Ok, so you’ve started building an email list.
You have had people joining it as subscribers but you aren’t seeing any results from your email marketing efforts.
Wondering what you’re probably doing wrong and, more importantly, how to change things around?
In this blog post, we’ll go over 6 strategies you can use to nurture your email list subscribers, increase engagement and conversions – and get a better ROI for your list-building endeavors.
Why Email Marketing?
When it comes to digital marketing, email marketing is still a very effective part of it.
As blogging and content marketing guru Neil Patel illustrates in one of his articles, email marketing outperforms other digital marketing strategies like SEO, Internet Displays and Banner Ads.
I mean, look at the image below from Truconversion.com:
For each dollar you invest in email marketing, your Return On Investment could be as high as $40!
It goes without saying that, before you “go all crazy” with email marketing, you need to take a moment to step back and ask yourself whether that’s the most suited channel to communicate with your prospects (this is the case for most people and companies in the online business and marketing spaces – simply look at your inbox to see what I mean).
There’s at least an additional reason why your business should be utilizing email marketing as one of the pillars of its content marketing strategy: the control you have on the medium.
Podcasts can be removed from Apple Podcasts, Spotify and similar, Facebook pages and YouTube channels may be taken down (sometimes without an apparent reason), Instagram accounts get hacked…you get the idea.
Now , let me ask you this: do you remember MySpace?
Of course you do!
You may not know this but years ago, when MySpace was still one of the major platforms people – especially those in the music space – used, it underwent a change in ownership.
The new group decided to do a “reboot” of the ecosystem and thought it would be a terrific idea if everyone started (back) from scratch.
This meant that those who had spent months, or even years, building an audience on MySpace saw it disappear pretty much in the blink of an eye.
Yes, I’m talking about thousands of fans.
Gone. Like. That.
No need to panic, though, because you do have total control of your email list.
As long as you don’t spam it nor send inappropriate content, you can do pretty much whatever you like with it.
In case you’re currently considering email marketing software options, then check out this video I recorded a while ago.
There are a ton of options out there, so it’s important to ask yourself what you’d need the email marketing tool to do for your business.
Typically, these are what I consider must-have features:
- the ability to manage your email list (add/remove contacts to it)
- being able to tag your email contacts (more about this later on)
- being able to create automated email sequences – aka email autoresponders
- the ability to easily create opt-in forms
- using email newsletter templates for different types of emails
In addition to this and the price range that’s suitable for you, you should make sure that the software you end up picking allows you to create mobile-friendly elements – opt-in forms, etc.
And last, but not least, you may want to consider whether you’re looking for an email platform that also works as a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool or if you prefer to keep CRM and email marketing separate. In that case, you can still have the two tools interact with one another using third-party platforms such as Zapier, Integromat or Automate.
Email List Nurturing Strategy #1: Email Automation
Ok so, what actually goes into actually fostering your email subscribers for more engagement, conversions and sales?
In this second part of the blog post, I’m going to share with you a series of strategies you can implement to make that happen.
As you’ll see, some are low-hanging fruits and can be implemented relatively quickly, while others require more planning and action.
Are you ready?
Ok, here we go!
The first strategy may sound like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised by the fact that there are still business owners who completely ignore email automation.
If for you, email list = weekly/monthly emails you write and send, then you’re missing out…big time.
In its glossary, MailChimp – one of the email marketing tools you’ve probably heard of – defines email automation as ‘The use of predefined rules to trigger email messages based on specific actions customers take — or don’t take. Some examples include a welcome email that’s sent when a customer signs up for a mailing list or a quick reminder that the customer placed something in their cart but never finished checking out.’
In other words, you decide what the rules that trigger your email automation are.
Would you like a specific email or email sequence to be sent when:
- someone subscribes to your email list using a specific opt-in form?
- when a subscriber clicks on a link included in one of your emails?
- when, in your email marketing software back-end, a subscriber gets a specific tag (e.g new client vs. returning client?
- when someone hasn’t been opening your emails for a while?
