Email Marketing Tips and Best Practices

Email Marketing Tips and Best Practices

Owning a small business means you are in charge of everything but the kitchen sink, Well, you probably are in charge of that too! But, what I am referring to is that you are not only the CEO, CFO, and COO, you are also the Marketing Manager. You have the all-important job of promoting your business, marketing its services as well as building relationships with those who will potentially become your clients or customers.

Marketing has become more exciting and maybe even a little complex since we have entered the digital realm. The Digital Age means that we can now reach infinitely large segments of people we would’ve never been able to reach before. Target market identification is a lot easier than it was in the past along with all the digital capabilities we have at our disposal. To our advantage as well, digital marketing sometimes comes at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing. Both have their merits and can be used in conjunction with each other to maximize your Return On Investment (ROI). See this Infographic: Direct Mail vs Email to learn more.

Email Marketing Best Practices

Digital Marketing encompasses so many different types of online marketing such as Social Media Marketing, Affiliate Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, and Email Marketing to name a few. Oftentimes many forms of marketing are intertwined and used together to really maximize a brand’s reach and visibility. But, because Email Marketing has such a huge impact on many businesses’ marketing practices, it is important to be aware of as well as learn the ins and outs of Email Marketing along with best practices.

Having worked many years in the email marketing arena, albeit, as a front-end developer, I have loved everything about email since it came into existence! Even when it came to me on a clunky, monochrome computer screen. I was drawn to how it let us communicate with one another in a split second. Mesmerized by how it could foster relationships from these micro communications. Eventually, I was intrigued by how pretty, enticing or convincing emails was and how much enjoyment I got reading the many juicy offers or little nudges to purchase (also known as Calls To Action, or CTA). Some might say I might be suffering from a rather severe case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) because I am the one who usually “click-through”.

Over my career, I have loved building each and every one of those email campaign messages for clients (despite its many challenges) and I’ve learned so much about Email Marketing best practices and picked up many tips along the way. I still love email marketing in my new life as a virtual support professional. But, I digress.

The importance of compliance

Over the years in this industry, I’ve learned how important and valuable email marketing is and why it continues to live on. It is in a business’s best interest to maintain customers’ trust and confidence in their business by not sending unsolicited emails. I’ve highlighted some of the laws that regulate the influx of spam but always be sure to follow the Anti-Spam Laws From Around the World.

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)

Canada has some of the strictest spam laws in the world. Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation or, CASL, came into full effect on July 1, 2017, yet many businesses are still unaware of the anti-spam laws. It is our responsibility to ensure we understand and implement this fully. Laws always seem daunting but visit Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation website for everything you need to know to comply. Take the spam quiz and see how much you really know. Many compliance rules

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Most recently, Europe has taken a harsher stance on unsolicited electronic communications as well. The European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect May 25, 2018, and can seem complex as well but following the guidelines as best you can is your best course of action. After all, if you are an online business, your clients can come from anywhere in the world, and following the rules pertaining to those countries or territories will be in your best interest. Ensure that your communications such as your email newsletters are in compliance with the EU’s GDPR legislation. There are a ton of resources that can help you through this process such as Hubspot’s guide: but take a look at the directive for specific details of the key issues:

The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act

For the United States, The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act of 2003 is the United States’ first national standard for the sending of commercial e-mail. It was signed into law on December 16, 2003, and The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces its provisions. You can read more about this in the FTC’s article CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business that states: “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email that promotes content on commercial websites. It also outlines CAN-SPAM’s main requirements and that following this directive isn’t complicated.

Compliance in Email Marketing

The point is that you should follow the laws of your country or audience. This will ensure you are in compliance with the regulations and avoid future problems when sending our electronic commercial messages or email. Running a business is difficult at the best of times. But, it is also where we learn the most about processes, procedures, tools, and regulations. Compliance with email communication is important in today’s business world because so many take advantage of this incredible marketing tool. To be sure you are reaching your ideal customers and not spamming or turning off those future customers, at least know the basics. Ultimately, this will hurt your business’ reputation. You do not want to end up blacklisted for non-compliance or face heavy penalties.

