Sending an “email blast” was a thing in 1998, but those old terms and old strategies will only lead to failure and underperformance in today’s digital marketing landscape. If you’re ready to graduate from sending ineffective “email blasts” to sending really good emails, keep reading.
I was at a networking event and I started talking to this guy about his business. He was an older gentleman – nice guy – who was telling me about his efforts to leverage online marketing to grow his business.
Like most older guys he had a lot of the old-school, offline strategies down pat. It was the online marketing that was tripping him up and slowing him down. He knew it was important, but he couldn’t make things click.
Not long into the conversation he says, “So, I’ve been sending email blasts to my list…”
I stopped him and said, “Come again? ‘Email blasts?'” – purely in a joking tone, mind you. I hadn’t heard that term in years. I said in a way where we both had a laugh because he immediately understood that his entire line of thinking was out of date.
And that’s my first point…
Stop saying “email blast.”
What’s an email blast? It’s an old term for an email newsletter.
I don’t know who coined the term but they should probably be wet noodled to death. I mean, think about it. Who wants to get blasted with emails? It’s a term that’s completely out of touch.
In the days of email blasts, business owners or email marketers would “broadcast” an email to their entire list. So, if you had 50,000 people on your list, all 50,000 people go the same “email blast.”
In other words, the strategy was just as bad as the name.
Now, I’ll concede that – due to technology limitations – that was pretty much the only option back then. Email marketing software didn’t have the segmentation and automation capabilities of today’s tools.
Thankfully, those days are long gone and the tools available today are a lot better. But, they’re only better if you use the tools the right way and graduate to a more refined email marketing approach.
Who, What, When, How, Why: The Hallmark of Sending Really Good Emails in 2018
If I were going to give you a crash course in profitable email marketing, I would do it from the position of “who, what, when, how, why.”
In fact, let’s just do that. I’ll give you a crash course right now. And I’ll use this framework to compare the 1998 “email blast” strategies with the 2018 “real good emails” strategies.
This is so practical you can actually use this framework as a checklist to grade every email you send…
Who are you sending this email to?
In the days of email blasts, there was only one answer to this question. “Everyone.”
The problem with that answer is that everyone on your email list is in a different stage of the process. When I say “the process” I mean, “whatever your process is” – the lifecycle of a lead or a customer.
Someone who just found you needs to receive a completely different set of messages than someone who found you six months ago. Agree?
Imagine that you’re a store owner and someone you’ve never seen or met before walks into your store. How do you greet them? What do you tell them?
Now imagine that someone you’ve known for 6 months walks in. This person is a regular customer. How do you greet them? What do you tell them?
It’s a totally different approach, right? Well, you have to apply this same line of thinking to your email marketing and you need to set up your list in such a way that this becomes possible.
By segmenting your list (in whatever way makes the most sense for your type of business), you can make sure that you send the right emails to the right people at the right time. I gave an example of exactly how to do this in tip #2 of my article, Email Marketing Best Practices.
What are you sending in this email?
The “who” really starts to frame the “what.” It’s not always obvious, though, and this is where your marketing mind really needs to come into play.
Hubspot lists five types of emails you can send (and you’ll send this basic framework promoted by many people):
- Educational Emails
- Informational Emails
- Promotional Emails
- Lead Nurturing Emails
- Newsletter Emails
I’m going to push back on this. I don’t like this framework at all.
My entire approach to email marketing – and I’ve been very successful with email marketing by the way – is founded on the concept of sending relational emails.
That’s really the only category.
It doesn’t matter if your goal is to educate, inform, promote, nurture, or update someone. The email has to be crafted from an authentic relationship standpoint.
Don’t underestimate this point. If you send a purely “educational” email, it’s likely to fall flat. If you send a purely promotional email it’s likely to backfire for a lot of people.
Educating, informing, promoting, nurturing, and updating people are all important parts of doing business, for sure. But very few people legitimately want you to “educate” them, “promote” to them, or “inform” them when they haven’t made a direct request.
Let’s be honest, even if someone opted in to your email list and likes you, it doesn’t mean they requested an email from you on a random Tuesday at 11 am. So, you can’t just barge in with your education. You can’t just “blast” them with information.
Be relational. Wrap your “education” or “information” or “promotion” in a container of connection, entertainment, and personality the same way a friend or family member would if they were receiving an email from one of those people.
When are you sending this email?
I tend to believe that the questions, “which day” and “what time of day” are fairly insignificant if you get everything else right, but there’s more to the “when” than those two questions.
Let’s say someone joins your list and you send them the obligatory “welcome” email. Great! Now, let’s say you want to use one of my favorite strategies – having email #2 ask them what their biggest challenge or struggle is.
Do you schedule that email for next week? How about the following day? How about an hour later?
Most people would probably say, “the following day.” A lot of people have this fear that they can’t send more than one email a day.
