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There’s nothing quite as dispiriting as taking the time to set up an email campaign, getting the little high five from the Mailchimp monkey, then getting … absolutely nothing in return. And yet, it’s pretty damn common.

Some people will tell you that it’s because email marketing is a spent force. That you should ditch it and focus on Instagram, or YouTube, or Facebook ads, or whatever else it is that they happen to be an expert in.

Here’s the thing: people are hella burnt on email campaigns. But the problem isn’t the medium — it’s the method.

How do I know? Because I average about 35% – 40%+ open rates for regular emails … and 45% – 60% for sales emails on my own list, and the clients I write email campaigns for get similar rates.

So if email marketing can actually work … why do yours flame out like little Hindenburgs of wasted time, money, and energy?

The issue is that we’ve been taught to approach email marketing like we’re selling timeshares.​

You know what I’m talking about — you start out by warming them up with some freebees (A cool download, a double condo in Myrtle Beach). Then you butter them up (Free amenities! Helpful content!) before getting them invested in a future with you. (“Just imagine … two weeks a year in the sun! And you’re just going to love Bike Week!” “What if … your business could make 6 figures for you every single month?”)

And then comes the “little chat” — or the sales email.

Whether you’re sitting on a slightly too small sofa sweating through your red blazer or sending people the kind of sales email that you’re told to send them at the end of these campaigns, the result is the same — your people feel used.

This type of method encourages an adversarial relationship between you and your people. One where you’re training them to grab as much free stuff from you as they can before you swoop in for the sale, and one where you feel like you have to desperately give the mouth breathing click monkeys something to keep their attention long enough to sit through your sales pitch.

Now I enjoy a good adversary as much as the next person … but it’s not the kind of thing you want to encourage with your audience.

So put aside your preconceived ideas email marketing and try this instead:

1. Provide stupid amounts of value for your people all the time, not just when you’re amping up to sell something. Every single email should feel like a little present. Now, this does NOT mean that you necessarily need to be inundating them with loads of free downloads, tons of content, or super in-depth, high level stuff all the time. Value is determined by your audience. So think about what’s going to be truly valuable to them, and how they need that info presented, and how often they probably want that.

2. When you do have something to sell, do your damndest to make sure that you’re sending sales emails to people who care about them. This could mean testing the waters with a blog post a week or so before, then creating a segment based on the response you get to it. It could be that you use information about what people have bought previously from you to segment your list. It could be as simple as straight up asking people if this is something they’d be interested in.

3. If you have absolutely no idea about who would be interested in what on your list and you’re sending out a sales campaign to everyone, be upfront about it. This can be as subtle as a little PS at the bottom of a content-based email.

4. Make sure the emails you use in your lead up to the sale are genuinely, over-the-top useful to your audience. None of this “Oh, it’s a 5 day email course” wink wink, nudge nudge stuff where you send them five super surface-level tips and then hit them with the sell.

5. It should go without saying … but don’t do shady shit with your sales emails. This includes manipulative language, bait and switch subject lines, or emails that are specifically designed to make people feel bad for not buying your thing. As I have said over and over again, stay out of Maslow’s basement. There is nothing that will burn your people faster than starting to feel a connection with you, and then getting treated like a cash piñata.

It’s a simple recipe, really. Put really great stuff in front of people who you’re pretty sure will care about it, and don’t be a dick.