Me (March 1, 2020): What Ryan didn’t say — email has been the best marketing tool for the past two decades.
I have been working on ARM4 for so long, yet I seem to be making very little progress. So I thought it would be a good idea to commit in public to create a free email marketing course as a “forcing mechanism” to unpack some of my latest ideas and thinking around email.
I’ll be writing this course live: publishing a new lesson daily over ten lessons. For this reason, consider this work as a first draft.
Table of Contents
- Where Email Strategically Fits into The Big Picture
- Day 1: Principles + Framework First
- Day 2: Relationship Marketing: The Soap Opera Sequence (SOS)
- Day 3: Soap Opera Sequence Example
- Day 4: The Strategic Email Newsletter
- Day 5: Newsletter Examples
- Day 6: Story-Powered Promotions (SPP)
- Day 7: Example of an SPP
- Day 8: Product Launch Sequence (PLS)
- Day 9: Example of a PLS
- Day 10: Recap + Closing + Resources
- Comments (have a question or want to share an insight or ah-ha?)
“You can’t kill email! It’s the cockroach of the Internet, and I mean that as a compliment.” — Cameron Moll
In the world of sexy whiz-bang new tech and shiny-object platforms, it’s easy to get distracted — both for us as value creators, and for the peeps we seek to serve within the distracted economy.
Within the noise and the yelling and the clickbait, there is a Trojan Horse that outdates even the public internet itself.
The first ever email was sent in 1971 by Ray Tomlinson. I wasn’t even born yet. Email is fundamentally part of the framework of the internet.
It’s a set of application layer protocols (SMTP for sending and IMAP and POP3 for receiving) that run on TCP/UDP; the transport layer of the internet used for data delivery.
I say this, not to sound geeky (although I am a little), but to highlight this important fact:
That email is a protocol that’s a hardcoded PART of the internet. It’s not a platform like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, GDN, or Medium that runs on top of the internet and owned by billion-dollar corporations.
There are no corporate owners of email.
Not even nation-states.
You own the asset you build.
You decide how to operate: what to write, and to whom.
Email allows for people, groups, and organizations to connect directly to the inboxes of their fans and customers, without requiring a third-party platform or service.
This direct-connection enables continuous relationship-building in a two-way that isn’t possible on social media, where pay-to-play algorithms may block messages from being delivered.
Take a second and think about how magical this dynamic is: how much control you have that can’t be taken away.
Over the years, “email killers” have risen up to great fanfare.
These days we have no shortage of new ways to connect with one another, from Facebook to Slack to Twitter to Snapchat: with each new method seeing itself as an “email killer.”
And yet, none (none!) of these “email killers” have lived up to the hype and hoopla.
Almost 50 years after the first electronic message was sent, email trudges on as the workhorse of global communication, with over 3.8 billion email users sending and receiving over 280 billion emails every day.
According to McKinsey, email remains a significantly more effective way to acquire customers than social media — nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined.
Facebook and Twitter combined make up, just 0.2% of the number of emails sent each day:
We all know about email newsletters. They’ve been around forever. We all receive them. I’ve had one since 2004.
But even though email is so ubiquitous, it still amazes me at that:
- many marketers still don’t have an email newsletter (seriously people!).
- or if they do, they have no strategic email system in place. Their “strategy” is, almost always: blast out an email when they have something to sell. That’s it in a nutshell.
I shouldn’t be telling you anything you don’t already know yet. This course, however, is to share with you the stuff you don’t know — the invisible engine of a strategic email marketing system.
I hope this free email course will help empower you to see email differently. Not as a mechanism for promotion and coercion, but as a way to reach out to people and help them solve problems.
When we do that, we win, because the people we serve win first.
Where Email Strategically Fits into The Big Picture
When zoomed out far enough, most businesses will map closely to my diagram above.
- This needs to exist or you have no business: someone needs to have a problem they are actively seeking to solve (and willing to pay to have solved),
- Then: a group of these people need to exist (a minimum viable audience) to support a sustainable business long-term,
- You then attract the people you seek to serve into your fold (I call this “attraction engine” Sphere of Influence),
- Email is the destination for everyone we seek to serve. It’s where prospects are turned into (happy) customers, and where superfans are made over time.
In this mini-course I will work to unpack the final destination in the value chain above — the email engine.
Values > Goal > Strategy > Tactics
Before I can move the conversation over to email, I would be doing you a massive disservice if I didn’t cover this first.
Understanding this will inform everything else, not just using email, but how you strategically operate your business. How you behave. Your growth-mindset.
The first idea is that company values flow downward (downstream). We set values first. Values are our guiding star, our ethos that describes who we are and what we care about in the world. These are not just words; they’re fundamental beliefs which are backed-up and demonstrated by behavior. Real values aren’t what you talk about; they’re what you do when times get tough.
This is not a course on how to unpack your company values. Do some research and figure this part out yourself. Don’t ignore this.
Just as company values flow downward, so does goals (the function of your business), strategy, and tactics. Strategy is what bridges your goal (the function of your business) and the tactics you use to execute on your strategy.
Strategy is the conceptualization of how the goal could be achieved. It’s a long-term big idea that doesn’t change much. It’s established, then executed on over years, not months, weeks, or days. Tactics are the actions you take to execute the strategy (not goal!). It’s short-term and can be easily and quickly changed.
All of our courses: SOI, ARM, LBC, ITA, including this one, are strategy focuses, and presented largely as frameworks. A framework gives direction, but it’s not prescriptive. It’s not step-by-step. It’s not a template. We all have different businesses; they unique. So training that’s framework and principles-based, IMHO, is the only way to go.
This is why unpacking your values first is important (critical!). As I said, values flow downstream; they inform your goal, which in-tern determines the best strategy (for you) to make that happen.
Maybe your goal is to earn $10K/month. Personally, I feel monetary goals are the least effective. A goal wrapped around revenue as the focus is dangerous because it glosses over how you created your customers.
