The Path to Email Marketing Success: Best Practices and Strategies of 15 Smart Marketers

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These are the results of an in-depth study on how fifteen smart marketers use email marketing to convert non visitors into customers.

It covers what they do best and why they do it so you can replicate what’ll work best for you.

You’ll see examples and data backed up by external research.

Email marketing yields an average 4,300% return on investment for businesses in the United States.

Direct Marketing Association

The following true story could happen to you.

Fifteen years ago, my friend David ran a small business that made bicycles.

It was a third generation business, small, but profitable.

One day, he hit the Jackpot.

Through a friend, he got in touch with the buyer in charge of the bicycle section of an immense retail chain. He got his brand in.

Their bikes were good and had competitive prices, so the chain started promoting them.

From one day to the next, sales skyrocketed. He was thrilled.

To adjust to the growing demand, he increased plant capacity and employed more people.

He didn’t have enough cash, so he mortgaged his house.

Business was thriving. He started to make big plans. Life was good.

One day, things changed.

The chain got new suppliers from overseas and stopped promoting his brand. They asked him to lower his prices.

He did, but not as much as the imported brands. He could not go that low.

His sales and margins plummeted and his company stopped being profitable.

To make a long story short: he lost the business his grandfather had started, along with his home.

He became depressed.

Fast forward fifteen years…

He has not fully recovered financially or emotionally.

Do you think it was foolish to put the future of his business and life in the hands of this big chain?

I do. However, I am guilty of taking similar risks.

Are you?

If you have an online business that depends on search engines, social media, and advertising to send you the traffic that drives your business … you are running a similar risk.

You are putting the future of your business in the hands of companies outside your control.

Many profitable companies lost it all after a change of an algorithm, a change of social media policies, or the rising prices of advertising.

“The best way to control your own destiny is to have direct communication with your customers and not depend on other platforms for your success.
For online marketing, the best way is to build and grow your own email list. Email Marketing gives you the most effective way to talk directly to all of your customers. ”

Noah Kagan

In this article, you’ll find the best practices and ideas of how 15 really successful entrepreneurs/marketers are implementing their email marketing strategy.

You’ll learn what each one is doing especially well. You’ll find statistics, examples, insights, tips and actionable advice you can use right away.

You’ll understand why these entrepreneurs think email marketing is so important. Neil Patel analyzed how email subscribers compare to those that arrive from social media or search engines.

The results blew my mind. You’ll hear more on those later.

You’ll learn from:

Alex TurnbullAlex Turnbull is the CEO of Groove (Groovehq.com); simple and affordable help-desk software. Alex shares all he's learning on his journey through entrepreneurship (from 0 to 500K/month revenue). (Blog) Chris HextonChris Hexton is Vero‘s founder. Vero is an email marketing service that tracks customer behavior and sends triggered emails based on their behavior. They have a great blog about email marketing. (Blog) Neil PatelNeil Patel has built a really successful SaaS businesses like Kissmetrics (which they just sold), CrazyEgg.com (Visual analytics and heat maps) and HelloBar.com. Neil writes regularly about SEO and marketing at Quicksprout.com and NeilPatel.com. (Blog)
Andrew WarnerAndrew Warner is the founder of Mixergy.com, a site/podcast to learn from proven entrepreneurs through interviews. In each interview, Andrew dives deep looking for the reasons of success of each entrepreneur. (Blog) Dan NorrisDan Norris is a serial entrepreneur and the Founder of WPCurve. They solve WP issues of your blog for a low monthly fee. In very little time, WPCurve has grown into a successful business. (Blog) Noah KaganNoah Kagan is a serial entrepreneur who has created many successful businesses. AppSumo shares offers and updates on great products for businesses. SumoMe provides tools to grow a website’s traffic and gain subscribers. Noah blogs at SumoMe.com and at OKDork.com (Blog)
Brennan DunnBrennan Dunn is the founder of planscope.io, a project management software for consultants. He has written books and has courses for freelancers. He blogs at doubleyourfreelancing.com. (Blog) Derek HalpernDerek Halpern is the person behind SocialTriggers.com. He covers the Interaction between marketing and psychology. (Blog) Marie ForleoMarie Forleo is a life coach and motivational speaker. She creates weekly videos with tips, advice and personal stories for small businesses and entrepreneurs. It’s “The place to be to create a business and life you love.” She blogs at MarieForleo.com (Blog)
Brian DeanBrian Dean is a SEO and backlink expert. He blogs at Backlinko.com, where he writes really in-depth studies of different ways to increase traffic. (Blog) Lincoln MurphyLincoln Murphy blogs at SixteenVentures.com about Marketing, Customer Acquisition and Churn Reduction for SaaS businesses. (Blog) Peep LajaPeep Laja is the person behind ConversionXL.com where he shares conversion advice to convert more visitors into subscribers and customers. He also does consulting at Markitekt. (Blog)
BufferBuffer is a platform to share news on social media. They have grown their business by sharing really useful content and being extremely transparent. (Blog) Nathalie LussierNathalie Lussier is a digital strategist. She blogs about business and marketing at NathalieLussier.com. (Blog) Ryan DeissRyan Deiss is the CEO of DigitalMarketer.com They write in depth articles about online marketing. They also have a membership program and paid courses for getting traffic, conversion and engagement. (Blog)

You’ll understand how they take their customers through five stages:

  1. Non visitor
  2. Website visitor
  3. Newsletter subscriber
  4. Newsletter reader
  5. FAN / Customer

You’ll see how they overcome five important hurdles to connect with their subscribers:

  1. TRAFFIC or turn a non-Visitor into a Visitor
  2. SUBSCRIBE or turn a visitor into a subscriber
  3. OPEN or turn a subscriber into Reader
  4. VALUE or turn a reader into FAN/Customer
  5. CONNECT or turn a reader into FAN/Customer

I’ve analyzed:

  • 15 marketers
  • 56 different subscription forms
  • 49 reasons to subscribe (lead magnets).
  • 440 specific newsletters.

In this article, you’ll see numbers that relate to any of these steps, especially in Section#2 about “Getting Subscribers”. These numbers give an idea of the popularity of the discussed topic.

If you place your mouse on top of a text or number that is dot underlined (like 26%)You'll see here a brief text that explains where this number comes from .... you’ll see additional information.

I have spent 100+ hours analyzing these marketers and putting this guide together for you.

Analyzing what very successful entrepreneurs and marketers do is priceless. They know about email marketing, write about it, give a lot of importance to it, have large lists & do proper testing.

You’re about to learn on steroids.

“A smart entrepreneur learns from his mistake. A smarter entrepreneur learns from someone else’s mistake. And the smartest entrepreneur learns from someone else’s SUCCESS.”

Derek Halpern

Download this article in pdf AND one page Summary/Checklist with all the actionable advice on it.

How this study was conducted.

Hurdle 1: Get Targeted Traffic

No traffic =No subscribers = Zero results.

This is the only section I will write about briefly.

It is too wide of a topic and too important to give it justice in just a section of an article.

There are great books, online courses, businesses, blogs and communities that deal specifically with building traffic.

I will provide the basics and some resources (later on) that will point you in the right direction:

Getting targeted traffic has two parts: “targeted” and “traffic.”

Targeted:

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Any email marketing strategy starts by defining whom you want to attract to push the “Subscribe” button.

  • Who is he?
  • Where is he (online)?
  • What is he interested in?

This defines everything you will be doing.

  • What your newsletters will be about.
  • What your lead magnets will be.
  • Where and how you’ll find them.

Traffic:

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Unless you buy a list (don’t do it) you’ll need targeted traffic to your site.

Some options are:

  1. Content Marketing: Publish content that attracts people to your website.
  2. SEO: Optimize your content and get links that push it up in search engines.
  3. Advertising / SEM: Advertise specific keywords or put ads on sites where your potential subscribers hang out.
  4. Social Media: Attract visitors from specific communities and social media sites they are part of.

Later on, I’ll share specific links, about building traffic.

Hurdle 2: Get Subscribers

Do you want to receive more emails?

I don’t.

Do you feel too many websites ask you for it?

I do.

This is why every day it’s getting harder to grow an email list.

This section is separated into:

  • How these entrepreneurs ask for the email (subscription form)
  • What they offer to subscribe (lead magnet).

This section goes in depth on the types of subscription forms these marketers use and why.

You’ll see how they’ve doubled or even multiplied x 20 their subscribers, just by choosing the right subscription form and lead magnet.

If you’re more interested to learn about lead magnets you’ll find this information here.

If your site is already converting well (visitors to subscribers), you may want to go directly to the section about maximizing newsletter openings.

