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Lesson 50: Some practical tips for turning your email copy into a working email sequence
All about email implementation
I suggest setting up your emails before you create your opt-in and sales pages. This is simply because when Sam comes to your opt-in page, you want him to be able to actually subscribe and start receiving emails!
Regardless of what email service you’re using, there are several practical considerations to keep in mind when setting up your email sequence:
As I discussed last time, your emails should be basic text. No fancy graphics. No columns. No multiple sections or callout boxes or any of this other nonsense. Some of those things are appropriate on websites — but in email, the closer you can get to making your campaigns look like plain ol’ emails that a friend would send, the better you tend to do.
Most businesses use fancy-schmancy HTML templates for their emails. They do everything they can do make their broadcasts look like blogs or brochures or catalogs (or all three depending on the content).
I shan’t name names, but I receive plenty of newsletters with slick web-page style layouts, replete with mastheads, customized fonts, images — the whole tinglado.
It’s tempting to copy this, both because of peer pressure, and because it plays to your ego. It’s just Madison Avenue mentality.
But there is a far better way that you should use instead.
The more you can make your emails look like plain ol’fashioned emails, the better off you’ll be.
The reason is simple: email is a highly personal medium — it’s that very personal connection that makes it so powerful. So why the devil would you rip out everything that makes your emails seem personal and replace it with something that looks like a blog, a brochure, or a catalog?
HTML versus plaintext
Since I’m advocating for “plain text” emails, don’t misunderstand me to be advocating for plaintext ones. Plaintext refers to the actual file format the email goes out in. It’s pretty rare to see this, and all the major email clients (whether cloud like Gmail or app like Thunderbird) will use HTML for sending emails. Their HTML templates just look like normal, plain text — no fancy graphics or sections or whatever.
This is what you should do. Use an HTML template for your emails that makes them look pretty much like an email sent from Gmail or Thunderbird or whatever. Most email services will either have a “basic” template like this, or will be able to help you set one up
Why not use plaintext? It is less than ideal for two reasons:
It doesn’t let you track open rates. This tracking may be inaccurate, but it’s fairly consistently inaccurate — so you still get a good idea of what’s going on. That’s better than having no idea.
Plaintext requires hard line breaks to be sure emails won’t run off the page for some readers. Hard line breaks are a really bad
very often you’ll end up with your
like this, with lines broken in
This wrecks your email’s readability
devices and is utterly maddening.
Sam should receive all the micro-course lessons he signed up for, regardless of when or whether he buys anything. If he buys after the first lesson, he should still receive the rest of them. So you don’t want to segment these emails.
However, he should only receive the followup emails if he hasn’t already bought. If he buys during the micro-course, he shouldn’t receive any followup emails offering him what he already has. And if he buys at some point during the followup sequence, he shouldn’t receive any further emails in that sequence.
Depending on the email system you’re using, this might require you to set the micro-course up as a separate autoresponder sequence to the followup emails, since often segmentation on autoresponders is not very granular — for instance, you will be able to specify a rule on the overall sequence saying, “If Sam has bought, don’t send these emails;” but you won’t be able to override that rule on individual emails in the sequence, like the micro-course emails.
I actually recommend setting up your micro-course and your followup emails as separate sequences anyway. It gives you more flexibility for the future, allowing you to add new micro-courses that lead into the same followup sequence, or new followup sequences that lead out of the initial micro-course — all without wrangling a lot of emails and creating a lot of duplicates. Keep it modular.
Remember that to set up purchase-based segmentation, your email system will usually need to be first “told” about the offering Sam might purchase. If you haven’t already set this up, you want to do so before trying to create your autoresponder sequences. You will need to link your email system and your shopping cart — this should be simple, as all email systems and shopping carts tend to provide clear instructions to help you. You may also need to make a dummy purchase, to send the purchase data through to your email system, so it will become available to use in segmentation.
Timing & timezones
I recommend always sending in Sam’s timezone. You will probably have subscribers all over the world; and timing is important in your squeeze campaign. So make sure, for instance, that if your deadline is at midnight, Sam gets your deadline email at 11.30 pm his time and not yours. All email systems that I know of will let you do this.
As for when to send daily emails, early morning tends to test well, but I often don’t worry unduly about this. I send emails at all kinds of times, and I haven’t noticed it making a great deal of difference. If you establish good rapport with Sam, timing becomes inconsequential.
A caveat: if you’re sending manual emails, you’ll have to queue them up at least 24 hours before the time they are due to arrive in Sam’s inbox. So even if, like me, you’re ahead of everyone else in the world, if you want your emails to arrive at 11 pm for Sam, you need to queue them up before 11 pm your time the previous day.
Most email systems have an automated welcome email that goes out as soon as Sam subscribes. I recommend that you disable this, if you can — or, if not, that you at least modify it so that it becomes the first lesson of your micro-course. There’s no need to add generic boilerplate to the emails you send. Indeed, that’s exactly the opposite of what you want.
Choosing a “from” name
Some people feel compelled to use their business name as the “from” name for their emails. In other words, when Sam gets an email in his inbox, it shows up as being from “Bob’s Web Design” or whatever.
Some people also like to add odd things to the front or end of their from names. They’ll put acronyms in square brackets, or append something to their name, like, “Bob Smith, The Web Design Guy.”
I would avoid this. Remember that email is a personal communication. So it should look like it comes from you; not from your business (even if they are one and the same thing). If you’re a freelancer or sole proprietor or similar, simply use your name. If you’re working in a larger business, you should still use your name — you are the “avatar” for your company. But you may want to add your company name afterwards: “Bob Smith at Acme Inc.”
Having just dissed the use of square brackets in your from name, let me suggest that these are very useful in your subject lines. If you can use an acronym for your microcourse, like [CNS], it has the effect of making the lessons easy to search, easy to filter, and easy to organize. For your followup emails this doesn’t really matter — it’s really just useful for content that Sam might want to find again. You don’t want to waste that space in the subject line unless there’s a good reason.
Although I cannot give you step-by-step instructions here, because every email system is different, your homework for today is to set up your autoresponder sequences — your micro-course, and your followup sequence. Since you have already written all the copy, you should be able to get this set up in a relatively short space of time if you dedicate yourself to the task. Try to get it out of the way quickly, because setting up your opt-in and sales pages will probably be a lot more time-consuming.