A goal of making 100 (or 500 of 1,000) happy customers over a year, is far better. Because HAPPY means that unhappy customers don’t count. Unhappy customers are a signal that your upstream strategy, goal, and perhaps values, need work.
The Email Engine
Zoomed right in:
An email is the most basic element/unit of value within your email engine. On one side of the coin, it’s an asset for the expert/creator; on the other side, it’s a vehicle to transport value to the reader. A single email can be magical.
Think about what I’ve just said here.
The subtext: every email is an asset, is an opportunity to connect, to demonstrate value, to move the reader in a direction that benefits them, and you.
Zoomed right out:
Both images say the same thing, just presented differently. I’ll unpack each of these in their lessons later.
- Soap Opera Sequence (SOS): We all operate in a world of noise, sameness, and distractions. If we’re very lucky, we get small (temporary) opportunities to capture the attention and hearts of the people we seek to serve and matter to.
- Email Newsletter: A newsletter is an asset — a single email — published on a regular schedule (daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly, etc.) that delivers value over the long-term (years!). Where an SOS starts the journey and the bonding process, a newsletter continues.
- Story-Powered Promotion (SPP): You can think of this as an SOS wrapped around an evergreen promotion (no hard open/close). Framing happens first — interested people are asked to “raise their hand” before they receive the SPP (automated). The promotion is serialized over around 3 to 5 days.
- Product Launch Sequence (PLS): Similar to an SPP, but is typically longer (5 to 14 days), for a product that has a hard open and close date, and written and delivered manually.
And I have found no better way to achieve this than through a soap opera sequence. When done well, it can be a “magical” experience for the reader.
An SOS is a perfect vehicle to quickly connect with someone, earn attention, then amp up that attention as the soap operate sequence plays out over an episodic narrative, similar to a TV soap opera does.
Goal: to rapidly bond with a prospect (or new customer) and establish preeminence.
The beauty of SPPs is that you should have lots of them. They’re assets. More about these later.
The email engine described above is strategically setup, where each part of the system has a specific role to play. The system is the collection of these parts, which INTERACT (this is key!) with each other to FUNCTION as a whole.
It’s important to note that the SYSTEM is not the sum of the behavior of the individual parts. It’s the PRODUCT of their INTERACTIONS (not the sum taken separately).
Pro tip: read my article on systems thinking to get a better understanding of what a system is.
Relationship Marketing: The Soap Opera Sequence (SOS)
I first shared this concept back in 2009 in the first edition of AutoResponder Madness, and it instantly connected. It’s the workhorse of my email engine. It’s the entry point for every subscriber, free and paid — no exceptions.
It doesn’t matter how many entry points you have; each one should trigger an SOS (yes, multiple entry points can trigger the same SOS).
We all operate in a world of noise, sameness, and distractions. If we’re very lucky, we get small (very temporary) opportunities to capture the attention and hearts of the people we seek to serve.
And I have found no better way to achieve this — to be considered as someone worth paying attention to — than through a soap opera sequence. When done well, it can be a magical experience for the reader.
An SOS is a perfect vehicle to connect with someone quickly, earn their attention, then ratchet up that attention as the soap operate sequence plays out over an episodic narrative, similar to a TV series, over several days.
Pay attention to the wording I used; it was intentional (“EARN their attention”). That right there is a world apart from bribing or click-baiting for attention.
We earn attention and trust by demonstrating value, being preeminent, and helping people solve problems. An SOS is a journey towards understanding what people need and want.
Summary of the structure of an SOS:
It’s important to note that an SOS is an extension of an experience that starts further upstream. The importance of this detail is lost on many marketers who have been indoctrinated to think the world revolves around “smart” tactics and hyped-up lead magnets.
People come in with a “frame” already established (hint: ideally by you), a level of expectations set. The job of an SOS is to pull (attract) people further down the rabbit hole and disrupt their world (in a good way).
The purpose of an SOS isn’t just a, “Hey, here’s your lead magnet download link,” or your typical onboarding sequence. It’s more nuanced than that. It’s a narrative arc that plays out over 5 to 30 emails.
You won’t find me prescribing definitive workflows in any of my courses. With a gun held to my head, the best you’ll get out of me is a suggestion, with the caveat of, “it depends.”
For an SOS, my suggestion would be to shoot for a week of emails. Seven emails over seven days. That’s more than most people will default to, probably yourself included. Get uncomfortable. Write more.
As I’ve said already, the whole point is to quickly connect with someone and earn their attention by taking them on a little journey into your world. The doorway to a relationship that could last a long time; this is the window of opportunity.
I don’t care how good you are at writing or spinning a tale: for a new person entering your world, 2 or 3 or 4 emails is not enough to leverage what an SOS is purpose-built to do.
This is the essence of an SOS. Like chess, it’s a simple concept to understand and learn, but also infinitely nuanced and deep as you get better at your craft:
- A follow-up sequence (autoresponder) — I use ConvertKit because it rocks!,
- over a long enough series of email (more than four!),
- that is story-driven (there’s a narrative arc across the sequence).
- and earns attention and trust by demonstrating value, being preeminent, and helping people solve problems.
Next lesson I’ll share an example.
Example of a Soap Opera Sequence
Well, two actually.
I was digging about in my archive of the thousands of emails I’ve written to find a soap opera sequence to share, that wasn’t too old — so still relevant — then I had a brainwave! These things happen sometimes. It shocks me too.
I’ve been planning to write a brand new 2020 email series for TLB called Marketing Upgraded (Season 1). It will (probably) be ten emails (episodes) long.
So yesterday I thought to myself: Hmm … what if you shared the new Marketing Upgraded SOS … although dummy, you’ve not written the damn thing yet. True, the voice in my head said. Well, I do have some time now, I thought. Hmm 🤔
… and so the weird internal conversation went back and forth between myself and myself. I know. The things I have to deal with.
In the end, I managed to hammer out the first two emails. I’ll write a few more this week. I’ll probably finish writing Season 1 end of next week.
