Tag Archives for " autoresponders "

July 5, 2017

Email sequence audit checklist

I’ve been reviewing my core email sequences recently. You have to review your email sequences every year or two, as a minimum.

Creating an automated series of emails is like trying to hit a moving target. Over time your business evolves and your messaging changes. Even your voice changes over time. The topics you wrote about two years ago often won’t be the same topics you might write about today.

When it comes time to review an email sequence, here are some of the things to check:

  • Has your objective for the email sequence changed? Do you still want your readers to take the same action? Are you still trying to impart the same understanding?
  • Are your calls to action clear, simple and understandable?
  • Are you communicating your biggest, boldest ideas?
  • Does your email sequence do a good job of grabbing your reader’s attention? Or does it simply deliver information?
  • Does it entertain, educate, and challenge your reader’s level of thinking about your subject?

Time has a habit of highlighting the things that really matter. Audit your key email sequences every year, and you’ll find they steadily improve over time.


P.S. Do you need help with this? If you have email sequences you think have gone stale, read the information here, and fill in the form.

November 14, 2016

Drayton Bird on email length

In the talk I saw last week, copywriter Drayton Bird was talking about copy length.

“Almost all copy is too short,” he advised. “The more expensive the thing you are selling, the longer it takes people to decide. Most marketers give up too soon.”

I asked Drayton in one of the breaks how he thought this applied to email. As I see it there is a trade-off between email length and email frequency. Should you send an infrequent 2000-word email, or a frequent 300-word email?

Drayton’s opinion was that you should send a frequent 2000-word essay, as often as you can.

Having thought about this for a few days, I only half agree.

If you’re a professional writer, sending regular 2000-word essays is no big deal. Writing 2000 words isn’t too hard if you have 2000 words in your head. I have about 10,000 words in my head at any given time, and most of them are exceptionally grumpy.

But what if you’re not a professional writer?

We have to remember that attention in your recipient’s inbox is fragile. Not only does the reader have to hold you in high regard to even open the email, you also have to hold their attention in a sea of distractions.

The risks of sending a 2000-word email are:

1. You might lose their attention, due to no fault of your own.

A new email from somebody important pops up. Facebook dings on their phone. The phone rings. The baby cries. You cannot compete with all of these distractions.

2. You might end up saying the same message in more words, in a less persuasive way.

The challenge isn’t to get more words onto the page. The challenge is to communicate the same message in fewer words, with the same emotional impact.

If I wanted to send you a 2000-word letter, it would probably be a sales letter. And in that case I would probably send it through the post, assuming I had your mailing address.

Failing that, I’d put the 2000 words on a distraction-free web page, with an invitation at the top of the page to print the whole thing out. The email you received would then just be a teaser for the longer message.

P.S. Fundamentally Drayton is correct. Your copy should do a complete selling job, in whatever format you send it. I just think that long emails are exceptionally hard to do well.

P.P.S. Before editing, this post was 428 words.

August 16, 2016

Beat marketing complication

I’ve been working on my own marketing in the last few days. I find working on my own marketing about three times as hard as working on anyone else’s.

I’m good at simplifying things in other people’s marketing, while at the same time complicating my own campaigns.

People tend to confuse complication and sophistication.

Complication is where you set up some kind of marketing automation and lose track of what is supposed to happen. Most Infusionsoft accounts suffer from excess complication, where the user has built various campaigns and lost track of what everything is supposed to do.

Sophistication is where you set up marketing automation that looks complicatedto untrained eyes, but at the same time is well documented, understood, and does what you need.

I’ve had some complication in my own Infusionsoft account recently. When a new contact came in I would ‘cycle’ them round various core email sequences, before adding them to these daily emails.

Simple in theory, you would think.

What happened in practice was that people would opt-in to multiple sequences at the same time, and end up bombarded with emails.

So, I’ve been stripping things back. Chopping and pruning, if you like. Most of the opt-in routes I had were not great lead generators anyway, so I’ve cut back on the number of routes in.

This is basic 80/20 thinking. It is better to have a couple of excellent lead magnets than several average ones.

The sequences that have vanished will be improved, repackaged as reports and sold as standalone products. I’ll also give them away from time to time, but only to daily email subscribers.

There is nothing wrong with doing more complex things than a basic autoresponder sequence, but you have to document exactly how your system works. Even if you are a sole-proprietor.

Without documentation you always forget. If you use Infusionsoft your documentation should explain what each campaign is supposed to do, what each tag does, and what the logic behind your decision diamonds is.

If you don’t write it down you are creating complication, not sophistication.

You could replace ‘campaign’, ‘tag’, and ‘decision diamond’ with whatever the equivalent is in your own system.

