Mailing lists are like any other business process - you need the right tools to build them and maintain them. Make sure you have the following:
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or some kind of contacts database that will let you report on and filter your data. Use this tool to maintain your mailing list and add new students as they attend your courses.
- Email Service Provider (ESP) that will handle the sending, help you craft beautiful emails with themes and other email design capabilities, and track opens and clicks once the email is sent. Note that Email Service Providers will also help keep you compliant with unsubscribe requirements and prevent you from accidentally emailing customers who have asked to be removed from your list.
Clearly Define Your List's Purpose
Every mailing list needs a reason for existing. It's how you'll attract new members, retain existing subscribers, and it'll drive the content you share with the list. This is a very important step, and even if the ultimate reason for your list is to act as a sales tool, there are huge benefits to focusing your list on something other than just selling. With rare exceptions (daily deal lists for example) most people don't want to sign up just to be constantly sold. Training providers can often provide huge ongoing value from their mailing lists by delivering commentary, news, and other information related to the courses they offer. When done right, a mailing list with a purpose can add value to your course offerings and differentiate you from the competition!
Know Your Audience
Now that your mailing list has a purpose, make sure you understand who you're communicating to. For training providers communicating around their course offerings, your audience will often be the same type of people that walk through your door every day and attend your classes. It's important to not lose sight of this when crafting your emails - make sure you're hitting topics that are relevant and use appropriate design, language, and references when communicating. If your classroom tone is informal, your emails should be as well. If you pride yourself on a highly professional, buttoned down environment, your emails should ooze professionalism in their design and wording.
This is the most important part of running a great mailing list - make sure you're providing value to your audience! Don't make your content an afterthought supporting your sales message, make sure that what you're saying is valuable irrespective of any kind of product or service you happen to provide. People know when you're only going through the motions or are just looking to make a sale.
Here are some great ways training providers can brainstorm valuable content:
- Write down the top 15 questions prospective students have when considering your courses. The answers and context around these questions will be extremely valuable to others.
- Think about the top 5 challenges the industry you provide training for faces. Now research them and share the challenges and some solutions. You may even find out a great new course offering lurking there!
- Consider the top 5 objections prospective students may have to entering your industry, signing up for a course, or furthering their education.
Just by running through these three brainstorming exercises, you'll come up with 25 topics to share with your newsletter. At one mailing a week, that's half a year's content! Bolster these topics with other snippets here are there and you'll be providing high value content in no time.
Make sure that you monitor each campaign's effectiveness on opens and clicks to monitor how valuable your members are finding your list. Adjust your topics and see how your members respond. The tools we mentioned above will take care of this for you.
Remember - the more value you provide, the more your members will engage with your mailing, and the better your list will perform from a sales perspective.
Make it Easy to Sign Up
It should be super simple to signup for your mailing list, and you should give ample opportunity at every turn. We'd recommend including a link to your mailing list signup within your email signature, feature it prominently on your website, and regularly mention it via social media outlets like Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. Signing up should just require an email address for starters, and remember to make it easy to unsubscribe too in the event your members want to halt your mailings.
A Mailing List that Performs
Building a well performing mailing list isn't that hard, it just takes attention to detail and a commitment to providing great value to your audience. By following a "value first" strategy to engaging your list members, your conversion rates will ultimately be higher and provide lasting value for you and your customers. Now get out there and build your lists!