Tag Archives for " email marketing "
When you start telling your story in your marketing, it’s perfectly normal to get stuck. Often, you’re simply too close to your story to correctly identify the most interesting, most persuasive parts.
Even once you’ve identified the juiciest parts to tell, how do you tell it without appearing ‘off topic’? How do you successfully transition from your story to your sales message?
To solve this, I offer a service for my private clients called Uncover Your Story.
Uncover Your Story is a research process where I interview you, typically for two hours. It’s a comprehensive yet relaxed conversation, where you tell me about the events that have led to your current situation.
I then present back a plan of exactly which parts of your story to tell, in what format, with specific advice on how to link to your sales message. The plan is your intellectual property, meaning you can implement it any way you like.
Some clients hire me to write the copy. In my last three Uncover Your Story projects, the client has chosen to write the copy themselves, under guidance.
Which to me, is deeply rewarding. After all, why wouldn’t you want to stay in control of your own sales message? Surely nobody can tell your story better than you can…
I have two Uncover Your Story spaces in July. If you’re interested, read the information here, and fill in the form.
P.S. The two spaces isn’t a contrived, artificial scarcity limit. It’s a very real limit, based on what I have time for right now. Don’t dilly dally if you’re interested in a place.
I went to the blood donor centre last week. My blood type is B-, which apparently makes me ‘rare’.
(I already know I’m rare, thanks…)
The NHS blood service is a case study in exceptional follow-up. If you’re eligible to donate and it’s been more than three months since your last donation, they will not let you forget about them. I’ve had emails, phone calls and text messages. It’s actually easier to book a donation than it is to delete all the messages.
I’m not suggesting you harass your customers, but there are prevalent lessons here. It’s better to risk annoying a few people than to let people forget about you. The people who get annoyed were never going to buy anyway, so the sooner you get them off your list the better.
One thing about being on my list is you can always unsubscribe, but I will not let you forget about me. You’ll eventually decide you like what I have to say, or you’ll unsubscribe.
There is no middle ground.
I mentioned last week that the long copy vs short copy debate bores me to tears. One subscriber wanted to know why.
In short, I think it’s an irrelevant conversation that encourages people to think about input rather than output.
At one extreme, we have the ‘short copy people’. These people seem to consume all their information from Twitter, in tiny soundbites, and assume that everyone else in the world is just like them.
“I’d never read all that,” they announce defiantly when presented with seven lines of text.
“Well, that’s nice,” I’ll respond. “But unless you’re going to personally buy all the products your business sells for the next four months, your opinion actually doesn’t matter much…”
(I don’t normally work with clients like that for long).
At the other end of the spectrum we have the long copy people, who think that anything less than 1000 words simply isn’t worth publishing. The trouble is, very few people can write long copy without damaging the impact of the writing. Increased length is only justified when it increases emotional impact or persuasiveness.
When it comes to email, I think copy frequency is a better question to be asking than copy length. I don’t have numbers to back this up, but my gut feeling is that sending five shorter emails per week is more effective than sending one email that is five times as long. It’s the same number of words, but delivered in more digestible chunks.
When you write a marketing email, you’re not really ‘writing an email’. The email itself is just the mechanics of delivery. What you’re really doing is delivering an idea. If you feel it necessary to write a super-long email, it’s possible your idea isn’t refined enough.
Sharpening your ideas is more important than adjusting the length of your emails.
There are a handful of email marketing conversations I get terribly, chronically bored of. One is the outdated argument over HTML vs plain text emails.
There are a core of direct marketing folks who still swear by sending plain text emails. A plain text email excludes the possibility of any formatting, including images. Historically, plain text emails have had marginally better delivery rates. But for me, the exclusion of images is an issue.
I was thinking about this the other day on my walk into town. Unlike the HTML vs plain text argument, I never, ever get bored of the view.
I was thinking – how would I explain that in words? ‘With difficulty’, is the answer. And certainly not in as little space.
Sometimes a well-placed picture can illustrate your point more efficiently and more effectively than any number of words. Yes, some people won’t see the image, or have to click a ‘download images’ button. Those people however are a minority.