‘Email automation takes repetitive tasks off your to-do list to free up your time for other valuable tasks, such as responding to customer questions,‘ writes MailChimp – and I couldn’t agree more!
Take a moment and think about how you’ve been going about email marketing until today.
Is there anything that you’ve been taking care of manually, and that could be automated?
In case you need help, remember that my team and I are just one click away!
The lesson here is to stop doing everything manually and embrace email automation, whenever possible.
Email List Nurturing Strategy #2: The ‘Did You Get the Freebie?’ Email
I’m pretty sure you’ve seen this next strategy in action but chances are you didn’t pay too much attention to it.
Let me ask you this: after signing up for an email newsletter, has it ever happened to you to receive an email that delivered the lead-magnet followed by a second – short – email that was sent a few minutes later?
Something asking you whether you had received the freebie, some like:
I just wanted to make sure that you received my previous email with [enter freebie name here].
Would you mind reply to this email to let me know that you were able to download the lead-magnet?
Wondering what’s that big of a deal about what I’m talking about here, aren’t you?
Here’s the thing: this apparently “useless” email is actually a very powerful asset for your email communications.
In fact, it immediately changes the dynamic of your email list tone and how it’s perceived by email services like Gmail, Yahoo!, etc..
Most email newsletters work in a “one-way” fashion, you – the content creator – send content to the subscriber.
By using the ‘Did you get the freebie?’ email, however, you start getting people used to the fact that yours is an interactive email list and that you’re going to ask them to do things (like replying to your email).
I’m not going to lie, some subscribers will completely ignore the email and won’t reply to it.
Others will simply reply with something along the lines of ‘Got it, thank you!‘.
But others will take it a couple of steps further.
They’ll add to their email, letting you know what they’re doing and how they think your lead-magnet will help them with that.
These engaged subscribers are gold because they provide you with insights about their goals and challenges – aspects that you can then use in future emails, landing, and sales pages, as well as in your sales copy.
This is not all, though.
There’s a second reason why the ‘Did you get the freebie?’ email is a must.
If your email list has the usual “one-way” dynamic, email services like Gmail, etc. will identify your relationship with subscribers as unidirectional, one where you send an email to them and they passively consume its content.
When this dynamic continues but subscribers stop opening your emails, Gmail & co. are eventually going to consider your emails as spam, will flag them as such and will stop directing them toward your subscribers’ normal inbox.
With this strategy, however, things are different.
At the moment that you send an email to a subscriber and he/she replies, Gmail, etc. will see it as a normal email communication, as a typical back-and-forth exchange.
This means that even if some of your future emails won’t be opened by the subscriber, the chances of them ending in the spam folder will be lower – after all, it happens to all of us to forget to open or reply to some emails.
Higher engagement and better email deliverability rates…not bad for a short and sweet email, huh?
Email List Nurturing Strategy #3: Email Segmentation
This third email marketing list nurturing strategy has to do with one of the biggest mistakes business owners make with their email list: the lack of segmentation.
Imagine being subscribed to the email list of your favorite restaurant and receiving emails regarding their delicious specials, all including mouth-watering steaks.
That would be terrific but there’s one issue: you’re vegetarian…
Email segmentation is a simple way to divide your email subscribers into groups so that you can differentiate between group 1, group 2, etc.
Not sure how to start segmenting your email list?
Here are some suggestions, courtesy of CoSchedule! You could segment your list based on:
- What types of content subscriber segments prefer
- Which topics they’re most interested in
- Goal or reason for signing up for your list
If you’re helping people with a specific journey or process, you could even break it into levels.
You’d create an email segment for and assign a tag to each (this is a built-in feature for many email software).
Let me make an actual example.
Here at Smooth Sailing Business Growth, we focus on a few topics like content marketing, lead generation, sales funnels, social media marketing, podcast hosting, and podcast guesting.
For us, thinking about topics of interest could be an easy way to segment our list.
Those interested in content marketing would get emails about that, while those interested in podcast guesting would get content tailored to them and their preferences.
Pairing email automation with segmentation will make sure that you deliver the right message (email) to the right person (subscriber) at the right time.
