When you send the same message to everyone…nobody listens.
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When a business or blogger has collected emails, whether by doing so with their opt-in, manually at a brick and mortar, or over a period of time as people have signed up for a service or product, a list that numbers in the hundreds, the thousands, or even the tens of thousands can sometimes seem overwhelming.
It’s not uncommon for bloggers and small business owners to have a large list but still be unsure just how to use email marketing and automation to generate revenue for their business. This was the exact case when I was recruited to assist a client who had a list of over 40,000 people, but an email open rate that was lower than 20%. (Quick backstory: I worked for a digital agency, and in corporate marketing for 14 years before I started my blog). Anyway, at the time, the owners of the company I worked for didn't quite understand how to convert those “people on their list” into a loyal audience who would open and read their emails, let alone turn them into paying customers.
When you have just one list of email subscribers, and they are not grouped into different categories, the key to unlocking revenue with email automation is to first solve the challenge of moving them into meaningful groups. Your very first step is to design a Segmentation Campaign; this is how you begin to group your list based on actionable behaviors that they take. What is an actionable behavior? In digital marketing, it's something you can measure…such as a click.
The Email Newsletter: Why So Many Bloggers and Small Business Owners Still Get it Wrong
Perhaps you’ve sent a campaign or two, or maybe you send a weekly or monthly newsletter to the subscribers of your blog or the customers in your business, and you have watched your “open rate” go down with each email you send. If your open rate is less than 60%, you’re in the right place to gain some insight. There is definitely a secret to getting people to open and read your email, and over the years I’ve watched as even the organizations and businesses that I want to hear from struggle to get it right.
The Segmentation Campaign
First and foremost, when you have a very large list, the first task is to clean it up and get it separated into meaningful categories. If this sounds tedious, all the more reason that you need to move it to the top of your to-do list. Why? Email marketing simply does not work when you send the same email to a large group of people.
Think about it this way, too many choices confuse people. Too many choices cause a person to close their browser and not even make a choice. You simply cannot connect with your audience in a meaningful way by sending the same email campaign to everyone; that will never generate revenue for your business.
In order to make a meaningful connection, you've got to deliver super-targeted information that over-delivers on value. Every, single, time! It's so important to clearly illustrate how your business, product, or service is going to solve a problem for your intended audience. But first…your audience needs to actually have a problem that you can solve! If the problem doesn't exist, guess what? They don't care if you can solve it. It comes down to choice: If you provide too many choices, it's just easier for the recipient to not make a choice and do nothing.
Email Marketing: Where Do I Begin?
Each email campaign that you send needs to have one of these 4 primary purposes:
This is a fancy industry term that means the purpose of the email is to introduce new connections to your brand; this is the time to bond with a brand new subscriber when they are the most excited to hear your message. People are the most excited the moment they enter their email address and sign up. Think about it. They are offering up their email address in exchange for something that they deem valuable (your Lead Magnet). A lot of businesses miss this unique opportunity to teach this new subscriber why you are amazing. Sometimes called the “welcome” email, know that it is the single time that a new subscriber is most likely to read what you have to say because they are expecting it.
The engagement campaign is the most widely used type of email marketing campaign, but it’s also where the most companies fail. The idea of the engagement campaign, and this is true whether it is done via email or on social media, is for a business to talk about what moves your potential customer. This could be very different for the different audiences within your broad audience. Remember, you’re not just “selling your product” you’ve got to make a meaningful connection with your customer and do it in a way that educates them about why your product or service will solve their problem and change their life for the better…and you’ve got to do that better than your competitor. You simply will not be able to engage with someone if you’re not speaking about something important to them.
Every email campaign and every post must have a purpose. What could be worse than posting something that isn't directly related to how your product or service benefits the consumer? Posting about, emailing them, or blogging about yourself!
Although it’s a time to begin to encourage your audience to buy what you have to offer by describing how it is relevant to them, the important thing to remember is that in order to be relevant, you’ve got to really dig deep into their beliefs, attitudes and desires. You’ve got to zero in on exactly what is important to them.
Consider this example: I once did some work for a professional who provided a service. He was certain that I was his “target audience”. (We are a family with two working parents, 2 kids and 2 pets). His rationale was that since both parents in the household worked, we therefore must have insurance to pay for medical services, so that makes us more likely to schedule an appointment regularly for a preventative visit. Another part of that rationale was that women heads of households make the family buying decisions, so his target market was women between the ages of 25 and 55. The reality is, that audience is way too broad. If you intend to make money with email marketing and your audience consists of a broad target market (such as “women between the ages of 25 and 55”) then it’s time to rethink your approach. There was no way that he was going to be able to make a meaningful connection with the “me’s” of the world, especially when he was using email to send me a newsletter to tell me about the latest award his practice won.
