Many small businesses wonder how to actually make money from their email newsletter (I know I did!) As a marketing pro I figured it was my job to find a strategy and template that would work for generating revenue from my list. Includes examples, tips, ideas and inspiration for making money from your email marketing!
This is a pretty comprehensive overview of making money from your list, broken up into knowing your list, how to make your list happy and then how to get them to make you money. Grab a cup of coffee and piece of paper and let's get started!
please note :: I often recommend resources, some I receive an affiliate commission for, these all help to keep this site free for you!
A Little of My Email Marketing History
Just so you know there is hope, about 5 years ago I was super frustrated with email marketing. I kept hearing that the “money is in the list”… in fact so much that I couldn't stand it anymore. My writing partner and I had over 10K on our email lists combined and literally nothing was happening… no sales, no leads, just wah, wah, wah.
I also had a client at the time who had a really big list that she had accidentally grown when a free offer went viral and she was super frustrated that she was paying for her list, but no one was buying.
I was following some super big name marketers at the time who kept pushing their email tactics on us, but those were not working AND making the people on our list mad and unsubscribe.
Today I Make Money Every Time I Send An Email
Fast forward 5 years and now I make money every time I send an email… whoo whoo… happy days!
So what changed since then? Did I get a new list (nope!) Did I find a magical email fairy to help (nope!) I just did a few things differently and religiously tracked what worked for my list!
Your Email List Is Not Like Anyone Else's List
Let's talk about your list and my list now and how they are different. My list is full of small business owners who are looking for marketing and time management help. Your list might be green living people, new moms or older Americans who are looking for financial help.
Step #1… Figure out who is on your list!
The very first thing you want to do is really consider who is on your list. Some questions to ask yourself…
- Are they all the same? (all first time homeowners, people who have purchased jewelry, health conscious people looking for recipes)
- Are they in different niches? (mine are Etsy sellers, Realtors, artists, ecommerce)
- Do they want you to sell the things? (some lists do!)
- Are they frugal and looking for freebies? (mine are)
- Do they need quick help or a long term relationship?
You can do this by looking at how you get people onto you list. I have a button up top of my blog that brings in the most subscribers. Then I give them the choice of marking themselves a general “rebel entrepreneur”, an Etsy seller or a Real Estate Agent.
You might have a free ebook you offer, a Facebook group where you encourage people to join your email list, or do most of your signups in person at networking events.
Look at WHY they are signing up for your list to get clues about what they want from you!
Starting With Your Peeps In Mind
One thing that really helped me start making money from my list is dedicating myself to helping my peeps! Everything I write about or suggestions that I make to them is something I honestly believe will help them.
Step #2… Figure out what is important to them!
Here are some things your list might want from you…
- Free offers and tools
- Coupons for discounts
- Entertainment (yes, even business emails can be entertaining)
- Case studies
- How tos
I KNOW, some of these scream I will make money from an email, and some are, “darn it, how will I make money sending out inspirational stories?” Never fear, all of these can make money for you!
Things That Will Impact How Much Money You Can Make
Let's call a spade a spade, if your list consists of your mom and besty, you probably won't make much or if you are sending your emails out once a year you probably won't either. Here are some things to that will impact your income opportunities!
Size does matter in some things (insert giggles here), but it doesn't always with your email list….
If you have a HUGE general list you might make a lot of money! My friend Kir has a really big list that she has grown over the years who all LOVE how whacky and weird she is. She recommends things from vegan butter to triathlon tips to workout tapes and everything in between.
If you have super small, niche list you might make a lot of money! I know a Real Estate Agent who has grown a list of 50-ish homeowners in a super exclusive neighborhood who read his market stats voraciously every month and who always list their homes with him when they sell. His 50 person lists could mean hundreds of thousands in income each year.
As a rule you should figure what types of people are the best for selling to and try to get as many of those as you can.