Tips and Best Practices

The best approach is to allow your subscribers to opt-in to your mailing list. This is known as permission-based marketing. By taking these steps, you know that your subscribers want to be in touch and they want to hear from you. Sending emails to anyone and everyone means that you are likely not reaching your intended audience. Here are some tips and best practices to get you on your way:

Ask your subscribers to opt-in to your mailing list.

Even better, use the double-opt-in method. Double opt-in means that they have provided their emails to you to subscribe to your list and they will confirm this, once again, by clicking on a link you send them to that email and confirm they’ve opted in. This is a security that each recipient has given express permission to send them emails. The proof is documented in your email subscriber list in your database.

Don’t assume you have permission.

In recent months, I’ve been added to many a mailing list just because I came into contact with or shared my email address with someone at a networking event. Handing out your business card does not give you permission to send me an email. Keep in mind that your customers (or your colleagues and acquaintances you met at a trade show, etc) have not provided permission to send promotional emails to them. Always get their permission first.

Never use purchased or rented lists.

Gone are the days when you would purchase your mailing lists. I was asked by a potential client a couple of years ago, how they could do this and it gave me pause to think that business owners still think that this is okay. While things have changed drastically in email marketing, many still don’t know or understand the best practices.

Keep your promise.

People sign up to your mailing list knowing what they signed up for. If you’ve asked subscribers to sign up for your newsletters be sure to do only that. Unless you have specified that you will occasionally send out another promotional email message, be true to your promise. If you want to send out different content other than what was specified, consider setting up segments or groups in your list. Subscribers can then choose what content they want to receive from you.

How do you get permission from subscribers?

Consider adding a signup form to your website or Facebook page. Giving customers the option to sign up for your newsletter or adding them to your list when they make a purchase from your online store are a few ways you can get permission. Add a “Subscribe” link to your website and share the links to your social media platforms. By asking permission this means you are well on your way to getting the subscribers you really want.

Those that care about your business and what you have to offer will gladly offer their email in exchange for the valuable information you will provide. They will be more interested in how you can help them when asked politely. When people willingly give you their email addresses, they are giving you permission to communicate with them. They actually want to hear from you. This is the approach all businesses should take. The value and returns you get from this best practice are so much more advantageous.

Starting a mailing list might sound daunting If you are just starting out but there are many platforms out there that are suitable for small businesses. Even better, some allow you to use them for free. I highly recommend Mailchimp if you are starting out. It is easy to use and learn and offers you enough tools to start your email marketing. On May 13, 2019, Mailchimp announced big changes to their all-in-one Marketing Platform. The recent changes to their business model mean you don’t get as many bells and whistles for free. Mailchimp still offers a great tool and platform to get you started on your Email Marketing.

The bottom line

The point is to understand that sending unsolicited electronic messages en masse you come into contact with is no longer acceptable. It’s just not cool. Play nice and don’t spam. Remember, Spam negatively impacts the deliverability rates of your emails so always follow the guidelines. Get permission and start building a great relationship with your customers or subscribers. You will be glad that you did.

Quick Links and Information

Here are more links and information if you would like to learn more about email marketing best practices. These sites will provide a good basis to get your off on the right foot.

If you would like assistance on how to implement email marketing best practices, please do not hesitate to let us know. We can help.

5 Frequently Asked Questions about Virtual Assistants

5 Frequently Asked Questions about Virtual Assistants

While the Virtual Assistant (VA) industry has been growing for many years, the onset of social media and our growing virtual world has made working with a VA ever so prevalent. Virtual Assistants have been around for decades but there are still many questions surrounding this profession. If you are new to the VA world, here are 5 frequently asked questions that might help. Those well-versed with VAs can use these same questions as tips to ask your future VA when considering one and before making a decision to work together.

