Have you ever signed up for a newsletter? I bet you have!
Newsletters can be a great tool for both customers and companies (or solopreneurs) alike to stay in touch with each other. If used properly! But they can also be hell on earth and many people consider the idea of newsletters the definition of spam itself right from the get-go.
But what is email marketing about? How does it work? What’s the beauty of it and where does it suck at? And does it live up to the expectation of being an “on-demand money-making business” as claimed by many “gurus”?
Let’s break down the business model of email marketing as a passive income business and see if it is the right fit for YOU!?
What Makes Email Marketing Attractive
Many smart online marketers, especially those who are trying to sell you online courses on the topic of making money online, will tell you that email marketing is the golden bullet to success. The easiest and most reliable way of earning passive income in 2021 and beyond.
Where I Would Agree
I’d certainly agree with their judgment to a certain degree, in that email marketing provides an excellent way of building a relationship with your customers and reaching out to them whenever you feel like you have something to say, rather than having to rely on them coming to your website proactively.
It basically provides a very powerful “back channel” to people who have visited your blog once and decided that they like your content and want to trust you. So much so, that they are willing to give you their email address (and that is the hard part!)
See: People surf around the internet all day long. They visit many blogs and websites a day and in many cases, they will probably never come back to a particular website, simply because they do not actively search for a problem that this website offers a solution to. That is where email marketing steps in by providing an excellent way to turn one-time visitors into long-term “fans”, staying in touch with them and welcoming them back to consume your content on your website. To be remembered instead of being forgotten!
The Beauty Of Email Marketing
Imagine you owned a wonderful website. Maybe you do already. Imagine you are creating truckloads of relevant and helpful content for your audience. You’ve just found that one incredible service online that you cannot wait to share with your audience. Or you’ve just written this wonderful guide that you are incredibly proud of.
The Free Traffic Approach
You hit publish – and nothing happens. That is because your content hasn’t yet been indexed with Google, and even if people search exactly for what you are offering, it may take days or even weeks until your new blog article generates some traction and therefore visitors reading it… That is the downside of free search engine traffic (on the other hand… well… it’s free after all).
The Push-Button Approach
Now imagine you had an email list of a few hundred loyal email subscribers that are in fact interested in what YOU have to say! Back to the scenario above: You write a short email with a brief summary and a link to your new masterpiece of a guide or your review of that amazing service. And bam – TRAFFIC! Maybe even sales. Without the wait, just by writing a simple email!
That is the power and beauty of email marketing!
Email Marketing As An Additional Tool
But I would argue that email marketing cannot and probably should not be the only foundation that you want to build your entire business efforts on. Personally, I like to think of it more as a supplemental piece, an additional tool that I can use to improve my affiliate marketing efforts.
What Is Email Marketing About?
But what is email marketing about? How does it work? How passive is it as a business model and what are the pros and cons?
Most solopreneurs will usually leverage email marketing as another form of affiliate marketing. They create content (in this case well-written emails) to recommend products and services to people that will help them solve there problems. Another common form of affiliate marketing is blogging, and you can read more about the core idea of affiliate marketing here.
As I said above, email marketing allows you to stay in touch with people who have visited your website once and decided that your content is worth giving you their email address in exchange for what you have to offer. There we already have the two major roadblocks that you have to overcome if you want to start a successful email marketing business (or use email marketing as an additional tool in your affiliate marketing toolbox:
Challenge #1: Building Your “List” Comes First
In order to run an email marketing business, you need a list of email addresses you can send your emails to. That process is typically known as “list building” and it is probably the hardest part of the business model. If you don’t manage to build a list of email addresses, you do not have anyone to write to, correct?
When you simply send emails to random recipients, then you do something that is typically known as spam, i.e. “cold calling” people that have never shown interest in what you have to say. It isn’t nice and it isn’t good business practice. At the end of the day, it is also a waste of money (as the services that allow you to send emails to an entire list of recipients cost a subscription fee in many cases).
