Become a Writer Today

Email Marketing for Writers with Keith Monaghan

July 15, 2021 Bryan Collins Season 2
Email Marketing for Writers with Keith Monaghan
Become a Writer Today
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Become a Writer Today
Email Marketing for Writers with Keith Monaghan
Jul 15, 2021 Season 2
Bryan Collins

In this episode, we focus on email marketing, and my guest is email marketing expert Keith Monaghan.

He knows his stuff as he previously worked as a market researcher and email marketer for companies like Nike, Specialized Bicycles, Trek, and NBC Television.

He's the author of the new book, Easy Email Marketing: 10 Simple Steps for Creating and Sending Marketing E-Mail Your Customers Will Love.

I asked Keith to walk through all the steps needed to create a successful campaign. From setting up an email list through to what to send. He also explains what to look out for and how to engage with readers more frequently.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • People are using email more than ever
  • The steps to creating a successful email campaign
  • Keith's recommended email tools
  • How to get the tone of your emails right 
  • How to write a good subject line
  • Do a final check before sending your email


Support the Show.

If you enjoyed the show please leave a review on Apple. And if you have any questions you can find me on Twitter @BryanJCollins

Thanks for listening!

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we focus on email marketing, and my guest is email marketing expert Keith Monaghan.

He knows his stuff as he previously worked as a market researcher and email marketer for companies like Nike, Specialized Bicycles, Trek, and NBC Television.

He's the author of the new book, Easy Email Marketing: 10 Simple Steps for Creating and Sending Marketing E-Mail Your Customers Will Love.

I asked Keith to walk through all the steps needed to create a successful campaign. From setting up an email list through to what to send. He also explains what to look out for and how to engage with readers more frequently.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • People are using email more than ever
  • The steps to creating a successful email campaign
  • Keith's recommended email tools
  • How to get the tone of your emails right 
  • How to write a good subject line
  • Do a final check before sending your email


Support the Show.

If you enjoyed the show please leave a review on Apple. And if you have any questions you can find me on Twitter @BryanJCollins

Thanks for listening!

Keith: So the subject line is a promise of what’s inside. It’s like the headline to an article, the title of a book. The subject line is gonna tell the reader what’s inside and why they should open the e-mail. So, in that case, I recommend a very simple subject line. Choose clear over clever.

Introduction: Welcome to the Become a Writer Today podcast with Bryan Collins. Here, you’ll find practical advice and interviews for all kinds of writers.

Bryan: Have you set up your e-mail list yet? And if so, how often are you e-mailing subscribers and readers on your list?
Hi, there. My name is Bryan Collins and welcome to the Become a Writer Today podcast. This week’s topic is e-mail marketing for writers. Now, I’ve set up my e-mail list back in 2014 which is only six or seven years ago. When I set up my e-mail list back then, I used MailChimp because it was free and, at the time, I thought I could use some techno-wizardry to connect MailChimp to an old site I ran which doesn’t exist anymore via an RSS feed. 

Basically, I wanted to automate sending the blog posts that I published to the dozen or so subscribers on my list, but I somehow managed to do the whole thing incorrectly and it e-mailed out dozens of blog posts all in one e-mail to subscribers and I got e-mails back from people on my list, who were actually friends and family because I asked them to join, and they were saying things like, “Why are you sending me this?” So, if you are gonna set up an e-mail list, don’t overcomplicate it like I did.

These days, a tool I recommend using is ConvertKit and I have a ConvertKit review on the Become a Writer Today site and I’ll include a link in the show notes. Now I like ConvertKit for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s easy to use; secondly, it’s built for creators, bloggers, writers, podcasters, artists, and so on; and, thirdly, ConvertKit is relatively affordable. They have a free plan that you can try too. Whereas MailChimp feels like something that’s, you know, for bigger businesses and e-commerce stores.

