You’ve heard the email marketing strategy principle a thousand times: The money’s in the list.
If you’re serious about your digital business, you need to build a list of people who are paying attention to you, typically an email list.
So, how do you get people to sign up for your email newsletter?
You probably already know the answer to this one …
Email marketing strategy 101
Reward them. Give subscribers something great as a “thank you” for signing up.
This is usually some form of content — a useful video, a killer ebook, or an exclusive podcast episode.
Sure, everyone else does that … because it works.
It works … if you do it the right way.
Giving away something good will get people to sign up for your email list, no question.
The problem is, what email address will they sign up with?
It’s not like it’s hard to find an email address.
Gmail is just one of the many excellent services that will give you one (or a bunch) for free.
Double opt-in forces your reader to give you a real email address. But real addresses are cheap.
Readers have dozens of ways to capture your valuable free reward, then ditch the rest of your email once they’ve got their prize.
- Unsubscribe (best-case scenario)
- Quit checking the email address
- Set up a filter that automatically pours your messages right into their Delete folder
If they’re jerks, they may just mark you as spam so they don’t have to see you again, rather than take the “trouble” of unsubscribing. It happens.
(That last one, incidentally, is why you must make it stupidly easy to unsubscribe from your stuff. If it’s more than a click or two, you’ll regret it.)
You can’t make anyone pay attention to you in the virtual world. Content editors can’t trick them into it either, at least not for more than a few seconds.
Some of the smartest traditional advertising writers figured this out a long time ago. These copywriters created advertising that didn’t look like advertising … advertising that was inherently useful.
What’s the secret to an email marketing strategy that works?
To avoid bad email marketing, make your advertising too valuable to throw away.
It’s funny how many of our moms’ and grandmas’ most-treasured recipes came from the back of product boxes.
Food packagers know that recipes are irresistible. Human beings are naturally curious creatures. We enjoy novelty. We benefit from eating a variety of foods.
Put simply, we want something new for dinner.
Recipes teach readers how to use more of the product being sold. And recipes feel inherently valuable. They promise a fantastic collection of benefits: Exciting new tastes, happy family members, harmony at dinner time, and kids who will actually eat their green beans.
Recipes, including back-of-the-box recipes, get clipped, passed along, and carefully preserved. A good-sounding recipe is reason enough to try that pancake mix or new pasta shape.
The recipe on the back of the peanut butter jar is advertising, yes. But it’s advertising that actually gets your attention. It’s too valuable to throw away.
Your topic has a recipe
Some topics have literal recipes. (Weight loss being the most obvious one.) The act of nourishing ourselves has spawned hundreds of sub-niches, from slow food to raw food to grab-some-calories-on-the-run food.
For most topics, the “recipes” are metaphorical.
You might teach a recipe for financial independence. Perhaps a recipe for a fulfilling retirement. A recipe for getting a better job. A recipe for a happy marriage.
Some recipes are complex, and some are simple. You’re the one who decides how easy you’ll make the recipes you offer as part of your email marketing strategy.
You can use a recipe anywhere
Thriving digital businesses usually produce lots of good recipes.
An ebook can be a single, very strong recipe. And a great minimum viable product or membership site are often collections of recipes that work together.
One of my very favorite versions of a recipe is the email newsletter. More specifically, it’s the email autoresponder, a tool that I consider essential for every marketing project I work on.
Email newsletters (curated content, along with what’s new in your business, what’s the latest promotion, what fresh and exciting offers can you make to your customer, etc.) are an excellent tool. But they’re 1,000 times better when they kick off with a terrific autoresponder.
Maybe it’s “8 Tips for Being a Better Dad” or “7 Ways to Know if Stock Trading Is Right for You.”
There are always a number of steps. (In fact, they look a lot like our friend the numbered list post, don’t they?)
They always build on one another. And they’re always a recipe for some result the reader wants to have.
A sequence of steps trains your reader
Do you see why this email marketing strategy works better than a single-shot video, ebook, or podcast episode as your sign-up incentive?
When you create an email sequence that forms a killer recipe, the reader develops the habit of opening each message. It’s got a critical step, after all, to the recipe he’s trying to cook up.