The chart below gives you a good idea of the types of subscription forms these marketers use. The most popular is putting the subscription form at the end of the content. Other popular subscription forms are exit intent pop-ups, content upgrades, and subscription forms on the home page & sidebar.

 

Home Page 47%7 out of 15 entrepreneurs make it a top priority to get new subscribers from their home page Pop-Ups In Content
Main Navigation Timed pop-up 13%2 out of 15 entrepreneurs have time triggered pop-ups Bottom 73%11 out of 15 entrepreneurs put a subscription form at the end of their blog posts
Sidebar 47%7 out of 15 entrepreneurs Exit Pop- Up 47%7 out of 15 entrepreneurs have a pop-up that is triggered when you are about to leave the page Content Upgrades 47%7 out of 15 entrepreneurs use content upgrades
Footer 20%3 out of 15 entrepreneurs have subscription form in the footer Header 7%1 out of 15 entrepreneurs has a small pop-up in the header section
Menu Above 7%1 out of 15 entrepreneurs have a link in their main horizontal menu, directly to their subscription form Footer 13%2 out of 15 entrepreneurs have a pop-up on the footer of their site
Under the header: 7%1 out of 15 entrepreneurs have a subscription form, under the header, on all pages of the website Corner 20%3 out of 15 entrepreneurs have a scroll triggered pop-up that pops up at the right corner (below), as soon as you've scrolled X% of the page

 

Home page:

The home page is the most important page of a website.

It’s the most visited and the key point of reference to the full website.

47%7 out of 15 entrepreneurs of entrepreneurs dedicate the best part of their home page to collect emails.

Mixergy’s home page is a big subscribe form.

mixergy-550

And so is ConversionXL’s …

home - conversionxl-550

Noah Kagan, Derek Halpern and Brian Dean give it a similar importance.

These work well because….

Visitors who arrive at it either typed the URL or arrived through a link. Most of them are familiar with the site or someone recommended it. They are more likely to subscribe, even if they do not see any content.

Those that arrive through a search engine are sent directly to the content.

Marie Forleo has an email form under the header throughout her full website. This is what it looks like:

home-page-550

The first thing you see when you visit Nathalie Lussier’s home page is her free course to sign up to her newsletter.

nathalie

Seven of these marketers dedicate the best part of their website to growing their email list. This confirms that email marketing is crucial to them.

Main Navigation:

Sidebar:

The sidebar lets you have the subscription form on all pages of your website.

It’s the first place an interested visitor looks for it.

47%7 out of 15 marketers have a subscription form on the sidebar. However, only 10 of the analyzed websites have a sidebar. If we take these out, 7 out of 10 that have a sidebar, have a subscription form on it of the marketers use them.

This is Lincoln Murphy’s:sidebar

85%6 of the 7 marketers that have a sidebar, have it above the fold have it above the fold.

If you have a sidebar, it’ s a good place to put a subscription form.

But if your main objective is to get new subscribers, consider getting rid of the sidebar.

Bryan HarrisBryan Harris blogs at VideoFruit.com, about building an online business. He shares some great studies (like this one), related to growing an email list. conducted a study on the effectiveness of using a sidebar. By removing it, he increased sign-ups by 26%.

Why?

Because he removed all distractions from the content, which is what best converts for him.

The Footer section:

The footer can display a subscription form on all pages of your website.

It has less visibility than the sidebar. Those who see it are more interested because they made it to the end of the page.

20%3 out of the 15 entrepreneurs analyzed have a subscription form on the footer section. use it.

This is an example from WPCurve (Dan Norris).

wpcurve-site-footer
Annoying Pop-Ups:

How often does this happen to you?

You are reading a post you are interested in. Suddenly, a pop-up covers your full screen asking you to subscribe.

Isn’t that annoying?

Pop-ups are annoying, but they are widely used because they are really effective. In this study published by Conversion XL, they show examples of websites that after using them, increased sign ups by as much as 600%.

In this other study, Neil Patel says that pop-ups account for 81% of the emails collected by Quicksprout.

Nathalie Lussier shares that pop-ups account for 70% of the emails collected by Social Media Examiner. She talks about how Dan Zarrella doubled his opt in rates by using pop-ups, with no effect on bounce rates.

This explains why 75%12 out of 15 marketers use them. I spotted five different types:

  • 7 have an exit intent pop-up
  • 3 have a triggered box pop-up (appears in one of the corners)
  • 2 have a footer pop-up
  • 2 have time-triggered centered pop-up (pops up after X seconds)
  • 1 has it in the header.

Three do not have any and three have two.

The most popular was…

Exit Intent pop-up:

Before you go … why don’t you subscribe?

It pops up at the perfect moment.

You are not interrupted because you were about to leave.

You already got a good idea of the value the site provides.

If you liked what you read, you are more likely to subscribe.

If pop-ups annoy you… you were going to leave anyways.

If you want to see this pop-up in action, take your mouse out of the screen and you’ll see it appear.

This study from Backlinko shows how an exit intent pop-up doubled their opt-in rate.

47%7 out of 15 entrepreneurs use them.

I found the following 3 variations of exit intent pop-ups

42%3 out of 7 who have a pop-up are the classic “Enter your email here.” This is ConversionXL’s

Pop-up-conversion-xl

42%3 of the 7 who have a pop-up do not ask for the email right away. They ask a question or “force” the visitor to choose a statement between two.

Here’s Quicksprout’s subscription form, asking to make a decision.

quicksprout-2secs-pop-up-550

To close it, you need to choose between:

“Send me a guide to get traffic” or “I have enough traffic.”

If you chose the guide, you’ll be asked for the email in the next screen.

This banner forces you to think what you are renouncing to if you do not subscribe.

What option is best?

Joanna Wiebe from CopyHackers recommends using the two choice option (the Quicksprout example above).  That’s what converts best for her because it makes subscribers aware of the consequences of not opting in.

There was one last type, used by Nathalie Lussier. It’s a banner.

exit-popup

When you click on it, you’re taken to a landing page that asks you for your email.

Good practices:

Nathalie Lussier’s pop-up (above) only activates for non- subscribers

It checks the URL for the referrer…

nathalie lussier-popupally-550

This way, she gives subscribers a better user experience.

Did you notice how she refers to her subscribers in the URL?

?Popupally_stop=beautifulsubscriber&

I love it.

Later on, you’ll see the special treatment Nathalie gives her subscribers.

Within the content:

A subscribe form in the content ensures that someone reading your content sees it.

You can place it at the perfect spot, when the reader is at a high.

You can adapt the lead magnet to that specific content.

Some variations…

At the bottom of the post:

Now that you know the value I provide, subscribe…

If you read a great article that delivers tons of value, you are more likely to subscribe as soon as you finish reading it.

This study from ContentVerve shows how they increased conversions by 304% by putting the subscribe form at the end of their landing page (vs. putting it above the fold).

73%11 out of 15 entrepreneurs include a subscribe form at the end of the content.

This is Buffer’s…

buffer-bottom-post-550

Brennan also includes a Twitter Follow button.

bottom-post-550

Those who are not ready to subscribe can follow him on Twitter and eventually subscribe.

Content Upgrade: The cherry on top of the cake

A content upgrade is the missing piece that makes the article you are reading just perfect.

If you want it, subscribe.

You are highly engaged with the content, so you are likely to want more.

In this article, Brian Dean shows how content upgrades increased his opt-ins by 785%. Bryan Harris explains how LeadPages increased them by x20.

47%7 out of 15 marketers use it.

Download a one page Summary/Checklist with all the actionable advice on this article AND the full article in pdf.

The above is an example of a content upgrade. Click on the link to understand how it works :-).

Some more examples:

Noah Kagan…

in-content-related-blog-contentBrian Dean…

content-upgrades

Brian includes 2 bonus strategies, not found in the article. If you liked what you read, you’ll want that checklist and those two bonuses.

Andrew Warner has a special type of Content Upgrade.

Mixergy publishes interviews and has free access to them for 2-3 weeks after the interview is published. After this, they are only accessible to Premium members.

If you are not a member and click on a specific video, you can watch it by subscribing.

click on content - interview

Email Personalization:

Should you ask for email only?

Name?

Anything else?

66%10 out of 15 marketers of these marketers asked only for email.

20%3 out of 15 marketers asked for name and email, and 13%2 out of 15 marketers had subscription forms of both types.

Should you ask for the email in your form?

The traditional approach says that the email field should be placed right in the banner or pop-up, so a visitor does as few steps as possible to subscribe.

