OK so we've chatted before about why email marketing remains a critical part of your overall digital strategy.
And we've then run through my usual recommendations in terms of email marketing software.
So what's next? Well, we need to set up our email marketing software so that the most basic functions are up and running.
- Setting up our basic information;
- Creating a list (if applicable for your email software);
- Creating a form to collect emails;
- Setting up your first 2 emails;
- Integrating your form with your website;
Note – once again links here may be affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you do follow a link and decide to buy one of these pieces of software.
Ideally your email marketing software will have this mostly ready to go via its onboarding process, but just in case you're going to need to find the settings and ensure that you have entered:
- Your website's domain name;
- The name of the default sender for emails that go out;
- The email address from which it will come*;
- A physical address for SPAM purposes.
*In fact in most cases the email will come from your email marketing software's servers – it will just try to look like it's coming from your nominated address.
Create a List
A list, generally speaking, is a big bucket way of segmenting your contacts' email addresses.
So if you are a multi-disciplinary practice, you might have “lists” for each work type – Family, Construction, Criminal Law etc.
Or if you (for some reason) have multiple websites, you might choose to create a new list for each site.
This just helps ensure that you are delivering relevant content to relevant people, and not annoying your construction clients with family law articles down the track.
So, for example, in ActiveCampaign you're going to click the menu item “lists” (there's a surprise) and then “add a list”. AC will ask you some questions which you should be able to answer, including a “why you're getting this email” question. For that you can just say “You're receiving this because you signed up to receive emails on our website” or similar.
If you're using ConvertKit or some other options then you may not have “lists”.
Instead you might have “tags” (AC actually has both lists and tags, which is handy for more granular segmentation – but honestly most people don't need it).
It's tempting not to use tags at first when you're starting out, but I'd suggest doing it anyway. Mostly this is because going back later and doing it is a pain in the neck. Even just a simple tag like “General Website Signup” can be surprisingly helpful later if you start to run different campaigns. The worst case scenario is that the tag just sits there and does nothing.
Your First Form
OK so we've now made the bucket into which our email subscribers will be placed.
Now we need a way to get them there. There is where forms come in.
Now, even if you're going to use a third party form creator, you usually need to make a “form” in your email marketing software first. This is because it provides the actual data capture elements and connects to your email software. It's also helpful to track where people are coming from and things like that later (topic for another day). Third party forms just make it look prettier but still need the code from your email marketing software to work.
So the steps are:
- Make some decisions;
- Create a form;
- (optional) – Create another form in your third party software and hook them together;
- Hook that form up to your list or tag.
In ConvertKit you shouldn't need (3) unless you want to get fancy, since their forms are nice enough to get by. In ActiveCampaign (lite version) the forms are garbage and you can't remove the AC branding, so you'll probably want something else.
Your email marketing software will have comprehensive instructions here, so rather than my repeating what they will already tell you, I'll keep it fairly simple. If you get stuck then hit up their help documentation which will certainly have a step-by-step guide.
Decisions to Make about your Forms
You'll need to make a couple of decisions up front at this point.
First – how much information do you want to collect? Email is obviously mandatory. The main decision is whether you ask for a name as well.
The more information you ask for, the fewer people will fill it out.
That said, having a first name can be handy to personalise emails later on. It's also a little bit of a pain if you decide you want to do that and you've got 500 subscribers without first names because you decided to go email only at first.
So personally I think first name and email is a good choice.
Second – decide what kind of form/s you want to make. The usual choices are:
- Inline – this is a wider-than-it-is-high form designed to go in the body of your website – you'll see one at the end of this post;
- Slide-in – this is a form you can set to trigger at a certain point which slides in from the bottom, right or left side of your page, but doesn't cover your content completely;
- Bars – these are narrow bars you can put at the top or bottom of your website (again this can be triggered by certain events or closed by the user);
- Modal – this is a fancy word for “popup”.
There's nothing stopping you from doing all of these, except that it gets a bit obnoxious for your readers at a certain point.
Just starting out I would go with a modal or an inline, or both.
Create a Form
There will be a form section in your software – click it.
Then click create a form (see how easy this is).
Then create the form and make it look as pretty as you feel like. Here's one in ConvertKit:
Third Party Prettification
While the email marketing software you choose will have forms in it, there are various dedicated third party options should you want to go for something more pretty, or more powerful, or both.
