Well hey there – Catherine Langman here, back with you for another episode of the Productpreneur Success podcast. 


So far this year, I’ve been sharing a bunch of content with you all about getting inspired for the year, planning ahead, how I would go about launching or growing an eCommerce brand this year and more. 


In fact, the episode I released about how I’m helping my son Hamish to launch his supplements brand this year has been our highest downloaded episode on the show yet! I reckon it’s because of the photo of him I used on the graphic for that episode – it shows him in his togs about to race at a swim meet, biceps bulging and blowing a kiss to the camera! So funny. If you wanna give that one a listen, go back to catherinelangman.com/episode-103


So – in the spirit of planning and testing, as we’ve been talking about on the show recently, I really wanted to do an episode on email marketing as well. 


I remember several years ago, a mentor had said to me – if you know how to write marketing emails, you’ll always be able to make money. 


Now, of course, all of that only works if you’ve collected a list of emails you can send them to. And whilst building that email list is not the topic of today’s episode, I have loads of podcasts and blogs and training resources on that topic which you can check out over at catherinelangman.com


But the sentiment of always being able to make money with email marketing is so true. 


Before we dive into this episode, I’d like to ask you a quick favour: if you love this episode, would you share it with one or two of your business besties? Especially if you know they’re looking to improve their marketing. It’s super easy to share – just click on the icon next to the podcast on whichever platform you listen to it, copy the share link and then send it in a message to your friends.


Alrighty then – let’s dive into the episode. And, you might even want to take notes with this one as I’ll be walking you through some step-by-steps today.


In all my businesses, I have used my email list not just to help launch new products and clear old stock, but also to foster relationships with my audience, to educate them and to learn from them, and basically just to cultivate an engaged audience primed to buy from us.


Let me give you some examples of how I did this in my eco baby brand business:


  1. When I was levelling up in scale and needing to invest a bigger chunk of money in bigger production runs, I used email marketing to pre-sell enough product to fund a lot of the production, shipping and customs fees.

    Usually when I was scaling up like this, I would introduce new designs into the product range, so I always made sure that I had samples of these sent to me in advance for photography.

    I would then send a series of emails to my list, first teasing my audience about the new designs, sometimes also inviting my audience to help ‘name’ the design (we always came up with fun names for each design to help make them more memorable and, hopefully, help our audience form more of an emotional attachment to them).

    Then, we would open up pre-orders for the new designs which always worked well. We had many customers who wanted to be first-in-best-dressed and did NOT want to miss out on anything new.

    Typically with those pre-orders we would offer free express delivery as part of the deal for waiting for their order to arrive, but as we got closer to the stock arriving at customs, we might also roll out some incentives if we needed to make bank.

    Usually for a launch like this, it’d run over a period of a month and we would be sending about 3 emails a week.  
  2. Christmas in my business actually wasn’t a high sales period. The products were nappies, so not typically gift items.

    But that didn’t mean I didn’t have the power to influence that! Here’s what I used to do:

    I would produce some limited edition custom designs that were festive, like a candy cane or gingerbread man design.

    I usually put together some value packs or bundles with these products to make them extra enticing.

    And then I would send out emails to my list to sell them, making sure they were promoted far enough in advance for customers to receive them well before Christmas.

    Another thing I would do to help with those emails was to structure them like an advent calendar or a 12 Days of Christmas promotion.

    This gamified the promotion, because our audience would have no idea what offer would be released on each day.

    They had to be on the list to receive these special offers, and sometimes we would actually hide them on the website somewhere and customers had to go hunting around the site to find the clues in order to win something.

    We had people ordering multiple times during those promotions too. So before you ask me – should you stop sending the promotional emails to customers after they buy, the answer is ‘no’. They might buy from you again! 
  3. Another time email marketing was hugely helpful was to convert potential customers into first time buyers.

    For this, I used automated emails. There was a lot about reusable nappies that customers wanted to know before they bought, so I used the 3-email sequence format that I teach and use with clients now, to help walk potential customers through their questions and concerns to help them to make a purchase decision.

