How to use email marketing effectively as a service-based solopreneur

Here are five things you can do to be more effective, as a service-based solopreneur.

Once you wrap your head around it and realise how transformative it can be for your business, you’ll know exactly what to do. I think you’re going to get a lot of value from these practical and helpful process steps that I’m sharing with you!

Most people think of email marketing as a ‘dead channel’ or one that isn’t right for them, whereas in fact, it’s more vibrant than ever; a channel that can be extremely lucrative when executed properly.

In this article, I’ll share 5 practical steps that'll help you see how you can fit email marketing into your business, starting today.

From creating your plan of action to breaking down into manageable chunks, these tips will help you stay on track, keep you productive and let you build your own version of a great content and email marketing system.

So, let’s dive in and get started with my 5 steps!

  1. Acknowledge each phase your client goes through.
  2. Use email marketing as a component of your content marketing strategy.
  3. Don’t ‘hard sell’, become a consistent ‘value giver’ and a ‘problem solver’ instead.
  4. Plan for longevity, not just a quick-buck!
  5. Always be asking “What’s next for my client?”

Step #1 of 5

Understand each phase of your client's journey for your business.

There are 6 main phases in which your clients will flow through your business;

People will become aware of you or your brand by seeing your content wherever they happen to hang out (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn etc.)

People will come to recognise your style, your colours, your way of communicating – your delivery will become somewhat familiar to them.

People will get to ‘know’ you by what you share; your content will allow them to get to know you more, picking up on your values (people gravitate towards people and companies with whom they share intrinsic values, both consciously and sub-consciously).

People will eventually come to trust you and what you share. They’ll be exposed to others’ reactions to what you’ve done for them, they’ll get a sense of how you treat your paying clients – this will help to imbue a sense of trust.

When people are ready to buy what you sell, and they recognise the value that it will bring them, you’ll be top-of-mind, the preferred supplier for their purchase.

Around 90% of a client’s potential lifetime value may come from all the purchases they make AFTER their initial purchase, and that’s why it’s critical to build nurturing and retention into your marketing plan.

Below, you can see a diagram that depicts the six phases through which each of your clients will go, should they become a loyal, repeat client. As the phases progress, so too does the likelihood of people subscribing to your email list.

The 6 phases of your clients experience of being in your world.

How you manage each person (or business) that traverses their way through your phases will ultimately determine the success that you have when it comes to conversion and retention, but that self-determination is empowering for us, as solopreneurs. 

Email marketing normally kicks in during the “Getting to know you” phase when leads subscribe so as to get something of perceived value from you, in exchange for their email address.

Step #2 of 5

Use email marketing as one component of your content marketing system.

Emails are made of content, and therefore, email marketing forms one component of your overall content marketing strategy.

And as a solopreneur, you should always be thinking of ways in which you can add value to your audiences, using content. It could be sharing via your favourite social platforms, or articles on your website, or even videos on your YouTube channel – but whichever channels you use, email marketing must be one of them.

When done properly, your email marketing will start to collect leads (mostly) during the getting to know and trust phases (from tip #1 above) since people rarely exchange their email address with you until they know a little about you (of course, there are always exceptions, but as a general rule).

Once subscribed to your email list, the game changes. You are in complete control when it comes to the rules of the game.

You get to send emails to whomever you choose (provided they’re on your subscriber list, of course!), at the frequency of your choosing, and you have no reliance on any algorithm set by any social platform. This is where the magic begins to happen.

Of course, it goes without saying, each subscriber must always be in control of whether or not they wish to be subscribed to your list – so making it easy to unsubscribe is mandatory for any good email marketer.

For reference, most people will only give you their email address once they recognise enough value to make the exchange worthwhile. It’s estimated that the tipping point in monetary terms is around $12; in other words, if a person can equate at least $12 of value for what you’re sharing, they’re more likely to subscribe to your email list. I have nothing to substantiate this number, it tends to be more of an anecdotal number that gets bandied around.

Step #3 of 5

Become a consistent 'value giver' and a 'problem solver'.