So if you don’t have an e-mail list yet, I encourage you to use a tool like ConvertKit to set up your e-mail list and then give away a free magnet that people will opt in to get. What’s a free magnet? Well, examples could be a book, a checklist, a chapter from your latest book, some behind-the-scenes information, videos, a course, a PDF report, anything that’s actionable or extra or worth handing over an e-mail address for.

Then, once you have a few subscribers on your list, you know, keep in touch with them once a week by sending a weekly update about what you’re up to or by sending information on your latest book or on your work. The other question many people have is, “How can I grow my list? How can I get more people on it?” Well, once you have that lead magnet set up, you need to send traffic to the lead magnet landing page or wherever the lead magnet is hosted and you can do that by publishing a free short book on Amazon, by getting into content marketing, and publishing short articles on your website, by guest blogging, by posting articles on Medium, by using social media, and by basically putting the “Join My E-Mail List” URL or link everywhere and anywhere.

The more traffic you send to your dedicated landing page for e-mail lists, the more subscribers you’ll get; the more subscribers you get, the more people will read your work; and the more people who read your work, well, that will give you a greater audience that you can share stories with, make an impact, and earn more money as a writer. That’s my quick overview of e-mail marketing for writers but I wanted to speak to an expert on the topic.

This week’s guest is Keith Monaghan. He previously worked as a market researcher and e-mail marketing expert for companies like Nike, Specialized Bicycles, Trek, and NBC Television, and he’s also the author of the new book, Easy E-mail Marketing: 10 Simple Steps for Creating and Sending Marketing E-Mail Your Customers Will Love. I asked Keith to walk through all of the steps from setting up an e-mail list to what to send and what to look out for and how to engage with readers more frequently.

But before we go over to this week’s interview, if you enjoy the show, please consider leaving a short review on iTunes or sharing the show on Overcast, Stitcher, or wherever you’re listening. And if you really enjoy the show, you can also support it on Patreon. For just a couple of dollars a month, I’ll give you discounts on my writing courses, software, and books.

Now, over to this week’s interview with Keith.

Bryan: So, Keith, you have a really interesting work history but I want to talk to you today because you’re an expert in e-mail marketing, which I think is a useful topic for any writer or any creative who maybe wants to build a relationship with readers and also, you know, start earning money from their books. But before we get into your e-mail marketing tips, could you give listeners a flavor for who you are?

Keith: Sure. So, my background is, as you said, pretty varied, typical of a freelancer, you know? In the mid-90s, my wife and I moved from Los Angeles, California, north to the Silicon Valley, near San Francisco, and I fell into the internet at a time when most people, including myself, didn’t know what it was. Got myself a job at dot-com company called Xoom.

Bryan: Not Zoom, the web conferencing company.

Keith: Correct, correct. Ironically, that meme just keeps following me around. So, Xoom basically gave you a web page like, you know, for free to put your clipart on for your — for any of your interests and, in exchange, we sent you marketing e-mails about software and hardware that we were trying to sell you. And, again, I fell into that simply because I was a literature major here in the United States and that’s a rare thing in the technology environment, someone who can communicate with both laypeople and the engineers and cross that fence —

Bryan: Yeah, they’re different skill sets. Yeah, I worked for a software company so I get what you’re saying —

Keith: Yeah, well, so then you know that you were pretty much a unicorn in that environment, someone who can communicate with both sides, both mentalities. Started copywriting, started running the e-mail campaigns because I could write and, subsequently, you know, a year or two later, when the dot-com bubble burst, left that company, went to a few different startups, and eventually ended up in Portland, Oregon, freelancing. I do a lot of market research and marketing now but, oddly, e-mail marketing has followed me the whole way.

Bryan: Yeah.

Keith: People are constantly saying, “Hey, you’ve got the e-mail marketing experience, you’re the e-mail marketing guy.” It’s a frequent source of work for me these days, people referring each other or people that I worked with in the past referring new people to me or friends. It’s one of those things I thought I would leave behind in my career and move on yet it’s followed me and here I am. So, recently, for probably the 15th time, a friend of a friend got in contact about learning e-mail marketing. She runs a resort down in South America and, in the course of our e-mail exchange, I realized I had pretty much outlined a how-to e-book —

Bryan: Yeah.