The key point is that any images you include should illustrate your point. Graphics, cartoons and illustrations can also help to convey understanding. Cartoons work because they make your reader’s brain work a little harder than a regular photo. They encourage the reader to form their own understanding, rather than giving it to them on a plate.
What I’m dead-set against are ‘branding’ images. Logos, banners and so on. If you absolutely must include your logo, stick it at the bottom of your email, not at the top.
Most modern email platforms will send HTML emails as a two-part MIME format, meaning both a HTML and a plain text version get sent. If the HTML version is rejected, the plain text version will sometimes be accepted by the recipient’s email server instead.
All of this is besides the point. If you’re sending plain text emails because of delivery rates, you’re probably emailing too many people who don’t know you, or don’t have any relationship with you. The answer is to increase the number of people who open and engage with your emails, not faff about with the technology.
So yes, use images where it helps. But not beyond that.
I was chatting last week with a friend who sells premium hammocks. We talked a little about email marketing. He could see various people he follows sending daily or weekly emails, and understood the principle.
In practice however, the idea of implementing a daily or weekly email schedule felt too overwhelming.
Besides, he argued, surely if you’ve just bought a hammock from a company you found online, it would be annoying to get an email from them every week or more?
I agreed with him, and gave him an alternative suggestion. Which I’ll explain shortly.
Later that day I met up with a friend in Sheffield. My friend supports Sheffield United; one of the local football teams. He was complaining about the weekly emails he receives from Chesterfield FC, who he bought tickets off once, a number of years ago. I pointed out that he could simply unsubscribe from Chesterfield’s emails, but apparently that’s ‘too complicated’.
All of this raises an important point. The high frequency, story-based style of email marketing I teach isn’t right for every business. It’s best used to assist with high value, high trust sales.
In my opinion, a ‘high value’ sale is anything that costs $5000 and up. If you don’t bill that amount straight away, a high value customer should quickly spend that amount with you over the first few months they work with you.
In that situation, you should take the idea of a daily or weekly email seriously. Some people on your list will want to hear from you more regularly. And some of those people will spend good money with you.
So what did I suggest to my friend with the hammocks business? His hammocks are relatively expensive, but they don’t cost anywhere near $5000.
I suggested instead that he set up an ‘email broadcast’ calendar, and use that to plan his marketing emails around upcoming events. For Mother’s Day for example, he could tell a story about the trouble he had getting his Mum to try one of his hammocks. But then she did try one, and this is what she found…
He could write a similar story at Easter, about the Easter Bunny. Maybe the Easter Bunny will (speculatively) forget to deliver any Easter eggs this year, because he’ll be too busy snoozing in a ridiculously comfy hammock…
There are always excuses to email your list when you apply your imagination. The point is to email your list in a deliberate planned way, not a reactionary “aaaargh, we need some sales” way.
You should feel comfortable with the publishing schedule you set. It should feel like you are communicating something of value, rather than showing up as a pest.
If nothing else, people do get value from being entertained.
I’ve forwarded an email from Brian Kurtz below. Regular readers will remember I had mixed feelings about Brian’s book, but his weekly emails on Sundays are great.
I’ve copied a few sections below that I think are quotable, and added my own comments (next to ‘RD’).
‘I will maintain that anyone who claims to be “crushing it” online could, well, “crush it even more” if they paid as much attention to their copy as they do to the technology.’
RD: I feel like I say this to Infusionsoft users a thousand times a week. None of the automation matters if your message sucks.
‘If you think that there is never any harm done when you send an email that doesn’t connect with your audience and you simply say, “it’s no big deal” when you get no response, think again.
Every time you talk to your customers, prospects or suspects in a way that is not congruent with your purpose or what they expect from you, you really can’t measure the negative impact immediately about sending an inexpensive email that is off base.
You will find out long term… that I can assure you.’
RD: Email is not free. Every time you send an ‘off-base email’, as Brian calls it, the chances of your recipient opening future emails from you go down. The financial implications of this are huge.
‘When you are marketing in any medium, everything is not a revenue event but everything is a relationship event.’
RD: You might not be selling right now, but you’re always building towards a future sales event. People only spend serious money with people they know, like and trust. Are you investing in the relationship you have with your readers? Or are you trying to suck them dry?
