Let’s start at the beginning…

What exactly is email marketing?

You’ve undoubtedly heard others talk about it, but never took the time to set up your email marketing system – but now it’s time for that to change!

Email marketing is the act of sending emails, normally in bulk, to a group of people who have subscribed to your ‘list’, to share personalised helpful content that will lead to sales of your products and services.

‘Email’ has been around since 1971 when inventor and software engineer, Ray Tomlinson, figured out a way of sending a ‘written’ message from one computer to another – that would open the floodgate to what is now used by more than half the population of the world (and is still increasing!).

The first email marketing campaign was sent in 1978 by Gary Thuerk who worked for DEC (Digital Equipment Corporationa USA tech giant at the time, eventually acquired by Compaq, which Hewlett Packard then acquired). Gary’s email campaign was sent to a list of 400 subscribers as a promotion for his company’s computers, and it resulted in $13 million in sales – not bad for your first email sales campaign, eh? 😊

#1 of 7 – Attract your ideal subscribers

Every effective email marketing system is fuelled by its subscribers, without them, you have nothing – and it’s your job to consistently find them and convince them to join your email list.

They exist everywhere (well, in most places), especially on social platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook. Of course, depending on your ideal client profile, the most popular platform will vary, so be sure to be where your target subscribers hang out.

Create and share content regularly

The most effective way to capture the attention of your target subscribers is to regularly craft and share valuable content with your audiences.

You need to figure out what the most commonly encountered problems and challenges your target subscribers have and talk about how to overcome them.

Regularity trumps frequency

The social platform algorithms tend to reward consistent and regular activity over infrequent ad hoc sharing. So, when designing what content you will share, remember to build a plan that you can commit to over the longer term.

My content-sharing strategy

Here is a list of my core ‘digital‘ assets.

  • I’m active on just one social platform, LinkedIn.
  • I have a website with an active blog.
  • I have an email list with a rich database of evergreen content, drip-fed to my subscribers with a blend of regular dynamic fresh content.
  • I have a list of lead magnets, intended to attract my target subscribers.

The content I share…

  • I post on LinkedIn 3-5 times per week.
  • I publish 3 blog articles per week, both on my website and on LinkedIn.
  • I share my lead magnets via an exit-intent pop-up on my website.
  • I send a weekly newsletter to my email list.
  • I drip-feed evergreen content to my subscribers (on average, 2 emails per subscriber, per week).
  • I publish one video on YouTube per week.

Everything I share has a single (ultimate) purpose – to attract subscribers to my email list.

Of course, at the point of consumption, it’s intended to give value and to be engaging, and if people find my content resonates with them, then hopefully they’ll be more inclined to join my email list to receive even more content from me.

I probably share more content each week than the ‘average’ marketer, so don’t feel like you need to do likewise, just focus on what you can comfortably commit to and stick to the consistent delivery of it across your chosen platforms.

Start small and find your rhythm

If you’re not sharing much content yet, I recommend starting small and growing it over time. It’ll give you more confidence and a chance to see what type of output lands well versus what bombs.

You can begin by sharing a post on social (whichever platform your targets hang out on) 2-3 times per week and get involved in the conversations of others – commenting on other people’s posts is a very effective way of raising your profile as your name will become recognisable to others on the platform.

You could also consider creating a monthly blog article that your audience will appreciate and see value in – just don’t let it become a blog graveyard where content goes to die!

Whatever you do, do it consistently and keep going!

💡Pro tip:

If you’re new to creating content, I’d recommend you start with your most favoured medium; for example, if you like writing, then focus on written content. If you opt for something you either don’t like or aren’t particularly skilled at, you’ll probably have less success and give up more readily.

#2 of 7 – Collect your ideal subscribers’ details

Once you start putting content out there, into the universe, people will begin to engage with it, comment on it, and when you ask them, join your email list.

One of the most effective ways to attract subscribers to your list is by offering them something that will help them overcome a current problem or challenge they have in their business or life (depending on what you serve).

This ‘offering’ is commonly referred to as a ‘lead magnet’.

As the name suggests, it’s something you create and offer to interested parties, in exchange for their name and email address (known as a value exchange).

But you may be wondering ‘how‘ you perform this value exchange – where do you collect subscribers’ details and give them your lead magnet – check out this article that walks you through the process;

Check out this article to see how to create landing pages in ConvertKit.

Opt-in Forms

If you already have a website that you use to create landing pages (web pages) and you’d prefer to use an embedded opt-in form, then ConvertKit will create a small snippet of code that you can copy and paste into your web page.

The example below shows an embedded form and a button where subscribers can get access to a free guide when they share their email address and name; i.e. Enter their first name, and email address, and hit the button “Download free guide“.

