THAT DOESN'T SUCK

Your Exhaustive Guide and Resource Hub for All Things Email Marketing

Doing email marketing right doesn’t have to feel like torture. Enter this page…

This email marketing hub is all about breaking down email marketing in a way that helps you understand how to write better, more effective emails without the complicated “marketer” explanations that make no sense.

Learn the why behind your email marketing strategy, the frameworks you can use to make writing your emails super simple, and how to measure success without losing your mind.

THE SNARKIEST EMAIL MARKETING BOOK EVER... COMING MAY 3!

For The Marketer That Hates Boring Marketing Books...

Email marketing sucks…at least the way most marketers do it.

Conventional advice tells you to always be selling—or at least always be going for the click— but chances are, you hate writing emails, your audience hates reading them, and they aren’t making you any money.

But what if email didn’t suck? What if you enjoyed writing emails that your audience would binge-read like they watch Netflix? What if email actually made you money?

In Email Marketing That Doesn’t Suck, I use my lawyering skills to convince you that the old-school rules for email marketing are just plain dumb. I show you how to do email right, teaching you the five phases of email marketing and how to infuse purpose into your message.

You’ll learn how to tell a really good story that people want to read. But fair warning, if you’re a conversion copywriter, you’re an online marketing guru, or you have a serious problem with laughing at yourself, you probably should not read this book.

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This book doesn’t suck!

THE SNARKIEST EMAIL MARKETING BOOK EVER... EBOOK ON SALE FOR 99¢ NOW!

For The Marketer That Hates Boring Marketing Books...

Email marketing sucks…at least the way most marketers do it.

Conventional advice tells you to always be selling—or at least always be going for the click— but chances are, you hate writing emails, your audience hates reading them, and they aren’t making you any money.

But what if email didn’t suck? What if you enjoyed writing emails that your audience would binge-read like they watch Netflix? What if email actually made you money?

In Email Marketing That Doesn’t Suck, I use my lawyering skills to convince you that the old-school rules for email marketing are just plain dumb. I show you how to do email right, teaching you the five phases of email marketing and how to infuse purpose into your message.

You’ll learn how to tell a really good story that people want to read. But fair warning, if you’re a conversion copywriter, you’re an online marketing guru, or you have a serious problem with laughing at yourself, you probably should not read this book.

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This book doesn’t suck!

GET YOUR COPY OF THE SNARKIEST EMAIL MARKETING BOOK EVER!

For The Marketer That Hates Boring Marketing Books...

Email marketing sucks…at least the way most marketers do it.

Conventional advice tells you to always be selling—or at least always be going for the click— but chances are, you hate writing emails, your audience hates reading them, and they aren’t making you any money.

But what if email didn’t suck? What if you enjoyed writing emails that your audience would binge-read like they watch Netflix? What if email actually made you money?

In Email Marketing That Doesn’t Suck, I use my lawyering skills to convince you that the old-school rules for email marketing are just plain dumb. I show you how to do email right, teaching you the five phases of email marketing and how to infuse purpose into your message.

You’ll learn how to tell a really good story that people want to read. But fair warning, if you’re a conversion copywriter, you’re an online marketing guru, or you have a serious problem with laughing at yourself, you probably should not read this book.

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This book doesn’t suck!

Badass Email Marketing LIVE May 25th and 26th 2022

THE EMAIL MARKETING EVENT WHERE YOU ACTUALLY GET STUFF DONE

Join us for an epic 2-day email marketing event May 25 & 26, 2022, where we’ll teach you how to write emails your subscribers actually want to read!

Do you already own the book? Click here to claim your FREE ticket!

EMAIL MARKETING RESOURCES

Grab FREE access to some of our best email marketing resources!

We’ve compiled all of our best email swipe files and guides into one easy-to-access Google Drive folder so you can take advantage of our frameworks in your own email marketing! The best part? We’ll be adding more resources to it in the future! So that makes it the freebie that keeps on giving. This bundle includes (for now)…

The Ultimate Email Swipe Bundle

Grab ALL of our best email swipe files, including swipe for CATCH emails, weekly emails, and sequences!

Story-Based Email Framework Guide

Access our complete story-based email framework guide where we walk you through the exact framework we use! (Includes Google Doc template!)

CATCH
Email Framework Guide

Snag our guide for CATCH emails and learn how to hook your subscribers from the very first email! (Includes Google Doc template!)

BADASS EMAIL MARKETING... THE COURSE!

Get access inside our FREE marketing training hub — Badass Online Marketing™️ University!

We believe information should be accessible to everyone… no matter what phase of business you’re in or how much money you’re making. That’s why we’re giving away all of our best courses at no cost inside of BOMU™. 

EMAIL MARKETING ON THE PODCAST

Listen to the Email Marketing That Doesn't Suck Series on The Certified Badass Online Marketing Podcast!

Dive deeper into the power and strategy behind good email marketing in our podcast series dedicated to all things email marketing! 

This episode dives into why you should care about email as someone building a brand based on your knowledge and expertise.

This episode defines where email fits into your overall marketing picture and explains the goals you’re trying to achieve.

In this episode, you’ll discover the contours of email and why you should rely on and even reconfirm permission from your people. 

This episode demystifies what it takes for your emails to land in your subscribers’ inboxes instead of ending up in spam. 

If you want your email to not suck, you need to write great emails. This episode dives into how to do just that. 

Discover why you should not be looking for a plug-and-play email map but instead should focus on your funnel. 

Just about every email you send should fall into one of six categories. This episode explores those six categories.

In this episode, we tackle how to create connection and build the know, like, and trust factor with your email marketing. 

Let’s be honest, email is ultimately about making you money. In this episode, we dive into how you do exactly that. 

Did you know email is a great way to learn about your audience? Give this episode a listen to learn how to do it. 

How do you know if your email is working? This episode cuts through the vanity metrics and gives you the real scoop. 

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Why Should You Care About Email Marketing?

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Let me put it bluntly… if you want to build an online business that will last and that doesn’t feel like you’re constantly having to chase money, email marketing should be an important part of your marketing plan. 

To be clear, I’m not here to say that email is the BEST way to market or the ONLY way to market or that it’s BETTER than some other marketing channel generally. 

Unlike a lot of folks, I’m not into making superlative statements… because those statements are rarely true. 

The reality is that you’re going to need to use multiple forms of marketing to build your business. So, I’m not going to blow smoke up your arse to suggest email is the only thing you need… I’m just here to say it should be part of the puzzle. 

When you do email marketing right, it will make you money. 

Some Stats Worth Knowing

Email Marketing Has A High Return On Investment. Email marketing has the highest return on investment of any marketing channel. For every $1 you spend on email, you can expect a return of $42. When you spend time and money on email marketing, you’re making an investment in building an engaged email list, which is an asset. 

Marketers Rate Email As The Highest For ROI. Although people have been predicting the death (or at least decline) of email forever, marketers continue to rate email marketing the highest in terms of ROI among marketing channels, with 73% rating it as good or excellent

Each Subscriber Is Worth A Pretty Penny. The Direct Marketing Association’s Marketer Email Tracker Report found that each email address is worth $48 in the business to consumer space and $56 in the business to business space. Experian has a higher estimate, suggesting that the average value of an email address is $115.

