Since Ray Tomlinson sent that first email in 1971, it’s been the backbone of all social technology.
40 years later, and it’s still the most powerful (digital) communication tool on earth.
My reclusive pal Ben Settle jumps on the show today to talk email marketing.
While the seven-step “snowball effect” he lays out can be applied to almost any aspect of profitable content marketing, we bring it all back to the loyal, always-willing, unbeatable and unstoppable … email.
Also, Ben explains why he thinks Facebook is stealing the, well, you-know-whats of men everywhere …
In this episode Ben Settle and I discuss:
- Dan Kennedy’s depression-proof secret of survival
- The quickest way to build a responsive email list
- Why email writing is like jazz composition
- How email unsubscribes actually build your list
- Why “intentional” social networking might save your business
- Weird email marketing, Settle style
Hit the flash player below to listen now:
Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.
Robert Bruce: You’ve found yourself in another episode of Internet Marketing for Smart People radio. My name is Robert Bruce and I am on the horn with e-mail marketing expert Ben Settle from bensettle.com.
Ben is, to say the least, an interesting and very successful character in this business. If you’re already subscribed to his e-mail list over at bensettle.com you know that he publishes an e-mail every weekday. He writes sometimes funny, sometimes weird, sometimes even offensive, but always useful tips on marketing, sales, and getting business done.
Ben, how are you feeling today, man?
Ben Settle: I’m feeling good, how are you doing?
Robert: I’m real good, I’m real good. We tried this before once and we’re going to give it another go. I want to take a moment and say this show is sponsored by Internet Marketing for Smart People, which is the premiere online marketing course that’s delivered straight to your e-mail inbox.
The IMFSP course covers all the major aspects of marketing your business, including e-mail marketing, social media marketing, SEO copywriting , networking, and much more. You can think of it as the very best that Copyblogger has to offer, packaged in a clear, direct, and systematic format.
There are 20 lessons that will take you step by step through the basics of good, effective, and ethical online marketing and it also happens to be totally free. So, to sign up just head over to imfsp.com, drop your e-mail address into the little box you’ll see there, and we will take care of the rest. That’s imfsp.com.
Alright Ben, are you ready to hand our good listeners out there seven ways they can create an e-mail marketing snowball effect ?
Robert: Okay, here we go. Number one, you have written in the past, I think it was in one of your e-mails, actually, it was Dan Kennedy’s depression proof secret. What is that secret and how have you put it to use in your work?
Dan Kennedy’s depression-proof secret of survival
Ben: Well, that’s a very timely question. Anybody who’s been following the news in the last year, and probably it’s going to get more relevant in the coming months, who knows. But yeah, back in 2002 when I first got into this crazy marketing game the first thing I bought was something from Dan Kennedy and then from there I got on his newsletter, his print newsletter.
And he wrote this very, very interesting back page article about, really, how there is no security in this world. He was relating it to 9/11 and that sort of thing, how people thought they were secure and everything was fine one day and the next they thought, “Whoa.” The bottom dropped out, everybody’s paradigm changed overnight and everything changed in the blink of an eye.
And it happened during World War II probably when Hawaii was attacked and it happens to other countries when they get attacked out of the blue and they’re not expecting it. So he was tying it to that.
At the time we were going through another recession; people want to remember back that far. We were going through a bad recession back then too, so he was talking about if you want to have security – well, there really is none. But if you’re in business the only security you do have or only semblance of security you would have is the ability to produce.
Nobody can take that away from you. And it was his idea that whatever ability to produce that you want to focus on and sell; in my case it’s e-mail, some people it’s blogging, some people it’s generating traffic, whatever it is, that you should spend a lot of time and just be obsessed with honing that ability and perfecting it and getting as good as you can at it so that you’re not as affected by bad economies and surprise things like that as much as other people would be.
Robert: And so, just to open this up just a little bit, in terms of producing, the ability to produce carrying you through the waves of history and gas lines that – I don’t know, do you remember those gas lines? Sitting in the car waiting for hours?