Challenge #2: Creating Content That Is Worth “The Trade”
In order to build your list and get people to give you their email address, you will typically need good and worthwhile content on your website (to initially earn trust) as well as something that is known as a lead magnet.
A lead magnet is basically a special piece of content you offer people in exchange for their email address. Ideas for lead magnets can range from a special blog post, an ebook, or an info-graphic up to a fully-fledged multi-part online course that you offer to deliver over a course of several days via email.
Bonus-Challenge: Acting Responsibly
The third “roadblock”, or better yet challenge that many email marketers face and don’t quite manage to master, I would argue, is acting responsibly. What I mean by that is that many email marketers do not treat their readers as people who they would want to help, but rather people who’s money they want to grab. You can build a list of several 1000 email addresses but when you blurt out a constant stream of ads to your recipients, people will take notice, feel betrayed and unsubscribe immediately.
As an email marketer, it is surprisingly easy to have the work of weeks and the trust you have earned over months destroyed within a single bad day in the office… So you need to make sure that you understand your craft. And your audience!
The Game Plan
So you decided that email marketing sounds pretty good and that you want to go for it? Great. Let’s take a look at your very basic gameplan. What would be your steps to get started?
Please note that with this “guide” I can only give you a very brief idea of how this would work. A step-by-step-guide would simply be out of the scope of this overview article. But I will probably write individual articles on those topics and then link out to them here once they are published.
Step 1: Sign Up For An Autoresponder Service
Just like a hoster, which is the place where your website “lives”, you will need a place where your email list “lives”. That place is a service called an autoresponder. It is a service that automates collecting email addresses for you and allows you to automatically send out emails to your subscribers.
There are tons of services out there. Many of them are free as long as your list is small and you do not send too many emails. But once your business grows, you won’t get around a paid option. (I will link to my recommendations here once I have written my reviews of them.)
Step 2: Create Your Email Content
Next, you would want to create your email content. Usually, that initial content would include a welcome message for new subscribers as well as an email containing a link to the lead magnet you have promised to deliver. If your lead magnet is a multi-part series of content (like a short online course, for example) you could also create a first series of automated emails that will be delivered on a daily schedule.
Step 3: Create A Lead Magnet
Now you will need to actually create the lead magnet that you offer your visitors in exchange for their best email address. Maybe you want to create a blog series specifically for them, or you want to write an ebook on a topic they may be interested in. It doesn’t matter, as long as it is something valuable that you think is exciting enough to incentivize a visitor who comes to your website to trade his email address for getting ahold of it.
Step 4: Drive Traffic To Your Signup Page
As with pretty much any other online business as well, getting people’s attention and having them visit your signup page is the hardest part. Once you have their attention, it is relatively simple to get them into taking action by showing them that your content is authentic and worthwhile.
There are multiple strategies for driving traffic to your signup page, ranging from free traffic (simply by providing valuable content on your blog that solves people’s problems they search for on google or bing etc.) to paid traffic, like creating ads on Facebook, for example.
Step 5: Send Automated Email Series And/Or Broadcast Emails
Once you have all that in place it is time for the fun part. Actually reaching out to your subscribers. Once you have collected their email addresses, it is time to get started by getting in touch and let them know what you have to say. This can range from actively offering help, to sharing news or inform them about a new blog post that you have created. Maybe you want to send them a monthly digest.
You can create automated series or “broadcast” whatever is on your mind. However, you always want to make sure not to “abuse” your subscribers’ trust that they have put in you by sharing their email addresses with you.
With great power comes great responsibility, right?
How “Passive” Is It?
Depending on how you use email marketing, it can be a great source of passive income. Imagine you have created a lead magnet that is really well designed, really resonates with your audience, and leads to a ton of signups. Imagine you have set up a well-written series of emails that your autoresponder sends to all those people fully automated. And it finishes off with an offer that they simply cannot resist.