I’m not going to share the emails here — not directly anyway — which would be a waste of an asset. There wouldn’t be a need to subscribe if I laid it all out here.
But mainly: it would be like spoiling a good magic trick. There are story elements — narrative devices — I use to build tension and anticipation, which are enhanced by the delay between emails. The wait is kind of important, and I want you to experience this for yourself.
So, if you want to see a brand new 2020 soap opera sequence, head over here and subscribe:
I’m also going to share an SOS that Perry Belcher wrote for their forex market back in 2012. He read his SOS live from the stage at Traffic & Conversion Summit (2012).
Between these two examples — new and old, in completely different markets — you’ll get a good sense of what an SOS is meant to look and feel like. In ARM4, I’ll go deep into the nuances of how I write these bad boys.
Next up, strategic email newsletters. They are the next part of the engine.
The Strategic Email Newsletter
“Aside from cockroaches and Maroon 5’s catalog, newsletters will be the only thing to survive (what seems like a more and more impending) nuclear catastrophe.” — Dave Pell
Where an SOS starts the journey and the bonding process, a newsletter is an asset that continues to deliver value over the long-term (years!)
An SOS (there can, and should, be many) + NL make up the Nurture Engine (see the image above). They work together as a whole, building a long-term relationship with your entire audience over time.
The point to remember is that an SOS has an end-point. Yes, an SOS can trigger another SOS (or an SPP; but more about SPPs in the next lesson), but at some point, someone will not be going through an SOS — they don’t last forever. And this is where your email newsletter strategically comes into play.
The NL is an ongoing affair. It never ends.
Every newsletter publisher has their own format that works for their style of writing — making a connection with their peeps. You’ll need to figure out your style. There is no right or wrong way, other than not having a newsletter.
For me, I prefer long-form narrative, with elements of “curation” (or what Robert Cottrell of The Browser refers to as, “journalistic critic.”) This gives me the freedom to express raw ideas, unpack unfinished thoughts, and expose them to the people I serve.
The freedom newsletters give me is very different to when I’m publishing an article for our site. As I said, newsletters can be more raw and unpolished, and my audience seem to love and appreciate this dynamic.
When I do this well, attention is earned and more attraction is created. Superfans are made over time, bit by bit, and newsletters are a fundamental part of the system.
CJ Chilvers has been publishing newsletters for twenty years, which is a little longer than me. He’s just written a wonderful (free) month-long series on how to be a newsletter publisher in 2020. I would suggest you read it. It’s great.
In most cases, a newsletter is published (sent) as a manual broadcast. In ARM4 I’ll also cover an automated version of this. But for most peeps, this will be a manual affair.
Read CJ’s series before you continue.
Email Newsletter Examples
As I mentioned in the previous lesson, every indie-niche newsletter publisher has their own format (how they present their work), writing style (narrative voice), theme (underlying idea or angle) and their unique “remix” of content (long-form vs. short-form, deep vs. shallow, curation with context and opinions vs. links, etc.).
Most newsletters done well, with a healthy engaged readership, will embody a “mix” of styles that uniquely defines their work — like a DNA signature.
Many new publishers won’t have a strong voice, style, format, or clear sense of theme that embodies them and their message, but don’t allow this to prevent you from experimenting and discovering.
In an interview with Marc Eglon, Sari Azout said:
After a few months, I transitioned to sending a newsletter on Substack with curated links/comments from around the Internet. It wasn’t until after I sent 10 or 15 newsletters that I realized the unifying thread in my work was the intersection of tech and humanity. Today, I describe CYP as a weekly email newsletter where I explore startups, technology, and cultural trends through the most important lens: the human one.
Every email newsletter publisher who has achieved “success” has had to iterate along a journey before finding their feet. See it as a fun process. Take your audience on the journey with you. They’ll appreciate it. Earning superfans is the reward.
I subscribe to a diverse range of newsletters. Very few of the newsletters I read are from marketers, and none are from the “gurus” (power players) in our internet marketing ecosystem.
The newsletters I’m sharing below are some of the ones I subscribe to and enjoy (they add value to my life). I go “wide” because I want to avoid being “siloed” to one way of thinking — I care about acquiring a broader understanding of the world (culture, economics, technology, AI, influence, and how marketing bridges these categories).
If you dive into any of these newsletters, you see how different they are. I’ll end by sharing a copy of my last newsletter, and links to two others (but more about this in a bit).
In no order of favoritism:
- Craig Mod (I read Explorers Club; Craig’s paid newsletter)
- Dense Discovery (previous issue)
- Tim Ferriss’ 5 Bullet Friday (example issue)
- Peter Attia (email archive)
- Peter Diamandis’ Abundance Insider (archive)
- Wes Kao (previous issue)
- The Privacy Project by The New York Times
- The Browser (an example of journalistic critic: previous issues)
- Sentiers by Patrick Tanguay (past issues)
- NextDraft by Dave Pell (newsletter archives)
- Morning Brew // short punchy world news roundup
I’ve not shared my entire list. The point was to show you diversity in newsletters done well (IMHO anyway); each delivers a “parcel of value” to a reader’s inbox. Personal, close, and intimate.
People are tired of being fed random content. They’re becoming more mindful of the way they take care of their brains. This means a desire for a more curated content experience. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through useless posts on Facebook, they’d rather read a handful of high-quality newsletters and listen to some great podcasts. And I don’t think there’s a risk it’s getting too crowded. There are going to be millions of niche newsletters catering to everyone’s taste. Just like blogging, it doesn’t matter if each of them has a small audience, as long as the readers enjoy the content. — Anne-Laure Le Cunff (interview)
Before I share a few of my newsletters, I want to share a single newsletter a friend forwarded to me last week from Lianna Patch. I’m not a subscriber to her newsletter. Until my friend Tony forwarded me the newsletter, I had never heard of Lianna. I’m sharing this because she has a strong “narrative voice” that comes through. You can’t force this shit, you either write like this, or you don’t (I can’t, my narrative voice — and the voice in my head — doesn’t talk like this).