This is how 70%39 out of 56 subscription forms of the subscription forms have it:

brennan-exit-pop-up

The remaining 30%17 out of 56 subscription forms do not include it.

This is an example from Brian Dean

brian-dean-guide-free-pdf-under-guide

When you click on the button, one of following happens.

  1. A pop-up asks for your email.
  2. You are sent to a landing page.

This second approach has some advantages…

  1. Some visitors are blind to subscription forms that include an email form.
  2. If you see a banner that does not include it, you may think that the free gift is only a click away. Then you are presented with more reasons to subscribe.
  3. You get more data to improve further. For example, people who click on a banner and do not subscribe.

Actionable tips/ Conclusions:

Use different types of subscription forms. Each marketer used on average 3,5 different types.

The most popular were:

Things to test:

  1. Include (or not) the email form in the banner.
  2. How many (more) people you get if you do not require a name.

How to convince visitors to become subscribers

A subscribe form puts the “subscribe” message in front of your visitors.

Now you need to persuade them to put their email and push the subscribe button.

The best way to do this is with the value you already provide.

If you are delivering awesome content, you’ll have the person 50-100% convinced to subscribe.

49%24 out of 49 subscription forms of the analyzed forms do not offer any incentives to subscribe.

This is one of the subscription form from WPCurve (Dan Norris):

wpcurve-below-post-content

No lead magnet offered. Just subscribe to get updates.

Other people need a small push.

That’s the purpose of lead magnets (gift provided in exchange for an email address).

It should be aligned to the value you’ll provide afterward.

It should be especially attractive to subscribers who are more likely to become customers.

Of the analyzed subscribe forms,

Note: Lead magnets given in content upgrades have been excluded from this analysis. They would distract from the general analysis. They will be re-considered later on.

Being simplistic, lead magnets can be separated into two groups: High perceived value and tactical.

High perceived value:

How much would you sell your email address for?

If someone hands you $300 for it, would you give it to him/her?

If you are offered $5000 … would you sell it?

Considering you can unsubscribe at any time, most of us would…

After “subscribe for updates,” high perceived value lead magnets (eBooks and courses) are the most popular.

They are offered in 42%21 of the 49 analyzed subscription forms offer a high perceived value lead magnet: Ebooks (22%), Free Courses (14%) and resource/toolkits (6%) of the subscription forms.

Neil Patel specifies the monetary value of the lead magnet on the subscription form.

He’s implying “I’ll give you $300 for your email address”

sidebar-quicksprout-2

Or you’ll get the same value others get for $5.000’s per hour.

bottom-post-quicksprout-2

100-page eBooks or 30-day courses, even if packed with great content, take a time commitment that turns many people off. I am one of them.

For these people, a better option is something they can read and use right away.

Tactical/actionable tips (cheatsheet, swipe file)

Get this, read it and get the same results I did.

This is a good example from Ryan Deiss:

ryan deiss

Instant gratification and very low time commitment (60 seconds and fill in 5 blanks).

Here’s another example from Lincoln Murphy.

lincoln-triggered-box-corner-600

What SaaS entrepreneur would not want to engage 99% of their customers?

It’s one hack. Proven results from someone I trust. It’s a no-brainer.

If this was a high-value lead magnet, it would be something like “Subscribe to an X day course on how to engage your customers.” Or an eBook about how these really well-known companies are engaging their customers.

Instead, this is one thing that works and you could use it in the next few minutes.

8%4 of the 49 subscription forms of subscription forms offer a tactical lead magnet (not counting content upgrades).

Here’s a video from Traffic Generation Cafe that explains how to double sign ups by concentrating on tactical lead magnets.

If we add content upgrades to the mix, 60%9 of the 15 entrepreneurs offered at least one tactical lead magnet.

This is the breakdown:

  • 5 offer only high-value lead magnets
  • 4 offer only tactical lead magnets.
  • 4 offer both… a high value and a tactical lead magnet
  • 2 do not offer lead magnets

Actionable tips/takeaways:

49%24 of the 49 subscription forms of the subscription forms do not offer lead magnets. They are “Free updates.”

This brings in the highest quality subscribers… those who are really interested in your content and do not need any bribes to sign up.

The more value you provide and the better known you are (more recommendations); the less lead magnets you’ll need.

There was no clear winner between giving a high-perceived value item (eBook, guide) and/or an actionable tips giveaway (checklist, etc.).

Each type appeals to a different type of visitor.

Offer both types and see which one resonates best.

Consider maintaining both types.

Use the high-value item in the exit intent pop-up and the tactical in a content upgrade or at the bottom of the post.

Things to test…

Different lead magnets.

High perceived and tactical lead magnets.

If specifying a $ value in the subscription form improves opt-in rates.

Hurdle 3 – From Subscriber to Reader

 

 

You’ve got a subscriber.

He signed to your list.

Next, he should open and read your emails.

Subject lines:

Hey!

I’m here. Open (this email) and read it.

A great subject line is what makes your email stand out in the inbox.

It is determinant in the open rates.

33% of email recipients open email based on subject line alone.

Convinceandconvert.com

This section will focus on how these marketers write their subject lines.

The average subject line length was 7,8 words and 45,2 characters.

Subject lines were NOT personalized. None of the analyzed 440 email subject lines included the subscriber’s name.

The most popular words were:

Word Occurrences
FrequencyThe numbers on this column are calculated by dividing the number of times the word appears divided by the total number of words of the 440 subject lines.
Frequency SLThis column is the number of times the word appears, divided by the number of subject lines analyzed (440).
how 95 4% 21,6%
your 67 2.8% 15,2%
you 62 2.6% 14,1%
get 27 1.1% 6,1%
why 26 1.1% 5,9%
what 24 1% 5,5%
our 23 1% 5,2%
new 18 0.7% 4,1%
free 16 0.7% 3,6%
sales 13 0.5% 3,0%
guide 13 0.5% 3,0%
best 11 0.5% 2,5%
here 11 0.5% 2,5%
learned 11 0.5% 2,5%

“You” and “Your” add up to 129 occurrences. 29%15,2% +14,1% of the subject lines included one of these two words.

These findings are similar to a study shared by Noah Kagan after studying 1 million headlines.

you-your-noah

“How” was widely used, showing the preference to sharing useful content.

Other interesting facts:

  • 25% include a number of any sort.
  • 13% include a question mark.
  • 7% include “[ ].” This explains why.
  • 8% include ”…”
  • 3% include an exclamation point
  • 2% denote a real sense of urgency

When a newsletter shared a post, 42% used exactly the same subject line as the post.

Those who changed it…

1. Reduced its length…

Brian Dean changed this post title: Step-By-Step Case Study: How I Created a Post That’s Generated 113,817 Visitors and 2,000+ New Email Subscribers

To: 113,817 visits and 2,000+ subscribers (new case study)

2. Converted it into a question

Nathalie Lussier changed this one: How To Start The Right Business

To: Are you in the wrong business?

3. Made it more intriguing

Andrew Warner changed this one: Master Class: Growth Hacking – with Dan McGaw

To: Six-figure problems…

When to send newsletters?

This simple question is tricky.

If you look for advice online, you’ll find studies, based on well-backed research that say contradictory things.

Experian suggests sending newsletters on the weekend.

GetResponse and MarketingSherpa say that you should avoid sending on weekends.

How confusing is that !#%¿!

Follow every suggestion you read online and you’ll go around like a carousel.

The easy answer is to test what works best for your audience. And you should.

But I do not want to leave you with just this…

Start by making an educated guess.

Check when others who have a similar audience and have done testing are sending their newsletters. Start there.

The 440 analyzed newsletters were sent on:

  • Sunday – 1%
  • Monday – 14%
  • Tuesday – 17%
  • Wednesday – 25%
  • Thursday – 25%
  • Friday – 15%
  • Saturday – 2%

The middle of the week (Wednesday and Thursday) were their preferred days, followed by Tuesday.

Looking at it individually… the most popular days are also Wednesday

Monday Tuesday Wednesday
Dan Norris 43%43% of the 30 newsletters analyzed from Dan, arrived on a Monday Marie Forleo 73%73% of the 30 newsletters analyzed from Marie, arrived on a Tuesday Nathalie Lussier 73%73% of the 30 newsletters analyzed from Nathalie, arrived on a Wednesday
Neil Patel 33% Brian Dean 30% Vero 57%
Noah Kagan 37%
Ryan Deiss 37%
Neil Patel 33%

And Thursday

Thursday Friday
Alex Turnbull 80% Lincoln Murphy 53%
ConversionXL 60% Neil Patel 33%
Andrew Warner 43%
Brennan Dunn 37%
BufferApp 30%
Brian Dean 30%
Derek Halpern 27%

Hour of the day

23458511_s

This determines if (and how) a subscriber reads your newsletter.

