Extra points: create different versions of the welcome sequence for the different types of lead magnets you have.
If you offer a few different products or services, AND you have various lead magnets that correspond to those offers, customize your welcome drips to match the subscriber’s interest (based on the type of lead magnet they opted-in through).
When you do that, you’ll see higher engagement and retention rates. You can take it a step further, and turn your welcome sequence into a “lead magnet to sales offer” sequence, and watch your sales numbers soar as you offer your new subscribers exactly what they need.
Here’s a sample structure for a welcome sequence:
Welcome Email Drip Campaign - Structure
Email #1: Thanks for subscribing!
Thanks for subscribing, here’s what to expect from this list (focus on the benefits you will provide for them, not just what you’ll write about); links to the best content.
Email #2: Your best content
Ways they can use free content / tools on your website for their business OR one piece of the best content in the email format.
Email #3: Nurture & engage
More nurturing content OR invitation to a webinar OR ask them a question so you can understand your audience and segment it better.
You can also structure the welcome sequence to be a mini-course that teaches a topic highly relevant to what you sell.
The PAS framework works because it increases your readers’ desire for your product by elevating your product from something they would “kind of like to have one day” to something they “must have right now.”
Here’s how you do it in an email drip campaign:
Sales Email Drip Campaign - Structure
Email #1: Problem
Introduce the problem your offer solves and tell a before/after story about it.
Email #2: Agitate
Okay, your subscribers have this problem, but it’s probably #10 or #15 on their list of priorities. Use this email to make it go to the Top 5.
Talk about common mistakes people make to make the problem even worse, or what not doing anything about the problem can lead to.
Email #3: Solve
Tell a story about how someone solved the problem and what that felt like.
Email #4: Action
Give your subscribers an easy win: provide one easy-to-accomplish first action step to solving the problem. They need to feel confident that they can solve this problem, that it’s achievable.
Email #5: Sell
Now that you’ve have educated your subscriber, increased urgency and their confidence at solving the problem, tell them how your offer can help them solve the big problem.
Email #6: Q&A
Answer most frequently asked questions about your offer and use this opportunity to sell again.
These are the bare bones of a sales drip campaign, and you can always enhance it by adding case studies and increasing urgency with early bird discount, bonuses, close carts, etc.
Email Drip #3: Re-engage dormant subscribers
There is a big portion of your list that is not seeing ANY of your emails, all the while you’re continuing to pay for them to be on your list.
Use this email sequence to get subscribers who haven't opened an email in the last 90 days to take action. It will send a series of CTAs to get them back in the fold.
Re-engagement Email Drip Campaign - Structure
Email #1: Hey, you there?
Friendly poke, acknowledging that you noticed they haven't been active lately, and linking to 1-3 BEST pieces of content (bonus points: if your list is segmented, provide links to content most relevant for that segment).
Email #2: Best email for you?
Explore what might have happened and offer an easy way back in — maybe they changed their email address, got stuck with something you can help with, etc.
Email #3: Should I unsubscribe you?
Let them know that if they don’t take any action, you’ll unsubscribe them.
Email #4: You are now unsubscribed
Let them know they are unsubscribed and provide an easy way to re-subscribe.
Email once they’re re-engaged (don’t forget this one!):
Best recent content + ask them a question about how you can be helpful.
When done right, these 3 drip sequences put you ahead of the majority of your competition. They automate important phases of your subscriber lifecycle, so you can focus on enhancing your marketing efforts or adding new products and services.
If you don’t have these 3 sequences running, go add them right now! Open a Google Doc, and start writing (I recommend writing a whole drip campaign in one sitting).
If you want to get the drip structures I described in an easy PDF format, download them here.
And if you found this post useful, please share it on social! Your support goes a long way.
I came across Growtheme by chance, but it immediately grabbed me.
Besides having an awesome design, there was something curious about it. It was clearly a sales page for a product (a WordPress blog theme), but there was no option to buy it.
Instead, the only action I could take was to sign up for an email list — which, of course, I did.
That added me into an email drip campaign that turned me from a cold website visitor into an excited, ready-to-buy almost-customer.
Being an email geek, I decided to reach out to the founder of Growtheme and chat with him about his strategy and its effect on the revenue he made from his product.
Jascha had a fascinating story, so I felt compelled to share it with the world. It’s full of lessons that YOU can apply to grow your audience, make money blogging, and build a sustainable, profitable online business.
What follows is a case study on Jascha’s journey — a failed bubble tea franchise, a popular nutrition blog, his nomadic life, and the birth and growth of Growtheme.
There is also a special bonus for action-takers at the end of the post: a compact guide with 3 list-building strategies that don’t get talked about online (hence their effectiveness). If you’re serious about growing your email list, be sure to check it out.
The Long (But Worthwhile) Road to Email List
Jascha started out early — when he was 16 years old — by helping his friends and family with web design. He noticed he could earn significant $$$ for these side projects, so he started doing it for big clients.
Gradually, he took what he learned working for others, and started implementing that in his own projects, both online and offline.
Most of them failed.
Here’s one example: a bubble tea chain franchise.
At first, it seemed like a great idea. Jascha and his partner worked really hard trying to get it off the ground. They put two years of work into it before Jascha realized it wasn’t working, and that he didn’t want to be in that business.
Here are a few reasons why:
He came from a world of working with clients, and having the freedom of being anywhere he wants. Having to operate several stores wasn’t like that. It tends to tie you to places.
He felt trapped, like he couldn’t move anywhere or even leave the business alone for just a few days.
Moreover, scaling was hard. The only way to scale the business was to duplicate himself — with all his knowledge, insights, and experience. Every new store ment doubling the workload and problems.
The only way to scale the business was to duplicate himself — with all his knowledge, insights, and experience.
Going through these learnings was painful, but useful. He was learning the foundations that would help him create a sustainable business, the cornerstone of which would be a dedicated group of people who kept coming back to him, happy to purchase his products.
How to Choose The Ultimate Business Model
After Jascha got out of the franchise project, his wife Tania and he decided to start a business together.
As they searched for the perfect idea, a few things were clear. It had to fit a few criteria they’ve learned the hard way from past experiences.
The new business had to be:
Product-based (vs. service-based), so it can be scalable
Based on returning customers (vs. one-time customers)
That last point was, perhaps, the biggest lesson Jascha learned from the bubble tea experience.