SUBJECT: oh shiz (just realized) 😱
You know how time is still just doing that obnoxious thing where it marches on, and no matter what, you can’t stop it?
Your hair grows and your skin gets wrinkly(er) and ALL OF A SUDDEN, YOU’RE STARING DOWN THE BARREL OF MARCH.
It was January like YESTERDAY, y’all.
(Can you hear the existential anxiety screaming from between my ears?)
I took a peek at the ol’ copy project calendar, which is a thing I have because I am a Shockingly Organized Professional Despite Appearances, and guess what I discovered?
I’m booking new projects for not February, not March, not April…
Here in New Orleans, it’ll already be full-blown summer by the time that bad boy rolls around.
What I’m telling you, Tony, is that if you have ever even half-consciously entertained the idea of working with me to get some ballin-ass copy — ever let it wash over your brain like a gulp of gas station rosé — then NOW IS THE TIME.
Because in May, my hair will be longer…
My skin will be wrinklier (even though I prioritize suncare and you should too)…
And I can guarantee I’ll be booking new, incredible, deeply gratifying projects for August or even September.
How do I know this? Because I’ve been booked to the gills 2-3 months ahead for the entire last year.
*panting* It feels as good as it looks
THERE IS NO TIME TO WASTE. WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE.
LET’S WRITE TEETH-GNASHINGLY, BUTTON-SMASHINGLY, INBOX-CRASHINGLY AWESOME COPY BEFORE THEN.
Move your mouse finger to this link and tippity-tap to make it happen: [LINK REMOVED]
Lianna, whose mother often wonders why she is this way
I have a (crazy-ass!) friend, Margo Aaron, who writes similar (just with more f-bombs). Very distinctive voice. If f-bombs don’t offend you, subscribe to Margo’s newsletter. You’ll probably love it.
Okay, here’s the newsletter I sent my peeps last week.
SUBJECT: [Random Newsletter] Two new courses for you…
Happy Sunday! 💪
Hey, it’s André with another Random Newsletter (formally Email Friday).
Well, “another” is a bit of a loose term, seen as though this is my first newsletter of 2020. I know, I know…
The golden rule for a newsletter publisher is a consistent schedule. A cadence that’s predictable, so peeps can anticipate each issue.
… and you can’t even get that right, André!
Hey, what can I say, “I’m a rule breaker!” (actually: there’s another more valid reason, but perhaps more about that later).
Let’s see if I can make up for the radio silence…
I’ll be covering these points of interest in this issue:
- 10-Part Email Series (Free)
- 10-Part Paid Traffic Series (Free)
- Personal Knowledge Management article Update (Video)
- Coronaviruses/COVID-19 (Resources)
Starting Monday (Feb 24th) I will be posting two new lessons to TLB each day, through Friday, then the following Monday through Friday.
You may or may not know that later in the year, we’ll be publishing a big paid traffic course: The Traffic Engine.
The author of TTE is my friend and consultancy business partner, Shawn Twing. Shawn has been running a paid traffic agency for 22 years; before AdWords, before FB was even a twinkle in Zuck’s eye.
I felt Shawn and I needed a “forcing mechanism” to get us to unpack some of our ideas that will end up in ARM4 and TTE.
I suggested we commit to publishing a ‘minimum lovable course’ each (for free). A lesson each day over two weeks. He thought the idea was ridiculously bad, so said yes.
(Kidding about the ‘ridiculously bad’ part.)
Day Zero of each course is live:
- The Art of Email Marketing That Wins Customers & Makes Superfans
- How To Build A Happy Customer Creating Engine With Paid Traffic
Be sure to check back on Monday for the first lessons.
Comments will be enabled for both courses.
Part of the reason for doing this is to garner feedback. We’re creating these courses to serve you, so feedback is a signal we care deeply about.
3.) PKM Update (Video of yours truly)
The personal knowledge management article I wrote about a year ago has been one of our most popular articles.
I’ve been promising an update, which I’ve now done by way of an over-the-shoulder video.
I add about five new notes each day into my PKM, and I’m constantly updating other notes. The system gets better and better the more I add to it.
It’s a thing of beauty. Although, as the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
That said, I’ll say this — the past two years my PKM has become my most valuable Archimedes lever in our business.
We’ve had the most fun these past two years, and we’ve also earned the most we ever have. How I process information has had a direct impact on this.
If you don’t have a semi-robust system for dealing with (new) inputs of information, you’re going to find it increasingly challenging to make sense of it all.
The firehose of information is only going to get worse…
We’re in the information age, we’re all knowledge workers, whether we like it or not…
We process information daily — ideas, concepts, arguments, etc. — then synthesize that information to enrich our thinking and our understanding of the world.
The downstream effect allows us to better serve our peeps.
Over and above the new video, I’ve updated the article with new resource links to tools (which you’ll find at the end of the piece).
This has been top of mind lately.
I’ll be honest, it freaks me out a little (maybe a lot). I’m pretty sure we are not been told the whole story. I dislike the unknowns.
Speculations and conspiracy theories aside, I wanted to share some links worth reading if this also worries you a little.
If you want to get to a deeper understanding of something as nebulas as Coronaviruses/COVID-19 (applies to any topic), your primary filter for information should never be mass-media: the news, or any mass channel who earns attention by leading with clickbait, fear, or controversy.
(In other words: the TV and news that the 99% watch or read daily.)
We all have access to pretty much any information we want to get at.
If we care enough about heading down weird esoteric rabbit holes, or unpacking controversial information, you’ll never be disappointed if you’re willing to wade past the mass-media machine.
The past week Tim Ferriss has shared some really good (deep) information about Coronaviruses/COVID-19.
