There are plenty of ways to generate buzz for your new sales launch, from running ads on Google and social media, to incentivizing your affiliate network to do the promotion for you.
But whatever your business model, one tactic you should absolutely be using is email marketing.
While marketers have more tools and tactics at their disposal now than ever before, the fact remains that email marketing often delivers the strongest results. Indeed, every $1 invested in email delivers an average return of $40. That’s pretty tough to compete with.
With that in mind, here are seven best practices to follow for your next sales launch email sequence, based on learnings from Authority Hacker’s two most recent campaigns, in which we sent almost 800,000 emails.
1. Nail your subject lines
On average, people receive more than 120 business emails a day (source Radicati). When inboxes are that busy, you need a strong subject line to compel your audience to click.
There’s a wealth of advice out there already on exactly what constitutes a strong subject line. Different sources advocate for different character counts and numbers of words.
I’m not going to add to the noise, because the specifics vary from one audience to another. But I can absolutely give you two key pointers that we learned from A/B testing subject lines during our last two campaigns:
- Segmenting your audience is vital: I’ll discuss this in more depth later in the article, but in a nutshell, our prospects and existing customers favored the exact opposite subject lines. If we’d just been sending to a single list, we’d have seen much poorer results.
- Get straight to the point: Why would someone bother opening your message if they don’t know what it’s about? We generated an open rate of 30.1% from existing customers with a subject line that read: “😏 A Trick I Use To Find High Paying Affiliate Offers.” There’s no ambiguity there – if I want to find affiliate offers that pay well, I’m going to open that email!
Also, it doesn’t take an eagle-eyed reader to notice the example subject line above contains an emoji. That’s something we do a lot, because it’s worked well for us in the past – in fact, every email in our latest campaign included an emoji at the start of the subject line.
We’re not the only ones getting in on the emoji act – far from it. Looking at the last 10 emails I’ve received, 30% have at least one emoji in the subject line:
Research shows brands that use subject line emojis see unique open rates increase by 56%. It’s not rocket science – emojis help emails stand out from the rest of your inbox clutter, making those emails more likely to be opened.
So does that mean you should be using emojis too?
The answer is: maybe.
Basically, it depends on your audience. Our tone of voice is pretty casual, so emojis work well for us. But if you’re super formal and professional, you risk turning people off.
As ever, I’d suggest running your own A/B tests to see if emojis are a good fit for your brand.
2. Add an offer to spice up your sequence
Practically every email sequence will see a drop-off in open rates from the first message to the last.
That’s to be expected. It’s like writing a press release or news story – you give the most important, exciting, eye-catching information first, then add more detail and context in later emails. If the first couple of messages in your sequence don’t achieve the highest open rates, that doesn’t mean the rest of your sequence was brilliant – more likely, it means your first one or two emails were weak!
Also, you’d hope that some people on your marketing list will buy after receiving one or two emails, at which point you might opt them out of the sequence. With your most eager, engaged audience gone, those who are left will be harder to please, which will also have an adverse impact on open rates.
You can see this happening in one of our latest email sequences (the left-most column shows results for the first email in the sequence, and so on):
That’s when we switched things up by sending out a special offer – in this case, free preview access to our latest course material. Immediately, open rates climbed again, and by email six we saw our third-highest open rate of the entire sequence.
3. Offer value as well as promoting your product
Sure, you’re creating an email sequence to promote a sales launch.
But a sequence isn’t multiple messages, all finding different ways to say “buy my product!”. It’s a coherent campaign that adds genuine value to the recipients and makes them want to keep clicking.
To do that, we combine sales-focused messaging with pure value-add emails. In fact, just half the messages we sent in one of our latest campaigns was directly sales-related, with the remaining half comprising community engagement, testimonials, and value-adds like:
- 💣 Here’s Our Exact Link Building Strategy
- 😏 A Trick I Use To Find High Paying Affiliate Offers
- 😭 The Solution To Your Link Building Problems
- 🤓 I’ve never seen this trick shared anywhere else
These messages aren’t about asking our audience for a commitment; they’re about giving something back.
The trick here is to add enough value that your messages make an impact and compel people to open your sales-oriented emails too, without giving away too much. At the end of the day, no one’s going to sign up if you’ve donated all your best content free of charge.
4. Split your audience into segments
Remember earlier, when I spoke about the importance of segmentation? Here’s why it’s so crucial to running a successful email sequence.
Research shows that marketers who segment their campaigns enjoy revenue increases of up to 760%. That’s because very few brands have just one audience. And if you have multiple audiences, it’s a fair bet they all have different interests and pain points.
