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What is an email sequence and how can it help you to automate your email marketing? We'll uncover the basic types of sequences and how they play a role in connecting to your audience.

Email Sequences Demystified

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A key component of email marketing automation is an email sequence. But if you’re not exactly sure what an email sequence is or when you would use one, then it could be a challenge to figure out how they can help grow your business and connect with prospective customers and clients.

What exactly is an email sequence?

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A sequence is a series of “dripped” emails. This means they get sent out automatically over time through your email service provider, such as ConvertKit, MailChimp or ActiveCampaign. An email sequence might be triggered by someone signing up for your newsletter, making a purchase, or clicking a link in another email, or it might happen at a specific time. (For example, a certain number of days after someone purchases a product or service from you.)

Do you really need email sequences for your small business?

The simple answer is yes. Assuming, of course, that you want to automate your email marketing. And while writing emails can be time-consuming and, truthfully, a pain to write, 99% of consumers check their email every day. Plus, the cool thing about email sequences is you write them once and that’s it — they automatically go out to new subscribers.

But if you’re brand new to email marketing, or just starting to dip your toes into automation. don’t feel like you need to have email sequences for every scenario. At a minimum, I recommend a Welcome Sequence so that you can connect with your new subscribers and build the like, know, and trust factor.

How long should an email sequence be?

There’s no hard and fast rule for how long a sequence should be. Some are as simple as one email. Some are longer and more complex depending on what type of email sequence it is and what your goals are. For example, an abandoned cart sequence would probably be one email. In contrast, a welcome or email nurture sequence will likely be longer since you’re working to build a relationship with the person, which takes time.

Types of email sequences

Alrighty, it’s time to dig into sequence types. While we won’t be digging into how to do you write a sales email sequence or the actual content, it’s helpful to know what the heck we’re talking about when your hear these very buzzy terms floating around.

Opt-in Sequence

This is the first email sequence that new subscribers receive right after someone signs up for your awesome freebie (also known as a lead magnet or an opt-in). The opt-in email serves two purposes:

  1. Send new subscribers the freebie they signed up for
  2. Confirm that they actually want to be on your list

Often times you’ll see businesses just use one of these double opt-in emails. (And too many times I see businesses using the default double opt-in that comes with their email service provider. Don’t be that business — even if you decide to go with the standard double opt-in email, spend a few minutes personalizing it to your brand.)

This is an often overlooked email sequence but can be a great way to capture subscribers who inevitably forget to check their email after signing up for your freebie. With my own businesses and when working with clients, I have it set up as a four-email sequence. New subscribers only get the first email if they confirm their email and are then typically moved into the next sequence. That way you can catch people who might miss your initial click to confirm email (cause, let’s be real, we’re easily distracted and things get lost in our inboxes).

Welcome Sequence

The welcome email sequence is a series of emails where you introduce yourself to new subscribers and usually happens right after the opt-in sequence. (Only people who have confirmed their email address will go through this sequence). As this point you’ve given them the freebie, you’re letting them know about your area of expertise. It’s an opportunity to connect with your audience, explain who you & and your business are, and how you can help them. 

It’s helpful to remind subscribers why they signed up for your list by tying your freebie into the first welcome email. (If you have multiple freebies, there’s multiple ways you could address this that are beyond the scope of this post).

Not sure what to include? I highly recommend you check out Kate Doster’s Email Marketing Fairy, which includes a bunch of templates for emails, including a welcome sequence.

Nurture Sequence

This generally comes after someone completes the welcome sequence (although I’ve seen this term also used from what I described as welcome sequence). It’s a series of emails where you continue to deliver helpful content and resources to your audience so that you continue to build that like, know, and trust factor and stay front of mind. You might put in information about your paid products and services, but the focus is more on providing value to subscribers.

Pitch Sequence

In this sequence, you’re pitching a paid product or service. It can be triggered by someone clicking on a link in another email, based on how long someone has been on your email list (for example, maybe three months after someone joins your list they are automatically pitched a product or service), or it could be in between your Welcome Sequence and entering your general email list.

(As an aside, in my other business where I teach jewelry making, I’m currently experimenting with using Pitch Sequences to let a subset of newish subscribers know about my paid digital products. It’s only going out to subscribers who are more engaged with my lead magnet which is an email course and then giving them a heads up that I’m going to let them know about a paid product that will help them on their jewelry-making journey. If you’re interested in seeing it in action shoot me an email at bev(at)yourpersonaltechfairy.com)

Buyer’s Sequence or Onboarding Sequence

After someone purchases a product or services, this is the set of emails that customers automatically receive. Generally you send them a thank you email for purchasing and provide them with any information they need to get started, such as how to log in if it’s on a separate platform or any intake forms. It’s also helpful to include a check-in email in the sequence to see how how things are going with the paid product, and even another email later on asking for feedback and/or a testimonial.

Reengagement Sequence

Inevitably we all have people who either confirm that they want to be on your list and then never open another email from you ever again, or who start out strong and after awhile stop opening your emails. It’s always a good idea to clean out inactive subscribers periodically. One, because you don’t want to pay for people on your list who aren’t actually reading your emails, and also because it’s going to reduce your overall email engagement. In a reengagement sequence, you send out 1-3 emails to check in to see if people want to stay on your list. You can include links to helpful blog posts or a new freebie, but the idea is you want to remind them how awesome you and your business is. And for everyone who doesn’t engage you ultimately remove from your list.

Although I personally prefer to manually do this about once a quarter, it is possible to set this up as an automated sequence. Each email service provider has their own system for determining who is an inactive subscriber, and most should automatically allow subscribers to be automatically tagged when they hit that threshold.

Abandoned Cart Sequence

Ever receive an email from a business after putting a couple items in your virtual shopping cart and not follow through with the purchase? You can set up an automated sequence and do the same thing for your business. (Though, in likelihood, it will just be one email.) Someone click on a link for a product or service from an email or to book a call but doesn’t follow through? Send them an automated follow-up email using a link triggers. You can also set this up if someone creates an account on a platform where you sell digital products and doesn’t purchase the product.

Email Course

Another type of email sequence is an automated email course. Instead of directing people to a platform such as Thinkific, all of the content is delivered straight to their inbox via email. This could be your freebie, or even a paid products.

Ready to get your first email sequences set up or need some help cleaning yours up so that they flow properly? Let’s schedule a free 15-minute call.

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