If you were to ask the average person to define email marketing, they’d probably talk about big sales announcements or newsletters. These one-off emails, known together as broadcasts, are the most “traditional” type of email marketing. Everyone, even non-marketers, are familiar with newsletters and announcements, but they’d be hard pressed to describe the nuances of a five-email, automated welcome series. That’s why broadcasts are among the most important emails you send, even though they don’t have the best open and click-through rates. They’re the emails people expect to be part of your marketing plans.
Broadcasts are a crucial part of your email marketing plans even though the engagement metrics aren’t that strong.
That’s right: They’re a crucial part of your email marketing plans even though the engagement metrics aren’t that strong—at least, not compared to the extremely high rates of many automated and transactional emails. At Jilt, we’ve found the average broadcast email has an open rate of around 10 percent and a click-through rate around one percent. Every broadcast sent was worth about four cents, when averaging out the total revenue brought in by the total number of broadcast emails sent. All of those numbers are lower than virtually every automation—however, you can really make it up in volume. The average store sends more than five broadcasts a month, and in the aggregate, that can translate into plenty of opens, clicks—and sales.
Plus, as we said, when someone signs up for your list, they’re expecting broadcasts. They’re looking for your sales announcements and product information. If you have a newsletter, they want to receive it.
Broadcasts go out to large groups of, if not all of, your subscribers at once. They are not automated or triggered by customer actions, like automations and transactional emails—they’re planned, scheduled, and sent on a one-time basis. They only go to people who’ve opted in for your marketing emails; and because they aren’t transactional, they do require that you have permission from the recipient.
Scheduling plays a heavy factor in broadcast emails (as we get into in our lesson on scheduling and deliverability). But, basically, you need to set expectations for the frequency of your emails, which can vary based on your industry, customer base, and business size.
You need to figure out what days of the week and times of the day work best for your customers. And you need to take steps to keep a clean, engaged subscriber list to make sure your deliverability stays high.
Broadcasts take fewer forms than automations or transactional emails; virtually all of them will fall under a handful of broad, encompassing classifications. In this lesson we’ll discuss the major types of broadcast emails and give tips and suggestions to help you get the most out of them.
Sales announcements are your big promotional emails. These are the broadcasts where you’re promoting your products or services, a deal you’re offering, sales prices, new products in stock—or all of the above.
These emails are designed specifically to bring customers to your site to make a purchase. Check out our lesson on advanced email design for lots of tips on how to best lay out your sales announcements based on what you’re promoting, and check our lesson on email content for a thorough guide to leading your customer through the steps of the sales funnel to ultimately wind up making the sale.
Tips for a sales announcement email
Segment where you can
The more relevant you can make your sales announcement email to each individual recipient, the better. Now… much of what you cover in your sales announcement may apply to all of your customers. A 20 percent off Valentine’s Day discount, for instance, is relevant across all segments (even single people—they want that discount too). But if you’re promoting specific products, which may not be relevant to everyone on your list, it’s best to send that promotion only to the people who will actually want it.
That can be accomplished through segmentation. By segmenting your audience, you could send different versions of an email (say, one that promotes men’s clothes and one that promotes women’s clothes) to different groups of people, or send an email only to a subset of your list (say, a sale on running shoes only to people who have previously purchased running gear from your store). Even that little bit of segmenting could pay off. As we discussed when we covered segmentation, segmented emails bring in 760 percent more revenue than non-segmented campaigns and outperform non-segmented campaigns on every metric.
Know what should you expect with your promotion
Different types of promotions garner different email marketing results. Here are the results from a study on what to expect from different offers:
That study tells us what to expect: A sale will bring in the most business; a low inventory warning will trigger scarcity and do alright with people who go to your site; and new merchandise will draw interest and build awareness, but not necessarily lead to immediate sales.
Make the deals exclusive
You want your subscribers to feel like there’s an ongoing good reason to stay on your list. One way to make your list instantly feel less special? If you promote a supposedly exclusive offer in a sales announcement broadcast email, and when the person clicks through to your site, that same offer is available to the masses.
Here’s an example of an email from Newegg with a special price only for subscribers. Even if someone isn’t interested in that exclusive price on a hard drive, merely offering that subscribers-only deal reinforces why they should stay on the list.
Not every deal you offer will be email-exclusive—that’s unrealistic. But make sure you sprinkle in some unique perks only for your subscribers. It will keep them subscribed—and keep them opening your emails.
