Like most small businesses, we at Feed. The Agency used to get 90% of new clients from referrals.
If we had more time, we'd generate leads through inbound marketing. If we had more money, we'd purchase $30,000+ in advertisements or sponsorships.
But we had limited time AND money. So, we had to come up with a different solution.
Enter email sequences.
Email marketing ROI can be as high as 3800%, generating as much as $38 for every $1 spent. An email sequence adds even more value because of the time it can save. In addition, they've been found to generate 320% more revenue than non-automated emails.
As a result, we built a follow-up email sequence.
What is an email sequence?
An email sequence is a series of emails sent to a prospect, user, or customer sent automatically using automation software based on predetermined criteria such as a time delay or action being met.
In other words, if you build your emails out beforehand and set it up with email marketing automation, you can follow up with prospects at scale... without being the one to click the "Send" button over and over.
At Feed. The Agency, we built our own follow-up email sequence -- using the free Email Templates tool from HubSpot Sales -- that generated $100,000 in 30 days. Our total revenue increased by 215% since we started sending these templates in a sequence.
Email Sequence Examples
While we sent a follow-up email sequence, there are a few types of sequences you can send to engage your prospects.
1. Nurturing Email Sequence
A nurturing sequence introduces the prospect to your company. They may have downloaded an ebook or opted in to a content offer, but they are not sales-ready. A nurturing sequence is designed to get them there by providing social proof, handling objections, and establishing value.
Example of an email in a nurturing sequence from Moment:
2. Engagement Email Sequence
An engagement email sequence uses email to build rapport with them. The idea is to get them engaged with your content to build interest and keep your organization top of mind. This type of sequence might help you identify engaged subscribers who open, click, and take action on emails so that you can enroll them in other sequences tailored to their specific journey.
Example of an email in an engagement sequence from A Kids Book About:
3. Conversion Email Sequence
This sequence is used when you're asking something of your prospect (e.g., booking a call or meeting, scheduling a demo). This means that you'll orientate the entire copy around a single call-to-action, and you use the sequence to get the recipient to take that action.
Example of an email in a conversion sequence from Yokel Local:
4. Follow-Up Email Sequence
Just because a prospect doesn't respond to a sales outreach email doesn't mean they're not interested. They may need a few "impressions" before noticing and taking action. A follow-up email sequence loops back and touches base with your prospect after a few outreach attempts. This is so sales reps can reduce the number of manual emails they send and admin work they have to do.
5. Reminder Email Sequence
Whether a lead has booked a demo, signed up for a webinar, or even snagged a seat to an event, your organization has a chance to delight that individual (and possibly earn their business). However, you can't provide that delight if the lead forgets to show up. Little reminders can go a long way in attendance rate over time, increasing the number of opportunities you'll have "at bat," so to speak.
Reminder emails are a low-friction way to ensure that the lead doesn't forget about the event or appointment and also provide them with any necessary logistical details.
Example of an email in a reminder sequence from Dyspatch:
6. Re-Engagement Email Sequence
In order to get results from email as a channel, you naturally need a healthy database. Over time, however, email addresses change and prospects lose interest. The average email database loses contacts at around 25% per year, so even if you're generating new leads at a rapid rate, you'll naturally get some data skew from uninterested or deprecated contacts.
As a last-ditch effort to win back some of those contacts, you can deploy a re-engagement sequence. This type of campaign's goal is to prompt the user to open emails and take some kind of action; otherwise, the end result is you removing them from your database. This will help you keep your email list healthy and accurate.
Example of an email in a re-engagement sequence from Return Path:
How long should an email sequence be?
There's no set length for an email sequence. The duration of the sequence and number of emails will depend entirely on the buyer persona, their buyer's journey stage, the average sales cycle length, and what you're hoping to accomplish with the sequence.
Let's say you are creating a nurturing email sequence to prompt a prospect to take action. Such an email sequence should do a few things:
- Educate them along their path to purchase
- Handle any objections they have along the way
- Establish your authority and credibility in the industry (and thus their provider of choice when they're ready to buy)
- Keep you top-of-mind until they're ready to buy
You don't want to do too much in a single email, so each email must be crafted to play a part as you get the prospect from where they're at to where you want them to be.
But the number of emails and duration of time will vary on a number of factors. For example, a first-time homebuyer may start their path to purchase years before attempting to secure a mortgage loan while someone who is seeking an emergency HVAC repair is ready to take action immediately (and thus would not need a nurturing sequence at all).
Furthermore, someone who has downloaded an ebook for "How to Prepare My Credit for Buying a House" is much earlier in the process than someone who filled out your contact form and isn't sales-ready.