People Rely On Email To Make Purchase Decisions. As much as people think that promoting on social media is a better idea, here’s a newsflash for you, people are way more likely to make purchase decisions based on emails. According to Optinmonster, 60% of people say they’ve made a purchase decision based on an email, while that’s only true of 12.5% of people when it comes to social media. Even among millennials, who we often think are less likely to prefer email, 68% have relied on email to make a purchase decision.

People Are Not Annoyed By Your Emails. And stop thinking that you’re bothering people with your emails. Studies have shown that the majority of people want to receive marketing emails at least weekly. Marketing sherpa found that 60% of people wanted emails at least weekly. 

Social Trends Come and Go… Email Has Stood The Test of Time

Social media is definitely a powerful way to reach your audience. The trouble is that it is an ever changing marketing channel. Just think of the major changes we’ve seen in the past five years alone. 

There was a golden period, where organic social media was a gold mine. If you amassed a large following, you could drive nearly free traffic to your opt-ins and paid offers. 

Then the algorithms rose up and killed off organic reach. One recent study found the average “reach” for social platforms ranges from 2.2% (Facebook) to 9.4% (Instagram). Yikes. No bueno. 

People shifted to new strategies like paid ads… only to see the cost of reaching their audience through social media advertising go through the roof. The costs for my business have more than doubled in the last year alone! 

In the last five years alone, we’ve seen the rise (and sometimes fall) of multiple social media trends, including:

  • Social Media Messenger Bots – For a period, people were touting the sky high open rates for these messages and suggesting they be a key element of your strategy… only to see FB change the rules and require you to pay to play.
  • IGTV – Remember this? Didn’t think so… but there was a period where people were touting that you should create long-form content like TV Shows to air on social.
  • Live Video on Social – Then there was the advice to go live regularly to build a warm audience to promote to later. Trouble is that FB will only optimize for 15 second video views… and that’s not exactly a “warm” user.
  • Periscope / SnapChat / Clubhouse – Believe it or not, there was a period where each of these platforms was considered THE place to be. Not so much anymore. 

The only real constant with social media is that it is ever changing. As I’m writing this page, TikTok and IG Reels are all the rage. But, rest assured, those won’t last either. 

You know what hasn’t changed in the last five years?

Email. 

It might not be shiny and new. It might not be sexy. It might not be the latest trend. Hell, it might seem downright boring. 

But being boring ain’t all bad. 

In fact, one of the cool parts about email is that it is boring. 

There are no fads to chase. No new strategies to implement. 

I’ve been using email the same way since 2018… with only minor tweaks. 

And it keeps on working. 

At some point, we will stop using email. But lemme make a not so bold prediction. Email will be around long after people have forgotten what IG Reels (and the next 3 hot strategies that replace it) even was. 

If you have time for all the marketing strategies, do them all. 

If you have to pick and choose how you spend your marketing time and dollars… let me suggest that email should be among your top choices because you know it’ll be around for the long term. 

Email Marketing Is Particularly Useful For Knowledge Brands

Email marketing is clearly important for just about every business… but it’s even more important for you if you are a coach, consultant, service provider, or digital product seller (e.g., courses, memberships, etc.).

Traditional businesses are selling physical things. For those kinds of businesses, buyers are most interested in the product. Sure, brand identity still matters (I’m an Apple person in spite of not knowing the first thing about the product specs)… but ultimately, it’s about the product not the person behind the brand. 

For these traditional brands, email marketing is primarily an avenue for selling once people are pretty far along on the buying journey. 

As someone who is selling your knowledge (either as an information product or in the form of services), you are different, my friend. 

Your customers are buying your knowledge… but really, they are deciding whether to buy into YOU. Sure, your product or service has to meet their needs, but the most important question they face is whether to trust you as their guide. 

This fundamental difference has important implications for you as a marketer. For you, email isn’t only a channel for selling… it plays an important role during the entire buying journey (or at least once they become aware of you). 

Because your potential customers are trying to decide whether to buy into YOU as their guide, one of the most important elements of your marketing mix is to build the know, like, and trust factor. If you accomplish that, they will buy. 

The focus on the know, like, and trust factor adds a wrinkle to your marketing that traditional brands don’t have to worry about… one of your primary objectives is to build a personal connection with your audience. Email marketing is one of the most powerful tools for doing just that. 

When done right, email marketing can create a level of connection that is hard to build through other communication channels. 

Email Marketing Is Just Marketing…
Via Email

When people struggle with email marketing, email is rarely the problem. The problem is with the “marketing” part… and it tends to affect every part of the person’s marketing. 

As much as this page is about email… mastering email is actually pretty straightforward once you have a clear vision for what marketing is and isn’t. 

Email marketing is as simple as “doing marketing” via email. 

So let’s talk about what marketing is… and isn’t!

The Definition Of Marketing

If you didn’t have experience in marketing outside of the online marketing world, chances are that you have a warped idea of what that term actually means. 

In the online world we live in, most people use marketing to mean either marketing communications, advertising, or selling. Or maybe a mix of some or all of those things. 

The focus is all very sales oriented.  

But marketing is about so much more…  

We could start by looking at how the American Marketing Association (AMA) defines the word marketing:

“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. ”

See? There’s a lot in there that has nothing to do with selling. What constitutes marketing is all the stuff involved in creating a product and bringing it to market.

Or we could look to a popular concept among marketers known as the 4 P’s of Marketing. These have been considered the bedrock of marketing thought for a good while now, and they are: product, price, place, and promotion. 

As with the AMA definition, marketing is about so much more than selling or advertising. 

Ultimately, marketing is about taking the time to understand your audience so well that you can create the perfect product to meet their existing wants and needs. Then it’s a matter of communicating the value of your particular product clearly and delivering on that promise

The best email marketing, like the best marketing more generally, is about so much more than selling. 

Marketing Is About Serving Your Audience

Marketing the right way is about one thing… serving the living crap out of your audience. 

Marketing is about putting the right product in front of the right person at the right time with the right message. And in that sentence “right” is always about what is right for your potential customers, not what is right for you. 

It is about being relentlessly focused on the needs of your audience and finding ways to serve those needs. It is about choosing to serve your audience’s needs before your own. 

Choosing to market rather than sell is about making a series of choices, including:

You over Me. Marketers don’t ask what will make them the most money. They ask how they can best serve the needs of their customers. In a mind-bending way, focusing on service rather than making money tends to make you more money in the long term. Just as importantly, it makes it pretty stinking easy to make decisions. When facing a choice, you always revert to a single question: “How can I best serve my audience?”

Giving over Taking. Marketers don’t view transactions as a zero-sum game where they are trying to get every last dollar for themselves. They strive to always leave every person better than when they entered the relationship. In other words, they seek to find ways that they can truly benefit their customers. 