Ben: I was very young; I don’t remember it, actually, but I was alive.
Robert: I remember just being pissed off and wondering when the heck we can get out of here, but anyway, we won’t go into it. But the ability to produce through these times; these ups and downs, like leaning on your own ability to get things done on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis instead of relying on some economy, some up and down of the economy or even relying on someone else, in a lot of cases, right?
Ben: Yeah, and in fact you could even take this to the extent of having just one ability to produce may not actually be the smart thing either because – and this is another Dan Kennedy thing, I guess I should give him credit where credit’s due – he’s always talking about how one is the most dangerous number in business.
And relying on one vendor, one product, one source of traffic, one anything. If that one thing is taken away, you’re screwed. I mean, it happened to people who used to rely on broadcast faxing, for example. That was a very, very economical way to market. One day it was just taken away, just like that, and a lot of those people were scrambling; what are they going to do next?
You know, a lot of us are online and we don’t realize that it’s very, very risky to just have your business online. And I’m as guilty as anyone about this and I think about it all the time. What if the internet goes down? What if the power grid goes down for five months or six months? What are you going to do? I know this doesn’t really relate to e-mails necessarily but it’s something to think about.
Guest posts are a fast-track to email list building
Robert: Number two, this is something that Copyblogger folks are going to know quite a bit about if they’ve been around for a while and are going to have some experience with. So let’s go through this just real quickly. But what’s your experience with guest posting and opening up opportunities on sites that can give something back to you by giving them something valuable?
Ben: I’ve had a very good experience with it. I’ll give you an example that everybody here can relate to. When I’ve done guest posts for Copyblogger people reading those posts, before they read those posts probably had no idea who I was; probably wouldn’t even give it five minutes of their time to even waste their time to read it because everybody’s busy and you have to kind of discriminate what you read and what you don’t read these days.
But by guest posting on a site, you get to kind of borrow all the credibility and all the way people think about whoever owns that site. You get to kind of tap into that and almost borrow it at least temporarily so that you at least get a hearing. And if you perform well a lot of those people will want to hear more about you and what you have to offer. And so, to me it’s one of the best ways of actually building your list.
Interviews and podcasts lead to high quality traffic
Robert: Yeah, I’ll put some good links in the show notes for this number two guest posting , that people can get into and dig more deeply into. It’s pretty straight forward, but I wanted it there because you have had great experience with it.
And number three is related, but it is different in a sense of relatability. The ability to really kind of reach into someone’s mind and heart and home in a different kind of way, and that is getting around on podcasts and interviews, both online, offline, and big media, small media, local media. You’ve been doing a lot of this lately and I saw you even set up a page on your site that highlights a lot of these interviews.
Ben: Oh yeah. And this may not be the case for everybody, but it has been for me where this is my single best source of getting traffic to my site. Now, not necessarily in big numbers, but the quality of the people that will find you through a podcast, and this is just my experience so I’m not saying this will be for everybody, is just infinitely higher than others because think about it, there’s no direct link for them to click on.
They have to listen to something, which means they are very interested in that subject if they’re listening. Anybody listening to this right now is probably very interested in the subject we’re talking about because this is very time consuming; it takes time out of their day and you’re not just going to casually sit down, “Oh, I’ll just listen to 100 podcasts today.” You have to pick one or two that you want to listen to and that’s good.
You just get to bond with people in a way that you cannot do in text. I’m a text guy, I love e-mail, but really when it comes to bonding with people and letting people get to know you they can hear it in your voice as long as you know what you’re talking about.
You know, some people just run out there and start doing podcasts and they kind of get stuck and that’s because they’re not prepared. But it’s just a great way to build your list. Not just leads, but very qualified leads.
Robert: And how do you relate this to e-mail marketing, as we’re getting at the seven ways that someone can create an e-mail marketing snowball effect. How do podcasts and audio interviews relate to that directly?
