Email is your main communication tool when you teach online.
You use it to build trust, educate, inspire change and generate sales. Yet, most online teachers underestimate its power and rely instead on the word of mouth, random social media posts and luck.
Why is it? Here’s what I hear most often:
- I think email is dead, people are all on social media.
- I can’t send emails to my audience — my website isn’t complete.
- I hate to bother my prospects, they’re busy.
- I don’t want people to think I’m salesy.
- I don’t know what to write.
In this post I’ll tackle these common misconceptions and share with you my 3 highest conversion emails, along with a list of 5 questions I answer before I write an email that will inspire change.
Let’s look at the email aversion trend first.
#1: Is email dead?
The only type of email that’s dead is the spam-filled, boring and irrelevant one. If you write emails like that, I’ll give you tips on how to avoid that (see below). Otherwise online customers prefer to stay connected through email and be informed. Email offers business owners the highest return on investment, and people still love receiving emails that help them feel like a part of something greater.
#2: I can’t send emails because my website is incomplete.
That’s why you should send out emails. I mean, if people find you on social media and can’t go to your website, you can send them to your sign-up form which is hosted by your email marketing platform and may look like this:
Once people sign up, pick a schedule (once a week or twice a month) and stick to it. Even while you’re working on your website you can send emails that build trust and help you establish yourself as an authority.
If lack of your content stops you from sending emails, remember there’re other resources online that you can share. Also, you can start blogging on other sites or even on social media. Here’s a guide with ideas.
#3: I hate to bother my prospects, they’re busy.
Everyone is busy these days. Everyone’s receiving emails they “save for later” that are sometimes left unread. But you know what’s worse? — keeping your audience uninformed.
We think that the less we bother people the more they respect us. The reality strikes us hard when we realize that staying out of touch lowers trust and makes us look like scammy entrepreneurs that connect only when they need to sell.
#4: I don’t want people to think I’m salesy.
This comes from the superficial experiences we have with email marketing. For instance, we receive emails from corporate businesses (like amazon) that rattle off deals and send out updates. Or if we’re a newer market, the emails we’ll receive will be low quality.
Here’re things you need to remember:
- You are not an amazon. Your brand is small and smart, so it has to speak to people not to masses.
- Most online teachers are new to marketing. In my informal surveys 1 out of 10 uses email as a part of their marketing strategy, but fewer than 1 use it on a regular basis. This explains why spammy email marketing in the online teaching world is common — because the users (i.e. most of us) aren’t savvy enough to do it properly. So if you want to be remarkable – stop spamming and write in a human way.
#5: I don’t know what to write.
In order to know what to write you should immerse yourself in:
- Note taking
If you don’t have your own content, you can always share something valuable that someone else has produced. For that, you need to read a lot, take notes and journal.
If you’re intimidated to share other people’s materials for fear of “losing” your prospects, you might need help nailing down your niche still. (My roadmap training inside the Smart Teacher’s Library will help).
Otherwise, any person who tasks herself to find answers to questions and follow her curiosity will have something to write about, but it’s a habit that grows from daily practice. Here’s another excellent guide on coming up with groundbreaking content ideas.
So what kind of an email sells?
In this part I’m going to share with you 3 emails I wrote that have brought in a lot of response (and sales). I’ll talk about each one of them and share with you the 5 questions I ask myself every time I write an email to my audience.
I believe that the email that sells is the one that inspires change, and not yells about a promotion.
Think of it: if a person wants to change something, she doesn’t have to be told to buy. She’ll ask when and where she can make her purchase.
While pressure tactics work and bring quick results, they don’t build loyalty. Loyalty is something we earn, and you can’t get it by force.
You can only get it by providing value, inspiring mindset change and creating healthy tension that moves people to act.
But change doesn’t happen overnight, therefore successful email marketing fosters it by:
- Empathy: telling your audience you know how they feel
- Storytelling: bringing your audience into a story that’s their own
- Creative tension building: moving your audience to action using creativity
Email #1: Tell your audience you know how they feel.
I wrote this email when I was going through a rough time. My month’s figures weren’t adding up, and I was wondering how I would make it. In that moment I felt the embarrassing feeling of falling on my face in front of everyone.
A client of mine was going through the rough times too, and we found strength talking about it. It was through that adversity of the unknown that the words in the email poured out.
Granted, you don’t want to talk about your feelings in your welcome email, but by the response I received I knew I’d done the right thing to talk about the uncomfortable.
Connecting with your audience from the place of empathy will deepen trust and make your communication more meaningful.
Email #2: Bring your audience into a story that’s their own.