Sure, he can still ditch you when he’s finally captured the final sequence. But by that time, if you’ve given a recipe worth having, you’ve created some trust. Your reader has started to know and like you. You’ve built a little sense of reciprocity.
You’ve emailed him nine times in a row, and you haven’t sent him any crap. Just valuable, good stuff that gets him a result he wants.
Think he’s likely to open that 10th email?
The recipe for a great email marketing strategy
To get started with your autoresponder:
- Create a “recipe” that delivers a solution your reader really wants.
- Structure your recipe into a sequence of seven to 10 steps. (You can do more if you’re ambitious.) It’s best if each step delivers a positive result and stands on its own.
- Deliver your recipe via the autoresponder sequence function of your email marketing software. If your provider doesn’t let you put together a robust autoresponder, find a new one.
- Write the best content you can for your autoresponder. The time you put in now can continue to work hard for your business for years to come.
Rather than sell your products or services, start to “sell” your terrific, free email autoresponder.
It will build trust and rapport so that down the line you can fully explain all the benefits of what you do.
Want to learn more about an email marketing strategy that works? Grab our free ebook below …
Reader Comments (76)
Himanshu Chanda says
Now a days whatever you do you will find some people who (probably not jerks) will still quit once they get the goodies and you cant do much about them… I believe the solution is than either have a good frequency of mails you will fire to the list and not bombard them. Else you can have various subscriptions that the user can opt in, one of which can be no more than 1 mail/month. That way he wont quit and you wont lose…
Dan Williams says
Great way to re-frame this into a language that is understandable and not biz-like.
I have been using “5 steps for a networking process” and branded this as “Networking, Like Life, is a Process not an Event (subtitle of my book).
But the word ‘recipe’ is much more approachable and friendly – so I will start to create awareness of my brand thanks to this blog – as the “the recipe for networking in 5 easy steps”
Many thanks — you and Sonia rock – along with your other bench of writers —
Dustin | Engaged Marriage says
I love this post! I am literally spending today signing up for a newsletter service (leaning toward MailChimp), and I will start creating my autoresponder messages this weekend. I have a few questions that I’ll be posting at Third Tribe.
This post came at the perfect time! Thanks.
This is an amazing idea Sonia. Thank you! I subscribe to your other content site and you are really helping me.
I just created an extensive list of tips for one of my product sites. I was just going to give it free as a pdf. However, after reading this post, I was thinking I could do a 10 days of tips (to compose my “recipe”) where I expound on each tip and then by the 11th day, give them the full download.
An example would be Global Teleclass’ Biz tip of the day. While their tips are really short, I get them every day and look forward to reading them for “concern” I may miss something.
I will make my tips more “meaty”. In my industry I don’t see anyone offering my type of content this way. Thank you!
Great post Sonia! You know I’ve unsubscribed from so many email lists lately because I just don’t see the point in reading them any longer, they don’t bring me nothing but sales pitches. Every single one of them, mostly. And it is tiring. There seems to be too much focus on selling.
I don’t want to do that to my newsletters subscribers, I want to really connect with them and help them. Give them valuable real advice and suggestions that can help them, not only make me money.
Sonia Simone says
@Michelle, I think that is an excellent way to do it. And you reminded me that it’s a great technique to do the email for the recipe, then give a PDF at the end so it’s in a more convenient form. That way you have the advantages of both.
@Dustin, that makes me so happy! I’m really glad you’re getting your newsletter launched. I hear great things about MailChimp.
@Himanshu, to clarify, I think it’s totally fine and cool to unsubscribe after you get your bonus. No harm, no foul. I would only use “jerk” for people who get your bonus then mark you as spam because they may not be digging the content, or they want to move you out of their inbox.
Thanks Sonia! You gave me the idea 🙂 I’m hoping it will improve my customer interaction!
Question: I have a website that has the email function within it. It will send an auto reply to customer inquiries and orders but that’s about the extent of it. I am looking at aweber as you suggest but it looks kind of complicated. I’m wondering is there a tutorial somewhere and by all means do feel free to send me your affiliate link if you have one so I can sign up under your name 🙂
Sonia Simone says
Aweber’s not nearly as complicated as it looks for the autoresponder part — I feel like there must be tutorials but I’m not sure where to find them. I’ll ask around & see what I find.
