Creating a winning email marketing strategy is something that most online entrepreneurs crave and work toward.
Compared to social media marketing, building an email list and sending carefully crafted newsletters and autoresponders yields a much higher ROI. Especially with the advance of AI tools, creating this content is ridiculously easy if you use AI ethically.
The goal of any email marketing strategy is to build relationships with potential and existing customers.
Your nurturing sequence and following campaigns should inspire your subscribers to take the desired action, for example, to invest in your coaching or purchase your course.
Nearly everybody has an email address and we check our emails multiple times per day, as such email marketing can be an effective strategy to reach a broad audience.
Your email marketing strategy can also be highly targeted as you can segment your email lists based on various criteria like the interests and pain points of your subscribers or their stage in the buying journey.
Incorporating segmentation and understanding how to trigger automations at the right times often is the secret sauce to developing a successful email marketing strategy that sells your coaching or course on autopilot.
An example email marketing strategy for coaching and course sales
Let's have a look at an example email marketing strategy that you can use to sell your coaching services or course sales before we dive into the details of that strategy and explore everything in more depth.
Build an email list
To sell your online course through email marketing, you'll need to build an email list of people who are interested in your course topic.
You can do this by creating opt-in forms on your website such as the one you see at the bottom of this blog article, on the main website, and on various other places on my page.
Carefully and consistently build your email list for 1 year and the change in your business will be immensely rewarding and unquestionably profitable!JJ Ferrari
You can give away lead magnets (such as ebooks or webinars) in exchange for email addresses, and include content upgrades (such as printables or additional resources) in your blog posts, podcast episodes, etc.
To dive deeper into list-building strategies that work, grab your free ticket to List Building School and learn from some of the leading experts in the field of email marketing.
Segment your email list
Once you have a list of email addresses, you can segment your list based on various criteria, such as demographics, behavior, and interests.
Some ways to do that is to tag your subscribers based on which email campaigns they open, which links they click on, and survey them as part of your Welcome sequence to fully understand their goals.
This will allow you to send more targeted and personalized emails to specific groups of people.
Recommended reading: How to craft a successful New Year's sales campaign
For example, you might segment your list into different course topics, or into different stages of the sales funnel (e.g. interested leads, qualified leads, paying customers).
Create an email drip campaign
A drip campaign is a series of automated emails that are sent to your subscribers over a period of time - often used to Welcome new subscribers or to run a time-based promotion.
You can use a drip campaign to nurture your leads and build relationships with your audience, while also promoting your online course.
For example, you might start by sending an email introducing yourself and your course, followed by a series of emails that gets your subscribers to Know, Like, and Trust you.
After you established trust, your emails can transition into a sales format to more information about the course, its benefits, and any special offers or discounts.
You should also include calls to action in your emails, such as a link to a sales page or a sign-up form for a free trial.
If you're not including any CTA in your emails, you train your subscribers to do nothing with your newsletter, which will hurt the performance of your list in the long run.
Track and analyze your results
To measure the success of your email marketing campaign, you'll need to track and analyze your results.
This can include metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. You can use this data to identify what's working well and what needs improvement and to optimize your email marketing efforts accordingly.
Be aware that the open rate and click-through rate won't be 100% accurate due to the privacy updates on Apple devices and some corporate email servers opening all emails and faking a click on all links automatically for security reasons. (More details and benchmarks here)
Start your email marketing strategy by building an email list.
Alright, let's dive into the first part of an effective email marketing strategy - actually getting people to subscribe to your email list and want to hear from you.
How to get more email subscribers if you're no marketing expert
Offer a lead magnet
A lead magnet is a piece of valuable content that you offer to people in exchange for their email addresses.
Lead magnets can be anything that provides value to your audiences, such as an ebook, a webinar, a checklist, or a template.
The image above is one of the lead magnets I like to use but it sure isn't the only one in your email marketing plan.
If you go to List Building School, you get free access for five days and the LBS Playbook to grow your email list.
This lead magnet is targeting a completely different pain point or goal but is no less important for my email marketing strategy.
