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Get Clients Online

Email Breakdown: “The Robots are Here” from Copyblogger

Posted on 22nd February 2023.

Valuable content emails are the bread and butter of email marketing.

They're what builds credibility and trust. And they keep you top of mind for when your potential clients are ready to buy.

But too often they're done very, very badly.

No matter how great your content is, if you just brain-dump it into an email it won't land properly.

And that means none of that credibility building, relationship building or getting top of mind is actually going to work.

Luckily, there's a simple way to structure your content emails that increases readership and maximises the chances of those readers taking action. Let's take a look using an example of an email that Brian Clark of Copyblogger sent out recently called "The Robots are Here".

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More Clients Memorandum

Groundhog day

Posted on 22nd February 2023.

I got interviewed for a video podcast last week and the first question was basically “how did you end up doing email marketing?”.

It's something I remember really well, and with more than a little embarrassment.

After I started my own business back in 2007 I got into blogging big time and was doing very well. At least in terms of visitors and ranking in the search engines.

But it wasn't converting into sales. Almost all my sales still came from more traditional methods: referrals from my old contacts and doing live presentations at events.

My big hope was that online would generate a good proportion of my sales because I knew the referrals wouldn't last forever. But it just wasn't happening.

Then out of the blue I got an email from someone who'd found my blog. He made some insightful comments about my content so we got chatting. And then he uttered the words which started it all…

“Ian, how come you're not doing email marketing?”

I'd like to tell you I immediately jumped at the idea and became an email expert overnight.

But what actually happened is I said…

“Because it's 2008 Lee. Email marketing is dead. Blogging is where it's at”.

Eventually, of course, I did try out email. And it turns out Lee was right. After a few months I started to get enquiries from my email list about coaching and training that I'd never managed to get from all those visitors to the blog.

Since then, email marketing has been pronounced dead at least half a dozen more times. And each time it's continued to thrive.

When I used to speak at marketing conferences about email I always used to amuse myself by looking at the websites of the other speakers who majored on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or whatever was “hot” at the time.

The amusement came from the fact that without exception, the most prominent thing on every social media speaker's home page was an email signup form.

But to be fair, they weren't being hypocritical. Email marketing works brilliantly hand-in-hand with social media, not against it.

Social can be a great way for people to find you (as can search or paid ads of course). Email isn't great for discoverability.

But where email rules the roost is follow-up. Keeping in touch on a regular basis to build credibility and trust until someone is ready to buy. 

And because almost every significant sale needs a lot of follow-up, that's why email has stayed top of the pile.

I suppose someday someone will proclaim that email is dead and actually be right. Nothing lasts forever.

But it seems from all the data that email has a good few years left in it yet. It's still generating the most sales of any medium.


More Clients Memorandum

Overlooked assets

Posted on 19th February 2023.

A couple of days ago I took a look at the waitlist for the next run of my Persuasive Email Writing Accelerator course on Maven.

When I saw the waitlist was up to 110 people (with a maximum of 30 needed or the course) my initial reaction was relief.

“Phew – should go OK then”.

But then I realised I'd made a mistake.

I'd paid no attention to the waitlist for ages. I should have been keeping in touch to keep people warm and excited about the course.

Or maybe I could have run the course earlier?

No matter. It's in hand now.

But the bigger question is “what other assets are we overlooking that we should be doing more with?”

Do you have an email list you haven't mailed for weeks?

Or a couple of contacts who used to refer you business you haven't grabbed a coffee with since before the pandemic?

What about the people you talked to about working together where it never quite came off? Maybe they weren't ready then but they are now? Or maybe the partner they went with instead of you didn't quite work out and they're looking round again?

What about intellectual assets? Have you got brilliant articles languishing unread on your hard drive or that blog no one visits? Maybe sharing or serialising them on Linkedin will get more traction?

Or how about that great idea you had in the shower that you've not got down on paper and not shared with anyone?

It seems to be a core flaw in human nature that we find it easier to move on to the next shiny object than to follow through with what we've already started.

Don't let that be you.

Make a note in your calendar or to-do list right now to get back in touch with that old friend. Email that list. Resurrect that article.

And do it next week. Not the week after or the week after that.

– Ian


More Clients Memorandum

Brave enough

Posted on 17th February 2023.

I had a bit of an epiphany this week.