Ben: There are a lot of ways, but I would say one really good way – once you’ve done a podcast, that one podcast you did, assuming you recorded it and everything, you now have fodder for potentially dozens of e-mails now to write.
I could do an e-mail tomorrow referencing stuff we talked about today. I could do e-mails for the next two weeks saying, “When I did that interview with copyblogger.com we talked about X, Y, Z.” You can turn it into so many different ways of getting traffic to your site.
You can turn it into a video, quite frankly. You can go on a video and say, “I talked about this, that, and the other thing on this site the other day.” It just gives you that in. It’s kind of like a conversation starter.
Why “intentional” social networking might save your business
Robert: Let’s get on to number four, which I think is a really interesting, kind of a different take than you hear normally about social networking sites; how you use them. And you’re a little bit grumpy about this, you’re kind of the grumpy old man of social networking, some of the things you’ve written.
But you have something good to say about this and we’ve talked about it before – intentional social networking. What do you mean by that?
Ben: Well, let me come out and admit that A) I am not the social media expert. So just because I say something doesn’t work for me it doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else. But it’s true, I find most of these social networking sites to be a complete waste of time.
And I’ve even written some controversial things about this, for example I think Facebook steals guys’ balls. I really believe that too, I’ve seen it happen over and over. I see just constant whining and complaining. I go on there once in a while, and there’s nothing but just these dorky images of quotes and people complaining about just the weirdest things. To me it’s kind of like, “Why don’t you just go out and get some real friends and hang out with them?”
But that said, I know some people are probably pounding the table, yelling at this saying, “Shut up Ben, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” Okay, fine. I will say this though. It is a great way to connect with and meet people you would never get to meet or connect with otherwise.
And those connections – and this has happened to me several times – can turn into great business relationships, joint ventures, list building opportunities. I mean I have connected with people on, for example Facebook, that I never would have had an audience with before. And even if it didn’t turn directly into a joint venture or some kind of business partnership with that person, it lead to other opportunities that I just never would have had otherwise.
So in that sense I do think it’s very wise to use these sites. But I think the problem comes when people just waste time on there and I’ll never understand that, but that’s just the way it is, I guess.
Trading services creates invaluable social proof
Robert: Number five, very nitty gritty, down to earth here. Trade your services for a plug on another person’s e-mail list.
Ben: This is the very, very easy and fast way to get traffic and also testimonials. I’ll give you an example. A few years ago I had absolutely, almost nobody on my list. I think it was like 200 people or something and who knows how many of them were even reading my e-mails. This was back before I actually understood how to write e-mails.
And I thought, “I need to grow this list.” And I have this friend who has a site and he had maybe 7,000, 8,000 people on his list. Similar minded people that I would want to talk to on my list, so good prospects. And it just dawned on me one day, nobody taught me this and I didn’t invent this by any means, people have been doing this forever.
But it just kind of dawned on me – why don’t I offer to write him some press releases in exchange for him plugging my site two, three, or four times over the month? He had been interested in press releases and I had been getting pretty good at writing press releases, and he was all for it.
It was great because he didn’t have to pay me, he didn’t have to pay anybody to write these press releases; I knew what I was doing with them so he felt good about that. And what does it cost him to just plug me a couple times? Nothing, so I got a lot of people on my list from that, he was happy.
He was a friend of mine but let’s say he wasn’t someone I knew normally or socially. Well, even then, let’s say you can write ads. Let’s say you’re a copywriter, for example. You can go to someone who is a “guru” in your industry and you can offer this sort of deal to them, “Look, if I write this ad, this e-mail for you, would you be willing to plug my site?”
Or it doesn’t have to be “plug your site”, it can be anything. And let’s say they do it. Well, not only did you get a plug and traffic to your site, but now you’ll probably get a good testimonial out of that, and that social proof will help you get more traffic later. In fact, it will help you connect with other people you want to do this with. “Well, I did this for Guru Bob over there, I’d like to make you the same offer. Well, a friend of Guru Bob’s is a friend of mine,” and they’ll probably hire you in the same capacity.