If you send it…

  • When he is busy, he will not read it.
  • When he is tired, he will not read it.
  • In the evening or early in the morning, he will read it on his mobile.
  • During work hours, he will read it on his computer.

If you look for advice online…

Mailchimp suggests mornings (10 am) because that’s when open rates will be the highest. Experian suggests evenings to get responses.

Both studies make good points, but they are somewhat contradictory, although they make the important distinction between open rates and CTR.

It gets worse…

Time zones.

side-globe

Now, what do you do?

I checked at what times these entrepreneurs send their emails.

The times you see are the times I received the newsletter, which differs from the real time they sent it.

Send times per hour blocks: Most popular hours:
00-03 am: 2%2% of the 440 newsletters analayzed arrived between 00-03 AM (EST time) 10-11 am: 16%16% of the 440 newsletters analayzed, arrived between 10 and 11 AM EST time
03-06 am: 2% 11-12 pm: 13%
06-09 am: 20% 8-9 am: 10%
09-12 pm: 38% 9-10 am: 8%
12-15 pm: 19% 12-13 pm: 8%
15-18 pm: 9% 7-8 am: 7%
18-21 pm: 7% 13-14 pm: 7%
21-24 pm: 5%

 

I am in Madrid and have converted times to GMT EST time by subtracting 6 hours.

Generally speaking, these marketers wanted subscribers to receive their newsletters very early in the morning PST, mid-morning EST, evening in the UK and late night in Australia.

These were the preferred “send times” per marketer:

 

6 am-9 am: 9 am-12 pm: 12 pm-15 pm:
Noah Kagan (87)%87% of the 30 newsletters received from Noah, arrived between 6 and 9 AM EST time Alex Turnbull (97%)97% of the 30 newsletters received from Alex, arrived between 9 and 12 PM EST time Derek Halpern (50%)50% of the 30 newsletters received from Derek, arrived between 12 and 15 PM EST time
Buffer (87%) Neil Patel (97%) Chris Hexton (67%)
Brian Dean (75%) Nathalie Lussier (67%) Peep Laja (40%)
Ryan Deiss (50%) 15-18 pm: None
Andrew Warner (50%) 18 pm-21 pm:
Brennan Dunn (43%) Dan Norris (47%)
Marie Forleo (37%) Lincoln Murphy (37%)

 


Who sends the email? … The from field

Now, ignore all you just read about subject lines, days and hour to send your campaign.

Say what?

Yes, just ignore it. At least until you get this part right.

After analyzing the subject lines, times, and hours these marketers send their newsletters, I got the impression that they were not that optimized. Maybe a little, but I got the feeling that they spend little energy on this.

There is something much more important.

What really determines their open rates and (CTR's)Click Through Rate and will also determine yours is the value you provide and the relationship you build with your subscribers.

Your reputation.

If you put your focus on subject lines and the best moment to send your newsletters, your open rates and CTR’s may be OK for the first 1-2 times, but then they will plummet.

If you send newsletters with un-optimized subject lines, the worst day and hour of the week, but you provide value and connect, your open rates and CTR’s will go through the roof.

What about this stat?

33% of email recipients open email based on subject line alone.

Convinceandconvert.com

Think about this…

Do you ever open an email without looking at who sent it?

You look at who sent it first. Then, you look at the subject line.

Pause and think for a second.

Which newsletters do you consistently open and read?

Ask yourself why.

A name gives credibility to what’s inside.

I buy books from authors I know, instantly. I don’t need any recommendations.

Email marketing is a bit the same. A new subscriber starts to evaluate you with the first newsletter he receives.

He votes every newsletter he receives from you up or down. The more votes you receive, the more often he’ll open your emails.

Go below zero and he’ll stop opening them and unsubscribe.

Some think that having a good reputation is enough.

It’s not.

The better reputation you have, the more votes you’ll start with. But you’ll also be evaluated with every newsletter.

I have subscribed to newsletters of people who I really respect and whose work I really value. However, I have unsubscribed from many because their newsletters only wasted my time. I’ll still read their books or follow their blog, but they are not welcome in my inbox anymore.

They just don’t get it.

Your reputation with every subscriber is what will drive opens.

Next, I’ll cover how to increase your reputation.

We are getting to the best part.

Download this article in pdf AND one page Summary/Checklist with all the actionable advice on it.

Hurdle 4 – Deliver Value

You’ve got one more subscriber,

He opened your email.

Mission accomplished?

Nope…

Most articles about email marketing focus primarily on how to get subscribers and get them to open your emails.

That’s important. If you have no subscribers, you have nothing. It’s like opening a great store in the middle of the desert.

Then, you need to connect with them to convert them to fans and customers.

This is much more difficult than deciding if you should use a pop-up or a subscribe form below the article.

But the awards are amazing…

Connecting with subscribers will give you a bigger reach than The New York Times.

Check this out from Marie Forleo, it’s crazy:

marie forleo 2

Now we’ll look at what you need to do to get subscribers this engaged

It’s:

  • Provide value.
  • Connect with them

1) Provide value

valor

There is an important distinction between email subscribers and blog readers.

Subscribers are more interested in what you say.

They have given you permission to send them whatever you wish to their inbox.

Blog readers have not.

Website visitors subscribe to your list because either they want to hear from you or they want your lead magnet.

Regardless of the reason, once they are on it … give them reasons to want to remain on it.

In this section, I will be referring to the additional value newsletters provide, not taking into consideration how valuable the blog’s content is.

What does a subscriber receives that a blog reader does not?

This is what this section is about.

After revising 440 emails, one by one, I have organized the delivered value in two big categories.

  • Sharing content from the blog.
  • Deliver value (outside the blog).

Providing value with content

70%309 of the 440 analyzed newsletters of the analyzed newsletters primarily share content published in their blog.

Some share a link, others add a summary and a few put the same content from the blog in the newsletter.

This benefits subscribers by providing…:

  • Convenience: No need to check when new articles are published.
  • Not miss updates. For me this is the most important reason. There is so much information on the internet, that unless I subscribe to those blogs that cover the information I am interested in, I risk forgetting about them and not going back anymore.

9%29 of the 440 analyzed newsletters of the newsletters shared a link/title to the post.

This is an example from Buffer:

Buffer-sign-up

This provides the two mentioned benefits.

11%33 of the 440 analyzed newsletters share the full post in the newsletter.

47% of people read their email in their mobile. If your website is not responsive, sharing the full post in the newsletter provides additional value.

Some subscribers will get the impression that they received such content just for being a subscriber. In such cases, they will value this positively.

On the flip side, long emails turn some people off.

You also lose the opportunity to engage them with other related content that’s on your website.

Provide a summary or intro to the article.

55%171 of the 440 analyzed newsletters write a post summary or an introduction as a teaser.

Here’s an example from Andrew Warner:

summary-post-andrew

I like post summaries because I can see in a few seconds if I am interested in what’s being shared or not.

22%67 of the 440 analyzed newsletters write the beginning of the post, which is a good introduction to it.

This is an example from Neil Patel:

design-neil

3%9 of the 440 analyzed newsletters include an intro followed by the full article.

Noah Kagan does this sometimes. An intro/teaser that explains why the article is relevant. Then comes a link to the article. The full article comes right below.

This is the intro he used in one of his newsletters:

intro-to-article-noah

Share a couple of articles

If you are very interested in the content from someone…

What would you prefer?

Receive a newsletter that shares a single article or one that shares different articles to choose from?

Common sense says that the more choices you have, the more value you get.

Moreover, putting several links in the same newsletter reduces the send frequency.

Peep Laja shares 2-4 articles per newsletter.

conversionXL

 

At the end of 2014, Hubspot provided 16-21 links in their newsletters:

hubspot 2

 

Whereas logic says that the more options you have, the better … the paradox of choice says that too many options makes it difficult to choose and is paralyzing.

Now, Hubspot’s weekly newsletters have 4-6 links.

Hubspot nueva(1)

For subscribers only

Do you consider your subscribers VIPs?

Do you want them to feel like one?

Then provide them with value that non subscribers don’t get.

Brian makes this very clear in his subscribe form.

brian-dean-sidebar-homeHere are some ways to do this:

Share valuable articles you have written elsewhere

If you write on other websites or there is a good article that mentions you, share it with your subscribers.