There’s a bunch of parameters/aspects/traits you could decide to focus on to segment your email list but my advice is to keep things simple.
The topic of interest or stage of the journey/process a subscriber is at (new podcaster, experienced podcaster, etc.) are the easiest ways to make that happen.
And it doesn’t really matter what email marketing software you’re using, all of the most popular ones – Aweber, ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, Keap (formerly known as InfusionSoft), Drip, etc. – let you set up your email list segmentation parameters and triggers (e.g. a subscriber clicked on topic 1 and not on topics 2 and 3) with just a couple of clicks.
Email List Nurturing Strategy #4: Your Welcome Sequence
Things are starting to get juicy, am I right?
Next up is your Welcome Sequence.
Here’s what HubSpot writes about Welcome Email Sequences:
‘A welcome email is the first impression a company makes with a new customer, blog subscriber, or newsletter subscriber via email. Welcome emails can deliver videos, special offers, a sign-up form, or just a friendly hello to establish a relationship with a new contact.’
I know what you’re thinking – ‘Come on, Lyndsay, saying hello to new email subscribers is a no-brainer!’
What if I told you that only 39% of brands send a welcome email? And what if I added that 41% of brands don’t send a welcome email within the first 48 hours, and that 27% send zero emails in the first three weeks?
Apparently, it isn’t a no-brainer for quite many businesses.
I really like how Constant Contact puts it: ‘The Welcome email is crucial. Imagine someone walked into your store, and everyone ignored them. If you don’t send a Welcome email, you’re doing exactly that.‘
So, what should your Welcome Email Sequence include? And what about its goals?
The best way to start with this is to actually go back to strategy #3 and think about your email segments and your goals.
Each segment is different – and has its segment-specific topics of interest and pain-points – so it makes sense to start by thinking about who you are addressing. Are new email subscribers interested in a particular topic? New customers?
With your Welcome Sequence you could:
- introduce yourself (I’ve seen some online entrepreneurs adding some humor and intrigue to this and have the subject line for one of their emails something like ‘7 Things You Don’t Know About Me‘)
- tell your brand story
- reinforce the benefits of being subscribed to your list
- emphasize why you differ from your competitors
- set expectations for your relationship moving forward
- segment your new subscribers
And, depending on your business, your Welcome Sequence could have entirely different goals, including:
- First-time buyers of your product or service
- Cross-sells and upsells
- Phone calls and conversations with new contacts
- More information
- More onboarded clients or customers
- More members for a community
- Feedback to help improve your business
Take a pen and paper, or open a digital note-taking tool, and start writing things down.
Who’s your Welcome Sequence going to address? What is/are its main goal(s)?
After that, it’s time to think about the actual structure of the email sequence (which, will be sent automatically to email subscribers who fit a certain set of parameters – for example, they’ve signed up for your newsletter using a specific opt-in form).
In terms of length of your sequence, the email marketing software ActiveCampaign suggests making it between 4 to 6 emails long: ‘We recommend sending 4–6 emails as part of your welcome series. You need to have enough emails to build trust and help your contacts out before you push for the sale — 5 emails gives you space to devote each email to a specific topic.‘
And they go beyond that by providing an email-by-email example of a Welcome Sequence. This is a good one to look at.
Email #1 is the Welcome Email, which is the email where you introduce yourself, deliver a lead-magnet, provide information, ask subscribers what they’re looking for, etc.
In the second email, ‘What if you could solve this problem?’, you make your subscribers go from “problem aware” to “solution aware” by showing them that there is a solution (your product/service) to their problem.
Next is what the folks at ActiveCampaign call the Good Will Hunting (aka, “it’s not your fault”) email: ‘People want to believe that their problems aren’t their fault. If your emails can do that for them—if you can convince them—you give them incredible relief. And you help them realize that even though they don’t need to feel guilty, they can solve their problems.‘
The fifth email is the ‘5 inch benefits, 5 mile benefits’ one.
