Have you ever signed up for someone’s email list and then not heard from them for months?
That’s probably a little hard to answer, so let me phrase it another way.
Have you ever been completely shocked to suddenly get a sales email from a business? Nine times out of ten, we consider that spam, right? Someone emails us out of the blue, asking us to buy this or that, it’s likely going to result in an unsubscribe.
Yet, the thing is, we probably opted in to that brand’s list.
We probably signed up for an ebook or offer of some kind, perhaps even made an online purchase, only it was months ago. So long ago that we completely forgot about it and failed to recognize the company when it walked into our Inbox unannounced.
As a marketer, that’s a rather horrific thought.
You might spend hours and hours creating a compelling offer and signup form so that you can build your list. And then when you’re ready to communicate with those subscribers, they’ve forgotten who you are.
But there’s another problem. Not all of your subscribers will be as absent-minded as me. Some will remember you. But they won’t know you. They don’t really understand you yet, or don’t have a good sense for what you offer. Or maybe don’t even need you.
There’s no relationship.
These subscribers may not instantly file your email as spam, but they’re certainly not ready to buy either.
That leaves a tiny fraction of your subscribers who will be interested in your “offer” enough to click through, and then only a fraction of those will end up buying. Most industry estimates report that a 1.2% click through rate is average, while a 4% conversion rate on a page is to be expected.
That means a list of 1000 subscribers might only generate 12 visitors to your emailed offer, and 0 purchases – and that’s assuming you can achieve at least average performance!
While other marketers focus on building more subscribers so that the numbers inflate, we’re going to make far better use of the subscribers we have. That way, when we once again spend hours and hours creating a digital download, all of the new subscribers we bring in will be far more valuable to us and our investment of time will be rewarded.
One of the things that I like to do is play matchmaker. You ever play matchmaker with friends? You think Amy and Brad would make a great couple so you invite them both out to dinner or to a party…
Yeah, not that kind of matchmaker.
I like to introduce my readers to other thought leaders and experts in the marketing space. I’m a bit of a “generalist” since I tend to write about blogging, social media, search engine marketing and, obviously, email marketing. I know there are many people out there though who specialize in specific aspects of online marketing whom my readers would benefit from.
Because I’ve developed a relationship with my audience, they know me (my average email open rate is 15.5%) and they trust me (my average click through rate is 2.5%).
So when I sent an email introducing my audience to Stephanie Liu of “Lights, Camera, Live” for those interested in learning more about live video, they jumped at the chance to join her community. She was so staggered at the response she dubbed it the “Allton Effect.”
If you were to share something with your subscribers today, and ask them to do something, what would it be? Would they do it?
What every brand should strive to do with their email marketing – taking full advantage of the opportunity to be in someone’s Inbox – is nurture relationships with every email subscriber so that they can get to know, like and trust you.
It takes time and it takes work and it is totally worth it.
Will every subscriber develop into a prospect or customer? No. But far more than would have under the old plan of sending an email once every six months.
What we need is a plan… an approach… that helps us to leverage existing technology and time-saving tactics. It’s part habit and part automation.
Wishpond is the tool that I use for managing all my popups, forms and lead generation campaigns, sending newsletters, and nurturing that email community over time. You can learn more about the technical steps of how to use and setup Wishpond here. The rest of this article will assume you know how to create popups and autoresponders and just focus on the strategy and tactics.
If you already have one or more digital downloads in place, you likely have at least one automated email running right now. An autoresponder that automatically sends an email to a new subscriber and delivers the content that was requested.
And while that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do, that’s also where most of us stop.
There’s no second email. Or third email.
Our subscribers don’t hear from us until we want something from them.
And as we’ve seen, that doesn’t work.
What if, instead, you wrote a series of emails and set them to automatically be sent to your new subscribers over time.
That’s sometimes referred to as a “drip campaign” though in this case, we’re not trying to sell and funnel those subscribers… at least not with these emails. These emails are all about building the relationship so that, later on, you can consider moving forward with more promotional, sales-driven content.
Before we get into some specific ideas for what you might send, a word of caution. Do not over-think or over-complicate this project. Most of the email marketing tools available today allow you to create “segments” of your list – portions of subscribers that all share a similar criteria, such as being from Texas. Or having signed up for a particular download.
Yes, when it comes to sales, targeting refined segments of customers will result in better-performing campaigns. But again, that’s not our goal here. The emails I’m about to teach you how to write are going to help your new subscribers get to know who you are, and begin to create some psychological bonds that will make your future activities easier.
You’ve already sent them an initial email, so now it’s time to start thinking about the next…. whoa there, let’s not be so hasty. Maybe we should talk about that first email first, yes?