People over Transactions. Marketers don’t think of people simply as a wallet that might buy something. Instead, they think of people as, you know, human freaking beings. (Weird idea, I know.) They happily serve their people, even those who might never buy, and they most definitely don’t complain about “freebie seekers” on their lists. 

Long-Term over Short-Term. Marketers focus on what will build their brand and business over years and decades, not days and months. While sellers focus on making every last sale, regardless of what’s right for the customer, marketers recognize that the better course is to focus on what is best for the customer over the long term (even if that means telling them not to buy right now). 

Warm Audiences over Cold Leads. Marketers don’t expect to bring people into a funnel and have money magically appear. Instead, they focus on building a connection with people to warm them up, and they understand that sales come more organically. To put it another way, they focus on sales coming from their warm audience, not expecting people to come into their world cold and buy. 

Serving, not selling, should be the priority of every good marketer. And that applies to how you handle your email marketing.

Where Does Email Fit Into Your Marketing Plan?

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In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talked about beginning with the end in mind. In other words, before you start any task, you should take time to think about where you want to be going. 

When it comes to email, that means you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish with your email marketing before you can start to build out a strategy. 

The easiest way to understand the goals for your email marketing is to take time to understand how it fits into your overall marketing efforts. 

If you don’t understand where email fits into your plan, you’ll find yourself rudderless with no freaking idea WHAT you should be emailing about or HOW you should be executing those emails. 

In other words, if you want your email to not suck, you sure as heck need to know where email fits into your overall marketing plan. 

Emails Are Part Of Your Acquisition Strategy

We created something called the Knowledge Brand Canvas to help people building businesses based on their knowledge or expertise visualize where everything fits together in their business.

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Grab your fillable copy of the Knowledge Brand Canvas here!

Because email is about acquiring customers, it fits squarely into the “acquisition strategy” box. Specifically, email marketing is part of your larger content marketing efforts. It is part of the bigger whole. 

So we need to take a step back to talk about the role of content more generally in your business. 

Content marketing is a broad topic in its own right, but it is the process of using content to get the attention of potential customers, to attract them to your business, to nurture them to the sale, and then to retain them as customers moving forward. 

Your content strategy thus serves multiple purposes… to attract attention, to build authority, to build connection, and to help people decide whether to buy from you. 

You can learn more about content marketing in our Badass Content Strategy course inside of BOMU

Email marketing won’t help you to attract attention because it only goes to people who have already entered your world… but it plays a role in every other aspect of content marketing. 

Broadly speaking, you can think of email as serving three primary functions: (1) to help you connect and build a relationship with your audience, (2) to help you sell your products and services to that audience, and (3) to help with market research. 

The big mistake that MOST people make with email is to focus too heavily on the selling part and not enough on the connection and market research pieces. 

There are deep dives on HOW to accomplish each goal below, but let’s take a quick look now. 

Email As A Relationship-Building Tool 

One of the most powerful, and underused, aspects of email marketing is its ability to build connections with your audience. 

The thing that set my email marketing apart from what most people teach has pretty much always been this connection piece. 

There is real power in focusing on building connections with your audience. 

If you spend time on this aspect of email marketing, you can position yourself as a combination of a trusted advisor and a friend to your audience. 

Taking the time to build this level of trust and connection will have a powerful impact on your ability to sell to your audience. 

Without this connection piece, you are just another “rando” on the internet who is trying to sell something to people. As a result, people in your audience will have their guard up. 

They’ll be skeptical when you pitch something to them. 

If you’ve taken the time to build connection and trust, on the other hand, selling is easy. Instead of a “rando” on the internet, your pitch will seem like a recommendation from a friend. 

Your selling will feel more like word of mouth marketing… and less like a used car sales person. 

Email As A Sales Tool

In my humble opinion, email is one of the most powerful tools you have to sell your products and services. At least if you’ve done the work before it’s time to sell.

Email gives you a pretty unique ability to take people on a sales journey.

You can curate the messages you deliver… and deliver them in a very specific sequence. And you’ll be doing all of that to your existing audience, which means this messaging won’t be coming from a complete stranger. 

As a bonus, if you follow the guidance I lay out for taking people on a journey more generally, you’ll have at least a general sense of what the people you’re pitching to already know about your product or service (and whether they need it!). 

Email As A Market Research Tool

There is one last goal for email we should talk about… email can be a great way for you to get insights into what the folks in your audience are thinking, what they’re interested in, and what they want and need from you. 

There are formal ways you can do this with surveys and emails after promos that ask why people didn’t buy… 

But you can also pick up on clues by paying attention to the subjects that seem to get the best response from your audience on a weekly basis. 

If you pay attention to how your audience interacts with your emails and use it strategically, you’ll be able to get a lot of great insights about how to structure just about everything in your business. 

As You Create Your Email Strategy… Think About What Goal You Are Pursuing

With these goals in mind, you can start to create an email marketing strategy and plan. The key is to constantly come back to these primary functions for email to make sure you are using email the right way. 

Rather than writing emails simply to write emails, ask yourself if an email will build a connection… help you sell… or help you learn something about your audience. 

If not, the email probably isn’t worth sending!

Approach Email Marketing Like You’re Emailing A Friend

Because one of the major goals of your email should be to build a connection with your audience so that they’ll view you as a friend and trusted advisor, you need to construct your approach to email to serve that goal. 

That means you need to start acting like a friend and trusted advisor. 

And, I’m not talking about using the word “friend” to address people or just using a bunch of chummy language. 

I’m talking about engineering everything about your email marketing from the perspective of how a friend and trusted confidant would approach it. 

It’s about the tone of your emails… but about everything else too. 

Let’s talk about what that means.

Your Emails Should Sound Like You Talk

Not sure about you, but when I’m jotting a note to a friend (whether by email, text, or letter), I don’t worry too much about making it perfect. I dangle participles, end sentences with prepositions, include sentence fragments, and invariably have some run-on sentences. 

Guess what? 

The best emails look about the same. 

Now, I’m not saying that you should intentionally screw things up in your email. And I’m not saying you should include my particular style of screw ups in your emails. 

I’m simply suggesting that if you read your emails out loud, people who know you well should think they sound about the same as you do when you’re just chatting around the table. 

My emails have lots of side notes because I go off on tangents. 

My emails have lots of choppy sections because I often talk like a preacher when I’m making a point. 

My emails contain some four letter words because I drop them in real life. 

My emails are littered with ellipses because my natural speech pattern often adds Christoper Walken style pauses in places they might not belong… while also not giving enough pauses where sentences should end. 

Your emails should sound like you. Not like someone with perfect grammar. 

When’s The Last Time You Sent A Friend A “Pretty” Email?

If you’re like 99.999999% of humans, you don’t add fancy formatting or a template to the emails you send to your friends. 

So… why would you format marketing emails that way?

Seriously, why?

Probably because the email service provider you signed up for has templates and acts as though that’s how your emails should look. 

The trouble is that stylized emails hurt the performance of your email marketing. 

And that’s not just me making crap up…

Hubspot has this great post about this issue. Interestingly, people say they prefer emails from brands to include images, but the stats show otherwise. Including images, HTML coding, or other template formatting reduced open rates and click-through rates considerably. And more formatting led led to worse performance. 

