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How to Sell With Email Marketing

It’s not enough to build an email list and send emails. If you want to sell with email marketing you need to understand where email fits in your overall sales and marketing.

Entrepreneurs are asking the wrong questions about email marketing, and we marketers aren’t helping when we only answer the wrong questions.

Let me explain.

In this image right here, SEMRush is telling me that the most popular questions about email marketing are:

  • What is email marketing
  • How to do email marketing
  • Why is email marketing important
  • How can email marketing fuel your inbound strategy
sell with email

All of these questions are valid, and you might be searching for them, but the highest ranking answers are not doing the job of helping you sell with email marketing. 

SendinBlue has the #1 slot for “What is email marketing” and here they say “Email marketing is a direct marketing channel that lets businesses share new products, sales, and updates with customers on their contact list. Its high ROI makes it crucial to most businesses’ overall inbound strategy.

what is email - sell with email

Then they go on to talk all about the benefits of email, different types of emails. And this is really helpful.  BUT – it doesn’t tell you how to use email to sell stuff.

Why Do People Say “The Money is in the List”

Your money is in the list because your email list isn’t just an email list – it’s a list of BUYERS. It’s a list of prospects – people who see a potential solution to their problem in you.

When you think about your email list as a BUYERS list, your perspective will magically chane from focusing on quantity to focusing on QUALITY.

So yes, the money is in the list, but only if they are your ideal customers and see value in what you’re selling.

The Money Isn’t In the List if No One is Buying What You’re Selling  

Everyone tells you that the “Money is in the list” and to build an email list, but this is too general.  How do you actually sell products and services using email?  

I decided to search on this, and this is a featured snippet from Google.

example of sales email

They are basically telling you to write great subject lines, tailor to your audience, include a call to action.  Blah blah blah.

Here’s another example Google thinks will help you sell with email. It says something similar; Apply content marketing best practices, write great subject lines, infotain them.

example sell with email

This advice might give you decent emails but it will NOT sell more stuff. In fact, I’ll bet that you’ve done all this and gotten the big fat goose-egg for results.  

This makes you think that you need an email writing course, or you need to hire a copywriter to create your emails. 

No. No. and No.

The information that’s ranking at the top of Google right now is there to sell email marketing tools, it’s not there to help you sell your stuff.

Why You Aren’t Selling With Email

You aren’t selling with email for the same reason that you aren’t selling with events, or kiosks, or out of your trunk in a parking lot.  Email is a task and not a strategy.  

Simply DOING email marketing doesn’t make sales happen.  That’s like saying dieting will make you a marathon runner.  

There’s more to it than that when it comes to email marketing – and marathons.

Building your business and selling with email marketing is like building anything whether it’s a lego set, a shelf, or a house.  There is a process.  If you follow the process in the right order, you’ll get the desired outcome.  When you skip steps you get something that may not do the job as expected.

Experts drop you into the middle of a process

The reason you’re confused about email marketing and your email marketing isn’t generating sales is because the ranking advice drops you smack in the middle of the marketing process.

Let me explain.

Think of the marketing process as a long division problem. It’s really hard to solve if someone doesn’t give you the whole problem and just drops you into the middle of the solution.

example of division problem -

Here, let me show you.  This is how I look at the marketing process:

There’s research, developing the offer, choosing a strategy, and choosing tactics.

You’re only doing the last two steps of the process

marketing process steps

Notice that these are all CHOICES you have to make.  Otherwise, you’re not going to know WHAT to put in the emails – right?

When you look at the advice on “how to do email marketing” for example, you are living in those last two blocks of the process.  Email marketing is a tactic – it’s something that you DO after you’ve done a bunch of other things that come before it in the process.

All of these articles assume that you’ve done these prior steps of understanding your ideal customer, knowing what messaging you’re going to put in the email and that you have an amazing offer your customers can’t wait to get their hands on. 

But if all you’ve ever seen is this same advice, and no one tells you that there’s a process – you will NOT be able to sell anything via email because you won’t have a good email list, and you won’t have a good offer, and you won’t know what to say to these people.

Start Your Email Marketing Here

Now, let’s see how to sell with email marketing using the entire marketing process.

Do your research

Everyone skips this step.  Market research is the foundation for your marketing, your branding, and everything else. Without solid research, you will fail.

This is the process of gathering data and making sense of information so that you can choose:

  • Your ideal customer, what matters to them, what problems they are trying to solve, how they currently solve the problem, what alternatives they have, how much they pay, etc.
  • What you’re going to sell them (the offer).
  • How you’re going to deliver your offer.

Take a moment to answer these questions for yourself.  Write them down.  Because you’re going to need this information in your emails. 

Creating an Irresistible offer

Use the information you’ve gathered to create an irresistible offer. 

If you have an audience, but you don’t have an offer, you’ll want to talk to, interview, survey, your audience and create an offer that serves them. 

If you have an offer but no audience, you’ll have to do some more research and testing to find the ideal audience for the offer you have. You’ll have to do some tweaking either way. 

You simply CANNOT do anything anyone tells you without an offer. 

An offer isn’t just something you sell. Your offer includes the product, service, packaging, pricing, brand promise, distribution, all of it.  

For example, your product might be “cheeseburgers”, but your offer would be a $1.99 happy meal.  An offer has depth and breadth and desirability. 

An offer connects with your customer on an emotional level.  It promises your customer a desired outcome at an incredible value.  Anything else is a commodity.