In other words, how long is your buyer shopping around, where are they at in that process based on what you already know about them (actions they've already taken on your site), and what information do you need them to know in that span of time? Understanding these factors will help you determine how long a sequence should be.
How to Create an Email Sequence
Now that you have an idea of what email sequences are, the situations in which you'd use one, and how long a sequence can/should last, let's talk about how to put one in place:
1. Determine the sequence's purpose.
Generally, most email sequences (especially those created in a sales context) have the broader goal of earning new business. However, there are many ways of going about "earning new business," and context matters for delivering the right message at the right time. Honing in on your reasons will help as you structure your automation logic, craft your emails, and measure success.
For example, let's say you want to build a straight-forward follow-up sequence designed to convert a conversation into a demo. In this case, success would mean the prospect booking a meeting through your scheduling software.
Alternatively, you might want an automated nurturing campaign to trigger after they download an ebook or content offer. Success for this would mean turning them into an SQL, so you'd provide information and opportunity for them to take action and meet your SQL criteria. Once they do, you can have your system hand them off to sales.
The opportunities for targeted experiences are endless if you're strategic about it.
2. Identify the enrollment criteria (or trigger) for the sequence.
Automation software can't read minds (yet?); just like any tool, we have to tell it when and how to work.
This is where enrollment criteria comes in. When you set up your sequence, you'll specify the conditions that must be met for the automation to trigger. For a sales follow-up email sequence, it can be as simple as manually enrolling them using your CRM or email marketing software.
Alternatively, you can use more advanced criteria if your automation software allows it. Examples of triggers include:
- When a contact fills out a form
- When a contact visits a particular page
- When a contact enters a new lifecycle stage
- When a contact books a meeting
And many more. If your CRM records it, and if the data in your CRM is reliable, you may be able to automate around it. (You can find more information about HubSpot's enrollment criteria here.)
3. Determine the duration of the sequence and the number of emails required.
As mentioned previously, there's no set timeframe or number of emails. You'll need to get strategic about the touchpoints that are required and the frequency of those.
For example, if I know the average sales cycle for my buyer persona is 30 days and I want to have twice-a-week touchpoints, I'd need to map out around 8 emails. This provides a framework to plan the messaging necessary to get the prospect from A to B.
On the other hand, if it's a follow-up email sequence from a face-to-face conversation, you might consider fewer emails before sending yourself a reminder to reach out by phone (yes, this can be automated too).
4. Write the emails for the sequence.
Once you have your framework and you've outlined which emails are needed, it's time to get pen to paper.
Here are some resources to help you out:
Keep in mind that each email will be sent to multiple prospects, likely at different times. Your emails should be evergreen, and the information you include should be universal enough to apply to any prospect who fits the criteria you set. However, personalization tokens can be added to provide that custom touch.
The delicate balance between universal and specific is how you can scale while still making each prospect feel as though you're talking directly to them.
One additional tip: each email should have one purpose. Don't water down the message by overloading each email with information. By keeping it to one purpose, one goal, and one call-to-action, you eliminate confusion and increase the likelihood of success. You can always add more emails if one is doing too much heavy-lifting on its own.
5. Build the emails using email software.
Once you have all your emails in text form, it's time to put them in the system.
- With sales emails, it's often better to keep things simple as if a rep sent the messages personally from their own inbox.
- Marketing emails, though, have more room for branding flair and eye-catching visuals.
Regardless of your approach, you'll be able to copy and paste your text into your email builder. Putting them in your system allows you to be able to tell your automation software what to send.
6. Set up the automation.
Consider this part of the process as instructing your automation software, step by step, how to execute the tasks you want it to. This includes:
- Specifying the enrollment criteria you decided on
- Designating which actions (e.g. email sends) to perform and when
- Setting up how much time should elapse between each action what to do when specific scenarios happen (if/then logic)
Automation software is extremely literal, so make sure you're not taking anything for granted or leaving stones unturned as you create these "instructions."
Here are some resources for working with HubSpot automation:
7. Test the sequence.
If you're able to, it helps to test the sequence before launching to see if it behaves the way you expect it to. You can do this by setting it live and enrolling yourself.
Alternatively, you can also send test emails. You'll want to ensure the emails look good across devices and whether the personalization tokens are functioning correctly.
Take it from me, testing helps save a lot of heartache.
The Best Email Marketing Sequence
- Find prospects who are mentioned in the news.
- Send an email congratulating them on their news coverage.
- Send a follow-up email with helpful content personalized to their industry.
- Send the "Trying to Connect" email template.
- Send the final "Permission to close your file?" follow-up email template.
- Improve your email templates by measuring their performance.
Ready to see a sequence in action? Here's how we earned $100,000 in 30 days.
