The 6-Step Plan to Escape the Spam Folder

You're not a spammer — but your emails can still land in the spam folder.And once they’re stuck there, it’s difficult to reach the inbox again.That’s why we asked AWeber’s Director of Deliverability Karen Balle to explain how you can escape the spam folder.Multi-million dollar companies seek Balle’s advice on reaching the inbox. This is the same 6-step plan she lays out for them. And now, you can use it too.

Step 1: Make sure you have permission.

It’s illegal to send emails to people who haven’t subscribed to your list. It’s also a great way to go to the spam folder.So, if your emails are going to spam, review your email lists to make sure all of your subscribers opted in to receive content from you.If you purchased one of your lists or all of your lists, delete those subscribers from your email marketing platform. They’re just hurting you. Plus, they didn’t give you permission to send them emails anyway, so they are much more likely to mark your emails as spam or not open them at all.If you’re not sure whether your lists are purchased, review subscribers to see how they joined. (You can see these details under Subscriber Management in AWeber.) Look for large lists of imported subscribers. Make sure you have a record of how you acquired these subscribers.Related: The Ugly Truth about Buying Email ListsBalle also recommends using confirmed opt-in (COI) emails for every new subscriber. A confirmed opt-in email is a message that’s automatically sent to people who fill out your sign up form. It asks them to confirm they want to join your list by clicking a link or button in the message.Internet service providers, like Gmail and Yahoo!, are more likely to deliver your emails to the inbox when you use COI emails. And on top of that, COI messages keep spam robots off your email list. Spam robots are automated computer programs designed to find sign up form code on your website and submit fake information to join your list.  (Nobody wants a robot on their list. It’s difficult to tell them apart from real subscribers. And they decrease your open and click-through rates.)Related: Writing Confirmation and Welcome Emails People Love

Step 2: Find the type of content your audience loves.

Often, your email reputation is damaged because your subscribers aren’t engaging with your emails. If your open rates are below 15% and your click-through rates are below 5%, you’re in the danger zone, says Balle.To rebuild your email reputation, you need to boost your open and click-through rates. There’s a simple way to accomplish this: Send content your audience can’t wait to open and read.Take a look at the emails you’ve sent in the past, says Balle. Are there certain messages that earned more opens and clicks? If so, you should send more content like this! Jot down a list of related (but new) content ideas for future emails.Related: 8 Top Brainstorming Techniques to Help You Write Killer EmailsYou can also ask your subscribers what kind of content they’d like to get from you. Simply send them a brief email asking what questions they have.Once you know what kind of content interests your audience, draft a few emails around those topics. We’ll use these messages in step 4!Related: 18 Tried-And-True Ways to Improve Your Email Content

Step 3: Build a segment of your most-engaged subscribers.

Using your email marketing platform, build a segment of subscribers who have clicked a link in one of your emails in the last 3 months.This is your most engaged group of subscribers. They are more likely to open and click future emails.You’ll use this segment of people to begin rebuilding your email reputation with internet service providers. With a good email reputation, more of your emails will reach the inbox!Related: How to Create a Segment in AWeber

Step 4: Send value-packed emails to your segmented audience.

For the next 2 weeks, focus on sending high-value emails to the audience you identified in step 3. Aim to send 1 to 2 emails each week. Use the messages you drafted in step 2!Make sure that your audience likes the content you’re  sending. High open and click-through rates and low spam complaints are a good indicator that they do.But fair warning: You won’t see high rates right away.When recovering from spam folder placement, your open and click-through rates will start low, according to Balle.“You want to make sure that those metrics are increasing. Many companies give up too early during this step. It will be around two weeks when you really start to see a difference,” she says.Once your open rates are above 15% and your click-through rates are above 5% with your engaged segment, start gradually increasing your segment size. Add people to your segment who clicked an email in the last 4 months.As you send emails to this larger segment, watch your open rates and your click-through rates for about a week. If they hold steady, then add people who clicked an email in the last 5 months. Watch your open rates and click-through rates again. Keep going until you’re sending to people who clicked your emails in the last 12 months.One of the biggest mistakes Balle sees is adding people to your segment too quickly. Each time you add more people to your segment, make sure you don’t increase your segment by more than 50%. For example, let's say you have a list of 10,000 engaged subscribers. When you increase your segment size, add 5,000 subscribers or less. Send for about a week. Then, add the next segment.And if you add a new segment and you can’t increase your open and click-through rates, stop adding new segments. Move on to step 5.Related: The 7 Questions Everyone Has about Email List Segmentation

