What is email marketing and why should YOU do it? In survey after survey among digital media agencies, advertisers, and publishers email marketing always comes out on top in terms of return on investment. For every dollar people invest in email marketing, this particular form of advertising produces the best results. We’re talking increased chances of profitability.

In fact, email marketing is so powerful that its conversion rate on an average basis is much higher than average search engine conversions. This is a big deal because search engine traffic is one of the most prized forms of online traffic. It’s easy to see why people are excited about search engine traffic because these ads or listings would only show up when people enter key phrases related to those ads or listings.

Imagine people being shown your ad precisely at the point in time where their interest in whatever product or service you’re promoting is at its highest. Imagine how powerful that is and guess what, email marketing blows that out of the water. In fact, according to marketing surveys and hard analytical data, search conversion results don’t even come close to email marketing. That’s how powerful email marketing is.

What is the secret to email marketing’s high conversions? Very simple, it’s all about relationships. When people joined your mailing list, they’re looking to engage in a long-term two-way conversation with you. They’re looking to receive targeted information. They’re also looking to be invited into a two-way conversation where they can influence the materials you’re sending to them.

This is a relationship and relationships are built on trust. Since you already have a level of trust with your list members, it doesn’t take all that much effort to convert them with your offers. If the offers are highly relevant and closely related to the information that they signed up to your list for, the chances of their converting is quite high. It all boils down to you knowing what you’re doing.

I’m not saying in any way, shape or form that email marketing is some sort of magic online promotions bullet. I’m not saying at all that you only need to put up an email list and just send out junk updates and you will make money. No, you have to know what you’re doing. You have to send highly targeted emails. You have to word your emails properly. You have to include the right content and it will work. As involved this may seem, this conversion optimization process for email actually takes less time, effort and energy than the conversion rate optimization for search traffic.

Two different ways to make money off email marketing

Now that you’re excited about email marketing, keep in mind that there are two ways to make money off email marketing. First, you can build your own list. Personally, I prefer this. Why? I have a lot more control over the process. I know which traffic sources I’m going to be advertising my list to. I know the creative materials and ads that I would use to get people to pay attention to my list’s squeeze page.

Once you build your own list, you can then send updates to your list members that are tightly related to the subject matter of the list. You made all sorts of promises for people to sign up to your list. You made all sorts of representations. As long as the updates are closely related to that initial messaging, you increase the likelihood of turning list members into paying customers.

The second way you can make money off email marketing is to simply advertise on other people’s lists. That’s right, you don’t have your own list, but you just use other people’s targeted lists promoting your own links. When people click on these links and buy something or do an action like entering an email or zip code, you make money. Just like with your own list, the effectiveness of this method called solo ads depends on how closely related your ads are to the theme of the lists you’re advertising on. Don’t expect much conversions when you advertise baby shoes to a mailing list made up primarily of teenage comic book fans.

How to build a list quickly

If you’re thinking of building your own list, listen up. There are always two ways to do things. You can do things the easy way or you can do things the hard way. Here are the steps you need to follow to do things the easy way.

Advertise a freebie or sample in exchange for email addresses

This is tried and proven technique. You advertise a book or a cheat sheet or a short report in exchange for people’s email addresses. Why do this? Your visitors segregate themselves based on their interests. You know they’re interested in the topic of the book or report. This can be your entry way to sending them offers that are related to that topic.

A variation of this approach is to recruit people to a mailing list by offering to give them a multi-day tutorial. This is called an autoresponder series. You can program your email list service to send out emails automatically on a program basis and each of these emails would have links that would have affiliate links or links to your own products. When your list members take action on those links, you can make money.

Send informative ads with calls to action for tutorials

It’s important to send ads that people can take action on. The best way to do this is through tutorials as I have mentioned above. Another approach would be to send out specialized email that teaches people how to do certain things but highlights an option that they have to pay for. If you’re sending this type of material to a list that’s targeted enough, you can get conversions.

Create a buyers’ list

This is the clincher. I’m happy to report that most people who try their hand at building a list can build a list. It doesn’t take a genius to do it. The problem is a lot of those list members are not going to put dollars in your pocket. That’s just the cold hard reality.

You have to do something else with your list. You have to send out a low-cost report like a $1 report regarding a particular topic. Once people sign up to buy that report, they have to sign up for another list as part of the sales process. Now, this is your goldmine. This is your buyers’ list. You can then, create a more expensive report based on the $1 “tester” you sold. You tested them based on their product interest. The people that ended up on your buyers’ list are tested buyers.

You then send an ad for the more expensive book or report to your buyers’ list. This is how you convert your list. Simply sending out updates with affiliate links or promotional links is not going to cut it. Not by a long shot.

How to make money with your own list

If you have your own list, instead of promoting via solo ads, here are some ways you can make money.

Send affiliate offers

What I like about this particular approach is that it’s quick and easy to set up. You only need to sign up for an affiliate program and look for affiliate offers. Get the affiliate link, create an ad, send it to your email list, and hope that somebody would click on that link and make you money.

The disadvantage to affiliate offers is you’re really not in control. You’re not in control of the sales page your traffic is going to. What if that sales page is designed improperly? What if that sales page says the wrong things? These and other factors can have a very negative impact on how well that page converts.

Another drawback to promoting affiliate products on your mailing list is product quality. You have no say or power over the quality of the product because you’re not involved in the product creation process. This can be a serious problem because if the product is bad enough, people would ask for a refund. This, of course, can have a negative effect on your income.

Send coaching offers

This produces the highest profit. You are selling your personal expertise. You’re going to be working with people on a one-to-one basis. I’ve seen experts in online marketing charge upwards of $150 to $250 for coaching. The downside to this is you need to filter your list properly because the conversion rate might be quite low.

The good news is the dollar value is so high that the overall value per conversion makes this a very attractive alternative. Sure, out of a list of 10,000 members, maybe you would be able to only convert 5 people a month. However, if the total dollar value of those coaching sessions amounts to $3,000 a head, you have yourself a $15,000 mailing list month after month. Not too shabby.

The big downside to coaching is you’re selling your personal time. Sure, you’re making hundreds of dollars an hour but you’re still selling your time. Wouldn’t it be nice to spend your time once and turn into a form you can sell many times over? If you think this is a good idea, read the item below.

Send your own product offer

The great thing about having your own digital product is you work once and you sell that item many times over. The more you sell it, the more profit you make. You only worked once so if you sell it repeatedly, your profits keep going up. The best part is you can continue to make new products long into the future and even older products still continue to generate revenue.

This is probably the highest-profit way to make money off your list. The big downside to this is you have to know which types of products to create. This is not as easy as you think. You have to invest quite a bit of time, effort and energy in consumer intelligence.

Seriously pay attention to the specific needs of your list members. You might need to run special offers. You might need to run surveys and pay attention to how list members navigate your blog or website. By paying attention to these data, you can then increase the likelihood that you would come up with a product that people would need not just now, but long into the future.

You can make quite a bit of money with email marketing. You just need to have the right strategy. Pay attention to the discussion above so you can be well on your way to a truly profitable email marketing career.