I have zero patience for complicated and I can figure it out, so you may find it’s not bad when you dive into it. 🙂
Recently everyone I know is piling on with the MailChimp love, too, so that might be something to investigate.
I do recommend that you go with a service, as you’ll find that many, many of those messages sent from your web site will end up in spam filters. It takes some managing to keep that from happening, and the good email services do that management for you.
Himanshu Chanda says
Yup got your point. But in that case do you think it would be better to publish your pdf free without any optin and than after (or while) they are on the ebook, ask them that your emails will add more value to them? This will definitely bring the subscribers from thousands to hundreds, becuase all who download will not subscribe. But they will be your fans. They will read your stuff. They will buy when you sell, affiliate etc. Can that approach be even tried? What are your thoughts on this? To me the 1 mail/month seems to be the only solution apart from this.
Sonia Simone says
@Himanshu, that is indeed another excellent model, Brian did exactly that with the Authority Rules PDF.
But how would you contact potential subscribers if they download the e-book without an optin?
Michelle <~~~lost marketer
Almost forgot, I am setting this up now and was wondering. On the subscribe page, do I put the copy for subscribing to my 10 day series and mention that after the 10 days, they will receive the monthly newsletter OR:
Do I just make the offer for the monthly newsletter on the 10th day?
If I go with the 2nd approach, how can I have a sign up for both the newsletter and the 10 day series on my website? Wouldn’t that be a bit much? Or should I just replace the newsletter sign up with the series?
Nick Tart says
Hi Sonia! This is a great article for me to read. I’ve been developing a 10-week course and I’ve debated whether to sell it or give it away for free. I concluded that I would rather give it away to build a list of people who are eager to get my emails, just like you said. It’s nice to have you confirm that decision with this post.
Also, I signed up for your IM for SP newsletter and I stopped receiving them after #9. Are you still developing the rest of the newsletter? I’m eager to get them ;).
Ken Siew says
@Michelle similar to you, I actually thought a better way to present my free report would be to break it down into 10 emails in the autoresponder. Aweber is really simple, once you sign up just follow the video tutorials on the website. I got it the first shot. You can email me if you have any questions, I’d love to help.
@Sonia, strange to say this, but this morning I was thinking about offering 10-sequence course on my free report after they download it. Every email will contain additional resources and tips that are related to the 10 tactics I talked about in the report.
I don’t know if it’s appropriate to include any relevant affiliate links at this point though. What’s your thought?
Anyhow, you just gave me a fantastic idea, I will need to work on the autoresponder this weekend! =) Thx!
@Nick, I am at 3 but noticed that they are not coming in any particular regularity. I think it’s supposed to be weekly? I feel like 2 was way after a week. could be wrong though
@Ken, thanks for your offer of assistance. I’m going to work on it this weekend and hopefully I’ll get it! Like Sonia I have no tolerance for complicated stuff
Ken Siew says
@Michelle I believe it’s better for you to mention upfront what they’re going to get (i.e. your 10-day series AND the newsletter), people hate to be surprised.
And regarding the free stuff without optin model, if you do a great job in your report people will naturally come to you and hopefully subscribe to your newsletter/10 day series. I’m actually planning to do something along the same line also.
A combination of free without optin, free with optin, and 10-sequence series, that might just do the trick. Although you should have a good reason why you have something with and without optin. I certainly need to strike a good balance in that.
I actually wasn’t going to make it a surprise. The plan was at the 10th (final) day of the series, make an offer by including a link to subscribe to the newsletter
Ken Siew says
@Michelle Personally I think it’s a hassle to sign up again. Maybe you should go for the 1st approach, by telling them they gonna get free newsletter after the 10-day series.
Most people use multiple lists to qualify leads, as in to see who are really interested in a specific product/launch and promote like crazy to them, while having a softer promotion to their existing general list (e.g. newsletter).
I guess the question would be do you need 2 lists to execute your marketing strategies?
That’s a difficult question for me to answer because I don’t just sell one product like an information product. My sites offers a number of personal care products. One site offers alternative pain/stress stuff and the other bath/body skin care stuff.