I bet you can imagine that this will enable you to make a lot of sales and a lot of money. And it’s pretty passive, once you’ve invested in setting everything up!
Before we wrap this up, let’s take a brief look at the pros and cons of email marketing.
- It’s YOUR Audience: Your email list belongs to you! While Facebook ad data or search engine results etc. will always make you dependent on another company, a list of good old-fashioned email addresses will always belong to you! It’s an asset, just like the content you write as a blogger or the videos you create as a YouTuber are yours forever. Being independent and not putting all your eggs in one basket (especially when that basket belongs to someone else) is always smart!
- Leverage Trust: The great thing about it is that you reach out to people who already know you and whom you’ve already given something in advance (i.e. the lead magnet). You’ve already earned some trust with them! And it is much easier to make recommendations to people who already know you! Email marketing can convert very well.
- Less Build-Up Time Than “Regular” Affiliate Marketing: Building an online business takes time. Especially when you want to build a “normal” affiliate marketing business, and want to primarily rely on free, organic search engine traffic. Email marketing takes at least the same time to build, but you can leverage paid traffic (with ads) a little better and in a more targeted way than with the average joe’s affiliate marketing blog. And the results are better trackable and manageable. But as you may imagine by just reading these few lines: Doing that requires experience. Otherwise, you will just waste money!
- High Responsibility: When you have built an email list with several thousand subscribers over several years, you want to be very careful with it and act very responsibly. People will enjoy reading your emails as long as you do not give them the feeling that you’re only trying to sell stuff. Email marketing, just as any other kind of content marketing, is first and foremost about helping people solve their problems!
Act responsibly. One wrong email can destroy all the trust that your subscribers have in you and may lead to many, many unsubscribes if you’re not careful!
- Not Per Se A Standalone Business Model: I know that there are quite a few people out there that consider email marketing a fully-fledged, standalone business model. I can see why they like to focus on it. However, I personally think that it works best when built on top of a solid foundation like an already existing website or along with some other kind of business.
With that being said, let’s take a look how email marketing performs on my patented Chris-Business-Scale 🙂
- Upfront investment (more stars = less investment required)
- Time until “First Dollar Earned” (more stars = less time until first dollar earned)
- Tollerance for making critical and expensive mistakes (more stars = better for beginners)
- Competition (more stars = less competition or less impact of said competition)
- Satisfaction and ethical qualities (more stars = higher satisfaction and more honesty)
- Overall Rating (more stars = better)
Please note: The rating for upfront investment, time until first dollar earned, and ethical qualities heavily depend on how you treat the business model and your subscribers, of course…
Email marketing is certainly a great tool that you want to have in your toolbox as your experience as an online marketer grows and your website matures.
The beauty of being able to reach out to your audience when you have something to share can be incredibly valuable, but it can also be quite risky. You always want to think twice when sharing something via email. If you start sending too much or content that is relevant to you but not to your audience, you can destroy everything that you have created so far with just one or two emails.
Email marketing is great! Go for it. But think about if it is worth going for it in the first place. My suggestion would be to start by building a rock-solid foundation first. Familiarize yourself with the concept of affiliate marketing first by building a blog around something you are excited about. Then build your email marketing empire on top of that!
Agreed? Great! Consider yourself invited to read my guide on how affiliate marketing works or, if you feel like your good to go, check out my review of Wealthy Affiliate. It’s my go-to platform of choice and if you think about starting an affiliate marketing business, this is the place where I’d suggest you start 🙂
If you would rather start a blog from scratch all by yourself, I’ve also published a guide on how to start affiliate marketing for free.
I’ve also created a brief overview of all the different forms of passive income businesses that I have worked with in the past. Please feel free to check it out and find out what suits YOU best!
Sharing Is Caring
Do you have anything to add? What are your experiences with email marketing? Where would you start? Please share your thoughts in the comments below and share this article on your Social Media if you feel like one of your friends should read it!
Cheers and all the best,