Brian Casel
Brian Casel

Turn Readers Into Buyers

by Brian Casel on November 30, 2015
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Nothing beats word-of-mouth business.

Referrals are great because they cost next to nothing to acquire and the sale is practically made even before they come in contact with you since they came from a personal recommendation.

In other words, they know you. Or at least the person who introduced you, knows you, and together they’ve established that you’re a smartypants, your company is legit, and there’s little doubt you’ll deliver a solid result.

This is what people mean when they say it’s all about “who you know”.

But what about all of the people who don’t know you?

Selling your product or service to “the masses” who’ve never heard of you before is a completely different ballgame. This is where a little thing called marketing comes into play.

In this post, I want to talk about one marketing asset designed to convert complete strangers into paying customers.

The Email Course

The email course is, I believe, the single most important asset you’ll build into your marketing system.

I recently launched our email course for Audience Ops, called Content Marketing on Autopilot. I invite you to subscribe and read the lessons. I think you’ll learn a thing or two about building a content marketing system in your company. But really, I want you to “spy” on how I positioned the course and how it works.

Most people think an email course is simply a lead magnet—A tool for getting people to join your email list.

I don’t agree.

I mean, sure, your email course will attract plenty of people to join your list. But there are even better strategies for rapidly growing your email list such as content upgrades and hosting webinars.

Your email course has a much more important role to play, and that is converting your audience into customers.

I’ve been launching email courses to promote my products for years. My Productize Crash Course has been a primary driver of sales for the Productize course. When I was building my SaaS, I created several email courses that helped usher in paying subscribers. And now I’ve launched our first, primary email course for Audience Ops, designed to educate and attract warm leads for our done-for-you service.

In this article, I’ll take you behind the scenes and share my approach to crafting an email course that does it’s job: Converting new subscribers into warm leads and paying customers for your business, by establishing a level of trust that would otherwise only come from a personal referral.

Picking a Topic

The topic for your email course matters a lot more than you might think.

Most email course creators don’t put a lot of thought into this, and go with whatever title will get the most clicks and subscriptions. But again, attracting subscribers is not the name of the game here. Getting subscribers to become paying customers is. And that requires a more thoughtful approach.

Your topic must achieve 3 goals, and it must do all 3 (not just 2 or 1).

  • It must attract the right type of person in the first place (people who would actually be prime candidates to buy from you).
  • It must teach them the solution to a problem that they acknowledge that they have.
  • It must relate directly to the product you sell, making your pitch the logical “next step” after they complete the educational portion of the email sequence.

Again, I can’t stress this enough. If it doesn’t check all 3 of these boxes, the course won’t do it’s job.

  • If you pick a topic that your target customers don’t care about, then you’ll only attract people who will never buy from you later.
  • If your course doesn’t actually teach them anything, they’ll stop opening the emails and probably unsubscribe.
  • If your pitch feels like it came out of left field, because your product is completely unrelated to the topic of the email course, then, well, you know.

Structuring an Email Course

I’ve seen many variations on this, and really it can work in many different ways. But one of the concepts I teach and also practice in my business is to stick with one way of doing things, and refine that method until it’s extremely effective and delivers highly predictable results.

So this is the structure I’ve used in most of my email courses. It’s the same structure we use when creating email courses for our clients at Audience Ops.

The sequence and pacing goes like this:

  1. Day 1 (delivered immediately): Lesson 1
  2. Day 3: Lesson 2
  3. Day 5: Lesson 3
  4. Day 7: Lesson 4
  5. Day 8: Lesson 5
  6. Day 9: Pitch the product/service
  7. Day 10: Follow up and overcome objections.

You’ll notice the first five emails are the educational portion of the email course. In fact, typically I’ll describe the course as a “a 5-part email course”, even though technically, the sequence is made up of 7 emails.

The 5 Lessons

Now here’s where it gets interesting.

The 5 lessons that make up the educational portion of the course shouldn’t be random tips dripped out in a 5-day sequence. You should be strategic about what those 5 lessons cover.

Remember how I told you it’s important that the course teaches a solution to your customer’s problem and relates directly to your product? Well, here’s a process you can use to kill those two birds with one stone:

  1. Start by thinking about your product. I’m guessing you’re always thinking about your product, so this part should be easy 🙂
  2. Pick out the 5 most important features of your product.
  3. Now identify the specific benefits that come as a result of a customer using those features.
  4. For each of those features/benefits, what is the specific problem (or part of a problem) that it solves?
  5. Why does that problem exist for most customers? What are they doing wrong (or haven’t learned yet) that’s causing them to experience this problem?
  6. That thing—the root cause of the problem, and the insight behind how to fix it—becomes one of your five lessons in your email course.