Step 5: Create a re-engagement campaign for unengaged subscribers.

Now, it’s time to try to re-engage subscribers who aren’t opening and clicking your emails with a re-engagement campaign. A re-engagement campaign is a group of emails that asks people to confirm they actually want to be on your email list.For your re-engagement campaign, build a segment of people who haven’t clicked on a link in your email for the last 12 months or at the point where you could no longer increase your opens and clicks.The segment size for this re-engagement campaign should be no more than 10% the size of your newly engaged list. If it’s larger, it could sabotage the work you’ve done so far with your engaged segment. So if you have a list of 10,000 subscribers who have recently clicked a link in one of your emails, your engagement campaign should only include 1,000 people.  You may need to send multiple engagement campaigns to cover all of your less-engaged customers.Once you build your segment, send a re-engagement campaign to them. Send one email. Wait 7 days. Then, send one more. Don’t send a third. According to Balle, a third re-engagement email often ends up in the spam folder.Related: How to Win Back Subscribers with a Re-Engagement CampaignIf you have subscribers who haven’t opened or clicked an email in more than a year, you might want to consider excluding them from your re-engagement campaign. They are less likely to re-engage, and they may sabotage your re-engagement campaign by decreasing subscriber engagement.

Step 6: Delete subscribers who don’t re-engage.

If a subscriber doesn’t re-engage or hasn’t opened an email in years, it’s time to delete them. They’re just hurting your email deliverability and your bottom line.Related: How to Delete Unengaged Subscribers

Stick to the plan. Reach the inbox.

Improving your email reputation takes time and patience. But by following this plan, you can increase your chances of reaching the inbox and build a healthy email list of people who want your emails!Want to use an email marketing platform that helps more people reach the inbox? Create a free account with AWeber.

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How To Make Money Online – Your First $100k From Blogging

Most people, when they try to make money online, overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.

That is why I often tell brand new bloggers to focus on the first $100 rather than the $100K figure.

That said, how was it possible, that we could create a brand new blog and only 30 days later, have already earned over $5000?

Today’s post will answer that question.

The IncomeDiary Blueprint for Making Money Online

Idea —> Take Action —> Build a Brand —> Create Content —> No Leakage Rule —> Blog Funnel System —> Free eCourse  —>  Product —> Money

All great websites start with solving a problem.

Step 1) How To Come Up With Website Ideas | Solve a Problem

At IncomeDiary we focus on the make “money online niche”.

Making money online is something that interests a lot of people, from many different demographics.

As soon as we started we had people ask us how to start their first blog.

And once they had started their blog, how could they make money from it?

Some even asked us to build websites for them.

There was a PROBLEM that people wanted help in SOLVING!

From the responses we where getting and our own research it was clear there was a demand.

But how do we make money from this demand?

In the case of IncomeDiary we knew a lot of our income would come from affiliate links.

That is where we started.

If you are a first time blogger you will need a domain, hosting, blog design, email list management.

Fortunately there are plenty of affiliate programs for services like this and in any case we needed all these services ourselves.

As an example if someone signed up for a domain, hosting and a blog design through our affiliate links, we would earn $100.

All we needed to do was convince 50 people to follow our advice and we would earn $5000.

Better still we where recommending products and services that we where using ourselves!

