It’s the holy grail of internet marketing: the online money machine. With automation, you can build a website and sell your product or service automatically. While everyone wants a way to earn passive income, it doesn’t seem on the surface that such a system would work. How can you build a relationship with your prospects if you don’t ever actually talk to them?
Building a relationship takes time, and building a trust level high enough to promote sales doesn’t happen overnight. But the good news is that email marketing can be automated, allowing you to spend that time with your client and build that relationship with them even while you’re out of the office.
The first thing to understand about email marketing is that it’s not too dissimilar from the sales cycle you’re already familiar with. The traditional sales cycle is comprised of four steps:
Old school marketing still revolves around these four steps. A commercial airs in the middle of a television show so that your target audience is paying attention to it. The commercial is designed to pique their interest in the product. Once you have a person’s interest, your job is to inspire desire – to make them want to buy your product. Finally, you issue a call to action, encouraging them to make a purchase. These principles still apply in the online world, although they’re not the only principles modern marketers must consider.
In our increasingly disconnected world, relationship marketing is becoming more important. Buyers want to make sure that they’re doing business with someone they can count on. The four steps in relationship marketing are:
In an online marketing model, relationship marketing tends to be more applicable, since most buyers will do online research prior to making a purchase. Customers must first find out about you, often through social media or an online search. As they peruse your website, they will ideally come to like you. The more they like you, the more they trust you. And the more they trust you, the more likely they are to buy from you. But this entire process takes time.
Autoresponders allow you to automate your end of this relationship building process, allowing your customers to know, like, and trust you with very little ongoing effort on your part. But it’s important to understand that an autoresponder sequence is still a relationship-building tool.
Sales professionals often use the phrase, “Price out of place kills a sale.” What they mean is that if you give the price too early in the process, the client will stop thinking about the benefits and think only of the price. In email marketing, it’s important to remember that pitch out of place kills the sale. If you pitch too early or too often, you lose your email subscribers and future customers.
Planning Your Process
You wouldn’t release a new product or build a new website without planning it first, would you? Don’t start email marketing automation without having a great plan.
The first thing to do is to map out your customer flow and then break it down narrowly. For example, if my goal is to get a client to sign up for a $900 coaching course, I’ll place that at the end of my process.
Where am I getting my customers from? Maybe they come from social media and maybe they come from search marketing, but either way, I want them to hit my landing page, so that will be the beginning of my process.
The question for email marketers is how to move the client from the beginning to the end, so you have to consider the steps between the two.
In a competitive place like the Internet, your customer needs some motivation to move along your pathway. Every step of the way, you’re asking your customer for just a little more trust, so you have to give something in return. For example, consider a process like this:
The most important part of this process is the beginning and the end, but the entire process must be carefully considered. One aspect to consider is how long you want your email marketing series to be. As a general rule, longer periods seem to result in higher conversion as long as it doesn’t go too long, but this varies depending on the product, the price point, and the market.
You’ll want to experiment with A/B testing to find the optimal length for your mailing list, but a good starting place is to spend one week for each $100 of the purchase price, but to keep your sales cycle between three and thirteen weeks. If you’re selling a $900 coaching course, a 9-week sales cycle would be effective, but if you’re selling a $3,000 conference, you’ll probably want to land closer to the 13-week mark.
The second structural issue is how frequently you want to contact your customer during the sales cycle. Most Internet marketers opt for once a week, but two or three times a week could work just effectively as well.
The “carrot” in this process is what you’re offering in exchange for that email address. For some time now, the ebook giveaway has been common. While that’s still effective, you’re not limited to using an ebook as your landing page giveaway. You can give away videos, audio recordings, trial memberships to a membership site, coupons, or just about anything else you can think of.
One of the easiest carrots to offer is a free email course. This has the advantage of encouraging your subscribers to actually read their emails during the sales cycle; if you offer an ebook, your subscribers may get the book and then never read the follow-up emails. With a longer sales cycle, you have to keep your subscribers reading your emails until you make your sales pitch, but once they’ve gotten used to reading your amazing content on a regular basis, they’re far more likely to open your pitch email.
