Week 5: Promotional Emails
Congratulations. You’ve made it through 80% of this workshop and you’re in the home stretch.
Stay focused, keep doing the work, and finish the workshop strong.
This is a long lesson. Take it slow. Read it two or three times. Actively engage with the words, internalize the ideas and context, and you’ll derive the most benefit.
We’ll start this week’s lesson by orienting ourselves to where we are in the journey.
So far we have:
- Established an overall theme that informs and connects the prospects’ experiences with us from initial awareness through conversion (purchase or some equivalent method for idea validation).
- Set the frame that determines what’s possible, meaningful, and perhaps counter-intuitive in the world we’re inviting prospects into.
- Described a compelling, attractive view of our world that leads our ideal audience to want to know even more.
- Required prospects to actively take a step towards us by opting in to continue the conversation by email.
- Established relationships with our prospects based on mutual respect, rapport, and trust over the course of three emails where there is nothing to buy (and therefore no sales pressure).
In this week’s lesson, we’re going to create emails that reveal and build excitement for an offer (or an idea that requires further validation from our audience).
We’re also going to discuss how we transition from relationship-building to promotion effectively and organically.
And we’ll share a critical friction-increasing intermediary step we use that may seem counter-intuitive (yet it’s exceptionally powerful).
Let’s start with the basics…
The primary goal for your promotional emails is to resolve the tension you’ve been building day by day, word by word, through the purchase of your offer.
Read that sentence again.
From the first two sentences of your Facebook ad, you’ve been building tension towards something meaningful and valuable for your audience. However, you have not yet revealed what that is, or that there’s something for sale.
Instead, you’ve pulled (not pushed) your audience forward, step by step, into a world you’ve created that promises something they desire or a solution to a problem they want to solve.
But, now that you’re here — on the cusp of the ‘big reveal’ — what do you DO?
Let’s first identify where the quicksand is so you can avoid it. To make these potential issues more memorable, we’ll call them the Three Temptations.
Temptation #1: switch abruptly to selling.
This is a common mistake. The underlying idea is, “Hey, I’ve paid my dues — I wrote an ad about what THEY want, created a landing page about what’s important to THEM, told them a few stories so they like me, and now it’s time to get PAID!”
Don’t do that.
Your prospects have finely-tuned internal GPS (aka “bullshit detectors”) that scream and vibrate in situations where they feel like they’ve been duped. Once you’ve set off your prospects’ air raid siren, it’s almost impossible to turn it off.
Temptation #2: apologize in advance before you reveal an offer.
This is another common mistake. As creators, we often react to words like ‘selling’, ‘promotions’, and ‘offers’ negatively.
We’ve all had experiences where we’ve felt like just another commoditized transaction by any means necessary. As a result, when it’s time to share our value with the world, we demure, apologize (implicitly and explicitly), and turn a natural progression into an awkward admission.
Don’t do that either.
Revealing an offer is the logical conclusion of a journey that is focused on creating a mutual exchange of value between you and your audience. If you’ve done your work well, your prospects WANT the solution you’re revealing. They’re waiting for it — eagerly.
You’ve constructed a world where your offer makes sense because it solves problems and fulfills meaningful desires for your audience. That’s an act of service where everybody wins.
Learn to embrace that mindset.
Subtext: “I have this thing — it’ll help you solve the problem you care about solving, or the pain you care about relieving; if that sounds like something you want, here it is, if not, that’s cool, too.”
Temptation #3: change the tone of your writing from conversational to transactional.
Throughout your prospects’ journey from Facebook ad through relationship-building emails, you’ve developed a writing style that’s unique to you.
That style is a combination of many factors — how you structure your thoughts, how you express those thoughts as sentences and paragraphs, what you choose to reveal about yourself, the logical and emotional buttons you choose to press, and much more.
It’s tempting to change the tone and style of your writing when you reveal something for prospects to buy.
That can be subtle (a hint of defensiveness), or overt (“today…and today only, I have a deal for YOU…!”).
