$1,000,000 email sequences (and how you can create them too)

Too many brands – regardless of industry – fail to get the kind of ROI they should from email marketing.

Truth is, email can be the highest ROI channel. But only if you’re using it well.

This article is going to explain what you need to know to ensure your email campaigns don’t just provide a positive ROI, but practically print money for you.

It’s written by two seasoned copywrites and the full version (link at the bottom) is a very detailed article, with all the details and examples. I’m including some of the good stuff here but be sure to check out the source.

Table of Contents of the full article:

  1. High-level considerations for email
    1. Warning #1: Email is not a cure-all
    2. Warning #2: Opens and clicks are (just) guiding metrics
    3. Warning #3: One email = ONE purpose
    4. Warning #4: Use a solitary CTA multiple times
    5. Warning #5: Don’t over-design your emails
    6. Warning #6: There’s no magic number
    7. Warning #7: Include a CTA in EVERY email
    8. Warning #8: Be very careful with segmentation
    9. Warning #9: You’ll never stop optimizing and measuring these things
  2. How to audit any email sequence
    1. Audit Step 0 – Understand the customer journey
    2. Audit Step 1 – What is the sequence trying to achieve?
    3. Audit Step 2 – How does your goal correspond to the user’s life?
    4. Audit Step 3 – Where are your customers at email #1?
    5. Audit Step 4 – How will you get readers from where they are to the goal you’re trying to achieve?
    6. Audit Step 5 – Assigning a goal to each email and map out the copy
    7. Audit Step 6 – Double-check each email against goals and process

High-level considerations for email

Warning #1: Email is not a cure-all

Email is the ROI King, but that doesn’t mean it’s a cure-all for any issue.

So before you start thinking that email is the savior to your issues, take a look at;

  • Product-market fit
  • Your audience, their needs, and your product

Warning #2: Opens and clicks are (just) guiding metrics

There’s an unhealthy focus on vanity metrics like opens and clicks.

Open rate is a terrible metric to base your optimization on because they’re inaccurate (pixels get blocked, emails marked read when they weren’t, different way of tracking across different devices, etc.)

So what should you focus on?

Clicks and sales.

Clicks are an explicit action taken by the reader.

And sales, well, sales should be the only metric you optimise for.

Warning #3: One email = ONE purpose

Each sequence should have one goal.

Each email within that sequence should have its own goal (that builds toward the final sequence goal).

And most often, that means a single CTA goal for each email.

Don’t make the mistake so many brands do by offering multiple conflicting CTAs within their email sequences.

It just serves to confuse and never builds towards the sale.

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Warning #4: Use a solitary CTA multiple times

You should still keep to a singular goal. However, you should put multiple CTAs for that singular goal into each email.

If you think your copy is good enough to make everyone read to the end or scroll to the “buy now” button, you’ll miss out on sales.

Just don’t overdo it and piss off your readers.

Warning #5: Don’t over-design your emails

There’s a case for both highly designed HTML and plain text emails.

But plain text usually works better.

When you use HTML and use images, you have a higher chance of landing in this black hole for emails:

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For a lot of the emails you’re sending, test plain text as they often have a better impact on sales.

Warning #6: There’s no magic number

The length of any email sequence depends on many different factors, including product price, audience, sales cycle, customers’ position in the purchase funnel.

There are no magic numbers.

Sometimes one email will do. Other times you’ll need 12.

The only thing to keep in mind: you need to be emailing frequently.

At least once per week.

If for no other reason than to get your customers used to seeing your name in their inbox.

Warning #7: Include a CTA in EVERY email

With email, you should always be selling.

Maybe not as a hard promo, but it should at least be mentioned.

You don’t know exactly what it is that’s going to make the user want to commit. So don’t miss out on an easy opportunity to help them convert.

Warning #8: Be very careful with segmentation

A lot of brands like to get super granular with their segmentation.

They think they need to know everything about their users. But then most companies don’t have the resources to target all of these people efficiently or the products to serve each mini-segment – so it just serves to confuse their actions.

Break segments down by how it will affect your key product offerings.

For each segment, you should have at least one clear product, service or offer. Focus on selling that offer to that segment as a primary goal and then to move people from one stage to the higher one as a secondary goal. That’s it.

Warning #9: You’ll never stop optimizing and measuring these things

Even the best email sequences will need to be updated every so often.

