When it comes to direct marketing, you can’t beat good old-fashioned email. Social media is great (and webinars are invaluable, of course), but the stats make it clear that email still produces the most sales. That’s because emails can’t be ignored the way other forms of advertising can. An email can’t just be scrolled past. The recipient has to do something with it, even if that something is deleting it.
So how can you best take advantage of this to boost sales? Since emails automatically have to be engaged with on some level, what you put in them can work wonders. But getting the copy right isn’t the only challenge. You’ve got to send the right kinds of emails, at the right frequency, with the right message. To make an email promotion work, you’ve not only got to create a great offer. You’ve got to “sell” it from your customer’s inbox.
Preparation Is Everything
The number one mistake new business people make is starting with the promotion. Before you send the email that actually asks customers to buy something, you’ve got to put in the prep work.
First, you’ve got to decide on the promotion itself. What special offer can you make that will attract the most business, and be worth whatever discount or bonus is included? Determine what prices, bundled services, or special packages will represent the best value for you and the customer. Then, make sure you have the purchase process streamlined and ready to go. When the promotion finally lands, you’ll want the sale to be as easy as a few clicks on your website.
Next, you’ll need an email marketing service. Sending a bunch of emails out yourself takes time and resources you can better spend elsewhere. For those new to the game, we recommend using MailChimp. It’s free for the first 2,000 subscribers on your list, and is very easy to use. However, it doesn’t allow for fully automated email marketing. For something on a professional level, go with either ActiveCampaign or ConvertKit. We here at the $100 MBA use ActiveCampaign, but both are excellent options at a reasonable price (ConvertKit is a little cheaper, and specifically designed for bloggers).
With all that in place, it’s time to start working on the emails.
The Power of Sequential Emails
Your promotional campaign should release emails in stages, starting a few days before the promotion actually happens. You want to build the hype, get customers excited, and— most importantly— start their decision-making process. By beginning the conversation well in advance, you give the customer the ability to make their own decision to buy. By the time the promotion actually starts, the sales are mostly made!
The idea is to convince the customers of two things. First, to buy the product on its own merits. Secondly, to buy the product when you want them to, i.e., during the promotion. The initial email is an announcement. It’s an anticipatory message that trumpets something special coming down the road. It reminds the customers of what your product can do for them, but also what makes the promotion a unique opportunity. This lays the groundwork. It gets the customers’’ gears turning so that the sale is a decision you reach together, rather than something forced on them.
The day before the promotion starts, send another email. This one should emphasize how temporary the promotion is. It should (without being too high-pressure) create the sense that if the customer doesn’t act, they disadvantage themselves. Create a little “friendly FOMO.” Make it clear that this is truly an “offer” in the literal sense, something worth appreciating. As long as that’s true, the email is an act of good customer service, not just an advertisement.
The day the promotion begins, celebrate! The day-of email should sound like the great news it is. Use humor, use varied media like pictures and gifs, and let your personality shine through. It should *almost* read as if the sale is a done deal— because by this point, it almost is. Over the preceding several days, the customers have had time to seriously consider your offer. They don’t feel ambushed or tempted into an impulse buy. That’s why the day-of email is less of a pitch. You’ve already pitched!
Depending on how long the promotion is, keep sending emails. For promotions lasting a week or more, a new email every other day is enough to keep the momentum going without being spammy. For shorter promotions, a daily email is appropriate. If you’re using a professional email marketing service like the ones mentioned here, they can tag those recipients who’ve already made a purchase so they don’t receive further emails.
On the last day of the promotion, send out a final email. This one should naturally be more urgent, since the clock is ticking. I’ve even sent emails during the last hour of a promotion, to catch the last few stragglers who haven’t pulled the trigger. Again, don’t go for the scammy high-pressure vibe. Simply tell the truth: that something worth having is about to slip away.
Tips For Great Emails
Promotional emails have one goal: to boost sales. But to get there, they need to avoid the trash folder! There are a few basic strategies that can increase your emails’ odds of actually being read, and actually being effective.
- Brevity: The last thing a customer wants is a chore, so the greater economy of words you can employ, the better. No promotional email should be more than 500 words. This way it’s more succinct, less intrusive, and less work. Just state as simply as possible how your product meets their needs, what’s special about the promotion, and what they’ll miss out on if they do nothing. Make it brief, make it snappy, and make it easy to read.
- Postscript: I always like to include something at the end of my emails that prompts the recipient to reach out to me with any questions. Use the “P.S.” as a way to turn the promotion into a conversation. If you actually respond to a customer query personally, it goes a long way towards building rapport, and makes sales more likely. It’s one thing to get emails from a business. It’s another to have a conversation with a person.
- Testimonials: Always include a few words from existing customers who are happy with your product. Don’t just try to convince the reader of its efficacy, prove it! Show them how what you’re selling can solve their problem.
- Personality: Don’t let your email read like an ad. It should read like it was written by a person. A person makes jokes. A person shows emotion. A person can be professional, but still warm and honest. Make your email stand out by making it more fun and interesting than everything the customer will be deleting from their “promotions” tab that day.
- Subject lines: Naturally, the subject line could be the difference between “open” and “delete.” But don’t take it too far. Too many less-than-ethical businesses use misleading or downright deceptive subject lines. This will get the email opened. It won’t lead to sales. It will lead to annoyed recipients taking their names off your list. Hint at what you’re offering without spelling it out. Create some mystery. But above all, be honest.
Once you’ve created a good batch of emails for your first promotional campaign, file them away for the next one. With the basic structure in place, you can simply change the details to fit the next big sales push. Over time, you’ll hone them into the perfect promotional package. Keep building that list, keep marketing with honesty, and you’ll see those emails pay dividends.