In blogging as in all business having a plan is essential.

A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power ~ Brian Tracy

All we needed to do now was estimate / work out how much traffic we would need in order to accomplish our goal for month one!

We are simplifying the calculations here a little – not everyone will need a domain or hosting for example – some will purchase more services, some will purchase less.

But for the purpose of planning these where good starting points.

Of course your niche may be entirely different from Make Money Online – but for just about every niche there is be affiliate programs you can promote to your readers.

As an aside, our sister site – ExpertPhotography.com covers a completely different niche to IncomeDiary – but when it started out, it used exactly the same strategy as IncomeDiary to get its first income – great content combined with affiliate income!

Step 2) To Make Money Online – Take Action

Now that we had an idea, we had to create a website.

This is an easy step, something that only took a few hours. I go over this in detail on this page.

Step 3) To Make Money Online – Build a Brand

Branding isn’t something a lot of people think much of.

But branding is important. It’s what someone thinks about your website.

When people think IncomeDiary, we want them to think, authority website that teaches people how to make money online.

To achieve this, we did a few things:

Domain Name

You want it to be easy to remember, easy to spell and you want it be a .com.

When I create a website, I don’t begin until I have found a domain that I think is good enough.

Sometimes it makes sense to buy a domain that has already been registered from a Domain Broker.

For example, IncomeDiary.com was bought for $100 from a blogger.

And we paid $2000 for our sister site – ExpertPhotography.com – via a domain broker.

Blog Design

If your blog doesn’t look good, it reflects badly on your brand. I’m not saying you have to spend a lot of money, we didn’t.

We started with buying a premium theme for $80 and getting a custom logo created. We kept the website simple and easy to understand.

It’s also important to pick a good color scheme for your site. When someone sees the green color we use, I want them to think IncomeDiary.com (I also wanted them to think money!)

Create Top Lists (read before you scroll past this)

Now I know most people know what a top list is, but you need to know what posts we created, why we created them and how they influenced our brand.

Some examples of the top lists we created:

Creating these posts, made us stand out as an authority on the subject.

If we are the website to decide which bloggers are the most influential, then we must know a lot about blogging.

Interview Experts

Interviews don’t get us a lot of long term traffic.

What they do though, is associate our website with experts in our industry.

We are not going into detail on conducting interviews in this post – but read any of our interviews and you will have interview templates you can follow.

Step 4) To Make Money Online – Create Compelling Content

To make money, we firstly had to get traffic. To get traffic, we had to firstly create interesting content.

We have spoken a lot about creating content.

The strategy for getting a lot of traffic from blogging is simple – create amazing content.

Look at this post as an example:

  • The subject of the post is something people are looking to read about
  • Over 2000 words (average page on first page of good is over 2000 words)
  • It’s easy to read (checked spelling, grammar, post styling)
  • Headline draws the reader in
  • It provides real value
  • Post images add to value of the post

The 10 posts that received the most traffic in the first few months were all top list articles.

Looking back, their was very little traffic going to any posts that were not top lists or interviews.

One big benefit from writing top list posts and interviewing authorities in your industry, is the amount of links and social media shares you get. Often when we write a post saying that someone is one of the most influential bloggers in the world, they want to link to it on their site, because it helps with their own brand.

All these links and shares tell Google that we are a great site and they should rank our posts higher in their search engine.

You can see how our traffic would spike every time we published a top list on our site:

Step 5) How To Make Money Online – The No Leakage Rule

The no leakage rule is when you create a website in a way that either a reader signs up for what you are promoting, or they leave your website.

Let me explain further:

The goal of IncomeDiary is to get people to subscribe to our email list. Now to best accomplish this, we need to keep distracts to a minimum.

That means having no banner ads, no blogroll, no top commenters links and so on…

If a website visitor is leaving our website to look at an advertiser, they are not signing up for our email list.