Your First Email
The first email you send in an autoresponder is whatever that new subscriber asked for, right? If you’ve been to my site before, you’ve doubtless seen the invitations to grab my Facebook Survival Kit. Had you entered your email address, within moments you would have received an email from me with that PDF resource.
But that’s not all.
Just because there’s a primary purpose for that email doesn’t mean we have to waste the fact that we’ve arrived in our subscribers Inbox.
In fact, even the best email marketers have to admit, it’s that first email that’s going to have astronomical open rates (50-100%), which are only going to go down from there.
So, if you’re going to send an email that might actually get opened 100% of time, let’s make it count, shall we?
Deliver the Goods – by all means, get straight to the point and have a download button or link to grab whatever it is you offered. While it’s nice to open with a little validation (“Congratulations on your decision to start a blog!”), don’t overdo it. Don’t risk wasting their time with meaningless marketing speak.
Go one better – but wait, there’s more! What else can you share or tell them right at that moment? It doesn’t have to be a second download or resource, but what if you also shared with them some other articles you’ve published in the past that are related to their requested content? Or a really great tip?
Say it with style – this is essentially a first date. Most of us would show up for a first date looking our best, and trying hard throughout the evening to be natural and entertaining. In your first email (and in every email thereafter), you should speak with your brand voice. As fun and engaging as you’re comfortable being.
Tell ‘em what’s next – before you sign off, you have to let your new subscriber know what’s coming next. Tell them that in X days you’re going to be sending them another important message, or that you have something to share with them, or whatever fits with how you decide to word your second email.
Those four elements will ensure that your first, most-opened email will deliver a fabulous first impression.
Your Second Email
Right. Now it’s time to work on the next email. What do you say?!
I’m going to give you a list of topics for emails that you can send starting with the thirdemail. For your second email, I recommend that everyone choose to use this approach. Feel free, however, to go your own way!
The second email should help your new reader to understand more about you and, most importantly, what they’re likely to get from you going forward. I call it Setting Expectations.
A great way to start this email is to tell your story. Why are you doing what you’re doing? What was the pivotal event that got you started on this path?
Share something that readers can relate to and learn a bit about you.
Which story? Well, that’s up to you. I do recommend that you keep it as brief and entertaining as possible. A nice, quick read is probably 500 – 750 words. You can certainly go longer or shorter as you deem fit, so long as it’s impactful.
Then, after you’ve shared your story, talk a little bit about the kind of content you create now, how often, and what you’ll be sharing with your readers going forward. This is also an opportunity for you to preview the rest of your email series (once you’ve written them).
Plan to spend a lot of time thinking about, writing, and polishing this email. While your first email will always get the most opens, this email is the one message nearly all of your subscribers are expecting and know it’s something for them to read.
Before we get into the additional email topics you might send, take a moment to think about “frequency” – how often you’re going to set these up to go out. This could be every day, once a week – it’s entirely up to you and how often you think your audience might like to hear from you.
I’ve experimented with weekly, every few days, and every day, to help me understand what seems to work best for my audience. You should do the same. I do tend to think that the 2nd email, Setting Expections, should come 1 day after the first email. The remaining messages can be spaced out a bit more if you wish. And if you do space them out, that will really help with the issue of not sending anything to your subscribers over a long time.
The rest of these emails are just ideas. You can choose to send one or all, in whatever order you wish. You can also start with just one or two and gradually add to your series! My original series was 5 emails and has grown to 9 over time.
Here they are, in no particular order:
How can I help you? What questions can I answer? What’s your most pressing problem today?
What’s stopping you from succeeding?
That’s the overall message that you want to send with this email. It’s designed to give your readers an opportunity to reply to you, and that’s an important concept.
First, if they’re replying to this message, that means they’re sharing their problems with you – problems you can potentially fix. Sometimes the fix is an easy reply back or a link to an existing article, in which case you get to play the role of Hero. Sometimes they’re going to need more help, which is an opportunity for you to nurture a lead.
Second, getting into the mindset that they can reply to your emails and you’re actually going to read those replies is critical for setting up success down the road. It’s basic “Getting To Yes” psychology.
When I was selling swimming pools and hot tubs for Litehouse Pools & Spas in Ohio, I talked to prospective customers each and every day. Families would come in thinking about putting in a pool, and very few knew that much about pools.
They usually didn’t know what size they wanted, what features, what equipment… it was the idea of having a pool that entranced them.
Had I walked up to a customer as soon as they entered my showroom and asked them if they were ready to buy, the answer would have been an immediate No, 100% of the time.
