WordPress & Email Marketing

We’ve got a great WP-Tonic round-table discussion of the main WordPress news stories this week, and our main topic is “Email Plugins and Strategies for Email Marketing”. Why don’t you join us at between 10 and 11:30am PST every Saturday on FireTalk?

Our panel this week are:

Sallie Goetsch: from Wpfangirl.com

Jackie D’Elia: from Jackie D’Elia Design

Kim Shivler: from Whiteglovewebtraining.com

John Locke: (host) from Lockedown Design

Jonathan Denwood: (co-host) from WP-Tonic.com

We also have two main WordPress news stories this week:

1 – Headway Theme’s Future is Uncertain Amidst Financial Troubles

Our first WordPress story this week revolved around the WP Tavern article, Headway Theme’s Future is Uncertain Amidst Financial Troubles.

Sallie said we haven’t heard all that much, so it’s best not to jump to conclusions. She said the main developer is also developing a new product, Pressmatic, that will compete with ServerPress, so he might merely be overwhelmed. But in the absence of information, people will speculate that things are worse than they might be.

Kim said if you are running a premium WordPress product, and you don’t respond quickly to customers, the rumors are going to start that you are having financial difficulty.

Sallie thought the WP Tavern article was not particularly inflammatory, but they were reporting that subcontractors were not getting paid. John thought that silence in the midst of speculation leads to people thinking the worst. John brought up the article by Mark Benzakein of ServerPress entitled Competition, Crisis Management, and the Community.

Kim spoke about how ServerPress positioned themselves as a service and support company, not a software company. Sallie talked about how developers sometimes prefer a company of code to a company of humans, but it very important to always talk to your customers.

Jackie said customers always look for little clues, like if the website looks finished, or if there is a Terms of Service, Refund Policies, and purchase buttons. Customers want every reassurance of who is behind a company. Jackie said communication is the most important priority in running a business and inspiring customer trust. When there is a void in communication, people tend to fill it with whatever they want.

2 – How To Create Accessible WordPress Websites

We had time for one more WordPress story, which was Pagely’s article on how to build accessible WordPress websites.

Sallie says she increasingly tries to include accessibility features like text contrast and being able to tab through links in a logical pattern. Kim said accessibility is important to be able to reach the widest possible audience. She admits she started paying attention to accessibility more after a recent WordCamp, where a workshop on accessibility opened her eyes to how much there is to consider. John said we often design for other designers, and not our audience. He mentioned low-contrast fonts, inaccessible forms, and tab index as common offenders. He said he started thinking about accessibility more after WordCamp San Francisco 2014. He said there was a talk there about accessibility which showed a regular blogger who can only type one key at a time. He also mentioned a past co-worker who was colorblind. Accessibility comes in many forms and we should be making websites as easy to use and navigate as possible for all people.

Our Main Discussion Topic Was “Email Plugins and Strategies for Email Marketing”

John asked the panel “Why do we still care about email marketing so much?”

Sallie says we always hear email is dead, but every year or so, studies still show email marketing is the most effective means of online marketing. She says she has a signup box, but she struggles to find time to blog. She says everyone she talks to says their revenue comes from their list.

Jackie says it is important that the emails coming from a newsletter match the expectations of the subscribers. Jackie thinks there are three types of email lists: those who send too often, those she reads, and those she doesn’t read but also doesn’t unsubscribe from. She says the ones that she ignores but doesn’t unsubscribe from are the type you should avoid becoming.

She has specific newsletters that she subscribes to that publish on a regular schedule, and she looks forward to them. Having a predictable schedule is important, just like it is in other forms of media.

She says retailers are notorious for just blasting people with sales ads, but they never give helpful information. She thinks these types of emails are likely cluttering up everyone’s inbox.

Kim says high value and consistency are what make an email list effective. Kim brings up a great idea where the list drops you if you don’t engage in the first three emails. Jackie says pruning your list of people who never open your newsletters is oaky.

John says consistency teaches people to expect to see your message. He says this is the same in email marketing, YouTube, podcasting, as well as traditional media. John asks the panel what the perfect schedule for email newsletters is.

Sallie says she has certain newsletters she looks forward to. One is daily and one is weekly. She says it depends on the content. Podcasts and emails should be as long as they can remain interesting. Sallie says she doesn’t want all email newsletters to be every day, as it becomes hard to keep on top of, and time becomes a priority. She says if you’re thinking about daily blogging, give people an option for a weekly roundup newsletter, so they don’t get overwhelmed.

Jackie says most of the newsletters she enjoys are weekly, but she enjoys the Nuts and Bolts Media daily email. She says you need to match newsletters to what people’s expectations are when they signed up. She suggests you audit where your signup boxes are every so often, and see if what you have been saying is changing over time. She sys segmenting your list is a great idea.

Jackie adds that sales emails are pointless, but the ten days of sales emails must work, because people keep doing them. Sallie says to test what your audience is responding to. Kim drops a brilliant insight, that you are not your audience. We already know what email sequences look like, but our customers don’t.