The statistics are clear and consistent, the simpler the formatting in your email, the better. Even adding a single GIF to your email will reduce its effectiveness.

Although Hubspot’s study can’t answer the question of why this happens, I’ve got a pretty good hunch. 

Ask yourself a quick question…

What happens to you as someone receiving an email when you see a stylized template?

Your brain immediately recognizes it as a marketing email. 

Given everything we’ve experienced in life, we are pretty much all conditioned to have our guard up when someone is marketing to us. Email templates send a message that readers should treat those emails differently. 

So ditch the pretty and send emails that are just plain ole text!

You Don’t Trick Your Friend… Although You Might Play Tricks On Them.

For the love of all that is holy, don’t listen to anyone who suggests you should use anything misleading in a subject line to get people to open your emails. 

The most obvious examples of this are adding “RE:” or “FWD:” at the beginning of your subject line so that people getting your emails will think you are responding to them or forwarding them an email. 

(Side Note: I initially started to type “receiving” instead of “getting” in the last sentence, but edited myself because “receiving” is not a word I would use in normal conversation. We’re getting meta here!)

But there are subtler variations of these kinds of tricks people play with subject lines. Things like “About our meeting this afternoon…” when they are inviting you to a webinar. 

The reality is that people are suggesting that you lie to your audience. 

Don’t do that. 

Now, if you want to have some good fun with pranks, I’m here for that… just don’t freaking lie. 

Building trust is hard freaking work as a marketer. Although there aren’t polls that include “marketers” as a category, the closest profession (advertisers) are among the least trusted professionals. Seriously, people trust marketers less than they trust lawyers… and that’s saying something!

If you manage to build some basic level of trust with your audience, you can lose it in a heartbeat (and lose it forever) with one instance of tricking your audience by lying to them. 

Instead of trying gimmicks or hacks or any fancy tactics, just try treating your audience like human beings that you like. You’ll be amazed how easy it can be.

Email Should Be Permission-Based Marketing

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Permission-based marketing is a broad term that refers marketing efforts directed to people who have raised their hand and given you permission to market to them. It was coined by Seth Godin in his book Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers

(With a name like that, is there any wonder I would love that book!!!)

Email marketing is THE quintessential example of permission-based marketing. You are sending messages to people who’ve expressly opted to receive your emails. But the most powerful email marketing goes a step further and continues to renew permission on an ongoing basis. 

 Let’s take a look at what being permission-based means for your marketing. 

Don’t Add People To Your List Without Permission

When you’re first starting with building your email list, it can be tempting to add all your friends, family members, colleagues, and peers to your list. I mean, a list has got to start somewhere. 

Confession time… that’s what I did when I launched my email list for my law firm. It felt way better to have 100 people on my list than nobody. 

Don’t be like me. 

You should not add anyone to your list unless they give you permission. 

In some countries that’s a legal requirement… but it’s a best practice everywhere. Someone who never asked to be on your list isn’t a likely prospect anyway, so leave them off. 

And to be clear, this advice applies to people who are guests on your podcast and who you meet at events. If they didn’t specifically sign up for you list, don’t freaking email them. It’s just that simple. 

Don’t Freaking Hide the Unsubscribe Link

I’ve noticed a new trend in email marketing over the past year or two… people adding about 157 hard returns at the end of their emails. 

For a long time, I was confused about why they were doing this. Then it hit me that they were trying to bury the unsubscribe link (the link put there by their email service provider) so far down the page that no one would be able to find it. 

Don’t do that. 

If people want to unsubscribe from your list, let them. Hell, make it easy for people to unsubscribe. 

For some of my freebies, the second email you get from me is one that directly invites you to click a prominent link in the middle of the email to unsubscribe. We do that because we know that some people only really want the freebie… and being a serve-first marketer means honoring that desire.  

You don’t have to go as far as me to invite unsubscribes, but you sure as heck shouldn’t make it hard for people to unsubscribe. 

Being a permission-based marketer means you only want to email people who want your emails. 

Allow People To Opt-Out Of Promotions

One of the best things we’ve ever done in my business is to allow people to opt out of particular promotions when we are sending a slew of emails during a short period of time. 

When you are actively selling to your list, you’ll be emailing them A LOT. As in, more than once a day. 

But let’s face facts, most of the people on your list will have somewhere between zero and absolutely zero interest in that particular promotion. Many of those folks would prefer to NOT have their inboxes flooded with your emails.

The solution is simple… let those people tell you they don’t want to get those emails, and then honor that request. 

We do that by adding a prominent box to the top of those emails with a link people can click to opt out. 

When they do, we don’t send them the rest of the emails. 

The first few times you do this, it can be a bit disheartening to see the flood of people clicking the link. But when you recognize those people weren’t going to buy anyway and were probably going to be annoyed, you’ll thank your lucky stars that you can target emails only to people who want to receive them. 

Choosing to focus on being a permission-based marketer with emails will hurt your vanity metrics, but it will ultimately get you better results.

Getting Into The Inbox

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Writing the world’s greatest emails won’t do you any good if those emails don’t get delivered… or consistently end up in people’s spam folders. 

If you spend much time in online groups of entrepreneurs, you’re bound to hear people complaining about their emails not getting delivered, landing in spam, or landing in the dreaded promotions tab. 

So how do you ensure that your emails are getting delivered?

This is a topic that most people do not understand. And there’s actually a lot of BAD advice out there that is based on myths and misconceptions. 

Email deliverability is a big topic. A topic I couldn’t possible cover in depth in a single episode. 

If you want to understand these issues better, I highly recommend the Deliverabiliy Defined podcast. It is a podcast hosted by two members of the deliverability team at ConvertKit, and my go-to resource. 

Before we talk about how to improve your deliverability, we need to have a bit of a technical conversation.

A word about how the internet works… 

I will certainly not claim to understand all the nuances of how the internet technology works, but there are a few things that we should chat about to help you understand deliverability. 

Messages travel the internet by going from machine to machine. Much of this is done at the server to server level. 

Each physical device has an address… it’s IP Address. 

When I type a website address into my web browser, my computer sends a message through my internet service provider to the computer that hosts that website asking that it send the data back to MY computer’s IP Address. 

In that case, the webhost will literally know exactly where to deliver the info… it isn’t going to a server. It’s going to MY personal computer. 

Email is different. 

To start, an email address isn’t a physical location. You can access that information from multiple devices. 

But, the information in your email inbox is physically stored somewhere… it’s stored on a server run by the company that provides your email inbox service (e.g., Google, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL).

So how does the system know where to send the messages that are directed to your email address?

Enter the MX Record. 

MX is short for mail exchanger, and it tells machines on the internet where to send all email messages that are directed to email addresses using a specific domain name. 

Note the subtle distinction here… the MX record is about emails to the entire domain, not your individual email address. 

What that ultimately means is that when you send an email to a subscriber (or any email), you don’t get to actually deliver that email to your subscriber or even decide whether it ultimately gets delivered. 

You are delivering the email to their inbox management company and requesting that it be delivered to the subscriber. 

