15 minute read time
This guide was originally published in 2015 and was updated in April, 2020.
As a freelancer or consultant, email marketing is an incredible service to sell. Even as strategies change and new digital marketing platforms and tactics are created, email is an incredibly steadfast medium to reach an audience. It has the highest ROI out of any digital marketing channel, and is relied upon in nearly every industry.
Email’s not going away. And that means, as one that sells email marketing services, you can count on getting huge returns if you can position your services well and keep clients happy.
There’s one particularly good reason why you should sell email services. If you’re freelancing, email services provide a prime opportunity to maintain ongoing, potentially lucrative relationships with clients.
Designers and developers often find that they have few reasons to continue the client relationship once they’ve delivered the site they were contracted to provide. Email is a very handy solution to the challenge of maintaining close client relationships over time, as most clients will continue to have a need for your work.
If you see yourself purely as a web designer or developer, it’s time to broaden that view. The first important step in selling your email marketing services is to recognize your capabilities in email design and delivery. Then you’ll be able to present yourself as someone who designs or develops more than websites alone.
A client who’s just paid good money to have a website developed will usually be quick to grasp the potential that email marketing offers, and they’ll want to make the most of it.
As we know, email is an established, widely used online marketing tool that’s readily embraced. A Nielsen study showed that 90% of consumers prefer to hear from brands via an email newsletter, while just 10% prefer Facebook. For clients who are focused on brand—and online revenue building—email will usually be a logical and essential part of the plan. And who better than you, their trusted web designer or developer, to provide that service?
Similarly, email services can be a good way to get your foot in the door of organizations for which you’d like to do more work. Approach a prospect who you know doesn’t currently use email to communicate with their audience, secure a contract to design and deliver a new email newsletter or welcome journey, and you might have the beginnings of a great—and growing—business relationship.
In any case, the benefits of recurring revenue that results from an ongoing contract for email marketing services are evident. If you’ve been looking to provide add-on services as a freelancer that’ll give you reliable income each month, email offerings are an excellent place to start.
So you want to sell email marketing services. What exactly does that mean? If you’re a freelancer or consultant, it’s likely you’ve already identified the essential skills you’ll be able to sell to clients.
Before you try to work out what you can sell, it’s important to recognize the difference between selling technical services and selling marketing services. For those of us you that have spent your careers designing and building websites, it may seem quite a leap to shift from that skill set to selling email marketing services. What if the client wants advice on audience segmentation, content strategy, or some other marketing-related aspect of email?
Perhaps you already have experience in email marketing, so you’re comfortable responding to client questions on these topics. On the other hand, you may prefer to restrict your offering to the purely technical: design, testing, delivery, list management, and tracking. Whatever the case, now’s a good time to start thinking about these issues and identifying the areas in which you feel you can best help your clients.
In this section, we’ll stick specifically to the technical aspects of the email services you might sell.
Despite the wealth of usable email marketing tools out there, many clients are hesitant to take responsibility for inputting and sending emails themselves. If you’re willing to create the template that you’ve coded (or created in a drag-and-drop editor), prepare the list segmentation and suppression yourself, and hit send, those clients may be happy to pay you for your help.
Given the various legal implications associated with building email subscriber lists, it’s no surprise that many site managers would prefer to hand responsibility for the management of email lists, subscriptions, and unsubscribes to a skilled professional like you.
For example, if a client wants to merge two databases into one, they may need you to clean the databases against one another to remove problem addresses (invalid and dummy addresses, for example), as well as ensure that individuals who’ve signed up to both lists are included in the merged subscriber list only once.
We’re straying into more strategic territory here, but even if you decide you’ll only provide technical services, you may be able to recommend layout or design tweaks that might boost click-throughs and engagement, or reduce opt-outs for your clients. You might also provide A/B testing abilities (including design, delivery, and review) for clients who want to hone their email marketing efforts.
Within these broad categories, you may be able to think of several offerings to interest existing or prospective customers. The way you integrate these offerings will depend on your clients, your level of interest, and how you choose to package your services as a freelancer or consultant.
As an example, you might decide to offer a full email newsletter service that includes the following features:
Now that you’ve worked out what you’re going to sell, let’s think about how you go about selling it.
Selling email services involves three components. The first task is to work out what you’ll charge for your offering, and on what basis you’ll apply those charges. We’ll look at this topic next.
Then, you’ll need to work out how to pitch these new services successfully to your clients. Under the section “Preparing your pitch” we list a few items that can help you communicate the possibilities and benefits of email for your clients.
Finally, in the section called “Promoting email services to clients and prospects,” we’ll look at the ways you might announce your new email services to existing and prospective clients. We’ll also see how you can integrate them seamlessly into your overall service offering.
When it comes to pricing your services, the world is, effectively, your oyster. Let’s look at pricing on the basis of the way you might offer your email marketing services: on a per-skill basis, and as a series of package deals.
