Tag Archives for " email marketing "

October 11, 2017

Advanced Email Marketing: Identity vs Biography

The single question I’ve struggled to answer over my career is the one that is asked most often:

“So… what is it you do?

The temptation to answer this question badly is overwhelming, especially for the majority of us who under-value our skills.

I used to fob people off by saying “oh, I work in marketing.” Which as a conversation stopper is only one up from saying “I work in I.T.”


These days I say I help people tell better stories about their work. Which doesn’t cover everything I do, by any stretch. But it’s enough to elicit a follow up question or two. Nobody has run for the hills, yet.

The problem with the “what do you do” question is it focuses on identity instead of biography. It focuses on the badge you currently wear on your forehead, not the real you underneath. A sheep is more than just wool or mutton. In fact, I doubt a sheep thinks of itself as either of those things.

Shifting the conversation from identity to biography is a challenge. You have to start off by talking about identity… about the mechanics of what you do, but after that biography is both more interesting and meaningful.

Biography can include your past, your interests, your beliefs, your hopes. And funnily enough, people are more likely to value what you do when they also know some of your biography.

You have to build up a more complete picture if you want to stand out.

October 8, 2017

Email Critique: Ash Ambridge

Last week I critiqued one of the worst emails I’ve ever received. Subscriber Martin wrote:

“I really enjoyed this 🙂

If you worried about whether your audience would mind you being critical of something, don’t.

This was really interesting. It would be interesting to hear your critique on less grossly bad pieces of work too.”

So today, I’m going to critique something better.

I’d say the best emails that arrive regularly in my inbox come from Ash Ambridge. Not because they’re technically the best, or the most persuasive, or anything like that.

You can read a recent email here. In Gmail, her emails arrive like this:

Ash Email Opening

(Full size image)

I have a few problems with this format. I generally read emails on my phone, and the first ten lines or so of the email are taken up with a logo and a wide banner image.

This image isn’t specific to the content; it appears on all of Ash’s emails. Frankly, I think it’s a waste of prime real estate space. I also read most emails on my phone, and the image seems to fix the width of the email. I have to keep scrolling left to right to left to right to left just to read the thing. It’s really annoying.

I’m not against pictures in emails. I happen not to use many, but an image of your face may be a good idea. But if you’re going to do this, put it at the bottom. Preferably in a way that doesn’t interfere with the email width on mobile devices.

Incidentally if you never check how your emails appear on mobile devices, you should. Also, check on a range of mobile devices. Just because your email appears fine on your 6” screen iPhone 10, doesn’t mean it’s going to appear fine on my steam-driven Sony Experia.

I also don’t think that linking to the blog post version of the email I’m about to read with a giant blue link is a sensible thing to do. What difference does it make whether I read the blog post, or the email? So why link to the blog post at all?

Having said that, I think the content is spectacular. Why? Because it challenges my current level of thinking about what I’m doing.

Ultimately, your goal is to upgrade your reader’s level of thinking about what you do. In the process of doing that you position yourself as a trusted expert. An authority who can guide the opinions of other people.

I’ll leave you on the idea from Ash’s email: what’s the single most important thing you can contribute today?

And as things stand, will you contribute it?

Will insecurities about your story or your work hold you back?

October 3, 2017

The email marketing Darwin Awards

And the winner of the worst email this year goes to… (drumroll)…


Take a look at it below, and see what grabs your attention: (click to enlarge)

Infusionsoft email

Full size image

Let’s start at the beginning, with the sender name. I’ve met Peter Roth a couple of times, but if my memory was any worse I wouldn’t have opened the email.

In the last week I’ve received emails from Infusionsoft under the name ‘Sarah Schmidt’, who I’ve never met, and now Peter Roth. Why not just use ‘Infusionsoft’ as the sender identity?

There’s a real consistency issue here. The email from Peter also appeared under my Gmail promotions tab, probably because Gmail has no history of interaction with him.

Always use the same sender name and sender email address. If multiple people at your company send marketing emails, use your company name as the sender name.

Next, the email is in Spanish, inviting me to a lifecycle marketing training event in one of my favourite cities, Bogotá. The problem? Bogotá is 5240 miles from Sheffield.

To be fair to Infusionsoft, this email arrived to a different email address than my partner email. So effectively I’m in the database multiple times under different email addresses. Maybe one of those contacts is my Colombian alter ego?

Also, if you’re going to send me an email in Spanish, why keep the tagline ‘GET ORGANIZED • GROW SALES • SAVE TIME’ in English?

Good email marketing has two elements. One is good content (which I’m unable to comment on in this case). The other is intelligent use of data. You need both.

September 13, 2017

The Three Objectives of Nurture Emails

Every time you email your customer list, you have three objectives besides generating a sale:

  1. To entertain
  2. To educate
  3. To upgrade someone’s level of understanding about your subject

When you do these three things, each email builds value into your list, rather than extracts value out.

Upgrading someone’s level of thinking about what you do has the biggest business impact impact of the three, but is the hardest to do. You can only upgrade someone’s thinking once you’ve first entertained them, and second educated them.

Most marketing emails focus exclusively on education, or exclusively on nagging. Sending repeated naggy sales emails might provide a short term uplift in revenue, but it doesn’t create a healthy long term prospect database.

We all need to generate sales. But make sure you’re building more value into your list than you extract.

September 7, 2017

Why measuring list size is pointless

People in the internet marketing world seem to be obsessed by list size.

In my opinion, list size is an irrelevant metric. What matters is the size of your engaged list. It’s no use having 100K contacts in your database if 99,900 of them don’t remember who you are.