Google or Yahoo or Hotmail or whoever then decides whether to deliver the email or not. Yep, there is an intermediary that decides whether to deliver the email or not. 

But the further issue is WHERE the email gets delivered. Deliverability is about whether your email lands in the inbox of the spam folder. 

Why Do Some Emails Not Get Delivered To The Inbox?

Although you as a marketer might be annoyed that you can’t simply guarantee that you can send an email that will be delivered to a subscriber’s inbox, there is a very good reason for this. 

The email inbox companies are NOT there to serve you… they are there to serve the people whose inboxes are on those systems. 

Suppressing spam messages is a major selling point for a lot of companies. 

Believe it or not, there are close to 300 Billion (yes, with a “b”) email messages sent daily. And more than half of them are spam. 

Your email inbox would really suck if ALL of those messages ended up in there without sorting and sifting done by your system. 

You’d be getting a lot more of those scam emails claiming that you’ve won a lottery… or that a prince wants to give you a cut if you’ll help him get his money moved to a new country.

So, the email inbox companies are constantly working on their systems to filter out the spam. 

As a result, the servers choose not to deliver some messages at all, they put some messages in spam folders, and services like Google categorize between Primary, Social, Updates, and Promos (if a users asks them to). 

They are doing this to serve their customers… the end users of email. 

Technical Issues That Affect Deliverability

There are some technical things that need to happen for your email to have any chance of landing in someone’s inbox. 

These have to do with email authentication. In other words, ensuring that the email that appears to be coming from you is actually from you! 

There are multiple forms of authentication, including: SPF, DKIM, and DMARC. 

I am NOT going to explain these in any detail because you should not have to worry about them. 

SPF and DKIM are the most important authentication factors, and your email service provider takes care of these for you. In my case, ConvertKit handles all of these issues. 

If you are using a reputable email service provider, your SPF and DKIM records will work and will authenticate the emails you send. 

DMARC is a bit more complicated, but most people don’t need to worry about it. ConvertKit actually recommends that you not try to create the higher level of authentication unless you are sending A LOT of emails and have a high open rate. 

The reality is that email authentication is hardly ever the reason that smaller businesses struggle with email deliverability. 

So don’t fixate on this issue. 

Domain Reputation Is The Most Important Factor

While I generally agree with Joan Jett, email marketing is one place that you better care if you have a bad reputation. 

When it comes to email deliverability, the most important factor is the reputation that you have as someone sending emails. As ConvertKit explains: “The domain you’re using to send messages carries its own reputation and this has the biggest influence on inbox placement.” 

Each inbox company (Google, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.) judges you based on how its subscribers interact with your emails. 

There are positive, neutral, and negative signals. 

The positive signals are opens, clicks, replies, and adding your email address to the address book. 

The neutral signs are when people delete or opt-out after opening. 

The negative signs are people marking you as spam (or moving the message to the spam folder), deleting without opening, or opting-out without opening. 

Each mailbox provider will collect the sum total of reactions from subscribers using that company’s services and judge you. Ultimately, these companies are looking for evidence that its customers (your subscribers) want to get your emails. 

There are two key takeaways here. 

First, this is part of why it’s so important to be a permission-based marketer when it comes to email. Giving people control will prevent them from sending negative signals to their inbox provider. 

If you make it hard to unsubscribe or don’t allow people to unsubscribe from certain promotions, people might delete your emails without reading or mark them as spam. No bueno. 

Second, you want people engaging with your emails. That means the simple hack to email deliverability is to write emails that don’t suck!

As simply as it sounds, if your emails are ones that people want to read, you will have a good sender reputation and your emails will land in the inbox. If you write crappy emails no one wants to read, you’ll go to the bad place.  

Message Content Matters But Is Less Important

If you spend much time on the interwebs listening to people talk about email deliverability issues, you’ll inevitably hear people saying that there is a magical list of “spam words” that will land you in the spam folder. 

There is no spam word list. 

In the old days, that’s how many spam filters operated, but they didn’t work because true spammers could just avoid those words (or misspell them!). 

Now, some words will be signals to your readers that the email is promotional and might make them more likely to take one of the actions that will send a negative signal to the inbox company… but there is no word that will automatically send you to spam (or even promotions). 

The most important thing when it comes to content is to write emails that the humans on the other end want to read. 

So think less about beating some algorithm and more about writing great freaking emails. That’s a perfect segue to our next topic…

How To Write Great Emails

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The core component of email marketing that doesn’t suck is writing great emails. It’s a shockingly simple idea… and what you should be striving for. 

The good news is that writing great emails really isn’t that hard. You don’t have to be Ernest Hemingway or Mark Twain here. 

Writing great emails is about writing emails that serve everyone involved. It’s really that simple. 

In this section, we’re going to talk about what it means to write great emails, a simple framework you can use for the vast majority of emails you’ll write, and how to pick stories for your emails. 

What Makes An Email Great?

There’s no single objective standard for what makes an email great. An email that is great coming from me would likely be really crappy coming from someone else. 

An email is great if it serves your audience, serves your business, and is aligned with why your audience came to you in the first place. 

Let’s take a look at each component.

Great Emails Serve Your Audience

The most important rule for a great email is that it adds value to the lives of the people in your audience. An email that doesn’t add value to your subscribers’ lives pretty much, by definition, sucks. 

So how can you add value to your audience members’ lives?

The best emails do this in TWO ways: (1) they serve your audience in the moment and (2) they include a lesson or message that will serve your audience long term. 

The first element generally involves providing some kind of emotional response. A great email could entertain, inspire, or even motivate your audience. The point is simply to elicit a reaction in the moment to what people need. 

Since I’m a naturally cheerful guy, I tend to go with entertain. My goal is to bring a smile to my subscribers face (or maybe even a chuckle). As fleeting as it might be, that moment of happiness is a service to my audience. 

Providing immediate value is what most people aren’t doing with email.

The trouble is that the immediate gratification is what tends to keep your audience opening! If your emails are all simply about content that might provide value over the long term, there’s no real reason for someone to open your emails NOW. 

Give people a reason to open now. 

But, immediate gratification is not enough. 

Your emails should teach subscribers an important lesson or include a deeper message that they can apply to their lives. 

If my emails were just about entertainment or humor in the moment, subscribers wouldn’t stick around very long. There are certainly people who are way funnier than me. 

The immediate gratification is the hook. It’s what makes your emails stand out from the rubbish everyone else is sending. But ultimately, the lesson is what keeps people interested. 

The message doesn’t have to be profound. For me, the message is often something as rudimentary as “the best businesses are simple.” 

While entertainment value fades, the value that people get from learning from you will ultimately be what keeps them reading your emails for years to come. 

Great Emails Serve Your Business

An email that serves your audience but doesn’t help your business is not a great email. I’m all for bringing a serve-first mentality to business, but that does NOT mean that you should not also be serving your business. 

If you don’t take time to make sure your email marketing is serving your business, you won’t be in business very long! 

So, you need to make sure that the emails are serving your business. 

Ultimately, that means that the emails either help you to build a connection or relationship with your audience or sell your products or services. 

