How To Sell To Your Email Subscribers (& Not Turn Them Off)

Your email list is one of your most valuable commercial assets. If you aren’t selling to these people – what exactly are you doing? We aren’t saying you should flood them with spammy promo emails now, but if you aren’t selling to them already – you really need to start.

Here are a few email marketing strategies you can use to subtly sell to your subscribers, without damaging the relationship you’ve already built with them.

Have The Right Attitude

Selling with email is all about having the right attitude – focus on your readers first. Be a product reviewer and source of consumer information rather than a pure promoter – be balanced with product recommendations and genuine about what products or services can offer.

  • You’ve got people’s permission to be in their private space (their inbox), so give people value while you are there. Share insights and give something away for free to earn their trust… then you can start asking for people’s money. No one will appreciate you if you go in immediately with a ‘hard sell’ attitude, so see email as a place for information and knowledge sharing.
  • Don’t see your email as a vacuum – it’s another element of your overall content strategy that spans your website, blog, and social media. Keep it consistent, but adopt a friendly tone in your emails to keep things personal and conversational. You might want to let your guard down and crack a few jokes too — humor can help break the barrier.
  • Well-timed product reviews and honest opinion pieces on products and services will be appreciated by your email audience – not a promotional list of affiliate links. When you do use affiliate links, make sure you disclose this and be upfront with your audience about your intentions for your list.

Offer Value (And Sell At The Same Time)

There are a few different ways to sell and offer value simultaneously:

  • Share useful resources and user hacks with real value (subtly including affiliate links or links to affiliate review pages)
  • Give away major insights that point back to a service or product – “did you know that using X means you could save on average 120 minutes a day?”
  • Try to make your email subscribers feel like special VIPs – treat them with early bird discounts or subscriber-only offers on affiliate products (make them explicitly email only)
  • A third-party case study (useful, not advertorial) is a great way to promote a product or service
  • Ask for people’s time, advice and experiences. By engaging people in a conversation with you, you are breaking the ice (the first part of any sale)

Segment & Target

Use your email service provider to accurately collate subscriber data. The beauty of data management is that you can accurately target your sales messages to the right people – lowering friction. (Get familiar with email analytics — it will help you track progress and improve ROI).

  • The biggest turn-off for subscribers is irrelevancy: “this email has nothing to do with me”. You’ve only got the first few words of the subject line to connect with your reader and get them to say “yes, that’s for me”.
  • It’s a good idea to start talking about the user first. Open with their problems and queries, not your own sales pitch. Add in products and services in a natural way – don’t make it jarring for your readers.
  • By segmenting your email list down into micro-lists you can speak directly to micro-communities and address their specific pain points. It’s a great strategy for affiliates because you can give more specific product advice and discounts.

Get The Sequence Right

Getting an email out of sequence is like being on a date with someone WAY TOO INTENSE. It feels jarring and makes the user feel uncomfortable.

  • Respect the rules of engagement – design a proper onboarding sequence within your emails that have an internal logic and tells a compelling story.
  • Know when to push hard, and when to pull back. Alternate sales messages with softer, more content-oriented messages.
  • Even an unsubscription or a ‘hey, are you still there’ email need to follow its own sequence. Try to add personality and humor to these difficult moments. HubSpot shows unsubscribers a funny breakup video, whereas Brighton SEO used to send out photos of sad labradors if you didn’t open their emails.

Maintain A Consistent Tone (At First)

Don’t shift wildly from ecstatic and sales to glum and informational in your first emails. If you suddenly completely change your tone halfway through a message, the reader will be turned off.

  • Use storytelling and personal anecdotes to make your selling seem much more like a friendly product recommendation from someone they know and trust.
  • Humor (the right kind) is a great way to sell without making things seem too serious, but make sure you’ve judged the audience correctly and aren’t tipping over into the offensive or obnoxious.

Be Different

Sometimes taking risks can pay off. I think we all know what style Gary Vaynerchuk has opted for, and it works for him. His sweary, no-bullshit sales attitude feels like you are getting a proper talking-to from a close friend who knows their stuff. Anything he recommends has an aura of trust around it because of his down-to-earth brand.

  • Break the mold with your emails and add personality. Yes, it might seem like a risk at first, but email subscription lists rarely get decimated just because you went a bit ‘rogue’.
  • People are absolutely inundated by emails, so sometimes a more clickbait approach to emails is a smart move that could improve your open rates.
  • Ask questions, use emojis, and be topical – use all the tools in a marketers’ toolkit to help engage more people with your emails.

Be Known For Great Content

Lots of affiliate marketers and SEOs work on their brands outside of their emails in order to increase open and engagement rates. If you are known for creating great content, people will actually look forward to opening your emails.

  • Great content addresses your audience’s pain points and questions. Be ambitious and go for long-form content with loads and loads of user value.
  • Gamify content creation by getting your email list involved in the process – give them sneak previews of upcoming posts, tell them what you’re working on, and ask them questions about what they’d like to see.
  • The biggest problem with awesome content is that it takes a while to do. Learn how to research well and build up processes in order to speed up content production.
  • Whatever you have learned during your affiliate journey – feed that back into the community and share your insights, tips, and tricks to success. Especially if you are selling courses or in the business of information sharing, opening up about your journey will help your audience there! Great emails come from great community management.

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