When to test, when to invest

When I first started writing commercial emails, at least doing it consistently, it was a right pain in the backside.

There were none of the easy editing tools we have today so I had to learn the basics of HTML to lay out and format my emails.

I did this for months and months, because there were no other options.

After a while I created templates so that I could focus on the writing first and leave the twiddly bits to later.

Over time, and as more tolls became available, my methods got more sophisticated, and I could speed up the process of publishing my emails.

That left me more time to edit them well.

Editing is where the quality really rises up. If you saw the first drafts of my emails you’d think I was the village idiot.

Then I haveĀ  a process to get from a draft to a finished email, and something I can share on social media in a few minutes.

This is what I did with my last email:

  1. Smash out the first draft in Writer.
    I use Writer for the pure fun of it. The keyboard sound effects make me feel like a pro on a deadline.
  2. Grab a coffee and go for a quick walk.
    This helps me read it with fresh eyes when I come back.
  3. Copy the text into WordPress
  4. Format it
    I add bullets & bold highlights, and edit out any lumpy writing.
  5. Check it as a web-page.
    I have a clever plugin to create an email template from a blog post.
  6. Import it into ActiveCampaign
    I love ActiveCampaign, I hate their email editor, so this works great for me
  7. Send a test to my phone.
  8. Check the links are all working ok and give it a final read-through
  9. Schedule it to send around lunchtime

It looks like a lot, but it gives me 3 different places to read the email.

Just little things like where lines break can help you read it with fresh eyes and spot typos and awkward wording. It takes 5 minutes at most on top of the writing itself.

Now comes the clever bit.

Every email also exists as a web-page on my site.

Here is what today’s email looks like as a web page.

This means I can post the same link to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or anywhere else that might like it.
At the end is a form that gets me more sign-ups.

The few hours work I did to get this set up saves me time, and most importantly energy every day.

It turns my emails from a tool that communicates with my current list, into one that attracts new signups every day.

Here’s the thing though.

I don’t recommend you do any of this until you’ve sent a good couple of dozen email campaigns, minimum.

At the start, do things that don’t scale.

The danger is you’ll spend all your time preparing to scale, and never take the first step.

Do laborious stuff to start with. Do it consistently. Do it until it gets on your wick.

By then you’ll know what’s worth automating, and you’ll have a better idea of what you need to automate or brief to someone else to do.

On day one you have no idea what will work.

I didn’t know if Facebook, YouTube or Twitter would work best at building my email list.

I didn’t know if I wanted to run these emails from my business address or form my personal website.

I didn’t know if I was going to carry on using ActiveCampaign.

I had to try a bunch of stuff before I knew what was worth “scaling”.

That hard graft at the start taught me how the nuts and bolts worked as well. I made notes on every step of what I did, so when it came to hiring a developer we both knew exactly what was needed, and I had REAL examples of what I wanted turned into emails and web pages.

Automating processes takes time and tools.

Once you start investing in software it gets mentally harder to change tack, so use the most basic, free, down & dirty methods you can find to get going.

The first money I made from an email was a Word document that the customer faxed back with their credit card details.

You can always make it simpler.

Stephen Pratley
Copy & Conversion Consultant
The Conversion Co.


c/o The Conversion Co., 2a The High Street, Thames Ditton, KT7 0RY, United Kingdom
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