Kim segments her lists by where they signed up (referral source). She tries very hard to give people what they are expecting when they sign up. Daphne in the chat room says she unsubscribes from email campaigns that end up being different from what she expected when she signed up.

John asks the panel what sorts of email services they have used in the past. Sallie says she has a deep dislike or Constant Contact. She likes MailChimp, and thinks it is a great fit for people with a smaller list. She says most people use Constant Contact, AWeber, MailChimp, or something really obscure.

Sallie says styling the more niche email lists can be difficult, and integration is often harder than with the larger services. She says sometimes she just uses Gravity Forms, especially if there is lots of list segmentation going on.

Sallie mentions that SendGrid can be used for large batch transactional email when the default wp_mail function isn’t practical.

Jackie says she uses MailChimp a lot. She has looked at ConvertKit, but hasn’t used. She has used Gravity Forms to integrate list segments into MailChimp. She sees some people using Mad Mimi.

Jackie points out that the email templates that most services offer are the big obstacle to publishing emails more often. The visual elements are difficult to get right, and it is not feasible for clients to build HTML emails. She says she enjoys a well typographically formatted text email as much as a HTML email template. People scan emails for what they want to read, so keep that in mind.

Kim says she has used drip campaigns in MailChimp, but that moves you into a premium plan. She says some of the other paid services are easier to use at that point. She has used Active Campaign and shudders when thinking about using InfusionSoft. She says she now uses GetResponse.

Kim says that GetResponse has the easiest email templates use for the price. She also uses SendGrid for sending emails from her sites, and SMTP. Sallie also says SendGrid is useful for sending emails and making sure that customers get notifications and WooCommerce emails.

Jackie says MailGun and Google Gmail SMTP are also reliable for sending transactional emails from your site.

Sallie says you can use MailPoet with the host-provided email and the wp_mail function, but it may not be as reliable as SMTP or SendGrid.

John says Postman SMTP is another plugin you can use for SMTP delivery.

The panel talks about various email signups. Many people use Optin Monster. John mentions the Welcome Mat by Sumo Me. Sallie says it is annoying when you come to a site for the first time and the first thing they ask you for is to sign up to their newsletter.

Kim says the most effective solution are the exit intent pop-up boxes, because they are not obtrusive. Jackie uses Optin Monster, and says you can set it to pop-up only after the visitor has visited a few pages. She says this is better than the instantaneous pop-up. You don’t even know if you have an interest in the website yet, why would you sign up?

John mentions Optin Monster and the Bloom plugin as popup boxes that are highly configurable.

John says it is more important to have a compelling lead magnet than have tons of popup boxes for signups. (this is the offer that people are signing up for). He says you should be strategic about where the signup forms appear.

Johnathan echoes wise words from our episode with Angie Meeker, you have to have numerous signup opportunities to grow your list. Sallie cites a study where it showed that having multiple signup areas increased the signup volume of email lists. She wonders aloud if they are just wearing people down…

John mentions a parody site where there are incessant popups and invocations to sign up to their newsletter. The website was meant to be a satire of the extremes that some marketers will go to just to get email signups.

Jackie had a great observation about being able to get email signups, but not necessarily being able to do anything with the signups they are getting.

Kim brought up a study that had different lead magnets for specific pieces of content. For example, if the page was about SEO, the lead magnet would be about SEO.

Jonathan had some great observations about building up a list. First, you need the traffic. Then you have to have enough signup opportunities. Then you have to have targeted content for your list segments.

Jonathan said that if you want to build a serious business, you have to have an email list of some sort.

Sallie said if you have a small enough niche, you can have a small list, provided you have the right people signing up. Sallie, Jonathan, and John all said if you are focusing on volume or commodity sales, you have to have a very large list to get sales out of that list.

Jackie says producing great content has helped her get email signups. The key is providing lots of value to your customers. John says you need to send an email more often than once in a blue moon, or people will forget about you and unsubscribe when you finally do send an email.

Jonathan said you have to get traffic in order to get email signups. He affirms that getting the traffic should be the first step, or you may not be able to get any substantial email subscribers.

Sallie says you need to have people there to get email signups. Sallie mentions Kim using Twitter cards to get email signups. Sallie says your website is where you should always be driving people. She says you need some sort of following or platform to gather those signups.

Kim says that if you don’t send emails for a long time, you’ll be lucky is all you get is unsubscribes. When people forget about you, and you send an email, they may report you as spam, and that’s how your email address gets banned.

Kim also says she always has a way for people to become part of her list when she does in-person classes and seminars, which is a brilliant idea.

Jonathan believes it is important to study the blogs of the successful marketers and email product blogs. He seems determined to up his game in 2016, as he says the overall landscape is more competitive than ever.

He mentions some of his own click through and open rates (which are actually pretty good), and says it outlines the need to build a substantial list if you want to do a large volume of business.

We get into a discussion about direct mail and print mail, and the small returns for the overall cost. Jonathan thinks direct mail is far from dead, in large part because a lot of people have stopped doing it.

We said a few words about the sudden demise of Blab.im, and called it an episode.

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