My 1,500-ish Etsy sellers buy more from my emails than do my 3,500-ish Real Estate Agents… that means that my goal is to get more Etsy sellers and keep my Real Estate Agents happy too long term.
If you are only sending one message a month you are going to have to make it amazingly productive to make money. If you are sending one a day then you can have lots of little offers that add up to big bucks.
I generally send out a weekly email. That is frequently enough that my subscribers remember me and not so often that they hate me! Also I don't have enough to say to talk to them every day.
Additional Resource: How Often Should You Send Your Email Newsletter?
The one thing that I see my peeps make as a mistake more than any other is not sending consistently. They get all fired up to do email marketing and then send one a day for a couple of weeks, then drop off the face of the earth.
Or they worry that they are going to “bother” their readers and so only send something super infrequently. Their list forgets why they signed up in the first place and marks them as spam… sigh.
My Friday newsletter is my #1 priority for the week. If I am going to be out of town I schedule it ahead and if I am sick in bed I crawl out and do it anyways.
You have to make a promise to yourself that you will send out your newsletter on the interval you pick!
Long Term List, Short Term List
One other thing that is really interesting to me is that some lists are long term and some are short term.
Long term lists… some of my Realtors have been on my list for over 8 years! They are dedicated to their career and tell me they love getting new marketing info. They even email me and let me know when they have changed agencies so I can update their email addresses.
Short term lists… say your list is for senior caregivers (I am growing a list like this now). Well that list will have an end date, when the elderly person either dies or goes to a nursing home. It is sad to think about, but once their caregiver journey ends, they won't need me anymore!
Segmenting Your List
It would be great if I only had to write one email every week, but mostly I do MUCH better if I write one that targets JUST Etsy marketing or JUST real estate marketing.
If you are a rebel entrepreneur and have multiple interests, it is very likely that your list will only share parts of them! Going back to Kir's list. Most of her Triathlon readers are not vegan so they don't want to get vegan recipes. My friend Pat sells long term care insurance to seniors and retirement plans to 40 somethings… two totally different groups of people.
It is super tempting to think that your readers will just sift and sort through the different parts, but you will have a much better chance of selling more if you write directly to them!
Here are the results from some of my recent newsletters…
As you can see my general message to everyone got a 12.8% open rate, my Real Estate one a 17.4% open rate and my Etsy ones 20%+ open rates. The more specific you can get with targeting segments of your list the better!
Additional Resource: My #1 Email Marketing Hack For A Multi Niche Website
Analytics – Finding Out What They Like
One last thing before we get to the five ways (finally!) is to know what they like to do. Here is some data about my last newsletter and the links I had in there…
The highest clicked was for a free ebook offer that lead to a paid course, then my Etsy shop, then a free course that I got paid $1 per signup and lastly a straight paid course.
Having done this for a while, I KNOW my peeps like to get free training (more about how this makes money after a wee bit!)
You need to watch what they click and find more ways to give them that at the same time you make some money!
6 Ways To Make Money From Your Email Newsletter List
Here are 6 ways I make money, once you see these, let your creative juices flow and figure out how many ways you can make money too!
1. Straight Up Send Them To Your Products
That Etsy shop link is a straight up “hard sell” offer right to my store.
As a member of your list they probably like you at least a little bit so they expect you try and sell them something!
2. Send Them To A Free Offer That Leads To A Sale (affiliate marketing)
One of my long term strategies for making money is to be an affiliate for products that I really love. For example, I LOVE Lena and her trainings so I recommend them to my list.
Once they are on her list I get “tagged” as the person who recommended her and any sales she makes later I get a commission. As you can see I am super careful to disclose in my email that it is an “#ad” so as not to make the FTC mad at me!
3. Send Them To A Free Offer That Pays A “Bounty” (affiliate marketing)
As a Share A Sale affiliate I can send out links to CreativeLive classes that will be free in the coming week. I get a straight commission for everyone who signs up to watch that class, whether they buy anything or not.