Keith: — and I thought, well, why do I keep doing this over and over? I need to publish this thing. So that’s what I’ve done and that’s why I’m here.

Bryan: Fantastic. That’s fantastic. So your next step could be turning it into a course.

Keith: Yeah, absolutely. There’s been enough interest and there’s enough there, as a topic, because, you know, here we are talking about e-mail marketing and writers —

Bryan: Yeah.

Keith: — and we can get into this a little bit deeper, but in my experience, e-mail marketing applies to anyone and anything you’re doing and it’s uniquely valuable. So, I think a course would be the next step, yeah, by far.

Bryan: Yeah, it’s interesting you said e-mail has followed you around because some people will say, you know, social media is replacing e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, people are on the networks and not looking at their e-mail but when you look at the statistics, that’s not actually true. People are in their inboxes more than ever.

Keith: Absolutely, right, correct. So I read the other day that, you know, the average adult checks their e-mail something — 70 something times a day, 74, 75 times a day, around there, and I happen to think in my experience that e-mail and social media fit hand in hand. They are two opposite sides of the same coin. In fact, I would even call e-mail the original social media, right? There was a time back in the day before social media when all of our jokes, all of our memes, everything was spread over e-mail and it’s kind of remained that way with the unique exception that I feel that e-mail is deeply personal. We take our inboxes very personally —

Bryan: Yeah.

Keith: — and most of us are very careful about what we let in, as opposed to social media which can be a never-ending stream or flood of stuff, which can be fun but it’s a different media.

Bryan: Yeah. Well, I find that those jokes and GIFs and viral videos, they’re all now on WhatsApp, that’s where I got them from people.

Keith: Right. Oh, interesting.

Bryan: Whether I like it or not.

Keith: That’s interesting.

Bryan: But, yeah, I use e-mail like to make a lot of decisions about whether to buy something, like I’m on e-mail lists for writers and people with online businesses and courses and, also, I have an e-mail list as well so I think it’s a fantastic way of building relationship with readers. So, when you were creating the e-mail marketing campaigns for some of your companies or clients, like what are the steps you take to get a good campaign up and running?

Keith: Yeah. Why do it? How should I do it? Why should I bother? I think, if I’ve learned anything over the years, whether it’s working for the big corporations or for helping small businesses or individuals, is that consistency is the key, right? If you’re gonna send an e-mail, especially as a writer, I think we can get into that a little deeper, I think as a writer, you’ve got a unique strength when it comes to e-mail marketing and frequency.
I think frequency is the key, right? You’re training your readers to expect to hear from you at a certain rate and you’re training them to expect certain things from you, right? Certain content, certain information, whether it’s an informational newsletter that talks about your process, your upcoming projects, or it’s a series of educational e-mails based on a book you’re writing, you know? In the same way that we expect TV shows to happen in a certain order, a certain cadence, not so much anymore, really, but we do, I think a lot of people are conditioned to expect e-mail in a certain cadence. I know I do, right? 

And when I get newsletters or e-mails from certain writers or certain businesses, I’m expecting that, especially if they’re informational, you know? Every Monday, I get a few writers here in the United States and on Fridays, I get some technology guys to brief me on the industry. So, we can go into the weeds about format and creating and what to put in the e-mail, but, more than anything, consistency, once a week if you’re gonna do it once a week, once a month if you’re gonna do it once a month, once every three months, whatever. Make sure you stick to your consistency more than anything else, which I’m also pretty sure you found is true with podcasting.

Bryan: Well, I think it’s true with anything, really. If you’re — anything you’re consistent with, you tend to get results over time. It can be slow and gradual but you will start to —

Keith: Right, right.