For instance, let’s say you sell email marketing software. You only have one product, but it has various use cases. Salespeople use it for cold outreach; marketers use it for link-building; PRs use it for outreach.
You could send them all a generic email saying something like: “Our product can help you send emails at scale.”
Or you could send each audience a tailored email. For instance, you tell your sales audience: “We help sales teams do personalized cold outreach at scale.”
Chances are, the second approach will deliver better results, because it speaks to the needs of a specific audience. But you can’t send that sort of tailored messaging unless you effectively segment your marketing list.
Because we have a diverse audience, we do pretty basic segmentation with our email sequences, splitting our list into existing customers and prospects. That’s it.
Clearly, there’s some overlap. Indeed, we sent exactly the same value-add emails to both audiences. But we used different sales messaging, because upselling an existing customer just isn’t the same as selling to a prospect who doesn’t already understand the value we offer.
5. Give every email a unique angle
Taken as a whole, your sales launch sequence has a single goal: driving people to buy your product.
However, beneath that overarching objective, each email within your sequence needs to have a specific purpose or angle. They can’t all be saying the same thing, because that’s not an email sequence – that’s just spamming people with a bunch of rewritten sales messaging.
As an example, here are the specific angles we picked out for each message in our latest five-step sales launch sequence:
- Email 1: Our sale has begun – now’s your chance to sign up (we only take on new subscribers at certain times)
- Email 2: Here are all the shiny new features in our latest training program
- Email 3: Look what our existing customers have to say about our courses
- Email 4: Registration is only open for another 36 hours
- Email 5: This is your last chance to register, so don’t miss out!
You need to be completely clear on those angles before you start drafting copy for your emails and subject lines.
Once you’ve defined your angles and written your copy, read it all back. Ask yourself:
- Is there a logical progression from one email to the next?
- Is there a compelling reason for someone to read each email in this sequence?
- Could any of these messages be merged?
- Conversely, have you missed any key information that should be added in a new email?
Stick with the principle of “less is more”. There’s no magic number of emails to include in a sequence. If you can only pick out three or four unique angles, that’s your sequence – don’t create a fifth email that offers no additional value.
6. Practise good list hygiene
While consumers are generally more protective of their data today than they were a few years ago, giving someone your email isn’t a huge commitment.
If you see a webinar you really want to attend, or an ebook you simply have to read, you’ll likely be prepared to give away your email address in return.
Inevitably, that means not everyone on your marketing list will be super engaged. Some of those accounts may never interact with your emails, while others will be inactive or no longer exist. That can kill your open rate, which in turn harms your deliverability.
Between running the first and second sales launch sequence campaigns referenced in this article, we stepped up our email list hygiene. Specifically, we set up engagement tracking, which means any accounts that don’t interact with our emails for three months are automatically unsubscribed from our list.
The result? Our average open rate climbed from 13% to almost 20%.
You should absolutely do the same. It might seem counterintuitive to improve your email marketing efforts by deleting people from your marketing database, but there’s no point having a list of 50,000 names and email addresses if 95% of those people have no interest in your brand and never open your messages.
7. Keep your list engaged
Chances are, you’re not constantly launching new products or running special offers. You might feel that you have nothing in particular to promote. But that doesn’t mean you should ghost your email list.
We’ve found that ramping up our email activity outside of sales periods delivers stronger results when we are running an offer. It makes sense: by constantly sharing valuable information, we’re keeping our audience engaged, which in turn means they’re more likely to take advantage of future promotions.
Just to be clear, I’m not advising you to send more emails for the sake of it. If you have nothing useful or valuable to say, all you’ll do is generate a ton of unsubscribes.
However, this sort of audience nurturing doesn’t require a whole new content strategy. You don’t need to share a brand new ebook or unique research every time. Instead, it’s about making use of your existing assets.
For instance, we started summarizing our latest podcast episodes and sharing them with our marketing list. This didn’t require a lot of effort on our part. The podcasts already exist, so the content was already there – it just needed tidying up and editing down to a few key takeaways, plus the occasional graphic.
All of these insights come from years of email marketing activity. Once we run a campaign, we review the results, pick out what worked, and use that to inform our next email sequence.
You need to do the same, because no other brand has exactly the same audience as you.
In time, you’ll likely find certain words and phrases, or types or email, or lengths of copy resonate particularly well with your marketing list. So do more of it – and keep experimenting to find new learnings.
About the author
Gael Breton is the Co-Founder of Authority Hacker. He’s a huge marketing nerd that loves tinkering with new techniques. Whether it’s his latest and greatest marketing funnel or his mad-scientist SEO experiments, he devotes a lot of his time to documenting this over on the Authority Hacker blog.