One of the most powerful ways to nurture and convert email subscribers into customers is through the follow-up emails you send them after they’ve opted in to receive one of your freebies, i.e. your email follow-up sequence. Yes, the “know, like and trust” factor is important when it comes to making sales, but don’t forget that new subscribers are also highly likely to take action.
Because they’ve just opted in to receive one of your valuable freebies so you’re at the forefront of their minds and their positive impression of you is still fresh (assuming your freebie was fabulous – it was, wasn’t it?). So even if they’ve only just discovered you, a well formulated follow-up email sequence can quickly:
- Establish you as the leader in your niche (the leader that they want to follow)
- Provide evidence of your results and demonstrate proof of concept
- Strengthen the “know, like and trust” factor
- Convert casual subscribers into loyal customers
The key to doing all of this is to present an irresistible flow of emails that leads naturally from one step to the next, making each offer along the way—whether free or paid—a “no brainer” that your subscribers would never consider rejecting. In fact, if you get it right, they’ll anxiously await your next email and the next, and the next. And when you offer a paid a product or service, they’ll be ready and willing to hit the buy now button.
So how can you create a follow-up email series that will result in your subscribers taking the next step and becoming customers?
Know your ideal client/customer and create everything for them and only them
The first step is to know exactly who your ideal subscribers are and make sure your initial freebie (the one that got them on your list) and subsequent follow-up messages and offers are all in alignment with who you truly want as customers.
If they don’t match up, your funnel is likely to fall apart. You’ll attract the wrong subscribers and you’ll disappoint or confuse your ideal subscribers if they make it onto your list.
Your initial free offer should flow naturally into your first email follow-up, which presents the next logical step for subscribers to take. At each step (or email) along the way, direct your subscribers to the next logical move and make sure it’s a “no-brainer.” Some examples are to invite them to join a Facebook group, download an ebook, or purchase a low cost but high value product. Be sure to tailor the entire sequence to appeal to the person who most needs and wants what you have to offer.
And remember: your ideal client / ideal customer can and probably will evolve over time, so make it a point to revisit your ideal client/customer profile from time to time, and especially before you set up any new funnels.
Exercise: Review or write your ideal client/customer profile. Check that your freebie is created specifically to meet their wants and needs.
Be clear on your final goal
Your follow-up email series should be designed to move subscribers deeper into your funnel so it’s important to know what you want to achieve at each stage and what you ultimately want your subscribers to do when they reach the final part of the email sequence.
Brainstorm and plan the phases of your sequence with the final goal in mind.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you’re a nutritionist and you’ve got a signature coaching program that helps clients ditch the dieting mindset, develop a healthy relationship with food and become healthy intuitive eaters. Your ultimate goal could be to get people to invest in your 8-week coaching program. But in order to get them there, you’re going to need to take them on a journey through your funnel, i.e. your follow-up sequence, and your mini goals along the way could include things like building trust and credibility and getting subscribers to engage with some of your other free content.
Here’s what the funnel could potentially look like:
Phase 1: Offer a free webinar/online training to show attendees the power of intuitive eating and how it can improve health and prevent binges.
Phase 2: After the webinar, you’ll reach out with a series of emails which restate the importance of intuitive eating, provide proof of concept through case studies, offer tips and strategies not covered during the webinar, give links to supporting documents and additional resources, and introduce and promote your paid offer, which subscribers can purchase at a discount if they do so within a certain period of time.
Exercise: Answer these questions: What is the ultimate offer you want to present to your ideal customers at the end of your follow-up sequence? Why is this the perfect offer for them?
Plan each step of the journey from freebie to final goal
Okay, so now that you know what the goal of your follow-up sequence is, it’s time to create the step-by-step process that will effortlessly lead your subscribers toward the goal.