Robert: Yeah, you could almost argue – I mean, obviously depending on your situation, depending on your needs, and depending on where you are in your career, but you could almost argue that this kind of thing, especially early on, if done well is more valuable than money.
Ben: Oh, you’re right; it is way more valuable than money. A lot of people, and this is relevant to copywriting, e-mails, blogging, anything where you’re selling online – social proof is powerful. Whenever you can get a testimonial or you could just say in your ads, “I’ve written for X, Y, Z guru.”
They didn’t even have to give you a testimonial, it’s just the fact that you actually wrote something for them, even if it was just a press release or something, it doesn’t matter. It adds a lot of weight to your claims and your credibility. Just saying that you wrote for somebody who has a big name can do wonders for people feeling safe buying from you later.
How email unsubscribes can save you money and build your list
Robert: And for those of you not indoctrinated into the cult of Settle, Ben spells guru G-O-O-R-O-O. If you want to find out more about that you’ll have to do so on your own.
So on to number six. Ben, you say embrace unsubscribers. How can we embrace them? How in the world does an unsubscriber actually build our list?
Ben: Unsubscribes are good; a lot of people kind of weep and gnash their teeth on, “Ooh, I lost five subscribers yesterday.” I celebrate it. I’m glad. There are a lot of reasons you want to actually not have unqualified leads on your list.
For one thing, if you’re mailing daily which is what I recommend, this is a great way to kind of get people off your list who really aren’t that interested in what you have to offer. I mean, why would you want to waste their time, anyway? You’re doing them a favor by them leaving your list, in a way.
So it gets very expensive if you have a lot of people on your list. That might sound kind of weird, but auto responder companies will start charging you more; it’s not like it’s just $19.00 and you have 10,000 people on your list. Well, if there are people on your list who aren’t going to ever buy from you anything, it’s actually saving you money by them unsubscribing.
So I would rather have a list of 4,000 people who are likely to buy now or in the future than 40,000 people who probably will never buy and aren’t even reading the e-mails and aren’t that interested in the subject. So it’s good to get them off your list.
Robert: And you take it even a step further by intentionally weeding folks out through what you write, the way you write, and folks have to be careful. This is dependent on the industry you’re in, the type of people that you’re writing to and for. But you’re not shy at all about weeding out those that are kind of lookie loos or just hanging on in favor of those who really want to be around you and buy your stuff.
Ben: Yeah, I really will go out of my way to tell people. First of all, I plug my product every day. It may not be blatant, like the whole e-mail is a pitch. In fact, I rarely do that. But I do make it very obvious that I’m selling something and if that offends you, you should probably go elsewhere. It was 2006, and I had been sort of in this mode where you don’t pitch anything for a while because you don’t want to make anyone mad and you don’t want to come off as like you’re selling and you don’t want to just pitch, you want to only sell when you have something to sell and all that.
And that’s unfortunately the conventional wisdom of e-mail marketing today, which I reject. And so I used to do that. And what would happened is I built a list of a lot of people who I had trained; it was all my fault, to expect free things and nothing but free things and never to have to pay for anything.
And so what happened was I did my first joint venture. I’m like, “Yeah, “I’m going to do my first joint venture with this friend of mine selling his “how to get freelance copywriting clients” course. And all of a sudden it was like, everybody just was inundating me with e-mails about what a jerk I was, F-bombs were used. I mean, some of these freebie seekers are some of the nastiest people I’ve ever heard from.
Robert: They’ll turn on you in a second, right?
Ben: I really don’t want them on my list, honestly. I just don’t. I’m not saying they’re bad people, but I don’t want people who aren’t willing to pay money to improve their situation because the reality is, people don’t value what’s free. They just don’t.
Ultimately, if you want to really help somebody and you want to make a difference in someone’s life with your product and you just give it away free, some people will value it but most people won’t and they won’t use it. They’ll take it for granted, they won’t benefit from it the way you want them to and you really haven’t done them any good.
