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Email lets you reach an infinite number of people — in a really personal way. Sure, you
may have hundreds of competitors in your field, but if you’re already in someone’s inbox,
you have an advantage over all those other companies.

When it comes to increasing your email engagement, the key is to make sure every email you send is worth reading. AppSumo has been able to maintain good open rates because they’ve built a reputation for sending emails that people want to read.

By valuing your readers’ time and crafting purposeful emails, you can keep your open rates high, increasing your chance to convert readers into buyers.

In the beginning, we only sent emails about deals that were entering or leaving
the store. But over time, they realized that constantly sending emails asking customers
to make a purchase increased churn. So they began incorporating more content-focused
emails. These emails helped build brand awareness while making it clear that we were determined to not let it be a one-sided relationship.

Focus on value

For a service business, Chris recommends you use the 2-to-1 ratio: send two educational/
informational emails to every one call-to-action.

If you go the newsletter route, just remember to focus on value. You want your newsletters to be shareable so subscribers tell their network, netting you more readers. Prioritize publishing good content, but don’t overdo it. Make life easier for yourself by picking topics you’re genuinely excited to write about.

The key to making email work for you? Quality and consistency. Oh, and having an email list.

If you are a freelancer or agency who doesn’t have an email list, stop reading right now and
go create an email capture form on your website! This is a non-negotiable. (And if you don’t want to read through dozens of comparison articles about which email service provider to use, go get yourself Envalope.)


Launching a newsletter for lead generation

What can you really do with a newsletter? Small service companies like ours don’t have all day to  spend creating content. So how can we turn our newsletter into a money-printing tool? Chris had a few ideas.

Focus the newsletter on easy (but natural) upsells: To use copywriting as an example,
we could send an email that teaches readers how to write content freebies to grow their
business. At the bottom of the newsletter, we could include a simple call-to-action like:
“Want us to create content freebies for you?”

This works because you’re providing value by teaching others how to do something, and
also giving people an opportunity to hire you if they’d rather let you do the heavy lifting.

Welcome sequence: See below.

Browse Abandonment Email: When someone lands on your site or navigates to a specific page, you can choose to have your ESP automatically email them. That email can contain a targeted message about the page they visited.

For example, if they landed on our “How to Write Press Releases” page, you can send them an email with three additional tips not listed on that page. This tactic may be considered advanced, but can lead to powerful retargeting results. If you have many different products — or productized services — pages, this might be an email tactic to implement ASAP.


What should your first four emails look like?

If you want to create the most basic email welcome sequence, here’s what you should do.
Set up these emails to drip over the course of 2-3 weeks:

1. The promise

If you have a freebie like a checklist, ebook, pack of templates, white paper, or guide to entice people on your signup page (which you should), your first email should simply deliver that gift to the new subscriber. Don’t bury the download in a long introduction email.

Just keep it short and sweet — and deliver on what you promised.

2. The intro

Now that your new subscribers have their freebie, it’s time to introduce yourself. Within the next couple of days, send your intro email: What do you write about? Why do you have a newsletter? What are you passionate about? What are some fun facts about you or your business?

This is the connection email — where you form a human bond with your latest subscriber.
Consider adding a photo of yourself or your office space. You’ve only got one chance at a
first impression, so make it count. Onboard them into your world.

3. What we offer

It’s time to get to business. Tell subscribers more about your services. While a lot of your
subscribers will never purchase from you, listing your services at least makes them aware of what you offer. This makes it easier to refer you to people within their network, and gives them a mental model for who you are and the services you provide.

4. Pitch

It’s time to call your readers to action. The fourth email should be a hard pitch for your services. You could send a discount or simply offer a low-barrier-to-entry action, like a free 15-minute consulting call. You might consider adding in a fifth email as a follow-up, just to check in to see if people want to take you up on your offer.

Our welcome email overhaul

We only have one email in our onboarding sequence right now, so we asked Chris to give his feedback on it.

Below, we included a before and after, with markups featuring his advice on how to optimize our email. If we had additional time, we’d overhaul our sequence even more. It would include the promised lead magnet in its own email, followed by an intro and then an email that teases our SaaS copywriting and UX writing services. We’ll get there one day! For now, here are the incremental improvements we’ve made:

Email do’s and don’ts

Avoid vanity metrics

List size doesn’t matter. At least, it doesn’t have to matter. The more important metrics include open and click-through rates, and whether you’re writing to your ideal customer. Worry more about truly engaging ideal customers on your list.

Save advertising budgets with an email list

Ads are expensive. And for many companies, ads can quickly eat away at your marketing
budget. If you have an engaged list, email is your best bet for a return on investment.
Subscribers want to be on your list, hearing your ideas, getting your insights or anything else that is unique for you.

If you build your email list right, it will become a highly engaged audience of your ideal customers who get excited whenever your email hits their inbox. Pretty powerful stuff.

Email capture tips

The design and copy on your email capture form(s) or website popups should cater to
your ideal client and clearly communicate how they’ll benefit from signing up. Remember:
this is an exchange. They give you an email, you give them value.

The best example of how to optimize your email capture form, by far, comes from Harry
Dry at



Here are some more ideas for dialing in your email capture forms:

  • Tell real success stories — try emphasizing or even proving ROI to show that if they sign
    up, they could get similar results.
  • Offer a free consultation call and put subscribers into a nurture sequence.
  • Turn your newsletter into actionable tips for whatever your service is. (Harry Dry’s

Optimal open rates

Although it varies by industry, 20% is a solid low bar for email open rate. Over 30% means
you’re doing pretty darn well.

One way to keep your list fresh and your open rates high is to send a “check-in” email to anyone who hasn’t opened an email in a while.

That email can be as simple as “Hey, is everything ok? You haven’t been opening our emails recently and we want to make sure you still want to be on our list.” This will usually either re-engage someone or have them unsubscribe (which is okay, because they weren’t active anyway).

Writing powerful headlines

Email subject lines in 2020 are all about being punchy.

People really enjoy seeing how witty companies can be. So put on your thinking cap and
do your best to come up with something that will impress and pique curiosity. Just be sure it’s relevant to the content inside.

And while it’s okay to be punchy and playful for a newsletter, read the room. Serious
emails — with important information — should be more straightforward.

If you feel like this is out of your league, or you feel like your ads just aren’t performing… remember to always e-mail us for some free advice. Click here and we’ll answer any queries you may have!

Originally written by Chris Grullon for Sumo.