Instead, I’d have a real conversation with them, and we’d talk about what they wanted for their family. Not about the pool so much as the experience. And I’d ask questions that I suspected would be answered with a Yes.
“Are you hoping to be able to spend more time in your backyard rather than away from home?”
“Would you like to be able to entertain family & friends in your pool?”
“Are you interested in pool packages that are as maintenance-free as possible?”
Over and over they’d answer, Yes.
And now they’re ready to buy. At that point, it was just a matter of presenting them with a package that most fit their needs and asking them if they’re ready to schedule delivery.
Be clear in your email that you aren’t trying to sell them. In mine, I talk about how I answer questions all the time in comments and email replies and social media posts, which I think helps my readers to understand I’m not trying to set them up for an immediate pitch.
While we definitely want to let our subscribers know when we’ve published new content or created a new video, one of the most amazing things you can do for your subscribers is send them something that’s just for them.
This is a video or piece of content that no one else can see. And you’re going to want to tell them that so they know they’re getting VIP treatment as a result and benefit of subscribing to your list.
It does need to be meaningful and helpful so if you’re going to write something, it’ll need to be substantive enough that you could have published it as a blog post. For a video, I imagine you’ll need to talk for at least 5 – 10 minutes.
The idea is that you teach them something or help them with something just as you would your regular audience.
But it doesn’t necessarily have to be created from scratch.
I repurposed a custom presentation that I was asked to give once on how Social Media Marketing fits into an overall marketing strategy. After re-reading it a year after I gave the presentation, I realized it was something that most of my subscribers would benefit from and appreciate.
Maybe you have something along those lines, or perhaps a guest blog post that you have permission to re-publish, but never got around to. Or, think of the one thing that you wish all of your subscribers knew and teach them that.
Just make sure that everything’s in the email – the entire article (or link to a private video). And do not have a CTA or next step at the end. Just give them the exclusive content without any further expectation. That will help develop trust.
Get To Know You More
Hopefully in your first email you shared a story about yourself. That doesn’t have to be the last time you talk about yourself though!
Sure, most businesses talk about themselves A LOT, but when they do they’re talking about what they think they can do for me. They’re not telling me stories about themselves or how they’ve worked with other people in the past that might actually be interesting to me.
Now, this is a topic where there’s a great deal of latitude. You could talk about yourself, your business, your customers… your successes, your failures, your goals. Whatever you think will help your readers understand you and, ultimately, be more inclined to be interested in you.
Got more than one story you’d like to share? Put ‘em in more than one email.
Similar to the Exclusive Content email, this one is something just for your audience. However, the format of the ‘gift’ is different in that this would typically be a digital download.
Whether that’s an eBook or a worksheet or a swipe file is entirely up to you.
Personally, I think an eBook is something I would reserve for a regular offer and, instead, create a worksheet or swipe file or template – something that should take you no more than 1 – 2 hours to put together, but will still be useful for your audience.
Have a Google Sheet that you use in your business that your customers could use as well? Make a copy with no data in it and share a View Only link. They can make their own copy and use it themselves.
Handy with PhotoShop? Create a template file and give them the PSD.
Or, do what I’m doing, and put together a directory of experts and influencers in your niche that your audience would do well to follow and learn from.
How long have you been creating blog posts or videos?
Anyone that chooses to follow you and subscribe to your list today likely isn’t familiar with the content you published 6+ months ago. And since they’ll never get an email notification from you about it, send one now!
Once you have more than a few pieces in your archive, this is a great opportunity to share your best and most important posts with new subscribers, even if it’s now been years since the post was published.
Just be sure to keep them updated.
Ready to have some fun with your audience?
Tell them your Top Ten Favorite R&B Hits. Or your Top Ten Favorite Movies. Top Ten Favorite Places to Vacation.
Again, this will be an email that is somewhat personal and revealing… and if you’re not as comfortable with that, that’s OK. Make it your Top Ten Favorite Tools or something else business related. But try to have as much fun as you’re comfortable with.
And then remember our strategy of getting our readers to reply? Use it again here. Whatever your Top Ten list is, ask them to reply with theirs!
You might really get a kick out of the answers, and definitely look for opportunities to engage in great email conversations.
Will that take up some of your time? YES! Relationships take time. Invest in your audience members and they’ll invest in you. <Tweet This!>
Tools & Tips
Finally, I like to share my favorite, can’t-live-without tools in one of my early emails. It’s a little bit promotional since some of them are affiliate links, but I think one of the most valuable things I can do for my audience is save them time and frustration by sharing what’s working for me.
For instance, I always tell my blogging students to use Evernote to brainstorm and track ideas, and to work on the initial draft. I literally wrote this entire article on a plane flying from our Agorapulse offices in Paris back home to the United States.