Each email in your sequence will build on the previous, providing another piece of information and more resources your subscribers can use. This serves several purposes:
- It helps your subscribers to achieve their goals
- It clearly establishes your expertise in your niche (so that you become the go-to expert)
- It trains your subscribers to open their emails (because the information you’re sharing with them is so valuable)
At each step in your funnel, figure out what your subscribers need to learn, know and believe in order for them to be ready to move to the next step. Start with your initial freebie and welcome message, and then decide what subscribers will want and need to know next, and how the information should logically flow to be of the most benefit to them. Keep your final goals and mini goals in mind too.
Surprise your ideal subscribers with a free gift
You’ve got your subscribers onto your list through a high value freebie. Now it’s time to cement the trust they’ve extended to you and truly wow them by giving them additional relevant and useful free information and a surprise gift.
And no, you don’t need to create a ginormous a 300-page eBook or provide a 6-module course as your free gift. Quite the contrary, people nowadays are in a hurry and are often more likely to need (and use) a simple checklist, worksheet, or resource guide. The main thing is to give your subscribers something that they want and need, and which is related to your final offer at the end of the sequence.
For ideas on what to give subscribers, have a look at
- the most commonly asked questions you get from your followers
- frequent thread topics in your Facebook groups or niche forums
- responses to client surveys you’ve conducted
- competitors’ offers – not to copy but rather to identify where there are gaps in the information and how you can fill those gaps with your free gift
What is the most pressing problem your target market faces? What language do they use to describe the issues they face? Which resources would make it easy for them to move to the next level?
Top tip: You don’t have to create something from scratch. Repurpose some of your existing content and package it up as a free offer for subscribers going through your follow-up sequence. For example, you could create a PDF from a blog post series, give them access to a free webinar that you’ve done in the past, offer a free chapter from your latest ebook or a free module from your online course, offer a free 20-min call etc.
Exercise: Decide what free offer is likely to be most compelling and useful to your ideal customers. Now go and create it! 🙂
Carefully balance your free and paid offers
Note: This advice applies to all your emails, not just the emails in your follow-up sequence. If you want to become an authority in your niche, you need to provide high value, relevant and valid information to your subscribers. But you also need to balance this with promotions and periodic offers. You essentially have to “train” your subscribers to expect—and even appreciate—occasional offers. If you start off by providing high value information for free all the time, your subscribers will begin to expect this and will then feel disappointed and even angry when you do finally offer something with a price tag— no matter how useful it might be.
That being said, be careful not to go too far in the other direction, either. If you keep making offer after offer, you’re going to annoy your subscribers and exhaust them to the point where they’ll no longer buy and may very likely unsubscribe.
So how do you strike the perfect perfect balance between paid offers and free content and gifts? The answer is going to be different for everyone and you may already have a good feel for what would work for your list (and you!), but the key is to just keep testing, tracking and adjusting until you find what works well.
Exercise: Brainstorm tips, strategies and stats your readers need to have throughout your follow-up sequence. Start with the questions they’re likely to have as they read each email, then determine if the answer can be conveyed in an email, or if it requires something larger—such as a freebie or a paid product or service. Note: If every question requires a paid product to answer, chances are your follow-up sequence is too broad. Consider narrowing your topic before continuing.
Craft click-worthy email subject lines
Getting your emails opened is the biggest hurdle you’ll face with your follow-up sequence. Most people’s inboxes are flooded with emails on a daily basis and many of those emails never get read. Not only that, but email systems like Gmail filter emails into categories or folders, so users can quickly see which emails are promotional and which (presumably) they really want to read. This auto-filtering, plus spam controls, can make it even harder to ensure your emails get seen.
And even if your email sets seen, there’s no guarantee your subscribers will open and read it. But you can tip the odds in your favor by crafting compelling email subject lines to grab your subscribers’ attention and get them to open your emails.
- Avoiding spammy words and phrases such as $$$, big bucks, earn money and credit card, and don’t use excessive exclamation points
- Use a reputable email management system with good deliverability rates (MailerLite, Convertkit and Active Campaign are great options)
- Keep your subject lines short and interesting
Creating great subject lines takes practice, and you’re going to need to keep testing them to find out what kinds of subject lines work best for your audience.