In her post about the 10X email, Breanne Dyck writes,
“When the story is about you, it will be interesting … but when the story is about the reader, it becomes compelling.”
I think this is what happened in this email. I had to write about our new book with Veronika, but I didn’t want to write the tired sales email that beats itself in the chest bragging about the incredible $0.99.
Instead, I talked about why we wrote it. The book is only 72 pages, and we wrote it to move people to action. We can read all the books in the world, and the overload of information will lead us nowhere. In the meantime, our dreams are left on the fringes of our fears and insecurities.
That’s when I was reminded of the powerful quote from one of my favorite movies, Finding Forrester, and I worked it into the fabric of the email.
Nobody wants to be the old writer who gave up on his dreams. None of us would want to live like him: a recluse and an outcast soaked into self-pity.
This is where his image becomes compelling — because this character is the embodiment of what each one of us want to avoid. Judging by the response, the email spoke more to my senior subscribers, and I was excited to have moved them to make a step towards their dreams.
Another great example of a compelling story is this email by Veronika Palovska. An avid Harry Potter fan, she tells the story which becomes our own. What is courage and what does it mean to us, on a day-to-day basis?
Email #3: Move your audience to action using creativity.
The lines are difficult to cross here, and every compelling email has elements of all three components: empathy, storytelling and action. Still, I’d love to share this email where the story is the medium to move my audience to action.
The email performed so well that I included the story in my home page because it nails the core message right there: you can choose to work smarter.
A little backstory. I got frustrated by seeing the ads that tell you something like teach a couple of hours a day and make $75k at the end of the year. If any of you have done online teaching (aka “skype lessons”), you know that it’s not “just a couple of hours a day,” and the earnings are nowhere near to $75k a year.
What shocked me more is the reaction in the comments: people want to try this out. It sounds appealing when you don’t have to put in a lot of effort and still end up with $75k in your pocket at the end of the year.
So I jumped in the comments and challenged the person, only to find out that he taught way more than “a couple of hours” a day, and even his weekend was given to teaching which he “didn’t mind doing because it’s fun meeting people all over the world.”
I asked what if he taught half the hours and still made the same amount? What about only doing a quarter of a load for the same money?
The answer was it’s impossible.
That’s what prompted this email — to show that it is possible when we stop overthinking, comparing ourselves with others and complete simple tasks daily.
That’s what Maria Teresa did. So the question that I ask in the email was a continuation of the discussion I had started in the comments to the ad: do you want to work smarter or do you want to continue telling yourself you love meeting people all over the world 7 hours a day, 7 days a week?
You see, I didn’t have to put in any “extra push words” like “SIGN UP NOW” or it’s your last chance, or this is the best training in the Universe, or this will give you results in 1 hour.
All I had to do was put my reader into the shoes of the main character and ask a simple question >> what do you choose?
One of my most favorite tension creating emails I’ve received this year was this one by Cara Leopold. I remember I was in the car getting ready to drive to the gym, but I checked my messages before shifting into gear. I couldn’t put the phone down until I was done reading it.
I mean, this is amazing. This is the kind of emails I want to receive, and I look forward to them every week.
So here’re the 5 questions I ask myself before writing any email:
- What is the 1 goal for this email? (Do I want to inform, entertain, motivate or sell)?
- Where is my ideal client/reader right now? (As I send this email, what would she need the most from me?)
- How can I provide specific value with the tools I have right now? (How can I use the words to speak to my reader’s situation so I can accomplish the initial goal)?
- What experience did I have in my life that my reader and I share?
- How can I create tension so my goal is accomplished? (How do I write a subject line, an opening sentence, how do my sentences flow, etc.)
Let’s say I want to sell a program, and my client’s inclination they don’t want to do it now. Some of their reasons might be legitimate, but others are nothing but pure fear.
I need to speak to it in a way that connects us (use empathy), exposes the real reason why they don’t want to commit now and move them to action.
Here’s the email I wrote the other day to sell a program. I don’t go through the questions with a checklist, but I think through them as I draft my email.
Ultimately, the goal of every email isn’t to sell immediately, but rather build trust, loyalty and inspire change.
- When you show empathy you gain trust.
- When you write a story with your reader in mind, you bring them into the situation.
- When you create tension, you motivate them to act now or acknowledge that they’re procrastinating.
The people who didn’t buy from you today will remember and buy 6 months or 2 years from now if you keep fostering the relationship through email. With all this in mind, the worst thing you can do for your marketing is to stop writing for months on end.
What is your process of writing engaging and inspiring emails?