The idea for the post has been sitting in my Evernote though since August 1, 2017! It was over eight months before I finally felt like digging into this article. As I skimmed through my existing ideas, this was the one that happened to jump out at me.
So I love telling bloggers how much Evernote helps me, along with my other critical tools.
If tools don’t make sense for you and your audience, how about sharing some tips?
At this point, you probably feel like you’ve got a lot on your plate to tackle. Feel free to bookmark this post, work on those autoresponders, and come back. When you’re ready, we can start talking about the emails that you send manually.
Let’s say you decide to set up 4 additional autoresponder emails to go out after that first initial Welcome email. Your Setting Expectations email goes out the day after, and then 3 additional emails you created go out 1, 2 and 3 weeks later. Which is great because that means each new subscriber to your list will hear from you consistently for a full month.
But then what?
How do you keep your list informed and engaged, and keep your brand top of mind?
You definitely need to send emails manually, but there are ways of making that easier.
First, decide on a frequency, and stick to it. Just like with blogging, a set schedule gives you something to be accountable to and be aware of. If you don’t have a set schedule for publishing or emailing, it’s more likely that it won’t get done.
Now, your frequency of emailing doesn’t have to be every week! It could be monthly or quarterly or bi-weekly. Whatever seems like a good fit for you. A schedule that you can abide by and still have plenty of things to write about.
Which brings us to the second way we’re going to make emailing easier. Have a list of types of emails to send! Here are some suggestions:
- Blog Post Notifications
- Live Video / Event Invitations
- Company News & Announcements
- Curated Articles
- Customer Stories
- Personal Stories
Ann Handley, one of my favorite writers, recently started sending a newsletter again and it’s wonderful. She sends it every couple of weeks and combines a variety of these tactics. She has lessons. Links to great articles she’s found. Stories to share, and even a mention of her great marketing conference to generate more event awareness and ticket sales.
Because she invests so much time and care into her newsletters, she repurposes them into blog posts!
And that’s really the key. You want all of your emails to be so polished and interesting that you’d have no trouble publishing them as articles.
In 2014, I was using a different email marketing platform and noticed an option to create an “RSS Campaign” email newsletter. Intrigued, I started digging and learned that I could connect my blog’s RSS feed and have an email notification automatically generated and sent to my list!
Instead of having to spend half an hour or so writing a blog post notification email, I could just let the tool send it for me!
I quickly created the template, tested it, and it worked great. I got a nice little email with the blog post title, image, summary and link. I even figured out how to add social sharing buttons that would share the post URL, right within the email.
That. Was ludicrous.
Aside from the fact that no one is going to tweet a link to an article from an email, what I’d done was completely strip all personality and relationship awareness out of my emails. They had become boring automatons.
And my audience noticed.
My email open rates began to decline. It wasn’t dramatic, which was actually worse, because I didn’t realize what was happening for a long time. But it was consistent. Each month those open rates went lower and lower and lower until finally I realize that just 5 – 6% of my email subscribers were opening my emails!
By Summer of 2017, I realized my mistake and committed to fixing it. I stopped the RSS notifications and began to send emails by hand.
I also started researching current best practices and developed a plan, which happened to coincide with my migration to Wishpond.
There were two critical elements that I discovered and implemented.
First, I stopped using so many images in my emails. None if possible. My old emails had logos and blog post images and social media icons and more. And those images were getting my emails flagged by email programs like Gmail.
You see, Gmail knows that businesses like to put images within emails. Normal people don’t. So when Gmail sees an HTML-formatted email with embedded images, right to the Promotions tab it goes.
Affecting that change brought about an increase in deliverability – the rate at which the emails are actually placed into the Inbox. Not necessarily opened, but at least they’re seen!
Second, I spent time thinking of interesting Subjects, and of course crafted the full email copy unique for each new email.
Instantly my Open Rate shot back up to 15%+. And as I said earlier, that’s once again my average for the emails I send.
These days, it can be confusing when to use automation and when not to use automation. In the case of email, my own experience has proven that it’s exceedingly helpful to automate the kinds of emails that you want all of your new subscribers to read (so long as the content of those emails is personal and not automated).
But it was also clear that, going forward, my regular emails to my community need to be personal and thoughtful and lovingly crafted by hand.
Like every marketing strategy and tactic, go into this with the mindset of it being an experiment. You can try things exactly as I spelled out, then begin to initiate tests and different ideas of your own. That’s the only way you’ll learn for sure what works and what doesn’t work for your audience.
If you have any questions at all, please leave them in the comments below. And if you found this article to be helpful, won’t you please share it with your own tribe?