As part of my analysis into what's working well on Linkedin I noticed that a lot of the people who are growing their accounts and engagement fast have one thing in common…

…they're comfortable admitting to the world they're still learning.

Actually, they might not be comfortable admitting it, but they do it anyway.

It's really interesting that the people building the most active tribes aren't necessarily at the top of their fields. But their journey and what they're learning seems to resonate.

And I think the reality is that we're going to see a lot of revolution in the next few years. AI for one, even though it's become a bit of a cliche.

We're all going to be beginners.

Of course, fundamentals don't change. Psychology doesn't change.

But plenty of other stuff does. Even in the last decade or so we've seen new platforms open up big opportunities for people willing to start from zero and learn.

But that whole “starting from zero” is actually quite hard.

I love learning new things. But I'm also very proud of what I already know and the fact that people look to me as a source of great ideas and insights for the topics I'm an expert in.

Stepping off that pedestal of expertise in one field to be a beginner and just one of the pack in another is really hard. It's tough for the ego to be the oldest guy in school.

But that need to always be the knowledgeable one, to always be the professional…it's going to kill you when it comes to learning.

Right now I'm watching all the noise about ChatGPT with one group of people trying to position themselves as experts and another group trying to convince us (or more likely themselves) that actually it's not a big deal.

I don't think either of those two groups is going to be the big winners.

I think the big winners are going to be the people who say “I don't know much about this. I'm not an expert. But I think it's going to be big so I'm going to learn everything I can”.

All new things start off rubbish.

The problem with the people who want to be seen as experts in the new thing from day 1 is that it stops them learning.

The problem with the people who believe the new thing won't replace the old thing is that it stops them learning.

The folks who are humble. Who are brave enough to be a beginner are the ones who'll learn the fastest.

And in a year or two years or five years when the new tech isn't rubbish any more, they'll be the ones positioned to get the most from it.

And that's true not just of AI but of marketing generally. Of Linkedin. Of email marketing.

Casting off the protective armour of competence and admitting you have a lot to learn is the first step to getting really good.

If you're brave enough.

– Ian


Get Clients Online

٩◔̯◔۶ skip this and lose half your readers

Posted on 10th February 2023.

The first few seconds of your content are make or break. You could lose half your audience if you get it wrong.

In an email or Linkedin post it's the first sentence or two. On Youtube it's the first 30 seconds. maybe less.

That's how long it takes for someone to decide whether to continue reading or watching.

Marketing experts rightly tell you to put a lot of effort into your subject line or headline or thumbnail image – because that's what gets people to stop, pay attention and start to read or watch.

But they put a lot less focus on what happens next – and that's a big mistake.

Because if half your readers quit straight away, all that effort you put into the subject line was wasted.

“How do I get people to keep reading or watching?” I fake hear you ask :)

Two things.

Bear in mind the decision isn't a purely rational one. A lot of it is System 1 thinking. Instant gut feel heuristics at their best.

The first thing is “does this look easy?”

When they open your email or start to read your Linkedin post, is it horrible dense text that looks like you'll have to battle with it.

Or is it nice and open.

Plenty of whitespace. Plenty of variety in sentences and paragraphs.

On Youtube I'm less certain of what “easy” looks like but I suspect that fast-paced rather than pondering is the key.

The second thing is Potential Value.

Form what you see in those first few sentences, do you get a sense that you'll get a lot of value from reading or watching the rest.

I use “value” in the loosest sense here. It could be value like boring content markers mean: some kind of practical, useful, how-to info.

But value could also be a brilliant new idea that triggers a lightbulb moment. Or it could just be you're entertained for a bit and can forget the monotony of daily work life.

Either way, you have to see in those first moments that you'll get value. That allows your System 2 brain to put a lid on System 1 and stop it looking for something new for instant gratification.

“Oh but Ian” I fake hear you ask again, “how do I show potential value early on?”

That one's simple. You tell them.

On Youtube rather than playing your expensive intro ident first, cold open and tell them what they'll learn from this video and how that will benefit them. Then cut to the intro.

In an email do the same – say what they'll learn and why it's important. Or make a provocative statement they'll want to have explained. Or begin an intriguing story they can't resist hearing the end of.

I opened this email with “The first few seconds of your content are make or break. You could lose half your audience if you get it wrong.”