    I’ll never forget when I learnt about automated email marketing. At first I was like, ‘why don’t people just read the website? It’s all on there’! Haha. But that was before I realised that lots of people don’t read, or won’t spend the time hunting to find information, or they just need to see the same information in a variety of places and what not before they buy. And of course, sometimes they need another reason to buy, like an incentive. 


I do see many newer brands trying to use social media to achieve all of that now – and absolutely it has its place in the communication puzzle.


But we must ALWAYS remember that we do not own our audiences on social media. Those audiences are owned by the platforms, and whilst we most definitely want to tap into them and engage on there, we also want to then move our audience over onto our own website and onto our own list so that we can take ownership of that audience for our brand.


Here’s what I like to think of as Social Media marketing’s place in the marketing funnel:

  • At the awareness stage, it’s about attracting and engaging with your audience and just starting with the process of warming people up to your brand and products and helping to put your brand on the radar for your potential customers
  • At the consideration stage, where customers want to make sure that your business or brand is legit – they’ll often go to make sure your socials are current and that the pages haven’t been lying dormant for months or longer. For those at the consideration stage, you need to make sure you’re sometimes posting content that will overcome the common objections or perceived risk that your customers typically worry about. They’ll also often go and check out reviews as well, to see what other people are saying about you.
  • And also at the post-purchase stage, if you’re able to cultivate a sense of community, by posting and sharing content that your ideal customers love, then you’ll be in a better position to generate repeat purchases over time. I have to say, I typically see Facebook groups working best for this stage.


But in terms of driving consistent purchases, organic socials is not an efficient or effective way to grow. Certainly not as a stand-alone channel to rely on.


So I think most of you listening to this show would know that by now, and be on board with how necessary and how valuable it is to keep list building as a priority focus in your business, and to make a habit of sending regular marketing emails to your list.


What I don’t see as much of, though, is business owners taking the time to monitor or review the performance of those emails. And I’m not just talking about the revenue generated from those emails, although that is of course a very important metric to track!


I’m also talking about the other performance metrics you want to be keeping track of with your emails.


Before we get there, let me tell you what I’ve been doing a lot of so far this year (and yes, I know we’re only a couple of weeks in!)


Whenever we onboard a new client in our agency, we’ll do a complete audit of all the platforms we’ll be working across. I personally love auditing email accounts – I know, I’m weird like that – but it’s always been my pet platform!


I’ll be digging through everything in there, from list-building to automated emails to broadcast campaigns, working out how the results compare to benchmark metrics, and then making recommendations for how to improve performance overall.


Recently, I dug into a couple of really large email accounts that had historically produced extraordinary results but had dropped a bit over the last year or two. Which can happen unfortunately if lists aren’t maintained or cleaned up properly and also if things aren’t optimised or improved. I mean, it’s a bit ridiculous to assume that we can set something up once and never have to look at it or change it again. (Not that that’s what these brands assumed either – they just decided to make it my job to do that for them which is all good!)


Let me walk you through the steps I take when auditing an email account:


First, I’ll look at the list or lists, and then how the list growth is performing, which means looking at the opt-in form.


Generally it’s best practice to have one main list containing everyone who has consented to receive marketing emails, and then use segments or tags for segmenting based on behaviour. 


Having one main list helps you to maintain good data hygiene, so you don’t end up with the same contacts existing on multiple lists. It also helps you to calculate your list growth and to optimise your deliverability based on engagement.


So if I find an account that has numerous different disparate lists, first I’ll see what those other lists are all about. If they’re lists for giveaway or competition entries, or collected at an expo or trade show, or they’re in-store customers, I would want to keep them separate. Giveaway subscribers aren’t always going to be high quality, so typically I’ll run those contacts through an engagement sequence to try and convert them into customers first, and then only add the engaged contacts to the main list. And with in-store customers, you probably want to differentiate those from your eCommerce customers and would likely have different communications to send to them anyway.


