Listen to this topic here:
For the first year of running my business, each week I’d send an email with recommendations that I thought people on my email list might like. I’ll share an example below, and you can see how I talk: chatty, warm – no sales. Not even a ‘you might like’ sales box at the bottom. This was about just sharing ideas. No pressure to do anything, or BUY anything.
A common mistake people make with their email lists, I see it time and time again, is that they can’t resist doing a little bit of selling in every email just in case. It’s like there’s a fear that they may just be missing a potential sale if they don’t remind their subscribers that they have a product/service.
Friends, they KNOW.
And if you keep pushing your stuff, they will leave. It’s boring. As are constant discounts/sales. You need to be teaching the people on your email list something new. Sharing. Giving away. Being so generous that when you occasionally say: ‘I have a new course’ … they are interested rather than fed up.
So, first you think about subject line. This needs to be something that makes them think: I need to read this email. This takes practice. And when you get really good open rates, it’s tempting to then re-use that subject line but don’t. It won’t work twice.
An example: My first ‘weekly recommendations’ email, I used the subject line: You need to know about this. And people were curious; they opened it. The next week, I tried it again and the open rate dropped down. I needed to think of a new strategy.
So keep your subject lines fresh.
When you occasionally do a selling/sale/discount one, add that in. People love seeing a £ sign in an email subject line. What they don’t love seeing is too much !!!! or..
To the point that Mailchimp now reminds you not to include too much punctuation or too many emojis. And also, avoid CAPITALISING EVERYTHING. Again, it’s annoying rather than attention-grabbing.
One of my weekly recommendations emails
Subject line: This has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day.
I’m not going to mention the V word, because according to my Instagram community, people are generally not up for it. Instead, I’ll send some ideas for gifts you can make to yourself…
“There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” — Anaïs Nin
Something to listen to…
I’ve heard loads about How to Own the Room podcast with Viv Groskop but never actually listened. And then my friend Penny sent me an episode featuring Sophie Dahl, as she talks about her shyness (and I’m writing a book on shyness) and it’s bloody great. A gift from Penny to me, and me to you… listen here.
Something to cook…
This doesn’t require actual cooking. Just add prunes to your granola or porridge and enjoy the greatest gift: regular bowel movements. It’s changed my life.
Something to read…
Clover Stroud’s new book My Wild and Sleepless Nights has just landed in my life in both book and Kindle form. I haven’t actually started it yet but I think she’s brill and people keep telling me how amazing this book – and her last – are, so I’m recommending before reading. Dangerous. But if you can judge a book by its cover, this is going to be excellent. Pre-order here.
Something to invest in…
I’ve taken to putting on my scent diffuser before I start work. I add a few drops of a Neal’s Yard aromatherapy oil that’s thought to make you feel ‘optimistic’. It makes the room smell amazing, and gives me a little lift before I get going. This is the one I have. But there are cheaper options elsewhere.
Something to help with…
These guys on Instagram – @cjsmission – do such amazing work, raising funds to support parents whose babies are born prematurely, or whose children are in intensive care. Their feed is heartbreaking and heart-warming in equal measure.
Someone to follow on Instagram…
Jess – @beyond.sonder – will soon be offering an exciting service, helping freelancers to team with brands. Basically, how to make money from your Instagram feed. And your website. And we all need to be making money, so give her a follow.
Here’s an example of an email that isn’t ‘weekly recommendations’ but is about starting a conversation (and it did)…
Subject line: Education, education, education (does it really matter?)
People can get quite hung up on their education. There are those like best-selling author of Birdsong Sebastian Faulks who says that a private education meant he would never be able to then complain about his schooling. He’d have preferred a free education, like grammar school-educated Alan Bennett, so that he could then pontificate on it without getting people’s backs up.
And there are the ones who went to state school and felt they slipped through the net, as the classes were huge and they were neither exceptional nor bottom of the class. The middling students who are forgotten about. Or they had dyslexia that was never picked up and went on to fail exams when they might not have, if privately educated.
