Roving Report: Everything You Need to Know to Write Effective Email Campaigns

Sending E-mails And E-commerce Business. Email Marketing Or Adve

Copywriting is the most critical skill for a digital marketer, according to Ryan Deiss. It’s essential to writing effective email campaigns.

A hugely successful email marketer, Ryan is also the CEO of, which provides tools and training for… you guessed it, digital marketers.

During the last Web Copywriting Intensive, Ryan spent a morning teaching about how to write effective email campaigns.

This report gives you an inside look at Ryan’s presentation, including core email concepts and the ingredients for your first automated email sequence.

It’s All About Writing Great Copy

Ryan explained how vital good copywriting is. “If you can sell stuff, you have a reason to exist. If you can make words work for you, you can also write video scripts. If you can write really great copy, you can also produce phenomenal emails,” he continued.

On the flip side, “If you apply sophisticated digital marketing techniques to crappy copy, it won’t work.”

If you’re good at writing copy, “you can be really bad at everything else and still make lots of money,” he promised.

Two Big Lies About Email Marketing

Lie number one: despite frequent rumors to the contrary, email is far from dead. It’s how we all communicate, personally and in business. So understanding how to market effectively through email is critical to your success.

Another lie, which Ryan skewered pretty effectively, is “the money is in the list.” Yes, you need a list to generate revenue, but the list, by itself, is worthless.

What Will You Do with Your Subscribers Once You’ve Got Them?

Before you get your first subscriber, answer the question, “How will I generate revenue from the subscribers once I have them?”

“List building should be a profit center, not a cost center,” Ryan stated. Sure, you may have to invest something to build your list, but you do so in the expectation of a return on that investment.

“It has to translate into revenue or it doesn’t matter,” he added.

Once you do have a subscriber, you’ll need to convert them to a customer.

The Goal

Your first goal should be to craft an automated email follow-up series that converts more subscribers into customers.

“If you solve this, there are no other challenges,” Ryan stated.

Next, Ryan zeroed in on what you’ll need to know to create that first autoresponder series.

What’s Email’s Role?

Think of your customer’s journey from subscriber to customer in terms of the Hero’s Journey.

Not sure what that is? Think of Star Wars (the original). Luke Skywalker is obviously the hero. He’s a guy with a problem. Along the way, he meets his mentor (Obi Wan Kenobi), and goes through a transformation which ends in success.

Your customer is the hero in your marketing odyssey, and you’re the guide. By journey’s end, your customer/hero will be enjoying the transformation your product or service has created.

In this hero’s journey, email acts as the guide/mentor. After the customer subscribes, your follow-up emails have two jobs:

  1. Nudge or lead the customer to the next step on the journey
  2. Facilitate bonding

Each requires a different type of email. The first helps with conversion, and the second with what Ryan refers to as indoctrination. (Don’t worry, it’s totally non-creepy.)

Your automated follow-up sequence must include both.

Steps in the Customer’s Journey

The customer goes through a series of well-defined steps in their journey.

  • The journey begins with awareness. How does the customer become aware of you?
  • Next is engagement. There are two forms of engagement — information and entertainment. (Content marketing is a form of engagement.)
  • Subscribe. You need a way to get back in touch after the initial awareness and engagement, and you do it by obtaining an email address.
  • Conversion. You’re looking for any type of commitment — time, money, a small purchase. “A subscriber signs up for a webinar, a convert attends and stays until the end,” Ryan explained.
  • Excitement.
  • Ascent. The “ladder of ascension” will differ from one business to another, but each rung requires follow-up.
  • Advocacy. The customer says nice things about you to others.
  • Promoter. A promoter actively promotes your business, as an affiliate or strategic partner. Promoters generate more awareness, which brings more prospects into the loop.

Of course, the journey isn’t smooth. The prospect can slip back a stage or two for any number of reasons. (Think, busy-ness, distraction, life…)

“If someone doesn’t go from conversion to excitement, you need to re-engage. It’s like the kid’s game of Chutes and Ladders, because people will fall out of the process,” Ryan noted.

The way to re-engage is through “interesting and compelling email copy” sent to specific segments of your list.

“If you’re not moving them through the journey, you’re doing something wrong,” Ryan explained.

Types of emails and when to send them

Ryan discussed three types of emails:

  1. Transactional
  2. Promotional
  3. Relational

1. Transactional. These include emails like order confirmations, shipping notifications, and receipts. Although not much marketing goes into them, they’re among the most well-read of all emails, so look for opportunities to “add some life, some color, and a little call-to-action,” Ryan advised.

2. Promotional. including sales announcements and other promotional content.
3. Relational. Ryan included an extensive list of emails that are relational in nature.

  • Newsletters/content
  • Welcome emails
  • Lead magnet delivery
  • Webinar confirmation
  • Surveys
  • Review requests
  • Social updates
  • Contest announcements
  • Referral requests
  • Win back/re-engagement

Some aren’t obvious. For example, “getting them to sign up for the webinar is transactional,” Ryan explained, “but confirming it is relational.”

For those who haven’t opened an email from you in 60 days, Ryan suggested segmenting them off and putting them into a re-engagement campaign.

Of course, types of email messages can overlap. A relational email can also be promotional if you include a small call-to-action at the end. Identify whether an email is promotional or relational by determining its primary intent.

Email Send Types

You send broadcast emails to your entire list, but triggered emails are sent one-by-one, based on the subscriber’s specific action.

A confirmation email after an opt-in is a triggered email.

Ryan advised sending broadcast emails only for promotions and timely newsletters. All others should be based on a trigger like clicking a link, filling in a form, or not doing anything in 60 days.