I'm not saying that't the perfect opener, but it does the job.

It gets you interested by introducing a problem: that the first few seconds of your content are make or break. And it raises the stakes by saying you could lose half your audience if you get it wrong.

That second part is vital. No point telling people about a problem they have if they don't think it's important. 

I call this compelling opening to an email (or any content) your “hook”. Because it hooks your readers or viewers in and makes them want more.

It's a vital element of any successful email alongside the transition, content and call to action.


Get Clients Online

it can’t be this simple, can it?

Posted on 8th February 2023.

Last time I showed how I got over 3x my normal engagement on a Linkedin post by harnessing the AIDCA formula.

(In fact the post has now got over 10x my normal engagement).

In particular, it was the A that made all the difference.


And without going all sciency, the thing that drives attention is contrast.

We notice things that stand out from what's around them. Because back in the day, things that were unusual and different were quite likely to eat us.

So the lucky folks who were good at spotting them survived and passed on their difference-spotting genes to us, their descendants.

In fact, not only do we pay more attention to things that are different, we don't even really see the things that look similar to their surroundings. They never enter our consciousness. They're filtered out before they get there.

So if you want someone's attention your first impression has to be one of contrast.

On Linkedin my comic book imagery looked very different to 99.99% of the dullsville content usually posted.

With Facebook it's similar: people pay attention to posts with “different” images. Only over there, what looks different to the rest of the feed is different to what looks different on Linkedin.

Apologies for that last sentence. I didn't mean it to sound like Dr Seuss, but I couldn't find better words :)

On email, the place to stand out is your subject-line and pre-header.

Traditional best practice says your subject line needs a benefit – otherwise why would someone open the email?

But the reality is that pure benefit subject lines have been done to death. Once you've read 7 emails about how to double your sales in 2023 you kinda stop opening them.

That's why it's often a good idea to set up a throwaway email address and subscribe to a bunch of newsletters from your competitors or other people your clients are likely to follow.

That way you'll know what their inbox looks like.

Close enough anyway.

And that means you'll be able to deduce what would look different for them.

Like a lower case headline with a weird question for example.

Of course, you need to deliver on the promise of the headline too. Hopefully I've managed to show that yes, it can be this simple. At least when it comes to getting attention.

How are you going to feed that into your next communication?

– Ian


More Clients Memorandum

This classic marketing formula works perfectly for new media

Posted on 5th February 2023.

I've been continuing my research into effective content on social media and as ever I'm reporting on my findings so far…

This week I noticed that a lot of top creators use carousels on Linkedin – and they get more engagement than other posts. So I thought I'd give it a go.

A carousel is a document like a pdf you upload to a Linkedin post and viewers can then scroll though it page by page.

On Linkedin the post is small, so a normal document would be unreadable. You've got to format it with huge text to make it readable.

To do my carousel I used a classic marketing formula: AIDCA.

Attention – Interest – Desire – Conviction – Action.

I wasn't selling anything, so I didn't go heavy on building desire or conviction. But I knew if I wanted to get people to read it I needed to grab their attention vs all the other noise they'd be seeing.

So the first thing I did was think about how to make my post stand out. And on most social media, that usually means getting an image or thumbnail that's very different to the other things your audience will see on their feed.

I decided to use a comic book theme with bold colours and a huge bright headline in a funny font. And I added in a photo of me gurning at a phone. You can see the image below.

It's amazing how easy it is to stand out on places like Linkedin if you're prepared to be a little bit brave and don't care much about how silly you might look.

So now I've got their attention, I need to get them to read the document by clicking the button Linkedin puts on the document to page through it.

That's where the interest element of AIDCA comes in.

I used a headline that had both a benefit in it (“save an hour a day”) and invoked curiosity (“5 simple tips? I wonder which ones they are…”).

I boosted the curiosity with a couple of graphical bubbles with phrases you might see on a comic book or dodgy magazine: “shock revelations” and “myths busted”.

One of the advantages of taking a light-hearted approach by using comic book imagery is it allows me to play around with exaggeration. If I'd had a deadly serious cover I couldn't have said “shock revelations” because the revelations aren't really that shocking. 

But taking a more humorous approach means you're saying it with a wink, and you can get away with it. Yet it still gets people wondering what lies beyond the front page.