Can you see how important it is to get crystal clear about your audience? Gender and age group is far too broad to make a truly meaningful connection. Instead, look for a different way to engage. What does your target audience eat for breakfast and why? Do they wake up at 5:00am and go for a jog in their neighborhood before they feed their cat and clean the litterbox? Where do they work, shop, vacation, and what kind of car do they drive?
If you really know who your customer is you can tailor an email campaign that engages with them on an incredibly personal level. Even though the recipient of your email may not know you personally, they can read into everything you write about, and the tone of that written word strikes a subconscious chord. If you can use words to talk to the recipient of your email as if you’re talking to your very best friend about how your product or service will make life better for them, then their interpretation will no doubt be positive.
In turn, their view of your brand will be positive. My pet peeve to this day is reading an email that says something like “I’m so proud to be awarded the honor of the top “insert whatever profession you want” under the age of 40 in my hometown.” Really? I mean, kudos to you Mr. Award Recipient. Go ahead and post it on your social media feed, but don't expect that emailing that information to me is going to move me to buy something or schedule an appointment.
What I’m trying to say here is that you can control the interpretation of the person receiving your email and truly engage with them by providing a meaningful connection about how your product or service benefits them…not by touting your own horn.
The ascension campaign comes after a successful engagement campaign, and only once you’ve started to measure the behaviors of your email recipients. Asking a client to upgrade their experience is where the big money happens, but they first need to trust your brand and have had an experience with you that over-delivers. Once you’ve made one sale, you know what your customer is interested in, so now you know exactly what your customer is likely to want or need to do next. If a customer just used your app to make a donation to their favorite cause, the next step is to say “Thanks for donating, would you like to start a fundraising campaign of your own?” Think about how the big companies use this strategy: Facebook has a strategically placed button on business pages that says “Create a Business Page” and that is not by accident.
The ascension campaign directly correlates to the most important part of email marketing…the segmentation. Dividing up your customer or potential customer list into meaningful categories and then capitalizing on what you now know about them is the key to a successful ascension campaign.
I can’t stress how important it is for every business who wants to succeed with digital marketing to learn what your audience likes and dislikes by measuring their behaviors so you can follow-up with anticipatory practicality about what they will want to do next. If you send someone an email and they do not click on the link, for the love of all things do not simply send them the same type of email again.
If they did not click, it means they were not interested! You can dig deeper into why they may not have been interested and create a different campaign to re-engage, but that comes later. First you’ve got to ensure you have your campaign set up in a way that can accurately measure and make sense of the data that is being measured. You’ve got to know what you’re looking for. How do you know what you’re looking for in terms of measurement and data?
Lets look back to the Small Email List example where we talked about raw honey and essential oils. Suppose you have an email list with 4,000 people on it and you don’t have them “segmented”. The first goal is to separate the list into meaningful categories. You have reason to believe that more people are interested in essential oils than in raw honey, so you decide to focus on essential oils as your first campaign.
In this example, you decide to run a campaign in the summer since it's a good time to teach people how to use essential oils to make their own sunscreen, so that will be the focus of your first campaign. Since the goal of this email campaign is not to sell a product but instead to begin to segment your list, your “landing page” could be as simple as a blog post that instructs people about how to make their essential oils sunscreen. On the sidebar of the blog, you may choose to have a picture of a jar of honey which will serve as a call-to-action leading to purchase the honey. Don’t forget to attach a UTM Parameter to the link in the email so that you can effectively measure who from your email list clicked on the honey. At this point it doesn’t matter whether they purchased anything, what you are measuring and attempting to differentiate is who is interested in honey and who is not. From this email campaign, you can measure the following behaviors:
Who on your list is interested in the blog about making your own sunscreen (behavior: clicked the link within the email and landed on the blog page)?
Who on your list is potentially interested in both sunscreen and honey (behavior: clicked the CTA for honey on the sidebar)?
Who is not interested in sunscreen at all (those who did not click)?
As you can see, you have now segmented your one list into 3 different lists after sending this email campaign. You can almost instantaneously group them based on what they showed interest in. Now you know that you could potentially talk to list number 2 about the honey. Not only that, you could send an email a few hours or a day later educating them about the differences between raw honey and processed honey, or perhaps write a blog about how to store honey. They’ve already shown you they are interested in honey, so tuck away that information and think critically about how you will use it to market to them in the future.
Which leads effectively to the folks from your initial large list above who did not click, they did not show interest. That is the segment you’ll focus on with a “re-engagement” strategy.
