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Email Marketing Tips to Grow Your Design Agency

August 23rd

Andy

Offsprout is the only WordPress website builder for freelancers and agencies.

We have already shared pretty extensively on different ways to grow your web design agency. There’s blogging, of course. And webinars. And finding a niche. And having a good website. And getting testimonials. And paid search.

Today, though, I’d like to dive into one of the marketing channels with the lowest client acquisition cost. It’s email marketing for web design agencies.

Here’s how it works.

You take the web traffic that you are getting. You get them to subscribe to your blog. This is either due to a subscription box, or because they download a free piece of content on your site via a lead capture form. Then, you send them emails targeted at them based on what actions they have taken before and after subscribing to your list. Lastly, you get them to reach out to hire your services.

Sounds simple at first, right? But, there’s a lot that goes into a successful email marketing campaign for a web design agency. Let’s break it down.

Goals for Email Marketing

Before you even start thinking the sexier stuff like email content and sequences and lead captures, you need to start with the very basic premise – what is your goal?

Simply, your goal is, “I want to get my email subscribers to hire my agency.”

Write this down. Keep it in mind. Make all of your decisions regarding your email marketing thinking about this goal.

Every action you take should have this goal in mind, either in the short-term or long-term. You want people to hire your agency, sure, but you cannot make every single email a direct call to action to hire your agency. That would be pretty heavy-handed. Not every subscriber on your list is going to be ready to hire you right away. They may need some nurturing and time. And that is why you will need a more complex funnel, with different emails sent over time designed to take them along their journey from being someone interested in what you have to say to someone who is committed to specifically hiring your agency.

The reason I want you to keep this goal in mind is because sometimes we can get carried away. Our content can veer off course. Over time your content might stray from your goals. And then you wind up spending a ton of time and effort creating something that is not helping you convert your subscribers to being web design clients.

Once you have your goal, and your goal is your mantra and all you can think about, it’s time to think about getting those subscribers.

How to Get Email Subscribers

So, you want to do email marketing. Great. One question: How are people going to get on your email list?

It’s the first step in the process, and it’s probably the one that will need the most work. Without subscribers, all your email marketing efforts are wasted.

It would be a shame to have crafted a great email promo but only have a few dozen subscribers on your list.

Most websites have a few different lead capture forms on their website. When I say “lead capture”, I am really just talking about any website form that connects people to get on your email list.

The best lead captures offer value to your audience. A “subscribe to our newsletter” box is great, but it does not provide so much value compared to other offers. A free guide that people can download, on the other hand, provides a ton of value.

With your lead captures, think about whether someone in your target audience would be willing to share their email address in exchange for their promised content? People tend to be cautious about handing out their email address to just anyone. They could be risking receiving spammy or overly-salesy emails from someone they don’t know. So, keep that in mind.

A few of the most common methods for lead capture are:

  • Newsletter subscription box: The simple “Subscribe to our newsletter” form on the website. In my experience, these perform the worst because there is not a ton of urgency or value from the subscriber’s perspective. Your email newsletter may be great content, but they do not know that.
  • Webinar: Sign people up for your webinar; get them on your email list. This piece of content does a great job to get interested people to sign up because it is time-sensitive and it offers tremendous value.
  • Downloadable guide: This is what brings all the boys to the yard. If you have a guide on your website for things that interest your target audience, they will get on-board.

The toughest part of lead capture is creating the great content that will get your audience to give you their email addresses.

One piece of advice to easily create downloadable guides: When you have enough blog content, combine a bunch of related posts into a single long-form guide. Make it a pretty PDF. And now you have an amazing ebook that people can download. And you get people on your email list. Win-win.

Aggressive Opt-In Forms

I want to take a second to discuss “aggressive” opt-in forms. These are things like the fly-overs, banners, “hero bars”, or pop-up forms that get “in your face”.

The general consensus is: they work very well.

You probably think a lead capture form that comes at you, begging for your email address, is annoying. It is. But, the data shows that they work.

Using tools like Opt-in Monster can dramatically increase your subscriber count.

Remember, these forms are not selling people on false promises. You are providing them valuable content. But, your opt-in forms are making sure that your audience knows about it.

