How to Get Started with Email Marketing

Email is still one of the best ways to nurture leads and promote your business. When you’re first starting out, you might be okay with group messages sent through your regular email system, using the BCC field for leads. But this method isn’t scalable, especially if you’re using a Lead Magnet to attract new leads. Before long, managing your email list can become a drain on your time.

An Email Marketing System can handle list management for you, automatically responding to lead requests to sign up or unsubscribe. You can also use email automation to send messages on a regular schedule, and even in response to various lead actions.

Here’s a basic summary of the steps involved in setting up an Email Marketing System for your business.

Here's a basic summary of the steps involved in setting up an Email Marketing System for your business. Click To Tweet

1. Choose Your System

There are many systems available, each with their own pros, cons, and pricing structures. Deliverability is the key consideration. If your messages regularly end up in spam folders based on the poor reputation of your email provider, that’s a huge problem you have no control over. Be sure to use a reputable and highly-regarded system.

I find the most commonly-recommended system is MailChimp. As a bonus on top of great reputation, support, and ease-of-use, they offer a free plan for up to 2,000 contacts, which is great for getting started. MailChimp has also added other services recently, including assistance with Facebook advertising.

Another popular system is ActiveCampaign, which is well known for providing advanced automation features at a reasonable price point. It’s a good option for setting up behavioural response email sequences based on how leads respond to your messages. You can also upgrade ActiveCampaign to add a full-featured CRM for managing your client database and sales process.

Another advanced system for small business is InfusionSoft, which is similar to ActiveCampaign and includes online sales automation. It’s very popular for the tools it provides, but relatively more expensive than other options, and may be overkill for most independent professional practices.

Whichever system you choose, make sure you will be able to easily export your lists and lead data if you decide to change providers in the future. This should be a common feature, but worth checking for.

2. Set up your list(s)

Once you’re subscribed to a system, you have to set up the lists where your lead data will be stored. Things will be easier to manage if you break up your leads into smaller lists, and give descriptive names to each. The criteria for this could be lead source, or by their service interest if you practice in more than one service area. (For example, if you’re a lawyer in general practice, you could break up lists by wills & estates, real estate, family, etc.)

Many email systems allow you to create and assign tags to your leads, which can be used as another way to categorize them.

Here also is where you should decide exactly how much information to collect from leads. To help comply with privacy regulations, you should only ask for the minimum amount of personal data you need. For Lead Magnet capture, this may only need to be an email address, and possibly the first name so you can personalize your messages.

The more personal data you ask for, the lower your response rate will be, so consider carefully whether you really want to ask for a telephone number or mailing address. If a significant part of your marketing strategy involves phone call follow-up, or mailing information, then these are legitimate asks. While leads who provide this information might be more qualified, you should also prepare for a significant amount of “fake” info provided as well.

3. Design a sign-up form

Most email systems have built-in form design tools or templates. You can get as fancy as you want with their design, but you should really focus on the message. Provide a compelling reason and/or benefit for the person signing up. This is why Lead Magnets are so successful in capturing leads.

Many popular web page builder systems include integrations with the major email systems. This can allow you to take advantage of extra tools and design features, and may also make it easier to add the form to your website. Check your email system and page builder documentation.

4. Plan your message content

Next you’ll need to design and draft your email messages. Again, templates are usually available that you can modify to suit your needs. You can create some really fancy designs, but remember that a flashy, graphic-heavy email screams “promotion”, where simple text can seem more personal and intimate.

I’ve written a separate post on Maximizing Your Email Content. Check it out for tips on creating compelling content.

At minimum, you’ll want to have a three-message welcome sequence for new list members. These three messages should accomplish the following:

  1. Thank the lead for joining. Provide any promised information such as the Lead Magnet. Set expectation for future messaging – how often you’ll be sending and what type of info you’ll send. Ask them to “whitelist” you to avoid messages going to spam.
  2. Provide a second surprise resource, if you have one. Ask if they have questions about the info you provided, or about the topic in general. Introduce an offer for your services, but not as the focus of the message.
  3. Make a formal offer for your services. Include a special discount or bonus specifically for email list members. Consider setting a deadline to encourage quick response – you can handle this manually through the email send date, or use advanced tools to set up a countdown timer.

5. (Advanced) Set up automated behavioural sequences

This doesn’t have to be done right away, but if your email system offers automation features you can get really creative about using them.

Automation allows you to send specific messages and perform other actions based on how leads interact with your messages. For example, you can track whether someone clicked a link to visit your sales page. If they didn’t buy, you can send that person a message about an extra bonus or discount that might change their mind.

Automation also lets you tag leads based on various actions, which is useful for categorization. Let’s say you’re a chiropractor promoting a special offer on spinal assessments. If you’ve tagged people who clicked links in previous messages about back pain, you can send a customized message to them that speaks to their interest.

Sending the right message at just the right time can be very effective in turning leads into new clients. Automation features are fantastic for helping you do this.

6. Test and Go Live!

Make sure you test your email system! Once the sign-up form is on your page, sign yourself up as a lead and check that the system is sending your messages as expected. You can also interact with the messages to check that your automations are working. Leave yourself on the list so you can see how it’s working for future sends as well.

When testing, it’s best to use a different email address from the one you use to send your promotional messages. Some email systems may accidentally mark your message as spam if you’re sending from and to the same email address.

THE FUTURE: Regular email contact

Once you’ve got leads onto your list, it’s important to continue messaging them regularly so they remember who you are.

Focus on them. If you’re continually pushing service offers, you’ll see your unsubscribe rates and complaints climb. Strive to always provide useful or entertaining information of benefit to your leads. Check my post on Maximizing Your Email Marketing for more ideas.

Setting up an maintaining an Email Marketing System is not very difficult, but it does take some time, and might involve one or two technical issues to get working. If you need help, please get in touch – I’d be happy to answer any questions.


Email Marketing is just one of my “9 Ways to Get More Clients in 7 Days or Less!” Get your free copy of the report by clicking here.

About David Raitt

Many professional service providers lack access to good information on actually running a business. I love to help business owners learn online marketing strategy and make great decisions about growing your practice.

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