Bryan: — you know, see something that you’re happy with. So, let’s say I’ve decided to set up my e-mail list. Actually, I’ll step back for a second. Is there any particular tools that you recommend to use to get started?

Keith: I’ll be a bit of a heretic and mention a tool I think you should stay away from. You know, we’ve all heard of MailChimp and they’re a great company and a great service. My feeling is that MailChimp is built for running multiple, very large e-mail marketing campaigns.

Bryan: Yeah.

Keith: It’s a difficult beast for an individual writer or creative to manage and deal with, right?

Bryan: Yeah.

Keith: Not that it’s not possible, they have a great how-to section, they have great support, but it’s a bit like using Photoshop to just slightly tweak the picture on your phone, you know?

Bryan: Overkill.

Keith: It’s overkill. I have a list in the book and I’ll talk about a few here but there are many very simple, very easy to use services that I would recommend for writers because you’re particularly operating as an individual. One is Revue.

Bryan: Yeah.

Keith: They’re fantastic. There’s one called MoonMail. There are probably dozens. Another one called TinyLetter, which, ironically, is owned by MailChimp and it’s a very simple text-only setup. It’s what you see is what you get, what you type on the screen and you hit Send and away you go. There’s very little you can mess up —

Bryan: Get wrong, yeah.

Keith: — and that’s, you know, when you’re a busy writer or you’re a busy creative, that’s paramount.

Bryan: So, I started with MailChimp back in the day because it was free. Quickly found out that it wasn’t for me for some of the reasons that you discussed. It was more like for e-commerce companies back then. I know it’s changed a lot since but now these days I use ConvertKit.

Keith: Fantastic service.

Bryan: Yeah, I think it’s built for kind of creatives and bloggers and authors, podcasters. I find it’s quite good. Other popular ones, I think, are ActiveCampaign. Have you looked at Substack, by any chance, or any of those dedicated —

Keith: I have. I’ve played around with Substack. It’s really interesting, especially if you wanna create a business out of your newsletter —

Bryan: Yeah.

Keith: — and charge for it. And there seems to be a lot of heat in that space right now. I know Revue that I mentioned just added payments and it seems from what I’m reading in the industry that a lot of other services are gonna start adding payments. So, yeah, I would encourage any writer to check out Substack. There’s definitely a culture and a support system there for writers in general and turning your newsletter into a business.

Bryan: So, I have my newsletter set up and I have a few people on my list because they’ve read my book or perhaps they’ve visited my website —

Keith: Right.

Bryan: — what do I start sending them or what’s my next step?

Keith: Right. Right, right. Who cares what I send them, right? Why should I start sending anything?

Bryan: Yeah.

Keith: Right. Well, first and foremost, I think, as a writer, you’ve got a unique position in that, you know, I spoke earlier about your inbox being personal, everybody taking it personally.

Bryan: Yeah.

Keith: You know, as writers, we’re empathetic. We understand our audience, right? We’re writing for our audience and that’s a unique strength. So, think about why your audience, why the people who signed up, are interested in what you’re doing and what you’re writing. Are you providing more information? Are you sending out how-to articles every week or every month? Are you sending out links to resources you have found outside of what you’ve written that relate to what you’ve written? More resources you can recommend to people. Is it simply a newsletter that’s a look behind your daily life and your process and your upcoming projects? Or is it a combination of those things?

Bryan: Yeah.

Keith: Keep it narrow. My recommendation, when I think about the authors whose newsletters I get and look forward to, they’re sending me links to other valuable resources relating to what they write to, they’re sending me a look behind their process, their day, whether it’s, you know, talking to another author or a podcast they run, some kind of link to that, and maybe a little blurb about an upcoming project and a bit of knowledge they’ve gained on the book that they wrote that I have read since I read it, right? So, an addendum to a book or some kind of extra chapter, that kind of thing.

Bryan: Okay.

Keith: So, narrow, personable, and make it relevant and useful. I mean, you know, don’t kill yourself looking for something that has to be useful and has to be, you know, valuable but if it’s simply valuable as a link to a resource that you like and recommend for your readers, that can go a long way building goodwill with them and building your list.