If this matters to you, here are the resources I found valuable and worth spending attention on:
- Some Thoughts on Coronaviruses and Seatbelts (Tim Ferriss)
- Coronavirus, Jam, AI and Tomatoes (Tim Harford)
- All about the Coronavirus (a16z Podcast)
- Coronavirus Updates (a16z: Sixteen Minutes)
- Professor Neil Ferguson on the current 2019-nCoV coronavirus outbreak (Twitter + video).
That’s it for this edition.
I’ll be back in 2021 with the next episode.
André “rule breaker” Chaperon
“Gratitude and humility attract opportunity and success.”– TITUS WELLIVER
Many of my emails — not the “curation” ones, but the long-form one where I teach or unpack an idea or concept I’m thinking about — later turn into articles because I want/need to share them with a wider audience.
Next lesson, Story-Powered Promotions.
Story-Powered Promotions (SPP)
A Story-Powered Promotion is a pre-written email sequence around 3 to 5 days in length (an email per day). You should write many of these per product/offer over time and stack them up. It can be an affiliate product or your own; the dynamics are similar.
Why multiple SPPs per product? Glad you asked.
- No single marketing message + angle/hook will resonate with everyone all of the time.
- Even with the best intentions, the best marketing in the world, 100% of people will never buy. Having many SPPs will increase your chances of matching a narrative with the story a prospect is telling themselves; increasing your likelihood of turning them into a customer.
Let’s look at the illustration above. There are three SPPs for Product 1.
Let’s say Ted has never been exposed to Product 1 before (doesn’t have a “tag” indicating he has received SPP1, SPP2, or SPP3 in the past). Mike does have a tag indicating he had received SPP1 before. Both Ted and Mike have been tagged as being interested in Product 1.
Using automations, it’s easy to setup logic that will send Ted SPP1 for Product 1 and Mike SPP2 for Product 1. If neither purchase this time around, next time Ted will receive SPP2 and Mike SPP3 — and so on.
One of the benefits of this form of promotion is that you already know the context. Meaning: within SPP2 for Product 1, you will already know a valuable piece of information — people triggering SPP2 did not purchase from SPP1. Your new story and hook can use this information to frame SPP2.
Without getting into the weeds, this is the framework for an SPP.
Let’s look at an example next.
Example of a Story-Powered Promotion (SPP)
I’ve been scratching through past email promotions to find one I can share that isn’t an asset I’m using at the moment.
In the end, I decided to quickly write a brand new “demo” SPP as an example. I have wrapped the promo around a new product we will be (officially) releasing later in 2020.
I’ll likely end up using some of what I’ve written here as one of the SPPs for Tiny Is Mighty.
The “angle” for this SPP is about bridging the conceptual ideas that Seth Godin talks about, and making them more real for people through stories of other tiny creators.
Pay attention to how DIFFERENT this promotion is to perhaps everything you’ve received before. Below are the three emails:
Tiny is Mighty (Part 1 of 3)
When Seth Godin released his latest book at the end of 2018 (This Is Marketing), I ordered eight (because, well … eight is better than one, right?):
For me, no question, it was the best book of 2018. One of the eight copies has a permanent home on my desk.
On Amazon, there are nearly 700 reviews; of those, 78% are 5 star reviews. Let’s call that the one end of the extreme.
The other end of the extreme, representing 5%, are the 1 star reviews.
Before reading any of them, I had a good idea of what the “theme” of the dislike would be. Sure enough, I was spot on.
One such comment summed up the theme nicely:
“As soon as it was available I ran out, bought it and scurried home to devour it. My hopes were quickly dashed in my quest for some ‘meat’, something of genuine value, something I could put to use in my daily job as a marketer.”
Seth has NEVER been a marketer who gives tactical advice (do this, then that). No templates, no step-by-step, nothing even close.
The best you’ll get is a concept like this (an excerpt taken from page 54):
Marketers can choose to stand for something. Instead of saying “You can choose anyone, and we’re anyone,” the marketer can begin with an audience worth serving, begin with their needs and wants and dreams, and then build something for that audience. This involves going to extremes. Finding an edge. Standing for something, not everything.
… then you are left to add color to the canvas yourself, even if your interpretation is a mile apart from what Seth was perhaps meaning.
I love this. So does my friend Peter Spaepen.
Peter and I have been “unpacking” Seth’s ramblings for years, making sense of the bits that matter to each of us, and using them in the wild (to great effect in our different businesses).
For the past 18 months, we’ve been thinking about bringing something to the market that “bridges” Seth’s work, with practical, real-life examples and case studies.
So we have tag-teamed up to scratch an itch we have. We have called our service: Tiny Is Mighty 💪
If you’re a fan of Seth, but struggle to make practical sense of this genius, then Peter and I think you will like what we have created for you.
We’ve written two pages that explain what we’ve created, and why:
Go check it out.
I’ll unpack a bit more tomorrow.
André (and Peter)
Tiny is Mighty (Part 2 of 3)
Derek Sivers is another kindred spirit.
His book from 2015, Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur, is one of my top-five books of all time.
Derek summed up Seth’s book in five points (for the record: Derek rated This Is Marketing a 9/10):
- Invent a thing worth making, with a story worth telling, and a contribution worth talking about.
- Design and build it in a way that a few people will particularly benefit from and care about.
- Tell a story that matches the built-in narrative and dreams of that tiny group of people, the smallest viable market.
- Spread the word.
- Show up — regularly, consistently, and generously, for years and years — to organize and lead and build confidence in the change you seek to make.
Those five points are the thesis of every single successful tiny creator business on the planet, ours included — and there are thousands and thousands of tiny creators, quietly making a ruckus in their corner of the internet.
Like David Dewane, who Peter featured on the second page of Tiny Is Mighty. He founded Mouse Book Club, which is doing $10,000/month.
Or like The Wine Spies: 2 founders, 6 employees, doing $400,000/month selling wine.
Or Iman Gadzhi of Grow Your Agency: 1 founder, 2 employees, doing $120K/month selling online courses.
