Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts, The Email Audit Case Files. In this series, I find marketing experts who inspire me and review their email marketing programs. My first goal is to see what these experts are doing well, and where they have room for improvement. Secondarily, I hope this series helps contribute knowledge and information to the broader field that is email marketing.
My First Guinea Pig: JeffBullas.com
First up to bat? JeffBullas.com, a great content marketing site geared towards improving the way both individuals and companies exist in our ever-increasing digital sphere. Their company tagline is “Win at business and life in a digital world.”
Specifically, I looked at how JeffBullas.com’s email marketing tactics, particularly in their initial encounters with subscribers, are likely alienating their audience, and how a well-segmented email welcome series could turn that around.
Enter my audit.
On Trust & Relationship Building
I kicked off my assessment by signing up to get a free ebook, entitled “101+ Tips to Grow Your Web Traffic.” This is a fairly generic offering, but as you know, extending freebies like this is a very common and successful list-building strategy.
Bullas’ team speak to two distinct audiences: beginners and established bloggers. Some come to this website for advice on how to start a blog from scratch. They’re essentially novices in the blogging world. Others have an established blog; they’re looking to grow their audience and gain greater recognition as authorities in their respective fields. Though these two distinct segments have overlapping needs, not every message JeffBullas has to offer is appropriate for both segments. This is where segmentation comes into play.
Email 1: Are you talking to me?
There was no self-segmentation in the form I filled out when signing up for the ebook, so JeffBullas doesn’t know where I fall on this spectrum of blogging expertise. Since the goodie they offered is applicable to both newbies and established bloggers, that isn’t a clue either. Without knowing where my business stands, they have a 50/50 chance of sending me emails that speak directly to me, my concerns, and the lifecycle stage my business is in.
That is a 50/50 chance of their messaging missing the mark and making subscribers lose interest. Not great odds.
The first email I received was long. All of JeffBullas’ emails are longer than I prefer, but more on that in a later post. Email #1 included:
- delivery of the goodie promised (yay!)
- a welcome message, congratulating me for making the decision to improve my digital marketing skills (hey, my ego loves a pat on the back) and change the trajectory of my business—possibly even my life (ok, that’s a bit much, even for my ego).
- important housekeeping details, such as asking me to whitelist their email address and to follow the company on social media.
- the misguided request to have subscribers move their emails from the promotions tab to the primary inbox.
- the promise to email me some “super useful” content, educational opportunities, and event offerings only available via the founder and CEO’s personal network of experts.
- a P.S. with the promise that tomorrow’s email will be the first of “three powerful blog posts” that would help get me off to a “massive head start.”
Some of their word choices are a little over-the-top for my style. But hey, they’ve got some pretty awesome promises about the days to come. So, I’m pumped to see what comes next.
Email 2: The first of “three powerful blog posts”
The email I received on day two was informing me how to set up my blog, offering a discount on a hosting site and providing a step-by-step guide to get started on WordPress. All of which are great for beginner bloggers but were useless to me. This is not my first blog. And since I’ve been using WordPress for about 8 years, a starter guide is of no real use to me.
To me, it was immediately disappointing to think I’d invited this guy—this guru whom I’ve respected for a decade—into my inbox, and yet his team has made no effort to get to know what I need or what my motivations are for subscribing to their email list. Not to mention the fact that their emails are already pushing affiliate links on me. It’s like I thought I’d made a new friend, invited her over for coffee, and she tried to sell me a vacuum cleaner.
See the promise listed above in bullet #6? So far, we’ve not achieved liftoff! So much for helping me “get off to a massive head start.”
Emails 3, 4, etc: Do I Even Fit into Their Equation?
Day three follows the same unfortunate trend. JeffBullas’ email team completely interrupts the momentum of what they should be doing—building a relationship with me—by plugging a workshop for someone else. I barely trust the JeffBullas brand, why would I blindly trust this Josh Turner dude? I finished reading email #3 hoping that tomorrow’s email would be better than today’s.
The fourth email was supposed to be a part of that promised series of “powerful blog posts that would help get me off to a massive head start.” Instead, I received another promise: a 13-email course to help me get started with my blogging journey “both technically and creatively,” among other things (see full email image) This is a third promise… but can I trust it when the first two promises haven’t delivered?
Unfortunately, this email sequence set me up to be disappointed and that disappointment continued (yay consistency!?). I could go on and on, having accepted 33 emails before I had to tap out. But, to summarize and spare you my pain, the pattern of promoting affiliate products and plugging classes led by other people continued. It wasn’t until day 12 that I actually received something that could be perceived as helpful information. Oh yeah, I never received that 13-email course, either.
What They Could Do Instead
My intention in this analysis is not to disregard Bullas as an expert—he absolutely knows what he is talking about when it comes to content marketing. The website is a prodigious treasure trove of truly helpful and purposeful content. It’s just a shame that they are not optimizing email marketing as a channel. They could be disseminating good advice and building up the brand by sending more personalized, non-sales-pitch emails that truly convert.
For instance, instead of crowding subscribers’ inboxes with a bunch of affiliate links and promotional messages, it makes more sense to start off with an email welcome series
The first few emails you send are critical for establishing a positive experience and ensuring future engagement. Pushing out content like an assembly machine doesn’t cut it in today’s culture of personalization. And, if you promise something in an email, it better come to fruition.
Use Case for Beginner Bloggers
If I were hired to put an email welcome series together, I’d take advantage of the amazing content found on JeffBullas.com (note: I liked this idea so much, that I’ll be writing this sequence for real and posting it to this blog).
To give you a preview, here is a six-email illustration—using existing content on their site—to demonstrate how their email marketing strategy could be so much more effective:
- Glad to have you and asset delivery
- How To Start A Blog In Any Niche With No Technical Experience And (Almost) No Money https://www.jeffbullas.com/start-a-blog/
- How to Increase Website Traffic – A Guide For Beginners https://www.jeffbullas.com/website-traffic/
- 6 Ways to Get Into The Habit Of Writing Posts Every Day https://www.jeffbullas.com/writing-habit/
- 7 Free Blogging Tools to Analyze and Improve Your Performance https://www.jeffbullas.com/free-blogging-tools/
- The 8 Biggest Blogging Mistakes New Bloggers Make https://www.jeffbullas.com/blogging-mistakes/
Once trust has been seeded with the audience by providing relevant, personalized information, JeffBullas.com’s next step should be to solidify that trust by sharing the brand’s story. What characterizes the brand? Why does it hold value? Why exactly is jeffbullas.com such a passion project? Those are the types of revelations that create connections, build relationships, and keep an audience coming back for more.
Eventually, emails can occasionally mention an affiliate link or include partners via calls to action, but it should not be the main message. Going back to the friend example: Imagine you and that friend you invited for coffee really got to know each other through a series of chats. Over the course of time you might even come to welcome her recommendation on whether to get a Dyson or a Shark.