I also added a big arrow with the instructions to “click me” pointing at the spot they'd need to click to page through the document. You'd be surprised how often people forget tell their audience what they want them to do – and then get disappointed when they don't do it.

AIDCA is kind of fractal. It applies to the whole document as well as the front page.

From a document perspective the front page grabs attention, then the second page builds interest by talking about the problems we all have with being overworked and stressed out.

You then get the tips – one per page – and formatted in an interesting way to make reading them easy.

And then there's a call to action with the last tip to get going implementing.

The results?

Over 3x the number of views and comments of any of my other posts for the last few weeks.

Not that it went viral or got tens of thousands of views and comments. But compared to my baseline it did very well indeed.

And it all shows that classic marketing like AIDCA absolutely works in new media.

– Ian

PS you can find the Linkedin post here if you're interested in the tips or in analysing it for yourself.


More Clients Memorandum

How common is your marketing sense?

Posted on 1st February 2023.

I've been immersing myself in the world of content marketing on social media and I'm finding a lot of, er, rubbish.

Survey after survey has shown that marketing people are out of touch with the rest of the world. They use i-devices where normal people watch telly. They multi-screen where normal people don't. They're on all the latest social media channels and think facebook is old hat.

And worst of all, they think everyone has the same media consumption habits as them.

That's perhaps why you hear gems like this from the CMO of Levi:

“Our biggest challenge today is delivering tailored messages to our consumers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year across an increasingly complex communications landscape.”

Great. Just what I wanted. Personalised messages about jeans 24/7.

But it's not just the marketing high and mighty that get tied up in knots and lose their common sense. It's all of us.

One of the biggest areas we lose our common sense in is following marketing platitudes without thinking through whether that advice works for our particular clients and products.

One week we'll hear that USPs are vital. So the founder of a startup with a brand new product leads their marketing with all sorts of technical stuff when instead their potential buyers just need to know what the thing actually does for them.

Or the reverse: we read that it's all about the emotional benefits for customers so we start wobbling on about how buying our hammer will make you feel. 

Or we start making videos for TikTok to attract our corporate clients. Because, well, it's the cool thing these days.

Mea Culpa: I absolutely fall for this. Again and again.

But thankfully, one benefit of spending a bunch of time analysing marketing content on social media is that you see all the nonsense all in one go and it's easier to recognise it for what it is. Platitudes and hype.

So my suggestion for you, said as humbly as I can because I'm not good at it, is that whenever you're about to launch a new bit of marketing, run the rule of common sense over it.

Put yourself in your customer's shoes. Would this make sense to them? Does it talk about what they care about? In language they'd use? On a channel they use regularly? Does it deal with the kind of questions they might actually have about your product?

Those simple questions will help you move past the platitudes.


Online Courses

#fail – lessons learned from my rubbish launch

Posted on 28th October 2022.

Have you ever got an email from an online marketing expert telling you about how brilliantly their latest launch went and how you should copy their tactics?

This is not one of those emails :)

My recent launch of my email marketing cohort course was, well, pretty much a disaster. But I've learnt a lot from it and I think you might too, so  in a burst of brutal honesty, here's my breakdown…

The backdrop is that my first two cohort courses were a huge success. They sold out within days and I got the best feedback I've ever had for a course, with a Net Promoter Score averaging about 9.9.

So when I launched and got pretty much zero sales in the first couple of days I was shocked to say the least. I even double checked to make sure the checkout was actually working.

Eventually a couple of sales dripped in, but nowhere near what I was expecting. Not even enough to run a proper cohort.

So where did it go wrong?

Mainly complacency I think.

With the first two cohorts selling so well I took that as a sign that there was a lot of demand for the course and that it would sell out again quickly when I opened up for registration. The fact that more people had registered for the wait list than we had room for on the course added to that impression.

What I hadn't thought – but should have – was “maybe those first two courses took up all the pent-up demand. Maybe everyone who really wanted the course right away has already bought it”. And “maybe the people on the wait list just want the info and aren't all going to buy”.

I spoke last week to an online marketing friend I really respect and he told me the same thing had happened to him recently. Hi did a pilot for a new course that sold out almost instantly so when he launched the course he fully expected a flood of sales.

Instead: crickets.

His conclusion was the same as mine: the initial flood of sales wasn't indicative of a big market. It was simply that all the people who really wanted the course bought the pilot straight away and when he launched shortly afterwards there was no urgent demand left.

