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Creative Ideas For Awesome Email Automation

If you’re a blogger or entrepreneur working on email marketing, you might have tried setting up a sequence for new subscribers, like Day 1 – helpful links, Day 2 – product benefits, Day 3 – soft sell, etc.

But just sticking to a generic series for all new subscribers can be limiting, especially because the sequence isn’t connected with the unique, individual reason they have for signing up for your list.

Email automation doesn’t have to be boring and sales-y!!

Here are 5 creative ways to use email automation to engage with your subscribers and provide greater real value for their unique needs:

How To Guides

Teach your subscribers a process or new skill or habit that is hard – “How To Become A More Efficient Cook” or “How to Start Doing Yoga When You Hate Yoga” (someone please create that course for me to take). Each email should provide a few paragraphs of helpful how-to info, followed by an exercise or response for them to take action and practice what they learned.

Exploration Series

Challenge subscribers to do something they won’t do on their own, such as explore outside their immediate area, or try new types of restaurants, or read books or blogs they wouldn’t normally read. In each email send them on a mission to step outside their comfort zone and try another new thing.

Daily/Weekly Challenge

This is probably one of the most common email automation tactics out there, and I love it because sometimes it really does help to have someone email you daily when you’re trying to do something more or make a change in your life. But here are some ideas to take this to the next level and stand out from similar challenges:

  • Include accountability with a link they can click to let you know they completed the day’s or week’s challenge – check out Whole30 for a great example of accountability links
  • Make it weekly with daily challenges in each email so the daily emails don’t stack up
  • Build in community by inviting people to subscribe along with a small group of friends who plan on doing the challenge at the same time

Discovery Guide

Walk subscribers through a process of figuring out what they enjoy or prefer in a field they don’t know much about. “Discover Your Home Decor Style”, “Discover Your Ideal Work Environment”, “Discover Your Unique Strengths As A ___”, etc. This could be broken down into multiple emails to give subscribers a chance to do an activity or exercise to learn more about themselves and what they enjoy or to contemplate some questions you’ve given them.

Guide to Overcoming

What is a struggle your subscribers have? Poor budgeting habits? Not having enough energy to work out regularly? Afraid to market themselves because they feel self conscious? Create an email series to help them overcome this struggle. This works because something like this will take more than a single day or decision to fix – but if you walk them through the process with regular emails containing the info and encouragement they need, the will be able to take the time they need to change.

Looking for examples of email automation?

Try out my 21 Day Blogging Challenge or my free 6 day course Create Your Own Content Marketing Plan, and let me know what you think!

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How To Quickly And Easily Grow Your Email List

Two weeks ago, I launched my 21 Day Blogging Challenge and within about 7 days I had tripled my list of email subscribers.

I was a bit shocked because I didn’t start out with that intention; I just did my own personal 21 day challenge and I loved it so much I wanted to get other people to try it too. Maybe I was hoping it would generate a little buzz, or at least inspire my blogger friends…but triple my email list in just a few days? No way.

Over the course of setting up my blogging challenge, I had to learn how to use email automation so I could send new subscribers a new blog post writing prompt every day for 21 days.

Figuring out email automation was one of the best things I have done in months, because all that research and trial and error showed me something major: email courses are the next big thing in content marketing.

Many popular and successful bloggers are already using email courses, and many companies send you a series of educational emails when you first purchase a product or service, so I wasn’t a complete stranger to email courses.

But what I didn’t realize was 1) They are SO easy for the average small business owner to set up; and 2) They are SO valuable to your audience.

If you have been looking for the perfect incentive to offer new subscribers to your email list – drafting checklists, ebooks, videos, printables, and more – let me tell you to PLEASE stop right there and consider offering an email course instead.

You will have to sign up for a premium plan in order to do automatic emails, but it will be worth it! And not too expensive (I’m now paying $29 a month for ConvertKit; Mailchimp starts at $10 a month).

Here’s how you can quickly and easily grow your email list, even if there’s no one on it yet:

Write your course content

What can you teach your audience that takes some time to learn? What does your audience really want to know more about? My first course challenged people to blog every single day for 3 weeks, and I’m planning my next course to teach business owners how to create their own content marketing plan. The days of sleazy internet marketing and useless PDF downloads are over. Come up with something truly valuable to offer in this course.

Here are some ideas for getting started:

  • Pick one of your most popular blog posts; could you add more to that post and teach people something deeper with that subject?
  • What is a new thing that your target audience could learn from you? For example, how to use a WordPress blog, or how to set up advertisements on your blog, or how to ____…anything that you know how to do from personal experience that your audience wants to learn. Break it down into a series of “classes” that you could send via email.
  • What is something that your target audience needs to do or a change they need to make? You could create an email course that encourages them to make that change gradually, walking them through the process with each email.