With list-growth, you want to see what percentage of website visitors are subscribing to your list. For this, I actually want to see the performance of your opt-in forms. One account I audited recently was sitting at an average of 0.95%, which is pretty low. The benchmark average for ecommerce email optin forms is like 2%, so if you’re achieving that you’re literally performing better than half of all online stores out there. But I want to be aiming higher than that even! Because obviously, the more people on your list, the more sales you’ll make.


Then, I’ll typically audit the broadcast campaigns. Here, I like to look at the open rates, click through rates and revenue generated by each email. I also want to review the frequence of emails sent, whether they’re going out to segments of the full list or always the full list, and what kind of content is in them. I try to review from a design-aesthetic perspective, what it looks like on desktop and mobile, and what days and times that emails are being sent. I’ll also look at things like whether major product launches or promotions are being sent out in multiple emails or just one.


Next, I’ll audit the automated flows. With this task, I will look at things like the overall structure and setup – is it technically correct? Are the right contacts entering into the flows and unwanted ones being filtered out? Is the flow structure appropriate for the job – for example, is there enough emails in the automated flow? Are buyers being dropped out of promotional/sales-generating flows? Are all the right or best flows actually setup and in-use? 

Then I’ll go into each email and check for things like individual email metrics – such as open rate, click through rate, number of orders or revenue generated. I’ll also check that all the emails have UTM tracking on, which is just useful to cross check performance in Google Analytics. 


Once I have documented what’s happening in the account, I’ll compared it against benchmark averages.


I’ll quickly share with you what those are so you can keep in mind:


Average broadcast campaign email open rate is 10%; average click through rate is 13% and average conversion rate is 6.49%.


For automated emails, the average open rate is 32.6%, the average click through rate is 19.9%; and the average conversion rate is 29%.


In terms of your automated flows, your New Subscriber Welcome sequence will do the heavy lifting, followed by Cart Abandonment, Lapsed-customer win-back, then post-purchase, and browse abandonment.


So, once you’ve got all of that data together and you’ve made your comparisons, then it’s time to work out if you can carry on as you have been – keeping the status quo so to speak – of if you need to revise or optimise any part of it. 


Often we’ll find that we need to revise parts of it at least. For instance, we’ll often design new templates to help shine the light on the salient parts of the content and make the emails easier for subscribers to read, especially on their mobile devices. We might add in some animated gifs to capture readers’ attention more efficiently than a still image. Or rearrange the content so the reader doesn’t have to go hunting for a shop now button. Or break up the text with some bold headings to draw attention to the important points. Or showcase more product and invite purchase.


We’ll also often re-write a number of the emails – especially the automated ones – as we often find that brands have ‘filled in the template’ but not really injected much brand personality into the content. 


Same with subject lines. I think a lot of brands don’t realise how much of their results is riding on that subject line. But frankly, if it’s boring no-one will open your email. If it’s spammy, no-one will even see your email because it’ll land in recipients’ spam folders. So getting that subject line just right is crucial.


Sometimes we might change up optin forms, either just redesigning them if they’re ugly, or coming up with a new lead magnet to increase optin rates. 


With the automated flows, sometimes we need to add new ones in if the client doesn’t have many setup. Sometimes we need to revise the triggers, filters or structure to make sure the right contacts are receiving them and the intervals between emails are appropriate. 


And lastly, then we setup a tracking spreadsheet so that ongoing performance metrics are recorded weekly. With that information being documented regularly, that gives us the information at our fingertips to inform future optimisations or improvements. 


To give you some inspiration: one of our clients whose email project we finished a month ago, has already made over 4 grand in revenue just from her automated emails – that’s 4 grand extra in 30 days that she wouldn’t have had before. Which is pretty exciting if you ask me!


There’s always more, of course, but that’s it in a nutshell and I really hope that you’ve picked up a tip or two to help review and improve your own email marketing.


Of course, if you’re keen for some help with this stuff, please just give us a shout! Just head over to productpreneurmarketing.com and you can book in for a free strategy session.