Tag Archives for " email marketing "

October 11, 2016

How big does your email marketing list need to be?

I get asked about list size from time to time. The obsession with email marketing list size diverts attention away from the real issues:

  • How many people on your list are paying attention
  • How many people on your list are paying you money

If the answer to both of those questions is ‘most of them’, you don’t need a huge list. Taken as a standalone metric, a huge list simply add more expense to your email marketing costs. Large numbers of unengaged contacts can also damage your sender reputation with the internet service providers.

If Google for example can see that you regularly email 30,000 of their Gmail contacts but only 300 of them open your emails, they’ll start to divert your emails towards the ‘promotions’ tab, or the spam folder.

The way to reach your recipient’s inbox is through regular engagement; either opens, clicks or direct replies.

Once a month I review and prune my list. If you haven’t opened any email from me in the last four months and you aren’t a customer, I’ll flag your record for deletion. You’ll get one more email from me before I delete your record, and possibly a phone call if I have your number.

Each time the number of contacts in my database increments by 5000, Infusionsoft send me a bigger bill. I’m only happy for that to happen if I have an additional 5000 active, engaged contacts. Otherwise, why pay for them?

List size in itself is not a sensible goal, in the same way that ‘high click through rate’ is not a sensible goal in AdWords when taken in isolation. The real goal is to grow your list of active, engaged contacts moving through your sales funnel.

October 6, 2016

Which Marketing Lists Should You Subscribe To?

A subscriber was telling me the other week how he recently unsubscribed from more than 50 marketing email lists.

“You survived the cull,” he told me. “Congratulations.”

Umm, thanks.

I too aggressively unsubscribe from things that are no longer providing me with value, so I thought it might be worth sharing my rules of thumb.

The people I stay subscribed to are the people that show up frequently with the deepest level of insight. Deep insight usually requires a multi-disciplinary perspective. Most copywriters only write about copywriting, and frankly it’s dull.

I’m subscribed to one particular marketer who provided me with huge value when I first subscribed to his list. But he’s still writing about the same things, eight years later. I’m still subscribed for legacy reasons, but I don’t pay much attention any more.

I think most marketers are operating in default. They write about their thing, or their specialism, but their narrow focus quickly causes their emails to become boring even if the content itself is still good.

The first rule of thumb is you should only continually subscribe to people who are always trying to raise their level of insight. You can only grow if the people you are following are also growing.

The second and perhaps more controversial rule of thumb is you should only stay subscribed to people who take a broader, multi-disciplinary approach to their subject. Real insights often require information from unusual sources. Most marketers are too scared to do this, worrying they won’t be relevant.

Everything is relevant if you can show how it ties together.

We all have specialisms. Mine are copywriting, Infusionsoft and AdWords. You probably opted in down one of those routes, but if all I ever did was write about those things you would be bored out of your skull.

I think most marketers try to milk their list, rather than grow their list. Sure, they might have a big list. But you opt-in and it’s a thinly veiled nag-fest, wrapped in the same information repackaged over and over.

We were talking a little about newsletters and email lists last night on a mastermind call I’m part of. One of my comments was that I actually write these emails primarily for my own sanity, with half an eye on you as the reader. If I didn’t have an email list I would still write a daily something; probably a daily journal.

I write these emails because from a selfish perspective they enable me to grow. They enable me to mix and match seemingly disparate bits of information to see what works. And hopefully in doing that there is plenty of value for you too.

August 26, 2016

How Long Should Your Email Marketing Sequences Be?

One of the copywriting questions that regularly rears its ugly head is: how many emails should I put in an email autoresponder sequence?

3? 10? 50? 5000?

This is one of the pointless marketing questions to which there is no definitive answer, but there is a principle you can apply to guide your judgement. The principle is called the Oh No Principle.

If somebody took a look over your emails and advised you to rewrite all of them, would you think ‘oh no‘?

If you would there are too many emails in the sequence.

Every email sequence you write has a half-life in usefulness. Over time your business changes and your messaging changes, rendering your automated emails obsolete.