After your subscriber has had some emails for you, it’s time to make a sales pitch, and this comes in a pitch email. The pitch email must come at the right phase in the cycle, and it must be outstanding. With the prevalence of marketing in our everyday lives, a bad pitch will turn a prospect away forever.
Robert Cialdini, in his 1984 book, “Influence”, lists six things that encourage a customer to buy:
- Social Proof
When you offer someone a freebie in exchange for an email address, you’re using the principle of reciprocity to encourage that transaction.
Commitment can best be described by the phrase, “In for a penny, in for a pound.” Salespeople describe this as the “foot in the door” technique. By asking a customer for a relatively low-risk commitment, you increase the chances that they’ll make a higher-risk commitment. When your customer gave you his or her email address, that was the first commitment. When your customer reads your emails, that’s additional commitment.
Ideally, your emails should have conveyed a sense of likability, authority, and social proof.
If you can incorporate scarcity into your pitch email, you’ve got a winning combination. One possibility for selling online or informational products is to use an automation service like TimerLay to put an opening and closing time on the sale; subscribers can only make a purchase during a limited window of time, which helps to add a sense of scarcity to your offer.
The Sales Series
The sales series, unfortunately, is often the last thing to be considered, so it’s sometimes underrated. But the sales series (that part in the middle) is critically important, because that lays the foundation for the future sale.
The sales series should be informative and should not be “salesy”. The goal of the sales series is NOT to make a sale, but to encourage your subscribers to keep opening and reading your emails. At this point in the cycle, you’re trying to build a habit in your readers and to work on building commitment.
Your sales series should also convey a sense of reciprocity. In other words, the reader should feel that you’re giving them a lot of value for free. It’s human nature to return gifts, so when you’ve given them $900 worth of value for free in the email series, they’re happy to pay you $900 for a coaching course when you ask them in the future.
Finally, the sales series should subtly convey likability, authority, and social proof. Likability is conveyed less with the actual content and more with your tone and the way you write. Video content can be useful for helping to establish likability, as it helps people feel like they know you. Authority should be conveyed throughout your content; you want your reader to think, “He or she really knows what they’re talking about!” You can even add social proof to your emails by sharing comments from your previous clients, case studies, or other types of proof that are relevant to what you’re teaching about.
Putting It All Together
Now that you’ve got a great plan, it’s time to get to work! Before you begin, ask yourself if you’ll be using any outside help and get your team together. It’s important that this entire process has a consistent look, feel, and voice. For example, if you hire a copywriter to write your landing page copy and your pitch email but you write your content emails, your subscribers will notice. Using multiple voices can create a sense of mistrust in your potential customers, so it’s best to have a consistent team and brand throughout the entire process.
For this illustration, we’re using GetResponse, a great autoresponder that helps you automate your email marketing. GetResponse is just one of many marketing automation options out there, including Groundhogg (which we recently reviewed). But for this example, we went with GetResponse. Because we’re setting this up as an autoresponse campaign rather than a newsletter, it’s important to set up the autoresponder before getting subscribers so that the autoresponder is ready to go as soon as you get your first subscribers.
GetResponse allows you to create newsletters and autoresponders. Your sales cycle will be done using an autoresponder. If one of your subscribers doesn’t make a purchase when they’re given your sales pitch, they’ll go from your sales cycle to your drip marketing campaign. A drip marketing campaign is where you send them a newsletter once in awhile but don’t do anything really intensive like on your sales cycle, and that’s what your newsletters are for.
Creating Your First Message
At the top menu bar of your GetResponse page, when you hover over the Messages menu item, you’ll click on Create Autoresponder.
For the first email in your series (the one you send as soon as they subscribe), you’ll select the Subscribed button from the top segment.
You select the list that they sign up to in the drop-down menu. This is useful because over time, you may have multiple landing pages and multiple offers, so each different offer can be tied to a different mailing list. For your very first email, you’ll want to send it immediately on any day of the week. Your subscribers will be anticipating an instant email from you as soon as they sign up, so you don’t want to make them wait.
You will always want to track click-throughs, because that allows you to see who is clicking on links or attachments in your email. If you have a Google Analytics account set up, you can use Google Analytics to track your emails.