I want to implement the same type of program for both but have heard conflicting info from so many “gurus”, I don’t know what to accept as solid advice.
I do know that I have to offer an unsubscribe on each time so they could technically unsubscribe or keep going and keep the newsletter subscription without having to subscribe.
One of the issues I’m having is people unsubscribing after a few months. they never actually buy anything so i guess it shouldn’t matter. my list is very small, only about 300 or so but every time i send the newsletter (monthly), i get at least 1 person unsubscribing. that has since become 0 on my skin care site where I’ve refocused my niche.
and now i’m rambling (habit) so going to stop now 🙂
Mark Macdonald says
Sonia, what are your thoughts on baking an autoresponder series in with a blog subscription?
Do you think they can be combined effectively or are blog updates sacred territory that shouldn’t be messed with? I realize there really is no map or rules for a lot of this stuff but I’d be interested to know what you and/or Brian think about this.
I notice you guys keep ’em separate here.
Mark Wolfinger says
1) Make sure your “recipe” delivers a solution that your reader really wants.
You do exactly the opposite, but are unwilling to discuss it.
Why is that?
@Mark is that question directed toward me? If so, I am not unwilling to discuss anything. I haven’t gone into specific details because I am working on 2 sites with very different markets.
If you aren’t talking to me, disregard! 🙂
Leon Noone says
You’ve done it agin: a really valuable post for me.I already offer a free Special Report eBook for signing up. And although i use autoresponders as part of the direct selling process, I hadn’t thought of using them in the way you suggest.
Recipes on boxes must work well. Big companies still use them. And the recipes always contain ingredients made by the same company.
Thanks again. You’ve set the curmudgeonly brain spinning.
SD Jensen says
Excellent post, Sonia. Avon Corp has done this for years, as well as always told customers ‘ return any product–no questions asked’–and, of course, keep the free gift. As a rep for almost 10 yrs, I’ve found this alleviates any pressure on the public to try a new product, as they know they will not be stuck with a product they may not be happy with. I still find it amazing that most other companies don’t do the same thing–Walmart, poss–but they’ll find when they put their focus on the customer–it’s a win-win situation–profits will only go up. Also, another example of ‘recipe’ ads can be seen in their Clearskin skincare lines as well as the many uses for Skin So Soft.
Really, really sound and logical! The thought of being labeled as spam was really bad. Now, I have the answer. Thank you, thank you Sonia.
If only we could unsubscribe!
Sometimes there’s no way out at all. I think it’s illegal, by the way.
Worst possible scenario: if I contact you and I’m yelling at you because your website is broken and I can’t even log in, that does NOT mean I want to sign up for your newsletter. Not at all.
Great post btw 😀
Shannon O | Confessions of a Loving Wife says
Thanks for the great post Sonia.
Love the metaphor, I will put it to good use.
the important thing is, it was a good recipe for their health 🙂
Sonia Simone says
@Michelle, I’d just go ahead and send the newsletter without a second opt-in. Just let them know that they’ll hear from you from time to time — which they’ll be happy about, because you’ll have developed good rapport with the autoresponder. And you always do get some unsubscribes, it’s just a natural part of things. Our in-boxes get so crowded, and people’s interests wax and wane. You might, though, have some separate additional lists for different interests, so your pain/stress folks can get more of the content they’re most interested, and/or the bath products folks can get more of that. So maybe at a couple of points in the autoresponder, and occasionally in the newsletter, you’d say, “Hey, if you’re particularly interested in XYZ, I have a separate e-course on that” and send them over to the new list.
@Mark M, I personally would shy away of assuming that blog readers want the autoresponder or vice versa. I don’t have a super well-thought out reason for that, it’s just my gut sense. I provide opportunities in the blog to sign up for the newsletter, but if someone’s not excited enough to go ahead and jump, I’d rather not assume.
@Ken, I think it’s totally fine (and in fact smart) to include affiliate links at that point. I’d disclose them and make sure they’re really relevant to the topic. I know you’re a Third Triber, check out the seminar I did with Johnny Truant on how to handle that, if you haven’t already.
@Nick, I took a breather. 🙂 Back-to-back launches and then a vacation took a bite out of my output. But I’m working on Lesson #10 now, in fact, and you should see it soon.
