Ready to crush it with email marketing in 2021? Email marketing is as crucial to online business as ever—here are my top five tips for success!

Email marketing isn’t dead. In fact, it’s very much alive and well. It’s still working really well for AffiliateMaster—and it can do the same for you in 2021.

I’m not the only one who feels this way—check out this tweet from David Heinemeier Hansson (also known as DHH), one of the founders of Basecamp and the inventor of Ruby on Rails:

In 2018, email marketing played a huge part in helping us drive more than $1.5 million sales in online courses, plus another $500,000+ in affiliate marketing.

Of course, email isn’t the only channel you can use to succeed with your marketing. Facebook ads were huge for us last year too. And social media is still important for plenty of folks. Some people are using Instagram direct messages to build their businesses, and that’s awesome.

But email marketing is still super important. Why? For one, because email is still one of the first things people check every morning. It’s still one of the best ways to have a one-to-one conversation with people.

Your email list is also an “audience insurance policy,” another way email is still so important today, as DHH’s tweet above reminds us. Whatever happens to platforms like Facebook or Twitter, or even your website, matters a lot less when you have a solid email list. Having an email list means you can always take your audience with you. Some people even build their entire businesses off of email marketing alone, which just shows you how powerful it can be.

Email marketing is just as important as it’s ever been. In this post, I want to give you five different things that you should be focusing on in 2021 to win with email marketing.

Ready to crush your email marketing in 2021? Here’s what you should be focusing on.

1. Auditing your list

Number one is something you may already know, but it’s something we often forget to do (or don’t really want to do)—and that’s auditing your email list to make sure the right folks are on there.

It’s all about the quality, not the quantity, of the people on your email list. It’s a sexy thing to say you have 100,000 subscribers, or even 10,000 subscribers. That’s still really cool, and promoting numbers like this can have a marketing benefit in themselves.

But many people are being dishonest when they claim to have lots of subscribers, because many of those subscribers may not be in their target audience. The benefit of having a big list is limited when all you’re doing is growing it with more people who aren’t that interested in what you’re talking about.

The most important thing to consider is how you’re collecting email addresses, to ensure you’re attracting the right kinds of subscribers. For example, some people like to run contests where they give away something popular but generic (like an iPad) in exchange for email addresses. You can massively grow your email list this way . . . but you’re going to end up with a ton of people people who are only joining your list to win the iPad. When you eventually try to get them to open emails down the road, many of them are not likely going to want to engage with you. That’s because they’re not the right fit for your business.

So you have to think about why people should want to subscribe to your email list. I’ve been warning against this for years, but it shocks me that people still do it: asking people to subscribe to their email list to get their newsletter. Even if the newsletter contains “exclusive” content. It’s still just more information. You’re essentially saying, “Hey, please subscribe, so I can send you more emails.” You need to provide a clear, relevant incentive for people to sign up. Then, when they open that first email you send, and every email after that, they need to continue to see the value in subscribing to your list.

(If you don’t know exactly what to send people once you’ve started building your list with the right kinds of subscribers, check out Email the Smart Way, my free guide with ten different templates you can use to send compelling emails that will help you engage with, learn from, and deliver value to your audience.

So, again: Think about why a person joined your list in the first place, and why they should continue to open your emails. Across the board, the open rate for emails in all industries is less than 20 percent. If you’re above 20 percent, you’re doing pretty well—and there’s no reason you can’t beat that number. I’m thankful that because I’ve paid careful attention to the quality of my emails over the years, some of the segments on my email list have open rates of 60 percent to 70 percent. That’s because these subscribers know exactly what they’re going to get, and I tailor content specifically for them.

Personalizing content depending on where people are in your funnels, especially in emails, is extremely important. Later on I’ll share a tool we started using last year that has changed the game in terms of understanding our audience and delivering value.

But let’s talk about tip two first.

2. Contests and giveaways

I briefly mentioned contests and giveaways earlier. Even though I’m really not a fan of the iPad-for-your-email-address type of promotion, I do think there’s a huge opportunity to generate leads and build your email list with quality subscribers using contests and giveaways, as long as you do it the right way.

The key is to make sure the thing you’re giving away is relevant to your audience and to what you teach. For example, one of our recent giveaways was for a bunch of podcasting gear. Because podcasting is already a big part of the AffiliateMaster brand, it’s likely that almost everyone who signed up was already podcasting or interested in podcasting. I can assume that a good chunk of the people who signed up are ones who will stay engaged with AffiliateMaster even after the contest is over.

And it’s incredible how much a contest can move people to join your email list. We’ve seen new subscribers in the range of 10,000, 20,000, and sometimes even 30,000 in a very short period, all because of a contest.

The tool we use to run our contests is KingSumo Giveaways. One of the big features of KingSumo (and other similar tools) is that helps your contest spread virally by incentivizing people to gain more entries by sharing the contest on social media. To be honest, we’ve found that most people don’t take full advantage of this, which is understandable. Because guess what? That’s more entries you’re going to compete against.

But where this tool excels is by giving people more entries by subscribing to your YouTube channel, your Instagram profile, or the like. Whenever I run contests, I typically grow my YouTube channel by over 10,000. I’ve grown my Instagram following by a few thousand folks, and it’s because people have incentive to move and do these things.

And because the contest is related to something that is relevant to my audience, these new subscribers or followers add to both the quality and the quantity of people on my email list.

So consider how you might use a contest in the first half of this year to grow your following with the right kinds of folks. And make sure to check out the podcast episode with KingSumo founder Noah Kagan if you want to learn more about what KingSumo can do for you.