Follow the sales funnel
We cover the sales funnel in our lesson on email content, but it’s especially important for sales announcements, so let’s quickly review here tailored to these types of emails. The sales funnel is a four-step process and, ideally, your emails will guide customers through all four steps.
- Awareness. Make your subscriber aware of what you’re offering. This process starts with your subject line and preview text, then rests heavily on the headline inside of your email.
- Interest. The second step is building interest in the product. Pictures of the product in action are a great way to build interest, as is smart copy.
- Decision. The third step is pushing the recipient toward making a decision. You can use different persuasive techniques in your copy but, ultimately, it all boils down to making the customer realize they need to have your product in their life and they need to pull the trigger on buying it now.
- Action. The final step is getting the customer to take the action of buying. In your sales announcements, as with other emails, that’s best accomplished with an eye-catching call-to-action button that takes them to the product page on your eCommerce site.
Check out how this email from Betabrand takes a customer through the sales funnel. It introduces a brand new product with the headline (awareness), uses a clever photo to show it off (interest), quickly and succinctly hits its unique features (decision), and offers a quality incentive to join the crowdfunding initiative with a direct link to do so (action).
Lead and close with your best products
When people scan through an email, they pay the most attention to the stuff at the top… but also the bottom. You can take advantage of that by putting your absolute best products and offers at the top, your least-crucial products and offers in the middle, and your second-best products and offers at the bottom.
It’s why you’ll see a lot of marketing emails lead with hot new products or items on sale and close with a few general best selling products. The goal is to hook you with the top stuff, but if that’s not successful, maybe catch you at the bottom with the overall bestsellers.
Keep sales announcements relevant
Sales announcements can benefit from feeling relevant. There are a number of ways to give your sales announcements that vibe, in order to prevent subscribers from feeling like you’re just haphazardly spamming them with sales emails.
Tie your announcements into a holiday. It doesn’t have to be a major holiday, either. Even a non-traditional holiday like Pi Day on March 14th or Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19th can give your announcements an extra dose of relevance.
Always send on the same day. You can create your own de-facto weekly holiday if you always send out “Sunday deals” or “Your weekly Friday sales.”
Segment and personalize. We’ll bring up segmenting and personalizing yet again (yes, segmenting is that important)—if the emails lead with sales and products that are targeted to each recipient, the emails will, in turn, feel more relevant as well. Here’s an email from BookBub that uses a subscriber’s preferences to make recommendations on newly discounted eBooks—as a result, the recommendations are much more likely to resonate with the recipient.
Keep your sales announcements fresh. If it feels like you’re always promoting the same few products or the same so-so sale (“5 percent off today only!”), your announcement will stop feeling fresh. If they always look the same with only the products changed, they’ll stop feeling fresh. Mix things up frequently to avoid falling into a rut where your sales announcements feel predictable, boring, and skippable.
Newsletters are emails that primarily (or entirely) focus on content, not sales. They fall under the content marketing umbrella—meaning, for the most part, they’re not exclusively meant to sell. Instead, they’re meant to inform, entertain, or educate in order to strengthen your relationship with your customers which, down the road, can lead to more sales, bigger sales, and repeat sales.
Not everyone who subscribes to your email list is looking to buy right away. Your goal is to convert those curious subscribers into customers—and a content-driven newsletter is a great way to do that. The newsletter keeps people interested and engaged with your brand. It establishes you as a credible authority in your space. It “gives” to a subscriber without asking for anything in return. All of those benefits add up so, down the road, when the subscriber is ready to make a purchase, they’re primed and ready to make that purchase from your store.
Newsletters can see better open rates than sales emails—the latest industry-wide benchmarks put emails at around a 20 percent open rate and three percent click-through rate. While those numbers still don’t touch the averages for automations and transactional information, they’re strong for one-off broadcasts—and an indication that your subscribers really do want to read what you’re sending them.
Tips for a newsletter email
Follow content marketing practices
It’s tempting to use a newsletter to sell, sell, sell. But is that really valuable content? Valuable content is a long-term play that doesn’t always pay off with an immediate burst in sales. But it can help you keep people subscribed to your list—and it demonstrates to your customers that your emails aren’t always just focused on your desire to make sales, but instead, you’re also focused on improving your customers’ lives.
Your subscribers asked themselves, “what’s in it for me?” when they were considering joining your list and found a compelling enough reason to subscribe. That’s something they’ll ask themselves again in the future. Sending consistent, valuable content will make it more likely your subscribers will keep finding a compelling reason to receive your emails.
