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Why am I getting so many damn emails?

Once upon a time in Fairy Land, a chap produced something cool, and told all his friends just once. Everyone who was interested went out and bought it straight away, and they all lived happily ever after.

But in the real world, what happens when you send out one product launch email telling your mailing list (made up exclusively of people interested in the work that you do) is this:

A lovely big spike, and then nothing. This graph shows the initial launch of my online Medieval Dagger course in December 2016, which had a 50% discount time-limited for a week. I knew the courses could do better, so I needed to work on selling them, not just making them. That’s not my area of expertise so I went looking for help.

I’m a quiet fan of Naomi Dunford who runs Ittybiz, a marketing consultancy for small companies and creatives. She has produced a set of email templates for launching products to your email list, and I bought them for about $35 (if I recall). The templates offer several different models for creating a launch sequence, and I picked the simplest: one warm-up to the list, followed by a sequence of 6 emails. When I launched my longsword course in June, I kept the offer the same (50% off) and time limited (expires on Wednesday!). Here’s what happened:

To put that into perspective, the initial first-day spike on this graph accounts for 18.3% of the total. In other words, it is very probable that the 6 email sequence multiplied sales by 500%. In case you were wondering whether this is down to the product itself being more attractive, well, here’s what happened when I re-launched the dagger course a couple of weeks ago:

The main differences were: I wrote two blog posts about dagger training (not directly anything to do with the course, but to hopefully get people interested in Fiore’s dagger material), and I also sent out a special, bigger discount to the folk who had bought the longsword course (just one email though, indicated by the blue arrow). This converted very well; 23% of the people on that list bought the new course. That accounts for the ramp leading up to the first spike, and probably to a blunting of the first spike by spreading it over two days.

As you can see, the pattern is almost identical. Using sequences clearly works, and using a template from an expert like Naomi makes it easy to create them. I really would not have known how to do it, but with the templates, writing that first sequence took me a morning. I sent a draft of this post to Naomi as a matter of courtesy, and she replied very pleased, and included a 50% discount coupon (which is a Princess Bride reference: see why I like her?) for the complete marketing template pack which includes the templates I used and a ton of others. The pack is here; use the code MONTOYA to get the discount.

The major cost to these sequences of course is that too many selling emails can annoy the people on the list. This launch cost me exactly 49 subscribers out of a total of a bit over 4300. At the end of the day, running a list costs money; I pay about $80 a month for the service that I use (the awesome Convertkit). While it’s perfectly ok for people to join the list and get all sorts of free stuff, it’s the people that buy my books and courses that make the list sustainable. If there are people on the list who don’t understand that, or simply find too many emails offering products to be an annoyance, they can unsubscribe and, from a financial perspective, it’s probably no loss; they are unlikely to buy anything anyway; and they can always come back. The bigger the list the more it costs to run, so I don’t mind losing a few. Incidentally, when I was checking my unsubscribes a while ago, I noticed that a good friend of mine had unsubscribed. We are godfathers to each others’ first-born children, but he had unsubscribed. Which simply meant he didn’t want my list emails in his inbox; he still answers my calls to help when my website has a kitten, and unsubscribing means precisely nothing to our actual real-world relationship. One of the hardest things to learn about running a list is to not take unsubscribes personally, so long as they stay at a small proportion of the list size. People even unsubscribe when I’m giving away awesome free images of really cool rare fencing treatises like this one; it just means that they don’t want more emails, not that they hate you.

So there you have it. If you were wondering why people send you more than one email selling you the same thing, this is why. It works. The only way that’s going to stop is if we all move to Fairy Land, and buy the things we’re interested in after being told about them only once!

I'm sure you have an opinion: do share!

2 Responses

  1. You are so right. I remember years ago sitting in an office waiting for something (can’t remember what now) and reading an article about sending multiple faxes (yes it was that long ago). Tried it next time we had to sell a school show, found four faxes to be the ideal number but never would have thought of sending more than one. Interesting that six is a good number for emails.

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