1. What exactly does a Virtual Assistant (VA) do?

Most virtual assistants are contract or freelance workers who do their jobs from home or virtually. VAs typically focus on administrative tasks that are similar to those of an executive assistant or secretary; however, this is changing rapidly. This is a growth industry with many talented and skilled individuals. They offer a myriad of skills and expertise in many areas such as social media management, web design and development, and email marketing, to name a few. You might also try searching for Virtual Support Professional or Online Business Manager as well and you will see the many virtual services are offered to busy entrepreneurs and small business owners.

You can find a VA anywhere in the world. As with everything, before making a decision to hire a VA do your research. The saying “You get what you pay for” holds true here too. Be mindful of what you are asking your VA to do as well. Consider what you would expect to be paid for that same work given your expertise and knowledge. Pay your VA the same courtesy.

Here are 10 Things to Outsource to a Virtual Assistant to give you a better idea of some of the tasks or projects VAs manage but realize though that in today’s world VAs are skilled in many areas such as Digital Marketing, Coaching Support, setting up Online Events, WordPress Development and much more. You just have to search and I’m positive there is a VA that can help you.

2. How much does it cost me to work with a VA?

Like many business-related tasks, we like to think that hiring a VA is an investment in your time. Your time is as valuable as ours and the value you receive from working with a VA is what should guide you. Based on your time and expertise, how much are you willing to commit to learning and completing a task? Or rather, will the investment in a VA be more cost-effective than taking the task on yourself?

Rates for VAs vary greatly and this is also affected by the tasks required. You can expect to see rates starting at $25-30/hour for administrative tasks but keep in mind that tasks such as Data Entry, creating a mail merge in Word or, compiling PowerPoint presentations require a different skill set or expertise in various software. VAs that specializes in Web Design or Development may command $50/hour or more depending on what your project needs are.

Many VAs will offer Retainers (prepaying for time) or Packages depending on your needs. Administrative Generalists often have Retainers with varying number of hours to purchase in advance to secure your time and attention while some specialized tasks such as Social Media Management will often be a fixed charge per month depending on the number of platforms managed.

At Digital Marketing by Design, we will create a package that suits your business needs and budget because we understand that every client and business is unique. You can also read more about our Plans and Policies to gain a better understanding of how we operate.

3. How do I pay my VA?

For international clients, you most likely will be charged in U.S. dollars or your local currency depending on the service provider. Some find it easier to accept a single currency for all clients while others prefer their local currency for ease of accounting. But, that is not to say you can’t pay in your own currency if your VA doesn’t mind. Many VAs use PayPal, Square, or any other third-party payment system but they also do appreciate online money transfers to offset the high fees that come with credit card payments and online accounting systems like Wave or Quickbooks.

4. Will different time zones enable us to work together?

We are based in Eastern Canada and work in Eastern Standard Time (EST). As a client, you don’t need to share the same time zone as us. If the time differences do not affect your business operations, we can work together. Time differences could also be an advantage when you consider assigning a task at the end of your day and having the task completed before your business reopens. Sometimes, time zone differences can be challenging such as taking care of customer support inquiries within your regular business hours. But, it’s nothing that two VAs from two different time zones can’t fix!!

We typically communicate with each other via email or video chat at a mutually convenient time. Scheduled weekly phone calls can also be a part of your workflow so that you are always up-to-date on your tasks! Discuss that with your VA when you are working on your terms and conditions or agreement. Working with a VA means there is plenty of flexibility to suit everyone’s needs.

5. How can I ensure that I will get what I pay for?

The first thing to remember is that Virtual Assistants are first and foremost, business owners. Their product or service is their expertise. VAs don’t have CVs or resumes because they are no longer employees. It is best to set up a phone call or discovery session when approaching a VA. You can assess their skills and your needs in a phone call or video chat. Many VAs offer a free consultation or discovery call. A good fit is an all-too-important criterion when building a partnership with common goals and aspirations to meet those goals.

Likely, your VA will ask you to sign an agreement of some sort such as a Project Service Agreement or a Retainer Agreement. This is merely a formal agreement outlining what both parties have agreed to before commencing with the collaboration. It is to protect both parties in terms of payment and payment for work completed. It is a sign of trust that both parties will adhere to. If either party is not conforming to this agreement, then you need to give some serious consideration to this partnership.

