15 Dec

Stop sending email broadcasts

I got some flak last year when I proclaimed that beautifully designed email templates are bad for business. Today, I’m here to tell you about another common email marketing tactic that should be stopped:

Broadcast emails (or ‘campaigns’ as they are called in some tools) shouldn’t be used.

Yep, that’s right. The main tool used to send 99% of marketing emails should be killed, or at least only used in limited cases.

A typical scenario

Let’s say you’re building an audience from scratch for a new book you’re launching. You put up a pre-launch landing page, and after promoting it, build a list of 100 subscribers.

Next you write an epic blog post that teaches readers exactly what they need to know about your book topic. The post transitions perfectly into a pitch to sign up for the email list for your upcoming book. It’s a work of art. We’ll call this Post A.

The first step in promotion is to send the post out to your existing 100 subscribers. Then you start asking friends to share it on social media and news/link sites. The post gets traction, your new audience shares it all over social media, and you gain 300 email subscribers.

Since that worked well you repeat the process. You write and promote another great post (Post B), which gains you 300 more email subscribers.

At this point you have 700 email subscribers and you’re well on your way to a successful book launch. However, you’re starting to create a problem: not all of your subscribers have read your best content.

Let’s break down why this is true.

The first 100 people to sign up  received both emails. The next batch read Post A before they signed up, then got Post B by email. But those who signed up from Post B never received anything about Post A. Most of them don’t even know you wrote it. And it’s some of your best work.

That doesn’t even include all the people who signed up through your pre-launch page in the last couple weeks. They only know about the posts you send them, so if they signed up after a post was sent as a broadcast, they’ll never get it.

This problem gets worse with time

After a while this just gets worse. If you’ve been blogging and building an email list for years, most of your readers haven’t read your best content. That’s depressing. You put a lot of work into that content.

In fact, you’ve been on the content treadmill for over a year, putting out a great post every single week. Let’s say now you decide that season is over for you. You decide it’s time to take a break from constantly publishing new content, and because you’re using broadcasts, your audience doesn’t get any content at all the following week. Lame.

Luckily, there’s a better way.

Email courses

Instead of sending out a new broadcast each week, I propose you only send through email courses (many programs call them auto-responders, but I think that’s a lame term). Let’s go back to our book launch example to demonstrate how this is different.

When it’s time to send out the first email to your list of 100 subscribers, you add it as the first lesson in an email course that they’re all subscribed to. Right now our email course looks like this:

  1. Day 1: First epic blog post (post A)

Now everyone who signs up after you publish this email will get it automatically. Then a week or two later you publish Post B on your blog and need to send it to your list. Instead of sending a broadcast, you add the email to your email course:

  1. Day 1: First epic blog post (Post A)
  2. Day 5: Second epic blog post (Post B)

Most of your subscribers have been on the list for a week or two (more than 5 days). ConvertKit* will notice that—combined with the fact that they haven’t received email two—and catch them up. So all your existing subscribers get the email as though it was a broadcast, but new subscribers will now get an email course that is two emails long (on days 1 and 5).

Preparing for launch

As you publish more content and get closer to launch your sequence will start to look something like this:

  1. Day 1: First epic blog post (Post A)
  2. Day 5: Second epic blog post (Post B)
  3. Day 10: Third blog post
  4. Day 15: Fourth blog post

After that you’ll want to provide a lot more information about the upcoming book launch. I usually do this in a details email:

  1. Day 1: First epic blog post (Post A)
  2. Day 5: Second epic blog post (Post B)
  3. Day 10: Third blog post
  4. Day 15: Fourth blog post
  5. Day 20: Launch details

The ‘launch details’ email contains the exact price, what’s included, and a bunch of questions answered. The last few emails you should send all relate directly to the launch opening and closing:

  1. Launch opening
  2. Reminder
  3. Launch Closing

You could do these as broadcast emails—which I think would be fine—or you could also build a three-part ‘open and close’ launch directly into your email sequence.

Perfectly timed pitch

The entire product launch process normally takes a couple months to put together and if someone joins near the end, they’ll only get your last couple emails. That would be a rather jarring sales pitch.