Stick to a schedule
Regularity and predictability are important. You want your subscribers to come to expect your newsletter on a certain day, or days, of the week; no one wants to subscribe to a newsletter that shows up twice one week, then once the next, then not again for two months. Be consistent and your subscribers will get in the habit of reading your content—and, as a result, thinking about your brand.
It’s good to set the expectation with your newsletter when people sign up. By promoting your “daily,” “weekly,” or “monthly” newsletter, a subscriber will know what to expect. And then it’s up to you to stay consistent and deliver on that schedule.
Create a digest
It can be an intimidating thought to create original content for a weekly, or even monthly, newsletter. That’s where a digest comes in. With a digest, you curate links or ideas that are relevant to your target audience and compile them all in one place. As long as the links are all focused around the right topic and in line with what your customers want, you can get some of the content marketing benefits without the expense of content creation.
You can also use the digest model to sum up your blog content for the week, share the best user-generated content or social posts—or, in a sales context, to quickly showcase new products or features.
Spotlight your customers when you can
Your newsletter emails can play a big part of growing the community around your brand. Use them as an opportunity to spotlight customers when you can. There are many benefits to showing off individual customers on your list:
- You make that customer feel special, which strengthens your bond. It can also kickstart their transition into a brand advocate, where they proactively recommend your products to their friends. What better email to forward to their friends than the one that features them?
- You help potential customers identify with your brand by showing them current customers like them. People want to identify with the brands they patronize. Seeing another customer puts a human face on the community they’ve joined by supporting your brand. And if you’re spotlighting exceptional customers, you’re creating an aspirational proposition, too. If a subscriber sees someone amazing is a customer, it can strengthen their desire to also become a customer. This strategy is essentially holding up your customers in the same way brands use celebrity influencers (think, for example, of Gatorade’s famous “Be Like Mike” campaign with Michael Jordan in the early 1990s).
- You demonstrate how your brand enhances lives. Case studies and social proof are extremely powerful. Rather than explicitly saying how your products will improve a customer’s life—or hoping your customers figure it out on their own—giving an actual example of your products fitting into a customer’s life lays out the benefits in a powerful, persuasive way. It’s a strong sales pitch that doesn’t come off like a sales pitch—after all, you’re not selling, you’re letting someone else say in their own words how your fantastic products have improved their life.
Mixing helpful content and sales
You may not have the desire, the time, or the budget to put out an email filled with nothing but content and no sales. That’s completely understandable; quality content requires a commitment of time, money, or both.
A solution for you is an email that mixes content and sales. It can take a delicate touch, but if you can mix good content (or even links to good content) and relevant sales, you can create a newsletter-sales announcement hybrid that can be effective at entertaining/informing and selling.
This email from Brit + Co. for the 4th of July does a tremendous job of mixing content and sales. They’ve done a smart job making the products on sale feel like they’re just as helpful as the content—accomplished by picking relevant products to the email topic and tying them into the “celebrate 4th of July” theme.
Product announcements are emails where you let your customers know about something new, back in stock, updated, changed, or improved. They differ from transactional emails like necessary product updates (e.g., “download the new firmware by April 3rd or the product won’t work”)—those are straightforward business updates. These product announcements are geared toward making sales, and fall in the marketing emails category.
A test to apply to determine whether you’re sending a transactional product announcement or a broadcast product announcement is: Will the customer’s use of the product they’ve previously purchased be harmed if they don’t get this information? If the answer is yes, then you’re probably sending a transactional email. But if the answer is no, and you’re really trying to sell them on a new version/totally new product, or if upgrading is merely a convenience, then you’re probably sending an announcement. And that’s marketing, so all the normal rules about opt-in apply.
Tips for a product announcement email
Answer the four key questions
An ideal product announcement addresses four key questions—and provides answers to them. The four questions are:
- What is it? What’s the product you’re announcing? Is it something new, something finally back in stock, something that’s been updated, changed, or improved? Lead your email with the new product, and use pictures.
- Why should I care? Demonstrate why the announcement is relevant to the customer. How will the new and/or improved product make their lives better? You can explicitly say why the person should care (“save an average of $30-a-month with our razor blade club”) or convey it implicitly (a picture of someone wearing the bathing suit you sell at a pool party or swimming in an exotic, secluded lagoon). Emphasize benefits.
- What’s included? New products require some degree of education. Make it clear exactly what the customer will get when they buy your product—or what they won’t.
