The Emergent Marketing Newsletter is a (mostly) fortnightly newsletter by us, André Chaperon & Shawn Twing, with a focus on modern marketing, writing, and learning.
This is the second of two parts about the counter-intuitive idea that better prospects are created, not acquired. André wrote Part 1. If you haven't read that already, do that first.
Shawn wrote today's email. It begins where Part 1 left off:
What happens — or rather, what should happen — when someone subscribes to an email list?
Let's get started.
Hey, it's Shawn…
In Part 1 of this two-part series, André described some of the ways we can create better prospects before they opt-in.
I'm going to focus on how we can improve prospect quality over time after someone opts-in.
To do that, let's first take a step back and get some perspective.
If you distill marketing down to its essential ingredients, you're left with only two things that matter: offer and audience.
In simple terms, the offer is what you're selling, and the audience is who you're selling it to.
When you get offers and audiences right, everything is easy. Get either of them wrong, and nothing is easy.
While working with clients for more than two decades, I've seen a lot of offers, and I've been responsible for finding and engaging with a lot of audiences.
Looking back across twenty-two years and more than two hundred and twenty-five clients, I can't point to a single factor that guaranteed success.
Despite what you might see advertised on the Interwebs, there are no magic offer templates, no guaranteed-to-convert bonuses, no top secret copy hacks, and no audience research tools that make the difference between success and failure.
In my experience, business success is about stacking probabilities in our favor, not stumbling on a (non-existent) digital marketing Holy Grail.
However, if I zoom out to a 30,000′ view of my years in the trenches working with clients, there was one thing that seemed to matter more than anything else, and it's available to each of us, free of charge.
That one thing is trust.
Before I dive deep into this topic, let me steer you away from some potential quicksand. It's easy to dismiss the importance of trust in the success of your marketing efforts and think to yourself:
“I know that already.”
Suspend that thought for a moment and stay with me…
Trust isn't one thing that you have or your don't. Instead, trust is a combination of factors that interact, over time, in ways that can dramatically affect your results, for better, or worse.
If you get many of those factors right, you're far more likely to succeed. When you get all of them right, you're in a class by yourself.
And it's not difficult to get all of them right if you're willing to do the work.
Let's look at four elements of trust, and how each contributes to creating better prospects over time.
Trust Element #1: Empathy
When a new prospect arrives in our world, the first thing they're looking for is confirmation that we understand who they are, what they want, the problems they're trying to solve, and the pain they're trying to alleviate or avoid as those relate to our area of expertise / value proposition.
Developing a solid foundation of trust requires that we acknowledge we understand what our audience needs and wants before we start offering potential solutions.
We build trust when we explicitly and implicitly acknowledge how our audience wants to feel when their needs and desires are met, especially in contrast to how they likely feel right now.
Bottom line: lead with empathy. (This is a good rule for life in general too.)
Trust Element #2: Credibility
Once people begin to trust our intentions, the next step is confirming that we have the experience and expertise to help them solve (or avoid) problems or fulfill their desires.
Our intentions matter to our prospects (a lot), AND we have to be able to deliver the goods when we offer solutions.
The digital landscape is littered with BS offers and it's highly likely that your prospects have been disappointed before. (That's why they're still looking for solutions.)
Credibility is built when we can honestly say that we can deliver on our promises, and credibility is reinforced when we have evidence that we've done that for others as well.
Great content that demonstrates our understanding and showcases our expertise is the foundation of credibility. Reviews, testimonials, and case studies contribute to credibility as well.
Trust Element #3: Integrity
An easy way to simplify integrity is with a simple question — do our prospects believe that we'll do what we say we'll do, when we say we'll do it, now and in the future, regardless if anyone is looking or not?
Deep down, our prospects want to trust us.
However, it's important to recognize that our prospects are taking a risk by believing in us — especially when money changes hands.
