Your emails will typically fall into one of these two buckets:
1. Sales Content (launches, promos, upsells)
2. Educational Content (educational articles, news, entertainment)
With the main goal being to either directly sell something, or provide free value that builds your brand and warms up leads.
Sometimes, it's both. But usually a good email focuses on a single goal.
The question: how do you balance sales vs informative content in your email strategy?
Too much aggressive sales content can scare off subscribers. And pure educational content can be difficult to drive sales with.
So what should you do?
Like most things in life, it depends.
Almost every brand struggles with this, and while there is no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all approach, there are some best practices we’ve seen work well.
To start, let's look at some examples from brands with different content approaches that work.
Different Dog is an eCommerce-based B2C dog food company.
They send emails every few days, and out of all the emails we’re monitoring below, notice they're very focused on promotional content. (you can follow Different Dog and similar e-commerce brands using our Competitor Monitoring tool)
Many eCommerce brands do things similarly. It works for that industry.
Especially since most people on Different Dog's email list have probably joined after browsing their e-commerce website, and expressing an interest in buying before filling out their subscription form below.
It's also worth pointing out their “subscription promise”— what they tell subscribers what they’re in for when they sign up.
The emails are sold as being packed with discounts, cute dogs, and advice. So as long as their subscribers are getting some flavor of these, this approach can work well in engaging their list and driving sales.
Copy Shrimp is the extension of copywriter Laura Belgray, where she educates readers on copywriting and also provides copywriting services for her readers.
If you're a freelancer, solopreneur, or thought leader, Copy Shrimp might be a good blueprint for your business.
8 out of 10 emails coming from Copy Shrimp has sales copy in it. But readers are so invested in the brand and her thought leadership that they more than put up with references to her service and product pitches.
The copy is entertaining, fun, and outrageous. If you signed up expecting what she sends each day, you’d be seriously engaged.
Copy Shrimp also nails its branding. The personality of her content is almost disarming.
Laura checks all the boxes for a growing and successful newsletter with a service business attached to it.
You should definitely follow Copy Shrimp’s campaigns inside Hoppy Copy for a masterclass in email-driven brand building.
McKinsey is an enterprise consultancy and research firm working with some of the largest businesses around.
Content-heavy businesses, like enterprise SaaS, affiliate websites, and other consultants, might appreciate how they approach email content.
And it’s almost all educational content.
They occasionally surface promotional content, but it's not a staple.
They also have a sales team that they can rely on. They don’t necessarily need to convert newsletter readers, but building authority and brand is crucial to their sales cycle.
Calm, a B2C smartphone app with mindfulness and meditation routines, takes another very common approach.
Their newsletter delivers short-form educational content but almost always provides a discount or sales offer.
This is the strategy that most people use and find success with and the one we use most at Hoppy Copy.
It lets you put your quality educational content front and center and find an angle to introduce your product/service.
It’s quite natural, and not very many people would be offended to see a sales callout section if they’ve just read good informational content.
Many businesses succeed with type of email campaign, and the format could also work well for you.
Every business is unique. And while the examples above are hopefully a good starting point for you, there are some best practices to keep in mind that can help shape your strategy even further.
Think: what do your subscribers really want?
Why did they join your email list in the first place? Did they sign up expecting to try out a product, get a discount, or get tips?
They likely fall into one of two buckets.
- They have a clear problem and want to be sold on the benefits of your product. (usually when they sign up to receive a discount, or do a trial of your product)
- They haven't fully come to terms that they have a problem yet, and seek informational content. (usually when they sign up to receive news, tips, or a guide via a lead magnet)
If both are on the same list, you need to determine which bucket is bigger and focus on that.
Alternatively, you can segment your subscribers by why they signed up, and/or where they are in the buying process using lead scoring (which is something worth doing if you have larger list sizes). That way, you can manage these people separately to maximize your email campaign potential.
Decide: who is actually your core audience?
Your list is full of many different personas, even outside the ready-to-buy group and the not-so-ready one.
Not every single type is worth going after.
You need to know which people are most likely to become lifelong customers and double down on them.
This may sound hard to figure out, but you can do this by looking closely at your current customer profile.
Search support tickets, conduct customer interviews, and run surveys to find out the basic components of your customer base. You will start seeing patterns like similar job functions, salary, or pain points.
Measure: Are your unsubscribes even that bad?
It’s important not to get paralysis and lose too much sleep over this.
Keep sending emails to your list.
Yes, it would be nice to dial in your strategy without any unsubscribes, but this is just part of the business of sending email.
Just keep an eye on your unsubscribe rates and avoid anything that can end up in spam complaints.
Then, experiment with both sales and educational content and keep focusing on your key metrics: clicks and conversions coming from those that open your emails.
I hope this gives you some more clarity.
For more guidance, follow the email strategies of brands similar to yours using Hoppy Copy's Competitor Monitoring tool.