- How do I get it? Make your call-to-action clear, keeping it easy for the customer to buy (or pre-order) the new product immediately.
Here’s an email from DenyDesigns that quickly answers all four of those questions. (1) It’s a notebook, which is immediately clear from the straightforward headline and image. (2) The photo makes a case that this notebook is something you’ll want if you care about aesthetics. The sunglasses subtly hint at the type of person who would use the product: someone cool and carefree, and that’s aspirational for recipients. (3) A quick features list breaks down what the notebook has going for it. (4) The call-to-action implores you to “Shop Notebooks.”
Keep it about the customer
There’s a temptation in product announcements to make it about you. Things like “We’re excited to announce…” or “For the past six months, our team has been working hard…” Those statements are no doubt true—but this product announcement isn’t about your journey. It’s about your customers’ journey. Focus, first and foremost, on how this announcement is going to benefit your customers—that will resonate with them far more than hearing about how hard you’ve been working.
Here’s an outline for a product email from the website Hackernoon to keep a product email focused on those four questions above and the customer:
- Opening story or hook. Illustrate a pain point in a customer’s life (it can be an abstract customer, or literally one specific customer).
- Quick explanation of the product. The name, picture, and one or two biggest highlights of the product.
- Why it’s great for customers. This is the section to answer the “why should I care?” question.
- What’s included. Here you can get more in depth into the features you didn’t cover during the quick explanation of the product, as well as educating your customers a bit on what will and won’t come with the product. You can link out to a blog post or product page here if your email is getting too long or you have lots to say.
- Next steps. How to buy or pre-order.
Here’s an example of all of that in action from Bluffworks. The email introduces the key pain point for a customer, based on “your feedback”: “A go-anywhere shirt.” It quickly explains the product and uses carefully curated photos to show the shirt in action. From there, it describes why it’s great for customers (the various qualities including “an enhanced level of odor resistance” and “a lighter weight”). Then it goes into what’s included, with use cases for the shirt. Finally, there’s a link to the site where customers can learn more and/or buy the shirt.
Use a series for your product announcements
A series of emails can build anticipation for your product. You want the product to feel like a big deal—a great way to make it feel like one is to turn the launch into an event. Here’s an example of a four-email sequence to hype up a product announcement.
Email 1. Two weeks out, send a tease. The call-to-action here can be signing up to get early access—you can then send an advance email to the segment of people who choose that option allowing them to order before everyone else.
Email 2. One week out, send another tease, this one with a video that shows a little bit of the new product in action—enough to get people speculating but not quite enough for them to definitively confirm what you’re announcing. Offer early access again in this email.
Email 3. Two days before the launch, send an exclusive announcement to the people who signed up for early access and give them the option to be the first ones to buy. If possible, create a sense of urgency by making it seem like the product will sell out after it’s announced to the non-VIP masses in a few days.
Email 4. On the official launch day, send an email with the announcement to all of your subscribers, answering the four questions we detailed above.
Here’s a sample of a product announcement series from Grovemade that has a slightly different cadence from the above but is quite effective and hits many of the same notes.
The last type of broadcasts we’ll cover are company news posts. That includes announcements like acquisitions, major company developments, or work on charity initiatives.
Tips for company news broadcasts
It’s still about the customer
You want to deliver your message and share the news about your company but, ultimately, the customer is going to be most concerned about how it will affect them. That means you can celebrate that a larger company acquired you—but tell your customers what that means for their warranty, their subscription, their prices. Your new CEO can introduce themselves, but should also include their vision for all the great new things they plan to do for your customers.
This email from CVS is about, yes, giving themselves a pat on the back for cutting off tobacco sales and doing charity work in the smoking cessation space. However, they quickly tie everything back to how their work and healthy initiatives are improving your life and will continue to do so. And at the end, it’s all framed as if you and CVS are partners in making the world a healthier place.
Major changes to your company can lead to quite a few questions, so it’s important to include customer service contact info in these emails. Even if your customers don’t use that info, just the knowledge that you’re offering to coach them through can provide some reassurance.
Can it be tied to customer identity?
Customers like shopping from brands that share their values. So, when you’re describing your charity initiatives and the other good your company is doing, make sure to frame it so the customer can see how your good work reflects well on them—and makes your brand the type of business with which they want to be associated.