Maintain the same tone you’ve developed since the beginning of your journey. Let the value of the offer reveal and sell itself. You’re just there to guide the conversation along.
To smooth the transition between relationship-building and promotion, your first promotional email (email #4 in the six-email series) will be a ‘bridge email’. (Or, if you prefer, email #4 in a seven-email series — 3:1:3.)
The bridge email serves two functions, both of which are non-negotiable in our view of the world…
First, the bridge email transitions naturally and organically from relationship-building to selling in ways that are congruent with all of the content you’ve created so far in this workshop.
We don’t just ‘switch gears’ and start selling.
Instead, we bring together the lessons our prospects have internalized throughout their journey and we point those ideas toward an offer that is the logical next step in the world we’ve built.
The subtext is:
So far I’ve told you X, Y, and Z and, now that you understand that, you’re wondering what you should do next … well, I’m glad you asked…
Second, we ask for explicit permission to reveal the offer before there’s an opportunity to buy (or to click through to another similar action, like signing up for a consultative call where an offer is made).
We understand that this is counter-intuitive and it may feel like unnecessary friction. We also recognize that you may decide to skip this step entirely for a variety of reasons (tech setup, etc.).
However, we cannot, in good conscience, teach you to do something that we don’t do ourselves. That’s not who we are and it’s very important to both of us that we’re consistent in our teaching and our actions.
(There is one notable exception we want to mention. André’s 48th birthday promotion for the first cohort of the Momentum Builder Workshop (Lean Edition) did not include a bridge email because of the last-minute timing of the offer. Instead, we added the workshop to our biweekly Emergent Marketing newsletter and ‘wrapped’ it in content valuable to everyone in our audience.)
The Bridge Email
You shouldn’t make the mistake of presuming that just because people have made it through your three relationship-building emails they’re red-hot buyers who can’t wait to throw money at you.
The first reality to accept is that, at any point in time, most of your subscribers will not be interested in purchasing your product, enrolling in your course, speaking to you, or paying attention to your promotion.
Maybe 1% will be interested. Maybe ten percent. But it won’t be everyone, and it won’t be most people.
(After analyzing his clients’ data, Internet marketing godfather Dean Jackson has concluded that 15% of people who buy do so in the first 90 days after becoming a lead, and the remaining 85% buy in months four through eighteen. That means there’s 4x the value in your email list after the first 90 days. Act accordingly.)
Trust and attention are two of the most scarce resources of our economy. Trust is incredibly fragile. And attention is scarce because it doesn’t scale (we can’t do more than one thing at a time, and everyone is competing for the slice of time in which that ‘one thing’ happens).
When we lose the trust and attention of someone, it’s almost certainly lost for good. Unsubscribing is one-click easy.
This is why we need to be so protective about what we send to our subscribers. Being relevant is a superpower. We’re in this for the long (infinite) game.
The bridge email is a transition engineered deliberately to identify interested people and to present an opportunity for them to self-select by raising their hand.
When we introduce this subtle friction, we’re demonstrating respect for our prospects’ time and attention. We’re also intentionally creating a barrier that increases tension.
We do this by creating a firewall between our interested-now prospects and everyone else. (This also creates a signal that can help analyze performance.)
It’s human nature to want something that’s either hard to get or not available. The bridge email moves people from passive participants to actively engaged.
This image represents your subscribers at the end of the three-email relationship-building series.
The three ?/?/? counters above each subscriber represent the invisible, largely subconscious, dynamic forces motivating someone’s behavior and level of attention at any point in time.
Conceptually, these three numbers represent a prospect’s present-moment intensity of his or her ‘jobs to be done,’ ‘pains’, and ‘gains’.
- Jobs (important to insignificant: 10-0)
- Pains (extreme to moderate: 10-0)
- Gains (absolutely essential to “nice to have”: 10-0)
(See Audience & Offer Masterclass, Part II for a deep dive on this.)
Taken together, these three factors represent the level of interest and attention a prospect brings to your offer.