Re-Engage & Win Back
If someone has fallen out of touch or stops opening your emails, the re-engagement strategy is used to create a way to entice them to come back before the relationship grows cold. This is the lowest of low hanging fruit; it’s the time to reinforce your value and re-engage. Many companies do not have a systematic process by which they manage weeding out the people who are genuinely interested from the people who are just “looking” for information.
You never want to email someone who did not click. The result is that you waste a lot of time and effort. There are times when I purchase a product online and then I begin to receive an email a day from that company. Even if I don’t click in the email, I start getting bombarded with more emails. Newsflash, I’m not that interested, why are you still sending me stuff I’m not even reading? Now the company has left a bad taste in my mouth. The worst of the worst is when I click to unsubscribe and they send me a message indicting that it might be a few days before I’m removed from their list. Companies can be fined for not following the law, according to the GDPR, the opt-out or “unsubscribe” link is very important in the grand scheme of things.
Don’t risk your email deliverability (in other words, the spam folder) because once you go down that road, it’s hard to recover. The last thing you want is for people to delete your emails and mark them as spam. Future emails will not make it to their inbox and you effectively decrease your chances of ever making a stream of revenue from email marketing.
Instead, if a prospect on your email list has not actively engaged with you for over 3 months (by actively engage, I’m talking about clicking a link in your email or actually purchasing something) then the best practice is to remove them from your email list. If you sent an email campaign and they did not engage, the re-engagement campaign can be sent any time between about 2 weeks and 3 months to test a “win back” strategy. You know that the people on this segmented list have no interest in sunscreen. Consider what else you might know about them. How did they get on your list in the first place? You might go back to basics and write a blog or provide a lead magnet that entices them to get to know you better.
Once you are crystal clear about what each segment is truly interested in, think about how you will appeal to them. How is your product or service going to absolutely hands down change their life for the better? HubSpot defines Lead Nurturing as the purposeful process of engaging a defined group of prospects by providing them with relevant information at each stage of their buyer journey. The goal is to create tactics that active move people through a sequence of events that is designed to move them from just interested to a paying customer. Attribution information (the data that you’re measuring about their behaviors) in other words, the pages they viewed and the content they downloaded will help tell you what stage of their “journey” they are in. Based on this information, you can design a nurturing strategy that talks to them about what is the most important to them.
Best Email Marketing Software for Bloggers and Small Biz: ConvertKit
For my nurturing sequences, I highly recommend ConvertKit (for Bloggers who are making from zero to $150,000 in annual revenue) and AWeber (for Small Business Owners making between $150,000 and $250,000 in annual revenue). They are both email marketing automation platforms that are easy to use and integrate well with a variety of different website builders.
ConvertKit is particularly easy to use for those who are new to blogging and email marketing. They have great customer support as well as video tutorials and even free email templates for nurturing sequences to help you get started quickly! The difference is that with ConvertKit, things just make sense. Some email marketing systems are clunky and hard to figure out the integrations, but ConvertKit will definitely be your BFF because the internal dashboard functions a lot like HubSpot in that it makes everything obvious…but doesn't have the big price tag like HubSpot!
HubSpot for Business making between $250k and $5Million
If you are a business owner with annual revenue between $250,000 and $5 million, then I highly recommend checking out HubSpot. HubSpot is an all-in-one platform, and is a treasure-trove of valuable tools to streamline your marketing automation and sequencing. It's kind of like InfusionSoft functionality in a much more user-centric dashboard (like ConvertKit) but much more modern and easy-to-use than InfusionSoft. Oh, and it has about 40 more bells and whistles too!
Remember, segmented email campaigns have an open rate that is 14.32% higher than non-segmented campaigns.
Asking people to opt-in to your email newsletter worked well in 2010, but these days bloggers and small business owners need a more advanced strategy.
Please note that some of the links included in this article are affiliate partner links. For more information, click here.
So many businesses, both large and small are still sending out email newsletters, and by the way…that is not the same thing as using email automation to grow your revenue, in fact sending newsletters will very rarely, if ever, provide any return on investment for your business. Let me show you the difference.
First things first. We’ve all got way too much email in our inbox right…
It feels like every time you unsubscribe from something, you get 10 more emails in return. Email Marketing Automation is everywhere.
I’ve even changed my email addresses just to get rid of all the noise.
So think about the typical email newsletter…a company shares once a month, or maybe even once a week. Maybe they’ve moved into a new location, or maybe they’re welcoming a new employee. If you make a living as a blogger, you might be sharing an excerpt of your blog posts and then linking to the last 4 or 6 blogs that you wrote.