To get people to sign up for your email list, you'll need to make sure that your lead magnet is highly relevant to your target audience and solves a specific problem or fulfills a specific need.
You can promote your lead magnet through your website, social media, and other marketing channels.
Include opt-in forms on your website
Opt-in forms are forms that visitors to your website can fill out to subscribe to your email list.
You can place opt-in forms in various locations on your website, such as the header, footer, sidebar, and in the body of your blog posts.
Don't go too crazy with those opt-in forms though and keep an eye on metrics like bounce rate, time on page, etc - you don't want your website visitors to abandon your website because you have too many opt-ins.
To increase the chances of people signing up, you'll want to make sure that your opt-in forms are visible, easy to fill out, and clearly explain the benefits of subscribing to your email list.
Each opt-in form should let your website visitor know what lead magnet they get and set clear expectations of what happens after they signed up for your list.
Use content upgrades
A content upgrade is a piece of additional content that you offer to people in exchange for their email addresses and should be part of your content marketing plan.
Content upgrades are usually related to the topic of a specific blog post, and are designed to provide additional value to the reader.
For example, if you have a blog post or podcast episode about how to create a budget, you might offer a content upgrade in the form of a printable budget template.
To get people to sign up for your email list, you'll need to make sure that your content upgrades are highly relevant to your target audience and add value to the content that they're already reading.
Later on in this article, we'll cover how you can segment new subscribers into various groups in your email list based on the content upgrade they sign up for.
Promote your email list on social media
You can use social media to promote your email list and encourage people to sign up.
This can include sharing links to your opt-in forms or lead magnets, as well as posting about the benefits of subscribing to your email list.
Recommended reading: Attract more Twitter followers with your bio without being a copywriter
Now... don't get me wrong. I am not saying you should spam your social profiles with posts to get people to sign up for your email list.
No winning email marketing strategy in the world will tell you to do that.
But have a look at tools like Hypefury. In this screenshot, you can see the autoplugs I have set up - these are tweets that invite my followers to subscribe to my list once a tweet reached a certain level of engagement.
You can also use social media ads to target specific audiences and increase the visibility of your email list promotion.
Collaborating with other businesses or influencers in your industry can be a great way to expose your email list to a new audience and get more people to sign up.
You can collaborate by guest blogging, hosting webinars or events together, or running joint promotions.
A big way I am using this currently to grow my email list is in cross-promotions with other email marketers in the online marketing space:
Cross-promotions are my favorite way to grow my list right now, for a few reasons:
- I get to connect with influencers in my field and build relationships with them
- Experts with a following that trusts them are recommending me (boost in perceived authority)
- Coordinating this cross-promotion is completely asynchronous and complements my busy dad life
Including segments in your email marketing strategy
Segmenting your email list based on demographics, behavior, and interests can help you create more targeted and personalized email campaigns.
Just like Welly from Birdsend describes in his tweet:
Personalization is critical which can increase the relevance and effectiveness of your emails. Here are some examples of how to segment your email list based on these criteria:
- Demographics: You can segment your email list based on demographics such as age, gender, location, and job title.
For example, you might create separate email lists for men and women, or for people living in different countries.
That's exactly what I'm working on with a coaching client who sells dating services.
Segmenting your email list based on demographics can help you tailor your messaging and offers to specific groups of people.
- Behavior: You can segment your email list based on how people interact with your emails and website.
For example, you might create separate email lists for people who have opened your emails in the past, people who have clicked on links to sales pages or other important content in your emails, and people who have made a purchase.
Segmenting your email list based on behavior can help you send more targeted and relevant emails to specific groups of people.
- Interests: You can segment your email list based on the interests and preferences of your subscribers.
For example, you can create separate subscriber segments for people who have expressed an interest in different topics or products.
You can gather this information by asking people to opt-in to specific email lists or by using data from website activity or surveys.
To segment your email list, you'll need to use an email marketing tool that allows you to create and manage multiple email lists and segment your subscribers based on different criteria.
Segmentation can be daunting and overwhelming though - as it requires a certain type of thinking that is often associated with technical people.
If you feel like you could use some guidance around segmenting your list, check out Master Email List Segmentation with Jan Koch, shortcut your learning curve, and improve your email marketing strategy fast.