Step 1: Find prospects who are mentioned in the news.
We're a branding agency in the healthcare industry, so the majority of our clients are doctors or dentists.
One of our favorite tricks is finding doctors who are mentioned in the news and reaching out to congratulate them. Saying "congrats" warms up the initial email and catches their attention.
There are two methods we use for monitoring the news: Google Alerts and Feedly.
Creating a Google Alert is simple. Type the keyword you want to monitor and save the alert to send to your email address.
For example, a keyword that we track is "orthopedic surgery". So, I just type in "orthopedic surgery", enter my email address, and click Create Alert:
Now I'll get an alert when an orthopedic surgeon is mentioned in the news.
We also use Feedly to discover when a doctor is mentioned in the news. I simply add websites to my "feed," so when a website we're monitoring publishes a new article we have alerts saved in one place.
For example, a website we follow in our industry is KevinMD.com. I add the website to our Feedly account by clicking +Add Content, typing "KevinMD.com", clicking the green +Feedly button, then click Add:
And just like that, KevinMD is added to our feed.
Other websites we've gotten new customers from are TEDmed.com, Ad Week, and Advertising Age. So, I'll add those to my Feedly account as well.
To see all of them at once, I click on my Health tab, and all of them pop up as one feed:
Step 2: Send an email congratulating them on their news coverage.
Now that we've found our doctor to contact, we send the first email using the free Email Templates tool from HubSpot Sales.
Here's our best-performing initial email template:
Dr. [Last name],
Because I work so much with [targeted industry],
I constantly follow industry news. Recently I noticed that you've [insert company action].
Usually when that happens, [insert business issue] becomes a priority. That's why I thought you might be interested in finding out how we helped [similar firm] get going quickly in their new direction -- without any of the typical cookie cutter approaches to marketing.
P.S. If you're not the right person to speak with, who do you recommend I talk to?
More often than not, they'll click reply or schedule time on my calendar.
If I don't hear anything for 24 hours, I'll send a second email.
Step 3: Send a follow-up email with helpful content personalized to their industry.
This email template always drives a ton of responses.
For example, if our current prospect is a physician, I'll send him a valuable branding survey tool we use to help clients differentiate themselves.
Here's what that might look like:
Hello Dr. [Last name],
I'm following-up my previous email with a free tool I think you'll love.
It's a brand analysis survey I created just for you (literally, your name is on it), that will help you understand how your practice is different from other doctors in [insert their city].
Click here [add hyperlink to survey] to begin the brand differentiation analysis survey. When we speak, I'll benchmark your responses against the top physician brands around the country.
I'm sharing my calendar (click here) so we can schedule a convenient time to discuss.
Enjoy your weekend,
After we added doctor's names to the survey, our response rates skyrocketed. It's a small tweak but personalization is a powerful tool.
If the doctor doesn't click reply or book time on my calendar, I'll send another follow-up email.
Step 4: Send the "Trying to Connect" email template.
If I don't hear anything for 24 hours, I'll send this follow-up email again:
Hi Dr. [Last name],
I'm sorry we haven't been able to connect. Again, I know how hectic things can get at work and with family.
I would be available for a call during weekends or before or after work hours if that's easier for you? I don't mean to bug you, but I do want to help you manage your team so you can exceed your goals of [insert custom goals].
To schedule a time on my calendar, just click here.
This single email has the highest response rate of all the templates.
Step 5: Send the final "Permission to close your file?" follow-up email template.
If I'm struck with silence after the first three emails, I'll send a final follow-up email asking for permission to close their file:
Permission to close your file?
Hi Dr. [Last name],
I'm writing to follow up. We are in the process of closing files this month.
Typically, when I haven't heard back from someone it means they are either really busy or aren't interested. If you aren't interested, do I have permission to close your file?
If you are still interested, what do you recommend as a next step?
Thanks for your help.
Why does this email perform so well? Perhaps because people want what they can't have.
I'm not entirely sure, to be honest. My assumption is they realize, "Oh, I'm never going to hear from this guy again. Maybe I should look into their business …"
Finally, our last step is measuring performance of our email templates.
Step 6: Improve your email templates by measuring their performance.
Inside HubSpot's free Email Templates tool we can measure our open rates and click rates:
At Feed. The Agency, we constantly measure email performance and make improvements as we see fit.
This helps us understand what templates are performing the best versus what templates should be improved. Without this tool, we are making decisions with zero data.
These templates have worked tremendously well for us so far, but we're still early in the process. We will continually test until we discover the perfect email templates.
Hopefully you'll get similar results as us -- closing $100,000 in just 30 days.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in May 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Jun 10, 2021 1:30:00 PM, updated December 01 2021