Outside of active sales periods, you’ll be focused on building a connection with your audience, but the messages you deliver should also be moving people closer to wanting to buy from you. Not in a salesy way… but by qualifying them as buyers. 

Part of relationship building is letting people into your lives, which is why personal stories work best. You can’t connect if you don’t let people in. 

But, not all personal stories will help move people to potentially want to buy from you. 

Truly great emails will couple connection with either building your authority or helping your audience see things differently so they’ll be primed to buy from you when you make an offer. 

Are you starting to notice a trend, here?

Kind of like the structure to serve your audience, the structure that serves your business will have a personal connection and a lesson or message that pushes people along the buyer’s journey.

The Addictive Story-Based Email Framework

Although we can’t give you a fill in the blank template for emails, there is a repeatable framework you can use to create great emails week in and week out. 

We call it the Addictive Story-Based Email Framework. 

These emails have four of five parts, depending on where you’re using them in your email marketing:

  • The Hook
  • The Story (or Analogy)
  • The Message (or Lesson)
  • The Call To Action
  • The Curiosity Hook (for sequences only)

If you’ll follow this framework, you’ll be writing emails that serve your audience and serve your business. 

Before we take a deeper dive into each section, if you haven’t yet, download our email resources. One of the resources is our Super Addictive Story-Based Email Framework Guide!

The Hook

Writing emails that your subscribers will actually want to read starts by grabbing their attention. That’s where the Hook comes in; it’s your attention grabber!

Your Hook will almost always be the subject line. This is the first opportunity to grab their attention! So you’ll want to be very creative at hooking them into the email story right from the beginning when they see it in their inbox.

The Story (or Analogy)

This is the heart and soul of your email! There’s a reason we call these “story-based” emails… the story is the main attraction in your email. The story is what gives people the immediate gratification and it’s what helps you build connection. 

The best news is that stories and analogies are actually one of the best ways to deliver messages and lessons too! Think about “the tortoise and the hare” or “the three little pigs.” Chances are that just seeing those titles made you think of the lessons (slow and steady wins the race and hard work pays off). 

Drab, boring emails that focus on content or information don’t get read. People want real life. And stories are an excellent way to deliver it to them! The story you tell in your email will directly relate to the message you want to share.

Sometimes, instead of a story, you’ll use an analogy. This typically happens in a Nurture sequence when you’re teaching a lesson rather than delivering a message.

The Message (or Lesson)

This is the lesson or message that will serve your audience more long term. In other words, this is the meat of the email… although the stories are the heart and soul. This is where you bring everything together and deliver the “why I’m telling you this story” part of your email. 

You want your audience to leave with value, and this is the place to deliver the value of the story.

Sometimes, you’ll be using your emails to drive people to existing content (e.g., a podcast episode). In that case, the message section is short and sweet. This is the bridge where you connect the story or analogy to the central message of your content. 

Other times, you won’t be driving to stand alone content. Emails that are part of your Nurture and Welcome sequences are prime examples of this. In that case, you’ll use this section to deliver a lesson to your audience. The story or analogy should flow seamlessly into that lesson. 

The Call To Action

Every email you send should invite your subscriber to take action. That could be simply a reply, a click, a sign up, or a sale. There are a lot of different kinds of actions you can encourage your subscribers to take. But ultimately, you should be training your subscribers to take action when they read your emails. 

Remember, your emails are meant to serve both your subscribers and your business, just as with most other parts of your marketing. Emails are no different. 

The Curiosity Hook (Sequences Only)

When you’re writing emails for your nurture sequence or welcome sequence, you know the topic of the email that will come next. When that’s the case, you want to include a hook to the next email at the end of the email you’re writing. That way, your subscribers will be anxiously awaiting that next amazing email. 

Examples

Click the buttons below to view real emails I’ve sent to my list broken down into this framework:

The Process for Writing Your Emails

Because it’s always a good idea to begin with the end in mind… well that applies to writing your emails too. You can’t figure out the Hook or Story if you don’t know the lesson or message you want to impart! 

So, you have to start there. 

If you are sending a weekly email highlighting new content, this is relatively easy… you tease a lesson, message, or theme out of the content. 

For example, if your content is about the 5 Mistakes your audience is making… you could use “mistakes” as the message. Or you could go deeper and pull the lesson or message of ONE of those mistakes. 

Ultimately, however, when you are emailing about new content, the message or lesson relates to that content. 

But what about when you aren’t talking about content?

Your emails should STILL have a message or lesson. That is a big part of what makes it valuable to your audience. 

This is where you step into your authority and come up with a specific nugget of wisdom you want to share with your audience. 

That nugget of wisdom is the lesson or message for your email, and you build the rest of the email around that. Once you know the message, you can identify a story that will deliver that message and the hook for that story. 

The key takeaway is to start with the message or lesson and build around that!

Finding The Right Story

While the email writing process starts with the message or lesson, these emails tend to live and die based on the quality of the story you choose. Mastering the addictive story-based email framework is a matter of mastering the work of finding the right stories and crafting them well. 

Personal Vignettes Are Best

Because the goal of these stories is to build a connection between you and your audience, personal stories are best. Telling stories about other people might let me serve my audience… but it won’t tend to serve my business well.

And you aren’t looking for epic stories. You are looking for stories about the brief moments in your life. Your subscribers should not have to invest a ton of time to read the stories, which means you’ll want to focus on stories that are short and sweet. 

More Seinfeld. Less Game of Thrones. 

Some of the classic stories I’ve told in emails are about things that took 15 seconds of my life. It’s not the length of the story that makes it valuable… it’s your ability to pull a message out of it.

That brings us to the next thing to look for…

Pick Stories That Can Be Parables To Teach A Lesson

Chance are that if you you’re reading this page, you don’t consider yourself a professional entertainer. You aren’t looking to tell stories simply to entertain people. You want to build a list of people who are engaged with your message and would potentially be customers or brand advocates for what you offer. 

In other words, the entertainment element of your stories is a means to an end… not the end in itself. 

That’s why in addition to having an emotional impact (whether to inspire, entertain, or motivate), your stories should also have a lesson or message. 

You should be using stories as mini-parables. 

For example, I tell stories about overly complicated beers being horrible to make the point that the best businesses (like the best beers) are simple. That drives home one of my larger messages that you shouldn’t be chasing ridiculously complicated strategies but should instead focus on the marketing fundamentals. 

When your stories drive home an important lesson, they help to move members of your audience one step closer to buying what you have to offer. 

Don’t Tell Stories To Your Audience For Your Own Therapy

While your stories should be personal, you should only tell stories that will serve your audience! 

In the name of radical transparency, some entrepreneurs have started to share stories of all their low points and vulnerabilities in almost real time as they are working through those issues. 

I’ve heard people use various descriptions of when you should share the hard parts. For example, people suggest that you “share your scars not your scabs” as a way of saying to wait until you’ve healed a bit before sharing. 

But that prescription misses a more fundamental question…

Should you be sharing the story at all???