What I’ve discovered, though, is that people don’t expect to get another email an hour later. Almost nobody does that. So what happens? When they get it, they don’t even realize it’s automated. They legitimately think I emailed them personally.
When I compare the open rates and reply rates of the same email sent at different times (sending an hour later vs sending the next day), the rates are dramatically different. This is a good example of higher level strategy behind “when” to send an email.
Here’s a completely different example: Let’s say someone just purchased something from you and just received a confirmation email. Guess what? That’s a really good time to send a promotional email for something that enhances or compliments that purchase in some way.
Many people might think, “I can’t sell someone who just bought!” Totally false. That’s the best time to promote.
First, the person is already in buying mode. They’re never going to be more excited and motivated than they are right now.
Second, you probably have another product or service that would legitimately enhance their life and match their latest purchase perfectly. You’re doing them a service by making them aware of this.
By the way, you can use this strategy to reverse engineer your offerings. Just think, “when someone buys this, what else would they need?”
When I sell a new website project to a client at Digital Gravy, I immediately sell them a website maintenance plan. This creates the best potential experience for the client because without ongoing maintenance their site will have security and performance issues.
Beyond that, I offer them upgraded plans that include fixes and finishing touches (for when they make edits themselves) and even full website management support because I know how busy my target market is. Not only are they not qualified to do this work, they don’t have the time. They’re better served letting us handle that so it makes perfect sense to upsell it to them.
All of this is goes into the concept of “when” you’re planning on sending emails. As you can see, this is totally different from the “email blast” days of email marketing.
How are you sending this email?
Within the “how,” I mainly focus on two things:
- The technical “how” in terms of segmentation.
- The format (style, look, length, etc.).
In order to send really good emails and avoid the terrible email blast strategy, you have to use the right email marketing software and you have to set that software up correctly.
You really have to brainstorm this. You can’t just wing it. For Six-Figure Grind, my main segmentation strategy is to identify what stage of business someone is in. Why? Because having this information empowers me to send them the right types of emails.
I’ve segmented people into three groups:
- Launching – People who are preparing to launch their business/site online or who recently launched and are still in the planning, development, and audience building stages.
- Monetizing – People who have traction and momentum, but aren’t full time online yet. They need to monetize better and continue building their audience to get to full time.
- Scaling – People who are full time with their online business but who want to take things to the next level in terms of money, freedom, or impact.
As you can see, someone in the launching stage needs different advice, products, and services from someone in the scaling stage.
Beyond these three segments, I also segment people by interest. By tracking what my subscribers click on and engage with, I can identify things like:
- Are they a blogger?
- Do they use email marketing?
- Are they interested in SEO?
- Do they primarily sell products or services?
- How long have they been in my community?
- Are they in my Facebook mastermind?
- And more…
If this sounds “too complicated” or “too much to keep up with,” it’s not. Well, it would be if I were trying to be perfect and keep tabs on everyone, but I’m not. As long as I do a decent job, this kind of segmentation is extremely valuable.
As for the look and feel of emails, I stick to only one type of email: email that looks like an email.
Sure, you can get all fancy with your email designs and such, but guess what? When you do that your emails look like ads. They look like something from a marketer.
I want my emails to look like they’re from a friend. I want them to read like they’re from a friend. And to be clear, I don’t do that as a tactic. I do it because that’s truly how I feel about my audience.
Why are you sending this email?
I put this one last because it serves perfectly as a guiding light.
You should really go through this entire list for every email you send. At least in the beginning when you’re new to this and trying to transition from the dark, ugly world of email blasts.
And as you go through it, you should really ask yourself “why” about every single step.
- “Who am I sending this email to” becomes “Why am I sending to *that* group?”
- “What am I sending in this email” becomes “Why am I send sending *that* content?”
- “When am I sending this email” becomes “Why am I sending at *that* time?”
- “How am I sending this email” becomes “Why am I sending this email in *that* way?”
If you don’t have a clear, purposeful “why” for every single one of those points, there’s a good chance that the email you’re about to send won’t be a really good email.
Put Your New Email Strategy Into Practice
There’s a lot of gold in this article, but it’s only gold if you use it.
Here’s the thing: You don’t have to implement everything I covered right away. Transition to this strategy in pieces…
- Start by ditching the old “email blast” line of thinking.
- Brainstorm a segmentation strategy.
- Slowly implement your segmentation strategy, but…
- …In the meantime, start writing really good emails by following the who, what, when, how, why framework.
- Get 1% better at email marketing every day. That’s all, just 1%.
If you have any questions I’m happy to address them in the comments below.
Kevin Michael Geary is the founder of Digital Ambition. After building three successful online businesses in three separate niches in less than five years, he turned his attention toward helping men and women all over the world start an online lifestyle business so they can escape the rat race, make an impact, and live life without limitations.