One of the main outposts of his franchise business was Barcelona — a touristic heaven. There was one problem with that. As tourists, his customers never came back.
Even if they loved it, they’re gone forever.
That’s when Jascha realized it was very hard to build a sustainable business based on one-time customers.
It’s hard to build a sustainable business based on one-time customers.Tweet It
So when he and his wife were looking for a new business idea, they knew it had to be based on returning customers. Dedicated followers that they could contact and invite to see, like, and buy their stuff.
They came to a conclusion that a blog business was the ultimate business model for them — it fit all their criteria:
It was location independent (they are now living a digital nomad life, traveling the world and living wherever they like);
Scalable and product-based;
All about returning customers.
Jascha in Ko Phangan, Thailand, living that digital nomad life.
They knew how to make money blogging: make one-time readers return.
The secret sauce that allows to turn a random blog visitor into a loyal follower and, eventually, a happy customer — is an email list.
So from day 1, Jascha and Tania knew building an email list was their #1 focus.
Building A Blog And Growing An Email List
“I knew when we started a blog I would need to find a niche where there is a need, which is not yet served.”
They wanted to find a place where they have advantages.
Jascha’s wife is from Mexico, and they saw that the Spanish-speaking market was a bit behind the English-speaking market in terms of supply of blogs and online material, but it was still a HUGE market.
So they decided to go after it.
Jascha’s wife is a nutritionist, so a nutrition blog was a natural choice.
They spent 3 months researching the market, and discovered there were dozens, if not hundreds, of nutrition blogs.
But there was still space for one more.
You see, all nutrition blogs were busy posting “list posts”, and making people feel like they’ve done something good for their health by reading a list of 5 foods they should stop eating.
“Wow, this is amazing!” Jascha and his wife finally had an epiphany. The problem of someone who is overweight is not they don’t have information, or that they don’t know what to eat. It’s actually their behavioral habits and psychology, which were built over time and take more effort to change.
That was their insight.
That approach was how they were going to be different.
After they came out of that 3-month-long research process, they built a website in 2 or 3 days.
“After researching the completion, it was really straight-forward how we could stand out from thousands,” Jascha said. “It was so easy to write the copy and explain the benefit of joining our list, because it was very clear to us.”
The blog was focused on collecting emails from day 1.
That was another way in which they were going to be different: none of the other nutrition blogs were building an email list.
They were based on the one-time customer approach that Jascha intentionally was running away from.
They got their traffic from Google, and, at maximum, tried to send visitors to their Facebook page. Most readers dropped in on those blogs once, and then never returned. Every single month they had to build up their traffic from zero again.
That was painfully similar to Jascha’s Barcelona experience.
“I felt that an email list was something we ABSOLUTELY had to built to make money blogging.”
50,000 Email Subscribers
Fast-forward one year, Jascha and his wife had 10K+ email subscribers on their list.
Fast-forward one more year, their list is at 50,000 subscribers.
There were lots of lessons in between that allowed them to continually improve and revise their strategy and products.
However, one thing stayed constant: their revenue followed the email list growth.
And being a web designer, Jascha made sure their list continued to grow.
He had developed a custom WordPress blog theme for their nutrition blog, building in the most effective list-building features. That was one of the reasons their email list grew so fast.
By the way, if you’re anything like me, you’re tired of seeing the same five-year-old strategies for growing your list, that are only half as effective as they used to be. If you want to get your hands on 3 fresh hacks that are working like a charm right now, I highly recommend you check out the guide below.
Around the same time, Jascha kept seeing questions in forums and blog comments from people with the same need, looking for a smarter and more powerful WordPress blog theme.
“Where can I get a theme like Michael Hyatt’s?” “Where can I get a theme like Pat Flynn’s?”
Nobody could answer these questions, because of course, those big-time bloggers had custom websites that cost them thousands of dollars.
And the WordPress blog themes on ThemeForest tried to please everyone at the same time: a single theme could be used for mom-and-pop shops, bloggers, teachers, etsy businesses, fitness clubs, etc.
Jascha knew that “if you want to build an email list, it must be your number one focus. You shouldn’t waste time trying to accomplish all other things.”
If you want to build an email list, it must be your number one focus. You shouldn’t waste time trying to accomplish all other things.Tweet It
So he sought out to build a WordPress blog theme that would empower bloggers to stay laser focused on list-building. He has experienced the power of a business built around an email list, which ensures engaged, loyal fans and returning customers, and gives the freedom of time, location, and having a life you’ve always dreamed of.
He knew he could help other bloggers have that too.
Growtheme: Turning Your Website Into a Converting Machine
And so, Growtheme was born.
Growtheme is single-purpose, clean, versatile, and incredibly powerful WordPress blog theme for bloggers growing an email list.
It answers all list-building questions for bloggers, and replaces a dozen of plugins and redundant workflows.
It’s the solution everyone has been asking for.
It’s the solution Jascha dedicated months of hard work for.
And yet, when you go to Growtheme.com, you won’t be able to buy it.
What’s going on? Instead of putting a “Buy” button on his website, Jascha wants visitors to join his email list and wait for an invitation to buy it.
“Before, you could buy it from the website,” Jascha says. “But I wasn’t able to talk to you. I wasn’t able to ask what you’re searching for in the theme.”
Those 1-on-1 conversations allowed Jascha to understand what his customers value even more, and keep improving his product.
His revenue also quadrupled when he turned that “buy” button into “join the list” button, and implemented an email funnel:
Turns out, those one-on-one conversations are really important. “I want to communicate my message, and it’s really hard to do from the first-time encounter.”
An email drip campaign gives Jascha time and space to talk to his customers, ask them what they are looking for, get them excited and provide a bit of urgency for making the purchasing decision.
“I often get testimonials, and people describe the solution even better than I can. That’s the ultimate value out of it.”
The Hardest Thing
When I ask Jascha what he thinks is the hardest thing about building an email list, he thinks for half a minute, and then says:
“I think it’s actually really easy to build an email.”
He added: “If you know what you’re doing and have the tools.”
One time, long before Growtheme and the nutrition blog, he collected 3,500 emails in 4 weeks just with a landing page and a few guest posts.
“If you have a plan and have an idea of what you’re doing, it’s pretty easy to build an email list.”