These tips really helped me, I was not aware that there is very useful email subscribe in a reader pampering with a special gift.
I love your Betty Crocker example. A few years ago I found a vintage cookbook (copyright 1944) at a yard sale. The owner of the cookbook had tucked recipes she had collected from the backs of cans and package inserts between the pages of the book. Most of them were published by Betty Crocker. Looking through the recipe inserts one could see Betty’s image transformation across the years! The fact that this cookbook and the materials inside had passed through at least two generations across a span of over 50 years goes to prove your point!
Jill Chivers says
I used the “recipe” approach right off the bat when we recently renovated our website. I have a 4-part E-Class, which, apart from a “ten step…” free report which subscribers get immediately, arrives into their inbox weekly over a month. I got the idea from Sonia’s 10-part e-class, and I love it! Thank you Sonia — as a newbie, your ideas really resonate with me!
Thank you Sonia for taking the time to respond to my newsletter launch question in a full post versus a Third Tribe response.
The way you describe it here, and in such detail is extremely helpful to me, and it makes sense.
I’m excited to start working on launching my newsletter now, and have some great ideas brewing. 🙂
Sonia Simone says
Cool, Kelly! Let us know how it shapes up.
Ken Siew says
Good luck Kelly! Keep us posted of your progress =) (here or Third Tribe)
Maren Kate says
This was awesome, I am writing/recording my “prize” to give away right now and this helped me streamline it into something better – thanks!
Good idea. Though maybe need to think more detail when really start doing that.
Thanks Sonia! Appreciate your insight
The funny thing about this post is that much of what I sell is based on old recipes. Literally. I write about the graphics of old recipe books, and trade cards and seed packs and the like, and I sell items with reproductions of the early ones. It’s not all I sell, but a big portion. One of the reason people collected these things was for their visual beauty.
That said, that horn tooted, my question is… do you think your strategy works for tangible products as well as online ones? I think Michelle was asking a similar question. I send a newsletter that is visually pleasing and well writtten, and gets me some great feedback, but doesn’t really lead to online sales. Maybe I just don’t have a big enough subscriber base, but I’m not sure how a sequence of emails would help. OTOH, if I’m missing something, I’m more than willing to try it.
thanks for all the advise you dish out!
Justin King says
Well put Sonia!
Renee Benzaim says
Great idea! I subscribe to your IMFsP and always look forward to the next email. I just finished posting a six-week plan on one of my blogs for treating gout with essential oils and aromatherapy. Now I’m going to follow your advice and break it up into six email, with more information and actual recipes in each email, and finish with a PDF that gives them the complete plan, as well as a checklist for each week, like you have done in your courses. Thanks so much!
I really like these tips. Yes, I agree, give them something worthwhile upfront that has value. Good, good, Good.
Sonia Simone says
@liza, sometimes it’s trickier to figure out how to go from information and “how to” to tangible products. Could you create a series on, maybe, the ins and outs of collecting? Maybe have some steps on collecting for resale value, preserving the physical objects, display, etc.
If there’s not a good “how to” function, you can also do a newsletter the way Hugh MacLeod does, just present the objects and say a few words about each. You can see that here: http://gapingvoid.com/newsletter/ .
Most of what I work with has some tangible, easily explainable benefit. When I’ve seen art work well, it’s more about fostering desire for the items and also creating a sort of “party” with your content, making the content entertaining and appealing so people enjoy getting it. But marketing art isn’t my specialty.
Thank you Sonia. Definitely food for thought, and I will see what I can do. I read copyblogger every day for insight, and really appreciate all you do.
Cliff Truss says
Great advice as always.
I ‘ve recently been contemplating re-assessing my approach with my list and have considered the newsletter option. I think you’ve persuaded me to go down that route…all I have to do now is figure out the content!
Ana I YourNetBiz Training says
I always felt that the money is not in the list; it’s in your relationship with the list.
Great post; lots to think about.
Samantha Milner says
Sonia this is great advice. Rewarding your readers is a very good idea. This idea should work for the majority of your readers.