Set up an email marketing account with automation

There are a ton of options out there for you. I’m not going to give them to you because you can just Google “email marketing automation” and find a bunch of options. But I will tell you the two that I’ve tried (and the one that I picked): Mailchimp and ConvertKit, respectively. Mailchimp automation starts at $10 per month (for up to 2,000 subscribers); ConvertKit starts at $29 per month (for up to 1,000 subscribers). ConvertKit is more expensive but I believe the course interface is more user friendly, and they only count subscribers once no matter how many times they’ve subscribed to a list, so in the long run it will probably be cheaper than Mailchimp. I ended up switching to ConvertKit for those reasons, but Mailchimp is great though and has very good customer service.

Create the emails for your course

Copy in your course content from step 1 for each email. Don’t forget a welcome email to start off, and a follow up email after your course ends to point subscribers in the direction of any next steps or additional resources you offer.

Don’t worry too much about making those emails pretty. Emails are notoriously difficult to format consistently given the many different email clients out there that your audience will be using, and the fact that images don’t always load automatically. Just focus on writing really great content – high quality, clear, organized, very helpful – and forget about pretty designs. IF you really want pretty, you can make some great PDF downloads to go with each email. But your top priority should be truly excellent email text.

Create an opt-in form and put it on a new page on your website

Use your email marketing service to create a subscription form for your course. Tweak the language on the form and make sure that the colors match the colors on your website. Once you’re done with your form, you should see an option to “embed” where you can copy code for your form and paste it on to a page on your website. Create a new page for your email course. Write a good, compelling, detailed description of your course, and use descriptive headings and subheadings so search engines know what your page and course are about.

Promote your course on social media

If you are starting without much of an email list, this is the best way to make things happen quickly. Share the link to your landing page on your business Facebook page and then “boost” the post for at least $20. Expect to pay around $0.01 per impression, so plan your budget accordingly.

Boom, done!

This is a very quick and easy way to grow your email list when you are starting from scratch, but it will require you to offer something of genuine value to your audience with this course. Don’t be afraid to “give away too much”. This is all about demonstrating your true expertise in your field and showing that you care about the well-being of your audience.

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Why You Need An Email List

A lot of small business owners have a negative impression of email lists and email marketing.

And it’s understandable – there is a ton of very spammy, unhelpful email marketing out there. Only about 10% or less of my emails these days even get opened; the rest are just marketing emails that I ignore.

But there is a very good reason to be building your email list even though email marketing isn’t always pretty: you really, truly, absolutely cannot rely on social media to connect with your customers.

Why’s that?

It comes down to the numbers and they just don’t lie: Facebook is – by their own admission – making it so that you have to pay for a boost in order to get views and engagement. And eventually you will have to pay to get any views at all, even from people who have already liked your page.

As Facebook explains, a brand’s ability to reach their fan base organically has diminished as users like more Pages, and as those Pages pump out more and more content. There are now approximately 1,500 stories competing against one another to appear in a user’s News Feed at any given moment. Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes only about 300, or one fifth, of them…

The company encourages marketers to look at their fan bases as a way to make paid advertising more effective rather than using it as a free broadcast channel. Additionally, Facebook says you should assume organic reach will eventually arrive at zero. So, if you really want to reach your target audience on Facebook, you’ll need to supplement your organic efforts with some paid advertising. Source: Hubspot (emphasis mine)

On average (very rough average) my non-boosted posts are seen by about 10% of the people who have liked the page. Boosted posts, on the other hand, do great in terms of views, likes, and clicks. But they cost around 1 to 2 cents per view, depending on the target audience.

Let me ask you a question: what happens when Facebook decides to raise that price? Would you pay 5 cents per view? 50 cents? A dollar?

Facebook owns the platform and they own the customer; they have a business prerogative to charge the optimal prices for the maximum amount of profit. But let’s not be naive and assume that Facebook’s interests will always align with small business owners’ interests.

Instead of allowing your brand to become dependent on social media, especially Facebook, to connect with customers and fans, take the time to build an email list. One day you’ll be glad you did.

Here’s how to quickly and easily start building your email list:

First, come up with something of value to offer potential subscribers

Why should someone give you their email address? They won’t, unless you are offering something they will find very valuable. Start by coming up with something to offer. It could be special subscriber-only promo codes delivered regularly to their email, or an ebook explaining something they need to know, or a series of automated emails that will help them learn something new.

The important thing is to create something of value and offer it for free to subscribers.

Next, install a website plugin so you can collect email addresses in exchange for your offer

I recommend Sumome (it’s great and free) if you are using a WordPress website.

Then choose an email service

I recommend Mailchimp (also great, also free) for sending great looking emails to your list. They also offer a $10/month pro option if you want to create an automated series of emails for new subscribers.

Set up your email service and link it with your subscription plugin so new subscribers are automatically added to your list.

Finally, stay in touch with your email list by creating great (not spammy) content they will want to read

This could be anything – from a weekly or monthly high quality, insightful blog post written by YOU, to a series of educational emails designed to equip them to do something new. Whatever it is, make sure it is unique, interesting, and demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction and success.

Have you built an email list for your business? Share your tips in the comments!