We know (in theory!) that email can be a great way to grow our business. But, in practice, it feels overwhelming, and we're fresh out of ideas for doing it well! Kirsten Thompson of the blog Sweet Tea and Saving Grace is going to take us under her wing and give us a renewed excitement for growing and connecting via email.
On the Podcast
00:59 – From Overwhelmed Blogger to In-Charge Email Marketer
02:29 – What Re-Branding did for Kirsten's Business
03:36 – Monetizing in a Way that Works for Her
06:14 – A Full-Time Job + Blogging – How She Does It
10:17 – How to Connect with Your Readers in a Personal Way
13:50 – The Law & Email Newsletters – What You Need to Know
17:59 – Opt-In Form Ideas and Debate
25:17 – How to Craft a Great Opt-In Offer
29:21 – Auto-responder Sequence Ideas
32:59 – Target, a Sassy 3 year-old, and Stranger Danger!
Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear Kirsten's Best Email Marketing Advice
From Overwhelmed Blogger to In-Charge Email Marketer
Kirsten has been blogging almost 5 years and started under the name, One Tough Mother. For many years, she tried to keep up with big bloggers and do everything they were doing to grow. Finally, she got burned out. In January of 2014 Kirsten decided to step away from blogging for 6 months. She came back in May 2014 with a completely different focus and re-branded to Sweet Tea and Saving Grace.
Kirsten added the business aspect of blogging to her site and offered herself up as a Virtual Assistant to other bloggers in the Fall of 2014. All of her clients were asking her to design their email newsletters for them. They knew email marketing was important, but they didn't know where to start, so Kirsten quickly became the “go-to” person for email marketing.
What Re-Branding did for Kirsten's Business
Fortunately, Kirsten retained a lot of her readership through her site's re-branding. She still does craft and DIY projects, but she quit focusing on the numbers and analytics. Instead Kirsten focuses on what her goals are and what she needs to do to achieve her version of success. She no longer gets overwhelmed by watching what other bloggers are doing.
While Kirsten's readers just saw a new site and look for her brand, the real change was what happened behind the scenes with her focus and mentality.
Monetizing in a Way that Works for Her
When Kirsten returned to blogging last May, her focus really shifted. Her biggest focus now is engagement with her readers. She loves the community that blogging brings. Her number one goal is to build deeper relationships with her readers and get to know them better.
Kirsten wanted to monetize her blog but she didn't want to do it in a way that would be selling out. She didn't want sponsored post to be her number 1 income generator for the blog. That's where being a VA (Virtual Assistant) came in. She's learned so much in several years of blogging so she can help those bloggers who are too busy to do everything or don't know how to do everything.
Previously, Kirsten's editorial calendar was crazy full but it wasn't bringing her joy. She was doing tons of sponsored posts and focusing on traffic and pageviews. Now, she's monetized her site in a way that works for her and allows her to focus on relationships and helping others.
A Full-Time Job + Blogging – How She Does It
Kirsten shared several methods for ensuring that she strikes a balance in her life.
- Keep in mind that if you put something new onto your plate, you might have to take something else off.
- Learn to say no. Kirsten has very few VA clients because she'll readily tell people no in order to keep her work manageable.
- Find blogging shortcuts. Kirsten does a round-up post each Friday which saves her from writing a full blog post, taking photos, editing them, and more. She finds ways to still put out great content without spending hours upon hours doing it.
- Learn how to step away from your to-do list. Kirsten works when she can, and when she's working, she focuses and works hard. But when it's time to take a break, Kirsten has learned that it's ok to leave things undone.
- Drop everything for the right priorities. For Kirsten, her family comes first. She dropped everything and went on a fishing trip with her husband last week even though her to-do list was miles long. (Surprise – everything was fine! Nothing fell apart just because she took a break and put her family first.)
- Plan ahead but don't let your schedule control you. “It's great to have an editorial calendar but you can't live and die by that editorial calendar.”
“I think Bloggers put so much pressure on themselves that somebody, somewhere in the inifinte internet is gonna look down on them because they don't get the post up on Monday and it goes up on Tuesday instead.” (Isn't that the truth?!)
How to Connect with Your Readers in a Personal Way
Email is the best way to connect with your readers and build your business. When you first start blogging, social media is really pushed as where you need to be. But you don't have any real control over who sees what you're putting out there.
When you put your information in a newsletter, that's a personal thing. That reader is giving you space in their inbox and they want what you're sending. They've invested time in you.
Don't say “email marketing is on my list of things to do.” Put it at the top. Put a form on your site to collect email addresses from day 1 of blogging or owning a business.
Setting up your email list isn't hard to do, and MailChimp is free until 2,000 subscribers or up to 10,000 emails per month.
