Liz Willits, on Email Marketing, Copywriting, and Running Her Own Business
If you’re trying to figure out email marketing for your business, Liz Willits is one of the first people you want to talk to. From strategy to actionable steps like building an email list and writing engaging copy, Liz is an industry powerhouse.
As a former content marketer at one of the most popular email service providers, she sent millions of emails that generated hundreds of thousands in sales. Now, she helps SaaS companies position themselves in the market, attract leads, and drive ROI.
Making email marketing work for your business
In this exclusive interview, we talked to Liz Willits about:
- the thrill of running her own business,
- the biggest aha moment she’s had about email marketing,
- how to grow your email list, and
- the most common email marketing myths she encounters.
Plus, Liz gives us three simple things we can do today to improve our email performance.
Her tips are ripe for the picking – enjoy!
You’ve just celebrated one year of running your own business. What motivates you the most to get up and get to work? On the other hand, what keeps you up with worry at night?
I love getting to work with awesome tech. Most of my clients are rapidly-growing SaaS technology startups who are building the future.
Marketing world-changing technology is such an amazing privilege.
It’s a fun challenge to develop messaging and copy for innovative products. The challenging part: Sometimes the tech is SO innovative that it’s difficult to explain.
The fun part: Getting to use this amazing technology myself. Then writing copy that shows the market its immense value. I’m playing a role in getting the world to adopt technology that makes their life better and easier. That’s cool.
I also love the freedom of running my own business. The possibilities are endless. I work with clients and products I love. I create products of my own choosing.
Feeling like I’m not doing enough or being productive enoughkeeps me up at night. There’s always more I want to do and not enough time to do it.
What does your typical day look like now? Any good (or bad?) habits you’d like to tell us about?
I typically wake up between 5 and 6 a.m. every day. I read for about an hour and plan my day. Then, I start work. I’ll work until noon, take my lunch break and go on a walk, and then start work back up at 1. The afternoon depends on the day. Sometimes I work until 7 p.m. Other days, I’ll end work at 3 p.m. and go workout and enjoy the summer weather.
The best habit I’ve gotten into is writing down my tasks, estimating how long they’ll take, and time blocking my day — before I start the day. This habit made a massive difference in my productivity and my business.
I use a tool called Motion to manage my schedule and meetings. The coolest thing about Motion is that it actually optimizes my schedule with artificial intelligence. It’s like having a personal assistant. Motion looks at everything I need to do in a day and creates a schedule for me to get it all done.
Motion is my favorite productivity tool, and I recommend it to everyone.
There’s a common question among new freelancers and business owners: how do I figure out how much to charge for what I do? What would you tell them?
Don’t charge by the hour. Charging by the hour incentivizes you to work slow. Which isn’t good for your business or for your clients.
Instead, charge by the project or by deliverables. Or, charge a day rate.
You should still know what you charge per hour of work. You just won’t tell your client that.
When it comes time to create a client proposal, estimate how many hours the project will take. Multiply the total hours by your hourly rate.
For example, if you estimate the project will take 20 hours, and you need to earn $250 per hour, you would send your client a proposal for $5,000. Don’t tell them about your hourly estimate though. That’s something they don’t need to know.
To get an idea of what your rate per hour should be, you can:
- Ask other freelancers and consultants in your space. Let them know your experience level and expertise. And ask them what range they think you should charge. You’d be surprised how many “competitors” are willing to openly share helpful information.
- Do online research. Often, you can find data with pricing benchmarks.
- Test different rates. Sometimes, potential clients will say, “no.” That’s OK.
Where do you get your confidence as an entrepreneur?
A few things give me confidence:
- Past success
- Positive self-talk
- My competitive drive
But I still struggle with impostor syndrome at times. What’s helped me get over impostor syndrome is realizing that I’m not alone— many people struggle with impostor syndrome. Brilliant, successful, admirable people still struggle with impostor syndrome.
This reveals a truth: Impostor syndrome isn’t based on real-world happenings or reality. It’s a lie we tell ourselves. That’s where positive self-talk comes in. While we may face it, we should never give into it.
Let’s talk email: what was the biggest aha moment you’ve had about email marketing?
I’m a big fan of social media marketing. My LinkedIn account has had a massive impact on my business.
Yet, there’s a problem with social media marketing: You’re not in control. I’ve seen friends and colleagues with massive social media followers have their accounts shut down.
This happened to a colleague on LinkedIn. He’d done nothing wrong, yet LinkedIn terminated his account. The reason: Their algorithm had detected “suspicious behavior,” which turned out to be my friend commenting a lot on his own post to respond to questions.
They eventually restored his account, but not before he’d spent days panicking and worrying that he’d lost his entire social media following and a major revenue source. This is the risk of social media marketing. Also, the algorithms are another factor out of your control.
My biggest “aha” moment with email marketing: This problem doesn’t exist for email marketers. You own your list. You can take it to any email marketing platform you’d like. It’s yours.
You’re also in control of how and when your subscribers receive your emails. With social media marketing, the algorithm is in control of that.
What are some of the most common email marketing myths you encounter?
Somehow, I still often encounter the myth that email marketing is dead.
The fact that nearly all major brands use and rely on email marketing easily dispels this. Smart brands don’t use “dead” marketing strategies.
From your observations, how aware are most marketers and business owners of their lists going bad? How many of them use an email verifier?
Most people aren’t aware of this. Businesses will have a 5% average open rate, and they’ll think that’s normal. It’s not. With permission-based lists, low open rates often indicate an email list that needs to be cleaned. (The other issue could be poor, irrelevant content.)
And even more never use an email verifier. Email verifiers, like ZeroBounce, are an excellent tool if you’re struggling with low open rates from a disengaged list. An email verifier will help you identify and remove bad email addresses.
Please give us three simple things anyone can do today to improve their email marketing.
- Talk to a few subscribers. Find out how you can help them. What are their questions? What problems do they face? And what email content would they like to see from you?
- Clean your email list. Remove disengaged subscribers who haven’t been opening or clicking on your emails in the last few months. An email verification tool can help with this too.
- Study a few copywriting formulas and use them in your next email. They will make your copy more interesting and more engaging. PAS (Problem, Agitation, Solution) is a good place to start. This is a great resource to learn more about copywriting formulas.
What’s the secret to awesome content, Liz?
Engaging delivery and a topic people care about.
What is the most fun thing about what you do?
I love getting to use and market innovative, problem-solving tech. I also love the freedom I have working for myself.
What do you wish you had more time for?
Reading! I read a lot, but there’s never enough time for it.
Lightning round: short, sweet, and the first thing you think of
Your favorite social media platform: LinkedIn.
The easiest way to grow your email list: Lead magnet.
The most effective way to increase your email click rates: Send useful, relevant email content.
A brand email you always open: Copyhackers.
Your favorite newsletters: Total Annarchy, theSkimm, Morning Brew.
An email marketing practice to stay away from: Buying email lists.
The word more marketers should use in their copy: “You.”