August 2, 2016

The Expert, Victim, Flaw formula

I once heard film producer Joshua Russell explain that the lead character of any film should always have three characteristics; expert, victim and flaw.

Take Batman as a starting point.

Batman is an expert at fighting crime. He’s a victim because his parents were murdered, and in a bizarre twist he somehow fell in a bat cave. He’s flawed because he cannot unmask himself, either as Batman or in his personal life.

I really enjoyed the television series Dexter, which is on Netflix. Dexter is a respected blood-spatter analysis in Miami, who also hunts-down serial killers by night.

He’s an expert at what he does, both by day and by night. He’s a victim because his mother was chopped up in front of him when he was three. And he’s flawed because no matter how hard he tries he cannot stop killing people. The impulse, or the ‘dark passenger’ as he calls it, never fully goes away.

Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption is a law expert, and apparently also an expert at digging tunnels. He’s a victim because he was wrongly given two consecutive life sentences for a murder he didn’t commit. And he’s flawed because his good intentions constantly get the better of him, landing him in trouble with the guards and other inmates.

Let’s look at an example that does not fit the expert, victim, flaw mould.

James Bond is an expert all-right, at apparently everything. Driving cars, playing poker, hand-to-hand combat, marksmanship, attracting women. Is he a victim? Not in most of the stories. An element of his past was introduced inSkyfall, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a victim. And is he flawed? A few minor flaws come to mind in the more recent movies, but nothing major.

Victim and flaw are mostly absent, which makes every James Bond film entirely predictable.

The expert, victim, flaw formula also applies to your own story.

Most business stories are strong on expert, weak on victim, and absent of flaws.

Flaws are important because we recognise our own flaws in the flaws of the main character. We don’t run round Miami by night chopping up serial killers, but we recognise the personality flaw of succumbing to an impulse.

If you never tell people about your flaws you cannot let people connect with you on a personal level.

You can’t connect to someone who has their guard up all the time. It’s true in personal relationships. It’s true in the movies. And it’s true in your stories.

July 28, 2016

Automation vs Broadcasts

This is the temple of Isis in Philae, Egypt. It was built over 2000 years ago on the banks of the Nile, between 380-362 BC.

Temple of Isis

There is something exceptional about this temple.

It no longer sits in its original location.

In 1970 the completion of the Aswan High Dam up-river scheduled the area for flooding. While many smaller temples in the area were abandoned to the water, this one was carefully chopped into 40,000 blocks and moved to higher ground.

40,000 blocks!

You wouldn’t know, right?

Many people build email sequences like they are building an automation temple. What feels like a never-ending 40,000 part email sequence is painstakingly planned out.

The problem with automation temples is they become obsolete over time, and if your business direction suddenly changes they are very difficult to move.

I recently found one of my old Aweber email sequences. Some of the content is still good, but the things I’m writing about have changed. You have moved on. I have moved on. But the temple is left behind.

I don’t completely know what to do with it. I could move it into Infusionsoft. But is it worth the effort?

If your business is in any way unique I think you need to watch out for the automation myth. The automation myth is the idea that you can build out a never-ending ‘evergreen’ sequence of emails and retire to the beach while the orders roll in.

It is scary to commit to sending live real-time email broadcasts, but the advantage of broadcasts is they allow your message to evolve. If your business changes direction you don’t have to attempt to move ancient automation monuments.

You can always cherry-pick the best of your live broadcasts to produce your automation temple later on. This is how I build things out.

June 15, 2016

Training vs Selling: The real role of nurture emails

I went to a bar called BrewDog last week for a beer tasting evening. A friend had been given a voucher for two for his birthday, and tragically his wife doesn’t like beer.


BrewDog has burst on to the UK craft ale scene in the last few years. A ‘craft ale’ is essentially just a regular ale, with hops and other ingredients thrown in at the end to infuse in to the beer.

Despite this minor modification in process craft ales are typically 50% more expensive than normal ales. A fact the Stingy Northerner in me despises.

The story behind the company is a classic rags to riches plot. School friends James Watt and Martin Dickie decided they were bored of mass produced beers and stuffy ales, and decided to brew their own heavily-hopped beer, ‘Punk IPA’. The company started in a shed with the two founders and a dog.

BrewDog has grown by making spectacular use of PR. When the first BrewDog bar opened in London the pair drove a fake tank through Camden. ‘Craft beer revolution rolls in to London’, was the message.

BrewDog tank

A year later when the company opened a bar in Stockholm, Sweden, a fake funeral was held to commemorate the death of boring beer.

The stunts seem to have worked. Company revenue in 2015 was £44.7 million.