If you’ve decided to sell your services based on skills—template design, delivery, list management, and so on—you’re probably looking at two charging options.
The most obvious option is to charge by the hour, but you could charge a flat fee instead. The latter acts as an easier sell that prevents your less confident or more budget-conscious clients from worrying just how much they’ll wind up paying for the service. This table lists some of the services we discussed above and identifies their most common pricing options.
|Template design||Hourly rate or flat fee|
|Creative amendments||Hourly rate or flat fee|
|Email delivery||Calculated based on list size|
|Campaign review and consultation||Hourly rate or flat fee|
|Database cleaning||Hourly rate or calculated on the basis of list size|
|Campaign report provision||Flat fee|
|A/B testing and reporting||Hourly rate or flat fee|
|List management||Hourly rate, flat fee, or calculated based on list size|
|List and image hosting||Calculated based on file size or storage required (more or less irrelevant with most ESPs)|
As the table shows, the one area where charging by the hour is less appropriate is where the list size plays a role. Many freelancers base their email delivery service charges on the size of the mailing, since the costs of the campaign increase as the list grows. The same logic applies to hosting and list management service charges.
It’s also important to note that although some of these services—particularly list and image hosting—may be included in a web-based email management service package, many freelancers charge clients separately for them. It’s true that these items might fall outside the freelancer’s direct action. However, they may see these charges as offsetting related costs that may not be covered by their own client service package price. For example, if they need to liaise with the email service’s support team over the hosting of image files, or to obtain backups of client data at some point, there’ll be no need to charge the client separately for those hours, since they’ve already been covered by the hosting price.
In choosing which pricing method to use, you’ll probably gravitate toward your current pricing approach. But you should always consider how the client will react. If they’re unfamiliar with email marketing and have never collected details for a subscriber list before, a flat fee may put their minds at ease regarding the potential of costs escalating. Alternatively, your existing clients may be curious if you, a staunch by-the-hour designer, suddenly offer services for a flat fee. And, if you do opt for flat-fee pricing, keep in mind that some clients will take up more of your time than others.
You might want to set your price at a point that allows for some back and forth with the client or contains a percent on top for unexpected discussions or delays. This is especially relevant if you’ve created a flat-fee structure to convince clients who are inexperienced with email to give it a try. You may need to do extra legwork to keep them comfortable and answer their questions as the development progresses. Be sure to allow some form of extra time in your flat-fee structure.
Ultimately, the answer to the question of pricing really depends on you, your clients, your relationships, and the way you do business. If you’d feel happier charging by the hour for everything, and you can sell this option to current and potential clients, go for it.
Pricing service packages will obviously require you to work out how much you’ll charge for each component of the package first.
You may find that, when you group tasks into a complete bundle, working on them becomes more of a fluid process than completing these tasks individually. You also stand to gain economies in the project management aspect of the job, given that you’ll be working with one client across the spectrum of tasks. These continuity benefits might allow you to shave an hour off here or there, providing better value than you would if providing the services individually.
But what should you do if a client wants only some of the services in a specific offer? Maybe you include A/B testing in a package, but for reasons of time or budget pressure, your client doesn’t want to test their email. Can you remove that service from the package? If so, by how much will that affect the package’s price?
If you’ve reduced your overall package price to account for the benefits that the continuity of the work will bring, you won’t want to cut the package price by the original cost you allotted to A/B testing, since that now represents a larger portion of the optimized price. In this case, it might be more accurate to reduce the overall package cost by a percentage of that original sum you calculated for A/B testing.
It might be wise to develop a standard calculation that allows you to drop in or pull out components of your service package easily. This will make it easier to establish how much the price will change if a client adds or removes a component from the package, and saves you having to go back to the drawing board every time they decide to add or drop a service.
However you choose to structure your email service pricing, it’s important that you communicate it clearly and transparently to clients. We’ll look at these considerations next.
In preparing to sell your email services to clients and prospects, you’ll need more than an idea of what you’ll offer and how you’ll charge.
Your clients may be eager email marketers or they may have no experience at all in this field. You’ll know where your clients sit on this spectrum, and, from this point, it’s a matter of putting together the collateral that’ll convince them to pay for your email services.
Whether you prepare a pre-sales white paper to introduce prospects to the benefits of your email services, or simply spend half an hour discussing the topic with them over a coffee, you need to be able to prove that email marketing delivers.
The Direct Marketing Association’s research into the average return on investment for email is available on its site, and its key findings are regularly reported in various news sources. A quick web search will turn up the most current research results, which you can use in your discussions with clients. We also look to Litmus for their accuracy around email ROI.
The same is true for data on email market penetration, its usage by organizations in particular countries, and the acceptance of email marketing by target recipients. This kind of information can make persuasive reading (or listening) for your prospects. You might even consider creating a quick comparison of how email performs against other marketing tactics to indicate the effectiveness of email clearly.