You should rather be “heavy-handed” in your marketing with a ton of subscribers and potential clients than have barely any subscribers. Keep that in mind.

Email Marketing Software for Web Design Agencies

You may have the content, but what about the back-end?

What makes this all work?

How are you going to send emails to your audience?

Luckily, there are a ton of options out there for email marketing for web design agencies.

Virtually every email marketing app does the same core things. They:

  • Can create beautiful email templates
  • Turn your lead captures into email list subscribers
  • Schedule and send emails to your subscribers
  • Send automated email sequences you create for specific audiences

Most every email marketing app does each of these items and does them well.

Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Mailchimp – probably the most popular option out there; works well, is affordable
  • Active Campaign – has a ton of extra features like a CRM and visitor tracking

Really, I would just pick between these two. Mailchimp has all of the basics covered. They can send all your emails. They do a great job. The emails get where they’re sending. Their email creator tool is super easy to use. I have not had many issues with them.

Active Campaign is a bit of a step up.

We use Active Campaign at Offsprout and used it at our web design agency.

It can also manage your sales pipeline with its built-in CRM (an awesome feature).

Related: CRMs for your web design agency

It also can track your website visitors so you know which pages your subscribers are visiting (and send them to different email campaigns based on their actions). I don’t like their email creator as much as the one in Mailchimp, but I prefer Active Campaign because of its more robust features. Regardless of your choice, your email marketing software will need to integrate with the lead capture forms on your website. It’s not a big project, though. It should really just take a few minutes to set up. If you use a WordPress plugin like Gravity Forms, they have built-in integrations with all the major email marketing apps.

What Types of Emails to Send Your Subscribers

Now that your software is set up, you have lead captures, and are getting subscribers, what is next?

How are we going to turn those email subscribers into clients?

There are a few different types of emails I would recommend sending. There are:

  • Newsletters
  • Automation sequences
  • Email promotions

I will dive into each separately.

Newsletters

Newsletters are exactly what you think they are.

Newsletters are emails designed to inform your audience about things you are doing. Everything from “Here’s our latest blog post” to “Check out this great case study we just got”

A good newsletter provides value to your audience.

A newsletter for a web design agency can share a snippet of a new, relevant blog post and encourages subscribers to read it.

It provides content that interests your audience.

With newsletters, your content should not be purely self-promotional.

If you have a new case study every week, people will unsubscribe or never open your emails. So, be thoughtful about your newsletter content and having the right balance.

Automation Sequences

Automation sequences are ways to really further educate and nurture potential customers.

But, the automation sequences should also keep in mind that you will want to turn these subscribers into clients.

An effective way to build an automation sequence is to start with purely educational content (geared towards your design agency’s strengths), and then turn it into a pitch for your services.

Let’s run through an example sequence.

In a web design business, a good automation sequence could be a series of emails designed to impart in your subscriber the importance of a good website for their business so they can make more money.

For example:

“Everyone wants to make more money. A better website can help. Over these next 6 emails, we will break down how to build a website that converts for your business.

  • Email 1: Introduction
  • Emails 2-5: Educational content
  • Emails 6-7: Self-promotional case study
  • Emails 8-9: Introduce a promotional offer exclusively for this reader
  • Emails 10-12: Impose a deadline for the offer to create urgency to take you up on the offer

Now, let’s break the sequence down.

Your first email will let people know what is in store for them.

Diving right into educational content with no context is confusing.

Let them know why they are getting an email sequence (because you want to help them with X).

After that introduction, you can have a few emails that are very educational-focused. These emails can be repurposed blog articles about specific topics.

Then, don’t be afraid to get a bit self-promotional. After all, you want these subscribers to become clients.

So, tie in how your educational content relates to work you have done. This is important. Here is where you make the connection from education to promotion.

Then, your next emails could have a promo offer. Tie everything together – education, self-promotion, and now an offer that helps the subscriber execute on some ideas from the educational material.

Afterwards, it is important to impose a deadline or your subscribers will never sign up.

Have that deadline, and remind them of it, with a cut-off day.

This creates urgency, which is a powerful motivator.