It’s the same reason we don’t want to link to guest bloggers at the bottom of blog posts, because if our visitors are checking out their website, they are not signing up for our list.

Step 6) Make Money Online – Blog Funnel System

This is all about getting your visitors to go where you want them to go, or shall I say, how to funnel them to your desired location.

The goal of our blog is to get people to subscribe to our email list.

That is how we make the majority of our money.

To accomplish this, we get the majority of our subscribers through a popup using OptiMonk. Read this post on: how we use OptiMonk.

The longer someone stays on the site, the more likely they are to subscribe and for us to make money.

Step 7) Make Money Online – Free eCourse

When we started IncomeDiary, not a lot of bloggers were giving incentives for signing up to a mailing list.

Those that did, often gave free eBooks.

I liked the idea of a free eBook but there was one problem.

I wanted readers to take action and if they received to much information all at once, they would feel overwhelmed and would be less likely to follow my guide.

So instead, we decided to split up what we wanted to teach and give it to subscribers over 7 days.

We called it: 7 Day Free eCourse To Creating Your First Profitable Blog

I would explain to everyone signing up that “You may have to spend some money if you want to make some money” – not a lot of money just a little if you really wanted to be serious about blogging. (Less than $100). I included special offers on domain names and offers on hosting such as get your first months hosting for 1 cent and coupon codes. (People love coupon codes)

This worked amazingly well.

Pretty much one of the reasons it worked so well was because I showed my readers exactly what I’m doing. I was not asking them to do anything that I had not done myself.

It’s also important to point out that I was solving a specific problem. I wasn’t simply trying to help people become better bloggers.

Setting up a Autoresponder

Once people opted in and joined my eCourse, the auto-responder would start sending them an email every day for a week.

The course was very much step by step – “Day One, installing your blog” – “Day Two, adding a theme and customizing your blog,” – Day Three: monetizing” etc

Every day subscribers would look forward to the next addition. Often I would get people email me saying, “Hey, is there any chance I can get Day Two now, rather than wait until tomorrow?”

Subscribers took action straightaway. I told them, “Look, take action on this today, and then you’ll be ready to do tomorrow’s assignment.”

Marketing Your eCourse

Another huge benefit of having a squeeze page, or a separate page on WordPress dedicated to your free course, is people have a link they can share with friends if they wish to recommend it. It is great when people Tweet things like “Check Out IncomeDiary’s Free Blogging eCourse” and link to this page.

This also meant I could mentioned this page in my blog posts – for example if I did a Top 30 Bloggers list I would finish it with a link says: “Follow in their footsteps, check out my free course”.

The signup page became so popular that it was the third most visited page on the site.

Step 8) Make Money Online – Selling Your Own Product

Once someone has gone through our eCourse, we want them to be thinking, WOW, that was amazing, I can’t believe that was free.

If they think this, then when we tell them that we have a paid membership site, they can only imagine how good it must be.

When creating products to sell on IncomeDiary, we think about what our readers most want.

The two biggest struggles of new bloggers is getting traffic and making money.

For us, getting traffic has always been easy. And if it’s easy for us, surely we can make it easy for our readers. So we created an eBook called Traffic Domination which is a blueprint to getting over 100,000 visitors a month from top list articles.

We also use to offer a training program called Site Profit Domination which showed our customers in detail how we were monetizing our blogs.

Step 9) Making Money Online and Reinvesting

The reason for a lot of our success is the way we reacted to making money.

When we make money, we reinvested it. We may have started our blog with a small budget but as soon as we had the money, we made it a lot better.

I was not entirely happy with the blog theme, so I spent sometime customizing the design. This included a big change to the homepage – allowing us to display a large opt-in box.

We also used some custom graphics on the side-bar to direct visitors to our best revenue producing pages.

We even bought advertising for IncomeDiary, which at the time, was not something we would normally recommend with a new blog, but earnings per visitor was so good, we could afford to buy traffic.