Or Stacey Bowers, founder of Bang-Up Betty: a one-lady business doing $6,000/month making jewelry.
These are all tiny little businesses.
They’re not constrained to digital-only, or physical only.
The only prerequisite is a smallest viable audience (point #2 above). Then to find a way to serve them by making or giving them something they seek and want (point #1 above).
Tiny Is Mighty is a service where Peter and I want to help and inspire others to do the same.
We want to help motivate you to become a tiny creator with a tiny little business that serves a small audience desperate for the value you bring.
If this resonates with you, join us on the journey as we unpack Season 1 of Tiny Is Mighty:
What we have isn’t for everyone, but it might be for you.
André (and Peter)
Tiny is Mighty (Part 3 of 3)
Because it’s important, I want to end with what TiM is and isn’t.
I’ll start with that TiM IS NOT, because this will disqualify most people:
TiM is not a how-to course. We are not going to teach how to build a tiny little business. If you’re interested in that, check out Lean Business for Creators.
If you’re stuck on trying to pick/find/choose an audience to serve, you will likely find TiM very helpful (because of the stories we share).
If you already serve an audience — as Peter does outside of this venture (his primary audience are narrow pockets of women in the beauty space), and as I do here — you will also find TiM very helpful (again: because of the stories we share and the discussions we have).
Within the stories we share will be insights and new ideas you can use and model.
Our idea behind TiM is simple…
To share stories of tiny creators, then to add our commentary, and then overlay our perspective and opinions and insights.
In each (roughly) monthly episode Peter writes, we’ll have an open discussion on the page (via comments) to unpack the ideas further.
I know it’s going to sound cliché, but throughout Season 1 (10 episodes), our promise and desire are to deliver 10x the value you’ve paid.
We feel the piece missing from most how-to courses is real-life examples that demonstrate a use case, and take people down a rabbit hole to explore deeper, below the surface.
It’s one thing to say, “go narrow and specific,”…
Most people can conceptually understand that part. But it’s translating the conceptual into real life — a business that is already going it.
TiM isn’t about the how-to part.
Instead: we’ve chosen to unpack the real-life stories of people doing it, but with the addition of giving you a perspective through our lens.
If this angle resonates with you, we think you’re like what we are creating.
Come check it out. The water is warm.
André (and Peter)
I just finished listening to perhaps my favorite Akimbo podcast episode to date.
It’s about: creating is easy, but publishing is hard.
Seth defines publishing is the act of taking a financial risk to bring a new idea to people who haven’t heard about it yet.
” … and that our job as creators might not be to completely reverse engineer the publishing process, so that we can reliably deliver a home run every time, but maybe we just have to figure out how to be persistent and consistent, to find the smallest viable audience, the people who want to hear what we want to make, your 1000 True Fans, and then show up for them.”
It’s a great episode and worth listening to. It’s a short episode:
Product Launch Sequence (PLS)
A Product Launch Sequence (PLS) is where the real money is made.
The beauty of having a very strategic email marketing system is the foundation-layers (wide part of the triangle) support and allow for the higher-level layers (Revenue Engine) to function without the negative effect typically associated with promoting stuff.
An SOS is purpose-designed to connect with someone, earn their attention and trust, and establish preeminence (Nurture Engine). Then the Strategic Newsletter delivers ongoing value and surprise (Value Engine). Both the SOS and SNL build authority and goodwill. The PLS is on the other end of the scale — to promote, generate (happy) customers, and get paid for the work you do.
(A SPP does this too, but differently.)
Counterintuitively: promoting in a specific way (matching the right product, at the right moment, with the specific and immediate need/want/desire of a pocket of people) is PART of the value chain.
You can’t make superfans without selling them great products. Delivering free-only is the enemy of — conceptually speaking — cultivating your 1000 True Fans using Keven Kelly’s language, and ultimately making superfans.
Let’s look at the framework of a PLS (in no particular order):
- doesn’t go to everyone on your email list!
- promotion over 3-14 days (5-10 being typical),
- hard open/close date,
- deadlines (timed) and scarcity (limit quantity),
- framing and context (make people self-select their based on their level of interest and intent),
- offer positioning (why they should pay attention),
- deliver ah-ha’s (new perspectives),
- the market is made of frustrated prospects (use this as leverage),
- current state (what is their fear),
- desired future state (embrace their objectives and paint a clear and vivid picture of their DFS),
- bridge the gap (the magic item),
- you cannot create desire, but you can channel desire into demand for your product,
- overcome objections (procrastination, skeptical, logical, emotional),
- symptoms (perceived problems are almost always a symptom of a deeper cause),
- help people to see their problems differently (insights; ah-ha’s!),
- you think the problem is X, so you’re doing Y to solve it. But the real problem is Z and Y actually makes Z worse,
- people have a problem, they have desires — where these two overlap creates the ideal buying state,
- what do they need to know to make the product seem a must-have item? (chain of beliefs: Sphere of Influence is a deep-dive into this),
- story framework (hero, desire, conflict, resolution, transformation arc),
- resend to unopens,
- badass bonus,
- feedback loop.
(Not all of these element are a requirement.)
I won’t cover these elements here, other than give you an overview. ARM4 will be the deep-dive into all of this, and how to engineer the perfect email-powered promotion.
A PLS is not a blunt force trauma approach to promoting something. If you have ever experienced a front-row seat to how so many PLF launches play out — this isn’t that.
The perfect PLS is all about maximizing relevancy. The fact is, whenever YOU decide to launch or promote something, it’ll only be relevant to a small segment of your audience at that moment.
When marketing is led with empathy, it’s our fiduciary responsibility to maintain relevancy at all times, and be respectful that, during a promotion, the majority of people will NOT buy because:
- the product may not be a good fit for them (from their perspective),
- the timing may be bad,
- circumstances may prevent them from buying this round.
Any number of valid reasons can prevent someone from taking part in a promotion and ultimately buying. I’ll repeat what I said earlier: an effective promotion is not about blunt force trauma, and it’s not defined by how much money you made (while ignoring the collateral damage in the wake of a brutal promotion).
