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Offering email marketing to clients alongside other design or consulting services may seem like a step into the darkness. Everything from billing to pitching it is just that little bit different from say, web work – and there’s surprisingly little information out there on how to ‘get it right’.

That said, this hasn’t discouraged many of the designers and agencies who have rebranded our app. For example, since we began offering an Agency Partner discount to resellers of our app late last year, we’ve approved over 1,500 applications – and there seems to be no slowing the flow.

While they’ve asked not to be named, one of our Agency Partners thought they’d tackle the information drought by sharing 8 lessons they learnt during 4 years of offering email marketing to clients via Campaign Monitor. These concise lessons cover everything from pitching to new clients, to structuring your pricing; regardless of whether you’re a freelancer, or are selling email within an agency, hopefully you’ll find them to be both relevant and instructive. So, without any further hesitation, let’s kick them off with…

Lesson 1: Focus on your existing customers first

Like many businesses that offer email marketing, we’re primarily a web agency. For the most part, offering email via a rebranded account is an easy sell to existing customers, as they trust and know us. If we suggest using Campaign Monitor, chances are they won’t even look around for alternative solutions. The best way to beat competition is to avoid competing at all.

In our experience, once a customer is on board and using your email marketing service, they hardly ever leave. We’ve looked after approximately 200 clients to date and have lost no more than 2 or 3 in the last 4 years.

Lesson 2: Make email a flagship product

We started out with a separate marketing site for our email services, but also featured information on our existing agency website. Whether you use a new or existing site to promote your email service is really a SEO matter, but whatever you do, make it prominent that email is part of your offering. Don’t hide it in a corner – instead, tell everything there is to know about the product. Campaign Monitor’s Agency Resources page has a lot of content to help get you started.

Showing examples of your work on your website is a must – people love that. If you don’t have clients yet, display some templates with customized content.

Lesson 3: Mix email with your other products

If you develop your own products or can tie-in other apps with your email services, you have a big advantage. For example, we have a proprietary CMS and use the Campaign Monitor API to connect forms on our clients’ websites with subscriber lists. We’ve also fiddled with an existing eCommerce integration to collect email addresses at checkout from online stores. These solutions are relatively easy to setup, but provide great value to customers.

Lesson 4: Present clients with a kick-ass proposal

Our proposal is a 17-page document telling everything there is to know about the product, in a brochure-like way. Basically it’s the same content as we use on the website, but people are always very impressed by it. It also is a good way to communicate things like permission and our anti-spam policy, which are also selling points. I believe making a proposal will set you apart – instead of making anonymous online sales, you sell it personally.

It really pays to educate both yourself and your team on email, too. Potential customers ask a lot of questions like, “Is it possible to do this or that?”. The nice thing about using a service like Campaign Monitor is that you can answer almost every question with “Yes… And then some!”. We make sure our account managers know the features and selling points of our service by heart – if a potential customer has 5 questions and all of them are answered beyond expectation, you’re halfway through the sale.

Lesson 5: Set your own rates

We’ve sold email credits to clients from the beginning and always at our own very profitable, yet reasonable pricing tiers, our lowest being 1,000 email credits for €50 (roughly $65 USD). As clients are given the opportunity to start sending email for very little initial cost, it’s a low-risk investment for them.

Once they’ve discovered how great the app is, they tend to gradually order larger amounts. One of our biggest senders buys 500,000 email credits at €0.0125 per credit roughly once a year – as we buy credits in bulk on their behalf and invoice them separately, we make a 100% margin in the process. Sure, this customer likely pays 2-3 times more than he would if he were to work directly with a DIY email service provider, but that’s never been an issue. Big senders tend to need a bit more support (which you can charge for) and often need more templates – comparatively, DIY providers can’t provide that level of service.

As email credit sales have grown for us, we’ve invested some time into automating things using the API. Nowadays, we provide a bespoke account management site to all clients, showing them their purchase and sending history, as well as an email credit purchasing system which adds credits to their account immediately after payment. All we manually have to do is send an invoice. That said, I would advise new resellers to focus on their marketing and sales first, then administration later – you can always fancy things up when customer demand makes it worth your while.

Another thing – people hate recurring costs and being locked into monthly contracts. Telling them they can buy a stack of email credits whenever they need them is a great selling point. No sending? No costs.

Lesson 6: Halve your setup costs when cross-selling

When we sell a website or online store (which are usually much bigger projects than setting up a newsletter), we happily throw in the initial email setup costs at half-price. Heck, when it’s a big project, we’ll throw them in for free. The markup made on email credits (in ‘client pays’ scenarios) will generally make up for it in the long run.

If you make the setup costs more appealing and can guarantee a hassle-free, well-managed service, people will be prepared to pay a bit more for email credits.

Thanks to the template builder, we also add a nice “standard” template to each new account, that we slightly customize for each customer.

Lesson 7: Kick things off with personalized training

Overall, offer your customers a quick, smooth path to their first newsletter

We can’t stress enough how important it is to instruct new clients on how to get started with the app. For us, this means personalized training, over the phone – you can’t get that from most email marketing agencies and services. Designers working with non-native English speakers should realize how valuable it is to offer this kind of support in the customer’s language, too.

Overall, offer your customers a very quick, very smooth path to their first newsletter, by helping them personally, training them, setting up their first subscriber list and email campaign, etc. If the client were dealing directly with an email service provider, they would have to do a lot of stuff themselves and likely end up with lesser-quality results. If you can save your clients time, do a better job than them and provide an email marketing application of equal or better quality than they could find elsewhere, you’ll do good business.

Lesson 8: Follow your own path

We don’t run our business like a “design boutique” – instead, we are fairly hands-on with clients. If we were a design boutique, we may have decided to triple or quadruple our initial setup costs and lower the price of email credits. Or, if we had taken the full-service agency route, we may have focused on “full servicing” our clients and charging an hourly rate. The point is that you can make a profit from email marketing in many ways, not just by selling email credits. I think that’s something each agency has to explore thoroughly for themselves.

Our selling points

Finally, I wanted to share some of the selling points that have really worked for us:

  • Bespoke, flexible templates that look good across the major email clients
  • Our strict anti-spam policy – being one of the ‘good guys’ works
  • Efficient management of subscribes, unsubscribes and lists overall
  • One-on-one training
  • Hassle-free initial setup, then full client control over what they send and when, without needing our input

Many thanks to our anonymous super-customer for this close look at how his successful agency works. Do you have a killer lesson or tip for your fellow rebranders? Or do you have a question in regards to selling email marketing? Share it with us in the comments below.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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