Have you ever attempted to write an email sequence for your business?
You may have gone as far as to block out time in your day, sit down at your computer, open up a blank Google or Word doc (or even directly into your email service provider) and then… *mind blank*. You stare at the screen, wondering how on earth to begin.
If you’re like 99% of business owners I know (myself included!), that’s often how it goes.
At the time of writing this blog, I have been an email copywriter for 5 years, and I still don’t have a welcome sequence.
Yes, even email copywriters resist writing their own emails!
But what I have done is write a heap of emails for my clients. Including welcome, launch and onboarding sequences.
I've worked out a system that helps me get out of my head and start working on the sequence in a way that is based on strategy.
And while I’m not great at taking my own advice for my email marketing, I’ll share this process with you so you can take it and use it for your own business.
Why you need to start with the strategy when writing a welcome email sequence
When I work on client projects, I sometimes spend up to 50% of the project on strategy.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” - Abraham Lincoln
Because with the right preparation, you will create a more streamlined and cohesive sequence for your reader. Plus, you will be more efficient with your time and the writing part of your project will be quicker.
Starting with strategy also means that by the time you get to writing, you know:
- What emails you need to write
- Which order they will be in
- What to cover in each email
- What the aim or goal of each email is
You have the key points ready to go so you beat the blank page and trick your brain into working.
A 6-step, strategy-first approach to mapping out and writing your welcome email sequence
Note: This approach will help with all sequences. However, there are more nuances to writing a launch or onboarding sequence, which is why I’m specifically focusing on welcome emails. If you want to use this framework for another sequence, go right ahead (and let me know how you go!).
Step 1. Brainstorm your content
Get a notebook, a pen and a cup of something delicious. Sit outside or somewhere cosy (you need to do this AWAY from the screen). Close your eyes and imagine the person you’re writing to. Either think about a specific client or customer or think about a new person you’re introducing to your brand.
Take a deep breath and ask yourself: “What does this person need to know about me and my business? What information is important for new customers to know? What do I need to include in this sequence for it to feel like it's truly welcoming new people to my brand? ”
Don’t rush this part. It’s easier to cut pieces that aren’t needed than to try to bulk out a sequence later.
Step 2. Map your content points into emails
From your brainstormed content, choose the key things you would love your reader to know by the end of the sequence. So for a nurture sequence, it may be something like:
• First welcome email / freebie delivery
This is an email people get immediately after signing up. If you have a freebie, deliver it here. If not, send a little welcome note. Either way, explain to people what they can expect from the following emails.
• Your story
Tell readers about why you got started in your business - what prompted you to do what you do. They were interested enough in your business to hand over their email, so use this opportunity early on in the sequence (and while they're still interested enough to read) to share your why.
• Your unique methodology or product-making process
What are the details about how you create? How does your approach differ from other businesses or the standard? Break it down and explain to people how you do what you do, even if your process isn't completely unique.
Many business owners don't talk about this because they assume clients and customers just don't care. But that's a massive missed opportunity. People love to know what they're buying into and will generally be happier to spend money when they understand the thought process that goes into creating.
• Your stance on things you disagree with in your industry / your personal or business values
What is one of your values that drives what you do? How is it weaved into your business practices? What is the standard in your industry that you disagree with? How do you work in a way that ensures you do things differently? Talk about why you do things differently in your biz to align with people who love the way you work, but to also repel the ones who want things done the way you don't offer.
• Your offers (physical products, digital products or services etc.)
If you have core offers, this is where you would introduce them, talk about what you do and who you help. If you’re an ecommerce store with many products, introduce your best-sellers or award-winners. If you have multiple services but 1-2 core ones, talk about those. If people have read this far into your sequence, they're interested in what you're selling.
Many people leave their products off their welcome sequence because they believe it's not there for selling. But I disagree. If I'm reading someone's emails and am interested in what they're talking about, I want them to tell me what they offer. If they make me click onto the website and search for services, I won't.
• Giving value and tips
Share some advice or information purely to help. This means people don’t need to buy anything or sign up to anything else to receive the information and benefit from it. Think about an easy tip you often share with people that’s relevant to your business and offers and that is generic enough to be helpful to most of your readers.