So, my friend and I arrived at the Sheffield BrewDog bar for a beer-tasting evening last week. I like beer, and hoppy beer at that. But I think BrewDog is damn expensive. Pints priced at over £4 belong in London, in my opinion.

How do you convince someone who thinks your products are too expensive to spend more with you?

You educate them.

Actually you don’t just educate them, you have them pay to be educated. You have them pay to come along to a tasting event where you educate them about all the things that makes your beer different.

There is a lingering idea in the marketing world that the best way to sell an expensive product is to hire a ‘big gun’ copywriter and have them write a 17-page sales letter for you.

This to me feels too much like a one-time shot.

Why not get people into a room first, educate them about what makes you different, then sell your expensive product.

If getting your audience in to a room is not practical then find another way to educate them. Run an online training. Send them a copy of your book (with a persuasive cover letter explaining why they should elevate your book to the top of their reading list).

Books have the same effect as training; they make your audience realise what they don’t know. Every avid reader knows that books are like Gremlins. They mysteriously multiply until suddenly they take over your house. (Don’t get them wet!)

I’ll have an announcement on Friday but for now do you get the idea? Stop trying to sell, and start trying to train people. Sell only to the converted.

June 7, 2016

The ‘Oak Tree Formula’ for long-term marketing success

This is an oak tree, near Oxford in England. The tree is approximately 400 years old.

Oak Tree

In mid-summer this tree contains about 700,000 leaves, providing 700 square metres of leaf surface area. Lain out flat this would cover three square tennis courts.

Despite being 400 years old, this tree is still growing. If you look carefully at the way it is growing the growth is lop-sided. More growth happens on the exposed side of the tree, away from the shaded woodland.

This response to the environment happens below ground too. This is a different tree but an oak tree’s roots actually look like this.

Oak tree roots

The big root dropping directly from the stem was the first root to grow from the acorn when the plant first germinated. At some point the root hit an obstacle, maybe a rock. The root then split in two, sending one branch off at a sideways angle.

While the core of the tree’s root system will remain in place, many of the smaller roots you might consider temporary. Over time a tree can adjust its roots to match the opportunities that surround it in the soil.

Your marketing system, the system that feeds leads in to your business, ought very much to be like an oak tree. The leaves are your ads, or your ‘ways in’ to the process. The branches are your follow-up systems. The roots we might consider as upsells or back-end sales.

To borrow an analogy from Perry Marshall, most marketing systems look like a solar panel rather than an oak tree.

Oak tree vs solar panel

The solar panel has just one ‘winning’ ad, letter or sales page (our panel). It has one single autoresponder pole supporting the panel. And it has no roots, so little consideration and process for upsells and back end sales.

Most companies operate their lead generation like the solar panel rather than the tree. One ad targeting one audience, leading in to one autoresponder sequence. Many companies that think they are split-testing are actually testing different variations of the same ad.

Structuring your marketing systems in this way might work, for a bit. But you can’t base your long term business success on a single traffic source and opt-in sequence.

The oak tree equivalent is much harder and slower to build.

It requires you to systematically test new audiences and different offers. It requires multiple opt-in incentives, not one. The opt-in incentive that works today probably won’t work in five years’ time.

The best time to prepare for that is now.

As your opt-in channels evolve so must your autoresponder sequences. Instead of a single sequence containing 50 emails, create ten sequences of five emails. That’s what the oak tree would do.

Each year you add more wood to your tree. New follow-up sequences appear for specific audiences you have identified – specific patches of untapped sunlight. New roots appear offering high ticket or continuity programmes.

Is a this a ‘hack’, or a quick fix?

Umm, no. It’s a lot of regular, ongoing work. Sorry.

I’m a big believer in strategy before action, but many companies I speak to are trying to strategise the ultimate solar panel. You aren’t trying to build a giant solar panel. You are trying to grow a tree.

Start small and get to work.

June 2, 2016

Make your emails more valuable (part 2)

One of the copywriters I pay attention to is Drayton Bird. I have two of his books on my bookshelf: Commonsense Direct & Digital Marketing and How To Write Sales Letters That Sell.

Drayton Bird books

I’ve read Commonsense Direct & Digital Marketing all the way through once. Despite Drayton’s written charm it felt like trying to swallow an elephant.

How To Write Sales Letters That Sell is only marginally smaller, yet I happily re-read it every couple of years.

I once heard Drayton say he felt How To Write Sales Letters That Sell was the better book, because he set off to write it with a tighter focus and a structured plan. The book, in other words, started life with tighter parameters.

Every writer or artist knows that parameters can be deeply liberating.

If I asked you to write me a story, chances are you would flounder and struggle. If I ask you to write me a story about a time you felt ashamed growing up, then things become easier.