‘No matter how hard hitting the copy might be, is there empathy? And is there some element of care and concern for your ultimate target?’
RD: Copywriting ‘tricks’ do not matter if you do not understand your audience.
‘Make believe you are paying a lot more than you are paying with each of those (email) communications and you won’t get sloppy.’
RD: Again, email is not free. The opportunity cost of poor email is tremendous.
Brian’s full email is copied below.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Brian Kurtz
Date: 15 January 2017 at 11:02
Subject: How paying postage made me a better marketer…
I have a confession. I’m a direct mail guy.
And proud of it.
I’ve been responsible for over a billion pieces of mail in my career (and you don’t mail that many pieces when they don’t work!)… and probably closer to 2 billion.
And when I say “mail,” I mean those paper things that come to your physical mailbox. (Good thing I didn’t have to lick the stamps.)
I’ve learned a ton from the online marketers I’ve been hanging around with the last few years.
Your expertise in harnessing technology amazes me, and the speed with which you execute astounds me.
But you have to admit that you’ve had it easy in terms of your barrier to entry into “selling stuff online”…it’s just so much cheaper to get started than in the days before the Internet.
I remember an urban legend that was floating around the web many years ago that there was a plan afoot to start charging “postage” for emails.
In a sinister way, with the knowledge that paying postage made me think longer and harder before I put anything in the mail, I was hoping that rumor might be true.
Of course it wasn’t…and email just got cheaper to send and postage for direct mail just kept going up.
But I still maintain that the care and concern it takes to create a direct mail campaign because of those extra costs (not just postage but printing and production too), made for a sturdy bunch of direct marketers.
And I will maintain that anyone who claims to be “crushing it” online could, well, “crush it even more” if they paid as much attention to their copy as they do to the technology.
In addition, if you think that there is never any harm done when you send an email that doesn’t connect with your audience and you simply say, “it’s no big deal” when you get no response, think again
Every time you talk to your customers, prospects or suspects in a way that is not congruent with your purpose or what they expect from you, you really can’t measure the negative impact immediately about sending an inexpensive email that is off base.
You will find out long term…that I can assure you.
In my short video about why your list is the most important part of your promotion, I also talk about why it is imperative to pay much more attention to your messaging and creative despite being able to make money online even with mediocre creative–due to the low costs to promote online vs. offline.
I see that as a “false positive” and it’s why I wanted to send this email to you today.
I have told the (almost true) story of my “childhood” in direct mail many times:
I walked 12 miles, uphill and barefoot, in the snow, to work every day as one of the largest users of direct mail in the country early in my career … AND I paid postage!
So with that introduction, let me make the case for why paying postage made me (and so many others who cut their teeth in direct mail) better marketers:
What do I mean when I use the word discipline?
It means that everything I sent through the United States Postal Service had to be thought through in a way so nothing was wasted.
Every test had to mean something.
Every test needed to light the path to a potential breakthrough (and a new control package).
Note: A control package is the best-performing marketing piece you have so far–it’s the reigning champion, which means that it has to keep defending its title against punky up-and-comers.
Direct mail marketers are always testing new approaches against that control to find the new winner.
I know the best marketers online today think about testing the same way…that’s why they are the best marketers online.
For more on this idea, you can read my post about why your control is your enemy…
In addition, with the cost of postage and printing using direct mail, the sale had to come quickly.
To use Gary Vaynerchuk’s language:
With direct mail, it’s harder to “jab” and you have to go for the “right hook” faster.
In other words, you don’t get much chance to build audience rapport with content alone using direct mail (i.e. “jab”), and you need to ask for the order sooner rather than later (the “right hook”).
But wise online marketers have an opportunity that should be used and not abused, given that it’s unlikely you’ll have to pay postage anytime soon …
Simply put: Waste still sucks.
The fact that you don’t pay for postage to send your marketing messages is not a license to beat your list into submission until they buy.
And discipline isn’t just something for guys like me who pay postage. It benefits every marketer, no matter what tools you use.
In the spirit of trying to take the discipline of direct mail into email and content, here are nine things that every marketer should consider before sending a billion pieces of mail … or before any marketer hits send to any number less than a billion emails:
Everything you send doesn’t have to sell something, but everything you send mustachieve something.
