How to Write an Email Marketing Strategy That Sells: Using Lead Nurturing to Influence the Buying Decision Process

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What is lead nurturing?

Lead nurturing is the scientific process through which you are taking a prospect from awareness to interest to desire to action. These are the 4 natural stages all buyers must go through before they are ready to buy your amazing product. But because the steps from awareness to action are sequential (one has to go through awareness before making an action, for example) it’s best to manage lead nurturing through email, which is a highly controlled environment (more on this lower). With that being said, let’s show you how to write an email marketing strategy that sells.

Why create an email marketing strategy?

This is an important question. To understand this we need to first understand the attention spans of online shoppers. In 2020, Wolfgang Digital analyzed 130 million website sessions, over €330 million ($388.77 million) in online revenue, and calculated the average session duration (time on site) for all of ecommerce at 2 minutes and 32 seconds (source).

2 minutes and 32 seconds is less time than you need to read this article.

Can you imagine taking a shopper through the 4 marketing stages of awareness, interest, desire, and action in under 3 minutes? I can’t.

Luckily, there is a better way. Instead of forcing the sale in the first visit, why not ask the shopper’s permission to keep in touch towards the end of the 2 minutes and 32 seconds mark?

The great thing about an email campaign is that once a shopper opts in, we have the ability to get in front of them regularly. We are no longer constrained by an artificial time limit.

But there is also a second benefit to building an email marketing strategy. You see, even if you structure your site to take the user from awareness to interest to desire to action, they don’t have to follow that path. The site has so many shiny buttons and navigation paths that the user could will get distracted and quickly get out of our neatly designed funnel.

Buying decision process

The funnel model explained above matters for the same reason that it a book’s chapters are structured in numerical order. In other words, a book doesn’t make sense if you go from chapter 1 to chapter 5 to chapter 2. Likewise, you can’t force a shopper to go from awareness to action.

Awareness, interest, desire, and action are just one part of the larger buying decision process, which describes how all shoppers go through certain stages to ultimately make a purchase:

  1. Problem or need recognition: This is when a buyer identifies a problem or need in their life and determines the type of product or service that could help them.
  2. Information search: This is when the buyer searches for information and finds the available options.
  3. Evaluation of alternatives: Once the options have been determined, the buyer then compares and contrasts them.
  4. Purchase decision: This is when the buyer chooses whether or not to purchase the best option.
  5. Post-purchase behavior: After their purchase, the buyer decides whether or not they are happy with their decision.

Our lead nurturing email marketing strategy is a powerful tool to influence steps 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the buyer decision process. Why? Let’s look into the mind of the shopper for a minute:

  • Buying anything is stressful. Will it work as advertised? Have I done enough research? The buyer is swimming in a sea of questions.
  • It’s not like your buyers were not able to get the job done before they saw your product. They probably have a duct tape workaround. It’s not pretty or perfect but it gets the job done. It’s just inconvenient. If we don’t make a compelling pitch, the buyer will stick with this approach.
  • Shoppers are easily distracted.

Email lead nurturing is the perfect solution for this. Here’s how:

  • By using our structured email sequence, you can systematically address all stress and friction-causing questions.
  • We can help build a case against the workaround the shopper is currently using and explain how it’s not a longterm solution. Note: the shopper would not be on our site or signup for our email sequence if they didn’t think they needed a better solution for the workaround. They need us to build a case so they can convince their System 2 thinking.
  • The big downside of our sites is that they are open fields and shoppers can roam about freely. With a lead nurture email sequence, we can minimize the shopper’s distractions. There’s only one path — one information hierarchy — that has been specifically designed to guide shoppers through our most compelling content, content they likely overlooked on our site.

Finally, here’s how to write an email marketing strategy

Imagine a scenario in which an engaged user was magically transported from your website to your office and you could make your pitch to them in person. How much more effective do you think you would be than your site? This is exactly how you need to think about your email marketing strategy.

To help, below is a template that performs really well for us. Feel free to adjust the formula for your site.