If instead you add all these emails to a course, everyone gets an ideally timed sales pitch—and every email that you worked so hard to write will be delivered. Then all you have to focus on is adding more people to the top of the funnel rather than constantly worrying if all your readers have received your best content.

After launch

After you finish your book launch you can just go back and tweak your email course so that it is more evergreen. In other words, there’s no need to include information about when the book is going to be finished or any specific dates about the launch.

You can either remove your open and close discount window (since these emails will be sent out for months to come) or you can leave it in and tweak the messaging and CTAs so it still makes sense.

Then it’s just a matter of continuing to add to this sequence. Add two more emails that are purely educational, then mix in another email that has a soft sell. Keep doing this for a couple months and you’ll have an email course that will educate your subscribers (and sell your products) long after you stop writing.

When I do this I’ll add an email that goes out on day 72, but will be sent like a broadcast to the people who have been on my list for longer than that (some for several years).

Improving your systems

A few months ago I sent out a broadcast email that included a typo. About a dozen people emailed me to point it out. While I was grateful, none of the feedback could be acted upon. You see, broadcast emails are final. Once they’ve been sent they can’t be updated or retracted. They won’t be sent again.

However, emails in a course will be sent again (and again, and again). Each new subscriber will get the email so it’s worth putting the time in to improve them after your launch (and since you can modify courses on the fly, you can actually improve the emails in the course over time).

That means your best content can become even better (since you’re no longer slammed writing broadcasts during your book launch). You can improve your CTAs, add testimonials, and make a more compelling pitch for why each subscriber should buy your book.

Think long-term

As a simple example, I plan to send out an email around the new year to promote my app Commit, which helps you build habits. I could send that email as a broadcast just before New Years Day, but instead I’m going to add it to an email course at about the same time. Everyone will get it the day (or the day after) I publish it, but then it will be part of my system going forward.

The marketing work you do for your business isn’t about chasing some short term gain. Instead it’s about building a system that will benefit you and your readers for a long time to come. This applies to everything in your business! One of the greatest investments you can make in yourself and your business is to stop optimizing for short-term revenue – instead, work on putting automation tools in place that will continue to drive revenue.

The crazy thing is, if you want to create this system from the beginning, all you have to do is put your content into an email course rather than a broadcast. By simply writing in a different text box in your email marketing tool, you can drastically improve your business long-term.

If this idea resonates with you, take a look at ConvertKit. This type of thinking shapes the tools we’ve built directly into the platform.

 

* Note: Based on some initial reports from readers, some other email providers don’t handle email courses this way. Check with your provider, or switch to ConvertKit. 

 

Enjoyed the article? Follow me on Twitter or with RSS.

17 Responses to “Stop sending email broadcasts”

  1. Francis L says:

    To me, your blog post about the email templates is a piece of art! I really like your new one too, but I’m still confuse. The problem you described and your solution is great, but still, sending a unique campaign at one time still seems relevant, no? If I take your example : the New Year Day seems to be a great timing to promote Commit, but receiving the same email anytime in the rest of the year seems less relevant. Or when you launch a new book, you want all your subscribers to know about your event and promotions at a certain time and not months after, no?


  2. “Then all you have to focus on is adding more people to the top of the funnel rather than constantly worrying if all your readers have received your best content.”

    That summarises everything :)


  3. Hey Nathan, I just sent out my first broadcast newsletter and I have a couple of qualms about this approach.

    First, doesn’t this mean your emails have to be written in a time-insensitive way? You can’t say “Merry Christmas” or anything like that, because you never know when someone is getting it.

    Second, you have to be aware of how this will come across to your readers. I distinctly remember signing up for a newsletter of someone I *really* liked. One of the first emails had a link to some content that was years old, and it really put me off. My thought was “so much for the latest and greatest”. I unsubscribed because it removed the “news” from “newsletter”.

    What do you think?


    • Andy, I solved this problem with my drip campaign by removing dates from my blog. Now I can link to older content without my subscribers realizing it’s ‘dated’.


  4. Nathan, you can totally ignore my comment about the content being “timely”. I totally skimmed past the section on editing after the email goes out to make it “evergreen”. That’s what I get for being in a hurry – I apologize! I was a bit panicked about the broadcast I just sent out. Now, it makes perfect sense.