This is about delivering the right offer to the right person at the right time. Relevancy is as much about timing as it is about matching a solution to a problem someone has, and framing it in a way that channels desire and motivates action.
Quick story that’ll help frame this lesson (an example of framing):
I was doing a Q&A session at the time. One of the attendees asked a question, and as context, told me how well he does at affiliate promotions (this was in response to a riff I had just finished about how to engineer a successful promotion every single time).
By way of response, I asked him whether he sent all his promo emails to the ENTIRE list.
Of course, he said.
Interesting. How large is your list? I asked.
Around 100K, he responded.
Home many sales do you typically get?
We earn between $5-$30K per promo, most times. Depends on the offer, of course. Anywhere from 50-200 sales at a time, I guess, he said with pride.
Okay, so at even 200 sales … that’s what? 0.2% of your list, right?
Umm … yeah, I guess so.
Which means, I forged on, best case, your promos that generate the most sales are NOT RELEVANT to 99.98% of your email list, right?
Err … I had never thought about it like that, he said, somewhat deflated and with less enthusiasm.
Let’s do the math quickly to work out his EPS (Earning Per Subscriber):
- $30K from 100K subscribers = $0.30 (that’s on the high end).
- $5K from 100K subscribers = $0.05 (that’s 5 cents per name on his list)
In contrast, here’s what happens to me (and clients):
We’ve seen EPS of between $10 (on the low end) and $50+ per subscriber, depending on the segment and offer being promoted.
To give some perspective to that, you’ve prob’ly heard stories that most big-name marketers can earn, on average, $1 per subscriber per month. Meaning if their email list is 50,000 big … they’ll typically earn $50K/mo from that email asset.
The best pros can squeeze out an EPS of $3.
I used to track this stuff (I don’t anymore). When I used to track EPS and EHR (effective hourly rate), these were the last numbers I recorded:
$16.30, $10.19, $18.49, $14.46, $15.52, $41.01, $22.94
And here’s the results from one 188 word email that was hyper-targeted (relevant) to the audience when I promoted Fan Page Funnel a few years back:
That’s 43 sales from less than 200 clicks, producing an EPC of over $100. That email earned us an extra $21K (or $114 per word) with a $106.63 EPC (earnings per click).
Here’s what a typical PLS visually looks like:
You start by writing what I refer to as an are you interested? email. This email goes to everyone (if they are relevant to your offer!). It frames the product you will be promoting downstream, gives context, and calls out ONLY THE PEOPLE WHO ARE INTERESTED — where they are called to explicitly raise their hand to be included.
No clickbait, no curiosity crap!
You want every click (which is intern tagged as interested) to be prequalified, and for them to KNOW, they agree to be part of the promotion.
The dynamic is completely different when the people you are sending the promotion to WANT TO RECEIVE IT. This goes back to being respectful. I get people begging me (and I’m not kidding!) to promote something to them when I haven’t promoted something in a while.
Once you have buy-in (phase one), it’s time for phase two — the promotion.
As I said earlier, deep-diving into the dynamics and mechanics of an effective promotion is beyond the scope of this course. This is where five, six, and seven-figure promotions are born from.
Through examples that I’ll share next, you’ll get to see the gist of what a successful promotion looks like.
Example of a PLS
As I write this lesson, I had sent out an “Are you interested?” email for a small PLS two days ago (this is for our one-day Tiny is Mighty launch). I’m still writing the PLS in real-time each day (unlike with an SPP which is all pre-written and live in the system — I never pre-write a PLS), so I obviously can’t share the one for TiM.
I’ll share the “Are you interested?” email — the one from TiM two days ago — then will share the last PLS I did which was for Black Friday 2019 (through Cyber Monday, making this a four-day PLS).
Here’s the email that went to everyone to call out only the people interested in being part of the Tiny is Mighty launch:
STEP 1: “Are You Interested?” Email
SUBJECT: Tiny (47th) Birthday Promo
I was text-chatting with a friend, Jonathan Boyd, yesterday on Slack. Jonathan had just come back from a Copy & Funnel Accelerator. It’s not the sort of affair you’ll find me at, so I was curious about his takeaways from the event.
These guys [the hosts] specialize in building winning front-ends for high volume offers from cold traffic, so most of the attendees were the sorts of people who operate in this world (or who want to).
Jonathan doesn’t do mass-offer stuff, but he wanted to see how this extreme-end of the market thinks and operates.
We [both him and I] operate on the other end of the extreme, seeking less not more — narrow and specific, not wide and general.
Jonathan recently (few months ago) started a new tiny little business that’s tied to a love he has, and he’s (very) good at it.
It’s a mass passion-hobby market (guitar training). But because Jonathan is smart, he’s defined a small specific audience within the noise, and he’s serving an unmet need.
He said to me, “… always has been – extremely narrow and specific. In fact, that’s the only way I’ve been able to develop such a unique approach and product compared to most of what’s out there.”
A couple of weeks back, Jonathan had his first $1000/day. This was amazing (although not surprising) for a relatively new business.
Once again: it demonstrates the power of finding a corner of the market that can’t wait for your attention — a position on the map where you, and you alone, are the perfect answer.
Because “small and narrow” style-marketing is so close and special to me, another friend of mine (different friend), have tag-teamed up to scratch an itch — an itch we are pretty sure will resonate with some people.
Peter Spaepen and I have created something called: Tiny is Mighty.
It will be a monthly online digital report (with collaboration) about the world of “tiny marketing” that is crazy successful. Along with ideas, concepts, and strategies for succeeding as a “tiny creator.”
It’s my birthday on Saturday (March 7), and we’ll be opening this up then, for one day only.
Why one day?
We want to share this with a small cohort of early adopters first. Then once we feel we have something amazing, we’ll open up (probably in a few months).
Season 1 of Tiny is Mighty will be limited to ten episodes delivered over 2020. We’re charging $50 per month for 10 months.