So now, think about how you feel when you’re busy opening emails and you receive a business newsletter and it’s filled with all kinds of links and different things going on…maybe one thing catches your eye, but the reality is, you’re way too busy to click through on every single link in there, because there are just too many choices and you really don’t have time.
Maybe you’ll come back later, but the data shows that’s not likely. What data? Marketing data from all over the world that is aggregated and published by literally every important marketing company that exists (HubSpot, Salesforce, SEMRush, you get the picture). Anyway…if you do send these kinds of newsletters you’re not going to like this data very much but it’s the truth; most people don’t care about what’s new in your business this week.
What people care about is how you can solve their problem, if they happen to have a problem that you have a solution for.
So how does all this translate into setting up automated campaigns that actually generate revenue for your business?
The key is to set up your email marketing automation using JUST ONE nurturing sequence at a time which corresponds to your audiences exact place in the sales funnel.
Wait, what? What does that mean and how do I know this?
Because so much automated intelligence exists that allows thousands of marketers every day to analyze their data…and it’s all black and white. In other words, nobody has go “guess” anymore.
In the past, a business would market their brand by placing an ad in a magazine or on billboard, and back then, they never had an accurate way to measure how effective their ad was. So all these dollars were spent on traditional marketing, but how did they know what really worked or what KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure? They didn’t. If they were smart in 1995, they set up different phone numbers so they could track where people saw their ad based on whether they actually called their business, but that’s old news because now we can accurately track email clicks on both websites and within email marketing campaigns, and that’s how we know that email newsletters are just not effective.
So instead of sending another newsletter, here are the steps you can take TODAY to start turning things around:
Write down the exact problem that your audience has.
Write down the exact solution that you provide, that solves their problem.
Apply your solution to the sales funnel; now if this sounds a little confusing, lets look at a real live example.
In the world of digital marketing, being able to pinpoint a prospective customer's place in the sales cycle and associate it with an appropriate nurturing sequence is called Journey Mapping. You’ll first figure out whether your audience is in the awareness stage, the consideration stage, or the decision stage of the sales funnel. These are 3 markedly different phases of decision making, and will affect your email nurturing sequence depending on what phase they are in.
So how do you know what phase they’re in? Digitally, this is done by segmenting or grouping your website visitors into categories based on the measurable actions they take on your website. For example, you gain some perspective on your audience by paying close attention to what blogs they’re reading on your website. Which of your posts gets the most traffic? To accomplish this in a very early stage (if you are used to sending email newsletters and you’re looking to transition to automating your emails for the purpose of generating revenue) then you’ll need to begin by sending an email for the sole purpose of grouping your audience into different categories.
A segmentation campaign is as simple as sending an email that provides two different options…so say your business or blog is about sustainability, ultimately, you’re selling a digital course that teaches people how to build a bin for composting, so your blog topics are likely all related to gardening and composting.
If you already have subscribers on your email list and it’s just one list, you’ll start by sending an email that offers only two different options: either click here to read about learning the importance of composting for sustainability, or click here for a cost comparison of buying different types of compost bins compared to building your own out of leftover household materials. That differentiation now clearly separates your audience into beginners versus advanced. You’ll know based on who clicked which link where they are in their personal journey. So then ultimately if your goal is to sell that digital course on how to build your own composting bin, then you know how to properly nurture people based on where they are in their educational journey…in other word’s their “buyer’s journey”. Then you can take measures to properly group people when they first sign up for your list. You can do this in a few different ways:
Add a choice to your opt-in form so instead of asking only for their email address, you’ll add an additional question that will give you the answer to what you’ll eventually send them…so it might say “what type of gardener are you” (so they choose: I’m a beginner or I’m advanced).
This can also be accomplished by taking a quick survey on your Facebook page or even emailing your current list and saying that you want to provide content that is relevant so you’re taking a quick survey to see what your readers are most interested in. Then as they click, you’ll again go back and analyze your data to find out more about your audience.
As you can see, talking to your audience about precisely what they’re interested in is a much better way to nurture them through the different stages of their buyer’s journey and toward making a purchase from you.
Email Marketing Automation Platforms
I started off using MailChimp in 2006, just like most small businesses do, because of cost constraints. Now that I have a much better understanding and appreciate efficiency, I would highly recommend ConvertKit; it is the way to go because it's simple and intuitive to use, and it makes segmenting your audience super easy. ConvertKit also has visual automations and a very easy tagging system.
Have an enterprise sized business? The most robust platform for Marketing Automation + Website Builder all in one for Small to Medium Sized Businesses who have revenue between $250,000 and $5 Million in annual revenue is: HubSpot (Click for a 30-Day Free Trial)