Here is the template that works best

  • Send a 3-part email series.
  • Add a 2-day delay between each email. This is a general recommendation as your average purchase cycle may be much longer than a week.
  • Outline:
    • Email 1: In the first email, it is important to explain why you exist. People love underdog stories — what’s yours? Also, we’re willing to bet your ‘About Us’ page receives little traffic but has a pretty high conversion rate (probably more than double your site average — go ahead, check your Google Analytics data). Your story resonates with shoppers because (write this down) people buy from people they like.
    • Email 2: Now that your email subscribers know what makes you special, they need to know what makes your product/service special. Why does it exist? What problems did you see with other products/services in its category? How difficult was it to create your solution? What hurdles did you experience? How long did it take?
    • Email 3: Invariably, shoppers have concerns. This is your moment to address them before they have the opportunity to take your product or service and site out of their memory forever. To help with this, it’s best to put yourself in your shopper’s shoes. What problem do they have that makes your product appealing? When you have the answer, explain how your product/service is the perfect solution and why going with an alternative would be a mistake. What concerns have your shoppers mentioned in your reviews (e.g. “I was concerned [product] wouldn’t be durable, but it has lasted me years”)? Chances are your subscribers have those concerns too, so this is your opportunity to address them.
  • At the bottom of each email, add a feedback mechanism like “Did we answer all of your questions about [topic]? {Yes} {No}”. When a shopper clicks on {Yes}, take them to a landing page with a ‘thank you’ message. When a shopper clicks on {No}, take them to a landing page that has a text box and asks users: “What questions or concerns do you still have about [product/service]?”

    Why this matters: we believe marketing should be a feedback loop. We craft the strategy and then we collect feedback to see if the parts of the strategy aren’t working. If an issue is found, we fix it. For example, if in email #1 people are clicking {No}, we want to know what’s missing in our explanation so we can make the email even more effective for the next shopper who reads it.

PS: Here is another format for sequencing your emails.

5 email marketing tips

Here are our 5 favorite email marketing tips:

  1. Don’t over design the emails. It should look like a human sent it. We’ve done a lot of testing around this at Frictionless Commerce. Simple, black text emails with white backgrounds work best. Keep your header and feel free to add some images, but keep things to a minimum.
  2. Think mobile first. Most people will be seeing your messages on their phone. So design the email for the mobile screen. The good news is that many email marketing platforms with drag and drop builders allow you to optimize the same email for both mobile and desktop.
  3. Don’t send your emails from donotreply@XYZ.com. Yuck. Send the email from an actual email address (preferably the CEO’s). Let people write back if they have any questions. People in our lead nurture sequences are hot leads, after all.
  4. Stick to the theme of each email. Don’t try to cover everything. Remember shoppers have chronically low attention spams.
  5. Write the email in a conversational tone — like how you actually speak. You’re not emailing Shakespeare, after all.

How email marketing boosts conversion rates

We saw at the top of this article that the average session duration for an ecommerce site is 2 minutes and 32 seconds.

Watch the video below to see how conversion rates dramatically spike if you can get a visitor to stay on your site longer (we’ll show you how to segment your data so you can see these metrics for YOUR OWN SITE):

If you follow the steps in the video above, you’ll clearly see that people who stay on your site for 4+ minutes have dramatically higher conversion rates. But it’s incredibly difficult to almost double the average session duration of your site. It’s not impossible (but that’s a lesson for a another blog post).

Thankfully, this lead nurture email strategy allows us to, in a way, extend the session duration by transferring part of the user’s journey to a much more focused email series.

And now that you know how to write an email marketing strategy that sells, you can keep your conversations with your shoppers going.

A little about us

Thank you for reading this article about the paradox of choice. We are Frictionless Commerce and over the last 11 years, we’ve thought about just one thing: how do we get online shoppers to convert? We’re fascinated by buyer psychology. And once we understand how your site visitor thinks we use our 9 point copywriting process to convince and convert them.

If you’re on LinkedIn much you can should definitely connect with me. On LinkedIn, I post ecommerce conversion ideas every day, multiple times a day.

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