I feel like there’s a lot of data and information available explaining just how beneficial it is to grow your email list for your business. With a return-of-investment (ROI) of $36 for every $1 spent, email is a cost-effective way especially for solopreneurs to market themselves and their business. I’ve preached about the wonders of email many times before and it is one of the best practices if, like me, you want to stop relying on social media for your small business.
Despite oodles of data showing how effective email marketing is for making sales, it seems to be something that a lot of small business owners still don’t prioritise. A common reason I hear for this is that it’s too time consuming. And sure, email marketing can take longer to set up than say, an Instagram account but the irony is that your mail list takes up far less time in the long run. In fact, to get the same ROI from your socials, you’re going to be putting in a helluva lot of time making new content, interacting, posting and keeping up with relevant trends like short-form-video.
What is an email nurture sequence?
An email nurture sequence is a series of automated emails at timed intervals that someone receives when they subscribe to your email list. The idea is that you nurture a relationship through these emails with the goal being your subscribers will convert to customers. This is sometimes referred to as a sales funnel.
The best thing about setting up a nurture sequence, is that it is automated and does the work for you (sometimes while you sleep!) For small business owners who are doing ALL THE THINGS themselves for their business – it’s gonna save you bucket loads of time. A nurture sequence doesn’t require you to show up daily and can be tweaked or updated with minimal effort.
How to start getting email subscribers.
Before you think about setting up your nurture sequence, you need to think about how you’re actually going to get people on your email list. Sure, you can just ask if they want to sign up or create a pop-up that asks if they want to sign up for your newsletter. But, have a think about how many emails we receive these days – there’s a lot of noise in our inbox and as consumers we can be pretty picky. If you have something of value to offer your audience, it’s more likely they will be happy to hand over their email address.
1. Choose your email marketing platform.
You’ll want to begin by establishing what program or software you’ll be using to set up your mailing list. I personally use MailChimp because it was free when I started in business (and still is for up to 500 contacts) and there’s a lot of free online tutorials and information available about how to set it up.
Is MailChimp the best email marketing program out there?
No, I don’t think so. But I know how to use it, it works fine, it’s affordable and it’s a case of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it for where I’m currently at in life and biz.
2. Create an attractive lead magnet.
The next step is your lead magnet (aka email opt-in) which enables you to secure an email lead. This is something of value you can provide to your audience in exchange for their email address. Common lead magnets include a free trial, discount, downloadable guide or an eBook. A way for customers to access your lead magnet is often through a landing page. This is usually a simple web page dedicated to providing information about your lead magnet, with space for your audience to enter customer name, email address and any other contact details. You can create a landing page through your website or using your preferred email marketing provider.
There are so many different email opt-in examples that will add value to your audience that are sure to get you new subscribers. Think about what your ideal customer is searching for to help solve their pain points. You can also create different lead magnets for different ways to add value. For example, using myself as a case study – I have a lead magnet that is a free beginners guide to SEO. My nurture sequence with this particular opt-in is focused on helping small business owners with the basics of their SEO – rather than trying to tell them about everything I offer.
You don’t always have to have a sparkly lead magnet to build your subscriber list.
You can simply include a check-box on checkout for your customers to opt-in to your email marketing to help retarget these previous customers.
I’ve built a large portion of my email list with guests from my Honest Biz Brunch events. My audience signs up to the waitlist for these events in order to have first access to tickets. This has proven to be a measured and sustainable way to build my email database.
How many emails should I include in a nurture email sequence?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question however; I recommend a minimum of 3 emails. Remember, you’re wanting to nurture these client relationships, not dive straight into a hard-sell (ew).
It comes down to your individual marketing goals as well as reviewing your results for your campaigns after you have started sending them. It can be a bit of trial and error to begin with. See what content is resonating the most with your subscribers. Most email marketing platforms have metrics available so you can review each email campaign.
Different email metrics provide different insights:
No one metric is going to provide you with all the information you need to make decisions. However; they can give you a starting point for editing your nurture sequence and other email campaigns.
Open Rates – This can reflect how enticing your subject line and preview copy are, the frequency of emails your subscribers are receiving (e.g. too many and they may just stop opening them altogether) and deliverability of your campaigns (i.e. are they going to spam?)
Click Through Rates (CTR) – Click throughs are the activity or action that your subscribers take after actually opening and reading the email content. A higher click through rate means higher engagement and interest in what you are including in your email campaigns.
Unsubscribes – This is indicative of when a subscriber is no longer interested in the email content you are providing. There are many reasons people unsubscribe from email lists. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes it’s simply a case of wanting to declutter their inboxes. If you are seeing large unsubscribe rates following a campaign, it’s time to review your email content, intervals and number of emails sent and tweak accordingly.