There are two parts to it:
Strategy (including tools)
Discipline and hard work (execution)
The first part is having a crystal clear value proposition, a strategy and tools for collecting the emails.
The second part is putting in the work to keep every little piece of the machine moving.
Most of the time bloggers that struggle with building a list are missing one of those things.
You are either SUPER hard working, put in the work by writing blog posts, pitching guest blogs, interacting in Facebook groups, etc, but not seeing results because you are all over the place.
Or it’s the other way around: you have a clear value proposition and great material, but you don’t take the time to promote it, so you don’t see the results.
Pause for a minute, and think about it.
Which part are you missing?
Do you already have an enticing value proposition for customers and a strategy for building your list, but you just can’t seem to get it together or find time to execute on your strategy?
Or are you hustling day in and day out, but don’t have a big-picture plan in place, and are just trying tactics without being super clear on how to connect the dots?
If you’re in the latter camp, I can help.
First of all, grab a copy of my 14-page guide on list-building strategies no one talks about. They’ll help you get ahead, because not that many people use the strategies described in the guide, and that’s why they are very effective.
And second, I’ll be launching a course on growing an email list that gives you exactly what you need — reliable strategies (vs. tactics and hacks) that grow your list consistently, even when you sleep.
When you download the list-building guide, you’ll be added to the waitlist for the course, so just sign up below.
Most Important Takeaways
Jascha’s story is fascinating in how many lessons it offers for bloggers, online business owners, and anyone trying to figure out how to make money blogging (he had even more lessons on product building, but I’ll save them for another time).
Here are a few big ones (for skimmers and listophiles):
It’s hard to build a sustainable business based on one-time customers.
You know how most thank-you pages have social share buttons?
Something along the lines of, “Thanks for signing up, now please share this with your friends”?
You know, this kind:
Well, I’ve always been kind of skeptical about how well that call-to-action converts (even though I use it myself). Yeah, it would be nice to have new subscribers share my stuff, but there is just SO LITTLE incentive for them to do it.
I guess other people have thought about that too, because I recently discovered this amazing (& free) tool called SmartBribe.
It incentivizes brand-new subscribers to share your content by offering them an additional cool free thing in return. And it works really well.
I recorded a whole video on how to set up SmartBribe correctly (as it can be confusing) — scroll to the bottom of the post for the video.
I tried SmartBribe on a thank-you page for my live event registration, and it worked like a charm (those social shares brought 30% of my event page views).
If you’re an email marketing manager, you get this:
Email marketing is like a headed cabbage.
It might seem like a simple concept, but it has many layers.
Anyone who wants to become great at email marketing has to understand multiple concepts and juggle many skills at a time.
In this post, I’ll walk you through 10 areas of expertise that are essential to email marketing, and give useful tips for each one.
I’ve also prepared a special bonus for over-achievers that includes 15 lead magnet ideas, 7 ways to segment your list, and a video tutorial on how to delete inactive subscribers from your email list (to keep your open rates high). Download everything in one click.
If your email doesn’t get delivered, it doesn’t get opened. If it doesn’t get opened… well, you know the rest.
Making sure your emails get to their final destination is the first essential step in email marketing.
There are many variables that affect deliverability of your emails, including ISPs, MTAs, throttling, bounces, bulking, spam issues, and the quality of your content.
Here are a few easy rules that will help you achieve 99.5%+ deliverability:
Avoid SPAM complaints
Don’t spam ?
Use double opt-in
Set expectations upfront, so subscribers know how often they’re going to hear from you
Avoid hard bounces
Use double opt-in
If you don’t use double opt-in, verify validity of collected email addresses in some other way:
If you’re collecting emails in exchange for a freebie, send that freebie to their inbox vs. putting it on a thank-you page.
If you’re collecting emails in a giveaway, send your first email to participants from a different account, so the wave of unsubscribes and bounces doesn’t affect sender reputation of your main account.
Purge your list
Every 6 months or so, delete all your inactive subscribers. If they haven’t opened any of your last 20-50 campaigns, they probably won’t open the next 100. Such subscribers and you don’t need each other, so let them go.
Know how the Gmail Promotions tab works
The Gmail Promotions tab adds a new layer to email deliverability. If your email is delivered but ends up in the Promotions folder, the subscriber might only get to it much later, if ever.
The problem is that Gmail got pretty good at distinguishing personal emails from everything else, so whether you need to stress over the Promotions tab is debatable. However, it’s still good to know what can cause your emails to land there: bulky images, fancy styling, excessive links, different reply-to address and email header markup.
2. List building
Growing an email list is the most-talked about topic in email marketing today. Good marketers should have a grip of different subscriber acquisition mechanisms available to them, such as:
Content marketing (i.e. blogging coupled with content upgrades)
Lead magnets (steal a few ideas from the bonus at the end of this post)
Opt-in tools like popups, slide-in forms, and top of the page ribbons
The top rule of email list nurturing is “give more than you ask for”.
Especially in the first 2-4 weeks after someone subscribes to your list, make sure you surpass all expectations of being helpful and overdeliver on a regular basis.
Once you establish trust with your new subscribers, continue your communication keeping in mind why people join and stay on email lists: they love the feeling of being on the “inside” of a private club.
Cultivate that feeling by:
making them the first to hear new announcements;
sending them exclusive content that’s not available on your blog;
offering special deals to your subscribers.
Here are a few more tips on keeping your subscribers engaged:
Segment your list and send more relevant info to segments
Don’t lose your voice in automated emails
Find the right “send” frequency: be on their radar without being annoying
Make your emails feel like a continuous conversation (vs. a series of one-off emails)
5. Open rate
If you’ve ever sent an email campaign to a list of people, you might have engaged in the “open rate watching” behavior that looks at least somewhat like this:
Just 2 minutes after hitting “go” on my email campaign, I start refreshing my browser to watch the open rate stats roll in…
I know I’m not alone. We’ve all been there, right?
Email open rate is not just the subject line (although it’s important). It depends on a whole host of reasons, including:
Your list quality
The more people open an email, the more people click, the more people buy, so make sure you always optimize your emails for a higher open rate.
Marketing is based on psychological principles, and the most effective campaigns take advantage of such powerful emotions as:
7. Analytics and data
Any email marketing manager has to feel comfortable in the analytics dashboard of their ESP (email service provider).