Now, it is a TINY commission, but over the years that has added up to lots of income for me!
4. Have A Newsletter “Sponsor”
This is a pretty lucrative one! You can have a person or company pay to sponsor your newsletter or include their ads in it! My besty did this for years, charging between $50-100 for EACH message she sent out.
This works just like placing an ad in a newspaper and is a straight “pay to play” option.
I don't do this one, but because I have see first hand that it works amazingly well, I figured I would share it with you!
5. Have Ads On Your Blog and Send Them To Read Your Posts
This is maybe the most amazing one to me! I joined Mediavine and started having ads on my blog for the first this year and so every time someone sees an advertisement as they read my blog post I make a little bit of money.
This has been the absolute best way I have found to help my peeps and make money at the same time!!! This is how it generally works….
- A reader comes to my site from Google or Pinterest and decides to join my email list… (yay!)
- They get my emails and see a link to a post I wrote and visit my site again… seeing ads AND getting value from the post
- I make money…whoo whoo!
Additional Resource: Should You Put Ads On Your Website?
- I link back to one of my blog posts or videos in every email which leads to ad revenue
- There is a recommended resource in almost every email
- I often recommend additional (paid) training courses that I am an affiliate for
- I sell my Real Estate Listing Agent Course
Why does this work? Don't they get sick of me “selling” to them?
NOPE! Because I am sincerely trying to help them!
I have honestly put together my very best info some of which is paid and most of which is free. This is why they don't feel “sold” to. Because for the most part I am giving them tremendous value and only recommending things I honestly believe will help them even more.
Email Marketing FAQs
I asked my peeps if they had any questions about selling in their newsletters and I got a BUNCH… so here goes!
Is it a good idea to make list only offers for sales?
This is where you send a coupon or discount ONLY to people on your email list. Not a bad idea if you are in ecommerce as the idea of “email only” offers triggers that exclusivity bias and makes the reader feel special.
Should I link out from my email to specific sales or just to my website/etsy site?
Always link directly to what you are talking about! No one has time to dig around and find something, go back to the email and see what it was, etc. They will just leave and be grumpy instead of staying and buying. Use a link shortener like Goog.ly if your link is super long and ugly.
Do people even read emails anymore?
They read mine because I have trained them to know I only send good ones with great resources. I am sure you have one or two emails you read religiously every time they come in, make sure your email is that interesting! I have been tracking open rates since 2012 and they are down slightly since last year (20.78% is average), but surprisingly clicks rates are slightly up and unsubscribes are slightly down. source Get Response email statistics
Do people like to be considered part of a special group via email list?
I have found that segregating my list right from the start is super important. For example, there is really no “Realtor Facebook marketing” but if I do a message just to Real Estate Agents with examples specifically for them it will always do better than just a general message. You can also make your subject lines content specific which will increase your open rates.
Will email marketing help my sales?
It has helped mine now that I know what to do! Honestly, if you are listening to email marketing gurus, sending out a BS message every day and pushing sales on people it won't. But if you are sincerely sending messages you think will help them then FOR SURE it will work!
Should I limit what I offer via my email list?
One thing I see small business owners mess up all the time is sending out 8 different things in one message. Try to limit yourself to 3-4 links to click so your readers don't get confused!
Should I offer sales on all my products via my email list?
Sure! An occasional straight sales email is a good idea. OR you could make discounting one item in each message a fun thing for them to see. Really, you have to be entertaining and give them a reason to open each week!
What about a special email for recent customers to get them to buy again?
ABSOLUTELY! This would be a form of “onboarding” where you get them used to you sending great messages and that could include offers.
Additional Email Resources
- ConvertKit – If you wondered what email service I use, it is ConvertKit. I have used some super big ones in the past but find that the simplicity and reporting in ConvertKit is the BEST!
- How To Do Email Autoresponders
- All My Best Tips and Ideas For Email Marketing!
- 10 Super Easy Email Marketing Tips To Make Your Newsletters Better