You probably already use email for a number of tasks: to communicate with athletes, to network with others in the endurance sport industry, and to find new business opportunities. But, are you using email to its fullest potential to reach new customers?
Email marketing is an effective way to reach potential athletes who are interested in learning about your business or expertise and even connect with existing customers, too. While digital marketing tools like Google Ads are primarily used to find new customers, email marketing is most effective at building relationships at any stage of the sales funnel.
What is email marketing?
Email marketing is defined as any use of email to sell a service or product, engage with existing customers, or even to just provide helpful information. That includes a lot of potential uses like educating athletes on your services, providing context to your training plans, engaging customers with in-person events, etc. However, the most effective campaigns rely on regularly-updated customer lists, goal-oriented messaging, great content, and effective calls-to-action.
In other words, email marketing is more complicated than just hitting the “send” button.
Why should endurance coaches use email marketing?
Email marketing is all about relationship building, and, as an endurance sport coach, that’s what you do best. You already share your expertise with countless athletes through training plans, professional advice, and free online content; email is just another effective way to reach them. There are many other benefits to email marketing, too.
First, it’s often free or relatively inexpensive. There are services, such as MailChimp or Sendgrid, that provide free and affordable accounts to businesses depending on the size of your customer list. In addition, most email marketing services offer help to get you started with tools like free templates and plentiful advice.
Second, email is the gold standard of online communication. You can bet that all of your potential customers already have an email address, and they are likely willing to share it with you if they trust you and think they can benefit from the relationship. In fact, small- to medium-sized business owners say that email marketing has driven acquisition and retention of customers at rates of 81 percent and 80 percent, respectively. Email marketing is far ahead of other much-discussed marketing methods like social media, which hovers around 50 percent, according to the same survey.
Last, email marketing can help you reach your audience regardless of where they are in the sales funnel. Whether you are courting a new athlete just dipping her toes into the IRONMAN world or you are hoping to improve retention of existing athletes by providing more regular, value-oriented information, email marketing might be a great way to accomplish your goals.
Is email marketing right for my business?
Before you start typing, you should ask yourself a few questions about whether email marketing is right to help you reach your business goals.
Do you have a list of athletes you want to reach on a regular basis? Can you commit to regularly sending consistent and polished emails? Is your website set up for quick and easy conversions? Can you identify one area of your business you would like to see grow, such as athlete acquisition, retention, or upsales?
Just like any marketing tool, email can take a lot of extra effort and can do more harm than good if poorly executed. That’s why it’s important to have specific, attainable goals in mind before you start in addition to a plan to create a high-quality experience for your audience.
What should I know before using email marketing?
Email marketing can be powerful, but there are two sides to any coin. It’s just as important to understand what a tool isn’t good at compared to what it is good at.
Most email services have great analytics tools, allowing you to dig into how your customer list is engaging with each message you send. That’s great news, but it can be discouraging if you’re considering analytics out of context.
Email marketing engagement rates can seem low when you are new to the game (open rates and click rates typically hover below 50 and 10 percent, respectively), which can be a difficult pill to swallow after the hours you might pour into each message. But, compared to other marketing tools and when considering the cost-benefit ratio, your engagement rates are usually high.
Also, email marketing is an active process; “set it and forget it” doesn’t apply. Sure, you can pre-schedule campaigns to run at certain times according to specific triggers, but the best email is a timely email. That means, at the very least, you will likely need to constantly reassess and update your messages, and, at most, you will need to develop new content on a consistent schedule to keep your audience engaged.
In addition, it’s important to engage with your customer list to make sure your lists are in tip-top shape. If a customer doesn’t engage for a significant period of time (around 180 days), consider removing them from your list. Keep their information though and try to re-engage them after a waiting period to see if their activity level has changed.
Where do I start?
Only your creativity can limit you when it comes to email campaigns. There are countless possibilities with email design, delivery, content, and workflows, and it’s important that you carve out your own niche true to your voice when designing your strategy. Think about starting with one of these strategies:
- Prioritize your email list. What good is a well-crafted email if you don’t have anyone to send it to? Begin by thinking about what you can offer your potential readers that no one else can, and then develop a simple method for athletes to share their email address with you. That can be as simple as a Google Form or you could use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software like HubSpot. Either way, be sure you know the latest email marketing laws (like the CAN-SPAM Act and GDPR) and protect the privacy of your readers while being completely transparent about what and how much you will send.
- Onboarding campaigns. One of the best ways to get started with a new athlete is to have a pre-scheduled set of emails ready to go after they sign up for your services. You likely already have a system to onboard new athletes, and an automated email campaign could take pressure off of your workload, improve the athlete experience, and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
- Blog digests. Do you already have an active blog that you keep up to date? A simple blog digest of your latest posts is a great way to make sure your content is being seen by your athletes and is also a great way to build your email list as readers organically visit your website.
- Start a conversation. Chances are, your athletes don’t want to be preached to. Why don’t you get them involved in a conversation? Don’t think of your email strategy as a bullhorn for every message. Engage your customer lists with new ideas, questions, and include them as active participants.
- Events. Do you hold in-person events like seminars, group training sessions, or webinars? Email is a great way to engage your customers, gather RSVPs, and provide detailed event instructions.