Email marketing stats like open and click rates, bounces, unsubscribes, list growth and conversion rate can give powerful insights at what’s working (and what’s not) in your email marketing strategy.
Looking at the numbers and seeing trends, and with that, opportunities for experiments (A/B tests) is a skill that distinguishes a successful email marketing manager from someone with stagnant results.
The first step to a more thoughtful email marketing strategy is determining what exactly you want to achieve — your number one goal. Based on that goal, decide what your primary and secondary metrics should be and track them meticulously.
Email marketing automation is another topic that’s at the top of any digital marketing discussion these days.
And for good reason. Automated emails are timely, personalized and hyper-relevant to the reader. As a result, they drive open and click rates and positively affect subscriber engagement. The bottom line of all that — more revenue for your business.
Most ESPs these days have automation features, but you can also get sophisticated software to create advanced workflows. No matter what tools you’re using, you should be able to set up simple email workflows that get triggered in a number of different ways:
when a subscriber gets added to a list,
clicks a link in an email,
views a page on your blog,
clicks on one of your ads,
becomes a qualified lead,
downloads one of your content upgrades (freebies),
any combination of these and more.
Segmentation is a powerful mechanism that lets you subdivide your list based on a certain set of characteristics. You can then send highly targeted emails to subscriber groups within your list.
39% of email marketers that practice list segmentation see better open rates;
28% see lower opt-out and unsubscribe rates;
24% see better email deliverability and greater revenue.
There are a number of ways you can segment your list simply based on campaign activity. Look at the following groups and see how you can serve them differently:
subscribers who open most of your emails but don’t click
subscribers who click but don’t convert (send them a new campaign with more reasons to purchase your product)
subscribers who didn’t open the last email (if it was an important email, re-send it with a new subject line after a few days)
subscribers who have consistently replied to your emails (they are your biggest fans, so treat them accordingly)
Skillful email marketers should also be able to segment based on past purchases, interest level, demographics, and much more.
I have included 7 smart ideas for list segmentation in the bonus at the end of this post.
Attribution is one of the most advanced topics in digital marketing.
A good email marketing manager wants to know the exact payoff of each tactic they use. When you know how your marketing efforts covert, you are better informed to develop further strategy and allocate budget.
Although email marketing is highly trackable, email attribution is not a straight line. For many companies, a linear A-to-B-to-C email interaction is increasingly rare.
Today, consumer behavior looks more like this:
Someone hears an ad in a podcast and then googles the company. They are not ready to buy yet, but they sign up for the newsletter. At some point in the future they receive an email from the company and forward it to a colleague who is interested in the product. The colleague is then walking down the street and sees the product in a window. She remembers the email and goes into the shop to purchase.
It’s hard to attribute this conversion to any particular event, and the truth is that this will only get messier in the future. However, email marketers need to keep attribution in mind to continue making the right decisions when they analyze reports and develop strategies.
Want to become a better email marketer?
Woof, we’ve covered a lot here. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not an ace on all 10 of these topics — you can always improve.
To help you with that, I prepared a special bonus. It includes a few key resources for taking your email marketing to the next level:
A list of 15 lead magnet ideas to help you grow your email list faster;
7 smart ways you can segment your list to keep it healthy and engaged;
A video tutorial on how to delete inactive subscribers from your email list (to keep your open rates high).
To get access to the bonuses, sign up here (it’s completely free).
So I’ve been doing more email marketing consulting recently.
I’m always fascinated to see how differently companies approach the same channel. This work has sprung many thoughts and discoveries for me, so I wanted to share them with you hoping that my learnings will be helpful in your work.
So, today’s topic is:
You have one, right?
Welcome email is vital in optimizing subscribers’ engagement, so long story short, it’s a must.
I’ve learned that many marketers have a welcome email because… well, you’re supposed to have one, right?
Right, but there are very specific reasons for why you need one. Effective welcome emails are strategic, and they must attempt to accomplish a few things:
introduce your sender persona;
set expectations for when and how often you’ll be in touch;
ask to customize their email settings, i.e. choose interests (if applicable).
To see some of the best welcome emails in action, download my personal collection. I’ve been saving the best welcome emails in a folder on my computer, and now you too can use them as templates and inspiration:
Mistakes to avoid when crafting welcome emails
An effective welcome email will accomplish at least a few things on the bullet-point list above.
This might sound like a no-brainer, but small mistakes that create a big disconnect often creep in somewhere along the way.
Let’s tackle them one by one.
Different sender name or email address
Here’s what I’ve seen happen:
Upon email subscription, the company founder sends the most beautiful, sincere welcome email. That email has the founder’s first and last name as the sender name and a special “from” email address that is supposed to encourage replies (such as “email@example.com).
Normally that’s cool, but not if that’s the only email from the company that has that sender name and email address (while the rest of the emails use different “from” name and email address).
I can’t show you a real example from my client, but hopefully this reversal example paints the picture.
I know this was done with the best intentions of giving a very personal welcome to the new subscriber, but this strategy defeats the purpose of welcome emails on several accounts.
A welcome email is the best opportunity to start building brand recognition, because it gets some of the highest open rates. Sender name is part of the brand recognition, so make sure it matches whichever one you’ll be using to send emails to your subscribers.
Also, if you ask new subscribers to whitelist your email address, it’s kind of important that the “from” email address matches the one in your future emails.
Welcome email is not on-brand
Make sure you use your logo and brand colors in your welcome email.
Similar to the point made above, some marketers concentrate so much on being personal in their welcome emails that they forget that they need to be creating strong brand associations throughout their email marketing.
Welcome email timing is delayed.
You need to send your welcome email immediately after someone signs up.
One of the reasons welcome emails are so effective is because they are so timely: people receive them at the peak of their interest in your brand, so they are very likely to be opened. If you delay a welcome email (and send it every day at a certain time instead of sending it immediately after a signup), you’re diminishing its effect.
Finally, introducing yourself and building brand recognition is just half of what welcome emails can do for you.
They can also improve future engagement if you get the new subscriber to add you to their contact list or, if they use Gmail, move your message to the Primary tab. Additionally, if you segment your list based on subscriber interests, a welcome email is one of the best places to ask them to indicate their preferences.