Once you enter the initial information, you’ll be taken to an area that allows you to select from lots of pre-designed templates. You can also import your own template if you have one handy. Once you select a template, you’ll be able to edit and modify it to suit your business or offering.
You can attach your offering to the email using the paperclip icon at the bottom right-hand side of your pane, but sometimes spam filters are more likely to block an email with an attachment. You can use a service like Digioh to host digital files and then link those files to your email. If your email template already has a button, clicking on it will bring up the opportunity to add a link. If it doesn’t, you can add one by clicking on the “My Button” block in the right sidebar.
When you click on the Next step button at the bottom right-hand of the screen, it will take you back to the main page for your autoresponder series. Click on the Publish button at the bottom right-hand side of the main content area. Once you return to your Manage Autoresponders page, you’ll find it near the bottom.
From this point, you can add extra autoresponder messages based on when someone clicks a link in your email, opens your email, or when another autoresponder message was sent. In the example below, we want to send the second email at least one day after the first email was opened, but we want it to only be delivered on a Monday.
Your Landing Page
Before anyone sees your emails, they have to sign up to your email list, and this is where your landing page comes into play. The most important thing to remember is that your landing page should be geared entirely and completely to your offer. The landing page is not the place to sell them on your products or to sell them on your other services; it exists ONLY to sell them on your offer.
Most people prefer to use a full-width landing page with no extra distractions. If your visitor sees a lot of menu bars or sidebars, they may wander off to other places and forget about your great offer.
Long Form or Short Form
In the copywriting world, landing page copy is divided into long form or short form copy. Short form is usually only a few paragraphs, and it’s entirely appropriate if you’re offering something that’s already clearly wanted. For example, if you have a pay-per-click ad leading to your landing page and you’re offering exactly what your ads are geared toward, short form copy might be perfect. Short form copy is also useful if you’re going to have any video content on your landing page, because it helps to prevent the landing page from being too overwhelming.
Long form copy is the copy that goes on forever and ever. Since your landing page doesn’t give them many other distractions, long form copy can be a great way to persuade them to get your free gift. However, it’s important to remember that most of your visitors will never make it to the bottom of your long form copy, so you want to give them clearly visible and frequent opportunities to get your gift instead of waiting until they reach the bottom.
Where should your landing page be? Sometimes it’s easier to just make your landing page a page on your existing website, but all the big Internet marketing gurus usually put it onto a separate domain. What’s best?
Putting your landing page on a separate domain is often the easiest and most high-converting option. It’s easier to tell your podcast listeners to go to makemoneyonline.com than to go to mysite.com/makemoneyonline, so that allows you to get your landing page seen by more people. The other factor is that putting it on a separate domain allows your visitors to avoid distractions; if it’s part of your site, they’ll go explore your site before signing up for your mailing list.
Finally, you will probably want a different theme for your landing page than for your primary website. While it’s possible to run different themes on the same WordPress installation, it’s not always easy if you’re not technically inclined.
As mentioned above, you want to eliminate menu bars, footers, and sidebars from your landing page to reduce distractions. You’ll need a theme that can be modified to allow you to build a full-page theme that’s also responsive for mobile devices. The Flatone theme available through Elegant Themes is a great flat design for a landing page, or the Parallax Gravity theme (also through Elegant Themes) is a good parallax design for landing pages. Speeky and Landlr are more conventional block themes that work well for landing pages.
GetResponse has their own landing page creator that can be a good user-friendly alternative if you don’t want to build an entirely new site. The GetResponse landing page templates usually dovetail nicely with their email templates to help present a more consistent brand image.
In a Nutshell
Starting a new automated email marketing campaign can seem overwhelming, but automating your customer acquisition process is a worthwhile endeavor. Your new prospect will be taken through the following steps to becoming a customer:
- Arrive on the landing page.
- Sign up for the email list.
- Receive the offer (the “carrot”).
- Receive follow-up emails or additional freebies.
- Receive an email with the sales pitch.
- Follow the link in the pitch email.
- Make a purchase.
Because of the nature of email marketing, you may not get perfect results with your first campaign. Experienced Internet marketers use A/B testing and continual process improvement to get better results from their email marketing campaigns, but email automation via autoresponders is one of the most effective and efficient ways to sell to new customers.
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