You’ll need to set up detailed tracking on your email campaigns, linked to Google Analytics or whatever other analytic software you use to track sales.

At the very least, your campaigns should be tracked through from click to sale using something simple like UTMs.

If they’re not, you’re missing out on revenue.

How to audit any email sequence

This audit process is a general overview. And it works for:

  • eCommerce cart abandonment campaigns
  • Welcome sequences to warm new leads
  • Launch sequences for new products
  • Re-engaging lapsed users

Audit Step 0 – Understand the customer journey

The whole concept of a good sequence is moving people from point A to point B.

  • New subscriber into a loyal reader
  • Casual reader into a rabid fan
  • Subscriber into a buyer
  • Single purchase customer into a repeat buyer

It stands to reason that you’ve gotta know the stages of the journey you’re trying to move people through.

In essence, the general email stages can be broken down into:

  • STAGE 1 – Onboarding/welcome
  • STAGE 2 – Relationship building / nurture
  • STAGE 3 – Promotion
  • STAGE 4 – Sales
  • STAGE 5 – Re-engagement

And once a sale is made the user isn’t then forgotten about. They’re simply put back to the nurture stage so you can continue to maintain a strong relationship with them.

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STAGE 1 – ONBOARDING/WELCOME

Goal – To get your customers off to a great start and establish your brand as a positive influence in their lives.

  • Welcome emails that explain who you are as a brand and what you’re helping the user to achieve/obtain
  • Introduction to your SaaS tool/guide on how to use certain features
  • Explanation of the best selling items
  • A few open-ended questions or emails with trigger links to learn more about the user and assist with proper segmentation (be careful with getting too complex)

STAGE 2 – RELATIONSHIP BUILDING

Goal – Build the relationship and get your users to trust your brand. Get them used to opening your emails and looking out for them for the value they provide.

  • Ongoing emails with…
    • Best content to help them solve a problem without your product
    • Free tips, tricks, and expert advice
    • Reinforce their beliefs and position yourself as someone who understands

STAGE 3 – PROMOTION

Goal – To introduce them to your products and get them to self identify if they want them.

  • Tease emails outlining an upcoming sale
  • Emotional driven emails that really hone in on a pain point with the CTA to opt-in to hear more about the product that will solve it
  • Information on new products
  • Information on coupons etc (be careful with coupons though – they shouldn’t be used as a default to sell)

STAGE 4 – SALES

Goal – To make the sale.

  • Focus on the transformation buying will bring
  • Testimonial emails outlining how it’s changed another customer’s life
  • Simple sale pushes and reminders
  • Offers and coupons

STAGE 5 – RE-ENGAGEMENT

Goal – Bring abandoners back or turn one time customers into repeat buyers.

  • Cart abandonment sequences
  • Up-sell / cross-sell sequences
  • Notification of add-on product to recent purchase
  • Loyalty offer for existing customers

Audit Step 1 – What is the sequence trying to achieve?

Like with writing a landing page or any sales promotion, you start with the goal.

That goal could be anything from…

… Getting a user to look at X product pages or sign into your SaaS tool X times.

to…

… Getting prior customers to purchase one of your new product lines.

The goal of any sequence should be singular and, generally speaking, should aim to move a person from the stage they’re currently in to the next.

But here’s where people get it wrong.

They look at an onboarding sequence’s goal as “onboarding the customer”.

Which doesn’t mean anything. It’s too vague. You have to tie that to a real business goal.

That might be something like:

  • Getting the user to click through to your site X times
  • Ensuring the user sets up X campaigns in your SaaS dashboard
  • Ensuring the user checks out X different products

Once that’s done, set yourself a short goal sentence that follows the below formula.

This [STAGE] sequence’s goal is to get X [CUSTOMER] to take Y [ACTION] within Z [TIME].

For example:

This onboarding sequence’s goal is to get brand new users to set up a cart abandonment sequence within 7 days.

Or…

This welcome sequence’s goal is to ensure all new email subscribers check out our top selling products within 1 week of them signing up.

Audit Step 2 – How does your goal correspond to the user’s life?

So you’ve figured out your brand’s goal. Thing is, your customers don’t care about your brand or the goals you’ve set.

So you need to figure out how your goal corresponds directly to improving the customer’s life.

A simple way to figure out what the real benefit of your product is to ask why 3 times.

For example, you sell drills. Your internal goal for the sequence is to sell X drills to existing customers within 2 weeks.