Lastly, there are the home-schooled. Those whose parents took their education into their own hands. And sometimes it worked – like with Tara Westover, author of Educated. And sometimes it didn’t. But who knows whether that was down to the parents’ teaching methods or the child’s natural flair.
Whatever your experience, schooling can be an emotive topic. I had an ex-boyfriend whose much younger half brother was privately educated, as his dad became wealthy after he’d already been through state school. He was very angry about it. He felt he might have been more successful with a private education.
This stuff comes to the surface again if/when you have kids of your own and start making moral, ethical, financial, individual decisions about where to send them. I’ve been surprised by the decisions other parents around me have made, thinking we had similar views only to realise we don’t. And it can create a division.
I think we all want the best for our kids but ‘best’ means different things to different parents. Also, it’s impossible to know the outcome of anything at the time of applying. It might work out splendidly; it might fuck the kid up for life. Whatever you decide – if you have a choice at all, that is – there’s an element of risk involved.
The stories I find most interesting are those about kids who went to shit or mediocre schools and then went on to find huge success, like the Oscar-winning film director Steve McQueen. And what I want for my own kids is what I had: a good comprehensive school, where they can integrate with people who are like them and who are different to them. Where they will be taught that hard work matters, as does being personable.
Ultimately, wherever we go to school (or don’t), the main lessons in life come from our parents, or the people who raise us. That’s where a moral code is instilled, and where we’re taught about how to be around others. Politeness, kindness, how to overcome challenges. So my feeling is that we can only choose the best schooling on offer for our children and teach them the rest ourselves.
What do you reckon?
I use a ‘text only’ template, as images are bigger files, and take too long to download. For a more design-led business, this might be trickier, as you’ll want some branding in there. But I like to keep mine simple, quick to read and not clog up inboxes.
See what works on social
Something else I do, for email content ideas, is re-use social media posts that have gone down well. So if I post on Instagram, about money – let’s say – and it sparks good debate, I’ll often put that exact caption into an email and send it to my list. Lots of them won’t have seen it on Instagram, and it’s a way of sharing the successful content further.
I’d like to recommend three women whose emails really work on me. They get the tone just right. And I’ve gone on to buy something from two out of the three. But I will definitely be investing in the third pretty soon, too.
Out of interest, I first discovered Jessica Fearnley because she did a guest blogpost that I edited. So do make sure you’re getting your name and ideas out there by guest blogging, and doing your own PR. Pitching to be included in round-ups of the best courses. Writing articles about your work. She’s a business coach, with lots of experience, and her emails always seem to tell me exactly what I need to hear at the time.
Rebecca’s a life coach, and recently offered a free downloadable ‘design your future’ worksheet when you sign up to her mailing list. I saw this posted on Instagram and it worked, I signed up. And then I loved receiving her welcome email series. One of the emails included a video, and it was great getting to see her face and hear her talk. I already know Rebecca but if I didn’t, this would really draw me in.
One night, while breastfeeding, I googled ‘How to manifest more money’. And I came across a blog post that Juliette had written. This led me to her website, mailing list and hearing about her online course and coaching packages. The perfect funnel. But her welcome email series was really good. Every day, for five days, she shared a manifesting tip. She said she was going to, and did. I was in. And loved them. She then became my coach.
Find your own inspiration
Your interests may well be different to mine, so perhaps these women won’t be right for you – but if you follow someone on Instagram who you find inspiring, and learn lots from, sign up to their mailing list. See how they do it. How do their emails compare to their social posts? It’s always good to see what others are doing.
And you will also learn what not to do. I often unsubscribe from email lists if I’m bombarded. We’re all going to get unsubscribes but it’s good to keep a bit of any eye on this and to change tack if it’s happening too often.
Lastly, as I explained the last topic: I now take a more intuitive approach to my newsletters. I started sending a story, or tip, whenever I had the time and inclination. And this garners an even better response than my weekly ‘recommendations’ did.
But some people prefer to commit to a weekly newsletter, or feel it may otherwise just keep slipping down the priority list until it’s not happening at all.