Bryan: Yeah. And when you’re writing the newsletter or the e-mail broadcast, do you have any tips about how to get the tone right or…?

Keith: Yeah, how do you get the tone right? Well, again, you know, as a writer, I think you have less to worry about than most companies do. Companies need to worry about tone and their branding. As a writer, you’ve already set that with your book and your writing. People have already bought into who you are and your tone and how you write. Just do you in the e-mail, right? Be you, be yourself. It’s really just an extension of your writing, your blog, and whatever else you’ve done. I wouldn’t — don’t sweat about it too much.

Bryan: And am I putting pictures or anything in the e-mail? I don’t normally do that myself.

Keith: Yeah, so let’s talk about the parts of an e-mail and the format that I recommend, anyway. So, it’s important to think about the parts of an e-mail, the three parts: the subject line, the message, and the action. So, the subject line is a promise of what’s inside. It’s like the headline to an article, the title of a book. The subject line is gonna tell the reader what’s inside and why they should open the e-mail. So, in that case, I recommend a very simple subject line. Choose clear over clever, right? What’s in this e-mail? Is it an update to my new book? Is it a link to my interview with Bryan? Is it some resources that I found or some other books that I’ve read that I think my readers will like? Be very clear in the headline as to what is in the e-mail, right? It’s a promise of what’s inside. The message, well, that’s up to you as a writer. I think, in the corporate world, we try to keep it very limited and very direct because we want people to skim it, read it, and click.

Bryan: Yeah.

Keith: But in a writer’s case, you have free rein, right? Your readers already know your voice, your brand, like we talked about. You can be deeply personable. You can be brief. I like a writer called Dan Pink. He’s a business writer.

Bryan: Yeah, he’s great, yeah, I interviewed him a while ago —

Keith: He’s fantastic. And his newsletter is — oh you interviewed him? Oh, that’s fantastic.

Bryan: About a year ago, yeah. He has a great newsletter.

Keith: Yeah, it’s fantastic. And so you know, it’s very brief.

Bryan: Yeah.

Keith: Right? He’s got, you know, maybe a blurb on something that he’s researched, he’s got a few links, and maybe a tip and that’s it. He’s in and out, and he sends it maybe once every month. So, you know, conversely, if you’re that type of writer, by all means, do the brief, short, useful link collection and a few tips. If you’re the kind of writer that your readers expect you to be verbose and write deeply on a single topic, do that. 

Send your blog post as an e-mail if you’re that kind of writer, right? If you’re a combination or you just — you’re stuck for a topic, you know, in the service of being consistent, send whatever you want. Send something that’s relevant to you and your readers, you know? I think as a creative, as a writer, you have a lot more leeway in what you send than a corporation does.

Bryan: And am I putting an image in the e-mail as well?

Keith: Oh, yeah, I’ve gotten lost, I’ve rambled off topic here. So, you know, that’s a consideration that a lot of companies make because they’ve got a product to sell so, obviously, they wanna stick a photo of it in there. I would just say be careful. If you’re gonna send an image, maybe send one, because it’s important to realize that, in much of the world, the infrastructure for the mobile services are pretty weak and it takes a while to download a picture. So, if you send an e-mail with five or six pictures in it, you’re asking people who have less than perfect cell service to wait for things to load and no one’s gonna do that, right?

Bryan: I’ve also found with images, the e-mail can take a little bit longer to load, like you were saying, but Google sometimes will strip out the images —

Keith: Right.

Bryan: — because of their filter or another issue is if there’s just more testing, which I’m gonna ask you about in a moment, because you can have an image that you think looks okay but then when somebody opens it up on their phone, it’s taking up all of the screen size because it’s the wrong dimensions.