So that's the first lesson learned: don't make assumptions – check for alternative explanations

Particularly if you're going to make the second mistake I made which was to ease off the accelerator and not really push the launch because I thought it was going to be easy!

Since the first two cohorts had sold so well and I now had some amazing testimonials in the bag I decided I didn't need to build any extra demand for the course and instead put marketing on the back burner.

At the time we were really busy with Kathy's business and we took a couple of weeks vacation too so it was an easy decision to make.

The reality though was that I did need to build much more demand – or I needed to wait until demand had naturally built up.

When I did my post launch survey the #1 reason for not buying by far (3x the next response) was that the timing wasn't right.

This isn't new news of course. It's almost always the case that at any given point it's not the right time for most people. 

What that means is that you either have to build a bigger list (so that a small percentage of people being ready is still a big number) or you have to build that readiness in your nurture process.

I did neither.

And the truth is that I've somewhat neglected listbuilding in the past few years. My natural focus is to spend my time adding value and nurturing relationships with my current subscribers. But you really need to balance that with getting more new ones too.

The survey also told me that the second top reason for not buying was that for many people, email marketing wasn't an important topic for them.

That's a consequence of a mismatch between my lead magnet (the reason people signed up for my list) and what I was trying to sell.

I've always positioned my business as providing a broad range of marketing tips and ideas to consultants, coaches, trainers and the like. And my lead magnets – like my “Value Based Marketing Blueprint” have reflected that.

Email marketing is something I believe almost everyone should do. But it's not specifically what many people signed up to get help with.

So there's always going to be a subset of subscribers who will never buy an email marketing product. Probably a lot more than the survey suggests I think as if you're not interested in email marketing at all you probably won't take the survey either.

The lesson here is that if you're in that situation you either need to accept it and live with the lower demand and potentially offer a range of products covering all the bases people signed up for.

Or if you really do want to focus your services more, you need to refocus everything including your marketing and lead magnet to be directly relevant to your new offerings.

In my case I do want to be more focused. These days I think it's very difficult to stay on top of a broad range of marketing tactics from email to Linkedin to paid advertising. To give real value you need to be a master of what you advise on.

So that means at minimum I need to update my lead magnet to attract more people who might then want to buy an email marketing course. Obvious when you think about it :)

Anyway – this post is pretty long already. So for now, here's a summary of my lessons learned so far:

  1. Don't make assumptions – explore alternative explanations. And above all – don't get complacent.
  2. Balance nurturing your existing contacts with acquiring new ones.
  3. Align your marketing so that you're attracting the kind of people who would likely buy the products you're offering.

(All sounds simple when you summarise it – but believe me, it's easy to get it wrong in the heat of the moment!)  


More Clients Memorandum

The secret of consistency is…

Posted on 23rd October 2022.

I'm sure you've heard the phrase “the secret of success is consistency” or something similar. And it's very true. Most important results come from sticking with a task.

But what's the secret of consistency?

In my experience, it's success.

That's not a typo..let me explain.

As I'm sure you know, we humans are driven by immediate gratification. 

Sure, we like to think we can work diligently towards a long-term goal. But experience (and research) tells us that unless we see results quickly we give up.

So the best way of sticking to something isn't to try to rely on willpower. It's to go with our natural tendencies and figure out a way of harnessing the power of instant gratification.

Michelle Segar's research on behaviour change and weight loss, for example, has shown you're far more likely to get people to exercise regularly if you get them to focus on the immediate high they'll feel rather than trying to persuade them it'll be good for them in the long term.

And I've found it's the same in business.

I've built a reputation in the field of email marketing and I've got results because I email regularly.

But I email regularly because when I first started I got immediate small wins: positive feedback on my emails, and the occasional enquiry and sale.

Those successes motivated me to keep going.

And because I kept going I got better. And I got bigger wins.

So I kept going and getting better and getting more wins.

The lesson in this?

If you want to get results and you know that results come from consistency: pick something to do where you can get fast feedback and quick wins.

Don't plough your time into something where you won't know if it's working for months or years. The reality is that you'll give up long before you see any results.

Whether you call it a flywheel or a virtuous circle – early successes lead to keeping going – which leads to more successes which leads to an unbreakable habit.

Then people notice and tell you that consistency leads to success :)