Reassuring them that they've made the right decision by staying true to our word, and true to our principles, reinforces perceptions of our integrity.
Integrity doesn't mean we can't make mistakes. We don't have to be perfect. However, we should acknowledge mistakes when they happen and make things right.
And integrity doesn't specify what our values should be. It simply means that we are who we say we are all the time, and we act accordingly.
Trust Element #4: Consistency
Trust isn't something we acquire once and then move on. It's not a box to check on the way to something else.
Instead, trust is a thread that winds through everything that we do.
It's a promise that says this is who I am, this is what I believe, this is how I choose to show up in the world, and this is what you can expect from me now and in the future.
Every time we interact with our audience is an opportunity to build — or erode — trust. Take those opportunities very seriously.
Now, let's put these trust elements into a familiar context — email marketing after opt in — and see how they work together to develop better prospects over time.
(These frameworks are from the Art of Email, the successor to AutoResponder Madness.)
Immediately after opt-in, a Relationship Building Series starts. The focus of that series is to demonstrate empathy and credibility — not to make a sale.
Building relationships after opt in is not to be confused with ‘indoctrination' or ‘onboarding' sequences. We're not trying to get through a quick introduction on the way to something else.
Instead, we're acknowledging that we have work to do to build a relationship with our prospects. Empathy and credibility are the building blocks of a great Relationship Building Series.
That means, in practice, our first series of emails (5-10+, depending on your audience's needs), are primarily about THEM, not US.
What pain are they feeling, what desires do they want to fulfill, and what have we learned that may be useful for them that we can share without expectation of anything in return?
After a prospect completes a Relationship Building Series, they're added to our Value Newsletter. That's our vehicle for building trust over time. (You're reading one right now.)
Newsletter frequency depends on your specific business and what best serves your audience, and there are many ways to organize newsletters (thematically, curation, new content, etc.)
Value Newsletters deepen relationships over time (integrity, consistency), and create opportunities to share expertise valuable to your audience (credibility, empathy).
Next is a Soap Opera Series…
André pioneered using principles of serialized story telling in email marketing to pull an audience's attention forward with open loops, nested loops, and cliffhangers.
An SOS doesn't sell. Instead, it's a vehicle for sharing value with an audience that's as interesting and engaging as your favorite TV series.
A Soap Opera Series has a beginning and an end. It takes your audience on a journey where some transformation (for them) is possible.
An SOS can be something as simple as an insight that reframes how they perceive a problem or an opportunity, or something more complex like a mini-course, a parable, or more.
I know what you're thinking…
Relationship building is great, but when do we sell something? A business that doesn't sell isn't a business for long (it's an expensive hobby).
Part of building and reinforcing trust is rewarding our audience's attention when they're interested in something we have to offer, and respecting their inattention when they're not interested.
The mechanism for that is a Bridge Email.
A Bridge Email is an opportunity for us to notify our audience when we have something for sale, and for them to virtually ‘raise their hand' if they're interested.
Anyone who raises his/her hand gives explicit permission for the promotion (and is far more receptive to it). Anyone who doesn't raise his/her hand never sees the promotion at all.
Here are two examples of Bridge Emails for the upcoming promotion of the Art of Email.
- AoE Announcement Email (sent Sept. 14).
- AoE Manifesto Email (sent Sept. 21).
(Please note that the interest list links in the web version do not work.)
All of these campaigns — Relationship Building Series, Value Newsletter, Soap Opera Series, and Bridge Emails — are part of what we call the Art of Email's Trust Engine.
They work together with AoE's Revenue Engine (Story-Powered Promotions, Product Launch Series, and Customer Onboarding Series).
Returning to the original insight that trust is the critical ingredient in business success, we suggest that trust-building campaigns should be 80% or more of all email marketing.
Read that sentence again.
If my experience is an accurate guide, the greatest advantage you can have in business is your audience's trust. Take the time to get that right and everything else will be easier, more effective, and much more enjoyable.