This has many benefits …

  1. That’s content your subscribers are interested in and do not get by visiting your blog/website.
  2. The website where you guest posted will be delighted for sending them traffic.
  3. Your subscribers will see that you are also writing on other well-known sites. This will increase your reputation.

Here’s an example from Dan Norris,

Dannorris pat flynn

And here’s another one from Lincoln Murphy.

lincoln articles

Share great articles, written by others that you find especially interesting and inspiring

Unless you think your subscribers can only get value from your content, sharing good articles and inspiring ideas from others is one of the best ways to give them additional value.

There is too much great information on the internet to keep your newsletter only about you.

Your subscribers trust your judgment and expertise.

Sharing any information you feel important will be very valuable to them.

You can add your own thoughts and comments to provide extra value.

Your subscribers will associate the ideas of the article to the original writer, but also to you.

There is so much value in sharing great information (written by others) through a newsletter, that we have created a tool that specifically does this (shameless plug).

Here’s more information on it.

Write unique content

Lincoln Murphy’s newsletters are unique.

He talks about things he does not cover in his blog.

This is how he does this:

In his blog he writes a really detailed and thorough analysis of different topics that he updates regularly.

His newsletters are more lightweight; thoughts related to what he is working on at a specific moment.

lincoln example

Then he links to specific articles from his blog.

By doing this, he …

  • Gives subscribers exclusive content.
  • Links to past content that are relevant, sending people to his blog.
  • Updates his newsletters, even when he is not putting new content on the blog.

Share specific content/tips with subscribers

Brennan gives his subscribers a freebie …

brennan-freebie

In one of his newsletters, Noah used a quick email to ask subscribers to help him promote a free marketing course.

He got great results.

In the next email, he shared them with his subscribers (only).

tip-emails-noah

Chris Hexton wisely uses content upgrades for two purposes: get new subscribers and provide extra value.

chris-hexon
Remind them of the value they get

If you are providing value exclusively to your subscribers, remind them of it.

This reinforces their decision for being on your list and tells them they are your VIPs.

Here’s an example from Derek

exclusivity-derek

Where he…

  • Acknowledges the feedback received and shows he is listening.
  • States clearly that this content is for subscribers ONLY, reinforcing the value a subscriber gets.

Using (the newsletter) for promotional purposes

It would be great if all content and tools on the internet were free.

Wouldn’t it?

However, people who create content and resources also need to make a living.

They provide great content for free, for the possibility (not the obligation) to market to you and live from their expertise.

Fair deal, isn’t it?

I think so.

However, promotion is a touchy subject. Many subscribers frown upon those who try to sell them.

When there is a promotion, there are usually 3-5 emails, one day apart.

This is the most effective way to build momentum and sell more, but it can be a strain to uninterested subscribers.

When I subscribe to a newsletter and most of the content I receive is promotional and I’m not interested in such promotions, I unsubscribe or stop reading them.

One marketer once told me …

If a subscriber does not understand that I need to make a living and gets annoyed by my promotional efforts, he is not a valuable subscriber. He is only costing me money… so I’m OK if he un-subscribes.

I completely disagree.

A subscriber may not be interested in what you sell today, but he could be in the future.

There is more.

The value an engaged subscriber provides goes beyond the dollars he brings in.

A subscriber is an ambassador to your brand and content.

He will share it, talk about it, recommend it, and bring many more customers.

In June 2014, Neil Patel analyzed the engagement of visitors that came from search engines, direct, social media, and email.

Email was responsible for:

  • 16,3% of the blog’s traffic
  • 35,7% of the comments
  • 34,3% of the social media shares
  • 44% of the revenue

16% of website visitors were responsible for almost half of the revenue.

They were also twice as engaged with the content.

If you are too aggressive, many will unsubscribe or disengage.

So …

  • Marketers need to promote.
  • During a promotion, they may send 3-5 emails one day apart.
  • The majority of their subscribers will not be interested or purchase.

What are some good practices around this?

Brennan warns his subscribers that they will receive an unusual number of promotional emails and explains why.

brennan-one

Nathalie and Derek give their subscribers the possibility to opt-out from certain campaigns they may not be interested in.

This is an example from Nathalie…

nathalie

Andrew Warner segments his list… so only subscribers interested in what he is offering will continue receiving those messages.

andrew-2

If you are interested in doing interviews, you’ll sign up. If you’re not, you will not receive more emails about this.

Peep Laja combines content and promotion. While sometimes he sends a newsletter that presents an event, subsequent reminders are part of a newsletter that has other content.

Groove, BufferApp, and Quicksprout sell a specific product or service. They include a link in the P.S. or footer presenting their product/service.

While the main body of the email is content (value), there is always a reference to their product or service.

The bottom of Groove’s newsletter:

promote-without-promoting-Groove

Neil Patel’s

neil-promote-service

Takeaways:

If you are promoting something fiercely, warn your subscribers ahead of time, so they are ready or understand.

Otherwise, find a way to separate the genuinely interested from those who are not. Give them the opportunity to opt out from those promotional emails.

Provide subscribers interested in what you sell additional value for being on your list. For example, you could give a discount.

Download a one page Summary/Checklist with all the actionable advice on this article AND the full article in pdf.

Hurdle 5: Connect With Subscribers

 

Building a relationship with subscribers goes beyond the shared content.

Your content and promotional efforts attracted visitors. Your lead magnet convinced them to subscribe.

To build a strong connection you need to connect as a human being.

The brain is composed of two parts; the logical and the emotional.

Value feeds the logical.

This section is about feeding the “emotional.”

“People do business with people they know, like, and trust” …

You’ve heard that before, right?

Know, like, and trust have much more to do with emotions than logic.

Here’s how Derek described the importance of customer connection …

branding-derek-soft-stuff-2

Nathalie Lussier expressed it this way:

nathalie-2 (2)

Connecting isn’t “Look at how great I am”

No…

It’s the opposite…

It’s letting subscribers know better the real you as opposed to the ideal you.

Vanessa Van EdwardsVanessa is a Huffington Post columnist and Penguin author. She researches, speaks and writes about cracking the code of interesting human behavior at ScienceofPeople.com. Her specialty is human lie detection and body language in business. shared an interesting experiment.

It blew my mind.

Two actresses sold a blender at a mall to two similar groups of people. The presentation was exactly the same. The only difference was that actress A “forgot” to add the cap to the blender. When she turned it on, everything spilled over her. Actress B did everything fine. No mistakes.

Actress A (blender with no cap) sold many more blenders than Actress B.

Isn’t this crazy?

This makes absolutely no sense if you look at it with the logical part of your brain.

If you add emotions, actress A was more relatable and connected better than Actress B, who did the perfect execution.

How do these marketers connect with their subscribers?

Let’s dive deeper…

They talk to you as a friend…

They want you to feel that the newsletter was written to you.

They do not write as we were taught in school.

They write in a casual voice, similarly to how you speak or how you’d write to a good friend.

Nathalie Lussier does this really well. She writes her newsletters with a different tone and content than her blog.

This is how she starts one specific newsletter

lussier-2

This newsletter leads to this post that starts like this…

membership-sells-2

… and then goes to deliver the value on the video.

Do you see the difference?

Her newsletter is much more personal. She mixes personal stories, thoughts, and other things that will help you get to know her better and connect.

It’s the kind of things she would tell a friend.

Her blog content has more facts, ideas, value.

Nathalie is making a very clear distinction between a subscriber and a blog reader by what she shares and how she talks to both groups.

This does not mean that you should only connect with your subscribers.

In this section, I include examples of how these marketers connect through their newsletter, but also through their blog, video, etc …

Open a conversation and know more about you

Interaction builds connection.

Many of these marketers make a big effort to open a conversation with their subscribers.

Here are some examples:

This is Alex,

connect

Brian,

brian-connect-f

Derek,

respond-email-derek

Even if there is no interaction (because the subscriber does not respond), opening such dialog connects.

Moreover,

Those who respond provide invaluable feedback.

They say what they are interested in or are struggling with.

Then … these marketers can create content, products, and services the consumers will be interested in.

This is Brennan Dunn:

share-what-others-say-brennan

Brian Dean:

ask subscribers what they want brian

They build excitement on what’s coming up:

This is Brian Dean trying to connect and build excitement for what’s coming up:

build-excitement-what-coming-up-brian-2

Use Storytelling

Good stories engage us through thoughts and emotions. Our brains cannot disconnect from a good story.

Need evidence?

Alex Thurnbull did an A/B experiment where people read two versions of the same article. There was only one difference. One started with a story while the other jumped right into the facts.

The value delivered was exactly the same.

Alex found that those that read the article with the good story, 300% more people scrolled down to the end of the page and spent 520% more time on page.

