Monday, December 10, 2012

Email Publishers Profiting From the Inbox

Image of a Vintage British Telegram

The oldest form of social media is still the most potent for online publishers.
No, I’m not referring to Friendster.
The first email was sent in 1971, and it definitely didn’t include any “today only” offers on flatscreen TVs or discounted Indian food.
When we think of “social media” we think of faster, sexier platforms like Google +, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or (ahem) Facebook.
But every single minute, some 170 million emails are sent by an estimated 3.3 billion accounts worldwide, and around 100 a day land in your own inbox.
How can this ancient technology possibly drive the profits of a business online?
Let’s take a look …

A responsive email list is a far more valuable asset than a Twitter following

The trick to email marketing that works isn’t a trick at all, it’s the foundation of any proftable content marketing strategy.
It starts with a subscriber, and the one thing that subscriber wants at the moment he or she finds your website.
You see those prominent “sign up” boxes on every smart website for a reason. They are asking for your permission to deepen the conversation about what you’re looking for, and in a much more personalized setting.
Your prospect is what legendary copywriter Robert Collier calls “the man on the speeding train.”
We see something shiny through the window as we speed through the massive clutter of the social media landscape, but we don’t look for long because a new thing is already in our periphery.
Attention alone will get you nowhere. That’s the secret that so many successful email marketers have learned. Keeping your prospect’s attention is where the hard work comes in.
Robert Collier points out:
Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.
Let’s take a look at 7 successful email publishers who are delivering that kind of content daily …

1. Thrillist

Thrillist is a free daily email that uses a mix of content and commerce to blur the lines of traditional media. They create one-on-one relationships with their audience of 20-something guys to showcase “cool stuff,” localized by city delivery.
Ben Lerer, founder of Thrillist Media Group, which now touts an audience of over 4 million, and revenue of more than $50 million said:
When someone subscribes, they invite you into their inbox on a regular basis …
Their innovative approach to regular daily content seems to be working pretty well for them.


Peter Shankman founded HARO (Help a Reporter Out) as a humble service helping journalists connect to sources.
When HARO outgrew its Facebook home, Shankman took it to a daily email list, which grew to more than 100,000 subscribers and soon began to change the PR industry’s model of how reporters found story sources.
It resonated enough with the changing tides to get acquired in 2010 for what was rumored to be a highly attractive number.

3. Daily Worth

DailyWorth, a daily financial e-newsletter empowering women to “save more + spend smarter,” landed on Forbes Top 100 Websites for Women.
It has raised over $3 million in investor funding on the strength of its 200,000+ subscribers.
Founder Amanda Steinberg says:
E-newsletters are a great business because they follow proven, highly-scalable models, which make it easy to focus.

4. Ideal Bite

Ideal Bite started out as a daily email newsletter that tapped into the growing demand for “eco-conscious” food products and services.
Disney caught on and swooped up the site for around $15 million, likely due to their growing audience of conscious moms in a key demographic.

5. GeekChicDaily

GeekChicDaily became a wildly popular email opt-in list of 425,000 nerds with know-how that attracted big name investors.
They joined forces with Nerdist Industries to create a geekdom-juggernaut that reaches into the millions and was named one of the most influential brands on Twitter by Time Magazine.

6. Red Tricycle

Red Tricycle offers localized content via e-newsletter aimed directly at new parents looking for fun things to do with their kids.
They are growing fast on the strength of their near 400,000 subscribers and recently found some big investors like entrepreneur Jason Calacanis.

7. Daily Candy

Daily Candy got the jump on email when they started offering their style-savvy e-newsletter for young women in 2000.
8 years later they were bought by Comcast for a mind-bending $125,000,000 on the strength of their 2.5 million subscribers.

What do all of these email newsletters have in common?

Undeniable value and the permission to deliver.
Psychologist Susan Weinschenk reminds us that our prospects are essentially “hard-wired” to seek out rewarding information and valuable services.
As content marketers, the easier we make it for prospects to get that truly valuable cookie content, the more addicted they become (in a good way) to engaging with you in a value exchange.
In a 2012 survey performed by ExactTarget, 91% of respondents said they checked their email daily, and 77% claimed that email was their preferred channel for “permission-based promotional messages.”
The runner up was direct mail at a whopping 9%.
Good old Facebook clocked-in at 4%.

Higher engagement means higher conversion rates

In the rather blunt phrasing of online marketer Derek Halpern:
If you’re not building your email list, you’re an idiot.
Get started today.
  • Study your audience before you ever hit Send. Know your targeted niche and demographic cold.
  • Make sure you are offering some kind of value exchange for people’s shrinking amount of free time. We’ve seen how well Groupon commodified the simplicity of email coupons, at least for awhile. Can you innovate in a different way?
  • Localize your content to connect more deeply with a smaller audience, as opposed to having shallow relationships with a “catch-all” audience.
  • Create email content that is succinct and easy to digest (see: Copywriting 101).
  • When you build trust by offering valuable content, you can turn your audience’s precious attention into long-term interest that drives repeat traffic.
In a nutshell: Email marketing is still the most cost-effective and profitable way of delivering true value to an audience that wants it.

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