Step 1 is to figure out why your customers use drills.

Our customers buy drills.

Why?

→ Our customers buy drills to drill holes.

Why?

→ → They drill holes to securely hang shelves.

Why?

→ → → They hang shelves to display cherished family pictures/items securely.

That’s a much more compelling reason than “to drill holes” right?

And it gives you far more emotional ammunition to use in your sequence.

You could:

  • Talk about the dangers of improperly secured shelves and how, if they fell, it could ruin that family heirloom
  • Explain how your drill allows for the drilling of holes in unusual spots so the user can display the picture of their great grandparents in that one spot they’ve always wanted but never could

There are far more angles than simply saying “make holes with our drill”.

The thing that takes the 3 whys to the next level is a booster: you need to look at how your product is different to the other competitor products on the market.

The easiest way to do this is to explain how your product outperforms the competition in one of the below areas.

  • Does it make achieving the goal easier or faster?
  • Is it cheaper than the competition (be careful with competing on price)
  • Is it something completely new and revolutionary that enables the user to do something they previously couldn’t (because it didn’t exist)

There are many ways to stand out from the competition. But these 3 are always a safe bet.

To recap: When you’re aligning your goal with the customer’s life, ask yourself why 3 times and then see what sort of emotional booster can be added to the message.

With this, you’ll have the basics of a compelling message.

Audit Step 3 – Where are your customers at email #1?

So the goal is to move customers from where they are now, to where you need them to be.

To do that, you first need to understand where your users are right now.

If you don’t know where they are right now, there’s no way for you to understand – and then obliterate – their objections.

And that’s what this comes down to. Removing the hurdles that stop users from taking the action you want them to.

STAGE 1 – ONBOARDING/WELCOME

These people have no real idea who you are right now. It’s all about setting a positive first impression and outlining why they need to listen to you.

  • Who are these people and why should I listen?
  • Why should I trust them?
  • What makes this better than [competitor]?
  • What’s in this for me?
  • Why should I let them into my email inbox?

STAGE 2 – RELATIONSHIP BUILDING/NURTURE

These people know who you are and what you’re about. But they’re not yet trusting of you. Your job is to help them solve small issues for free and show them you understand their position.

  • Does this brand really understand me?
  • Is the information/advice they offer truly useful?
  • Have they overcome/helped others overcome my issues?
  • Do they care about me as a person and consumer? Or just want my money?
  • What’s in it for me?

STAGE 3 – PROMOTION

These people are beginning to trust you, but they don’t understand how you and your products differ from others on the market. Your job here is to outline those differences and build buzz about your offering.

  • I don’t understand how their products/services can help me.
  • Isn’t it just the same as [competitor X]?
  • Why should I send them my money?
  • I’m not sure the products will actually help me.
  • What’s in it for me?

STAGE 4 – SALES

You’ve hit the point where people know who you are, trust you, and know how your products are different. It’s now time to push the sale. People here just need that last-minute anxiety to be removed.

  • How can I reduce the risk of buying this product/service?
  • What if I don’t like it/it doesn’t work?
  • Can’t I find this cheaper elsewhere?
  • Do I need this now?
  • What’s in it for me?

STAGE 5 – RE-ENGAGEMENT

You’ve either failed to convert the user on attempt one, or you’re bringing past users back for a second purchase. You just need to highlight why this/this next purchase is worth it for them.

  • Why should I go back to this store/service provider?
  • What’s the benefit of me buying/buying from them again?
  • What was the benefit of my last purchase from them?
  • What’s in it for me?

It’s not an exhaustive list, but these are the main objections you’re trying to overcome with the emails at each and every stage.

Your job is to systematically address all of the objections above and obliterate them with the emails within the sequences at that stage.

Then, you can successfully move them on to the next stage where you remove the objections there.

Audit Step 4 – How will you get readers from where they are to the goal you’re trying to achieve?

You know where the user is in their journey and you know the objections they have at that stage.

Now you need to figure out how to get them from the start of the sequence – where they’re full of qualifying questions for you – to the end – where they’re ready to be moved to the next stage or make a purchase.

This is, unfortunately, different for every brand. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

But you can see how this might work in the example for, say, a welcome sequence for a website: Have-a-Word.com.

The site helps freelance writers become more than just writers, it helps them become owners of profitable businesses.

It has a number of products to sell to these users so it needs to make a good impression and get them to like and trust ASAP.