According to master copywriter Joanna Wiebe, you should ‘Write an email helping your subscriber — the hero — see the immediate, short-term and long-term benefits. Your email copy should move from immediate “within 5 inches of the reader” benefits all the way to the distant but attainable “5 mile” outcomes.’
The last two emails of the sequence, email 5 and 6, it’s where you go for the sale and generate a sense of urgency to have subscribers take action now.
So, to recap, here’s an example of a 6-email Welcome Sequence:
- Email 1: Welcome
- Email 2: What if you could solve this problem?’
- Email 3: Good Will Hunting (aka, “it’s not your fault”)
- Email 4: ‘5 inch benefits, 5 mile benefits’
- Email 5 + 6: urgency (time to sell)
It goes without saying that this is just one example of a Welcome Sequence and yours may look completely different.
However, I think this one does a good job of giving us some ideas.
Email List Nurturing Strategy #5: Your Re-Engagement Sequence
In an ideal scenario, every single one of your email subscribers would ALWAYS open and read your emails, and he/she would take the action you’d want him/her to take.
The reality, however, is much different, (sigh!).
If you look at the dashboard of your go-to email marketing software, you’ll see that you have people who are “inactive subscribers” – people who are signed up to your list but aren’t doing anything.
They don’t open your emails, they don’t click on your links, they don’t take you up on your offers…THEY DON’T BUY.
In a way, these people are a sort of “risk” or a cost, in that they’re costing you money. Every email marketing tool has subscription plans that revolve around the number of subscribers one has.
In other words, the more email subscribers your list has, the higher the monthly/yearly bill of your email marketing tool is going to be.
So what should you do about “inactive subscribers”? Should you simply “kick them off your list”?
Hold on to your horses if that’s what you were thinking of doing!
What I’m about to share with you is a strategy that can help you turn them from inactive back to engaged and even to prospects ready to buy.
Introducing Ryan Deiss’ Re-Engagement concept!
In his book Invisible Selling Machine, Digital Marketer founder Ryan Deiss shares an approach that can be leveraged to win back some subscribers ‘when they’ve fallen out of touch or the relationship (with you) has gone cold.‘
This is how Deiss recommends you go about implementing this strategy.
‘First, open your email program and export all your subscribers who haven’t opened or clicked an email in the last 60 days (most email solutions have this feature built-in).
Next, write up an email series with the goal of re-engaging these disengaged subscribers and moving them into a relevant Engagement Series. Use a subject line like “Are you ok?” or “Is everything ok?” and lead off with something like:
Hey, it’s been a while since you’ve opened or clicked on one of my emails, so I thought I’d check in on you and let you know what you’ve “missed” in the last two months.
Include a list of links to content and resources they’ve been missing. Hit them over the head with the benefit you provide to your email subscribers, and encourage them to opt in to receive a “free gift” of some sort.‘
According to Ryan Deiss, your Re-Engagement series should provide as much content and value as possible for 5-7 days.
What happens if nothing changes, you ask?
‘In the latter stages of your Re-Engagement series start warning them that you will have to remove them from the list if they don’t respond by clicking on a link. Use a subject line like “Should I unsubscribe you?” and lead off with something like:
I don’t want to keep bothering you with emails, but I don’t want to completely cut you off, either…‘
And if things remain the same, Deiss’ advice isn’t to completely delete this contacts, rather to remove them from your email marketing software and add them to a second one – so that they will stop having a negative impact on your email list and email marketing software performance (‘By cutting these lost subscribers, you’ll improve your percentage rate of opens, clicks and forwards, and reduce the percentage of bounces, unsubscribers and spam complaints‘).
Email List Nurturing Strategy #6: Attractive Character, Soap Operas and Seinfeld
The final strategy you can leverage to nurture your email list for more engagement and higher conversions has to do with three concepts from Russell Brunson’s book DotCom Secrets: The Underground Playbook for Growing Your Company Online – the Attractive Character, the Soap Opera Sequence and the Daily Seinfeld Sequence.
For Brunson, ‘Business owners often get behind the idea that they should be averaging a dollar per month for every person on their list. So, they focus on growing their lists, yet feel stuck and frustrated when they don’t see results.