My half-life is fairly short because by business direction changes a lot. I get around this now by restricting my automated emails to functional topics. I’ll also only ever put seven emails in an automated sequence. Seven for me is my ‘oh no’ threshold.

That isn’t a cut and dry rule. I have clients with longer email sequences, but those clients usually are not sending out regular broadcast emails. Or the business itself does not change so much, extending the half-life of usefulness.

You need to make your own decisions, but consider that at some point you will need to rewrite your email sequence.

August 23, 2016

The Email Marketing Wave Machine

The chap below was an oceanographer named Walter Monk. Monk played an important role in the conclusion of World War II.

Walter Monk

The Allies knew that the amphibious landings in North Africa and France would fail if the waves were above six feet tall. Monk’s job was to figure out how tall the waves were going to be, and select appropriate invasion dates.

Monk realised that the size of a wave was proportional to the distance it had travelled and the wind energy injected into it in the original storm.

Monk also knew that waves from a storm would persist over remarkable distances. After the war Monk wanted to know just how far a wave would travel. He set up measuring stations throughout the pacific and followed waves created by Antarctic storms.

The waves would travel up past New Zealand. Up past Samoa. Up past Hawaii. Eventually the waves would break two weeks and 7000 miles later on the shores of Alaska. By this point the waves would only be a few millimetres high; the sort of wave that gently rocks a sailing boat as you step into it.

Sending out regular emails is like building your own wave machine.

If you want to deliver an important message the regularity of the waves is more important than the size.

Most marketers are busy trying to cook up a tidal wave. One killer giant promotion than will generate all required sales between now and the end of time.

You know you’re cooking up a tidal wave when your email planning takes up an entire wall in your office.

If you’re doing this you need to stop. Just pick part of your plan and get to work making waves. You’ll be surprised at how far they travel.

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.

July 22, 2016

The problem with writing daily emails

Email marketing advice 101 at the moment seems to be ‘write a daily email’. Many people seem to have taken this advice at face value.

Writing a daily email is good advice, under the right circumstances. If your message is valuable enough there will be people who want to hear from you every day. Maybe multiple times per day, if you have the time.

The problem is that thinking of interesting things to write every day can be terrifying. 9AM becomes 10AM. 10AM becomes… 4PM. In a panic you end up writing about the goofy thing your dog did this morning, or what you had for breakfast.

Nobody cares about these things except you.

The danger is we end up communicating for the sake of communicating. The world is already full of marketing people trying to make noise. If you want to write daily emails you should do so as a strategy, not a tactic.

In this month’s Confusion Clinic webinar we’re looking at story selection: how to select what to write about in your marketing emails.

Story selection is the only part of the email production process that comes close to being a ‘dark art’. We’ll explore how to select stories your customers actually want to hear.

Time: 6-7PM UK, 1-2PM US Eastern
Date: Wednesday 27th July
Register for the webinar here

No charge to attend live, and a recording will be available for 48 hours after the call. After that it will only be available to Introvert’s Corner members.

We’ll have time for QnA. If you’re a writer I strongly recommend making time to be on the call.

July 21, 2016

‘Indoctrination Sequences’: What to focus on first

We’ve been watching the latest series of Orange is the New Black this week on Netflix. The series follows the characters of a fictional women’s prison called Litchfield Penitentiary.

It took me a long time to get into Orange in the New Black, but the last season (season 4) really stepped up a notch.

If you’re making a series the challenge is to get people past the first six episodes. Netflix know that if you watch six episodes of a season you’ll probably watch every episode of every season. I’ve now watched too much of Orange is the New Black to not watch everything they put out. It would have to take a bad nose-dive for me to stop watching.

There are marketing nurture lessons in all of this.

I see a lot of people talking about ‘indoctrination’ sequences, which in plain English means an ‘introduction’ sequence.

Whatever you call it the first month after somebody opts in is the most important.

That isn’t to say you should let your prospects fall off the end of the nurture table when the introduction sequence is over. You have to keep producing more episodes. You have to keep telling your story in different ways.

But if you wanted to pick something to focus on I would say the first month is the place to start.