Parameters are equally important when you write a nurture email. Without parameters you waffle, wander, or end up dumping all of the information you have into a single email.

Nobody is interested in all of the information in your head, at least not all in one go. What people want is your take on one particular bit of information. This information becomes your parameter, or ‘one idea’.

You make your message more valuable by isolating one particular piece of information, not by throwing everything you know at your reader in one go.

June 1, 2016

Make your emails more valuable (part 1)

At about 6PM every Sunday my phone rings. I don’t need to look at the display to tell who the caller will be. “Urgh. I better answer it,” I say to Linzi.

My Mum rings me every weekend, like clockwork. She never has very much to say. She’ll talk at me for ten minutes, and I’ll respond with a series of ‘hmmmm’s’. And ‘uh huh’s’. And ‘mmmmm’s’.

While her calls are as punctual as the rising of the sun it isn’t something I derive much satisfaction from.

We were talking yesterday about email frequency. Something I mentioned towards the end of the article was:

If your message is important enough (and therefore valuable enough to your recipients) there will be some people on your list who want to hear from you every day.

This raises an important point. The question of frequency is only worth discussing if the emails you are writing are actually valuable to someone.

Normally when somebody tells me they are thinking of writing ‘once a month’ what that really means is:

‘I’m not convinced my information is valuable. I’m not convinced anyone will want to read it. My emails will be in intrusion, or an annoyance. I don’t want to annoy people, so I won’t write too often’.

If my Mum were to phone me once a month I would be perfectly fine with that. You don’t want want the same communications arrangement with your readers as I have with my Mum. Without family ties and blood obligation they will opt-out.

You want to show up instead as a trusted friend who has a good track record of providing valuable insights.

One of the ways to make your emails more valuable is to provide insight rather than information. The world is full of people providing information. What is desperately scarce is insight.

The information you provide in your emails might be termed ‘the lines’. What people really want is your assessment of what exists in between the lines. People want the subtext, not just the text.

When you are able to read between the lines on the things happening in your market you instantly become more valuable to your audience.

Yes, people want information. But more significantly they want your opinion or take on that information.

Anyone can rehash information. Nobody but you can provide your experience and insights.

We’ll talk about a second way to make your emails more valuable tomorrow.

May 26, 2016

Maze 0.1… Is This The World’s Earliest Autoresponder?

One of my most-valued books is called Is There Any Hope For Advertising, by Howard Gossage. You can find it in the Book of Gossage. It’s out of print but well worth getting your hands on.

Gossage ran an ad agency in San Francisco in the 1960’s. He is famous for the indirect approach of his ads, and his interactive use of coupons to measure engagement.

How, for example, do you promote a brand of gasoline who has nothing intrinsically better about the gasoline they sell than anyone else?

Well you start off by saying that. This is the first ad in the series.

Pink Air 1

Click to enlarge

Notice the copy starts: “The oil companies are already adding additives to additives in their efforts to win motorists’ favour in this highly competitive field. They have added extra ingredients to everything associated with an automobile except the air that goes in the tires”.

Gossage knew there wasn’t anything different about the gasoline itself, so he created the spoof additive ‘pink air’.

Notice also that while the ads barely mention gasoline, each ad signs off “so the next time you see a Fina station you’ll recognize it. And if it’s on your side and you don’t have to make a U-turn and there aren’t six cars waiting and you need gas or something, please pop in.”

The ad series continues:

Pink Air 2

Click to enlarge

Here Gossage is illustrating that Fina is a trusted national brand, with filling stations right across the United States. (Don’t be misled by the pink air, that isn’t the point of the ad!)

The next ad looked like this:

Pink Air 3

Click to enlarge

At first glance you might think this approach is somewhat silly, but it turned out to be novel and interactive to an American audience who desperately wanted to be entertained. Notice this ad also includes a coupon so engagement could be measured.

Once the pink air theme had run its course Gossage moved on to pink asphalt:

Pink Air 4

Click to enlarge

What we are looking at here is an early autoresponder series, where the ad leads you in to the message with a flamboyant story. Gossage would write one ad at a time, measure the impact and go from there.

This is exactly what modern email marketing tools like Infusionsoft allow you to do. Create a few emails at a time, measure the impact, and go from there.

Don’t be mistaken though, the message is still present and very deliberate.

This is exactly what I teach with my story-telling work. We aren’t telling stories to merely distract or entertain. We use stories to take a less obvious, more intriguing approach to getting our message across.

Howard Gossage bemoaned the state of advertising in 1967, and he would bemoan the state of advertising today if he too tried to watch the French Open on ITV4.

There are always creative ways to get entertainment into your messages, and entertainment is what gets people’s attention.

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