8 Tips for Growing a Meaningful Email List

Written by

Lydia Sellers

on August 22, 2019

Got emails? Yeah, that's the norm. If email is your primary method for marketing your online courses, it can be discouraging to know that inboxes are so saturated.

But don't be dismayed! You can yet make a strong appearance in the inbox world.

I've only been at Pathwright for 3 years, but our team has always had uncommonly high open rates on our messages:

Currently, our average email open rate is 53.44% (with the lowest being 19% and the highest being 100%).

In comparison, the average open rate for the education industry as a whole is only 21.80% according to MailChimp's research. The credit for those numbers goes to our founders and team who have been communicating with care for years.

Today, I want to share with you 8 essential things I believe have grown our meaningful customer base and may help you as you begin (or continue) growing yours:

1. Only email people who want to get your emails.

We sent an email out at the beginning of this year, and something went terribly wrong on the technical side of things. A lot of people who didn't want our email, got it. I was mortified because I was the person who hit the "send" button, and this is the number one rule for good emails:

  • Don't send marketing emails to people who haven't asked for (or at minimum OK'd) your marketing emails.

Not only is it incredibly annoying to the recipient, but you're also not likely to meet your goals in doing so. (In all probability, it will be nominated for a mass delete.)

This is more challenging when you're just getting started and building your email list, but the wait is worth it. You're building quality relationships with people who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer.

Pathwright Tip: Create a custom pitch page for your account to really highlight what you're offering. You can include a "Sign-Up" or "Subscribe" button throughout the page with the pitch. For example, the call-to-action might be to "Sign-up for our newsletter to learn more about the 6-week online program."

2. Be strategic but not self-centered.

While emails should be strategic and designed with a goal and purpose in mind, they don't have to be self-centered.

For example, let's say that your short-term goal is to build an email list. You also want to let everyone know about your new online courses, so you can get a lot of enrollments (woohoo!). Rooted in that is likely a love for teaching and helping people and a desire to do something you really enjoy full-time.

Your surface and root goals would look like this:

  • Your surface goals: Build an email list and get enrollments.
  • Your root goals: Help others grow and make a living, so you can keep doing what you love.

Say, in comparison, these are your learners' surface and root needs:

  • Your learners' surface needs: Determine if your course is going to fulfill the need and be worth the investment of their time and $$.
  • Your learners' root need: Grow personally or professionally by filling a current knowledge gap, so they can do what they love.

Your surface goal and your learners' surface need are very different, but your root goal and their root need are very similar.

By focusing strategy and email communication around the learners' needs, especially their root needs, you'll find that you reach your own root goals in the long-run.

3. Be communicative, not pushy.

While you want to let your customers know about new learning opportunities, there are limits. If your CRM (Mailchimp, Hubspot, etc.) shows that someone hasn't opened an email you've sent, but you know this person is interested in the content (say, they requested information on the topic), then you may email them again a couple of times.

They may be a messy inbox person and just haven't seen it. However, after emailing 3 or 4 times, if they still haven't opened the email, wait on sending further communication and let them reach out if they're still interested.

4. Mind your manners.

Mind the golden rule: If you don't want to be taken advantage of or have your privacy jeopardized, then best not to do that to anyone else.

5. Be human.

Automated emails with custom data fields can be extremely useful for systematizing things and being consistent. However, as you adopt new technologies and ways of customizing, keep in mind that technology should improve the customer experience.

If automation gets in the way of a good learner experience, then rethink it and make sure you're always providing a way for human help.

One simple way to improve a learner's experience is by sending an automated welcome email that includes their next step:

Pathwright Tip: You can use Zapier integrations to send an automated email when a new member joins your school (from blog on Zapier). This is especially useful when your school is growing and you're getting a lot of new members each week.

6. Bring clarity, not noise.

Aim to keep the focus of your emails simple and the noise at a minimum. Any call-to-action that isn't the main call-to-action is noise.

One way you can keep your course emails simple is by leaving the details to your course About page or custom pitch page. Learn how to make your best course page pitch here.

7. People like it when you're you.

While you want your goals to be aligned with your learners' (tip #2), you also want to be authentic. That means, if you're a for-profit company or individual, you can be transparent about how you benefit from their engagement with your course.

It also might mean that you need to dig deep to find your voice and brand and then keep that voice consistent across all of your emails.

8. Know your course's value.

This is one of the biggest things I've learned from Pathwright. Not everyone will respond to your course the same way, but you should stick by the value of what you offer, even if that doesn't get every sale.

When you're confident in your value, you can make decisions without regret. You can evaluate your message, strategy, communication style, and your own motives and then move forward knowing that your work matters and will help someone.

With this approach, you may have a smaller email list at first, but it'll be more meaningful and have higher engagement rates.

As a side note, knowing your course's value begins with setting up your course pricing. Here's a pricing recommendation from our CEO:

Pathwright Tip: We don't recommend offering courses for free because there's a scary high hidden cost associated with it. Read about the hidden cost here.

I hope you enjoyed these 8 tips for growing a customer base that’s interested in and responsive to your email updates. Want to discuss? Keep the conversation going with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and/or Instagram. We'd love to hear from you!

To share feedback or a topic suggestion, please email lydia@pathwright.com.

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