Crafting effective email subject lines
Another reason why most winning email marketing strategies include segmentation is the ability to write effective subject lines.
The best email subject lines have a few things in common:
- They stand out in the inbox of your subscribers
- They entice people to click on them
- They resonate with your subscribers
You can find millions of formulas for effective subject lines on Google - let me save you some time and share four of my favorite subject line formulas with you:
The "how-to" formula
This formula involves including clear and specific instructions in the subject line, such as "How to double your website traffic in one month" or "How to create the perfect budget in 5 easy steps." This formula can be particularly effective for emails that offer value or solve a specific problem.
The "curiosity gap" formula:
This formula involves creating a subject line that piques the reader's curiosity and leaves them wanting to know more.
For example, "The secret to getting more done in less time" or "The one thing you're missing in your marketing strategy."
The "personalization" formula:
This formula involves including the reader's name or other personal information in the subject line, such as "Tom, here's your exclusive discount" or "Jane, we have a surprise for you."
Following the segmentation ideas from above, personalization can go way beyond the examples I just gave you.
The "urgency" formula:
This formula involves including a sense of urgency or scarcity in the subject line, such as "Limited time offer: 50% off" or "Last chance to register for our webinar."
This formula can be effective for emails that promote limited-time offers or events.
It's important to keep in mind that the best subject line for your emails will depend on your audience and the content of your emails.
You may want to A/B test different subject lines to see which ones perform the best for your specific email campaigns.
Again, this is a feature I love about Convertkit - this is what their split-test feature looks like:
Split-testing subject lines is a must-have in any email marketing strategy.
Writing engaging email content
Your email marketing strategy needs to incorporate ways to write engaging emails consistently.
My biggest takeaway from writing well over two million emails to my subscribers is the following:
Separate Ideation from Writing.
And watch the interview with Alan Ngo that I did for List Building School 😉
You need to create a framework for your newsletter that makes writing your emails effective and easy.
The same categories of content in each email and simple formatting will help you be consistent with your newsletter.
Another aspect of a winning email marketing strategy is to leverage storytelling in your newsletters.
My friend Nick Gray always recommends having selfies or images of yourself in the newsletter emails to make it easy for your subscribers to build a connection with you.
He built and exited two companies, so he must know a thing or two about building businesses and audiences. I even practice taking selfies (I just hate them) to take advantage of this advice.
If you're struggling with consistency and writing a weekly newsletter sparks frustration because you just don't have the time for it, hear me out.
Recommended reading: 3 goal-setting frameworks that work
Here are a few ideas to incorporate into your email marketing strategy for writing engaging newsletters and not missing a single issue.
Plan your newsletter editions in advance
To make time for writing your email newsletters, it can be helpful to plan ahead and schedule time for writing in your calendar.
Set aside a specific day or time each week to work on your newsletters, or you might batch your writing and dedicate a larger block of time to writing multiple newsletters at once.
I have two 30-minute blocks in my calendar for ideation and research, and then spend another 2 hours across the week writing at least 4-5 newsletters.
Create a content calendar
A content calendar is a schedule that outlines the content that you plan to publish and when you plan to publish it.
Especially as a solo creator, you might feel that it's unnecessary to have a content calendar but it makes ALL the difference.
Having a content calendar will help you stay organized and ensure that you have a steady stream of content for your email subscribers.
Save time by using templates and tools
To save time and streamline your writing process, you want to use templates like Palladio for your email newsletters and add content creation tools to your process.
Templates can help you create a consistent structure and layout for your newsletters, and can be customized with your own branding and content.
Content creation tools can be effective in saving time, my two favorites right now are Hypefury and Jasper.
Repurpose your existing content into other formats
If you struggle to come up with new ideas for your email newsletters, you might consider repurposing content that you have already created.
I love using my existing blog articles as input for AI content tools and spinning them off into new perspectives that I haven't thought of myself.
You can also look into content that is performing well on social media in your field and use it as inspiration (do NOT simply copy it).