Tip for reviewing your unsubscribes: Take note of the numbers but don’t go down the rabbit hole of seeing who unsubscribed. It can be hard not to take it personally if you see a friend unsubscribe from your emails but the underlying reason(s) is usually not personal and so, it’s easier to conserve energy and get on with more important things.
How long should the interval be between automated emails?
You will find all sorts of data and recommendations around this. Again, there is no right time interval between emails. It is dependent on your individual business products, services and marketing goals.
A great example is a product based business with lead magnet that offers a discount for new customers – your nurture sequence could be over a week vs. multiple weeks or months. This is because if someone is signing up to your email list purely for the discount, there’s a good chance they are ready to purchase from you and won’t require as much nurturing.
Whereas, if you are nurturing your potential customers towards a high-ticket product or service, you’ll generally want to extend your nurture sequence over a longer period. As consumers, we often need more time to decide on a significant purchase and so you’ll want to spend more time building your client relationship by providing value without selling. You can also start by introducing low-ticket or lower priced offerings, before more expensive packages, products or services.
In the email nurture sequence template below you’ll find suggestions for intervals but I recommend reviewing your email metrics periodically and tweaking as needed.
Template for a 5 – email nurture sequence.
Timing: Send immediately after subscribing.
This first email is also known as your welcome email. Keep it simple by saying thanks to your subscriber for signing up and provide them with your promised lead-magnet. Best practices for subject and preview text include not using too many emojis (but include one or two) and ensuring you include the name of your lead magnet so when your subscriber sees the email in your inbox, they immediately recognise it.
Email copy example:
Woohoo! Welcome to the <business name> party! Thanks so much for being here.
Access your free <insert lead magnet> by clicking the link below.
Until next time,
Timing: 5 days after sending email 1.
I like to use this email as a follow up from your freebie/lead magnet. I personally also reshare the original lead magnet as a cue for subscribers to take action and get the most value out of your opt-in. Most email marketing programs also have automations where it resends your welcome email to subscribers if they haven’t opened their welcome email.
In this second email you’ll want to follow up whether they need help with their lead magnet or provide additional information to continue them on their journey with your freebie. Obviously, the type of follow up you provide depends on the lead magnet in the first place.
In my nurture sequence for my free beginners guide to SEO, I send a follow up email with the first quick-win subscribers can have on their SEO journey. I know that tackling website SEO when you’re a beginner can feel super overwhelming. This follow up email helps my subscribers with the first simple step to start taking control of their SEO.
Timing: 1 week after sending email 2.
This email is an opportunity to share more about you and your business. Introduce yourself, give background as to why you started your business and the pain points you help your customers solve.
Tip: You don’t have to write an essay or include your full bio. If this information is available on your website (in something like an About Me page) you can include a link to read more. This is also helpful for getting more eyeballs on your website and encouraging your subscribers to spend time having a squiz around your site.
Timing: 1 week after sending email 3
It’s time to focus on the problem you solve for your clients.
Spend a little bit of your email speaking to your client’s pain points. This is a chance to prove you understand and have empathy for your readers and highlight your point of difference.
Take them on a journey and show how you can take them from A to B. Enhance your email using social proof with real-life examples of client transformations. Things like testimonials, client case studies or relevant content like ‘before’ and ‘after’ imagery are impactful in demonstrating how you have successfully helped other people in the same situations.
Timing: 3 days after sending email 4
This is where you introduce your offer and include a call-to-action for people to buy your product or service.
Sending this email sooner than previous follow-up emails is beneficial because your point of difference stays front-of-mind. To increase conversion you could include a time-sensitive offer such as a VIP discount, bonus content, or something else of value.
What to do when your nurture sequence is complete.
After your email nurture sequence is done, you can decide where your subscribers are funneled to. If you want to get a little bit fancy, you could set up an additional nurture sequence, add a unique tag or segment your audience based on the action your subscriber takes in the email journey.
Some businesses will also continue to add emails onto their nurture sequence over time. You could space these emails out to fortnightly, which is a handy way to consistently share regular content with your email list on autopilot.
To keep things super simple, once completing your nurture sequence, you could add subscribers to your general newsletter/mailing list to use for future ad hoc campaigns.
You don’t always have to be uber-strategic when it comes to the content you share with your email list.
Examples of simple content ideas for regular email newsletters:
- Sharing blog post snippets or previews
- Sales or special offers
- News and current events related to your niche
I like to tag my subscribers according to the category when they enter my email database. This means I can tailor my future email content to their interests (which would be more likely to = conversions) instead of always sending blanket, generic emails.