Over the past two years, email has been at the center of my online marketing efforts for my different brands.
But just like designing my site with WordPress, it took me a while to take the plunge and start building an email list.
I’m not sure what put me off; maybe I was scared of taking the next step. But after signing up for an account at Aweber, I haven’t looked back since.
In this post, I am going to talk about why having an email list is important for independent online teachers (or anyone selling their services and products online), give you an overview of how to use email in your teaching business, and then show you how to get started.
Why You Need an Email List
There are a few very strong reasons why it’s a good idea to start an email list; here are the two main ones:
- it’s the best way to communicate with your audience, build trust, and sell your services
- you own the email list
Let’s look at this in more depth.
Using Email to Communicate, Build Trust, and Sell Services
Email is still king when it comes to communication, and to bring learners into your lessons – and to offer other services and courses to your audience – you will need to communicate.
Here is an example to bring some context…
In March 2014, I created a course for my English learners on an external platform. As a featured teacher on their platform, my course was advertised and pushed heavily on social media.
In addition to their efforts, I sent out emails promoting my course to those on my email list.
Out of everyone that signed up, 90-95% came from my list.
What made the difference?
Well, in addition to emailing my list with information and reminders about the course, in the months prior, I had sent out lots of free content. I had also replied to all emails that I received, meaning that I had slowly built trust through a medium that allowed me to communicate one-to-one on a massive scale.
Sending out free content (emails, links to articles, videos etc.), and engaging with your subscribers, gives you the solid foundation on which you can start promoting what you offer. It builds your brand and the trust of your subscribers. And once you have built that trust, email is the best way to promote your products and services.
At this stage you might be thinking, “Why can’t I just do that on social media?”
You should use social media in this way too. But email performs much better than social media when it comes to reach (click through rates, open rates etc.) and ROI in general.
To highlight why, think about how long you have had your email address and how often you check your emails. Most people will process every email they receive (even if this just means scanning the title).
On the other hand, social media sites come and go, usage levels vary, and algorithm changes can make reaching your followers much more difficult.
This is why email is so powerful.
You Own the List (And Email Is Here to Stay)
If you’re solely building your brand on platforms you don’t own, you’re making a mistake. As you have just learned, email has the best ROI, and beats social media pretty comprehensively.
But in addition to that, an email list is something that you own, no matter which email provider you use (options below).
The Real Life English team knew this and put their focus on email from the start. That is why when their Facebook group of 120,000+ learners got deleted it wasn’t a disaster for them.
Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and other platforms are amazing for reaching learners and building your teaching brand, and should be part of your marketing efforts. But building your brand solely on these platforms is risky.
(Note: In addition to your email list, having website that you own, preferably on open source software, is important too.)
Getting Started with Email Marketing
The first thing you will need to do is sign up with an email marketing provider.
Aweber offers free support (phone and online chat), and I have used this numerous times over the last couple of years. When I was thinking about making the switch to MailChimp, it took their support team over a week to answer a couple of simple questions I had, and there was no telephone number to call.
One reason why many teachers choose MailChimp is because it’s free for the first 2,000 subscribers. However, the free account is limited, and you will need a paid account to use even some of the basic features (like automation – more on this later).
However, the important thing to know is that both options will work fine in most cases, and they both will end up costing more or less the same. So just pick one and go for it.
One thing you will need, no matter which provider you choose, is a postal address. This is due to the CAN-SPAM Act, and you won’t be able to send out emails without including an address. If you’re uncomfortable putting your home address at the bottom of emails, you can get a P.O. Box or something similar.
Let’s move on now and talk about the types of emails that you can send to your subscribers.
The Three Types of Emails You Can Send
Let’s say that you’ve just written a new post on your website and want to share it with those who signed up for updates.
There are two ways that you can do this: send a blog broadcast or a regular broadcast.
The difference is that a blog broadcast goes out automatically when you publish your post (you connect your site to your email provider), whereas a regular broadcast allows you to write anything you want to write.
Personally, I never send out blog broadcasts, and use regular broadcasts instead (including the link to the article in the email).
When promoting your lessons or courses in a general sense, you’ll do this through a regular broadcast too.