Delegate or outsource
If you don't have the time or resources to write your email newsletters consistently, you should consider delegating or outsourcing some of the work.
Hiring a writer or editor to help with the content or using a virtual assistant to handle tasks such as scheduling and sending your newsletters can make the difference between building a profitable newsletter or leaving money on the table.
By planning ahead, creating a content calendar, using templates, repurposing content, and delegating or outsourcing as needed, you can write engaging email newsletters consistently and efficiently.
Automating your email marketing strategy
Automating email nurturing sequences for new subscribers can be an effective way to build relationships with your audience, which is the essence of any successful email marketing strategy.
Effective nurturing encourages them to take the desired action, such as signing up for your online course.
This is what works for me when writing nurturing sequences:
1. Determine your goal
Before you start creating your email nurturing sequence, it's important to determine your goal. What do you want your new subscribers to do?
Do you want them to purchase a product or service, sign up for a webinar, or visit a specific page on your website?
Selling somebody who just joined your email list on one of your courses is a tricky task. Think about how you make your own buying decisions...
Your email marketing strategy needs to reflect the buying journey, build authority and trust, and deliver so much value that your new subscribers feel comfortable spending money with you.
Knowing your goal will help you tailor your email nurturing sequence to meet your objectives.
2. Segment your email list
We already covered segmentation extensively above but let me refresh your memory.
You can segment your email list based on criteria like demographics, behavior, and interests.
This will allow you to create more targeted and personalized email nurturing sequences for different groups of people.
3. Create an email drip campaign
An email drip campaign is a series of automated emails that are sent to your subscribers over a period of time. My welcome series currently has eight emails sent over the course of seven days.
You can use a drip campaign to nurture your leads and build relationships with your audience, while also promoting your products or services.
My first six emails are pure value. I share blog articles, videos, and other resources that will help new subscribers sell more via email marketing.
The final two emails are sales pitches for my entry-level course Hit The Inbox, which teaches enrolled students to get more of their email newsletters out of the spam filters and into the inboxes of their subscribers.
4. Use triggers to personalize your emails
Triggers are specific actions or events that trigger an email to be sent.
You can set up a trigger to send an email to a subscriber when they sign up for your email list, or when they click on a specific link in an email.
You can use triggers to personalize your email nurturing sequences and send more relevant and targeted emails to your subscribers.
These are triggers you can use in ConvertKit:
5. Test and optimize your email nurturing sequence
Testing your campaigns is critical to improving the performance of your email marketing strategy.
While we already covered A/B testing for subject lines, there is a LOT more you can test.
Have a look at various call-to-action formats, topics, times, and days when you send your emails, etc.
You can also track and analyze your results, such as open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates, to identify what's working well and what needs improvement.
6. Mobile layouts and responsive emails.
Smartphones are everywhere. It's important to ensure that your emails are optimized for mobile devices.
This includes using responsive design techniques, as well as keeping the subject line and preheader text short and to the point.
By optimizing your emails for mobile, you can ensure that they look great and are easy to read on any device.
On desktop devices, limit the width of your email to roughly 600-700 pixels to avoid text lines becoming so long that they're hard to read.
Developing and implementing the right email marketing strategy can be a powerful tool for building relationships with your audience and promoting your products or services.
The outlined strategies are proven to produce results, as a reminder, they are:
- Building an email list in the first place,
- Segmenting your email list based on interests and behavior,
- Creating automated email drip campaigns,
- A/B testing your email subject lines and other elements,
- and tracking and analyzing your results.
As with anything in business and life, email marketing is an ongoing process and it may take some time to see results.
Focus on being consistent with your email marketing strategy and continually test and optimize your campaigns to foster gradual improvements and improve your skills.
Another tip that should go without saying is to focus on providing value to your audience through your emails.
This can include offering valuable content or entertainment, such as blog posts, infographics, or videos, or providing special offers or discounts that are relevant and give your audience the results they're striving for.
By providing value to your audience, you can build trust and credibility and foster long-term relationships with your subscribers.
I hope these strategies and tips encourage you to start implementing an email marketing strategy in your own business.
It can be a rewarding and effective way to reach and engage your audience and drive business growth.