Building an email list is nothing new - it's a tactic that savvy internet marketers have been using for well over a decade. But for a lot of bloggers, email marketing is a struggle. So we're starting our Building Your List series to help food bloggers start, grow and leverage the power of their email lists!
In today's article we give tackle a more advanced topic - email automation and email funnels.
Before we dive in too deep, this post will not be a tutorial post. Every email marketing platform handles automation and funnels differently and most of them have excellent support documentation to help you get started. Instead we'll be explaining what automation and funnels are and how you can use them to make your life easier and give your readers the content they're most interested in.
Let's start with the easiest one and the one that you can use right away... automation.
What Is Email Newsletter Automation?
You're probably already familiar with email marketing automation if you've been blogging for a few years - the most common form for years was RSS email subscribing. This was where your readers could sign up with their email address and receive an email notification every time you published a new post. There were all kinds of services that you could use for this but the most common one was Google's Feedburner service, which still exists today.
But as more and more bloggers use email services like Mailchimp and Convertkit, our ability to use automation has become more sophisticated.
Now automation enables you to do things like have a lead magnet. When somebody signs up for your list and they receive an email with a link to download your free opt-in (or lead magnet), that's a form of automation.
You've probably received all kinds of automated emails - like when you leave things in your Amazon cart without checking out and you get a reminder email from them. Or you receive emails from your favourite shopping site with suggestions of things you might like based on your buying history.
Want to know a little secret? All those emails you get with people asking to "write for your site" that look and sound legit? The vast majority of those are auto generated. Notice how if you ignore them another "follow up" email lands in your inbox a few days later and finally "this is the last time I'm going to contact you" follows after that? That's a perfect example of an automated email sequence.
How Can You Use Email Newsletter Automation?
There's lots of ways you can use email newsletter automation and it can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. Here's a few ways you can use email automation:
Welcome Emails: this is the easiest and most common. Every time a new subscriber joins your list they get an automatic email that welcomes them to your community. It may include a link to download a freebie or links to some of your most useful posts or a page of frequently asked questions. They're a good way to introduce yourself to each new subscriber and let them get a little taste of who you are and the kind of content they can expect to receive from you.
Feedback Emails: You can set these up to run after anyone has downloaded one of your freebies, attended an event you've put on or bought a product you sell - send them an automated email that asks for feedback on whatever it was they received. This is a great way to improve your offerings.
Reminder Emails: you can set these up to run when you're hosting an event and need to remind people to show up on time. Or you may have some kind of special timed offer like 50% off your latest ebook or course or a deadline for your readers or customers to sign up for something - you can follow up before the offer ends with a reminder!
Special Anniversary Emails: these depend on the kind of information you collect from your readers when they sign up for your list but it could be something simple like a happy birthday email.
Recommendation Emails: these are emails that go out based on what a person signs up for. For instance if you have multiple opt-ins that target different audience groups (or segments) you can send automated recommendations out to them based on the type of content they want to see. You can also do this based on what people purchase from you or events they attend.
Evergreen Content: We've talked about the importance of keeping your list engaged but sometimes you've got a million things to do or you want to go on vacation. You can set up an automated system of emails that contain older evergreen content that many of your subscribers may not have seen. You can set these up to run once a month for a year. I know people who've done this exact thing while they take parental leave from their blogs or they've decided to travel for a few months. They're not neglecting their list but, they're freeing up their time to live a life outside of their blogs.
Email automation can get highly involved and complex. There's lots you can do with automation if you're patient and willing to learn some tech bits and pieces (or hire somebody to do it for you). Complex automation is usually a result of setting up email funnels. Which leads me to...
What Is An Email Funnel?
Email funnels are often referred to as sales funnels or marketing funnels because they're almost always designed to lead people to purchase something from you - be it a book, a course, an event or a service.
You might not think this applies to you as a blogger - and for many of you it may not. But for some of you who sell things or who have plans to sell things in the future, it can be a valuable tool. And it relies heavily on automation.
PRO Tip: Got a cookbook in your future? The time to start priming your email funnel is when you sign the contract - even if the news isn't public yet and won't be a for a while. As you'll see as you read on, you're not gong to be selling to your funnel for a while yet. You absolutely do NOT want to start your funnel process a month before your book launches. It can take months to build a productive funnel.
A good email marketing funnel is built on trust between you and your list. And that's the first step...
1. You Need An Email List
Before you can get started with funnels you need to have an email list - preferably one that's relatively engaged. If you don't have an email list yet, we tell you how to get started building your list.
2. A Welcome Email or Welcome Sequence
If funnels are in the back of your head as something you want to get to down the road, you may want to start working on your first piece of email automation right away with a Welcome Email. This is the first step in any email funnel. As soon as somebody signs up to your list, they should receive a welcome email. One that says something more interesting than "thanks for signing up - look for us in your inbox soon!"
Your welcome email is your first opportunity to connect with a new subscriber and, as we mentioned above, give them a taste of who you are and what kind of content they can expect from you.
Your welcome email should most definitely NOT be a sales pitch. Nobody likes somebody asking them to pull out their wallet the minute they walk in the door. This is your first step to building trust with your list so manage it carefully.