At any moment in time, the ‘job to be done’ (the reason why someone “hires” a product to solve a problem or relieve a pain) can be urgent and painful enough where the timing of your promotion is a perfect fit, or meh and not urgent at all beyond some initial curiosity.
Our first priority for any promotion (evergreen or time-bound), is to identify the people who are most likely to have these three counters as high as possible and pull them in (focus their attention for a promotion, and anticipation for what your offer will “unlock” for them).
In a perfect world, we’re looking to identify and call out the 10/10/10 people and have them self-express their intent. We also want to filter out the 0/0/0 people.
But, because life is anything but perfect, conceptually, we are looking to attract 7, 8, 9, and 10 combos. Maybe even some 6s. We want to actively filter out (dissuade) everyone else. Everyone!.
9s and 10s are our holy grail, the aces in our deck. There’s less of them, so we want to attract them all because they likely represent:
- Early Adopters,
- People experiencing the most dissonance,
- People experiencing the most pain,
- People experiencing the strongest pull and desire for change and will do almost anything to solve their problem (or pursue a need or desire).
This is why context and framing in the bridge email is critical for the success of your promotion. You want a high concentration of 7s and above to self-identify and experience a level of excitement and anticipation for what is about to unfold.
In our experience — and we’ve been doing this for a long time — this is the most effective framework to identify the essential needs of an audience and match those needs precisely to the product or service you offer.
This is the exact same exercise we have taught to our $20K/mo clients. This exercise will inform and color the downstream emails you write for your promotion and reveal many ways to frame your offer.
People buy things for many reasons (functional, emotional, and social components). Understanding the full spectrum of reasons someone might buy what you have to offer is powerful beyond the obvious functional benefits.
We have created the Audience & Offer Masterclass (AOM) that teaches this exact framework, and we’ve made it available to all our customers for free.
Start there. It’ll reveal insights you’ll use in your bridge emails (angles to frame your offer).
Let’s look at an example of a bridge email (this was for an affiliate promotion from a few years ago, but the idea is no different).
The beauty about the bridge email is that you get permission right out of the game to promote. This means everyone who raises their hand, EXPECTS and anticipates the promotion that follows clicking on the link to find out more.
This is a powerful framing effect, beyond the obvious points we’ve already drawn attention to.
The bridge email should do three things well:
- Channel the desire built up from emails 1-3 towards a single inevitable conclusion if it’s right for them (in that moment)…
- Be overt and explicit that there is a promotion behind the click. Don’t hide it, don’t amp up curiosity just to get more clicks. You only want 7-10 level interest; you want 1-6s not to click.
- Make it clear who the offer is for and who it isn’t for. Example (inspired by Seth Godin in This Is Marketing): My product is for people who believe BLANK. I’ll focus on people who want BLANK. I promise that engaging with what I make will help you get BLANK.
In many ways, the success of a promotion is made in the bridge email.
It sets up a promotion, which then just becomes a path to a door that will be an easy and obvious fit for the right people to go through (and for the wrong people not to).
A helpful frame to remember is that a promotion is simply a bridge from someone’s current state (ordinary world) to a desired future state (new life).
Caption: Taken from Lean Business for Creators (LBC)
We’re sure many of you are wondering “What happens if someone doesn’t signal their intent to move forward?” Nothing.
Wait, what? NOTHING?
Yes … and no.
If someone doesn’t actively raise his or her hand to find out what’s next, we don’t send that person promotional emails. However, we do continue to send regular emails (e.g., your email newsletter).
They remain in our world, and we maintain the integrity of the relationship that has been built on mutual respect.
And, of course, we hope that we’ll get other opportunities to send promotional emails in the future when the timing and interest is right for THEM.
This seems like a very bad strategy if you think about performance in the short term. We’ve done a lot of work to get a prospect from ad to landing page to opt in, then through three relationship-building emails.
Why stop now?
However, if you change your perspective and optimize for a longer time frame, you quickly realize that you’re positioning yourself to be respected, liked, and trusted for the long term and, as Dean Jackson has observed, that’s where the overwhelming majority of the financial opportunity exists.