Welcome email vault
I hope this welcome email break-down was helpful! Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Being email marketing geek as I am, I’ve been saving the best examples of welcome emails in a special folder on my computer (and trust me, I’m subscribed to a loooooot of email lists). Today I’m sharing the best of the best with you, so you have some tangible models and inspiration for your own welcome emails.
Finding new readers and keeping them engaged are two chief goals of any blogger. Social media is a great place for both, because everyone is on it, right? Well, there are a few “but’s” there.
First, many people are on social media, but not everyone. Second, people are dispersed among the many social networks that are out there. Some of your fans are hanging out on Instagram, while a good chunk spends most time on Snapchat, while another is obsessed with Vine. You can’t qualitatively be everywhere. And, as you probably know, “build it and they will come” principal doesn’t work on the Internet. You need to be where your potential readers like to spend time and make it easy for them to follow you.
And yet, virtually everyone has an email address. You must have an email address to sign up as an Facebook user, and while there are almost 1.5 billion monthly active Facebook users … there are nearly 3 times as many email accounts.
Email is the foundation of all other channels. Every Internet user in the world has an email account. And, everyone checks their primary email account every day (3.8 times per day, to be exact).
You know that keeping your bedroom organized and tidy saves you lots of time in the morning.
Same with your inbox.
Now imagine if items in your bedroom got organized automatically: dirty socks automatically got thrown in the laundry basket, jackets hung in the closet, books neatly piled on the shelf…
Sounds nice, but it might take a while till we get there. In your virtual home, though, aka your inbox, automatic organization is a matter of seconds.
If you set up Gmail filters right once, they’ll help keep your inbox organized for years to come.
Here is how you do it.
Setting Gmail filter criteria
Click on an email from a sender you hear from often. Let’s organize all emails from that sender in one folder.
Open an email
Click “More” in the top menu bar
Click “Filter messages like this”
A window will pop up, and you’ll see that the “from” field is pre-populated with the sender’s email address.
If you don’t fill out any other fields, the sender will be the only criteria for filtering.
You can add more criteria, such as specific subject line (for example, if you want to group all “Daily Digests”), size of attachment, etc.
When you finalize all criteria, click “Create filter with this search”.
Setting Gmail actions for filtered emails
Now you need to choose what Gmail will do with the emails that fit your criteria.
Since we want to organize all emails from this sender in a neat folder, we first need to tag them. Check off the box next to “Apply the label”. Now either choose an existing label or create a new one.
Click “Create” and voila! Filter created. Now you can find all emails from set sender in a folder below the “Compose” button on the left of your inbox.
Now let’s play with other settings.
If you don’t want to see filtered emails in your inbox (and access them from the labeled folder only), check off “Skip the Inbox”.
Play with other options to explore actions you can assign to emails that fit your criteria. Maybe there is an annoying subscription that wouldn’t let you unsubscribe. Send those emails directly to Trash by checking off the “Delete it” box. You’ll never see them in your inbox again.
If you want an action to apply to all existing emails that fit your criteria, check off “Also apply filter to # matching conversations” at the bottom of the little window. If you leave it unchecked, the action will only apply to future emails.
Modifying or deleting Gmail filters
If you need to modify your filters, you can do that by accessing them in the settings.
Click the settings button in the top right corner of your inbox and select “Settings” from the drop-down menu.
Choose “Filters and Blocked Addresses” in the top menu. You’ll see “edit” and “delete” links next to every filter you created.
You did it! Now you can set multiple filters and enjoy an organized, welcoming inbox every time.
Question for you:
What do you do to keep your inbox organized? Please share your tips in the comments.
Does this sound familiar? >> You just sent an email to your subscribers, and you’re sitting in your chair, waiting to start hitting the refresh button to watch the open rates roll in…
We’ve all been there.
Have you heard about marketers who consistently get 60% email open rate and wondered how they do it? What’s their secret sauce and how you can get those kind of results?
Today I’m going to walk you through the anatomy of the open rate. I’ll go much deeper than subject lines, and will show you all factors that are at stake. After reading this post, you’ll have all the tools you need to start reaching more people.
There is a special (& fat) bonus at the end, so be sure to read all the way through.
Anatomy of email open rates
Here is a hard truth: your email is judged by its cover (or candy wrap, as in this email candy store analogy). Email cover consists of three things: “from” name, subject line, and preview text. Let’s discuss each one in detail.
“From” name is the most important piece of your email cover, even more so than the subject line, because “from” name is the trust indicator.
If subscribers trust your name and associate it with positive things (quality content, helpful solutions, budget-friendly deals) or emotions (fun, helpful, relatable), they will be inclined to open your messages every time. After all, that’s why we always open emails from friends and family first; we trust them.
To make subscribers trust you, you need to deliver remarkable value to their inbox (which ties with the last point of this blog post), and be consistent. If you do that, you’ll create a habit loop where your subscribers will see your name in their inbox > associate it with trust and relevant emotions > open your email.
You should also A/B test different combinations of your name to see which one resonates the most with your subscribers. Here are a few name combinations to test — run a series of A/B tests with these to decide which one to go with (I’ll use my own name as an example):
Bold & Zesty
Kasey @ Bold & Zesty
Kasey from Bold & Zesty
Bold & Zesty team
Kasey Luck | Bold & Zesty
Subject line is the second biggest factor when it comes to open rates, and that’s why it’s worth every minute of your time.
I believe that writing good subject lines is a mini-art, and I spent months analyzing how top marketers do it and testing their approaches on my own email campaigns.
Here are the attributes that make an email subject line irresistible:
It uses conversational tone (as if the email was coming from a friend);
It includes an exact number;
It indicates scarcity.
You need to make sure your subject line has 2-3 of the these attributes to be effective.
To make this process easier I created a workbook that I’ve included in the bonus section at the end of this article (I’ve used it to write some of my best-performing subject lines).
The final piece of your email that subscribers see without opening it is the preview text. Treat it as your second subject line and take full advantage of this opportunity to make your email cover more compelling. Here are some dos and don’ts when it comes to preview text:
Don’t leave the default text as is
Don’t repeat the subject line
Do create a feeling of curiosity
Do add details to the subject line
PRO-tip: The number of characters you get for your preview text depends on how long your subject line is. To make sure it displays the way you intend to, test your email campaign across different devices and email clients (send a test to a few friends on different devices, and ask them to send you a screenshot of their inbox).