That’s the effect storytelling had on one of Groove’s articles. Alex explained this experiment on this post on Buffer.

He says:

” When we hear information-–for example, a/b test results—we activate the part of our brain responsible for processing language. All we’re doing is taking in the words and figuring out what they mean.

But when we hear stories, our brain acts as if we’re feeling the stories.”

Alex Turnbull

Feelings! … again.

Leo WidrichLeo Widrich is the Co-Founder of Buffer, an easy way to publish on social media. He takes care of the marketing and the Buffer community., explains why telling powerful stories is the best way to activate our brains.

A good story works everywhere.

Writing content, at a party, talking to friends, giving a presentation.

Chip and Dan Heath found out that after a presentation 63% of attendees remember stories while 5% remember stats.

Stories always work. Use them especially in your newsletters.

They open up…

1482341_s

I love people. I love hearing their stories. I do my best to be open and transparent about my flaws and insecurities. People are comfortable with me because I’m not trying to be something other than I am.

“Marie Forleo”

Opening up to people you know is intimidating.

Opening up to thousands of subscribers you don’t know is frightening…

Opening up does not need to be risky. You can open up without putting too much at stake.

Let’s see some examples:

1) Low Exposure: Share a meaningful article, story or something that is important to you that’s personal and resonates with your audience.

Chris Hexton shared an article about why some people are luckier than others.

share other content

It does not have anything to do with what he usually writes about (email marketing).

By reading it, you get to know a bit more about Chris and what’s important to him.

Marie Forleo shares causes she fights for and asks her subscribers to support them.

This tells subscribers what things are important to her & makes them feel part of a greater goal.

marie-charity-water

2) Share more about you…

Effective engagement is inspired by the empathy that develops simply by being human

Brian Solis Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research firm focused on disruptive technology. He's also the Author of What's the Future of Business (WTF) and Engage.

Now we are getting a bit more personal. It’s sharing about your life and thoughts, but without exposing too much.

Here’s an example from Marie Forleo, where she talks about her personal life…

marie forleo

Nathalie Lussier shares the moments she is most proud of

nathalie-greatest-hits
Being Vulnerable

ojos

Welcome to Riskyland…

Very few people are ready to go this deep…

It seems that being vulnerable puts your reputation and credibility at stake.

If you are the CEO of a company and you share your struggles with your subscribers and customers …

What are they going to think of you?

Isn’t the CEO supposed to have everything clear?

Shouldn’t he transmit full confidence, all the time?

Will they trust you or your company if they see you’re not a super human?

A couple of days ago, I listened to a podcast that really opened my eyes.

Jerry Colonna Jerry Colonna is a certified professional coach. He helps clients design a more conscious life and make needed changes to their career to improve their performance and satisfaction. He's also been a venture capitalist focused on investing in early stage technology-related startups. Jerry blogs at www.themonsterinyourhead.com., talked with Rand Fishkin Rand Fishkin co-founded what is, today, one of the marketing world's fastest growing software companies, Moz. They focus on serving professional marketers with analytics and recommendations to improve their web traffic and customer acquisition through inbound channels about depression.

Rand had just gone through a depression and shared his journey.

During the interview, he shared his insecurities, his negative mental loops, his guilt and sense of failure, his belief that he’ll never be good enough.

“I don’t feel very big. In fact, I feel like what my Dad always told me I was – a high potential, low achiever kinda kid.”

Rand Fishkin

That’s Rand Fishkin.

One of the better known and more respected people on marketing.

Rand founded MOZ, a 30 M$ company, with a cumulated 3-year growth of +411%

Regardless of what Rand thinks, he’s not a low achiever.

But he does feel that way …

Did I think less of him after listening to such interview?

Nope.

I felt extremely appreciative.

By sharing what he did, he made me feel that when I have negative feelings, a sense of failure, insecurities …

It’s OK …

It’s part of being a human being …

I am extremely appreciative to Rand for being so brave and sharing something he didn’t have to.

Thank you Rand.

In the same interview, Rand shared another story.

When he ran the Foundry CEO Summit, on the last day, they spent an hour discussing personal and emotional issues around being CEO & Founder. Brad Feld Brad Feld is the Managing Director and co-founder at Foundry Group. Brad has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur since 1987. He also co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and Intensity Ventures. Brad is also a co-founder of Techstars. asked to all CEO’s who had struggled with depression, severe anxiety and really severe emotional issues, to raise their hand…

Almost everyone in the room raised it.

So when Rand shares his depression … many CEO’s think

I feel you. I have been there.

They feel relieved that they are not the only ones feeling that way.

And they connect to Rand at a deeper level.

Another thing that struck me was to hear Jerry Colonna share his inner doubts. He shared his feelings when he went through a depression.

Jerry Colonna is a business coach. He helps people like Rand get out of a depression.

One could think that admitting he’s been depressed, would be negative for his reputation as a coach.

If I was a business coach myself, I would be frightened to reveal something like that.

This is what I would think…

If I reveal this, potential customers will think:

If you have the same destructive thoughts that I do and also get depressed … how are you going to help me?

If our brain was only logical, that’s what we would think.

That’s how a computer would process this.

But we are not computers.

When we hear something like this, our emotions kick in and we feel bonded to a person that has gone through experiences we can relate to.

And who … by sharing it, makes us feel that there is nothing seriously wrong with us.

Being vulnerable creates a greater connection.

Our capacity for vulnerability equals our capacity for connection

Kelsey RamsdenKelsey Ramsden has founded and rocked multimillion-dollar companies while juggling three kids and fighting cancer. Her mission is to inspire other entrepreneurs to recognize the unique brilliantness they have to contribute to their own lives and the lives of the people they serve.

On a newsletter about reaching out to customers, Brennan shared the following…

brennan-two

Saying this,

  1. Helps introverts (like myself) relate more to what he is talking about.
  2. Sends the message that he is not Super Brennan.

Here’s Andrew Warner, talking about some problems he had in his 20’s.

andrew

Derek shared the following about his childhood.

vulnerable-derek-disclose-about-yourself

Reading this about Derek connected me with him more than any of the other content he has shared before…

My childhood was very different from Derek’s, but when I hear this story, empathy kicks in.

This story does not provide any tips I can use, but helps me understand more about the person behind Social Triggers.

Was I the only one touched by this?

I checked the number of comments and social media shares of the last 10 articles published by Derek at Social Triggers (at the time of this study).

The average post had 121 comments and 545 shares in Twitter and Facebook.

The article with the most shares is the post where he shared this story.

“Be the exception” – 242 comments (x2 times the average) and 2069 shares in social media (x4 times the average).

The article with more comments was:

“I was in the hospital (and 5 lessons about life and business from 2014)” – It got 294 comments (x2.5 the average) and 881 shares in social media (x1,5 the average).

Subscribers want to know more about the person behind, especially if it is something meaningful.

Noah Kagan is all about sharing really useful and actionable tips and case studies.

One day he sent an email about depression. He said:

okdork-meaning-life

He made me stop and think. It’s so true …

And I would add …

At the end of our lives, what’s important is how we’ve influenced the lives of others.

Next, I’m going to share an example of how being vulnerable can even save your subscribers’ lives.

Now you’re probably thinking …

Uhmm… Javier (that’s me), seriously … aren’t you taking this a little too far?

Bear with me.  After you read what I’m about to share, you’ll understand how deep your connection with subscribers can be …

You do not need to take it this far, but I want you to understand the impact you can have in your subscribers.

Not everyone shows this vulnerability in their newsletters.

Some do it in their blog or videos. Some never do.

If you follow Andrew Warner’s podcast for entrepreneurs, you’ll hear how much Andrew shares about himself and how vulnerable he shows himself during the interviews.

Most of the interview is about tactics and strategies. He asks entrepreneurs what worked well for them and what did not.

Andrew also tries hard to get interviewees to open up.

To do so, he talks about his own fears, worries, problems… not only in business, but also in his personal life. The difficulties he had growing up, the insecurities he had then and now.

By opening up, he connects with his audience and does a huge favor to his interviewees.

He shows them the way to connect at a much deeper level.

This is one of the things I value the most about Mixergy interviews. Listening to how others are struggling or have struggled helps me understand that I am not the only one out there who feels this way at certain moments.

Unfortunately, as Andrew often says … very few entrepreneurs are ready to go this far.

