As everyone says…
You need to build an email list.
Email marketing provides the highest ROI for most businesses at $40 for every $1 spent (on average).
I’m sure you see a ton of content on a regular basis that shows you different ways to build that email list. Great.
But how much do you see that tells you how to interact with that list effectively?
I think it’s safe to guess not much.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you had questions such as:
- What do I send my subscribers?
- How do I keep open rates high?
- How do I make my emails exciting?
While I can’t show you all of that in a single post, I’m going to show you 7 different types of emails that most businesses can send.
These types of emails are emails that your subscribers and customers will enjoy getting, will interact with, and will help you build strong relationships.
1. Exclusive offers make subscribers feel special (but which kinds are best?)
It’s nice when someone, whether a close friend or a relative stranger, goes out of their way to do something nice for you.
As a website owner with an email list, you’re hopefully somewhere in the middle of that friend-stranger spectrum in the eyes of your subscribers.
If you can do something for your subscribers that they really appreciate, it will do many important things:
- Make them think more highly of you
- Make them more loyal (to stay a subscriber and to buy in the future)
- Make them more willing to reciprocate (if you ask for a share, referral, or something else).
The question then is: what can you give them?
For most businesses, an exclusive offer is the best thing they can give.
Let’s go through a few real examples and then some more general situations.
First, you can offer a live event that only your subscribers are invited to. Not only will the event be valuable because it’s live, but it will also be well attended because it’s exclusive.
Bryan Harris often does this, so it must work well for him. For example, here is an email with an offer to attend a private mastermind:
He sends a few emails leading up to the event and one or two at the last minute. They aren’t complicated—just a brief description of what to expect in the event.
What else can you offer subscribers? Another thing of value that doesn’t cost you much, if anything, is early access.
Matthew Barby created a WordPress plugin and sent this email to his subscribers, giving them free access to it:
That’s a pretty sweet offer. In reality, Matthew is also gaining his first group of users, which is another win for him.
If you’re launching any big guides or tools, consider getting early feedback from your subscribers.
What else can you offer?
- Secret products (like limited one-on-one consulting)
- A sneak peak at original research
- Free samples
Be creative. If you can think of any other ideas, tell me about them in a comment at the end of the article.
2. Give subscribers the gift of convenience
Take care of your subscribers because your list is one of the most valuable assets you own.
You can give value in many ways. Some may be big gestures (email type #1), but even small things go a long way.
If someone is on your list, that means they’ve already told you that they like your content (if they signed up from a blog post, for example).
However, just because they want to hear your thoughts and advice doesn’t mean all your subscribers want it in the same way.
Typically, you’ll email all your subscribers about any new content you create. When you do this, consider giving them alternative ways to consume the content. Make it as convenient as you can.
For example, Tim Urban created a long post about SpaceX. He then sent out this email to subscribers:
On top of the regular link that he had already sent his subscribers, he sent this email with two other options: a PDF version and an audio version.
It takes a fraction of the time to re-create the original content in a different form, but it adds a lot of extra value.
Nathan Barry offers another way to make your content more convenient.
After he hosts a webinar, he uploads it to YouTube and sends an email with a link to all his subscribers.
It’s something that I know most subscribers really appreciate, and it also exposes his webinar to those subscribers who forgot to sign up for the event.
Convenience typically comes in the form of different mediums of content.
If you wrote a blog post, particularly a long one, consider emailing it to your subscribers with more than one version:
- a cheat sheet
- audio version
- video summary
Or if you created a video, reformat that into:
- an e-book
- an MP3 download
- a video download
- a cheat sheet/summary
You don’t need to create all the formats. Just think about which ones your subscribers would like most and which make sense for the content you made.
3. Short value emails can be a nice change of pace
Think about your subscribers’ email boxes.
Day after day, they get several emails from friends, families, and businesses they like.
What do most of the business emails consist of?
- “Read our content”
- “Buy our stuff”
About 90% of business emails fall into these two categories.
And it’s not that those types of emails aren’t valuable to your subscribers—because they are, but some subscribers will get fatigued by them.
If you’re looking to maximize your subscriber happiness as much as possible, consider sending emails that focus on nothing but teaching something interesting to your subscribers.
No links to your content or anyone’s website.
No asking for replies—just a clear show of value.
Bernadette Jiwa is known for her story-telling talent.
She sends out this exact type of email I’m talking about on a regular basis. Sometimes her emails have links underneath, and sometimes they don’t.
Here’s an example of such an email (yes, that’s the whole thing):
It’s short but gives her subscribers an interesting thing to ponder, which helps them tell better stories (their goal).
It’s a nice break from overwhelming amounts of content (which I may be guilty of myself).
4. Highlights need to be interesting
Email newsletters are nothing new.