A simple prescription for this is that you should only share painful stories if you can pull a universal lesson that will help your audience and that relates to the problems they come to you to help them solve. 

Telling painful stories might be good therapy…

But if you need therapy, may I humbly suggest working with a therapist instead of trying to use your email list as therapists.

Email Marketing Is A Journey

Email marketing isn’t about sending ONE kind of email. And it sure as heck isn’t about getting people on your list and only selling to them. 

Well, at least, not if you want email marketing to work for your business. 

The best way to think of email is as a journey you are taking your subscribers on over time. But talking about a journey raises another question… What should that journey look like?

Although it would be awesome if I could simply provide an easy prescription for an exact journey that every business owner should take subscribers on, it doesn’t really work that way. 

You’re going to have to put on your thinking cap to design the journey that makes sense for your business and your funnel. 

The email journey you create for an evergreen webinar funnel will be quite different than the journey you would use for a simple lead magnet that does not lead to an immediate sale. 

The Six Objectives For Your Emails

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Ultimately, each email you send, whether a standalone email or as part of a series, will serve one of a handful of objectives. And not surprisingly, these objectives fit nicely into the broader goals we talked about earlier: building connection, selling, and learning. 

Understanding these objectives is important because it will help you craft the specific journey (and the parts of the journey) in a way that fits your audience. 

Let’s take a look at each objective.

Emails That Build Connection

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One of the major goals of email is to build connections with your audience. You want your emails to help you attract the people who are your people and repel the people who aren’t right for you. 

This is all about building the know, like, and trust factor. It’s a commonly used phrase, and we should think about it in our emails. There are four different objectives that come into play here:

  • Make A Good First Impression – The first step in building connection is to make a good first impression that people will stick around long enough for you to build a connection with them. We call this the CATCH email. 

  • Product or Freebie Onboarding – When someone grabs a freebie or product from you, you need to help them get results from it. You do this with an onboarding sequence that is designed to make sure they are using it and to help them get the most out of it.

  • New Subscriber Orientation – This is where you really start to let people in so they can decide whether you are for them. You do this by helping them understand how you came to help people like them, what you stand for, and how you can help them. We call this your Welcome Sequence.

  • Ongoing Connection & Nurturing – You need to continue to cultivate the relationships so they don’t go cold. This happens through your weekly emails to your list. The weekly touch point is what keeps you top of mind and deepens the connection. 

 

Normally, these emails will come in a predictable sequence. Most entrepreneurs will take new subscribers through the following sequences in order:

  • CATCH Email – The delivery email for your freebie. 

  • Nurture Sequence – The onboarding sequence related to the freebie. 

  • Welcome Sequence – The more general onboarding to your world.

  • Weekly Emails – This is where people are when they aren’t in any other phase.

That is the sequence of events if you are NOT selling anything on the front end of the journey. But not all funnels work that way. 

If you have a product to sell right up front or want to invite people to an evergreen webinar, things will get more complicated. In that case, you’ll need to mix in sales emails… and then you would need to have a product onboarding sequence for people who buy. 

Emails That Sell

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Sales emails are a very different animal. This is where you shift from connection to conversion as the focus. That is often not something you are naturally good at doing, so crafting great sales sequences can be tough. 

The goal of your sales emails is to get people to conclude that the cost of NOT buying your product is greater than the cost of buying it. 

If the cost of not solving the problem is obvious and clear to people, selling tends to be a breeze. That’s why doctors in the emergency room don’t really have to “sell.” 

The sticking point is that many of us offer products that solve problems where the costs aren’t always so clear. Yet, the cost of pulling out their wallet is very real. 

The struggle with selling often comes down to this mismatch. 

Your sales emails need to include the right messages in the right general order to help people recognize the costs and take action. 

Other than literally telling people what your offer is, your sales emails need to do a number of things, including:

  1. Establish the value of your offer
  2. Crystallize the need for your offer 
  3. Overcome objections
  4. Spur action

Generally, the emails will flow in that order too. 

You should establish the value and crystallize the need before busting objections or calling for a decision because people will not be receptive to your offer until you have at least established some level of need and established value. 

There are a ton of specific types of emails you’ll want to send to meet these goals. You can get more by checking out Episode 9 of the Email Marketing That Doesn’t Suck Podcast Series or inside of BADA$$ Email Marketing in BOMU. 

Emails For Market Research

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Because emails give you a direct line of communication with your audience, they can also be an amazing source of market research. 

You can learn a great deal about your audience just by paying attention to the emails that get the most traction… but you can also create emails for the specific purpose of conducting market research. 

You could create emails for any number of market research purposes, including:

  • Segmenting Your Audience – You could craft one or more emails that allow people to express interest in particular topics by clicking on links. By tagging the people who click, you’ll have a list of people who are primed for offers related to those particular topics.

     

  • Surveys & Feedback – You could directly ask your audience for feedback to fill out a survey that will give you more general insights. This can be great for figuring out what content to create and how to craft the right messaging for your offers.

     

  • Product Feedback – You could solicit feedback from your list about what product you should create to meet their needs… and then follow up with direct discussions with people to go deeper.

     

  • Why Didn’t You Buy – You can survey your audience about why they didn’t buy your product to figure out whether you need to tweak the offer or tighten the messaging. 

Your imagination is really the only limit on how you can use your email marketing to conduct market research. Committing to market research like this can be one of the most powerful things you can do to improve your business faster. 

Think of Email Marketing as Modular

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Ultimately, email marketing is like a Swiss Army knife… you can use it for countless tasks, the trick is picking the right tool for the right job. 

While you want to take subscribers on a journey, the journey is one that you’ll have to craft for yourself. 

The one constant will be that you’ll always want to start with an email that makes a good first impression. After that… your email funnel needs to be built to match your marketing and sales funnel!

How Do You Measure Success For Email?

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As with anything you do in business, you need to measure the success of your email marketing efforts. 

The trouble is there isn’t one metric to measure success with email. In fact, there isn’t even one set of metrics that I can prescribe for every business.

Ultimately, you need to figure out the most important metric for YOUR business. This will be driven by how you are using email and the most important role it’s playing in your business. 

For example, we have never worried about click-through rates in my business, in spite of everyone fixating on that. The reason is simple… my weekly emails have traditionally been “about” my podcast episodes, and people don’t click a link to listen to a podcast. 

This is just one example of how you need to understand your business and think about what you are using email for before picking metrics to track success. 

Ultimately, you’ll have to pick the metrics that work best for your particular business (and for the emails you are measuring). 

Let’s talk about some basic ideas and metrics you might measure. 

Don’t Fixate On Industry Averages

Once you figure out what metrics you want to track, you are probably going to want to rush out to see what the “average” number is. 

Some people just ask broadly what the “average open rate” is or something similar. 

Don’t do that. 

Averages are not great comparison tools. 

To start, an average can cover a lot of variability. For example, if you found that the “average open rate” in your industry was 25%, that could mean that there is a nice bell-curve shaped arrangement around that 25% metric. 

Or it could be because there are a lot of people at 15% and a lot of people at 35%.  

The lesson here is that the average really doesn’t tell you much if you don’t know more information. 