Craft a Killer Subject Line

The subject line exists to get the person to open the email. If they don’t open it, the content doesn’t matter.

Subject lines fall into four categories:

1. Blind or Curiosity: Pique the reader’s interest so they just have to open the email.

Blind or Curiosity examples include:

  • Kinda weird but VERY profitable
  • The $8,000 detour
  • Well that was over before it started…

2. Direct or Benefit: These are straightforward and let the reader know what to expect in the email. For instance, “How to get more clicks,” and “20 counterintuitive insights about social selling,” lead the reader to expect the first article will provide tips and strategies for increasing click-throughs, and the second to provide a number of unexpected insights into social selling.

Additional Direct or Benefit examples include:

  • [Facebook Ad Templates] How to get more clicks…
  • 4 inbox hacks I use to manage email in under 1 hour
  • How to 3X your revenue in 18 months

3. Urgency or Scarcity: When you use numbers or deadlines to create urgency or a sense of scarcity, “make sure all of these are true,” Ryan cautioned. “Don’t automate a lie!”

Urgency or Scarcity examples include:

  • 85% off sale ends at midnight
  • Your discount code is about to expire
  • $1,000 in savings are gone forever after today…

4. Proof or Results: Use very specific numbers. “23,247 leads in less than 30 days,” for example.

Additional Proof or Results examples include:

  • Mom of two loses 10 pounds in 10 days
  • Swipe this $17,609.10 postcard template (Download)
  • AZ shoe store owner 20X’s business by sending this email

Use them all! While urgency tends to work the best, if every subject line you send is urgent, it loses its power with your audience.

Sometimes you can combine types — bonus points if you can show proof along with curiosity, for example.

To improve your subject line’s effectiveness, keep these tips in mind:

  • It can improve open rates by 23%. Just don’t do it all the time or it loses effectiveness.
  • Go negative sometimes.
  • Be provocative, controversial, or timely. “Almost nothing beats timeliness,” Ryan asserted.
  • Keep it under 10 words.
  • Use known brands when relevant.
  • Use odd/specific numbers. Don’t round up or down.
  • Use odd characters and spaces (&, %, +, [, ]). Instead of “and,” use the ampersand. “It’s shorter and more interesting.”
  • Add symbols sparingly to increase open rates up to 15% — you can find all the glyphs (symbols) you can use at

Get Your Emails Clicked

Ryan recommended some tactics — over and above writing great copy! — to increase clicks.

  1. Tell readers where to click. It seems simple and obvious, but it’s necessary.
  2. There are different types of links. Mix them up. These include:
    1. Naked links: something that looks like
    2. Anchor text: B2B Emails: A Huge Opportunity for Writers
    3. Buttons: Use CSS buttons instead of images.
    4. Images: include a caption.
    5. Videos: most email services won’t let you include an actual video in the email, but you can create an image of the video, including the play button, and link that to the actual video.

Ryan likes using an anchor text link near the beginning of an email, because “it serves as a subtle call-to-action.”

Ryan also noted that “almost nothing gets as much click-through as an image with a play button on it.”

Rule of Three

He’ll typically include three links, usually an anchor link, a naked link, and then a button at the bottom.

They all link to the same place.

Who’s Sending the Email?

“Should it come from the face or the brand?” Ryan asked. Is it from Bob Smith, or Acme Company?

Ryan prefers a hybrid like Bob Smith, Acme Company. This works especially well if both the person and the brand have short names.

Regardless of who’s listed as the sender, the email should always be signed by an individual, not a team or a company.

If different individuals from the company will be sending email, “using the hybrid type of ‘From’ line can allow the company to send more email without seeming overwhelming to the recipients,” Ryan advised.

What’s an Indoctrination Series?

The job of the indoctrination series is “to turn strangers into friends.” The campaign, which is sent immediately following a subscription, is designed to bond the brand to the new subscriber.

Ryan suggested thinking of the indoctrination/relational series as a first-date conversation.

“You put your best foot forward. We want subscribers not to feel awkward. We want to pause, introduce them to who we are, so that they feel welcome.”

Typically, the series includes two to five emails.

Ryan enumerated 10 elements which the series should include:

  1. Welcome/thank you.
  2. Set expectations. How often will you email them? What will those emails contain?
  3. Restate the benefits they signed up for, don’t assume they’ll remember.
  4. Encourage whitelisting so your email doesn’t end up in their Spam folder.
  5. Introduce the brand/team where appropriate.
  6. Show your “best of.” Guide them to great content you’ve previously published.
  7. Bounce them around. This is the place to share social media links and let them know where else they can find you and the brand.
  8. Recommend next steps. Start the habit of telling them what to do next right now.
  9. Open a loop. Keep them interested and looking forward to your next email by telling them to expect something that’s coming up.
  10. Start a conversation. Can they reply to the email directly? “If your average customer value is high and you’re not doing this, you’re leaving money on the table,” Ryan asserted.

If you can check 4-6 of these items in one email, you’re doing well. Include all of them somewhere in the sequence, but not in the first email of the sequence.

If you follow Ryan’s advice, you won’t just grow your list, you’ll actually convert that list into customers.


Susanna Perkins

Susanna was dragged back, kicking and screaming, into freelancing after losing her job in the banking meltdown in March, '09. One 3-month stint in an appalling temp job persuaded her to get serious about establishing herself as web writer. In March, 2012, she moved to a small town in Panama with her husband and three small dogs. After enjoying the writer's life in the culture of "buenas" and "mañana" for 2-1/2 years, she's returned to the US. At least for now.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top