Can you relate to that at all? In my experience, the missing link is this concept of the Attractive Character (AC). It’s about the persona you’re sharing with your audience and how you communicate with your list. Most people either don’t bother to create this character, or they don’t do it correctly.‘
Here’s a drawing from the book that illustrates the Attractive Character (AC):
Elements and Storylines are quite easy to understand, they’re what you use to communicate and how you communicate.
Identity, on the other hand, stands for are the traits you pick for your AC:
- ‘The Leader: The identity of the leader is usually assumed by people whose goal is to lead their audiences from one place to another. Most leaders have a similar backstory to that of their audiences and, therefore, know the hurdles and pitfalls the audience members will likely face on the journey to get ultimate results.
- The Adventurer or Crusader: The adventurer is usually someone who is very curious, but he doesn’t always have all of the answers. So he sets out on a journey to discover the ultimate truth. He brings back treasures from his journey and shares them with his audience.
- The Reporter or Evangelist: This identity is often one that people use when they have not yet blazed a trail to share with an audience, but have a desire to. So they put on the hat of the reporter or evangelist and go out to discover the truth.
- The Reluctant Hero: This is my personal identity now, and typically the one that I try to share with my audiences. This is the humble hero who doesn’t really want the spotlight or any fuss made over his discoveries. But he knows the information or the secrets he has are so important that he must overcome his shyness and share them with the world.’
Take a moment to ask yourself which of these 4 identities best resonates with you, your values and mission. Then, embrace it and make it part of your communication, marketing, and sales efforts.
The second concept that’s part of Russell Brunson’s DotCom Secrets is the Soap Opera Sequence.
The goal of the Soap Opera Sequence is to use a series of emails ‘to create an instant bond between your Attractive Character and the person reading the email.
If your first email is boring, you’re done. They probably won’t open the next one.
But if you give them something interesting and hook them with an open storyline in the first email, then they will look forward to the next one, and the next, and the next. In your Soap Opera Sequence, you’re going to introduce your Attractive Character and build up an open-ended dramatic story that draws the reader in.‘
Remember the Welcome Sequence we looked at earlier?
You can use a Soap Opera Sequence strategy for it!
Here’s what that could look like, for Brunson:
- ‘Email #1: Set the Stage. This is the first email, a thank you note, that people receive the minute they sign up for your list. It sets the stage for the emails to come and lets people know what to expect. Are you going to email them once a day, twice a day, or once a week? For this first sequence, I recommend once a day for the best results.
- Email #2: Open with High Drama. Okay, if you did a good job opening a loop in email number one, then the reader will be anxiously waiting for your next email to come in.
This is where the story “selling” process begins. I learned from Daegan Smith that you ALWAYS start any good story at the point of high drama.
Most people mistakenly start their stories at the beginning, but usually stories don’t get good until the middle, so it’s better to start at the good part, and then you can go back and fill in the backstory after readers are hooked.
- Email #3: Epiphany. Now it’s time to start bringing in the dawn. You have an epiphany. You realize something you hadn’t thought of before. Maybe it’s something that was right in front of you the whole time. It’s the moment that everything turned around for you.
By now the reader is so hooked in, they want to know (and hopefully buy) your solution. Most of the time, your epiphany email will lead back to your core offer — whatever you’re selling.
- Email #4: Hidden Benefits. In this email, you want to point out benefits the reader is getting by knowing you and following your plan or by using your product.
You want to focus on benefits that probably aren’t as obvious. This gives you another reason to email them, and it gives the prospect another chance to build an even stronger bond with the Attractive Character.
- Email #5: Urgency and CTA. This is usually the last email in my Soap Opera Sequence. It’s NOT the last email I send people, it’s just the end of my introduction. The goal is to give the reader one last push to go take action right now.
You do that by adding urgency into the equation and then using a call to action (CTA). Up to now, you’ve been casually using CTAs, but in this last email, you want to light a little fire under readers.
What legitimate reasons can you come up with that would make them need to take action right away? Your webinar starts tomorrow; you only have ten seats left at your event; you only ordered one thousand books, and most of them are gone; you’re pulling the video offline.’