Keith: Right, right. And, you know, any good e-mail service, e-mail marketing service is gonna automatically resize the image for you so you don’t have to worry about that. But that’s a valid point. You don’t know what kind of e-mail client they’re using or what kind of phone they’re using. They may be using something very outdated that can’t read the modern code and everything gets screwed up.

So, you know, I err toward text only with maybe a single image but I wouldn’t overdo it with images. It’s really — and especially, again, as a writer, this is an audience that’s used to reading your written word so give it to them in the e-mail, you know? I wouldn’t worry about the images too much. Although, you know, there’s a lot of value to showing a single image of your life behind the book, how you write your process, maybe a picture of your pet, you out in the garden with your kids, whatever. There’s a certain, in my opinion, a certain connection made between writers and readers that is really amplified by that personal stuff. So, use a picture but I wouldn’t use more than one and make it kind of small.

Bryan: Okay, okay. So, I have my e-mail, I’ve written my e-mail, I have it formatted, now I’m gonna do, and this is what I do last, is the subject line. Do you have any tips for writing a good subject line?

Keith: I do, I do. So just consider the fact when you look at an e-mail on your phone or on your desktop that you’re really only seeing the first few words of the subject line in your e-mail client, typically. You’re not seeing the whole subject line and you make a judgement based on those first few words, right? 

You’re seeing three or four words generally, especially on a phone. So think about what those three or four words should be to grab the attention of your reader. It should be very direct and very clear as to what’s inside. So, if I’m sending an e-mail newsletter that links to some articles I found about how to build a workbench in my garage, because my readers want that, the subject line should probably start with “Tips on building a workbench.” Don’t bury the lead. Put it right up front in the subject line because people scan those first few words and then they move on so if those first few words in the subject line don’t grab them, they’re not gonna open the e-mail.

Bryan: Any other checks I should go through before I schedule the e-mail?

Keith: Yes, send it to yourself, send it to some friends. Click on everything, as you know. 

Bryan: Yeah.

Keith: You’ll find some typos after you send it and read it on a different device. I always do. There’s no harm in test sending it multiple times to make sure everything’s right.

Bryan: Yeah. ConvertKit actually has this fantastic feature where if you put in the wrong link, you can change the link even though the e-mail has been sent.

Keith: Oh, really?

Bryan: So it’s really good, because —

Keith: That’s —

Bryan: — I used to get e-mails sometimes from readers that would say, “The link doesn’t work,” or, “It’s taking me to the wrong page,” so it’s quite clever, whatever technology you’re using.

Keith: That’s incredible. I wish I had had that back in the day.

Bryan: Yeah, yeah. Funnily enough, when I set up my first ever e-mail years ago, e-mail list, I connected it with an RSS feeds to my blog so it would automate the sending of the blog post and I sent every single blog post to every subscriber. So it was a disaster. I got e-mails back from a few people saying, “Why are you sending me this?”

Keith: That’s funny. Not an unusual experience. I’ve seen that happen before.

Bryan: Yeah, so my advice would be, you know, to start simple rather than try to get clever by alternating the weekly e-mail so don’t do what I did. So, you have the e-mail, you checked, you’re happy with it, all good to go. Does the time matter that much or the day or —

Keith: Oh, yeah, yeah. Does the time matter? I don’t think so and I’ll tell you a short story. When I first started in this, I worked at a company called Elance, which was an online —

Bryan: Oh, that’s Upwork now, isn’t it?

Keith: Yeah, it is, right, you know, so —

Bryan: I do use them, yeah.

Keith: — freelancers could bid on jobs. When we started our e-mail marketing, we debated, you know, just argued nonstop about the proper day to send the first e-mail and this is before sending anything, which is stupid, and we, you know, we argued that Wednesday night or Monday morning at 8 AM before people go to work is the best day. Well, it turned out, after a few months of sending e-mails that, in fact, Sunday morning was the morning that most people opened their e-mail and, of course, we realized, in hindsight, this made sense because our customers were freelancers. They were working their regular job during the week, going out Friday and Saturday night, and then Sunday morning, they looked at their freelance work and think about that kind of thing. So, the lesson here is, I think and in my experience, the time is kind of irrelevant. I’m much more focused on frequency.

