be a CrossFit gym owner.

For my photographer friend, ideal subscribers might be magazine editors or consumers looking for high-end photography services.

Once you determine your ideal subscribers, try to understand some demographic information about them. Are they mostly male? Mostly female? Do they have a high income? Do they live in the U.S. or worldwide? Are they concentrated in certain areas? What are they interested in? Where do they hang out online?

What to include?

Next, decide what sort of email your ideal subscribers would want to receive. Many merchants who start email lists want only to sell on it, with a 20 percent discount one week, a 10 percent discount the next week, and so on.

But that will not likely please subscribers, unless they love shopping and you offer flash sales or a discounted shopping experience, like Groupon.

For FringeSport, our emails provide information on garage gyms, commercial gyms, and even workout tips and dietary information. This is information that our subscribers want to receive.

If my photographer friend is looking to sell to photo editors, for example, he should figure out what they want to see in their inbox. They would likely want to see beautiful images. But perhaps they would also want to read stories about photographers and how they took amazing images — the story behind the image.

To get the most out of your email list, commit to a schedule. Send emails at least once per week (hopefully more), so that subscribers get use to receiving your emails, and even anticipate them. At FringeSport, we send five emails per week. We would send more if we had enough high-quality content.

Then, decide what types of emails to send. It could be several types. Most companies probably shouldn’t send only straight-up promotional emails. But if you’re sending multiple emails each week, maybe one is straight up promotional.

Email service providers

There are many cloud-based email software providers. I strongly recommend MailChimp, especially if you’re starting out. MailChimp is so simple to use — you can easily manage your list and design and send beautiful emails. It’s not free, but it is very inexpensive. I have had good results with deliverability on MailChimp, which can be an issue with larger lists.

After you’re set up with a service provider, work on adding the first few subscribers. You can raid your contacts on Facebook and your own email inbox. Ask,”Hey, can I send you an email?”

After you’ve added a few subscribers, send out your first few emails. Using the analytics from your email provider, track unsubscribes and spam complaints.

Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments.

See Peter Keller’s follow-up post: “How to get your first 1,000 email subscribers.”

Peter Keller
Peter Keller
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