  5. Excellent post! I am in the process of switching over to solely use email courses for my subscribers (my current list, and the subscribers to come).

    It really is an excellent way to send content to everyone, and you can rest easy knowing that you don’t have to worry about repeating the same email to subscribers who have already received it, or having to manually send the same email out to subscribers who still need it.

    They are definitely the way to go, especially when you are selling a product. They act as little robots for you – sending your amazing free content to everyone who signs up to be on your list and eventually offers them whatever product you have.. and then once the email is written and published, you don’t have to lift a finger thereafter.

    Automation sure is a beautiful thing – isn’t it?! ConvertKit is pretty awesome too! :)


  6. Hey mate,

    I think as we’ve spoken about before this wouldn’t work for every blog. For example on my website people are wanting updates off the blog for that week. Although I can see it working if we could delay them joining the broadcasts until after the have finished a course which I could add to over time.

    I have a new service launching next month that this would work really well on though. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    At the end there you mention sending a broadcast. Do you still broadcast to an old part of your list? And then newer subscribers are on the course?


  7. I’ve been thinking about using this approach, and it totally makes sense when the person is specifically opting into an email course (e.g., “Get My 8 Day Crash Course on X”) or newsletter, with both imply recurrence.

    But what if someone’s opt-in action is “Download the guide!” or “Get the sample chapter!”–do you think it’s a best practice to then begin sending those people a stream of (high quality) emails when they are specifically opting in to get 1 specific thing?


  8. Paul Martinez says:

    My question is this: For “email courses” should there always be a “read more” or similar link in the email sending them to the website to continue reading OR should the entirety of the lesson/blog/message be in each email?

    My reason for asking is because getting click-throughs via email is becoming harder and harder since email marketing has become more and more popular and has over saturated many people’s inboxes.

    I do get that a CTA should be in each message, but my question is whether the email should include the entire ‘blog post’ or should it just tease and lead to the blog post where the true CTA lives.


  9. Nathan,

    I do like the idea you’re suggesting here. You make a good point that readers are going to have different experiences depending on when they register.

    I have a question about your email sign up forecasts. Right now, I have 139 email subscribers. You write: “The first step in promotion is to send the post out to your existing 100 subscribers. Then you start asking friends to share it on social media and news/link sites. The post gets traction, your new audience shares it all over social media, and you gain 300 email subscribers.”

    Wow – that sounds almost too good to be true! This is an idea to test. I don’t have the exact sequence you suggest here though I can see a way to adapt this method. Looks like my next step is to write an “epic blog post” worthy of promotion!


  10. Nate, I think you have a good point here about nor sending broadcasts unless it is of course the launch of the course. This is the part is where I was wondering (so how do I make a bulk of money from a launched course? Do I send a broadcast? This article summed it up for me – thanks!

    Just to re-examine, here is what you said.
    The ‘launch details’ email contains the exact price, what’s included, and a bunch of questions answered. The last few emails you should send all relate directly to the launch opening and closing:
    1.Launch opening
    2.Reminder
    3.Launch Closing

    You could do these as broadcast emails—which I think would be fine—or you could also build a three-part ‘open and close’ launch directly into your email sequence.


  11. Interesting article and came across this on Growth Hackers. Pretty awesome to say the least! Just bookmarked this as well.

    Keep it up!


  12. Nathan,

    This was one of the most informative articles I’ve read lately. After reading it I immediately began switching to ecourses instead of using broadcast campaigns. I haven’t seen this topic written about anywhere else. So when I read this article I was quite excited because it makes perfect sense.

    Really awesome, thanks for sharing!


  13. What do you send to subscribers after the autoresponder sequence is over?


    • I would assume the autoresponder is never ending. Anything that you would send out in a regular broadcast you would just add to the sequence.


  14. Well THIS is a really interesting idea, and I love it!! Just thinking on how to implement it on a list that is already 7 years old. Thoughts on this?!


  15. This should be ‘required’ reading for ConvertKit users… it makes the “courses” verses “broadcasts” a lot clearer (and I’ve been using CK for awhile). Great post. Now, I have a bit of work to do to put this into practice!


Leave a Reply