You’ve Got Fail: How to Make an Email List Work for You

Quick poll:


How many times have you gotten a really, spectacularly terrible email and thought to yourself ... how did you find me/what sweepstakes did I sell my digital soul to that lead this hideous piece of garbage to my inbox?


Likewise, in an alternative universe, how many of you have received an email by a brand/store/business you actively read, follow or shop and thought, NOW THIS, this is brilliant. This particularly well-done piece of communication actually prompted you to open it because the subject line was clever, the content was useful and the product/service was relevant to your life and your needs.

And while content itself is an important piece when emailing potential and current customers, the audience you email your business’s communications to also plays a vital role in whether you fall into email group A or email group B. Here’s how to take your company’s email list from “you got fail” to “you got mail”:


  1. The platform you choose to send emails on matters. Invest your business’s money and your personal time and knowledge in an email marketing platform you enjoy working with, and plays well with your existing software solutions (think: scheduling, finance, e-learning, etc). Is price point important to you? Educate yourself about what you get with a more expensive platform and what you lose when you keep it cheap. Do you want the tools to send to multiple email lists, trigger when someone buys on your website, track your people by their interests, and so much more? Is content customization important? PS. Any site you are building a community on is owned by that platform (I’m looking at you, Facebook) so doing your research and testing out a few email platforms (aka. CRMs) before committing will make you more confident in your final choice.

  2. Get to know your audience. While sending out a blanket email sounds like a cozy way to check off a to-do list item, turning your readers from observers to participants requires insight into the nuances, problems and passions of the people you are speaking to. Utilize your email marketing platforms metrics and compare/contrast open rates, clicks to your website/social as well as actual purchases.

  3. Use offline customer interactions to create better online email marketing. What might seems like a total ‘duh, obviously’ is something many a small business owner fails to do properly. Mostly, because it’s hard work. Turning your email into the number one automated asset of your business requires thoughtful engagement with your customers on an interpersonal level. Consider this: A woman comes into your beauty shop and buys a lotion where she signs up for your email list. You send her a series of emails engaging her and one of those include a discount offer for the lotion she previously bought. She comes back in and buys the lotion, as well as several other beauty products from the same brand. Suddenly, you’ve turned this woman into a very specific customer. You start to understand what incentivizes her and if she has similar like-minded peers (aka friends) who behave the same way. You begin to understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. And you can use this knowledge to be incredibly specific about who you talk to through your email marketing and how to get them to continue to engage as a customer and recruit others to do the same.


Bottom line? In order to send an email people actually want to read, you have to know your audience well enough to know what they want to hear.

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