Trust us on this.
There’s something magical that happens when you promote only to people who have given their explicit permission. It’s hard to quantify the effects in the short term, but we suspect the impact is exponential in the longer term.
Promotional Email Framework
We believe that an effective promotional email series has three critically-important ingredients.
First, your offer needs to be the obvious next step in the journey you’ve created for your prospects.
Cycling coach Jonathan Baker is an excellent example for how to do this well.
Jonathan knows that his ideal prospects are competitive cyclists who want to go faster on a bicycle. He has framed the conversation by explaining that there are three ways to do that:
- Reduce weight…
- Reduce drag…
- Increase power output…
Reducing weight and drag can be very expensive and each produces minimal overall impact.
Increasing power, however, is relatively inexpensive and can have a significant impact on performance.
After Jonathan has explained the importance of training to increase power output, introducing his (paid) training program is the obvious next step.
His program shows cyclists how to train efficiently and effectively for power output (which Jonathan has already established is the best way to go faster on a bicycle).
If a prospect has accepted Jonathan’s view of the world, his training course is an obvious next step. He has already explained why and what — the offer is where he shows his prospects how.
When you introduce your offer, spend some time thinking about your prospects’ progression so far. What are they thinking about? What questions do they have you have not answered yet?
Your offer should ‘fit’ naturally into your prospects’ mindset the moment it’s revealed. You want an ideal prospect to think “right … of course …that makes perfect sense…”
Second, lead with the benefits of the offer expressed in ways that are relevant to the needs and desires of your audience. Don’t just tell your audience what they get — explain how their lives can change as a result.
What’s in it for THEM?
How will their experience be different after purchasing your offer?
What will they be able to do (or do better)?
What problems will they avoid?
What desires will they fulfill?Pro tip: every time you write a descriptive sentence about your offer ask (and answer) “why does that matter?” When you get an answer, ask the question again — “why does that matter?“
You’re looking for the benefits that meet the visceral needs and desires of your prospects. Keep looking (you’ll know when you get there).
Third, be specific and clear about what someone gets when they buy from you. We call this a ‘what’s in the box?’ message.
Telling someone explicitly what they get when they make a purchase eliminates ambiguity — for example, if Jonathan Baker says he “provides daily training plans five days a week,” some prospects might expect a slick mobile app while others might be expecting daily emails.
“Training plans sent by email Monday — Friday at 8:00 a.m.” is clear and precise.
How long is the program?
What happens when they finish it?
What type of feedback should they expect (if any)?
These questions (and many more unique to your audience and offer) create opportunities to connect with your audience. Use them!
Clarity creates opportunities for value-focused explanation too. Explain why you’ve made your choices in language that’s focused on how those choices benefit your customers.
For example, Jonathan might send his training plans the night before instead of each day. That creates an opportunity to explain why.
Instead of saying “each day’s training plan is sent by 5:00 p.m. the night before…,” Jonathan might say:
Each day’s training plan is sent at 5:00 p.m. the night before. Plan to set aside ten minutes before bed each night to review the next day’s training and commit to a time. Beginning in week three, you’ll also start visualizing your next day’s training session the night before (the elite athletes I work work have told me that has been a game-changer for their performance). You’ll receive that lesson in the Week 3, Day 1 email.
Now it’s time for you to get to work (remember: finish strong!)
Your homework is to write a bridge email and 2-3 promotional emails following this module’s suggestions.
If you’re feeling anxious about this exercise, uncomfortable, and a little excited all mixed up together — perfect! Embrace the discomfort, lean into it, and hammer out a first shitty draft.
If you’d like us to consider your emails for review / critique, please submit those (by email or in the comments as linked documents — for example, Google Docs or Notion) before midnight, PST on Sunday, April 18.
Unscripted Audio Narration
Our audio conversation will only be useful after you’ve read this lesson, so read the lesson first.
Post your questions below.
Post your questions below.— André & Shawn