3. Exploring new platforms for collecting emails

For the last few years, it feels like we’ve all been marketing on the same platform (hint hint: Facebook), and I think there’s a huge opportunity to branch out with our marketing efforts—especially on LinkedIn.

When it comes to marketing, right now LinkedIn is an underutilized platform. LinkedIn can be an especially great resource if your target audience includes other business owners, because of the general business focus of the site.

In addition, a lot of the organic traffic you’ll get on LinkedIn is going to be pretty high quality. In general, people on LinkedIn may be more likely to buy, because they have higher income levels. Also, a lot of them are there to learn and be inspired, as opposed to other platforms where people are more interested in seeing what other people ate for breakfast . . .

So how can you use LinkedIn to augment your email list and help your marketing? Of course, LinkedIn lets you build a list of contacts, and that’s where the magic starts. A fantastic tip I learned recently is credited to Mark Wills, from SPI podcast episode 303, who shared it at a recent San Diego entrepreneurs’ meetup. Here’s how it works.

If you’ve been getting a lot of engagement with a specific piece of content on LinkedIn, you can download the list of people who have engaged with it, upload that list into Facebook, and use it to retarget those people with ads. Why not retarget them on LinkedIn? LinkedIn is an expensive platform for advertising, and Mark has found that the connection from LinkedIn to Facebook works pretty seamlessly.

Using LinkedIn for email marketing is something I’ve already started exploring this year, and I encourage you to do the same if you haven’t already. At the same time, if what you’ve been doing with retargeting has been working well for you, that’s great. There’s still a ton of opportunity out there on other platforms to find eager new email subscribers and retarget them with relevant ads. Again, just make sure you’re providing the right incentives, so people are joining your list for the right reasons.

4. Using your email list for retargeting

A lot of people build an email list just to build an email list. But an email list can also be a great asset for retargeting people. Here’s an easy way to do that. You can export your email list (or a segment of it) in CSV format, upload it to Facebook, and send targeted ads to those people (or even to lookalike audiences, to use Facebook advertising lingo).

Let’s say you’ve collected email addresses from people who asked to join a waitlist for one of your products. There’s a week left until the product launches, and you can see that a number of people on the waitlist still haven’t purchased. You can filter out the people who have already purchased, then create a video ad or carousel ad announcing that the launch date is closing in and encouraging them to make a purchase decision.

This lets you use Facebook to create another touchpoint to convince people to take action. In this way, you can use your email list not just to stay in touch with people, but to create targeted Facebook ads that help those people become customers.

5. Personalization with RightMessage

“Personalization, Pat?” You mean like putting the first name of each subscriber in all of your emails?” Not quite. That’s easy to do—and sometimes it’s way overdone. The kind of personalization I’m talking about is on-site personalization that helps you talk to your site visitors in a relevant way—and in turn grow your email list with high-quality subscribers.

There’s an awesome tool we use for this, called RightMessage, created by a guy named Brennan Dunn. The easiest way to explain how we’ve been using RightMessage is that helps us understand more about our audience, so that we can deliver them—wait for it—the right kinds of messages on the website, which helps foster trust among visitors and make them more likely to stay in touch by joining the AffiliateMaster email list. It also gives us valuable information we can use to send more personalized emails to list subscribers. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]

For instance, if someone in an advanced segment of my audience comes to the website, we can use RightMessage to tailor our language to them. It tells us if they’re already on my email list, and even if they’re in a particular segment of the list. We can also look how they answer a few custom survey questions through a tool RightMessage provides called RightAsk. (You might have already seen—and taken!—the RightAsk survey in a pop-up window in the lower right hand corner of the page you were visiting on

Based on the answers, we can tailor content on the home page and other parts of the website to talk to this person in a relevant way. We can also use this information to tailor the content we send that person via email. Based on what we learn via the RightAsk survey, we can update the tags associated with that person in our awesome email tool, ConvertKit[Full Disclosure: I am compensated advisor and affiliate for ConvertKit.]

In this way, RightMessage helps you go beyond just segmenting your email list, but using what you learn about each audience member to provide them targeted content both on the site and via email—and that’s huge.

And this can have a direct positive impact on the size and quality of your email list too. Let’s say someone’s visiting your site for the first time. Using the Right Ask survey tool, you can learn a lot about that person and use that information to personalize the web content they see. This helps build trust and engagement and makes it more likely they’re going to want to join your email list.

The other cool thing about RightMessage is that it’s very easy to work with. It’s a simple, powerful tool you can use to personalize content for the different kinds of people on your email list—and to build trust that can make new visitors more likely to join your list.

Part of the beauty of RightMessage is you don’t need an email list to start taking advantage of its website personalization features—but it’s an even more valuable tool if you’ve already started building a solid email list, both in terms of using what you know about visitors who are already on your email list to deliver them relevant on-site content, and using personalized site content to build trust that inspires new site visitors to join your list, and to send more relevant emails to existing subscribers.

If you sign up for RightMessage using this link, you’ll get a 30-day free trial (twice as long as the usual 15-day trial) and a playbook download. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]

And those are my five best tips to win with email marketing in 2021!

If you haven’t started with email marketing yet, well, you need to build your list! Check out my 0 to 100 Email Challenge, which will guide you in getting your first 100 email subscribers in just three days, without spending any money. Then, it’ll help you learn how to scale your email list to even greater heights!

What else are you doing this year to accelerate your email marketing success?

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