Whether you catch your subscribers at the right time is directly related to whether they’ll open your email. If they’re busy with something else, your email might get buried and forgotten. But if you manage to catch them at the moment they’re thinking about your topic, you’ll hit the jackpot.
Day of the Week
Day of the week will generally affect your open rate, I just can’t tell you how. The truth is, the stats are all over the place when it comes to “perfect send day”, and that’s because different things work for different businesses.
Test each day of the week a few times, and you should see some patterns. At a previous company, our go-to days for sending campaigns were Tuesday and Thursday, around 10am and 4:30pm on both days. Those send times consistently and significantly outperformed all others. Our weekend open rates sounded like crickets, even though those are the off-peak days and have worked for others.
Bottom line: what worked for others might not work for you. Run tests to find what gets results for your brand.
Time of the Day
Think of where your subscribers are and what they’re doing when your email hits their inbox. Are they…
in bed, scrolling down their inbox on mobile to weed out the “deletes” before they get to their desk
at their desk, doing their morning inbox check
starting to get actual work done (i.e. not in their inbox)
at lunch break
wrapping up the day and doing the last email check
at a party and will only get back to inbox next morning, when your email will be buried at the bottom of the “morning pile”
As a general rule, it’s good to catch subscribers in the morning, but not too early if you want them to open your email on desktop (especially important if you want them to take action), but there are many exceptions to this rule.
Kissmetrics produced a great infographic, breaking down the day into zones according to the open rates in that time period. Curiously enough, some of my most effective sales emails at a previous job went out at 10 and 10:30 am, which falls in their “Do Not Disturb” zone. This proves the importance of TESTING tactics before you trust them.
Although it’s not as obvious as email cover and send time, your list quality also determines your open rates. This is why open rates for bought lists are not very cheerful (high list quality implies that everybody intentionally signed up for the email list). There are more dimensions to list quality, such as list size, its age and warmth, as well as the segmentation level.
Generally, the bigger the list, the lower the open rates. A possible explanation might be that smaller companies have more personal relationships with their subscribers. It’s also linked with the next point, as bigger lists tend to also be older (because it takes time to build a large email list).
If a person signed up for your list a long time ago, there is a higher chance that they:
changed their email address;
lost interest in your brand / offer;
forgot who you are and why they signed up in the first place.
These factors increase bounce rate and decrease open rate. This doesn’t mean you need to delete all of your old subscribers, of course; there still might be quite a few die-hard fans in there.
However, do expect open rates to be a bit lower as your list grows older. You can make up for this effect if you grow your list fast, as new and engaged subscribers will offset the effect of the unengaged ones.
It’s also advisable to clean up your list every 6 months by deleting subscribers who haven’t opened a single email from you in that time frame. “Losing” subscribers in bulk can be scary, but it’s the right thing to do, like extracting your wisdom teeth. Deleting inactive subscribers will reduce your costs, increase engagement level, and send a positive signal to ISPs (improving your chances of avoiding the spam folders).
Nurtured vs. cold subscribers
Nurtured subscribers are warm leads — they are well familiar with your brand and engaged with your content. Cold subscribers don’t have a clear reason to stay subscribed — they either stay “just in case” you throw in something interesting or they just don’t bother to unsubscribe.
Of course, it pays to have more subscribers of the first kind. They don’t just drive up open rates; they actually take action, which is the real reason we care so much about open rates.
Emailing a highly targeted segment of your list will result in higher open rates and stronger engagement, because your message will be highly relevant to recipients. Niche lists will always outperform more general lists in terms of open rates, but they also have a lower number of subscribers, so it’s a balancing act between keeping your lists (or segments) focused, but not too small.
According to a study done by MailChimp that measured stats across 11,000 segmented campaigns to ~9 million subscribers, segmented campaigns have a 14% higher open rate than their non-segmented counterparts.
If you can segment your list and send a more relevant campaign to segments, do that. Yes, it requires extra work, but it will pay off with higher open rate, higher click rate, better engagement, and overall higher list quality.
If you’re wondering how you can segment your list (even if you only collect names and email addresses), check out the free bonus package I put together below:
The last factor that affects open rates is one that we forget about because it comes after subscriber opens the message. But ultimately, content has a huge impact on email open rates because that’s what your subscribers judge you by over time. Content is a tool for building trust and long-term engagement.
If you consistently write amazing content for your email campaigns, people will actively wait for your newsletters and open them almost regardless of their subject lines. I know I have newsletters like that in my inbox. They are written by people who consistently produce content that actually has an effect on my life and business, so I feel like I would miss out if I didn’t read their messages.
I recommend using this technique only for emails that are really important, where a slight change in the open rate can really make a difference.
After a few days of sending the original email campaign, replicate it, write a new subject line and send it to people who didn’t open the original email campaign. (I’ve included a video tutorial for how to do that at the end of this article.)
This tends to add about 10% to the open rate, which might be just the push you need when making product announcement or sending final sale reminders. The re-sends also tend to have a slightly higher unsubscribe rate than regular campaigns, but I don’t sweat about that too much. As long as you don’t re-send too often, it’s healthy to have people who are not interested unsubscribe. This will keep your list more focused and engaged (and will increase your open rates!)
Ready to take your email game to the next level? Here are a few bonuses to guide you along.
So, now you know everything that goes into your open rates. After I discovered and applied each of these principles, I saw a pleasant jump in my open rates and overall engagement of my email list.
I want you to have the same results.
I’ve given you the roadmap, but I also prepared a few bonuses to help you further:
Email subject line workbook that guides you through the process of creating a killer subject line (and includes examples from the experts)
A guide with 7 smart ways you can segment your email list, even if you’re only collecting email addresses
A video where I show you how to clean up your email list step-by-step (plus how to re-send your newsletter to the didn’t open list)
Finally, a checklist version of this post for easy keeping (send it to your iPad or Kindle for easy reference)
The transformation story I’m about to tell you happened after I watched a list-building webinar with Bryan Harris. In that webinar, he shared 3 effective and off-the-beaten path strategies for growing an email list.
One of the strategies stood out to me the most. It teaches something that anybody, no matter what stage they’re in right now, can do immediately to grow their list. It’s called “tell everyone you know” or “launch team” strategy.
