Grow Your Business

Stop sending email blasts! Do this instead.

Emails blasts — generic messages that go out to a broad audience — are okay if you need to announce that the toilet in the office bathroom is clogged. But they’re not okay if you want to build a list of highly engaged readers and customers.

Who wants to read a random product announcement from someone whose list you don’t even remember signing up for? Or someone who sends the same generic messages every week?

The answer: NOBODY!

These shotgun approaches turn your readers off.

At GrowthLab, we’ve taught thousands of businesses how to effectively use email marketing. Many of our graduates have built huge email lists and have successfully sold products to them.

Today, I want to help make email blasts a thing of the past by sharing 3 tactics that will ensure people look forward to every email you send.

Let’s dive right in.

Tactic 1: Do things that don’t scale

Airbnb is a household name. Over 60 million people worldwide (and counting) have booked accommodations through their site. It’s easy to think their business just scaled massively overnight.

But that’s not the case.

In Airbnb’s early days, they did many manual activities. In other words, they did things that didn’t scale. For example, the founders went door-to-door in New York City, and flew to conferences around the country, just to recruit new users. And the founders personally helped these new users improve their listings to attract more guests.

Ramit Sethi, GrowthLab’s founder, is a great example of someone who applies this concept to his email strategy. He’s given talks at conferences where he asked the audience, “How many people here are on my email list?”

Many hands go up.

Then he’ll ask, “How many of you have emailed me?”

Lots of hands stay raised.

Finally, he’ll ask, “How many of you have ever gotten a response from me?”

A good number of hands will stay raised.

He does this to illustrate an important concept. By listening and talking to your subscribers — something that can be incredibly time consuming — you can build a highly engaged audience of raving fans and customers. And Ramit’s results speak for themselves: A business that’s been around over a decade, now with 750,000+ subscribers and 30,000+ paying customers.

Here are two actions you can take to do the same thing for your email list:

  1. Ask people why they signed up for your list. You’d be surprised at the reasons, and it’ll give you insights into what your audience is really interested in.
  2. Include a call-to-action at the end of everything you send. Having a single call-to-action is important because you don’t want to distract people with multiple links.

If you’re trying to sell a product or promote a blog post, have those be the calls-to-action. If you’re sending an email to simply engage with your audience, you can ask people to reply directly to the email. Ask them what their biggest struggles are, what they’re excited about, or their reaction to a controversial topic within your industry. These prompts will almost always get a conversation started.

Tactic 2: Tell personal stories

Storytelling is a powerful technique, regardless of what industry you’re in. It works because people are emotional creatures, and stories connect emotions to important information.

Nobody remembers a random school day from their childhood where they learned a bunch of boring facts. But almost everyone can recall an engaging story that had a lesson wrapped inside it.

  • The 3 Little Pigs — hard work and dedication pay off
  • Little Red Riding Hood — children should avoid strangers
  • The Ugly Duckling — don’t discriminate against people who are different than you

And stories can go a long way in making your emails memorable, regardless of what industry you’re in. Don’t worry: You don’t need to be a creative storytelling genius to pull this off. You can just use personal stories — things that have happened to you — along with any lessons you’ve learned.

All you need to do is tell people about an event, hint at something interesting (like drama or a weird observation), and then write your personal lessons and takeaways from this.

Here’s an example of this from an email that fitness coach and bestselling author John Romaniello sent to his list:

This story takes place in a coffee shop in Holden, Massachusetts.

How I found myself sitting at a coffee shop in Holden, Massachusetts is a matter of some debate. The short version is that my wife (who was then my fiance) was contracted to teach a kettlebell workshop somewhere in the area.

Although I don’t remember volunteering to drive her from NYC to Mass, I spent 8 hours in the car that day, at least.

While Neg was teaching the workshop, I needed a place to hole up and do some work related to my book, Engineering the Alpha, which was due to be published later that week.

I found a little coffee shop and sat down to work. And that’s when things got interesting. I posted this story on Facebook the day it happened, so let’s just take a look at that…

John Romaniello Facebook story - email blasts

If you’re interested in reading through the entire thread of responses, you can do that here.