For the logistics, how will this whole thing work?

Most every email marketing software has the ability to send automations.

You will:

  • Create your emails
  • Order them in sequence
  • Set them to send each X days apart from each other at a certain time
  • Set up your criteria for recipients (e.g. people who download a specific piece of content are automatically enrolled)

The hardest part will be coming up with the email content.

Setting up the logistics is not going to be too time-consuming.

You will eventually “set it and forget it”.

Over time, you will be able to easily and quickly set up your new email automation sequences. You can end up with your automations looking like a tree with different branches, customized to what actions people take. The more specific you get with your branches, the more targeted and personal the content can get.

Email Promotions

With newsletters, you keep your audience abreast of what you are doing and educate them.

With automation sequences you educate, nurture, and look to convert.

With promotional emails, you can have campaigns designed specifically to convert your subscribers.

An example of an email promotion could be “Free logo design with any new website,” or “$500 off your web design for the first 10 people who sign up.”

But, any good email promotion is not just one email.

An email promotion needs to be a series.

Chances are, your subscriber will not open your first email.

They probably will not be compelled by one email, either.

An email promotion needs to be a campaign with several emails.

An effective email promotion will be a sequence.

Here is what one could look like:

  1. Email promoting the idea of a fresh website
  2. Email about how mobile-responsive websites are a must
  3. Promo announcement – $100 off your new, mobile-responsive website
  4. Re-hash of promo email, but with more content like client testimonials
  5. Deadline: This offer ends in 1 week
  6. Deadline: This offer ends tomorrow
  7. Deadline: This offer ends at the end of the day today

See, this email sequence should tell a story.

Start with a pitch on why people should want your services. Then, as they are primed, pitch them. Then, to create urgency, give them a deadline and get them to sign up before it is too late.

You should be able to read each email in a row and there should be a clear theme and direction.

Remember: An email promotion should never be a one-off. An email promotion needs to be a campaign with anywhere from 6-12 emails.

Getting People to Open Your Emails

As you can see from this article, there is a lot that goes into an email marketing campaign.

But, if subscribers do not open your emails, you cannot engage with them.

Your biggest hurdle, after getting email subscribers, is going to be getting people to open your emails.

It’s all in the subject line.

Now, I cannot say that I have found “the formula” to a great subject line.

From my experience, every audience is a bit different.

But, I have a few tips that can help you craft better subject lines.

*Side note: it is important to note that every email client is different with displaying subject lines, so you will want to make sure that your subject lines are not too long.

Create Some Mystery

What’s in the box?

What’s in the box?

If you want people to open your email, make people curious.

An email heading like “Here’s how we got 1 billion subscribers…”

Something sexy like that.

If you have a “…” at the end of your subject line, that might make someone curious to see what you got.

Just make sure that the offer of what’s inside the email actually lives up to your hype.

Buzzfeed It

You know how there are tons of annoying “listicles”?

“17 ways to do X”

Yeah, those are incredibly irksome.

But, they exist because they work. They get tons of clicks.

A subject line done listicle style will pique your reader’s curiosity.

Off-beat

When at first you don’t succeed, get experimental.

Try something different.

Seriously.

Get creative.

Have a subject line without any capital letters.

Make it something extremely informal, like you personally know the reader.

Or, try something super formal.

Compare your open rates and see how it performs.

There is no one answer to the perfect email subject line, so try out different things.

A/B Testing

Since every audience is different, and you will not be an expert at crafting subject lines on your first attempt, A/B testing will be key.

A/B testing lets you send email variants to a smaller audience, and then your email software sends the “winner” email to the rest of your list.

So, you might have Subject A sent to 10% of your list, Subject B sent to 10% of your list, and then after an hour, your email software sends the remaining 80% of your list whichever subject performs better.

I cannot recommend this strongly enough.

A/B testing helps you craft better content for your audience and performs better.

Conclusion

Email marketing for web design agencies can be a powerful, low-cost way to get more clients for your business.

Make sure you use the right software. Start out simple with email newsletters. Over time, build up email nurturing sequences and promotions. 

And then you’re good to go!

Feel free to share below how email marketing has done for your design agency.

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