Also, don’t shy away when your VA asks you to sign a Confidentiality or Nondisclosure Agreement. Depending on the nature of your client’s business, they may request that the VA sign one! In reality, protecting privacy and confidentiality is not to be taken lightly in our new online world. With all the content on the internet, we need to ensure that some stay under wraps. After all, your clients are your business and your business cannot succeed without the trust and confidence your client’s place in you.

How do I find a Virtual Assistant or VA?

Well, this is the 6th FAQ … Virtual Assistants can be found very easily through places like Upwork or directories and the like but be discerning about the skills you require and the person you hire to take it on! There are thousands of options and not all of them will meet or fit your needs. If you are still unsure about whether you would like to work with a VA, read more about the advantages and Benefits of Working With a Virtual Support Professional.

Contact Us today to discover more about our services and how we can assist you in meeting your business needs. Or, if this post has not answered your frequently asked questions, please feel free to message us with your question and we’d be happy to answer it.

How we can help you adapt and thrive?

The Benefits of Working With a Virtual Support Professional

The Benefits of Working With a Virtual Support Professional

In today’s virtual marketplace you can find goods and services in just about anything you are looking for. Virtual Assistants (or VAs) are no different. VAs provide a valuable service and are skilled in more than just administration. While many VAs may start off as Generalists, many branch out into services where they are most skilled. Their strengths lead them where their strengths lie.

Conduct a quick search online and you’ll likely find a VA that can help you get your project (or task) off the ground. Some VAs will take on project-based work while others may offer ongoing support for your business. Finding a VA is very much like finding an employee. Conduct a search, create a shortlist, conduct a phone and/or video interview and make an informed decision.

How are VAs different from an employee?

Many VAs do not have a resume or CV. Consider they are professionals running their own business just like you, only they are in the business of supporting YOU. Find out as much as you can about the VA you would like to work with. Visit their website or network with them online. Better yet have a conversation and discover more about this potential candidate as you would when hiring an employee.

The other difference when searching for a VA is that most clients and VAs never meet. This is simply because VAs work remotely or virtually. You could very well be working with a client or VA that is in a completely different time zone; they could essentially be located halfway around the world!

Tasked-based Virtual Assistants

  1. Don’t assume all Virtual Assistants only take care of administrative tasks. Speak to one today and you’ll be amazed at how much support they can provide in many areas of your business from funnel-building to email marketing.
  2. Client care is another area where Virtual Assistants can be advantageous. If you need 24-7 client care support, a VA from a different time zone can help you increase your availability to your clients or extend your client care hours.
  3. If your email inbox and calendar management are taking too much of your precious time, a skilled Virtual Assistant can manage this for you. They are familiar with the applications associated with these tasks such as G Suite or Google Apps, and Calendly, If you need round-the-clock support you can enlist the help of multiple Virtual Assistants to cover your needs.

Benefit #1 of working with a VA: Financial Benefits

Virtual Assistants are like an extra pair of virtual hands. They are there when you need them. They can accelerate your business by providing the support you need to sustain your growth at a critical time. Consider also the financial benefits without hiring a full-time employee. These additional costs can add up and can range from providing medical benefits to office furniture and equipment. What about all your technology need from hardware (computer or laptop) to software (Adobe Creative Cloud or other paid software)?

  1. Outsourcing your administrative tasks (those tasks that you really loathe) can be the perfect money-saving solution for your business. How much time and energy are you expending taking care of admin tasks? Your time can be better spent taking care of more important tasks like running your business.
  2. Depending on your budget and needs, virtual assistance may be the perfect answer. Your needs may vary at different times. If you are a business or entrepreneur in startup mode your budget may be small. Pick and choose the tasks you wish to delegate. Then, when you are ready to scale up, outsource some more. Some VAs will take on project work while others prefer to provide ongoing support and build long-term relationships with their clients. Find the resource that fits your needs. Virtual Assistants can be a money-saving strategy for your business.
  3. Rates for a VA will vary greatly depending on experience and expertise. As with any product and service, shop around and do your research and you will find a VA that is perfect for you and your business goals. Remember the value each VA brings to your business and consider how that can accelerate your own growth.