Some people will set up an entire welcome sequence that is dripped out to new subscribers over the course of anywhere from a few days, to weeks. Each email in the sequence will introduce a new subscriber to some facet of their business or to content they may find useful.
3. Building Trust
You've welcomed your new subscriber. Now what? Now you go through the long process of gaining trust. It all boils down to providing insanely useful content:
Teach somebody, inspire somebody or entertain somebody - those are the three keys to any great piece of content. I can't remember who said that but it's great advice.
Teach somebody, inspire somebody or entertain somebody - those are the three keys to any great piece of content.
Again, selling is not your focus. It's about building trust in you and your content and building your community. Sure, you might want to mention you're writing a cookbook and give them some behind the scenes sneak peeks at the process and the recipes but you're not going to ask them to pre-order just yet.
4. Now You Can Sell
Once you've built up trust and given your audience a lot of really great content that they open, read and value (if they're not opening your emails you need to do some work!) you can start selling to to them. This is when you ask for that pre-order for your book, or hold your first cooking class or sell your first course or ebook. At this point you hope they're raving fans and they can't wait to get their hands on whatever you have to sell.
Getting Advanced with Automation and Funnels
So far, this has been pretty easy, right? Not much different from what we've talked about in the rest of our email marketing series. But now is where it can start to get very complicated!
Some people will buy your stuff, some won't. Some people will open your emails that talk about grilling and some people will open your emails about cocktails. Some will go to your live events and others will only read your ebooks.
Targeting Specific Behaviours
With email automation, you can set up filters and triggers for your audience based on how they behave with the emails you send them.
Cleaning up your list can be based on automation - if they haven't opened an email in six months, you can set up a filter that will unsubscribe them.
You can filter based on the types of emails people open. If somebody only opens your baking emails you can create a funnel for them that sends them more baking content and less of the content they're not interested in. Then when you release your ebook of cookie recipes they'll be the most primed customers!
Nurture Your Best Customers And Entice New Ones
Anyone who ever purchases from you can be tagged in your subscriber list and you can create what's called a "list segment". You can send this special "Customer" segment special emails that include bonus content, content upgrades, special offers and more. These are the people who are most likely to purchase from you again if you continue to nurture them and make them feel like their money was well spent.
The people who haven't been tagged as prior customers can also be sent their own emails. Remember, that most people will not buy from you the first time you ask them. Statistics show it takes, on average, 7-8 points of contact from you before you'll make a sale to a new customer (that's part of why you don't want to sell too early in your funnel - you need to warm people up!)
You can give those that haven't made a purchase extra incentive to buy - perhaps with a special sale or a 10% off coupon code just for them. Or you can ask them for feedback to find out why they're not buying. Maybe your offer hasn't hit the mark!
Using Your Lead Magnets to Pre-Filter Your Email List
You can also "pre-filter" your list by using different lead magnets. People who sign up for your grilling tips lead magnet are probably interested in grilling! You can set up your email service to tag anyone who subscribes with that lead magnet as a griller and send them more grilling content. You can even build entire different welcome sequences for new subscribers based on the opt-in that got them to subscribe.
A Word Of Warning With Email Funnels, Automation and Welcome Sequences
We've all experienced this - we sign up for an email list and then get bombarded with a welcome sequence of emails that goes on for days. There's so many emails that we promptly wind up unsubscribing because let's face it, whatever great lead magnet got us to sign up was not worth a constant influx of pre-written, often phony sounding emails that don't have much value.
Don't be this email marketer. Respect your subscribers - their time, intelligence and inbox. Very few people have time to read an email from you every single day - especially if it doesn't have anything useful in it! Think about what your personal tolerance is for email newsletters (and how often you actually open all the ones that land in your inbox) and poll your friends as well. Use that as a guide for sending your emails.
A savvy newsletter reader can instantly spot when they're being primed for a sale even if you haven't talked about selling them anything yet so tread carefully. Be real, give real value and don't talk down to them.
If you do a drip welcome sequence space it out - maybe once or twice a week for a month if you've got the content to support it. Make sure each email contains something of substantial value to the reader.
When you set up your automation pay close attention to unsubscribes and when they happen. You will get a lot of people who only subscribe for your opt-in and immediately unsubscribe with the next email. That's normal to a certain extent so don't panic just yet!
But, if you notice a lot of people stop opening, or worse, unsubscribe at a certain point in your welcome sequence, take a good, hard look at what you're doing:
- is the frequency of the sequence too high?
- is the content weak?
- are you selling too early?
- are you selling too often?
Those can all lead to quick unsubscribes.
Where To Look For More Help
This is just scratching the surface of what you can do with email automation and funnels. Hopefully it's given you some ideas for your own blogging business.
Implementing funnels and automation can be a little intimidating but take a look at the help documents your email newsletter provider has. Most have extensive libraries with lots of tutorials and examples that show you how to get started.
You can also hire somebody to help you with your funnels and automation - this can be a good investment especially if you do have a planned product launch in your future. As we already mentioned, you'll want to get things set up and running well in advance.
We know a few FBC Members have also taken Matt Molen's Personalized Paths Program designed specifically for bloggers and found it very helpful (we haven't taken the program ourselves).
And of course, you can find lots of tutorials and more information through Google and YouTube!