Are you still with me? Good, now it’s time for Russell Brunson’s Daily Seinfeld Sequence.
The idea behind this strategy is to write daily emails with the “Seinfeld format”. ‘You want your Attractive Character to be fun and entertaining. That’s how you’re going to write your daily Seinfeld emails.’
Brunson’s use of this approach changed his outlook on and use of email marketing: ‘My emails switched from 100% content to 90% entertainment and just 10% content, and my readership, opens, clicks, and sales all skyrocketed with the change.‘
Wondering how you could come up with something to say to your email subscribers on a daily basis?
For Brunson, ‘the secret to keeping your subscribers happy to hear from you every day is using the Seinfeld format. Be entertaining. Just talk about your day:
- What’s going on in your Attractive Character’s life?
- What happened that’s embarrassing?
- How are you getting through the holiday season?
- Where are you planning your vacation this year?
- What did you buy recently that you regret?
- What did you buy recently that you just adore?
- What made you scream with rage yesterday, that you’re laughing about today?’
I think you get the idea: make your Attractive Character a key component of your email marketing endeavors. And don’t limit yourself to talk business, business, business all the time.
Be personable, fun and entertaining – your email subscribers will relate!
Email Marketing Best Practices
As I said earlier, the strategies listed in this article have different speed of implementation.
Some, like the ‘Did you get the freebie?’ strategy, are something you can create in a matter of minutes.
Others are more complex and require more time before they can be leveraged.
In my opinion, the best way to approach them is to start by focusing on those you can implement pretty much right away.
And remember to do so without forgetting about the email marketing best practices.
Here are 4 areas to focus on, according to Neil Patel’s infographic The Anatomy of an Optimal Marketing Email.
1) Create Optimal Subject Lines.
When it comes to your email subject lines, these are a few things to think about:
- be as useful and specific as possible
- identify yourself
- be visually different (think emojis, for example)
- use a Call-to-Action by asking a question
- use the word ‘FREE’
- use ALL CAPS to highlight certain words
- test your subject lines so that you can repeat what works best
2) Optimize Body Content.
Focus on clearly conveying your offer and how it can benefit your email list subscribers.
Consider using images (since ‘people process images 60,000 times faster than text’), shorts paragraphs and bullet points (remember: the average adult’s attention span is 8 seconds).
And don’t forget to personalize your email content with your name, company, location, etc. (according to Patel, ‘4 out of 10 marketing emails are marked as spam because they are irrelevant’).
3) Optimize Your CTAs (Calls-to-Action).
Think about the one thing you’d like subscribers to do – that’s your Call-to-Action.
Create a CTA with a button or link, place it above the fold and throughout your email (you may have seen some marketers and companies including the CTA as an email P.S. too).
Make sure that your CTA stands out and use action, urgency and friendly words in it.
4) Optimize Your Emails for Mobile.
While most of the popular email software lets you create mobile-friendly emails, there are still a couple of things to be mindful of.
The next thing is to make sure that text links and CTA buttons are larger than a 45-57 square pixel range so that they’ll be easy to tap on using a smartphone.
And speaking of tapping something on a smartphone, don’t forget to space links enough from one another to avoid accidental tapping/clicking!
Let Data Show You the Way (and Talk to Your Subscribers!)
Congratulations, you made it this far!
I’m sure that, by now, you’ve gotten an idea or two that you’d like to implement to nurture your email subscribers to increase engagement and conversions.
Keep in mind that every industry is different, and so is every audience…
This means that some strategies may work like a charm for your subscribers while others may not perform as you’d expect them to.
This is why you need to let data “show you the way”.
Keep an eye on your email marketing software dashboard and look at relevant data (like subscribers number growth, email open rates, email click-through rates). Experiment with different things, see what works best and then make it part of your email list growth and lead nurturing strategy.
And don’t forget that your email subscribers aren’t numbers, they’re people!
Don’t be afraid to interact with them, ask them questions, send them surveys, polls, etc. Whatever you think could help you better serve your subscribers.