Bryan: Yeah, and I would agree with the frequency point as well and one thing I think is worth remembering, your subscribers could be in the United States, in which case, you might want to think about the morning time but chances are you have subscribers in the United Kingdom and Ireland and Europe or Australia and that’s where the time zone issue then becomes a bit more challenging. Plus, if you have a bigger list, they don’t all send automatically at 8 AM as well.

Keith: Exactly, exactly. I use a service called Campaign Monitor which claims to have a technology that will send e-mails at the correct time in each time zone —

Bryan: Yeah.

Keith: — but they don’t guarantee it because it’s such a complicated process reading server IPs and all the backend stuff that it doesn’t always work. So, my recommendation, along with your recommendation for not trying to automatically send blog posts is don’t overcomplicate it. Just go simple. Just send it whenever it works for you and worry about the day of the week or the day of the month that you’re sending it. Be consistent about that.

Bryan: So I sent out my e-mail and now people are replying. What’s — do I reply to them all?

Keith: Well, that’s up to you, yeah. I mean, that’s up to you as a writer and certainly how you wanna interact with your readers and how you want it to affect your workload. I mean, I would imagine someone like Dan Pink, who we talked about, is overwhelmed with e-mail responses and doesn’t have the time to go into them all.

Bryan: He’s surprisingly responsive for somebody —

Keith: Is he really?

Bryan: He is, yeah.

Keith: That’s impressive.

Bryan: Yeah, I think he uses a form to automate it but he does get back.

Keith: Yeah, well, I like him even more. I always get back to someone who writes me about something but, then, again, I’m maybe getting, you know, one a week so there’s a big difference there. I think it comes down to what you, you know, it’s important to remember that this is for you, the writer. It’s important to think about what you wanna get out of this newsletter, right? Do you want it to be a channel of communication between you and your readers or do you want it to just be mostly informational and to drive readers to certain resources that you have or things that you’re promoting? There’s no shame in either.

Bryan: So when I’m reviewing the statistics at the end of a campaign, what should I be looking for in terms of open rates, click rates, and unsubscribes?

Keith: That’s it, clicks, opens, and unsubscribes, right? I wouldn’t worry a whole lot about — open seems to be the real challenge.

Bryan: Yeah.

Keith: Getting people to open the e-mail and that’s where you play with your subject line and —

Bryan: Do you have any statistics that your clients see that you could share about open rates? 

Keith: Sure, sure. I mean, gosh, if you’re getting an open rate of 20 percent or higher, that’s not bad. That’s not bad at all. If you’re getting an open rate of 50 percent or more, my gosh, keep doing what you’re doing, right? It’s unheard of. Generally, I think a lot of open rates are between 10 and 20 percent. 

The real statistic to watch is your unsubscribes. If all of a sudden you see a spike in unsubscribes, well, you’ve done something wrong. You’ve made a mistake and it’s time to assess what that mistake was and what you need to readjust. But that rarely happens. In my experience, a company or an individual has to put something truly offensive in an e-mail to get people to unsubscribe, or go wildly off topic for more than one or two issues, right? And then people think you might have shifted and you’re not delivering on the promise you made earlier on the mailing list, but, you know, I’d worry about unsubscribes and I’d really focus on getting people to open the thing.

Bryan: Yeah. What I’ve noticed is open rates, click rates tend to be pretty consistent but if I’m launching a course, generally, because the frequency of e-mails increases during the campaign, unsubscribe rates do go up a little bit towards the end.

Keith: Yeah, and that’s natural. It’s not to be — it’s not unexpected and, you know, to that point, I would say don’t be offended by unsubscribes.

Bryan: Yeah.

Keith: People’s wants and needs change, their lives change. It’s fine. Your job is to keep people reading and get more people signing up.

Bryan: Also, you don’t want people who aren’t getting value from your list —

Keith: Yeah, absolutely.