The third type of email is an automated email.
For example, when someone subscribes, you can send them a welcome email that goes out automatically. In addition, you can send a series of follow up emails that go out automatically when you want them too. This is very useful if you want to promote your lessons or course through a series of emails in an automated way (see example later in the post).
Let’s now talk about how to get subscribers.
Getting Learners to Join Your List/Newsletter
Once you have everything set up, it’s time to start getting learners to sign up to your email list.
Generally speaking, you’ll get higher conversions if you give something away for free instead of just asking people to subscribe to your newsletter.
I’ve given away mini-ebooks, free 7/14/30 day courses (using email automation), and resource guides. When deciding what to give away, just think about what would be valuable to those in your niche.
Once you have your giveaway (or lead magnet in marketing language), there are many ways to get learners to sign up, including:
- having an opt-in form (sign up form) at the bottom of your posts
- having an opt-in form in the sidebar or in the menu bar
- using a pop-up when someone comes onto your site
- sending people direct to a landing page where they can sign up
On this blog, I use a plugin that is no longer available. But on my site for English learners, I use LeadPages for everything email related. I use it to create opt-ins on my posts, for pop-ups, and also for landing pages (explanation below). Alternatively, you could use the sign up forms that come with Aweber/MailChimp which are easy to set up and integrate.
For those that don’t know, a landing page is a specific page that you create to encourage visitors into signing up to your email list.
Here is what one my landing pages looks like:
I send learners to this page from social media, any advertising I do, YouTube, and other platforms. Once they enter their details, they receive a welcome email with a question, and then over the next few weeks, 17 automated emails.
Once they go through these emails, they are added to a list where they receive regular email updates (new posts and videos) and promotional emails.
Although there are many ways to use email marketing in your online tutoring business, here are some best practices from my experience and research.
Email on a Consistent Basis
As I re-branded my site for English learners, I made the mistake of not sending out an email for around six weeks. I’ve also been inconsistent at other times too.
I recommend that you post on a weekly/bi-weekly basis, but feel free to send more emails if you can make it sustainable. If you are promoting something, then you will want to send many emails around this time as this leads to more sales.
Be Yourself and Keep Things Simple
I used to send a more branded email, but now I keep things as simple as possible. At the moment, I don’t include a logo on my emails, and format them in more or less the same way as a personal email.
You might prefer to brand your emails, but try to keep things simple and easy to read.
Additionally, be yourself and let your personality come through.
I’ve had many English learners sign up to lessons or courses many months after joining my email list. One of the benefits of email marketing is always being there, meaning that when someone is ready to sign up to lessons, you will be on their mind.
This is key not only for one-to-one lessons, but for when you want to expand on the services you offer.
Overview and Resources
Here is an example of how you can use email marketing to get more sign ups for your one-to-one lessons:
– A learner comes across your video on social media, and clinks the link taking them to get their free download
– They go to your landing page, sign up to your email list, and enjoy your free guide
– The learner then receives emails from you (automated) that include free videos, advice, blog posts etc.
– They reply to one of your emails and you respond
– An email is sent out (again, automated) that outlines the lessons you offer
– As the learner likes what you have sent them, and because you have built trust with them over time, they sign up to a trial lesson
As you can see, this creates a way for you to give your potential learners value before you promote something. This works much better than just sending people to a page where you sell your lessons. And because the majority of this process is automated, it allows you to scale this process without having to put in any extra work.
Here are some of the resources that I mentioned in this post:
Email Marketing Guide: My free guide on getting started with email marketing
Aweber: My recommendation for email marketing (free 30 day trial)
MailChimp: An alternative to MailChimp (free for basic features up to 2000 subscribers)
LeadPages: If your budget allows, this is the ultimate software to create landing pages, opt-in forms etc. Easy to use and easy to integrate with WordPress and Aweber/MailChimp.
(Note: the above links are affiliate links)
Over to You
If you’re thinking about getting started with email marketing, I suggest doing this sooner rather than later, as email is king when it comes to ROI and building a brand.
Do you have an email list for your teaching business? If so, let us know about your experience with this.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below, or get in touch with me here.
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