9 surprising lessons from running email marketing campaigns

I’ve run several email marketing campaigns for my own brands and for my clients. I’ve run them for entrepreneurs, consumers, equity investors, and real estate investors. I’ve run free and paid campaigns, educational/positioning campaigns and affiliate/ad-funded campaigns. I’ve run regular broadcast and autoresponder campaigns.

From those campaigns I’ve learned several lessons — like the importance of building that relationship and credibility with an audience.

But I’ve also learned several surprising lessons that I never expected:

1. The calendar is cruel and relentless

If you’re writing autoresponders, you’ll burn through your list of pre-written autoresponders faster than you think you will. If you’re writing broadcast emails, you’ll be amazed at how soon it will be to send out the next message (“has it been a week already?!?”). So as much as possible, prewrite as many as possible. For autoresponders, you can prewrite and schedule them weeks in advance. For broadcast messages, you can still prewrite some of them (even the time-specific ones can be prewritten to some degree). And even beyond the ones you prewrite, plan for another quarter (or two quarters) of topics beyond what you’ve already written. Trust me, the time will FLY by.

2. You take the unsubscribes personally

Maybe that’s a good thing; maybe that’s a bad thing. I think it’s good because it forces you to treat your subscribers well but it’s bad because you end up wondering why they unsubscribed (if they didn’t tell you).

3. Geography matters

In most of the email campaigns I’ve run, I’ve been surprised by the location of my subscribers. In two financial campaigns, I received far more subscribers from Australia than I was expecting or had initially prepared for. After that, I revamped some of my work to recognize them a little more. And in another email marketing campaign that was initially (but loosely) targeting Canadians, I was surprised to discover the number of subscribers from the midwest US. When you see this happen, think about how you can adjust your information to connect with them.

4. Be prepared for interactive subscribers

When you blast out an email, you may get some responses, especially if you invite them. Be prepared for that level of interactivity. I’m always surprised by how interactive my subscribers are. For the most part I like it.

5. The day of the week matters

There are different days of the week that people open email. Not every day is the same. I sometimes don’t like sending stuff out on Mondays or Fridays because public holidays might keep people from opening your emails. Depending on the type of information, it might be better sent in the morning or in the afternoon or in the evening. In some cases, I like to send emails at night so that they are waiting in the inbox first thing in the morning. I can’t give you an exact day or time to send because I’ve found that the topic really influences this decision. But be prepared to learn for yourself.

6. Some of your subscribers will be more proficient in the topic than you

Although this isn’t always the case, there have been many email marketing campaigns when a subscriber replies with questions or thoughts about a particular email and it becomes apparent that they are more proficient in the topic (or some aspect of the topic) than you are. it happens. Even experts can’t be an expert in absolutely everything. Being aware of this reality is important but how you deal with it is essential. Some of these people might unsubscribe because they just don’t find your information to be at the level they need. Others might be made “partners” who can feed you information and help you level up. I prefer the latter but I have also suggested to some subscribers that they might want to unsubscribe because the material is targeted to a different audience.

7. Watch the numbers and test them. It’s hard but do it anyway

Watch your open rates and click through rates. Pay attention to the numbers. As much as possible, test various ways to increase open and click-through rates. It’s hard to do because it’s impossible to create a perfect scenario where you can get a nice, clean split. For example, testing two separate subject lines on subsequent days is not only measuring subject lines but also the days of the week. Do your best. Be prepared to make changes based on your discoveries — such as the types of subject lines people open, the length of content in an email, and the days of the week that people open emails.

8. Listen to each person but don’t necessarily act

As your subscriber list grows, and as your subscribers become more interactive, you might get people giving you specific requests — “can you talk about this?” or “can you send out information on that?”. If their requests fit your plan then go ahead. If their requests don’t fit your plan then thank them for the request and put it to the side. Pay attention to other requests. If you get a lot of people asking for the same topics to be covered then fit it into your plan. If you get these little “one-off” requests, you can ignore them. Don’t be forced to bend to the will of just one subscriber… but be willing to act when several subscribers want the same thing.

9. The rewards you get from email marketing are surprising and not always financial

From each of the email marketing campaigns I’ve done, I’ve been richly rewarded but it hasn’t always been a financial reward generated from affiliate promotions or product sales. I’ve developed good connections with subscribers; some subscribers have become clients or referrers; I’ve built my brand and credibility; I’ve become a better writer; I’ve become a better investor.

What lessons have you learned from running your email campaigns?

Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and he's a real estate investor and a copywriter for real estate investors.

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