It’s a crowded space with a lot of competition.

Let’s start with where the customer is and where we want them to end up.

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So this new welcome sequence should aim to build trust, establish a relationship, and help stand out from the competition.

Taking into account the objections outlined above, we can assume they’ll have the below questions at this stage:

  • Who is this guy? Why should I listen to him?
  • Can he help me start/grow a successful writing business?
  • Why should I listen to him over [competitor X]?
  • What will I get from these emails?
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You need to not only answer the questions, but do so in a way that makes them want to hear more from you.

Unfortunately, you can’t just explicitly answer the questions people are asking themselves. Our brains don’t work that way. We’re wired to be wary of obvious statements of greatness and ability.

So, your job as the creator of this email sequence is to answer the questions in a more subtle manner.

And that begins by understanding the emotions behind nearly every question email marketing will answer.

Generally, the emotional drivers fall into one of the below 5 buckets.

  • Belief – that you can help them achieve their goal
  • Understanding – of their issues and problems
  • Fear (removal of) – you’re not scamming them
  • Financial – what’s it gonna cost (can be non-monetary)
  • Excitement – that this is what they need
  • Trust – in you and your message

You need to reinforce the positive emotions and remove the negative emotions in your emails.

Analyze and understand the emotional reasoning behind each of the questions. Some will have multiple underlying emotions, and not all emotions will be relevant at every stage.

  • Who is this guy?
    • Trust
    • Understanding
  • Why should I listen to him?
    • Trust
    • Belief
    • Understanding
  • Can he help me start/grow a successful freelance business?
    • Belief
    • Fear
    • Trust
  • Why should I listen to him over [Competitor X]?
    • Belief
    • Understanding
    • Excitement
    • Fear
  • What will I get from these emails?
    • Financial
    • Trust
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As it’s a welcome sequence, building trust and belief in your brand are going to feature prominently.

For something like a sales sequence, it’s going to be more focused on fear and financial.

You need to address the emotions behind each question within your email sequence.

Audit Step 5 – Assigning a goal to each email and map out the copy

The next step is to figure out how you can answer the questions and hit the emotional drivers with your emails.

Start by prioritizing the questions you’re going to answer.

In the welcome sequence example, we want to quickly build trust and differentiate ourselves.

So that might lead to the below prioritization;

  1. Who is this guy?
    1. Trust
    2. Understanding
  2. Why should I listen to him?
    1. Trust
    2. Belief
    3. Understanding
  3. What will I get from these emails?
    1. Financial
    2. Trust
  4. Can he help me start/grow a successful freelance business?
    1. Belief
    2. Fear
    3. Trust
  5. Why should I listen to him over [Competitor X]?
    1. Belief
    2. Understanding
    3. Excitement
    4. Fear
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Now create basic email ideas that answer the question and hit on the emotional driver, while also going to assign a goal to each of these ideas.

For example”

Issue – Who is this guy? (Trust, understanding)

Goal – To introduce ourselves and let the user know we understand their struggle. We are one of them.

Description – Basic welcome email explaining what HaW is, who I am, and my ~10-year history as a freelance copywriter.

Do this for all of the questions and you’ll have the bones of your email sequence that always tie back to the emotional pillars people need to make a decision.

Below is a very quickly put together example.

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Audit Step 6 – Double-check each email against goals and process

Before you sit down to write your emails, you need to make sure that everything builds towards the end goal.

Pull each and every email’s issue and goal out of the sequence and put them together in a single document in the order they’ll be sent.

What you should be doing is ensuring that each email in the sequence hits the below criteria.

  1. Does it address the issue that it’s supposed to?
  2. Does it create a seamless progression in their awareness of your brand and move them seamlessly toward the end of the stage they’re in?
  3. Does each email build towards the end goal of that sequence?

You’re basically ensuring not only that each email addresses a single issue, but that they’re moving people from A → B naturally.

If you follow this plan, then you should end up with a sequence that not only builds towards your primary business goal, but also turns readers into true fans of your business.

Conclusion

This is a very detailed (and still shortened) guide on how to create and audit email sequences that have a chance to generate $1,000,000+ for the business.

Follow all the steps, learn more about your users, adapt the emails and steps to them and always keep improving (as Warning #9 says: you’ll never stop optimizing).

$1,000,000 email sequences – how we create them (and how you can too)


PS.
 Always include a PS, too. It’s one of the most-read elements in each email.

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