Also–and I know this a repeat:
When you are marketing in any medium, everything is not a revenue event but everything is a relationship event.
Familiarize yourself with what different types of strategic content looks like and always be sure that it fits with your selling content.
Hire or network with some heavy hitters who understand direct response and copy. It’s not just about the newest techniques although those are important. But fitting into a strategy makes way more sense first.
Get those heavy hitters signed up for all of your messaging. Listen carefully to what they tell you about how your copy looks when it gets to where it’s going — and where you should be tweaking.
You also want to find some “secret shoppers” who represent your ideal audience. I talk about that technique in more detail in my post “The return on returns.”
These aren’t experts in direct response and advanced copy … they’re the type of people who can potentially be your best prospects, students, and customers.
Side note: There are actually world class copywriters who use this technique and pay a panel of “people who look like their customer” to read their copy so they can get opinions and reactions well before they send the copy to their client.
The content gets tested two steps removed from when their client hits “send.” (Whether that’s to a direct mail campaign, e-mail promotion, or anything.)
My good friend Perry Marshall has a technique using Fiverr that any author of a book should use…and it’s a fantastic hack…and consistent with this idea of “learning what you can’t know.
His blog post about this technique is here.
Take the time and effort to agonize over every word in your copy.
And always ask, “Who is the audience this will most appeal to?”
Conversely, think about who your copy could possibly alienate.
If your copy does have the potential to alienate, consider if those people are a good fit to become your customer.
It’s okay to scare off the peanut gallery who will never buy from you anyway.
I learned the term consequential thinkingfrom my mentor, Marty Edelston
It means putting yourself in the prospect’s shoes and seeing how you react to the elements of the copy.
Does it take you through a process that makes sense?
In direct mail, this is also a science in terms of how the mailing piece is received — the placement of the address, and the order the recipient sees the pieces in the envelope.
Online, of course, you have many more choices to guide your prospect through the story.
Navigation and site design play an important role here, and you’ll want to think through how your audience goes through your landing pages.
Consequential thinking means taking a careful look at how you’re guiding your prospect through your marketing story.
This is another one I learned from Marty.
Is there a “logic line” that you believe?
Does each part of the story follow from what comes before it?
Is it logical (and believable)?
The purpose of each sentence is to make sure you can move the reader to the next sentence.
You need a logic line for each marketing message you send, but you also need a logic line for your business.
Is this message congruent with your marketing message overall? Will it resonate with what you’ve sent in the past? Does it contradict earlier messages?
Keep this last point in mind when you consider affiliates mailing to your online family…
If so, you need to decide if you truly want to move in a new direction, or if you want to rein this piece in (or not allow a particular affiliate into your world) to better fit your business’ overarching message.
No matter how hard hitting the copy might be, is there empathy? And is there some element of care and concern for your ultimate target?
Does the message communicate respect and care for your audience?
Audiences — for direct mail or for online content — are basically selfish.
It’s not their job to care about your business or what you do.
To that end, write assuming that nobody cares what you have to say … and give them a reason to care.
No matter how much you believe your product, service, or message is a “need to have,” always assume you are only “nice to have.”
Your job is convincing your audience to go from “nice to have” to “need to have”
(Or, of course, the language of your chosen audience.)
You don’t need to be obsessed with correct grammar or perfect punctuation. Enjoyable content and copy usually uses informal language.
But when you do violate the rules and standards of the English language, know what you are violating.
It needs to be in line with your audience and how they speak and write. Using their language always trumps “perfect” grammar and usage.
Okay, maybe you don’t have to pay for physical postage.
But you have an audience whose opinion and respect you depend on. That puts your reputation and authority at stake every time you communicate with them.
That’s why there’s so much to learn from the direct response principles of the past.
It’s why I wrote my first book The Advertising Solution and it’s why I write this blog, run mastermind groups and will continue to teach and coach for the rest of my life.
The discipline from being a “direct mail guy” can be applied to everything happening in marketing and creative today.
And because of the amazing accountability and measurement tools available on the web, much better than I had in direct mail (and we were pretty good at it then too), everything about the fundamental principles of direct marketing applies to any medium, offline or online.