Here are some great examples of email offers

examples of sales email

Choosing a marketing strategy based on your natural strengths 

This is going to be the HOW of your marketing; HOW are you going to attract your ideal customers.  

In the past, we were taught that this was about THEM, but today, because of social media, the internet and the bottom up communication structure that we have, it’s actually about YOU and how YOU want to spend your time.  

It has to be about what YOU do well and how you communicate most effectively.

Choose your tactics

Channels that you’re going to use to get the word out.   This is where “Email” is an option.  But there are other options too

  • Webinars
  • Blogging
  • Speaking
  • Social posts
  • Other video types
  • Etc.

How email works with different strategies

Most of the time, email is used as a content marketing strategy.  But that isn’t always the case. You can use email as a direct marketing strategy where you send your audience coupons for specific products.  You can even use email as an advertising strategy where you rent someone else’s email list. 

  • Content: Educating and informational content with a recommendation and a link in the call to action.
  • Direct: Email with a coupon, discount code, etc. to a very specific offer.
  • Advertising: Place an ad with someone else’s email. (use other people’s audiences)

Tips for How to Sell with Email Marketing

Let’s summarize.

Create an offer – what you’re going to sell

If there’s only ONE thing you do before you start doing email marketing, I’d beg you to invest all your time and effort into developing an offer and matching that offer to your ideal customer.  This is, by far, your critical success factor. 

Once you have an offer and an audience, your marketing possibilities are endless.

Choose a strategy – how you’re going to engage with your customers

Now you get to choose how you’re going to engage with your customers.  How do YOU feel most comfortable engaging with your customers?  If you like educating, then use content marketing.  If you are passionate about your solution, be a direct marketer.  And if you’re neither and you just want to work with clients, advertise.

Pick a tactic – in this case we’re talking about selling with email marketing.

With your strategy in hand, you’re going to use email marketing to sell your stuff. If you’ve done the work of preparing your offer and different combinations of your offer, you’ll be able to send a wide variety of emails. 

Here are the different emails you can send

These are the types of email you can send to your list.  ALL of these emails can either be content marketing (helping them choose) or direct marketing (driving them to a specific offer).  It all depends on which strategy you choose and what you put in the emails.

  • Newsletters
  • Coupons and special offers
  • Invitations to events
  • eCourses – where they learn something small every day.
  • Blog post emails with an offer at the end
  • Personal stories and mistakes
  • Your favorite things
  • Share your favorite tools
  • Behind the scenes
  • Video emails
  • Something that worked for you

The possibilities are only limited by your creativity. 

Measuring Email Success

Finally we need to talk about getting good at email marketing.  Like everything else, this is a process. If you choose email marketing as a strategy, you’ll have to measure results to become good at it.  

Ignore open rates for now

The first and most obvious thing you’ll see in your email marketing software is “Open rates”.  This is basically the percentage of people who open your email.  However, cookie and privacy settings changes over the last year have made this number irrelevant.  In short, it’s artificially high.  So you can look at it, but don’t work too hard in optimizing it. 

Use Click Rates to Measure Success

Click rates are your BEST measure of success.  That means that every single email MUST contain at least one click.  Your goals for click rates should be to get to 1%, grow it to 3%, 5%, 10% and as high as you can get it. 

You can also use clicks to segment your list. For example, if you include links to 3 very different offers, your email system can tag people based on what they clicked on and help you build a profile of your audience and what interests them. 

How to be Successful Selling with Email Marketing

Start with your offer and your strategy.  What are you selling and how do you want to sell it?

Come up with an email marketing plan.  How often are you going to send emails, what types of emails are you going to send when?

Based on steps 1 and 2, choose an email marketing tool that has the features that you want.  I always recommend you start with a free tool like MailChimp to get your feet wet and learn about what features are really important to you.

Start building your email list with people you know.  The best email marketers (like Jeff Walker) started building their original private email network. 

  1. Create an opt-in form inside your email marketing system. Associate that form with a list or a tag and call it “Insiders” or “My network” anything that designates these people as your insider network.
  2. Simply email or DM your network asking them to join your community.  It helps if you have an offer or tell them what they are going to get and make sure that they understand that they will receive informational emails from you.  You can also have conversations with them about the type of information that they want to receive from you so that they can either purchase from you or even refer you.
  3. Create a simple free lead magnet; this can be as simple as a checklist, helpful video tutorial, sample product, or even a fun quiz. Anything that is helpful and valuable to your audience will do the trick.  This content is designed to be helpful and capture potential buyers. Your call to action can be as simple as “enter your email to get more helpful content”.
  4. You want to teach your list to engage with you.  Start emailing your list a mix of emails.  Send 4 emails with links to helpful free content and 1 email with a simple call to action that goes to an offer.
  5. Ask your email list to share this with their network if they think it will be helpful.
  6. Build slowly but surely.  Focus on being helpful and engaging and treating your buyers list the way you would your list of contacts. 

Selling With Email Marketing Should Be Fun and Easy

If you focus on treating your email list as a buyers list and helping your email contacts the way you’d help a friend, your list will grow. 

Always give your folks a reason to stay engaged with you.  Segment your list so that you are sending specific information to the people who are most interested in receiving it.  And have fun with this.  Your email list should be a list of friends and contacts.  They won’t buy from you all the time, but if your information is useful and helpful, they will share it with their network. 


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