One final note on making money online.

I love this quote from Paulo Coelho …

It is essential to know your visitor numbers and your earnings per visitor!

For some, attracting the first 1000 visitors will be the big goal and for others it will be attracting the first 1,000,000 visitors

Set yourself high, but realistic targets and go all out to achieve.

Hoping and Guessing is not a business strategy – but FOCUS and CONCENTRATION is.

What you focus on, EXPANDS!

Take the time to build your brand, build your following and build your website into the premier site in its niche.

Making $100,000 PA is a Big Goal – but it is not an impossible goal.

Believe in you – believe you can do it.

It is also the strategy you need in order to set yourself for the ULTIMATE Pay Day!

That magically day when you eventually sell your business.

Good Luck!

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Market Research: How to Increase Sales in a Competitive Market

Have you ever come up with a seemingly original product idea, only to find that a few other people have already created something similar?

Most business owners have had this experience, some on several occasions. A truly unique, never-been-done-before idea is pretty hard to come by.

But just because other companies offer similar products doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue it. Instead, you can expect to be in a competitive market like most industries.

The competition for your product idea can vary. If you have a commodity product, you might find that you have more competition as opposed to a specialized product in a less crowded market space.

When you face this competition, it’s important to think about your brand positioning.

Visual branding, marketing messaging, brand culture, and internal communication all go into positioning your product as the top choice for people in your audience. And you’ll build your like-know-trust factor through consistent and relevant positioning.

Positioning can make or break your business. Take Warby Parker, for example.

They battle Luxottica, an eyeglass manufacturer with a monopoly-like presence in their industry. Unlike Luxottica’s B2B model, Warby Parker sells directly to consumers for a fraction of the cost. They also allow people to try on eyeglass frames from the comfort of their home and created a buy-one-give-one model.

Another example is Uber and Lyft, two popular ride-sharing apps that allow people to purchase rides without having to wait for a taxi.

No matter how fierce the competition is, you always have the opportunity to disrupt the market with your product and business model. But before you take a page from Warby Parker’s book, it’s important to assess your product’s market size and the number of competitors in your industry. Only then can you create a market research plan that will help you craft a comprehensive sales strategy.

How to increase sales with some competitive market research

How many times have you created marketing content based on what you think is true rather than what you know is true?

We’ve all done it! It can be easy to bypass market research for the sake of getting our product out into the world, but we can’t miss this crucial step.

Without market research, we are just throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping that something sticks. Sure, something may stick at some point, but we can be more confident when we take the time to research our market.

Our sales strategy starts with market research. Understanding our target audience, their pain points, and what our competitors’ offer will help us determine what our foolproof competitive advantage is.

Determine who your target audience is

As you read through this Tradecraft issue, you are probably sensing a theme. We’ve been talking a lot about how your marketing and sales strategy has more to do with your audience than you. This is because they are the ones who will buy your product.

While it might be tempting to say your ideal customer is anyone who is willing to pay, it’s best to create targeted marketing toward a specific audience. When you have an ideal person in mind, it becomes easier to write marketing content and make the sale.

The first step is to think about your target audience’s demographics. This will give you a general picture of who you are trying to attract. Here’s a quick list to help you get started.

  • Age range
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Education level
  • Income level
  • Life stage
  • Business stage

Once you have created your target audience demographics, you can move on to understanding their psychographics. Too many businesses stop at the demographics stage because they feel like they have at least a good idea of what their audience looks like.

The problem with this is that the information we determined above doesn’t tell us much about the purchasing motivations and habits of our target audience. If we miss out on this important aspect, our marketing won’t be as strong as it could be.

Instead, let’s take a moment to answer some of these questions as it relates to your buyer persona.