Nobody enjoys being ‘sold’ to, including you and me. So, why would we do it to our own audiences? It doesn’t make any sense, does it?

Instead, we must become known for being someone who provides value on an ongoing basis, not just until they give us their email address. Getting a new subscriber to put their trust in us by joining our email list is where the relationship really begins, and shouldn’t end with a hard pitch and an unsubscribe – that helps nobody!

You’ll know, probably better than most, what your ideal clients’ biggest challenges are, which gives you an advantage when it comes to figuring out what they will appreciate most. Document these and begin to work on consistently creating content that will demonstrate your expertise in your niche, showcase your willingness to be helpful, and increase your likelihood of to being recommended to others.

Every person in your ‘world’ right now, whichever phase they’re at, will have a certain propensity to buy right now – they could be a red-hot prospect who love what you offer, have the means to buy, and are ready to click that ‘Buy Now’ button. Equally, they could be potentially interested in what you sell, but right now they have neither the means nor the inclination to buy from you. You need to stay present and relevant for those ones, just as much as you do for your paying clients.

Valuable content shared via social media channels

By consistently and regularly giving value via your content; content that will either help to solve a problem or add value to their life/business, you’re warming up your list and making them much more likely to buy from you at some point in the future.

Step #4 of 5

Plan for longevity, not just a quick-buck!

If you’re in business for a quick-buck and not planning for the long game, then email marketing is not for you – you should probably have clicked away by now and just gone all-in with the hard sales. The ‘quick-buck’ route may work for some (nobody that I know, mind you), but in my experience, longevity is always much better rewarded because people respect what you do and know you’re not just out to rip a few bucks out of them and then move on.

When someone puts their trust in you, especially in a service-based business, which tends not to be as commoditised as physical goods, then they are usually making choices based on ‘you’ or what you represent.

Depending on your business and the products/services you sell, and to whom, the lead time can vary wildly. For example, if you run a copywriting business who writes £500 articles for the legal industry, you might have an average lead time of 3-6 months from when someone becomes aware of you (the ‘Awareness’ phase) until they become a paying client.

Contrast that with, let’s say, if you’re a copywriter who crafts copy for entire websites for the legal industry, and charge on average £5,000 for all the copy – your lead time could be 1-2 years, just because of the nature of the work. People (businesses) redo their website much less frequently than they have articles written, hence the disparity in lead time.

When planned properly, email marketing can help to manage your flow of work, bringing new clients into your business just as your capacity to deliver becomes available.

Step #5 of 5

Always be asking "What's next for my client?"

As people, and as business owners, we all have ongoing challenges and a desire to continuously gain more value in our lives – as do our clients. That’s why we must always be asking ourselves the most important question, “What’s next for my client?”.

Even they themselves may not know what lies ahead, but you being the expert in your niche, will always know (or should know) what they’ll need next, and have it ready for them in anticipation.

For example, let’s say you provide web development services to small-business owners. You’ll likely begin with a bespoke website, designed to showcase their business.

Chances are, you’ll offer tiered services, maybe a set price for a certain number of web pages, and limited functionality, like an e-commerce capability, a blog, or a chat plugin.

But once they have that shiny new website, what will they need next?

Probably, they’ll begin to realise that they need to optimise their website in order to generate traffic – so have content that you can share that educates them on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and along the way, let them know you provide SEO services on a recurring monthly plan.

After the SEO efforts begin to work their magic, what’s next?

Well, they’ll begin to realise that they need to be creating regular fresh content for their website, so explain, using your content, the importance of it and how it will help them. Then when they realise you have a solution for them to purchase from you, i.e. your copywriting/article service then it’s ready and waiting for them (even if you outsource the actual work).

You get the gist, be at least one step of where they are and they’ll love you for it! They’ll start to say (to themselves and others) “They always seem to have what I need, just when I need it!”.

Always be asking… “What’s next for my clients?”.

It’ll be a win-win for you and them.

So, there you have it – 5 steps to help you make email an effective marketing channel in your business. When done consistently, and as a component-part of your wider content marketing, you’ll soon begin to see the returns that other solopreneurs get by employing an email marketing system in their businesses.