The Law & Email Newsletters – What You Need to Know
- Canadian Anti-Spam Laws. These new regulations were pushed in bloggers' faces about 6 months ago. The law means that you can't spam anybody who gets your emails in Canada, but to be on the safe side, you just shouldn't spam anyone.
To be compliant, you need to have written documentation that every subscriber wants to be on your list. That's where a sign-up form comes in. A sign-up form is the subscriber giving you consent to send them emails. You can't just take every email address you know of and start sending them emails each week.
- You must include a real mailing address in your email footer. You can't simply say, “Becky Smith Atlanta, GA.” there are fines involved if you get caught not listing your address. If you don't want to put your home address, you can get a PO box for fairly cheap
- You must disclose affiliate links that are used in email. This is the same regulation that applies to affiliate links in blog posts. You need to let the reader know that they're there.
Opt-In Form Ideas and Debate
Kirsten recommends several places to put your opt-in form, and one recommendation is commonly debated in the blogging community.
- Put your sign-up form everywhere. Wherever a new reader is on your blog, they need to have an option to sign up wherever they may be. So put a (1) form in your sidebar, a (2) form at the bottom of each post, a (3) form in your header or on your static homepage, and (4) put a form on your contact or about page.
- Use a pop-up opt-in form. (Even Sarah and I have different thoughts and opinions on this one. We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!) Kirsten recommends Popup Ally, and they have a free version. Kirsten calls it a polite pop-up, because you can change the font color, add your logo, and change the font. Pop-up Ally tracks the IP addresses for the people who visit your blog, so you can set it so that it won't show up for another 14 days, for example, if you close out the box. You can also set up 2 pop-ups, so if you have a landing page where you want to provide a different opt-in, you easily can.
Are pop-ups really worth it? Sarah has mixed feelings about using them and potentially irritating readers.
Kirsten shared that she's used Popup Ally for 8 months, and her list has doubled. She can't contribute her growth solely to the tool but her list has been growing faster since she's had it, and her clients say the same thing. The pop-up is easy to ignore if you want to ignore it.
If you have mixed feeings about pop-ups, Kirsten says at the very least, try it for 30 days and see what happens.
How to Craft a Great Opt-In Offer
There are several things to consider to help you determine the best opt-in offer for your readers or customers.
- Your opt-in offer must be something of value that your subscribers will get for free.
- The Freemium you provide could come in many possible formats. Free content, e-books, resources, printables, subscriber-only deals, exclusive access to a private group or forum, a video course, a daily challenge, among other formats.
- Ask yourself these questions: Who is your target audience? What are their struggles, and how can you provide a solution?
For example, if your audience is moms of toddlers, maybe a printable list of snack and lunch ideas for toddlers would be perfect. However, if your target audience is moms growing a business, your opt-in should NOT be lunch ideas for toddlers!
- Consider your resources. How much time do you have to craft your offer? Some bloggers have very active Facebook groups, which become their offer. If you don't have time to invest in a private Facebook group, then don't offer that. If you only have 15 minutes to put together an opt-in, then make a printable, or take an awesome blog post that's done really well turn it into a worksheet.
- Consider your archives. If you have new readers, your old content is still new to them. Look at your most popular posts and create related content for that.
- Your opt-in doesn't have to be anything tangible. You could offer a Twitterchat or Instagram challenge, for example. Your opt-in could be connecting and involving your readers with each other.
Kirsten has a great resource with 101 Newsletter Content and Opt-In Offer ideas available to hew email subscribers. You can sign up here to snag your copy.
Auto-responder Sequence Ideas
There's not a wrong way to set up an auto-responder sequence, it just depends on your goals. Overall, though, they can be a great way to build trust and authority. Here are two ideas to get your creative juices flowing!
- Use an auto-responder to introduce new readers to old content. Abby of JustaGirlandHerBlog.com does this really well. She starts with a welcome email that introduces readers to her and how her blog got started. Then, they get an email once a week for 6 weeks that just highlights different categories from her archives. Readers get to know both her and her great content!
- Create a mini e-course. If you're a home decor blogger and you have all sorts of great home decorating tips from your blog posts, you can combine your best tips and create a 6-week e-course. All you're doing is re-packaging content that you've already created, but your new readers and subscribers will find it incredibly helpful!
- If you have a product for sale, use your auto-responder sequence to slowly lead your subscribers towards a product purchase related to the content they're receiving. They've just learned from you, and they're more apt to buy from you because they're confident you know what you're talking about.
Target, a Sassy 3 year-old, and Stranger Danger!
Kirsten's sassy daughter Marley did something pretty outlandish (and hilarious looking back now!) You'll have to tune in to hear the story! Let's just say, your child's tantrum in the store will pale in comparison to this episode….