I took this strategy (that I describe in detail below) and added a few tweaks that automated and streamlined the process. I was able to jumpstart my email list and grow from 10 to 110 email subscribers by setting up a semi-automated system in 2 hours. The signups came in the following 36 hours.
My method is highly scalable — you can use it to add 200, 300, or even 500 new email subscribers to your list in the matter of hours.
I’m going to show you exactly how I did it, including my exact email script, the tools I used, plus I added a video tutorial demonstrating the technical part in detail – make sure to read all the way through to catch it.
Asking people to join your email list
Here’s the essence of Bryan’s strategy:
If you were opening a bakery, what would you do on your open night party? You’d invite EVERYONE you know, right?
You need to do the same when you launch an email newsletter.
Even if your grandma is not into the topic of your newsletter (say, the slow-carb diet), she knows 10 people who are, and she’ll tell all of them that her favorite grandson / granddaughter is starting this newsletter. The more people know about your list, the better, because they will start telling other people.
This sounds cool and fun, but there was one little thing I needed to overcome to make it work. Just this one thing, that lies at the CORE of this strategy…
…asking people to do stuff.
That’s something that I really, seriously, struggle with. Maybe you do, too.
While I was fighting with myself trying to overcome this fear, one thought struck me like lightening.
I realized: it will always be hard. When I start creating products and selling them, asking people to buy them will also feel weird. And if I can’t even ask people to join my free email list, what am I doing in this business? I had no choice but to do it.
How to invite everyone you know to join your list
Today, there are so many ways you can invite people to your anything.
You can call
You can text
You can email
You can message on any kind of social media imaginable
In his webinar, Bryan recommends texting all your recent contacts. That didn’t work very well for me because A) I was abroad at that time, and B) I am not huge on texting, so the most recently-contacted people in my iMessages were my previous coworkers and my landlord (who texted me utility bills every month).
I needed to find another way. (However, the process I describe below can also work for texting if you use a text-automating tool.)
I decided to turn to LinkedIn.
How to grow email list using your existing LinkedIn contacts
Stick around, I’m NOT going to tell you how I spent hours sending direct messages to my contacts on LinkedIn.
I knew I needed a more effective strategy that could SCALE.
So I figured out a way to send a personal email to all my LinkedIn contacts, which resulted in ~110 email subscribers in 36 hours. Total time I spent on the set-up: 2 hours.
Here’s how I did it (including the exact tools, emails scripts, and a step-by-step video tutorial):
I exported a list of my contacts from LinkedIn, which gave me a nice formatted list of 497 people. The exported Excel sheet had their name, email address, and job title. (If you don’t know how to export your connections’ contact info from LinkedIn, watch the video at the end of this post).
Now I needed a (free) tool that would allow me to email people in bulk from my regular Gmail account and personalize each message.
I googled around and chose Yesware.
They have an awesome tool called Mail Merge that lets you email up to 200 people at a time. Each recipient receives an individualized email and doesn’t see other recipients, and you can track opens, clicks, and replies.
That’s exactly what I needed! My LinkedIn export list had people’s names, so I could personalize each email with the first name.
Now I needed write an email copy that would serve a few purposes:
Re-connect with the person in a natural, casual way.
Ask recipient to join my newsletter.
Ask to check out and share my recently-published Huffington Post article.
This is the exact email I ended up sending:
You’ll notice I did a few things in that email:
First, I wanted to make it feel as personal as it was possible when sending emails in bulk. And I really haven’t talked to the overwhelming majority of my LinkedIn contacts in a while, so the first line of my message spoke directly to each recipient.
Second, I added some social proof. My previous job was really cool, so I dropped it in there, as well as my recent Huffington Post article (I also wanted to get shares on the article, so I timed this email for that).
Finally, I made it super easy for people to sign up. I already had a MailChimp account when I sent this email, but I knew that adding 3 more steps to the process (clicking through to a signup form, filling it out, and confirming their email) would decrease the number of signups. Notice how much easier it is to just reply “yes”. Of course, I then had to manually add everyone who said “yes” to my list in MailChimp, but I thought it was worth it.
Using Yesware tool Mail Merge, I set up 3 campaigns (up to 200 people each), and scheduled them to be sent later that day (detailed video tutorial on how to do it is at the end of this post).
I got an average of 74.3% open rate and 23.3% click rate on my emails to 497 people.
Here’s what my inbox looked like:
If you know a bit about email open rates, you’ll know that 75% open rate is unheard of.
A few factors caused such great response:
I sent this to people who knew me (at least remotely)
I got around 100 email subscribers in the first 36 hours after sending my emails, and around 10 more over the next couple of days.
As you can see, you can repeat this process step by step and triple or quadruple my results depending on how many LinkedIn (or other) contacts you have.
Alright, here you have it. This is how i jumpstarted my email list with Bryan Harris’s modified “launch team” strategy. Spending about 2 hours on this process, I added 100 email subscribers to my list in less than 2 days.
Here are a few things you can do with this strategy (#3 worked best for me):
Text your friends and other contacts and invite them to your email list (if you have a large list of phone contacts, find a tool that automates texting for you).
Direct message your friends on Facebook and invite them (I tried this method but it’s hard to automate this process).
Download your LinkedIn contacts as an Excel sheet and send personalized emails (in bulk) using Yesware.
To help you with strategy #3, I recorded a step-by-step video tutorial, which you can get below:
It’s been awhile since Gmail introduced a tabbed version of inbox, but the infamous “Promotions tab” still haunts marketers today. Nobody likes when their efforts end up among dozens of promotional emails, yet that’s where newsletters so often land.
Can you imagine a world with no Gmail tabs? A peaceful haven with 20% higher open rate and conversions that let you sit back and enjoy life with a glass of your favorite cocktail.
Is that what the marketing world would really look like? Let’s take a closer look and figure out if we can get there.
Why did Gmail introduce this tabs “system” anyway?
According to Gmail itself, these categories make it easy to focus on messages that are important and read emails of the same type all at once.
According to Derek Halpern, it’s Gmail’s way to make it harder for small businesses to reach people, thus forcing them to buy ads, which is convenient for a company that relies on advertising revenue.
As most things in life, this situation is probably more gray than black and white, but getting to the core of why won’t help the problem. Google does what it wants, and the question is what are you going to do about it.