Beyond the geeky statistical reasons that averages aren’t great, they also suck because everyone is lumped together regardless of experience, time cultivating the list, and even list size. 

As you cultivate your list, your metrics should improve because you will weed out the less engaged audience members and keep an ever-growing group of raving fans. 

At the same time, smaller lists tend to be more engaged than larger lists. 

All of these factors lead to one conclusion… don’t compare yourself to others. 

Compare yourself to your prior results! 

Your goal should be to improve YOUR numbers month over month, launch over launch, or year over year. 

Just focus on doing better today than you did yesterday. 

Hard Numbers Are Important… But Consider The “Feel” Of Your List Too

The analytic focused folks are going to hate this advice, but I’m going to give it anyway. 

Although tracking your numbers is important, I’m here to tell you that there is something to having a feel for how engaged your audience is. 

Many of my raw numbers like click-through-rate are low – even for my conversion-focused emails – by standard metrics…

But my results are fantastic. 

The reason is that my audience is highly engaged and connected to me. I don’t have nearly as many “I’ll click as a looky-loo” people on my list. The people who click a link in a sales sequence are considerably more likely to follow through on a purchase.

Although I can’t point to data to support the exact cause, my strong hunch is that it’s because my list is super engaged. 

They know about my offers. 

They are pre-sold on the idea that I’m the person to help them. 

They are simply waiting for the time that is right for THEM to buy.

So how do you judge the “feel” of your list? Although there’s not scientific way, be attuned to whether you are getting replies. And how frequently. 

I care way more about the replies to my emails than to any of the other metrics (at least on a regular basis). 

Okay, now that we’ve had all the caveats, let’s talk about the numbers.

Open Rates

Lots of people ask about open rates, but these stats generally aren’t very useful. 

From a technical perspective, email marketing software tracks opens based on a single pixel image file in your email. 

Most email systems are set to not download information from the server until an email is opened. Systems track opens by tracking the requests to download that single pixel image file. 

There have ALWAYS been problems with open data, and techy email folks have warned that open rates are unreliable. There are many reasons for the unreliability, but mainly they have to do with issues related to loading that image pixel. 

Some people have their email inbox set to NOT download pictures automatically. When I used Microsoft Outlook for my law firm email, that’s how it was set up. That means that unless I clicked on the bar to download pictures on an email someone sent me, it would not register as opened (even though I was literally looking at it). 

The opposite is also true. Some systems are set to download picture files even before an open… so those will register as opens no matter what. 

The newest iOS update includes this functionality for people who use the Apple Mail app. Since I open my emails on my native iPhone mail app (even though they are all Gmail-based email addresses), emails to me will show as opened no matter what. 

Aside from the technical problems, an open isn’t exactly a strong sign one way or the other. It’s basically a “meh.” 

A high open rate was never a great sign of a highly engaged audience. 

Open rates are really only good for a couple of things. 

First, if your open rate is consistently below 20%, you are in trouble. This will start to create deliverability issues for you because the email inbox companies will interpret the low open rate as a sign that people don’t want your emails. 

Second, you should track trends in open rates. The inaccuracies from a tech perspective shouldn’t lead to drastic swings. That means that any major shift in open rates (either in your weekly emails or within a sequence) are signs that something has changed. 

Investigate when this happens. 

Other than these two special cases, you should largely ignore open rates.

Click-Through Rates

Click-through rates are generally accurate numbers, but there is some noise. We have noticed that .edu email addresses seem to “auto” click our emails quite frequently. 

The real trouble with relying too heavily on click-through-rates is that many of your emails aren’t about getting clicks. 

When you’re selling with email, this is definitely an important metric. You should look at it closely. 

To some extent, the click-through rate for your sales emails is one of the best indicators of whether the messaging in that email is resonating.

But don’t stress about low click-through rates on weekly emails. Those emails are designed to build connection, so a click is not the relevant metric. 

If you fixate on click-through rates for weekly emails, you might feel the urge to try to use gimmicks or tricks to get more clicks… but those gimmicks and tricks generally won’t serve your overall business interest. 

For example, using curiosity hooks and opening loops in an email to encourage people to click over to your site might increase click rates… but is that really the best experience for your audience?

You get the point. Treat click-through rates carefully. 

Sales From Email

You should use UTM Codes (Urchin Tracking Module) to track sales from individual emails. 

This isn’t a page about the technical ins-and-outs of analytics, so I’m not going to go into all the details about UTM codes. The basic idea is that you append something to the end of the URL in a link that is then trackable. 

You can check out utmbuilder.net for more info and a handy code generator. 

When you use UTM codes, you’ll be able to track the sales from individual emails specifically in your Google Analytics or other web tracking software. 

For one-time sales sequences, this is somewhat useful… but it is super important for any evergreen sales sequences you are running. 

You should be analyzing the emails that are generating sales and the ones that aren’t. 

That data can tell you a lot about WHAT kind of messaging seems to be doing the trick for your audience. 

Then you can remove underperforming emails and replace them with other emails to see if it improves your conversion metrics. 

Value of a Subscriber

This is a hard number to nail down, but it is the holy grail of email metrics if you can track it reliably. 

Knowing the lifetime value of everyone who subscribes to your email list is incredibly valuable. It will help you make decisions on the front end (e.g., how much should you be willing to pay to acquire a subscriber) and you can use it to judge performance of emails over time. 

All the other metrics are important waypoints, but email marketing is ultimately about increasing your revenue and the best way to do that is to increase the value of each subscriber. 

If you are able to track this metric, you want to see it steadily increasing over time. That is a sign that people are staying on your list and continuing to buy from you. 

How Do You Pick The Right Email Service Provider?

When you’re first starting out in your business, making decisions about what software to use can feel overwhelming. The key is to do your research and take action. If something turns out not to be a good fit, you can always switch.

Some online entrepreneurs are big fans of all-in-one systems like Kajabi. These systems can be easier to manage because there aren’t as many moving pieces. The drawback is that they tend to be more expensive when you’re first starting out, and often they are not as powerful for individual functions. 

For others who are on a tight budget, you might find that building a basic WordPress or Squarespace website and using ConvertKit as your email software provider is a good option. 

There’s no right or wrong answer.

How To Assess What’s Right For You

When it comes to figuring out what your tech stack is, you should consider features, cost, your level of tech ability, and support.

For example, for several years, I ran my business on an all-in-one platform. This was the most cost-effective system for my business and met the needs of my customers.

However, as my business grew, and we wanted to create a more customized program, we worked with a developer to build out a custom solution. Building this kind of platform would have been a costly mistake earlier in my business.

Don’t feel like you have to start with the top of the line system. You can always start with basic tools and upgrade as your business grows.

My Recommended Email Marketing Software

While there are pros and cons to most email marketing software programs, the one we recommend to our coaching clients is ConvertKit. It’s easy to set up, has a lot of features, and can grow with your business.

If you need to build a landing page to collect email addresses, ConverKit has a large selection of templates, which can help you get your page up and running quickly.

Whatever you use, the key is to get started with building your email list and serving your audience.