Any email sent out on a regular basis that summarizes what’s been happening on a site can be considered an email newsletter.
They’re supposed to consist of highlights.
But like the name implies, they need to consist of the very best of your site.
Whether you have user-generated content or content produced by your writing team, highlight emails are an option.
However, make sure you’re not including everything. But don’t select content randomly either.
You should be giving previews of the most popular content on your site for that particular time period.
For example, Quora (the question and answer site), regularly sends users the most upvoted questions from their feeds.
Here’s what it looks like:
I would guess that these are automatically generated by the most upvoted questions during the week.
5. One way to show that you really respect subscribers
One goal that every email marketer should have is to form deeper relationships with subscribers.
Admittedly, this is difficult. It’s tough to break down that barrier over email only. You’ve probably never met your subscribers, and by default, they think of you as just another business.
Even if they like your business, most subscribers will still be skeptical about your claim that you care about them and not just their money.
One thing I encourage businesses to do is find employees through their email list.
I’ve done it before, as have many others. Here’s an example of Ramit Sethi sending an email to his list while looking to hire for more than 10 positions:
When you do this, you make it clear that you think of them as people whom you respect and who you believe have valuable skills.
And it’s good business too. Your subscribers likely have an in-depth understanding of your business and obviously think in similar to you ways (since they like you).
Even if someone doesn’t apply or doesn’t get hired, it’s clear to them that you’re looking to develop partnerships and relationships with people on your list.
It’s one way to break down that barrier a bit and become more than “just another business.”
6. Don’t fall victim to the “curse of knowledge” (deliver your best stuff)
Many bloggers suffer from the “curse of knowledge.”
The curse of knowledge is a fairly old concept. It basically states that it’s hard to understand what lesser-informed people are thinking.
If you’re an expert in math, it would be hard for you to even fathom that someone doesn’t understand something like basic calculus.
It’s the reason why some people are geniuses but absolutely awful teachers. Conversely, someone who just learned something can often teach it best because they understand the perspective of someone who doesn’t know it.
Let’s apply this to your subscribers and content.
Over the years, you might write hundreds of pieces of content. At that point (possibly present day), you’re naturally going to assume that your average new subscriber is more informed than they used to be.
For me, as an example, it’s easy to assume that every new subscriber understands on-page and off-page SEO as well as concepts such as white-hat and black-hat link building.
From that perspective, it’s hard for me to send them my advanced guide to SEO because I’m assuming they already know everything in it.
Chances are, though, your average new subscriber won’t change much over time.
And it’s very likely that my average new subscriber could benefit from more general SEO knowledge before I get to the specific tactics I currently write about.
The autoresponder “crash course”: If you think that this is a problem, one way to fix it is with an autoresponder sequence.
Think of what an average subscriber knew even a year or two ago, and make a list of what they need to learn to get up to speed with the rest of your content.
Then, put together an autoresponder sequence that you send to all new subscribers, where you showcase your old content that teaches these basic concepts.
For example, if you sign up for Wordstream’s list, a PPC optimization business, you’ll get a few emails like this:
The guides are all older content, and the field may have advanced since it was written, but the fundamentals hold true, and new subscribers will greatly appreciate learning them.
The takeaway from the “curse of knowledge” is that you’re probably giving subscribers a bit too much credit. Don’t assume they’ve read every single post you’ve ever written—because they haven’t.
Don’t be afraid to send emails featuring the best of your older content.
7. Preview big events that subscribers will be interested in (be your own hype man)
You need to give subscribers incentives to open that next email.
There are many ways to do this, but one way is to build hype in advance.
Think about any popular TV show. They show previews for the next episode in commercials and at the end of episodes.
These get you excited, and you make sure you watch the next episode.
Brian Dean does a similar thing really well, but for content.
For example, he sent this email to subscribers:
In that email, he shared his story about struggling and then finally succeeding with SEO.
It’s an interesting story that draws you in and makes you curious about the specifics of his success (building hype).
At the bottom of the email, he teases subscribers with bullet points that outline what he’s going to show them over the next few emails:
Right at the end, after building that hype, he tells them to watch out for his next email in which he’ll send the first post about how to succeed with SEO like he did.
You’d better believe that he had a fantastic open rate on that email.
You can do the same. When you’re planning to publish a big piece of content or a new tool, first send an email that focuses on the benefits of it.
If possible, tie it into an entertaining story to suck in your subscriber even more. That will only add to the anticipation.
It’s not enough just to build an email list—you have to use it effectively.
Emails are a great personal way to communicate with subscribers and customers.
Use as many of these 7 types of emails (where they make sense) to start building more meaningful relationships.
If you’re having trouble deciding exactly what to send to your subscribers, just fill me in on your situation in a comment below, and I’ll point you in the right direction.
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