In this interview with Tim Ferris, TimTim Ferriss has been listed as one of Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Business People.” He is an angel investor/advisor (Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, Uber, etc.) and author of three #1 NYT/WSJ bestsellers, including The 4-Hour Workweek. Tim blogs at fourhourworkweek.com said the following about the reasons of his success

“A big part of it is that I make it an explicit goal of mine to disabuse the notion that I am super human”

“I’ll write an entire post about how I stay in bed and do not want to get out of bed… and am lonely, and feel isolated, and have this manic depressed tendency …”

Tim Ferris

I loved that interview… so I subscribed to Tim’s newsletter.

The first newsletter I received was titled “Some Practical Thoughts on Suicide”….

Here’s how it starts …

timferris

And here’s the full story he shared.

When I read it, I was speechless.

Can one be more vulnerable than this?

In the story, he shares what made him write about this.

Silas is one of Tim’s followers.  He had a brother who was a big fan of Tim and committed suicide. Silas found a way to personally meet Tim and told him…

“People listen to you. Have you ever thought about talking about these things? About suicide or depression? You might be able to save someone.”

Hearing this made Tim decide to write about it.

This is how he describes how he felt about revealing what he was about to reveal.

But then there are dark secrets. The things we tell no one. The shadows we keep covered for fear of unraveling our lives.

For me, 1999 was full of shadows.

So much so that I never wanted to revisit them.

Tim has one million subscribers and many more blog readers.

By sharing this, he’ll help many who are suffering (like Silas’ brother was).

At the same time, he’s building a greater connection with all his audience.

Tim, thank you for uncovering these shadows.

This article was published two weeks ago. So far, it has 865 comments, 10K Facebook Likes and 2K Tweets.

His previous post had 91 comments, 213 Facebook Likes and 284 Tweets.

Do you think he connected?

Did he connect with you?

How do you feel about Tim Ferris after hearing/reading this story?

If you want to know how his readers/followers feel check his comments.

Here are some …

comments1

comments2

You can provide a lot of value and somewhat connect without being personal.

But if you open up and are meaningful, you’ll move a step up because your newsletter will have a soul.

You will connect at the emotional level.

Download this article in pdf AND one page Summary/Checklist with all the actionable advice on it.

Here we have been talking about individuals… but

Can a big company open up?

When a company is small or a one person shop, doing this is relatively easy. The founder manages the campaigns and writes the newsletters.

Out of the fifteen people/companies analyzed, fourteen are signed by the CEO/Founder.

What about bigger companies?

For example, can Microsoft / Google do this?

If Microsoft had a newsletter and you subscribed to it, would you like it if Bill Gates wrote it and signed it?

If he shared valuable and helpful personal experiences and stories, would you become more engaged with Microsoft’s products?

I would.

And what if Google’s founders Larry Page or Sergey Brin wrote a newsletter?

Opening up humanizes a company and connects its customers to it.

It helps people understand that at the steering wheel are real people.

If Google and Microsoft can do it, so can any other company. For some companies, it will be easier than for others.

What’s great about email marketing is that it takes the same effort for a large company who could have millions of subscribers to “open up” and be personal.

Be entertaining…

Noah does this really well.

His newsletters are full of actionable advice but are also fun to read.

His philosophy of marketing is:

how-he understands-mktg-noah

Noah loves tacos and uses every opportunity he has to talk about them.

I laugh every time.

tacos-1

A job offer …

tacos-2

He shares things that happen in his everyday life and the lessons he learns from them, being entertaining.

For example, he shared the following about the difficulties of being a father and an entrepreneur.

being-personal-noah

It is not the usual newsletter filled with the actionable advice he usually gives, but an interesting (and fun) read that connected with me. I am a father of three and an entrepreneur.

Another person who is great at this is Neville MedhoraNeville is a Blogger and an Entrepreneur. He is the copywriter of AppSumo.com and HouseOfRave.com. He writes about copywritting and teaches it at KopywritingKourse.com. He blogs at NevBlog.com.

If you subscribe to the KopyWritingKourse, the first email you’ll receive starts like this…

kopywriting

He sets up the tone of how his newsletter will be: casual, fun and with many things to learn.

This is how he asks for feedback and to connect…

neville2

I replied to this newsletter. I had to …

Notice the very casual language and how he seeks feedback.

In one of his newsletters, Neville gives an example of what he calls the most masterful piece of storytelling he’s ever seen.

I agree.

It’s a video from Craig Ferguson, sharing his addiction with alcohol.

You’ll see storytelling, vulnerability and entertainment, all combined in the same video.

Look at the end of this video from Marie Forleo and Derek Halpern.

Fun, entertaining, energizing …

Be transparent…

38778845_s

Transparency builds trust.

Derek recommends a course and explains he is earning a commission from it.

commission-derek

Buffer’s transparency has given them a very strong reputation.

At one point, they had a breach of security and they immediately emailed all their customers explaining what happened, not holding anything back.

hacking

Buffer shares everything. Their salaries, revenue and how they spend every dollar they make.

transparent pricing

Dan Norris is also extremely transparent. Every month he shares the revenue and other numbers from WPCurve.

dan-updates-2

Sharing numbers when things are going really well (21% revenue growth) is not that difficult.

However, Dan Norris shared them also when he was “failing” as an entrepreneur·.

dannorris failure

He started sharing his journey to entrepreneurship, sharing an income statement of zero. It’s been extremely inspiring following his success.

Transparency builds trust. Trust from employees and from customers. Trust brings business.

transparency-trust

Be Appreciative:

I shared part of this newsletter earlier. It comes from Marie Forleo.

It’s the one where she said that “A Path Appears” received more traffic and attention from her followers than from the New York Times.

There is another important part in that newsletter:

marie forleo2

See how appreciative she is?

Do you like to be appreciated?

Do you like to be told that you are part of a great community with a huge heart?

I do too. Do you think being appreciative is directly related to how responsive her audience is?

You bet.

If you had clicked on “A Path Appears,” you’ll feel appreciated and special.

Then, what will you do next time Marie asks you to click on something?

You’ll click again.

But there is more to being appreciative. Vanessa Van Edwards shared two interesting studies directly related to this.

One study looked at ways to increase tips for waiters.

They found that by making a positive comment to the customer when they handed the bill increased tips by +27%!

You know what’s the best part?

The positive comment was nothing big.

It was just a positive comment about the weather,

Saying something like “Good morning, today is a beautiful day,” made customers pay tips of +27%.

Vanessa also talks about the effects of labeling people. When you label someone positively, that makes the person want to live up to this label.

In a fundraising study, they told average donors that they were the highest donors.

As a result …

They actually became the highest donors!

They had to live up to that positive label.

So when you say something positive to your subscribers, not only you’ll make them feel better. You’ll also make them want to live up to it.

Here’s Nathalie, finishing up a newsletter…

you-matter-nathalie
Make them feel part of your journey or mission…

Eighteen months ago, Alex Turnbull started the blog post series “A SaaS Startup’s Journey to $100,000 a Month.

He describes his journey to $100K $500K as CEO of GrooveSimple help software..

He started the journey when they were making $28K.

Now they are at $130K.

He shares what they are doing … what works, what does not and what he’s learning in the process…

Sharing it as a journey makes his audience feel a part of it.

Below you’ll see part of the timeline of his journey.

He presents it as a path. Each article he writes is a step to the final goalThe original goal was $100K revenue. When they reached that goal, he updated it to $500K.

Every month he shows the progress by sharing where his revenue is.

 

alex

 

Alex could have written exactly the same content, but not as part of a journey …

A weekly article with useful information (as many other blogs share), but without a mission or progress.

While he would have had success with it, because the content is very good and useful … I’m convinced that his success would not have been the same.

Look at how he emphasizes the journey and his progress in his subscribe form…

alex3

When he started this, he reached out to some influential people.

Here’s the reaction he got from one.

Alex2

Sharing a journey engages an audience who want to follow it with you….

And powers what you’re sharing with the benefits of storytelling.

You can also set your audience on a mission…

Here’s an example …

Andrew Warner asked his subscribers to subscribe to iTunes…

The following week, he shared the results. Check this out:

shared-mission

See the language he used?

He did not say…

Mixergy is now the Nº 3 most listened Business podcast (which it is).

He said instead:

“You guys took down Dave Ramsey!”

He gave all the credit to his subscribers who made this possible.

And asked again to subscribe to take down Planet Money.

Conclusion:

Being a subscriber has helped me get to know these marketers and entrepreneurs better and has provided a ton of value. I feel I know them because one way or another, they have connected with me.

I am a customer of some. In the future, I will be a customer of all those who offer something I need.

I know them, like them, and trust them.

I’m an easy sell.

I have recommended and shared their content, products, and services when I have had the opportunity.

That’s what you do when you know, like, and trust someone. Right?