  • What are their likes and dislikes?
  • What are their hobbies and interests?
  • What does their ideal day look like?
  • What qualities are they known for?
  • How would a friend or family member describe them?
  • What drives them when they make a purchasing decision?
  • What irks them, and what energizes them?
  • Where do they go for news and information?
  • What titles do they associate themselves with?
  • How would they describe their lifestyle?
  • What holds them back, and what pushes them forward?

After you answer these questions, you will have a better understanding of who your ideal customer truly is.

Pro tip: If you’ve already been in business for a while or have been working on side hustle, you can also keep past clients, readers, or customers in mind when you go through this activity.
Pick the best people you’ve collaborated or worked with in order to fully answer these questions. It’s another great way to make your market research feel more real.

You can also create more than one buyer persona depending on how many subsets you have inside your target audience. We usually recommend doing two to three buyer personas max so you aren’t tempted to attract everyone.

Understand your audience’s pain points

Your business is only as useful as the solution you provide your target audience with. In order to gain market share, you must fully understand your audience’s struggles and pain points. Some of your audience’s pain points may seem obvious, but others may take a bit of digging.

Knowing your audience’s pain points comes in handy when you start to write conversion-based copy. Before you can offer a solution, you need to highlight what their pain point is.

If you are creating a vegan cookbook for stay-at-home moms, their pain points might be:

  • They don’t have enough time to go to the grocery store
  • They don’t always have the extra income to buy multiple healthy ingredients per meal
  • They don’t have the energy to cook after caring for their kids all day

Based on this market research, you could dig even deeper to see what Millennial moms struggle with as opposed to the generation before them. You could even look at moms who had newborns in their early twenties versus their early thirties.

All of this is to show that you can always uncover more layers that go into your audience’s pain points.

If you are struggling with this stage, we suggest casually interviewing some of your friends or people you may know who fit your buyer persona to get more information. It can be a great way to hear what their pain points are rather than guessing at what they could be. No one knows their situation and buying habits better than they do!

As you determine their pain points, you can look at what stage in the buying process they are in and what struggles they have in each stage.

If you want more information and anecdotes to back up your market research, you can also send surveys to past customers or followers to gain their feedback. Remember that people who match your ideal buyer persona will have better feedback than those who don’t.

You can also create a focus group if you want to take this activity a step further. Then you can see how people interact with your product and react to your messaging or positioning. You can choose a small group of about five to nine people so everyone has a chance to be heard. The feedback will be invaluable!

Research your competitors

We consider researching your target audience and their pain points the primary goal of your market research. Your secondary goal is to research your competitors. This is so you can understand the current product options your ideal customer base already has.

If you skip this crucial step, you may end up creating a product or service that your ideal buyers don’t need or already have. In many cases, there is room for improvement with products that are on the market.

One way to start researching your competitors is to try their products yourself. Note what your experience was like from purchasing their product to getting it in your hands. If it is a service, note how you were treated and the overall experience you left with.

Trying their products will also give you an idea of what is missing and how you can position your product to satisfy the “what’s missing” element.

You can even read consumer reviews online to see what people think. You can look at YouTube product comparison videos, Consumer Reports, or look on social media to see how people are talking about your competitor’s products. These testimonials will give you a good idea of what works and what doesn’t.

After this market research, you’ll be able to see how you can fill in the gaps.

What do you offer that other companies are lacking in?
How can you improve what they are doing?
Do you have a better product, a better experience, a better all-around brand, or something else entirely?

This is the stage where all of your competitive market research will come together. Once you know what your differentiators are, you can solidify your positioning within your niche, which will help you write better emails and sell more effectively.

How will you increase sales from your market research?

By doing your market research, you’ll be building your trust and credibility with your target audience as you find ways to optimize your product, brand experience, and process.

Knowing who your audience is, their pain points, and your competitors will help you communicate clearly and effectively, giving you that coveted competitive advantage in your marketplace.

So before you start selling your product or service (or even if this is your second or third offering), make sure to do all your market research. You never know what new things you'll learn about your audience or competitors that will help you make the next sale.

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