What looks like promotion gets labeled as promotion
A short answer to the question of “what makes my email go to promotions” is this: if it looks like promotion, it gets labeled as promotion. Click to tweet.
Google’s algorithm is smart and complex, and there is no single silver bullet strategy that will do the magic for your newsletter. The Gmail algorithm looks at many factors including email content, HTML code, sender IP address, etc. Some of those factors are easy to manipulate; others are not. Let’s look at each factor in detail and see what you can do about them.
Below are the factors that make your email go to the Promotions tab and are easy to change. They mostly refer to the pieces of content in your email that classify message as either “promotional” or “conversational”.
Greeting recipient by name
An email looks more personal (like a message from a friend) if it greets you with your name, so using recipient’s name in the first line of the email helps avoid Promotions tab. To add readers’ names to your emails, you need to collect them at the time of signup, and use merge tags when creating your campaigns.
Number of external links
If you include too many external links in your email, that looks like promotion to Gmail. Think about how many links a friend would send you in a single email (yes, Unsubscribe link counts as a link, too). Reducing the number of links will improve your email’s chance of landing in the Primary tab.
Number of images
Heavy use of images also makes Gmail think you’re promoting something, trying to make it look oh so sexy with pictures. Destination > Promotions tab.
Using HTML formatting with multiple div blocks doesn’t look like a conversational email from a friend. Neither does using multiple font sizes, font colors, and other fancy styling options. For a higher chance of landing in the Primary tab, use plain text and don’t tinker with fonts too much.
If it’s not a promotion, why would it have an unsubscribe link? Emails that have an option to unsubscribe often get tagged as promotion by Gmail. However, if you’re building a high-quality, sustainable blog or business, you know that removing this link is not an option (here’s why). Instead, place your unsubscribe link at the bottom of email, as you would a signature. (I’m sure you’re already doing this, duh!)
Obviously promotional language is hard to miss. If you use phrases like “Want to make money now?” or “Buy this product today and get a discount” your email’s final destination is easy to predict.
If you want to get to the Primary tab, make your email look like it’s coming from a friend. Would your friend use more than 2-3 links? Would they send you more than 1-2 images in the body of the email? Would they use sentences like “Buy this shirt today before this promo code expires”? You get the point.
PRO-tip: to check which Gmail tab your email will land in before sending it to subscribers, use this Litmus tool.
If you want to quickly go over your emails to maximize their chances of landing in the Primary tab, I highly recommend you download the Promotions Tab Checklist below.
The bad news is that even if you use all of the tips above and strip your email to the bones of a plain text version, there is still a high chance that your newsletter will end up in the Promotions tab.
Here is why.
An email may look conversational to you, but the way something looks depends on who is looking. Fortunately or unfortunately, machines can see more than we do, and they can determine if an email is promotional by detecting things we won’t notice. That’s why I call the following “difficult-to-change” factors.
Email header markup
What machines see and we don’t is the markup language (code) in email campaigns. When you send an email using an ESP (email service provider), it ads certain markup to your email that identifies it as promotional for Gmail.
That’s the reason why even if you send a plain text email using an ESP, it ends up in the Promotions category. If you look at the raw data of a MailChimp campaign, here’s what you’ll see:
Those X-Mailer, X-Campaign, and X-Report-Abuse headers are almost a sure guarantee this email will end up in the Gmail Promotions category.
You can’t customize markup in MailChimp, but there are ESPs where you can, such as Mandrill, which is an email delivery API by MailChimp. If you get access to your email header, here are several things you could do:
Don’t include the X-Mailer header;
Don’t include the X-Campaign / X-Campaignid header;
X-Report-Abuse and List-Unsubscribe might be okay, but be sure to A/B test this.
Reply-to email address
Another red flag is non-matching “from” and “reply-to” email addresses. Make sure your subscribers can reply to the same email address you’re sending the campaign from. If you’re using MailChimp and want to set up a “reply-to” address that is on your own domain (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org), you might need to verify your domain first.
Is it all worth it?
So let’s quickly recap for a second. Now, unless you already send plain text emails, do you need to turn your email marketing upside down and strip your emails naked, even if your brand calls for colors, graphics, and links?
I see it as a trade-off between how much you are ready to sacrifice and how important it is for you to land in the Primary tab. Personally, I would rather make my newsletters my own, with the styling and links I deem necessary, and suffer a chance to end up in the Promotions. So what? I know that if my emails are truly good and valuable, my subscribers will read them.
Plus, after implementing all these strategies you might find that your emails still land in the Promotions tab, as Gmail algorithm gives no guarantees. Or you might spend tons of time fiddling with settings and finally getting it, only to watch Gmail algorithm get smarter a couple of months later, and all your efforts wiped to zero.
An effort with a much higher return on your time investment, in my opinion, is working on your content and making your material truly good. If you focus on the quality of your content instead of trying to game the Gmail algorithm, your readers will want to read your emails. They will actively look for your messages in their inbox, and will open your emails no matter which tab they are in.
As Taylor Lindstrom so rightly noted, people won’t stop reading your emails because they’re in the Promotions tab. People will leave them there because they weren’t reading them to begin with.
The most effective strategy to avoid Promotions tab
A strategy with the highest guarantee of success for delivering your messages to the Primary tab is asking your subscribers to move your emails there (it’s only a guarantee if they actually do it).
Will they do it? A few of them might. Most probably won’t. After all, who are you to tell them how to organize their inbox? If your emails are truly good, readers will move them to the Primary tab without you asking.
If you decide that asking won’t hurt (which is probably true), here is a pro-tip: add screenshots to illustrate the steps to make this (easy) process even easier for the readers. Extra tip: a video is worth a thousand pictures, so consider adding an animated image like the one below to your instructions. You can create a screenshot GIF with Gyazo.
Importance of testing
I always like to end posts with the remainder to test everything. What worked for someone will oftentimes not work for the next person. Never trust anyone on the Internet. Listen to good advice, TEST IT, then use it if it has proven to work for you.
We’ve covered a whole bunch of techniques, and if you want to keep them in a handy and easy-to-follow checklist, download it for free here.
Are you using any techniques to avoid the Gmail Promotions tab? What has worked and what hasn’t? Let’s chat in the comments!