If peeps love Season 1, we’ll consider doing a Season 2, but I’m getting ahead of myself now.
If this interests you, click the link below to indicate you’re interested and wanna hear more.
If this doesn’t float your boat, that’s also totally cool (just don’t click the link!).
André “tiny is mighty” Chaperon
I won’t email about this again unless you’ve raised her hand by clicking the link above.
This is a GREAT read, so wanted to share it because I think you’ll value it too. It’s called: 100 Little Ideas
Read them all — some are fascinating.
Like the “Boomerang Effect” and “McNamara Fallacy.”
“Berkson’s Paradox” shines a light why we shouldn’t believe stats on face value without understanding the context (causality).
We see “Actor-Observer Asymmetry” play out everywhere. Understanding when this is happening (awareness), gives you the power to course-correct.
I’ll leave you to explore the others. Here’s the link.
I love this stuff!
Few things to note in the email above:
- I make it crystal clear this is a launch (promotion) — no bait and switch crap.
- In this case, I even revealed the price right in the email. I rarely do this, but this time I wanted to get a “cleaner signal” for what Peter and I can expect when we open for a day on Saturday.
- The links that point to our TiM offer page are “trigger links” in ConvertKit (which applies a “tag” to the peeps clicking).
- Because this email went to everyone, I always (always!) add something that I feel will be of value to everyone (what I call an Easter egg). I used the P.S. area for this.
Okay, let’s move on to the PLS.
As I noted above, I will share a short PLS for a promo I did with my buddy Shawn Twing (and partner-in-crime for this product).
I was flying to New York to hole up with Shawn for a week for some work we were doing for a consulting client. Because this trip was going to overlap with Black Friday 2019, we decided to create a product (Masterclass) where we would document some of our insights (our process of taking the creative expression of ideas and turning them into a powerful long-term asset for the client).
STEP 2: Product Launch Sequence (PLS)
Below are the six emails I sent. The first three were the days leading to opening the cart on Black Friday. Cart closed the end of Cyber Monday, making this a hard open-close over four days.
When you read these emails, you’ll notice something that is … well, sorta weird. It may even leave you scratching her heard wonder, WTF? Pay attention to the level of intensity of “promotion” in these emails (you know, the “selling” part). Then compare this level of intensity with pretty much any promotion you’ve ever been exposed to within the internet marketing ecosystem. Let that sink in for a bit.
If an aggressive PLF-style launch (again: not picking on PLF as a tool) is a 10/10 in the aggressiveness of selling, below, you’ll see what a zero looks like (maybe a 0.5, but less than a 1 for sure).
… which reminds me of the Peter Drucker quote:
- Monday (Nov 25th) – NYC Trip Insights (Day 1)
- Tuesday (Nov 26th) – NYC Trip Insights (Day 2)
- Wednesday (Nov 27th) – NYC Trip Insights (Day 3)
- Friday (Nov 29th) – NYC Trip (Black Friday)
- Sunday (Dec 1) – Ideas to Assets Masterclass
- Monday (Dec 2) – Final Day! (Cyber Monday)
We ended up with 191 customers from a relatively small segment of people. In hindsight: it was challenging “selling” our idea of revealing our process for expressing ideas and creating an asset. It didn’t help that the product didn’t exist at the time of pitching the idea to peeps.
That said, even with a very unclear (foggy) value proposition, of those people who decided to go on the journey with us, many enrolled and loved what we created.
Here are the results:
- Sales: 191 customer @ $225 = $42,975
- Refunds: 2 (1.05%) // $450
I think pretty good for six emails from a tiny email list segment.
Recap + Closing
This is it — the final lesson. Ten days and over 10,000 words. If you’ve reached this point, well done. Hope you’ve learned a ton.
I’m going to sum up my process, then link to resources and tools that I use daily to write and deliver emails.
Summary of ARM (AutoResponder Madness)
- Establish your guiding values and principles that matter to you. These will act as your boundaries. Values inform strategy downstream. Tactics are the actions you take to execute the strategy.
- Revenue generated should be the result of serving first — the reward for making happy customers. This is the underlying ethos of ARM.
- Email (marketing) is a sub-system of a larger system (your business). A system is the collection of parts which INTERACT with each other to FUNCTION as a whole. It’s important to note that the system is not the sum of the behavior of the individual parts. It’s the PRODUCT of their INTERACTIONS (not the sum taken separately).
- The entry point for every! new person that enters your email list, is through a soap opera sequence (SOS) — prospects, customers, everyone! An SOS drives the Nurture Engine. An SOS doesn’t last forever. People can go through many of them. A typical SOS will be 5-14 days long.
- A Strategic Newsletter (SNL) drives the Value Engine. It’s a long-term affair (over years and decades). The newsletter is published manually as a broadcast email (but can be rigged to operate as an automated sequence, which is a more complicated and advanced setup).
- The Revenue Engine of ARM is driven by two strategic components — Story-Powered Promotions (SPP) — automated sequences for evergreen promotions that are triggered by subscriber behavior — and Product Launch Sequences (PLS) — a manual promotion, typically for a product with a hard open/close deadline.
Resources & Tools
These are the resources I use daily to write and publish emails:
- ConvertKit: is the email service I use to setup my email system, and send the emails. Review of why I moved to them, and special link to get a free account (no credit card needed) that supports 100 subscribers.
- I write emails in Ulysses (macOS and iOS only). If you’re on Windows, get iA Writer.
Umm … that’s it.
Which highlights one of the beauties of email — and having a business that’s powered by email — it’s lightweight.
So long as you have a service to send emails, and a text editor to write your emails (oh yeah, and something to say worth sharing), you’re in business.
Hope you enjoyed this course. If so, let me know in the comments below.
If you enjoyed this course, you’ll love the upcoming ARM4 (4th Edition of AutoResponder Madness — first shipped in 2009).
Now go forth and create magic! 💪