Final reminder for the day:
Be disciplined and don’t waste any opportunity when communicating with your potential or existing audience.
Make believe you are paying a lot more than you are paying with each of those communications and you won’t get sloppy.
A lot of people ask me about daily emails. Is it worth it? Is it a big time commitment? Aren’t you ‘bombarding people’, by emailing every day?
All valid questions.
I let people choose how often they hear from me, rather than dictating the schedule. There’s a link at the bottom to switch between daily and weekly. On that basis I don’t believe anyone reading this email is ‘bombarded’, because there’s always a dial you can use to turn things down.
I have more people subscribed to my weekly email than I do to my daily email, but most of my business comes from the daily email group. I can’t think of a significant sale I’ve made recently to a weekly email subscriber.
Effectively it’s a sorting and filtering system. The people who like what I have to say stick around in the daily emails group, and form the majority of my best customers.
That list is a tangible business asset, so on that basis I think daily emails have been worth it. My job in 2017 is to pour more subscribers into the top of the bucket, and let people self-select how they want to hear from me.
Last week a client asked me, “I’m on various email lists. The only people I see sending daily emails are marketers. Does that mean you have to be a marketer to use daily emails?”
I think this is a great question.
You don’t have to be a marketer, but you have to be selling something valuable, and potentially transformational. You’re a good fit for daily emails if what you do changes the lives of your clients in some way. If a client engagement is worth thousands of pounds or dollars, it’s certainly something you should consider.
Is it a big time commitment? Yes, I suppose it is, and the answer is to plan ahead.
There are four possible ways I can write these emails:
This email was first drafted on Monday morning. It’ll be setup in Infusionsoft by Monday evening, putting it in the first category.
It can help to pick a specific topic to write about each week. Every few months I’ll run a series dedicated to a specific topic. Often these ‘mini series’ are an exploration of something I might want to write about in a book, or create a lead magnet about. It’s actually easier to write an email about a specific topic than it is to select the topic.
The daily emails don’t die the second you hit the ‘send’ button. Most of mine get added to my blog, and a lot eventually end up in my books. For me, daily emails are like prospecting for big ideas. You won’t hit gold every time, but when you do you can re-use the content in other formats.
It’s winter solstice today in the Northern Hemisphere: the shortest day of the year.
I’m fascinated by winter solstice because of the knowledge our ancestors had about it. People in different cultures built giant monuments to mark its passing.
Marketing Nurture System readers will be familiar with this example, but this is Maeshowe on the Scottish island of Orkney.
Maeshowe is a stone-age tomb constructed around 3000BC. It’s one of the largest neolithic man-made structures found anywhere in the world.
At sunset on winter solstice, something amazing happens.
For one day only, the setting sun aligns perfectly with the passage, lighting up the inner chamber of the tomb. In times past this would have lit up the remains inside, providing a connection between the living and the dead.
This better-known example is Stonehenge, in Wiltshire.
Many people visit Stonehenge at sunrise on summer solstice, but we now think they may be there at the wrong time of year, facing the wrong way. No animal bones or evidence of feasting has ever been found at Stonehenge, making it possible this was a monument for the dead.
The bluestones which make up the smaller outer henge were dragged all the way from South Wales. We still have no idea how this was achieved, but it took a huge communal effort, and a big belief in something.
This is the Egyptian temple at Karnak, built around 1500BC for the sun god Amun-Ra.
Like the other monuments we’ve seen, the temple is astronomically aligned with the setting sun at winter solstice, lighting up the temple inside.
What strikes me about all three examples is the deep understanding of astronomy and engineering that building these monuments required. It represents a deep understanding of the environment which has become disconnected by modern living.
I really believe that good marketing is all about connection. If you want to improve your results, you have to understand your customers as well as our ancestors understood the changing seasons.
I think people today feel a numb disconnect with the companies we buy from. We’re tired of being labelled as ‘consumers’ (I’m much more than a ‘consumer’, thank you). We’re tired of being endlessly sledge-hammered with the same dumb marketing messages.
You build connection by having something valuable to say, and by allowing yourself to be vulnerable. By telling your story, and by building trust.