If there are multiple tips you want to share, split them up into 2-3 emails. The longer your email gets, the more overwhelming it becomes and then it becomes less helpful to the reader.
3. Create an intuitive customer journey
Before you go on to write, look at each point and list out the order that makes sense. If they're not in an intuitive order, shuffle them around for the information to flow easily from one topic to another.
If you’re stuck and haven’t written enough emails to know what sequence feels right, simply follow the email order of my list above.
Welcome sequences are often anywhere between 3 - 7 emails. I recommend not doing fewer than 3, but you can do more than 7 if you would really like to, so long as there aren’t so many that you overwhelm yourself into inaction again.
4. Expand on each point
For each topic/email, start a new page in your journal and write out these three things:
The topic of the email
The topics you have already listed
The aim of the email
The aim is what you’re leading people to. Where is the final destination your reader will arrive once they’ve finished reading that email? MAXIMUM 1-2 per email. It could be ‘Explain my views on X in the industry and link to X blog post’ or ‘introduce my core service and link to a booking page’.
Everything you need to say to get each of the points across
List out bullets of each point you'd like to include in each email. For example you could write:
Email 5: My unique approach
- My training
- The book/person/encounter/experience that challenged what I had believed
- How I now approach my work having experienced both aspects
Have some restraint here! One of the most common mistakes I see when receiving emails is people packing too much into one, either for fear of sending too many emails or simply because they’re excited and want to share everything together.
But - in a world with so much information thrown at us from every which way, the problem isn’t too many emails, but rather too much content.
By keeping your emails to a single core topic, you’re doing your readers a favour. You’re making it easier for them to get information, you’re not adding to their mental load and you’re making new content easier to understand and digest.
Before the next step...
Take another few moments to review the journey again. Start from the first email, read the core topic, the goal and the subtopics of the email.
Do they make sense?
Do any emails need to be moved around or any subtopics switched to different emails?
When you're happy with the email sequence and customer journey, go to the next step.
5. Write and edit
After all the mapping out and planning, you finally get to sit down to write.
But you’re not starting from scratch. You have a list of emails you’re going to include, you have a goal for each email and you have points to include in each. (You can either keep writing in your journal or add your topics to a Google/Word Doc if that’s easier for you.)
Picture that same person you had thought about earlier and write to them. The aim is to get lots of content out of your head, you can go back and delete rambling sections later.
Tip: Generally the first paragraph of each email can just be deleted as it’s common to need a few sentences to ‘warm up’.
Once you’ve finished (or even as you’re writing), see if the flow still makes sense. You can always move emails around, combine two that feel incomplete alone or that make more sense together. Or you may end up completely deleting topics that you realised aren’t actually relevant for a new subscriber to know. These emails can be expanded, contracted or adapted as needed.
6. Give the sequence and your brain space to breathe before completing
While it would be amazing to smash out emails and get them straight into your email service provider, I recommend against this. When you’re too close to something, your brain makes connections and fills in blanks in content that actually may not make sense to a new reader.
Distance yourself from the emails and let them breathe while you give yourself time to clear your head from the content.
Check back in a day or two. Do a quick review and edit. Then again a day or two after that. Keep editing, tweaking, refining, clarifying. Try to remove as much ‘fluff’ as you can - any superfluous content that’s making it difficult for the reader to get through the email. It will likely take a few days or weeks for you to be truly happy with the emails, and that’s ok because that’s just part of the process.
If after reviewing a few times you’re still not quite happy with it, reach out to a copy editor and proofreader and hire some help. They will read over what you’ve got and share tips to help you refine and polish the content to make it ready for your audience.
The most important thing you should take from this post is this:
When it comes to a multi-item project like an email sequence, never ever ever just sit down and write as that’s an easy way to overwhelm your brain into inaction.
Now next time you start to write an email sequence, you’re not starting from scratch because you already have the topics of each email, the order and ‘core’ of the message for each email.
Have you tried to write an email sequence before? What do you think about this approach? Let me know in the comments.
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