Here’s an example from Patagonia about their initiative to defend Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. They make it abundantly clear to their customers how it reflects on them: The customers are trail runners who deeply appreciate nature and beauty. So even if they’ve never been to Bears Ears, this fight to defend it represents the fight to defend nature all over the world. And note that the runner pictured in the photos is wearing Patagonia gear, and the email includes links to the major product categories on the site. There’s no doubt the brand truly cares about the cause (and their customers will care, too)—but this is also a sales email.
Broadcasts are emails or email series that go out to all of your subscribers, or a subset of your list. They are not automated, like automations, or triggered, like transactional emails—they’re planned, scheduled, and sent on a one-time basis to people who’ve opted in to receive marketing emails from you.
There are four broad categories of broadcast emails: Sales announcements, newsletters, product announcements, and company news.
Sales announcements are your big promotional emails that are specifically designed to bring customers to your site to make a sale. Some tips for getting the most out of them are:
- Segment where you can. The more you can personalize these emails and keep them relevant to specific groups of subscribers, the better.
- Different promotions will bring different results. Discounts tend to bring in the most clicks and conversions, but sales announcements that promote low inventory and product announcements can also move the needle.
- Keep things exclusive. You’ll want to give deals to your email subscribers that aren’t promoted to visitors to your website. That will keep people subscribed to your list and opening your emails.
- Follow the sales funnel. Use your email to guide a customer through the four steps of the sales funnel: Awareness, interest, decision, action.
- Lead and close with your best products. People are most likely to pay attention to the top and bottom of an email.
- Keep your announcements relevant. Try to have a reason to send a sales announcement, whether it’s a weekly pattern you’ve established, a holiday tie-in, or products or a sale relevant to all of your subscribers or a segment. And freshen up the look and content of your announcements regularly to keep subscribers from becoming blind to them.
Newsletters are emails that primarily, or entirely, focus on content and not sales. They’re meant to inform, entertain, or educate your customers, which can help strengthen your relationship and lead to more sales down the road. Some tips for maximizing them are:
- Provide real value. When your subscribers re-evaluate being on your list and ask themselves “what’s in it for me?”, quality content in a newsletter can be a compelling reason to stay.
- Create a digest. Rather than creating a large volume of original content, you can collect links that are relevant to your target audience and share them in a digest.
- Stick to a schedule. Set the expectations of how frequently you’ll send your newsletter, then send it on that consistent schedule.
- Spotlight your customers. Spotlighting a customer demonstrates how your brand improves lives and helps other customers recognize how they, too, identify with your brand. It can also create aspirational moments for customers.
- Mix helpful content and sales. If you want to sell with your newsletter, you can mix in good content along with your sales. That hybrid can be entertaining and informative while it sells.
Product announcements let your customers know about something new for sale, back in stock, updated, changed, or improved—and are geared toward selling that product. The emphasis on sales is what differentiates these emails from transactional announcements, like recalls or vital upgrade notices.
- Answer the four key questions. Make sure your product announcement answers these questions for the customer: What is it?… Why should I care?… What’s included?… and How do I get it?
- Keep it about the customer. As tempting as it may be to discuss how hard you’ve worked on the new product and how excited you are to share it, what your customers really care about is how it will improve their lives.
- Use a product announcement series. You can build anticipation with teasers leading up to your product announcement, and generate early sales by offering people a chance at a sneak peak a few days early.
Company news includes emails about your company, like acquisitions, major company developments, and charity initiatives.
- It’s still all about the customer. Even though the announcement is about something happening at your company, you have to always tie it in to how it affects the customer now and going forward.
- Tie it to the customer’s identity. Customers like shopping from brands that share their values. See if you can figure out ways that company news emails can showcase how your brand aligns with the customer’s image of themselves.
Step 1: Send a sales announcement
- Create a template for a sales announcement, fill it with an offer or lots of offers and products, and send it to your list.
- Make a plan for future sales announcements broadcasts, keeping in mind it’s important to have a reason to send each one.
Step 2: Set up your company news template
- Even if you don’t have news right now, set up a template for your company news broadcasts, so it’s ready to go in case something happens.
Step 3: Start your newsletter
- A weekly newsletter, even if it’s a digest of links elsewhere and not original content, will help you build a relationship with your list and make it clear your emails aren’t always all about you.
- Figure out if there are ways to slip some sales content into your newsletters while still keeping them focused on value-added content.
Step 4: For your next product announcement, plan a series
- Plan out an email series to build anticipation and hype for your next product announcement.
- Create a plan to allow subscribers who want early access to get a preview of the new product and an early chance to buy.