You also shouldn’t only focus on email. For the first month you should also be showing up in the mail and on remarketing ads. Remind people in your remarketing ads to read the emails you have been sending them.

When you’re building your nurture follow-up system you don’t have to build the Taj Mahal in one go. You can start with the entranceway, and go from there.


P.S. We’ve had mixed success watching television series on Netflix.

We loved The Tudors. We eventually liked Prison Break, although I would have given up on it had Linzi not want to continue. I didn’t like Breaking Bad (the season ends were the only decent parts). We LOVED Dexter.

July 14, 2016

Selecting what to write about

I had an email conversation last week with David, who is a Nurture Email Mastery course graduate. David had a question about story selection.

I was wondering, how do you decide what to write about each day? I understand that you have a wealth of material in your Evernote journals to pull content and stories from but how do you decide which ones to use and when to use them?

My response:

Regarding story selection, quite often I will just get excited about a particular story I want to tell or share. The Tony Blair image from this morning came up in my Facebook news feed, and I thought it was too good not to use. I actually had a different email ready to go, which will now go out next week.

So I’ll normally have a story in mind that I want to use, but if I need to I can go rooting around in Evernote. I add 3-5 notes to Evernote a week, mostly based around my incessant habit of watching BBC documentaries.

Remember you can always use the reconnect to fit story to content.

I’ve had a few additional thoughts on story selection I thought worth sharing.

If you write regularly everybody expects you to write about obvious things. If you run yoga classes, everybody expects you to write about yoga. If you sell copywriting, everybody expects you to write about copy.

The problem when you do this is you end up regurgitating the same information over and over. You cannot regurgitate the same information and then be surprised when everybody yawns in your face.

The trick is to tell a surprising or seemingly unrelevant story, and then make itrelevant to your message.

As mentioned above I’ll normally have at least one ’emergency story’ in reserve, in case I’m stuck for things to write about. Monday’s Q-ships article was actually an emergency story. Often on a Monday I won’t have prepared what I want to write for the week, so Monday’s emails often dip into the emergency story reserve.

When you select a story you have to do a quick reference check to make sure people will know what you’re talking about. If you look at the Q-ships article I deliberately started by talking about the Battle of the Somme, not about Q-ships. When you select a story the opening has to be one people will at least recognise.

After Monday I’ll write out a rough plan for the week. I’ll spend about 15 minutes scribbling out a rough outline for each day (15 minutes in total, not 15 minutes for each email). Normally I’ll just identify a ‘one idea’ for each article, and sketch out the rough flow.

Each article is then prepared at the latest the day before, at least as far as draft format.

Annoyingly many of my ideas come during the night. Roughly two days out of five I’ll go off-piste and write about something completely different when I wake up.

The deadline for each daily email, as you know, is 9AM. After that I have 9 – 12 blocked off for client work, on days I am working. I recommend setting a deadline like this, otherwise these things expand to fill the available space.

This month’s Confusion Clinic webinar is on July 27th, and will look at the story selection process in more detail. There will be more reminders on this in due course but you can register for the webinar here.

July 12, 2016

Email Marketing Frequency: “How often should I email?”

Most people approach the ‘how often should we email’ question by reviewing their own personal email habits.

“I would never read a daily email,” people tell me. “I don’t have time.”

Unless you personally are going to buy all of the products you sell for the next three months, your personal opinion on frequency actually doesn’t carry much weight.

The correct perspective is a rational, calculating perspective.

Some proportion of your email list will want to hear from you more regularly, given the option. Your calculation is to work out whether it is financially viable to write to those people at a higher frequency. In other words will you be comfortably reimbursed in additional sales?

It’s actually a black and white calculation given the additional time and money required to communicate more often.

Tell people you are going to be writing more often. Allow them to opt-in to the higher frequency. And see how many people raise their hands.

If nobody on your list wants to hear from you more regularly, it is possible you aren’t showing up with enough value.

Value, remember, has three components. 1. Entertainment. 2. Education. 3. Changing their level of thinking.

Think about it.

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