Anyway. The response to this story was as expected: everyone found it as cringe-worthy as I did, and there was a long discussion of exactly WHY products that teach men how to meet women exist–and exactly why I promote them.

THE TRUTH IS THIS…

Like it or not, a huge number of people in this country are lonely. They are ALONE. They haven’t met the right person yet.

So they download apps like Tinder. They sign up for online dating sites. They do what they can to put themselves in a good position to meet other people.

They even do what Micah did, and just take a shot.

All of which is great.

But you know what? MOST PEOPLE are not single, or alone, or lonely for lack of trying. 

They are alone because they simply don’t understand how to talk to other people.

They are alone because they don’t understand that they’re behaving “weirdly.”

They are alone because they simply don’t realize that with a few minor changes to the way they interact with their desired mates, they can have a lot of success.

THAT is why I write about dating and relationships and sex. THAT is why I tell you about products that can help you fix this very real problem.

Now that’s a good story. All John did was recount a personal experience and weave in lessons his readers can take away. He then followed up with how this all relates to his business. Powerful stuff.

Try this for yourself with the next email you send. GrowthLab students have discovered that this single technique gets them more subscribers and motivates people to share their emails with their tribes.

Tactic 3: Use contests strategically

Contests are great for keeping people on their toes, looking out for your emails. Who doesn’t like the chance at winning a cool prize?

And the best way to use them is to set up a “soft bribe” so that people will open emails from you. You can do this in 3 steps.

  1. Run a contest with a cool prize. Could be a gift card, a private call with you, a book, or something else cool related to your business.
  2. Tell people you will only announce the winners in your email (this is the key!)
  3. Reward the prize ONLY to people who opened the email and saw they won.

Here’s how men’s celebrity stylist Ashley Weston pulls it off:


Ashley Weston celebrity stylist contest copy - email blasts

And here’s what YouTube sensation guitar instruction Justin Sandercoe does:


Justin Sandercoe contest copy - email blasts

This is a simple, but highly effective, way to get more and more people to engage with the emails you send.

Tactic 4: Create hotlists

Lots of solopreneurs who run online businesses launch products or campaigns that aren’t directly related to the original purpose of their business. This might make sense for growing their business or testing new niches, but too often entrepreneurs make the mistake of broadcasting the new project to everyone on their list.

Why is this a bad idea? Since people probably signed up for their list for a different type of content, this campaign isn’t relevant to everyone. Some people might see a few emails and unsubscribe — or worse — they’ll mark the email as spam.

The solution is simple: Create a hotlist.

A hotlist is basically a mini-segment of your list that includes people who show interest in something you’re working on.

It requires a little advanced planning, but it’s simple to do. If you have something new in the works, or anticipate making an announcement that’s not considered “regular business” to your list, just have people opt in to a separate list.

That way, only the people who are truly interested in your new project will get the updates.

Direct marketer and entrepreneur Brian Kurtz did this in a recent email to his list by putting this message at the end of his email:

P.S. Speaking of Breakthrough Advertising, I have been getting hundreds of inquiries about the book — which I have the rights to — with Gene Schwartz’s wife Barbara.

I am re-printing a “Titans edition”…and of course not one word will be different in the main text from the original version which was written in 1966…and for good reason since it is still 100% relevant.

If you are interested in being on the list to be notified as soon as I have inventory available (approximate price will be $105 plus shipping), send me an email with the words “Breakthrough Advertising” in the subject line.

I will add you to the list and let you know when and how you can buy a copy.

I’m about 6 to 8 weeks away from completing the printing.

If you’re ever doing a project that’s outside the scope of your typical focus, you can build a hotlist to avoid “blasting” people with a message they’re not interested in.

Also, it’s okay to send a few emails as a reminder to opt-in to your hotlist. After all, people sometimes forget. Having a few reminders lets them off the hook.

What’s great about these tactics is that they’re not only easy to do, but they’re incredibly effective. They’ll turn your email blasts into a series of messages that people look forward to receiving. And that’s always a good thing.

How to turn your audience into paying customers

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