As well as answering the question, “Why should I use email marketing,” you might need to explain to clients why they need to pay for email marketing services when they can send it without you.
You’ll want to show them how easy, flexible, and cost-effective email campaign management can be, and the benefits it delivers. Explain the kinds of headaches prospects can avoid if they use appropriate tools to manage their mailing lists.
Step them through the process of setting up a test campaign in your ESP of choice, using them and yourself as recipients. And highlight the value of the tracking data they can gain through a properly managed campaign, perhaps by showing them example reports.
If you’ve already run a campaign or two for clients (or yourself) you might prepare case examples of those campaigns that identify the clients’ objectives, how you met their needs, and what sort of results they obtained in a given time frame. Be sure to obtain permission to mention the names of the clients you’ve provided email services to.
If you don’t have any results of actual campaigns that are suitable to use as case studies, you might be able to compile that information in other ways:
Finally, compile examples of different email types so that your prospects can gain a clear idea of which formats might work for them.
Consider also preparing a schedule of rates for your email services or packages, so they can see at a glance what kind of money they need to spend to reach a given audience size.
A portfolio of your email marketing services is an excellent sales tool, as it provides visual proof that you can make good on what you promise.
Even if you’re just starting out in this field and you have no working email examples, you might create samples of the different email types to show prospects. A collection of carefully honed examples will indicate even to the least creative of your prospects what you can do for them.
While you’re preparing different email examples, why not tailor them specifically to your prospects? You could include their logo and brand name in the design, and reflect their products, services, and audience in the content. As well as attention-grabbing, this tactic can help your prospects establish a connection between their brand and email marketing.
If you have real campaign data, marry the creative examples with brief fact sheets that identify the response rates generated, and the return the clients gained on their investments. This information will go a long way to convince prospects that you know what you’re doing. Not only does it show that you’re focused on the business benefits of email, but it also proves that you can help them achieve real results.
Presenting your portfolio online—along with case information, testimonials, and result data wherever you can—is undoubtedly your best option for presenting your email marketing services.
Once you’ve completed email projects for a few clients, present a case study for each of the services or packages you offer. In the meantime, publish examples of your creative output to show off your capabilities in email marketing.
So you’ve prepared your sales materials and you’re ready to start selling email services. Great! But how can you promote those services to your clients? Should you just give them a call and set up a meeting to discuss the topic? Or try to slip email services casually into your next conversation?
Your sales approach will depend on your clients and your own personal style. Here are a few tactics you might consider for communicating your new service to clients:
If you’re yet to do so already, create an email newsletter that you can regularly send to clients. You might use it to keep them updated on your service offering and additions to your online portfolio, point them to research that may help them use their website to its full potential, or provide them with web tips and hints.
A well-planned and executed email newsletter can be a good way to practice what, effectively, you’re trying to preach. It’ll also give you some case study pieces and live mailing statistics that you can use in sales pitches.
Remember to add information about your email marketing services to your website. Potential clients who visit the site will then be aware of your full service offering, which is likely to push you higher up their shortlist of potential providers.
Go through your current client list and identify the businesses you believe will particularly benefit from your new services. Contact the appropriate people to set up a meeting, so you can explain how email might fit into their marketing and online strategies.
If you’ve prepared a white paper or article about the benefits of email, send it through to them before the meeting.
Finally, tailor a pitch that includes a specialized email sample with their brand and business with clear recommendations about the ways in which email might help them achieve their goals. Outline which of your services you believe will best benefit them.
You may use your new services as a basis to target prospects who you haven’t worked with before. If you can see an opportunity for email in a given organization, you might find others in the same industry that are yet to embrace the benefits of email.
You may use some of the more traditional promotional means—printing postcards, writing articles on email’s relevance and benefits for industry publications, attending local networking events, and so on—to reach these new clients.
You may think that adding your new service listing to your website and placing examples of your work in your portfolio is all you need to do to make email part of your repertoire. But these tactics are just the start you can go much further. Consider some of the following marketing tactics to broadcast your freelance or consulting company:
You may wish to avoid diluting the strong brand you’ve built by becoming “the email person” overnight. Despite this, focusing strongly on email can establish it as a key part of your service offering, especially in the early stages.
Be creative in your search for promotional opportunities. Perhaps you’ll put up your hand to mail match schedules and results to members of your soccer club and maintain the subscriber email database. Design an eye-catching template on an otherwise quiet afternoon, and you may impress some friends who want to use email in their businesses, or who know someone who could!
You know just how beneficial email marketing can be—the challenge is now proving the benefits to those you intend to sell your services to. The best way to sell anything to anyone is to show them the numbers.
That’s why we’ve gone ahead and compiled this list of email marketing statistics to help you sell email marketing services to your prospective clients.
Email marketing is here to stay. If your clients have yet to jump on the bandwagon, then it’s a great time to persuade them.
Lean on this guide to get your email marketing services kickstarted for your freelance or consultant company. You’ll be onboarding new clients in no time.
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