So, using a landing page or an opt-in form has the same result – a subscriber joins your list whenever they submit their details, giving you the flexibility of using one or the other (or both – I use both, mostly embedded opt-in forms on my WordPress website, but occasionally I use a landing page hosted by ConvertKit).

#3 of 7 – Help your subscribers overcome their first problem, first

When your subscribers join your email list, it’s normally a result of having requested one of your lead magnets.

That lead magnet will have been designed to help them overcome a particular problem or challenge, so when they join – that’s the focal point at that time – they want to overcome that problem.

For this reason, stick to helping them get over that problem before you start sharing anything else.

Put yourself in your subscriber’s position – let’s imagine you see a lead magnet and it suggests the following: “How to craft the perfect CV to guarantee you more interviews“.

Now, at the time they download that free document, what do you think they want help with?

Correct! They want to know how to craft the perfect CV – nothing else.

At that moment, they’re not interested in you or your business, they’re not interested in your upcoming webinar about “CPD Certification” or your “How to deal with Interview rejections” video series – just help them with crafting their perfect CV, for now.

Your lead magnet email sequence

The best way to help your subscribers overcome their initial problem or challenge is by drip-feeding them a series of emails that supplement and support your original lead magnet.

Let’s continue the ‘CV’ example above and look at how we could supplement the initial lead magnet;

Email #1: [Sent out after 2 days] Your CV’s header section: how to optimise to ensure it captures the reader’s attention.

Email #2: [Sent 2 days later] The best layout: How to use Word as your template and take advantage of proven designs.

Email #3: [Sent 2 days later]

Email #4: [Send 2 days later]…etc.

You get the gist – you craft a series of emails that drill down into sub-topics of the initial lead magnet, making it more likely the subscriber will complete the process of using what you shared and having a positive outcome.

The depth and breadth of information you cover will determine the number of emails in your sequence, but as a general guide, it’ll likely be 4-7 emails.

Once this has been done, then you can think about sharing other content with them.

#4 of 7 – Welcome and signpost your subscribers

After you’ve delivered on the subscriber’s initial problem with your ‘lead magnet email sequence’, then it’s time to tell them more about you, your business, and what they can expect, being part of your list.

This is done by drip-feeding a series of emails, known as your ‘Welcome’ (or ‘Orientation’) email sequence. In this sequence, it may look something like this…

Email #1: [Sent 2 days after the previous sequence] Explain what you do, whom you do it for, and what problems you help solve.

Email #2: [Sent 2 days later] Share stories or case studies about people you have helped and are just like your new subscriber (they can relate).

Email #3: [Sent 2 days later] Tell them what they can expect as a subscriber to your email list; how many emails per week/month, what topics you cover, and what you can do to help when they’re ready.

This email sequence can be as many (or few) emails as feels right for you, but in general, I’d recommend 3-5 emails.

#5 of 7 – Nurture your subscribers

Once your subscribers have joined your email list, it’s incumbent upon you to make sure you regularly share valuable content via the emails you send them.

The worst mistake I see people make is to secure subscribers and then let them linger for months without any engagement or communication – it’s pointless, and a waste of time and effort to gain them as subscribers.

Evergreen email sequences

One way of keeping a regular flow of valuable emails going out to your subscribers is to create a series of ‘evergreen’ emails.

These are emails that are not date-sensitive and will be as relevant for the reader next year, as they are today.

The way I create evergreen email sequences is to have one sequence per ‘topic of interest’. For example, I have an evergreen email sequence that gives helpful content about “email marketing“.

My evergreen sequences typically contain 20 – 50 emails in each and are drip-fed to subscribers weekly – meaning that people who join will receive emails every week, for months, before they reach the end of the sequence.

Weekly or Monthly Newsletters

In addition to your evergreen sequences, a great way to enhance your subscribers’ experiences is by sending them regular fresh and dynamic content.

This is typically ‘of the moment’ but still relevant and valuable for the subscribers. It could be a weekly (or monthly) newsletter that you send out and you send it with the intention that it’ll never be used again (unlike evergreen sequences that can be reused ad infinitum, for every new subscriber).

💡Pro tip:

Create a blend of evergreen and dynamic emails to take pressure off yourself to generate emails every week. With a library of email sequences, ConvertKit can drip-feed your evergreen content based on your required schedule, and without you having to do anything.

#6 of 7 – Sell to your subscribers

The ultimate objective for every email marketing system is to drive sales, and you must be sending your subscribers information about what it is you sell and why they will benefit if they buy from you.

If you’re not selling to your list, there’s no point in having an email marketing system.

This is done via your ‘Sales email sequences’ which, unsurprisingly, contain a series of emails that explain the offer and how to buy it.