Bryan: — because it’s a waste of your time as well as the list owner.

Keith: Right. I often tell clients I’d rather have 100 people on the e-mail list who are deeply engaged than 1,000 who don’t care. Well, you’re wasting time sending e-mail to people who don’t care.

Bryan: So, the next step after setting up an e-mail list, sending out a series of campaigns, and reviewing all the stats is probably setting up some sort of autoresponder series. Do you have any tips on autoresponders?

Keith: Well, yeah, test them. Things are gonna go wrong with anything. Autoresponders are the thing that will go wrong so you wanna make sure your sequence is set up properly and that’s — any service you use will have a guide to that but I find it helpful to draw it out on a piece of paper or a dry erase board, just draw out the sequence of events that happen and the timing of the autoresponder. So, if I sign up for your free PDF on writing, what happens next?
When do I get the next e-mail? What does that next e-mail say? If I click on the link in that e-mail, or I don’t, what does the third e-mail — when does the third e-mail come to me? What does that third e-mail say? And on and on and on. All of these, as you know, in your autoresponder sequence are written and geared toward getting me to act on something which is probably buy a course or buy a book. So, think of it that way. Think of it as a gentle series of reminders and how frequently you’re reminding people to upgrade or upsell and buy the thing that you’re selling.

Bryan: Yeah. Also, I found you tend to hear from people pretty quickly if there’s an issue with the autoresponder because it’s going out consistently every day or every week. 

Keith: Right, right.

Bryan: So, another advanced tactic, I guess, is segmenting your list by interest or by clicks. Do you have any advice for somebody who wants to segment or how they can get started?

Keith: Yeah, so, yeah, gosh, segmenting. Now we’re getting deep in the weeds here, in the nerdy stuff. I would say, first of all, if you’re gonna segment anything, and to people who’ve never done this before, it’s just simply dividing up your e-mail list, your audience into groups. You’re segmenting them into groups based on their actions or their interests. 

So, for example, if I have people in North America who are clicking more on one link and people in Europe who are clicking more on a different link, I’m gonna wanna have two different audiences to get two different e-mail lists, right? With different links in them. The first thing I’d segment is your unsubscribe — or your non-active people, your people who aren’t clicking or aren’t opening and aren’t clicking.

Bryan: Yeah.

Keith: You know, get rid of those people who never open the e-mail. If you sent 10 issues out or 15 and some people have never opened them, get them off your list, right? And the reason you want that is because, at some point, if you’re building your list, you’re gonna hit the limit and you’re gonna start paying for the service more. Why pay to send e-mail to people who don’t wanna hear from you? And the second is, you know, it really affects your success rates. You want your percentages to be really good and if I’ve got a list of 100 people and 20 of them have never opened the e-mail, get them off the list, you know? Have an audience that you can consistently count on responding.

Bryan: Yeah, I suppose it would affect your deliverability rates as well.

Keith: Yeah, there’s a lot of nerdery behind the scenes and stuff, you know? Relationships with e-mail providers and ISPs about deliverability rates and that kind of thing. I don’t know that it would affect that but it’s definitely, at least for the ego, it’s good to get rid of the people who don’t pay attention, who don’t open it. It’s great to open your statistics and your analytics and see those open percentages go up.

Bryan: Yeah. Well, that’s hard to cull your e-mail list. I’ve done it a few times and you think you have a large list and then you cull the unsubscribes and it cuts it down by 30 or 40 percent and —

Keith: It’s painful. It can be very painful —

Bryan: It is painful.

Keith: Yeah.

Bryan: So, Keith, where can people find Easy E-Mail Marketing or learn more about you and your work?

Keith: Yeah, you can just go to and that’ll get you in my personal website and you can read it for free online, you can download the PDF for free, or you can click a link to Amazon, Kindle, or Apple books.

Bryan: Thank you, Keith. It’s very nice to talk to you today.

Keith: It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.

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