By following this process, you’re able to tie each of your five lessons to a specific benefit of using your product. But I’m not saying make a sales pitch for your product in every email. That comes later. Your first 5 emails should be purely educational (but relevant).

Making The Pitch

Your 6th email, which comes after the 5 educational emails have been delivered as promised, is the direct pitch for your product.

Let me be very clear: This email doesn’t beat around the bush. From the subject line through the body down to the sign off and P.S. it is all about your product. Well actually, let me rephrase that: It’s all about your customer, their pain, and how your product solves that pain. But the point I’m making here is that unlike the other emails, which were purely educational in their purpose, this one is unmistakably a sales pitch.

The key is to make the pitch for your product the most logical next step after completing this email course. Remember, you chose a topic that you know your most ideal customers care about, so they’re likely to be the ones reading your course. And they tuned in to all 5 lesson emails because they’re experiencing the problems  you’ve identified and your emails have guided them to the solutions. And since you’ve built your lessons based on the reasons why your product even exists (remember the feature-problem-lesson exercise I showed you above), inviting them to try your product now should be a no-brainer.

“Base the lessons of your email course on the ‘why’ behind your product.”  Tweet This!

I want to bust through a few common, but invalid assumptions you may have about including such a direct, some might consider “salesy”, email in your sequence. It took me a while to get over these same misgivings myself.

“A sales pitch at the end is kind of like a bait and switch, isn’t it?”

The idea that your email course subscribers will be shocked and insulted when they’re presented with an invitation to buy something from you—after you’ve delivered a ton of insight that helped them—is false.

There are plenty of queues along the way, which indicate a pitch will come later. The course landing page includes references to the company who’s behind this course. A brief mention of your company can be included in the first email, perhaps when you mention who you are and why you’re qualified to teach this course (the answer is because you help customers with this very problem every day in your business).

“Shouldn’t my product or service sell itself?”

When you’re dealing with people who’ve come to you via a referral, then yes. Your product, it’s reputation (or your reputation) is enough to convince someone to buy.

But readers of your email course have never met you. They stumbled upon you somehow, and now you’ve taught them a few things, which won you some trust points, but we’re not there yet. Now you must make it unmistakably obvious that you have a relevant product available to purchase, and that now is the time to buy if in fact, the person experiences the problem that your product (as well as this course) were designed to solve.

“Won’t people unsubscribe if I try to sell them something?”

Maybe. But those people clearly would have never bought from you in the first place. Unsubscribes are a fact of life in email marketing. When you’re delivering a ton of value on a consistent basis to people who are a perfect fit to hear from you, then you’ll never have a problematic rate of unsubscribes.

After The Email Course, What’s Next?

Once your subscribers have completed all 7 emails in your sequence, a number of things might happen.

One outcome is they decide to buy. Awesome! When this happens, they should be tagged accordingly, and moved into a new customer onboarding sequence.

Another outcome is they’re interested, but not ready to buy right now. No problemo. Now that they’ve been educated about the problem/solution, and they’re fully aware that your product exists, they can come back to it when they’re ready.

In the meantime, you should be following up with more educational content, like a weekly email newsletter pointing them to your latest blog article (which also happens to be related to the problem space that you and your customers operate in). By sending them something new every week, you’re keeping your name top of mind, and keeping the goods coming, which will help you convert more of those “long tail” customers.

The Email Course as an Evergreen Asset

I want to finish off this post by showing you how your email course should become an evergreen asset for your company, and become a workhorse that your content marketing game plan is centered around.

Here are some things you should be doing once you have your email course in place:

  • Route all new subscribers to it.
    Whether they came into your list via a content upgrade or some other entry-point, set up an automation rule to point those new subscribers into your email course. Since this sequence is designed to convert subscribers into buyers, you want to make sure all your subscribers have a chance to go through the course (even if the course wasn’t their initial entry-point to your list).
  • Promote it everywhere.
    Your email course can be the thing you drive all visitors to at one point or another. Put it in your popup form. Run retargeting ads to it. Mention it when you’re a guest on someone’s podcast. Pin a Tweet to your profile that promotes this email course.
  • Measure and refine it over time.
    Over time, you should measure how your email course performs. Look at the overall conversion rate of subscribers to paying customers. But also look at the open-rates of the individual emails. Then test different subject lines, sequence of lessons, and calls-to-action to see if you can optimize it.

So there you have it. My thoughts on producing an email course that not only attracts subscribers, but more importantly, converts those readers to paying customers of your product.

I invite you to check out the email course I created to both educate and attract clients to Audience Ops. It’s called Content Marketing on Autopilot and you can subscribe to it here.