One example is Optinmonster, a common and popular third party tool. Here's one from there:
There are a few benefits:
- Your forms are kept separate from your email provider. So if you move email providers you don't need to recreate your forms.
- More powerful statistics – generally the reporting on conversions is better.
- More templates/options.
- More granular targeting – so, for example, if I want to create a form that only fires for visitors from Facebook after they have visited 3 pages on my site and been there for more than 42 seconds – I can do that.
The downside is that it costs money. Also having 2 pieces of software instead of 1 is a touch more complicated.
This option does fall into the bells and whistles problem though – if you just want to create something that looks OK and works, then just use whatever your marketing software already provides. Of course there are also free third party options if you care to hunt them down, but “free” does tend to come with strings.
Making your Form Do Its Thing
The last thing you need to do is to tell your form what it's supposed to do. That's going to be:
- Adding the person as a subscriber;
- Where relevant, adding them to a selected list or tag;
- Sending them a confirmation email to verify their email address (more on that below); and
- Either displaying a success message or sending people to a thank you page.
Generally speaking most of these options are going to be inside your form creation settings, and will be part of the process your software makes you complete when you create the form.
In ConvertKit you'll find them here:
So which options should you pick?
- Showing a success message is more elegant and keeps the user on the page they were on. Redirecting to an external page is better if you want to track conversions using google analytics or facebook pixels or similar, since you can then set up that page with the relevant conversion pixel. That said you could also do this with their confirmation email link as well…
- Double/Single Optin (the “Incentive” section in ConvertKit). This is asking whether you want to make people verify their email address before they are added to your database. Generally you do. So here you will have to create a website page to send them to when they verify their email address (just like – hey thanks for subscribing or something). You then write/edit the short default email so it sounds the way you want.
- Other options are up to you – hit up your software documentation to find out all of its particular quirks and options.
You'll want two emails.
First, the “verify your email” email – which hopefully you set up in the previous step.
Next, at least one “welcome” email to set up expectations for people who have just signed up to your list.
The purposes of the welcome email are:
- To deliver whatever you promised to deliver in exchange for their email address (if anything);
- To strike while the iron's hot in terms of relationship building;
- To set up expectations about email frequency and content.
So it might say something like this:
Hey there Chris! Thanks so much for signing up to receive our email newsletter. You can find the awesome guide to email marketing for lawyers that I promised you HERE. I write new articles each fortnight, so I'll shoot them over to you as well once they are published. Don't ever hesitate to just hit reply if you had any questions about anything you receive. Have a great day!
At this point your question is: um, where do I write this email and how do I get it to send?
This is where we have a gentle entry point into the world of automations.
Automating your Welcome Email
An automation is simply a series of if/then steps that you set up inside your marketing software. They all have slightly different ways of presenting it, but the functions are largely similar (sometimes depending on how much money you're paying).
Go to the automations menu item and click the button to create/add a new automation.
This one will have three steps: the trigger, the email send, and the ending of the automation.
You need to set up the thing that causes your welcome email to send. You actually have a few choices, depending on your system. It could be when people are added to your list, when people subscribe using your particular form, or when a tag is added.
The main thing here is NOT to pick something that's going to cause this welcome email to send down the track when you don't want it to.
My personal preference is to use “subscribed using a form” as a trigger, because I can then create new forms for different welcome emails/sequences. This keeps things neat and tidy for me.
The next step will be “send an email”. This will then give you an option to write the email in question, along the lines of my earlier comments.
A note – ConvertKit actually requires you to create an email “sequence”, even if it's just one email, to add it to an automation. ActiveCampaign lets you just write the email within the automation creation process.
End the Automation
For now, the last step will just be to end the automation.
You can get more fancy with your last step – for example, you could send people off to another email sequence. But for now that doesn't exist, so you can just end it.
Here's what a simple automation like this looks like in ConvertKit:
Getting the Form Up and Running
Okay so we've got our form and created our emails – now we need to hook up our form on our website.
This is actually fairly simple most of the time, especially if you're using a wordpress website – just install the relevant plugin, follow the connection instructions, and you're all good to go.
If you don't have wordpress or you're allergic to plugins, you'll need to plonk the relevant code into your website's appropriate section.
Given there are lots of options there there's probably no point me trying to explain how to do it here.
Open a private browsing window.
Find or trigger your form.
Fill out the details.
Make sure everything's working (and check your junk folder).
You now have a functioning email collection system.
Next we'll talk about how to make it work for you.