Despite what you may have heard, email marketing is not dead. It is alive and well, and it can be extremely effective in helping your clients keep their fitness—and your brand—top of mind. As of 2013, there were 3.6 billion email accounts (Hubspot 2013), which is why email marketing is used by the biggest names in the business.

You may already have an email list but feel unsure what to do with it, or you may be starting from scratch. Either way, this article will cover how best to use email marketing to grow your business.

Choosing a Tool

First things first: You need an email marketing tool that will help you manage your contacts list, allow you to create sign-up forms online and help you send professional-looking emails. While there are many options available, MailChimp and Constant Contact are the most popular.

MailChimp (www.mailchimp.com) is the most affordable option because of its “Forever Free” plan. This plan allows you to send up to 12,000 emails per month if you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers. MailChimp’s email design is user-friendly; without knowing how to code, you can choose a predesigned template or create one yourself using the site’s drag-and-drop email designer. MailChimp also makes it easy to add sign-up forms to your website or Facebook page.

Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com) is also a very popular email marketing tool. The site doesn’t have a free plan, but it does offer a free limited-time trial. Plans start as low as $15 per month, and fees are based on the number of subscribers you have. Constant Contact has plenty of features that are comparable to the ones at MailChimp. It also provides a number of easily modifiable predesigned templates.

Content

Once you’ve chosen a tool, decide what types of emails you want to send and how often you will send them. Much as you would do when planning posts on your blog or social media, come up with a content plan for your mailing list. What information does your target audience find valuable? How can you get them excited and inspired to become fit or stay fit? There are lots of different types of emails you can send, so take time to determine what works best for your audience and what your goals are for email marketing. Consider the following ways to communicate.

Email newsletters. Email newsletters keep subscribers engaged and informed about your brand. Your newsletter might highlight a new employee, give fitness tips, link to your latest blog posts or add a call to action for your latest promotion. (Note: If you have created your profile on IDEA FitnessConnect, you can take advantage of the free Client Newsletter tool, which provides professional content while allowing you to customize your newsletter as you wish. For more information, visit www.ideafit.com/fitnessconnect.)

If you plan on sending newsletters, develop a regular “drop” schedule (for example, once a month, every week or every other week) and stick to it. You want subscribers to anticipate hearing from you.

Email digest. An email digest—a simpler version of an email newsletter—provides a list of snippets or highlighted items with links that your readers can click on. An example is the weekly “Network Updates” email from LinkedIn, which includes brief notes on who has a new job or what company in your network is hiring. If you have a blog, you might consider sending a digest of your latest posts. Or you could send a digest of top fitness articles or tips. You could even create a regular “Top 10” list that you email to your subscribers.

Promotional emails. Promotional emails communicate specials or promotions, like your upcoming fat-loss program or a limited-time discount on your favorite fitness tool. Keep these emails simple and to the point, with clear calls to action. Make sure that you are deliberate with what subscribers need to do to take advantage of the deal. Also make sure that there is a clearly defined way for your readers to take action directly from the email.

Dedicated emails. Dedicated emails are sent to segments of your list for a specific reason. Maybe you want to solicit feedback from a few clients on the previous week’s training sessions, or perhaps you’d like to invite your best clients to a special event. A dedicated email should be short and to the point. Before you hit send, make sure you have a good reason to send the email—and a clearly defined goal!

Whether you want to send a promotional message or a monthly newsletter, plan your emails ahead of time and think about items like current events and seasonality to enhance reader engagement. Most importantly, be yourself and strive to stay relevant and valuable. We get tons of emails each day from all sorts of marketers and businesses. How can you break through the chatter?

Segment Your Email List

Your subscribers are unique. It’s likely they are all concerned with fitness on some level, but each of them has different interests and goals. This is why you should segment your subscribers into lists and do some targeted emailing. Tips on building muscle might not be what your indoor cycling class members want when they’re looking for inspiration and motivation. The more targeted your message, the more valuable your emails will be to subscribers. For example, create a few different types of newsletters that have similar content but are written for different audiences (maybe one for athletes and another for clients who need extra motivating). The better you get at segmenting your list, the more engaged your readers will become.

Test Subject Lines

Just because it lands in an inbox doesn’t mean your email will be read or even opened. Grab your recipients’ attention with an interesting subject line. Use power words, bizarre words, numbers or anything that will help your email stand out. Try this exercise: Skim through your inbox and take note of the emails that catch your eye. What makes you click?

Use Metrics

Don’t just hit “Send” and cross your fingers that your email will get opened. Track your success with the following metrics:

  • open rates: the percentage of your emails that were opened based on the number of emails you sent
  • clicks: the total number of clicks you received within your email across all subscribers
  • conversions: the effectiveness of your email based on defined goals (For example, if your goal was to sell an e-book filled with workouts, then your conversion rate would be based on the number of books you sold through the email campaign.)

Grow Your List

Once you are set up and you have a content plan in place, you’ve got to continually grow your subscriber base. Here are ways to build your email list.

  • Make an opt-in form a prominent feature on your website.
  • Add a special tab on your Facebook page.
  • Let people know why they should sign up for your emails. What’s in it for them?
  • Offer a free informative whitepaper or report on your website or social media sites; readers can download it in exchange for their email address.
  • Hold an online contest that requires an email address to enter.
  • Collect email addresses at offline events like tradeshows or at your studio.
  • Encourage subscribers to forward your emails to friends.
  • At the end of your blog posts, include calls to action to subscribe to your newsletter.
  • Host a webinar, and collect email addresses during registration.

Email Laws

The CAN-SPAM Act was created to protect consumers from email scams. Before you send emails, take time to understand this law. Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $16,000 (Bureau of Consumer Protection 2009). The CAN-SPAM Act basics are as follows:

  • Don’t use false or misleading information.
  • Don’t use deceptive subject lines.
  • Identify the message as an ad.
  • Tell recipients where you’re located.
  • Tell recipients how to opt out of future emails from you.
  • Honor opt-out requests promptly.
  • Monitor what others are doing on your behalf.

For a link to the Act, see the “References” section below.

Email marketing can offer your existing clients added motivation. That same effort will help you gain new clients and add additional revenue through promotions. Now that you know the basics, build that list and start inspiring your subscribers!