Email has an ability many channels don’t: creating valuable, personal touches – at scale.

David NewmanDavid Newman is a Marketing expert, speaker & author of the book Do It! Marketing. He specializes in working with speakers, authors, consultants, and independent professionals to attract, engage, and win more clients.

Use this ability wisely.

Invest time and resources to it.

It will be the best investment you’ll make in your business.

Final Hurdles GIF

Thanks for making it to the end of the article. This makes the 100+ hours I spent on it worth the effort.

If you found it useful, could you share it with others who would benefit from it?

<— The sharing buttons are to your left <—

You’ll make my day!

Occasionally, I will write content I will publish in this website & elsewhere.

Regularly, I will share great articles I find, mainly related to email marketing.

I’ll share the best stuff I find and write with my subscribers in one weekly newsletter.

If you subscribe, this is what you’ll get:

  1. A summary/checklist of this article with only the actionable advice. Only one page that summarizes 100+ hours of hard work.
  2. One weekly email with the best content published about email marketing around the web. We review 100+ articles each week and we’ll share only the best ones with our VIP’s (subscribers). I’ll also share other content I write.
  3. You’ll see if I practise what I preach in here :-). If I don’t, you can call me out or unsubscribe (I prefer if you call me out)…

Looking forward to connect with you ...

Who I have included in this study (alphabetically ordered)…

I have analyzed 15 marketers I follow and whose opinions I really respect.

For simplicity, I have referred to them throughout this article as entrepreneurs or marketers.

Alex Turnbull:

Alex is the CEO of Groove; simple and affordable help-desk software. Through their company’s blog, Alex shares all he is learning on his journey through entrepreneurship. If you are a startup and are looking for some really actionable advice, it’s one of the best blogs you can follow.

Here are two great articles about email marketing: how they got 1000 subscribers in 24 hours with one blog post and how they grew to 5000 subscribers in under 5 weeks.

Andrew Warner:

Andrew is the founder of Mixergy.com, a site to learn from proven entrepreneurs. In each interview, Andrew dives deep looking for the reasons of success. He asks entrepreneurs many questions others don’t ask, like their earnings and failures. Andrew puts a lot of energy into seeing the real person behind the company.

Brennan Dunn

Brennan has built a very successful online business with project management software (planscope.io), books and courses. If you are a freelancer or consultant, you should subscribe to his list.

In this article, Brennan explains how he creates courses and why he uses them.

Brian Dean:

Brian is a SEO and backlink expert. He shares extremely useful content at Backlinko. He writes about one article per month, really in detail and full of actionable advice. If you want to grow your website or blog, you should definitely check Backlinko.

Here are some great articles from Brian on building an email list.

Buffer (founders: Joel Gascogne and Leo Widrich)

Buffer is a platform to share news on social media. They have grown their business by sharing really useful content and being extremely transparent.

Here’s the content they have on email marketing.

Chris Hexton:

Chris is Vero‘s founder. Vero is an email marketing service that tracks customer behavior on your website or app. Then it sends triggered newsletters or emails based on their behavior. Vero has a blog, where Jimmy Daly writes great content about email marketing.

Dan Norris:

Dan is a serial entrepreneur and the Founder of WPCurve. They solve WordPress issues for a low monthly fee. I have followed Dan since his times at Inform.ly, a failed startup. Since then, WPCurve has grown to be a really successful business.

Derek Halpern:

Derek is the person behind Social Triggers, where he covers the Interaction between marketing and psychology.

If you are into marketing, understanding the mind of customers is crucial. That’s what he covers. He has built a large following in very little time. Here are some articles he has on building a list.

Lincoln Murphy:

Lincoln blogs at SixteenVentures about Marketing, Customer Acquisition, and Churn Reduction Consulting for SaaS businesses. If you work for a SaaS business, you should subscribe to his list.

This case study about increasing blog conversion by 450% and this other one about follow-up sequences are some of his articles on email marketing (focused at SaaS).

Nathalie Lussier:

Nathalie is a digital strategist and blogs about business and marketing. She has a free 30-day course on growing an email list. She has created PopUpAlly, a WordPress pop-up plugin that was recently mentioned on Entrepreneur.com. Nathalie’s an internal keynote speaker, award-winning entrepreneur, and has been featured in Inc., Fast Company & Forbes.

Neil Patel:

Neil Patel has built a few really successful SaaS businesses like Kissmetrics (which they just sold), CrazyEgg (Visual analytics and heat maps) and HelloBar.

Neil shares his knowledge about SEO and marketing at Quicksprout and NeilPatel.com. He shares really in depth articles full of actionable advice. At NeilPatel.com he shares his journey to 100 K visitors (currently at 85K.). If you want to understand how and why he is growing so fast, check out his blog.

Noah Kagan:

Noah is a serial entrepreneur who has created many successful businesses. AppSumo shares offers and updates on great products for businesses. They have over 750.000 subscribers. SumoMe provides tools to grow a website’s traffic and gain subscribers. His businesses rely heavily on email, so this is one of his favorite topics. His free course Email1k, is the best resource I have seen on growing an email list.

Noah Kagan blogs at SumoMe and at OKDork.

Marie Forleo:

Marie is a life coach and motivational speaker. Her business centers on small businesses and entrepreneurs. She creates weekly videos with tips, advice and personal stories for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Marie Forleo blogs at MarieForleo.com. She has 250.000 email subscribers and over 170.000 Youtube Subscribers. It’s “The place to be to create a business and life you love.”

PeepLaja:

Peep is the person behind Conversion XL where he shares conversion advice that will help you convert more visitors into subscribers and customers. He also does consulting at Markitekt,

These are the articles they’ve published about email marketing.

Ryan Deiss:

Ryan is the CEO of DigitalMarketer. They write in depth articles about online marketing. They have a membership program and paid courses for getting traffic, conversion and engagement. They have over 430.000 subscribers and 105.000 students. Here’s a good article about email marketing.

Other resources for traffic:

Besides the links shared from each marketer, other great resources that deal directly with getting traffic are:

Online communities GrowthHackers and Inbound.

The ultimate growth hacking source book is a great resource with many ideas to build traffic.

The blog TrafficGenerationCafe where Ana Hoffman blogs about “big traffic ideas for small marketing budgets”.

Download a one page Summary/Checklist with all the actionable advice on this article AND the full article in pdf.

Image Credits: Synthpimp, Jakemelara & MatthewWiebe

12 Responses to “The Path to Email Marketing Success: Best Practices and Strategies of 15 Smart Marketers”

  1. Walt Goshert May 21, 2015 at 3:15 pm # Reply

    Javier,

    Thanks for investing your time and effort in putting this email marketing guide together.

    It beats anything I’ve seen online.

    Best,

    Walt

    • Javier May 22, 2015 at 1:02 am # Reply

      Thanks Walt, It’s been a big effort but learned a lot in the process, so it was definitely worth it. I am really glad you liked it.

  2. Jordan May 21, 2015 at 6:56 pm # Reply

    Great post Javier! Love the research and examples, thanks for putting this together

    • Javier May 22, 2015 at 1:11 am # Reply

      Thanks a lot, Jordan. Really glad you liked it.

  3. Sarfraj Lakdawala May 22, 2015 at 6:40 am # Reply

    Great Post @Javier, You spent 100+ hours for making awesome information and I also spent 3 to 4 hours to read your post and made note.

    Every points i have been saved and next time i will follow when i do email marketing.

    • Javier May 29, 2015 at 2:41 pm # Reply

      Thanks Sarfraj, really glad you liked it and found it valuable.

  4. Ana Hoffman May 27, 2015 at 3:25 am # Reply

    Didn’t expect to find such a tremendous resource here, Javier; bookmark-worthy! Thanks for including Traffic Generation Café; honored.

    • Javier May 28, 2015 at 11:30 pm # Reply

      Thanks so much for the kind words, Ana. I have been following Traffic Generation Café for a long time. Really glad you liked the article.

  5. Dan Norris June 2, 2015 at 8:07 am # Reply

    Hey Javier, this is beast level mate well done and thanks for including me!

    • Javier June 2, 2015 at 8:26 pm # Reply

      Thanks so much, Dan! Appreciate you reading it

  6. Jascha Brinkmann July 21, 2015 at 11:15 am # Reply

    This Article is pure gold! I have a really big archive of emails from a lot of successfull online businesses, never thought of turning it into such a massive post. But its truly the best way to learn from the best.

    • Javier July 23, 2015 at 12:37 pm # Reply

      Thanks Jasha. I agree that observing what they do is much more valuable than reading what they (or other marketers) say we should do.

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