We talk a lot in the email marketing world about things like ‘broadcast emails’. But you have to remember that email as a medium isn’t really a broadcast medium. It has the appearance of a broadcast medium, but really email is a personal medium you can operate at scale.

You can’t force anyone to open and read your emails. It’s a constant carrot-dangling exercise, where you aim to show up regularly with valuable insights.

It might help to think of yourself as a farmer. When you add people to your list through an opt-in form, you’re planting seeds. With careful attention, some of those seeds will sprout into tiny saplings. Building an engaged email list is a constant watering process, where you attempt to deliver additional value.

Frankly, it’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of time. But it’s something none of your competitors can copy, unless they want to buy your business.

If you want to learn how to be a better farmer of leads, the price of Nurture Email Mastery doubles at 5PM tomorrow, UK-time.

August 3, 2017

Should you draft emails using pen and paper?

I was asked last week whether it’s best to draft out an email longhand, or write straight into a word processor.

I like the idea of writing longhand, but you have to consider time constraints. It’s usually best to write under some sort of time pressure, to stop you waffling or getting distracted. For me, writing these emails longhand would simply take too much time.

I’ll sometimes plan out an email longhand; especially an important email. In Nurture Email Mastery I teach people Sean D’Souza’s technique of creating a timeline. There’s also no reason why you can’t create a mind map, with your ‘one idea’ for the email at the centre of the map.

I do write out my journal entries longhand. I take photographs of them, and add the photos into Evernote. Very few of my journal entries make it anywhere near these emails. For me, journaling is more of a head clearing exercise.

Most of these emails begin life as a note in Evernote, perhaps with some brief outline notes. If it’s an important email I’ll sometimes plan the email on paper, possibly drawing a timeline. After that it’s a race to draft as quickly as possible, before time runs out.

I can only talk about what works for me, but at some point you just have to shut off all distractions and get the writing done electronically.

July 27, 2017

The highest objective of marketing nurture

A few weeks ago I listened to an edition of the Cracked podcast, where the topic was summer.

In an astute observation, they point out that ‘summer’ as we know it today, with school breaks, summer holidays and holiday resorts is a very modern phenomenon.

According to the podcast, the reason we have a school summer break at all is because at some point in recent history, schools just couldn’t get kids to attend in summer. Especially in agricultural areas, kids would be away working in the fields.

(After all… that was why you had kids, right?)

So schools basically gave up and closed for summer. Slowly, summer has transformed into a time where we have to take holidays, or ‘go away’. Where we have to be out doing stuff. A huge and very lucrative entertainment industry has cropped up, specifically to cater to this.

(Before the mid 19th Century, you only ‘went away’ if you were in deep, deep trouble!)

I’m not passing judgement on this change (or I hope I’m not). But I always like insights that bring basic assumptions about ‘how things are’ into question.

If you’re communicating with your customers on a long term basis, this is the highest objective of your communications. To change or upgrade someone’s level of understanding about what you do. To do that, you need to tease widespread industry assumptions out into the open.

Do you think you can do that? It’s the more scary path. It’s not what you’re ‘supposed’ to do. (You’re supposed to tow the line, and write about benefits).

But it’s the only way to stand out, and it’s more rewarding.

July 11, 2017

Are your communications short on feminine energy?

Imagine you had a time machine, and could transport yourself to any moment in human history. Whatever time you chose, three things would always remain the same:

  1. The sun would always rise in the east
  2. The sun would always set in the west, to be replaced (weather permitting) by the moon
  3. These two celestial objects would always appear, to the casual onlooker, to be the same size

To our ancestors, the sun’s constancy and power represented masculinity, while the moon’s changeability, beauty and monthly cycle represented femininity. The moon follows the sun, so that masculine and feminine energy are in balance.

Of course, we now know that the sun is approximately 400 times the size of the moon. And by coincidence, the distance between Earth and sun is 400 times that of the moon, making them appear the same size. Which perhaps goes to show that appearance and first impressions are everything.

Like the sun and the moon, your business communications can also have masculine and feminine traits. And like the sun and the moon, it’s best if these traits follow one after another.

Masculine energy communications are to do with logic, organisation, structure, results. Feminine energy communications are about empathy, understanding, and seeing things for what they really are.

To convert cold prospects into customers, you need both. At times you’ll need to present a rational discussion of features and benefits. But the missing piece of the puzzle – and usually the starting point – is empathy and connection.

That’s really what we’re doing here. Lead with empathy and understanding. And talk about rational features later.

Make the sun follow the moon.

July 7, 2017

I bet I’m more distracted than you

I used to watch a lot of Wimbledon when I was growing up. I remember being blown away for a magical period in the afternoon when there was tennis on BBC 1… AND BBC2!

So, I have a thing about watching tennis.

This week began with Wimbledon on my laptop, running next to my desktop:

Desk Tennis

This week ended with different matches on:

  • The laptop
  • The other laptop, which I don’t use very often
  • The ancient laptop, which I only use in dire emergencies
  • The tablet, which was previously buried in a draw
  • My phone

I’d call this ‘optimal tennis viewing’. Many other people would call it ‘distraction’.

I’m not the only person who’s distracted. The people who read your emails are also distracted, most of the time.

It’s easy to forget that when you sit down to write an email. Getting your reader’s attention is like trying to flag down a fast-moving train. And usually a train where the driver is busy trying to juggle seven different distractions…

Things to think about:

  • Salutations like ‘Hi Rob’ take up valuable space
  • If you tell a story, you need to get into the action quickly
  • The first paragraph can often be chopped out

You don’t have to write short emails. We’re not trying to dumb down. But I’d consider that your reader is probably trying to watch more simultaneous tennis matches than you think…

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.

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