Jason Koertge says
This is an amazing “recipe” for a successful email marketing campaign launch. I’m a huge advocate for providing great value to those that sign up for your newsletter. This post is great, because it really breaks down how you build value in new relationships and give them the opportunity to trust you.
From reading other blogs and articles it seems that many internet marketing companies find offering something free as the best way to get people to give you their email addresses.
A great way is to offer a free report that is relevant to the industry you are in.
If you are selling a product that is related to music or cars it would be a good idea to have a report that is about what is currently going on in the music, or automotive industries.
Dan Williams says
First my apologies for my earlier comment attributed to Brian for writing this column. I love you both, but I love you more. Attribute my mistake to info-overload 🙂
I also wanted to thank you and say that after following you faithfully for oh, 3 months – this article was the tipping point for me.
Along with Seth Godin – I will be faithfully be following your advice and promoting your copy-writing thought leadership to The Networking Community and all I come across on or off-line.
Sonia Simone says
Laughing, Dan. Sshhh, don’t tell Brian you love me more. 😉 Glad you found it useful! We try hard to make our advertising much too valuable to throw away. 😀
The Communication Cycle says
Do you know, I never thought of an autoresponder as a recipe book before. It’s just a brilliant way of thinking about it.
Deven Pravin Shah says
Very well said.
Good quality list is an asset. And then make it even stronger by delivering value, and engaging in meaningful discussions.
I liked idea of building steps. I am going to use that.
One thing I always preach is not to use the word blast. It just has so many negative connotations.
Ken Siew says
Guys, Pat Flynn from The Smart Passive Income Blog just put together a post on how to set up your newsletter using Aweber. It’s a great guide for those who plan to use Aweber to as their email marketing software. Here’s the link: http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/the-beginners-guide-to-starting-a-newsletter/
Kim K says
Love the easy to explain process and proper guidelines. I am going to utilize some of this in our internship program if you don’t mind. It sets some great boundaries and gives a clear explanation. Kudos!
Sonia Simone says
Thanks Ken! I took a quick look, looks useful.
Great post, I really like the use of the term recipes, I found this most valuable. I am looking at putting some business information together for maximising my clients use of their 1300 numbers.
Awesome analogy. Ingredients matter but it’s how you prepare it that makes the whole difference!
I got this question …
I intend to start collectinng emails from opt-in, of people interested in the health/diet niche…
I wonder what is the best way to go for after I get their Email from the opt-in and send them their Free PDF…
First Option is: Continue through Emails only with a sequence where I send them alternatively – emails with free stuff and Sale Emails with products.
Second Option: Send them Emails 2 times a week that direct them to a Blog Article that there would be either the free stuff or the sale page for a product…
Which way is better?
Andrew | EmailExpert.org says
Love the way you have broken it down for the layman.
Especially like the bit about “(Incidentally, this is why you must make it stupidly easy to unsubscribe from your stuff. If it’s more than a click or two, you’ll regret it.)”
John Wheeler says
I’m glad to see Betty Crocker made to the Big Down Under. Also, welcome back from Vacation.
Great advice. I bow to the master. Why don’t I think of these things?
I guess that’s why you’re the pro and I’m the pretender.
lawton chiles says
This was what I was talking to a few keen marketing minds about in the last couple of days–giving people content they actually want.
The trouble is, doing the research has always stumped me. I can ask my list, but aside from that, I don’t want to guess!
Could Copyblogger do a post on researching?
Or another one?
Brad Hopkins says
That was well done Sonia! I especially liked what you said about “Double opt-in forces your reader to give you a real email address. But real addresses are cheap. Readers have dozens of ways to capture your valuable free reward, then ditch the rest of your email once they’ve got their prize.”
Really informative stuff!!! Thanks!!!!
Kaha Sales says
This is an amazing “recipe” for a successful email marketing campaign launch. I read copyblogger every day for insight, and really appreciate all you do. Now I’m going to follow your advice and break it up into six emails, with more information and actual recipes in each email, and finish with a PDF that gives them the complete plan, as well as a checklist for each week, like you have done in your courses. Thanks so much!
David Leonhardt says
You do NOT want your emails to be marked as spam. Oh, the headaches that can bring.
Stefanie Flaxman says
This article's comments are closed.