So yeah, I actually go out of my way to make these things known on a regular basis. In fact, I’ve been getting disappointed lately. I think I need to step my game up a bit because I haven’t been getting enough hate mail lately, so we’ll see.
Robert: That’s one of your big barometers, right?
Ben: It is, if I’m not getting somebody complaining then I probably am not doing something right. And it doesn’t mean I’m purposely offending people, I’m not going in there to purposely, “Well let’s see, who can I offend today?” No, I’m just trying to be very up front that this is a business, this is real life, I’m trying to help people and that means making them put some skin in the game or they’re never going to use what I have anyway.
Why email writing is like jazz composition
Robert: Alright, number seven of Seven Ways to Create an E-mail Marketing Snowball Effect. I think this is my favorite, and you use this to great effect, but number seven is be yourself, and I add in parentheses (however weird that may be).
Ben: Yeah, it’s true. It’s true that the squeaky wheel gets the oil, right, or the grease.
Robert: One of those, yeah.
Ben: Yeah, and it’s true though. When you are yourself, and this is the thing – everybody’s different. Everybody has their own unique things about their personality that just nobody else has. And a big mistake people make is they look around and they do what everyone else is doing because that’s what everyone else is doing.
It’s kind of the Earl Nightingale thing where he said,
Go to your job, look around, and look at what everyone else is doing and then you do the opposite and you’ll probably never make another mistake for as long as you live.
And I think that’s true. I think you have to be a unique voice.
This is especially true in e-mail. You can get away with it a little bit being a copycat, but the reality is if you don’t bring something original to the table, kind of like a jazz musician. In jazz, I don’t know if people listening to this, how familiar they are with jazz, but knockoffs and copycats and wannabes don’t last very long. I mean, they just don’t.
They do in business a little bit longer you can get away with it, but ultimately you have to bring something new to the table. It’s not unlike talk radio, right? We’ve talked about talk radio before. The people who really make the good money in talk radio, the successful ones, they are unique. They are them. They’re not trying to be someone else and it’s the exact same thing with e-mail, just be yourself.
Whatever words you use, whatever colloquialisms you use, whatever figures of speech you use, slang, it’s all good. Sometimes I’ll go out of my way to study slang of other languages just to stick out from everybody else because I kind of have my own little lexicon of words I like to use.
And I’ve noticed that people are starting to use them and steal them and I guess that’s a badge of honor, but I have to now find more ways of sticking out. But that’s a good thing. That means I’m unique; I’m sticking out. And anybody listening to this can do the same thing. Just be yourself. Don’t worry about what people are going to think. If anyone’s going to get offended or whatever, let them go – you be you and you’ll be fine.
Robert: Thanks, Ben for being here today. Where can people get more of you if they so desire?
Ben: Well, they can just go to my website at www.bensettle.com and that’s my blog where basically I put a lot of my e-mails up. And if they are so inclined to opt into my list, I will give them a free copy of my $97.00 a month newsletter in PDF format.
It’s a print newsletter, but I’ll send you a PDF of the first issue, which has a whole bunch of ways to ratchet up your response and your sales immediately; no long waits or anything. And that’s all free.
Robert: That is at bensettle.com. Thanks, everybody for listening. If you think us worthy, we’d love it if you go over to iTunes and leave a comment or a rating for this show. Man, there have been some really just generous comments over there and we appreciate it.
Mr. Settle, you are a true shot caller. Thank you.
Ben: Thank you.
Other listening options:
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The Show Notes:
- Internet Marketing for Smart People Course (free)
- Ben Settle
- Email Marketing 101
- 7 Mistakes that Lead to Guest Post Failure
- 10 Proven Steps to Snag a Guest Post on an A-List Blog
- We left the building with Girl Talk …
About the Author: Robert Bruce is Copyblogger Media’s Chief Copywriter and Resident Recluse.