Benefit #2 of working with a VA: Health benefits

Is your work-volume increasing but not your time? A Virtual Assistant will not only help you manage your workload properly but also get the jobs done. They can be good for your health! The cost savings of hiring a Virtual Assistant can be invaluable. When you consider not only the time but also the effort, you have to put in for specific tasks, a VA can do them just a well and quickly.

  1. You really don’t have to struggle with the tasks you don’t enjoy doing. Increase your productivity when you delegate tasks to a Virtual Assistant. They can effectively manage many tasks from Research and Data Entry to Website Management and Design for you. Even Travel Planning can take up a huge amount of time. Relieve your workload if you can afford it. It will help you in the long run.
  2. As a business owner and entrepreneur, you really have to be the Jack (or Jill)-of-All-Trades. You need to take care of most, if not all, the tasks that come with running your own business. There is the Accounting, Website Management, and Social Media, Content Writing, or Sales and Marketing. The list is endless. No-one is good at everything so you may want to pick and choose what you would like to take on and outsource the rest. Virtual Assistants can decrease your work-related stress by taking tasks off your plate. Find the tasks that cost you the most time and money and outsource that to a competent VA. I can assure you it will save you time and money in the end.

Benefit #3 of working with a VA: Experience and Expertise

Are having difficulty finding good help in your area? Did you know you have access to the best talent pool when you hire a Virtual Assistant? Virtual Assistants work remotely from all parts of the world so the world really is your oyster! VAs have specialized skills in many areas.

VA Generalists can handle many day-to-day tasks that come with running a business from Bookkeeping to Email and Calendar Management. VA Specialists, on the other hand, work on very specific tasks that you may not have the skills or knowledge to take on. Think Accounting – it may be easy when you are just starting out but can get quite complicated when you start to ramp up your business. What about Website Development or Social Media Management? Some tasks look simple enough but are invariably tricky and downright confusing to manage!

  1. Often Virtual Assistants have worked in the corporate world in administrative roles prior to starting their own VA business. Their kills are transferable to their new role. They work as efficiently for you as they would working for an employer.
  2. Some tasks are just were not made for everyone. Data entry or transcription, for instance, can be an arduous task and requires strong detail-orientation. Not everyone has it or the inclination to take this on. Many VAs are highly skilled to take on a task like this with accuracy and efficiency.
  3. Working with a VA who has a specialized skill or a focused niche can be extremely beneficial. Let’s look at a VA who is familiar with working with authors and writers. They will be able to provide greater support to authors than a VA Generalist. A Generalist may not know the ins and outs of what an author needs to get their work published. The same goes for speakers and coaches. Their needs may be quite specific and unique to their business as well. A specialist can provide direction and support in this area with little training. We are all unique just as a VA’s skill set is unique.
  4. As a business owner, you may be a master at selling yourself. But, can you do the same on paper or online? You can find many Virtual Assistants who are word savvy and are writers themselves. They can articulate what you need to say in just the right way and in less time. Or, maybe you need to sell yourself with an elegant yet simple WordPress website. It is always easier said than done. Work with a VA who knows the subject matter or task well. You will be well on your way to checking that item off your To-Do list!

Here are 12 great reasons to work with a VA or Virtual Support Professional but there are so many more. Knowing your business inside and out may give you pause to hire a Virtual Assistant. But like a hired employee, tasks may require training for the VA as well. They can just as easily learn the ropes quickly, only virtually! There are so many benefits to working with a VA. Ultimately, you will need to find the solution that works best for you and your business.

As our online world becomes increasingly vast, the Internet is also bringing us all a little closer together by way of Social Media or Online Networking. As we learn to engage online and virtually, we are also reaping the opportunity of being able to collaborate with millions of people across the globe! How awesome is that?! Regardless of where we are or how we came to be connected, it is an interesting time for all and like everything that is new, we adapt and thrive!

How we can help you adapt and thrive? Contact Us today to discover more about our services and how we can assist you in meeting your business needs.