Exercise: Start keeping a swipe file of email subject lines that you’ve seen that you loved and couldn’t wait to click on. You’re not going to copy these in your emails, but you can definitely use them as inspiration!
Always include clear calls to action
As I mentioned above, not every email should contain an offer BUT each email must definitely have a call to action (CTA). Never leave your email readers without something to do next. Always include a clear CTA that tells your subscribers exactly what you want them to do.
Examples: Watch the video /Join the Facebook group
The most effective CTAs focus on the benefits of taking the proposed action. So make sure you give your subscribers a reason to do whatever you’re asking them to do. Always think about what’s in it for them.
Examples: Watch the video to learn 3 simple cooking hacks to save you time and money / Join the Facebook group and get your questions answered.
Ideally, you should have a single CTA per email. Two are fine if they’re both free offers. If you’re writing to your audience about a paid offer, make sure to only include one call to action.
Exercise: Once you’ve planned out your email sequence, write down the action you want email readers to take and the benefits for them. Then, write your CTAs.
Automate your follow-up emails
The best thing about a follow-up email sequence or funnel is that it can (and should!) work on autopilot. Once you’ve planned and created the content for each follow-up email, you can pop them into an automation sequence/trigger in your email service provider and set the schedule.
Automating this process with triggers means that each subscriber who’s put into the follow-up sequence will get every email you’ve created for the follow-up process and each email will be automatically sent to subscribers as soon as they reach the specified point in the automation flow. This will help you to offer better support to your potential and future clients and customers because you’ll be providing them with exactly what they need at the right point in their journey with you.
The key here is to be sure you’re offering the next logical product based on where your customer is in the funnel, and you need to be extra careful not to continue offering your paid product or program after they’ve already purchased it.
Most good email marketing systems allow you to tag and move subscribers from one campaign to another based on their behavior. However, it takes some planning to ensure the flow is natural and that your subscribers don’t accidentally receive random, unexpected messages.
Here’s a simple example. You can see that once a subscriber signs up, they’re immediately funneled into one of two sequences. Existing customers are sent down a different path than those who are new.
Test, track and adjust everything
Creating and setting up your follow-up emails is not the end; it’s actually just the beginning. Consistent business growth requires continual testing, tracking and adjusting and you must do this to ensure optimal results for your follow-up sequence.
Almost everything can be tested, but here are some common things to test and track in Google analytics and using your landing page builder and email marketing software analytics:
- Landing page headlines and calls to action (for freebies and paid offer)
- Email subject lines
- Days/times you send emails
- Offers and calls to action
Conclusion and final tips to keep in mind
When someone signs up for your freebie, they’re telling you they’re interested in the topic your freebie deals with. This means they’ll be interested to learn more and perhaps even invest in a paid solution. This gives you a perfect opportunity to serve them, demonstrate your expertise and desire to help, and present your paid offer.
When someone joins your list for the first time, don’t forget to also send them a welcome email or welcome series. But be careful not to bombard them with too many emails. Make sure that you spread out the emails and that you’re providing value and building the relationship in every email.
If you only offer one freebie or you have a few which would all lead naturally to one single paid offer, then you could combine your welcome series and follow-up emails and put them all into one sequence. Then, set up your tags and automation so that your subscribers only receive the sequence once when they first join your list. If you prefer to have different follow-ups for each freebie, then don’t include the welcome emails in these follow-up funnels. Also, make sure the information and tips you share are different enough that your subscribers don’t feel like you’re sending them the same emails each time they grab a new freebie.
Your follow-up emails can be spread out over several weeks or even months. Balance their frequency with your newsletters and promotional emails. If you’re starting a new promotional campaign, and it’s for the same thing you’re offering in your follow-up emails, exclude the subscribers currently receiving follow-up emails; otherwise, you’ll annoy them and they will probably unsubscribe.
Have you got a follow-up email sequence in place? Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about follow-up emails.