Here’s an example sales email sequence:

Email #1: [Send on day 1 of your sales campaign] What your offer is, how it will benefit your subscriber, and how to get it.

Email #2: [Send 1 day later] Break down the thing you’re selling and explain more about each element, showing the benefits of each one.

Email #3: [Send 1 day later] Signpost the subscriber so they know what to expect when they buy your product/service.

Email #4: [Send 1 day later] Highlight common objections and give reasons why these are unfounded when it comes to your product/service.

Email #5: [Send 1 day later] Add scarcity so that people are more inclined to take action if there is a limit on availability (only if the scarcity is genuine – don’t fake it!)

Email #6: [Send 1 day later] Add bonuses for subscribers who buy before a date/time – make sure they know the bonuses disappear afterwards.

Email #7: [Send 1 day later] Do a recap and let them know that time is running out.

Email #8: [Send 1 hour before offer ends] Just a brief reminder that it’s their last chance.

Just like everything in business, you need to make your sales sequence relevant to YOUR products and services, and appropriate for YOUR subscribers.

The example above is intended only to give you an idea to get started.

💡Pro tip:

Remember, it’s key to respect your subscribers by NOT selling to them constantly. Spread your sales sequences across the calendar year, making the offer relevant to each subscriber you send it to using segmentation.

#7 of 7 – Automate your system

This is where email marketing platforms like ConvertKit become irreplaceable – when you use their ability to automate your system.

A well-designed system will feel like the best employee you ever had, one that never takes days off or makes mistakes – doing everything you ask of it, on time, every time.

Inside ConvertKit, we have access to ‘Visual Automations‘ – an interface that lets us use a graphical interface to construct a flow for our subscribers, using logic and events to determine each subscriber’s paths and timings.

A typical use of an automation could be this flow:

  1. Subscriber joins your email list
  2. ConvertKit sends out the PDF they requested
  3. They are then placed into a ‘lead magnet’ sequence that gets drip-fed to them
  4. Once completed, they are moved into a ‘welcome’ email sequence
  5. ConvertKit moves them into a sales sequence
  6. They get certain tags applied to their profile, based on what they click
  7. They get moved into other sequences that they have opted into

This stepped flow of various actions can also be supported and determined by conditional logic; e.g. “If they did not open any emails in the last 21 days, do this thing” – or “If they did open an email, send them this offer”.

Hopefully, you can begin to see the power automations brings and how we can use it to configure subscriber flows that give a great experience to the subscriber and negate the need for us to do or remember stuff.

The cost of launching your email marketing system

Widely recognised as the most accessible of all digital marketing channels, email marketing can be implemented in your business for a relatively low investment.

Most email marketing platforms, including ConvertKit, operate a ‘freemium‘ pricing model, meaning they have a free tier that you start with, and then upgrade at some time in the future if you decide that’s something you want to do.

There are a couple of features that most providers don’t offer on their free plans (email sequences and automations) – this is to encourage you to opt for one of their premium plans.

I happen to think this is pretty fair, as the platform providers need to create income to support all the great features that they make available to us, so I gladly subscribe to a premium plan.

To design, build, launch, and run an effective email marketing system in your business, you need to invest time and effort – and if you decide to opt for a premium plan on ConvertKit, it starts at just $9/m.

⚡️Plan of action – a list of what you need to do

Here’s a summarised ordered list of what you need to do to get your email marketing system up and running;

  1. Figure out (and create) what you’ll use to attract your subscribers
  2. Decide on which EMP/ESP you’re going to use (e.g. ConvertKit)
  3. Create your collection form (landing page or opt-in form)
  4. Share your lead magnet with your social audiences and website
  5. Solve your subscribers’ initial problem
  6. Welcome them and signpost them
  7. Nurture and drip-feed more value
  8. Sell your products and services
  9. Repeat steps 4 thru 8, forever

If you need help getting started, let me know and I’ll send you some useful content to keep you on track.

If you haven’t yet joined ConvertKit, here’s the link to get your free account, including a 14-day free trial of all premium features: convertkit.com

The Freelancer’s Guide to Email Marketing gives you everything you need to know to design, launch, and run an effective email marketing system in your business.


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John Bellingham
John Bellingham

Starting out as a software engineer over 30 years ago, I began working for large corporates before realising solopreneurship was my 'thing'. I've had many businesses over the years, which have taught me many lessons.

I now spend my time helping other solopreneurs to implement the strategies and tactics that worked for me, whilst avoiding all my expensive mistakes.

If you're a solopreneur who's either starting or running a business, then connect with me and let's have a chat.

I love Formula 1® so that's always a good conversation starter if you need one! 🏁 🏎

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