Sadly, this isn’t a ‘quick fix’, ‘trick’, or ‘ninja tactic’. It’s actually a big commitment to your audience and a lot of work, even if you outsource the work itself.
It’s a lot of thinking work, even if you outsource the doing.
If you’re ready and willing to do the work, you should consider joining my Marketing Sanity newsletter group. The newsletter explores the deeper aspects of marketing that most consultants will not touch.
Plus as a sign-up bonus you also get access to my new book Evergreen Nurture Emails, and to my Nurture Email Mastery course. Which is worth £177 if you bought it separately.
Full details here. The price of membership goes up at the end of the year.
Everybody wants to know how often they should email their list.
You can answer this by looking back in history.
In the middle ages, the English longbow was a critical siege weapon. The most famous longbow-powered victory came at Agincourt in 1415, when 5,000 English archers crippled a stronger French army of 20,000 men.
The real driver behind English success at Agincourt was range and frequency, not accuracy. A trained archer was expected to shoot a minimum of six arrows per minute. Speed of arrow release was more important than accuracy, and I believe the same is true in email marketing.
If you’re shooting a longbow it’s easy to miss with a single arrow, and the same goes for emails. It’s easy to miss with a one-off message. A single message can easily be missed or ignored.
By emailing you every day, I force you to make a decision. You can’t ignore every email, so at some point you have to decide whether the emails you receive from me are valuable to you or not.
If you’re not forcing people to make that decision, you’re probably not emailing often enough.
Having made that decision, I do let people drop the frequency if they want. I let people choose between daily and weekly emails, but what is interesting is that all of my serious leads come from the daily emails group.
All of them.
If you let people hear from you more often, some people will raise their hands and rise to the top of the pile. It’s like an ongoing, never-ending sifting and sorting system.
I get about as many unsubscribes as I get new subscribers. I’m okay with that, because the unsubscribes are simply a product of the sifting and sorting effect. The unsubscribes happen because I force people to decide whether or not they want to hear from me. Some people decide that they do, and that is all that matters.
Every time I add an additional 5000 contacts to my list, Infusionsoft send me a bigger bill. I’m only happy for that to happen if the additional 5000 contacts are engaged.
The real question isn’t ‘how often should we email’. The real question is ‘how often would my most engaged contacts like to hear from me’. Cater to those people, and let everyone else self-select.
I have endless trouble convincing people of the true value of long-term marketing nurture. Marketing nurture isn’t an abstract, nice-to-have thing. It’s an essential, core business system.
I came across the following image yesterday on a Fix Your Funnel webinar. The image is meant to represent your different core business systems.
Image credit: Fix Your Funnel
In this model, you spend no time trying to sell to people who have not spent any time in your nurture process. The nurture process is a customer education process that must be gone through to get to your sales process.
Without a marketing nurture system, marketing and sales interface directly. In your marketing you might run ads, on Google, Facebook or wherever. You may go networking. You send direct mail. And when a lead comes in you immediately try to close the deal.
This direct interface between marketing and sales creates all kinds of pressure, both for you and the buyer. You end up having sales conversations with people who don’t yet trust you. These people often aren’t ready for a sales conversation. They don’t yet see your value, so your only option is to throw discounts at them.
The buyer feels this pressure too. Often they’ll say they need to ‘think about it’. When a prospect says this they’re really telling you to back off.
Most people think of marketing nurture as a never-ending stream of emails. A never-end of stream of emails may be part of your nurture system, but you can also sell products as part of your marketing nurture. Marketing nurture can be any sort of information; emails, books, newsletters, audio CD’s, MP3’s.
I now have a barrier in my business where anyone who wants to work with me on a project has to have first read my book, the Marketing Nurture System. It’s a small barrier between my marketing and sales processes. Prospects who try to skip the nurture process and jump straight from marketing to sales are invariably nightmare clients to work with.
The end result is a nicer sales process where you only ever speak to educated prospects who understand your value.
Surely we could all benefit from that?
P.S. If you still don’t own a copy of the Marketing Nurture system you can pick up a copy here.
Grab a paperback copy of Maze Remarketing: The 80/20 Approach to Profitable Multi-Channel Retargeting Ads. Just 1 penny plus cost-price worldwide shipping.