Updated: Aug 18, 2021
Social media is great, but one change in a platform’s algorithm can unpredictably affect your visibility to the audience you have worked so hard to nurture. Not so with email. Once you get people to open up their inboxes for what you have to offer, the options are limitless. Let Content Marketing Coach Rob Fortier show you just how easy it can be done. In this conversation with Hayley Foster, he shares how to create an email sequence strategy that helps you build genuine relationships with the people on your email list. There is so much you can get from this episode, from the art of repurposing content to nailing down an engaging subject line. Join in and you may find it hard to look at email the same way again.
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Easy Steps To Nurture Your Email List With Content Marketing Coach Rob Fortier
I’m with my awesome friend, Rob Fortier. He is an Email Marketing Content Management guru. We’ll learn about him, his journey and pick his brain on how to make email marketing easy. Who the hell doesn’t need that? I know I do. Rob, thank you so much for being a guest. This is going to be fun.
Thank you for having me. I’m super excited.
Rob and I have been working together. He’s been helping me get my email marketing straight. I felt this would be a great idea to bring him on and help get all of you straight. Rob, give us a little bit of a background on where you started and where you are now. It’s definitely an interesting story. I think people need to know about the journey. Give us your journey.
When I went to school, I studied Musical Theater. I was an actor and a singer, not a dancer. I can move to the beat. That’s what brought me to New York City, where I am now. After a couple of years of being in the industry, I decided I didn’t like the lifestyle. I loved performing. I hated getting up at 5:00 AM to go to auditions, stand in line, be outside in freezing cold and have 25 seconds to do my best. I felt it was beating my head against the wall. It’s the lifestyle of people who were in the theater. A lot of performers, especially when you’re new and you’re young.
I didn’t care for it. I ended up getting into the business side of theater into working in theater box office. I was still around theater people who I loved. I had exposure to the industry. I got free tickets sometimes and see the shows in places I worked. I could work regular theater hours. Getting home from work at 9:00. Not having to get up at the crack of dawn to do things. Plus, I liked eating and paying my rent. It was important to have money for me. I have the utmost respect for people who are performers. It’s not an easy lifestyle and the people who make it all deserve awards and be paid more. That’s a whole other point.
I got into that side of the theater, the busy side. I miss having creative projects. I’d gone to school for Theater. I’ve always been into crafts, drawing and arts. My mom taught me how to sew at a young age. It’s always been part of me to make and discover things. I ended up deciding to start a greeting card business. I couldn’t find cards that I like. I was like, “How hard can this be to start that?” I started drawing. I put up a website and moved around with the different themes I had. I started doing a lot of handmade cards, which was fun because I ended up on an HGTV Christmas Special. They show it on TV. Keep your eyes peeled for the younger me out there, somewhere.
I ended up trying to do my first trade show in New York. I had a good smackdown as to, “Here are all the mistakes you’re making right upfront. It’s going to be reflected in how little you sold at the show and how much it costs you to be here.” Fast-forward tinkering with what I was doing and I changed the emphasis of what I’m working on. The business started to take off. I did more trade shows. I had reps that were working for me across the country. One of my favorite reps, who’s still a good friend of mine, she and I decided to write a book for people. We ended up running two in the greeting card and gift industry. One was about trade shows. The first one was about working with sales reps. Artists are not necessarily the best salespeople nor do they want to do those things. Everybody wants to work with a rep or someone to get their products into stores. Nobody knew how to navigate that landmine like, “How do I get someone to like myself? How do I get them to carry me? What do they get paid? What do I need?”
That was an interesting turn in the greeting card business for me because my friend Meryl and I, who I wrote the books with started getting opportunities to do speaking gigs and to do trainings at trade shows. It moved on to people wanting to work with us. They wanted a coach to help them through these things and to get their lines ready to go, ready to sell and make it more appealing to a sales rep. It got me thinking that it’s a good next avenue because the greeting card industry while it’s still around is not on the let’s say forefront of growing and expanding industry. I could see the signs on the wall. There was going to have to be an exit at some point. My friend Meryl turned to me one day and she said, “You need to shut down your greeting card business and do this instead.” Do this was coaching and helping people. I decided while I was doing that, I went back and got a certificate in coaching. I am a certified Creativity Coach. I started working with creative people in the greeting card industry and other artistic endeavors. Those are always be my people at heart.
I realized that the problems they were having were also translatable to other businesses. Especially other solopreneurs and small business people. If you’re a performer, you’re basically a one-man or one-woman solopreneur business. The same thing for a lot of people in the greeting card and gift world. If you’re making stationary, the barrier to entry is very low. You need a printer and a computer. You can make them at home to start with. You don’t even need to invest a lot of money. I realized they had a lot of the same issues as other people, as coaches, as other solopreneurs and all kinds of businesses.
I shifted into helping those people partly because they had more money to hire me to do those things but I got off on the whole aspect of helping them build their business and do the marketing. That’s how I got more towards marketing. I kept seeing that was the thing that they didn’t understand. They’re like, “I build stuff, I put it on a website and then people will buy it.” There has to be a need for it. You have to know how to talk about it. You have to know what problems it solves. You have to find ways to constantly be out there. You Hayley are prolific in the social media world. You understand that you have to be putting yourself out there and whatever form you’re comfortable with. You can’t sit at home and wait for things to happen. You have to get out there, make them happen and develop relationships with people. That’s now where I am now with working with people with marketing. It is such a mystery to many people about what marketing even is or what it entails.
Did you know my brother’s business is stationary?
We did talk about that. You worked with him for a number of years.
I was his first New York sales rep back in 2000 when he first started before I started my first company. I was selling to all the New York paper stores and did the stationary show with him and his wife a couple of times at the Javits.
It’s a fun industry. Unfortunately, it’s getting smaller every year.
He’s doing some great stuff with big-box stores like TJ Maxx and HomeGoods. He’s doing a ton of paper. He morphed his business. He saw what you saw and being the entrepreneur that he is. He was like, “I need to start working with these companies, designing and manufacturing stuff for them that is in the paper goods industry, as opposed to just stationary.” We started getting into gift bags, gift wrap and now they do boxes. That’s the entrepreneurial spirit. You see where you’re doing is going and the future. You’re like, “This is not going to be around that much longer. How can I pivot? How can I make this thing work?” Kudos to you when you saw this need for helping people solve their content writing problems. How long have you been coaching in the email space?
That is something that has developed in 2020. I spent a lot more time working with people on social media. I used to run accounts for people. The clients that were like, “Do whatever you want. That’s fine.” We’re great to work with. The ones that were on me all the time, I was like, “I don’t think this is fun as I want it to be.” It was very draining to me in terms of I liked the creativity aspect of it but after one client had given me the 70th newsletter that looked all she had done was copy and paste a bunch of stuff from websites and even tried to write it it’s like, “Can you just make fixes for me? I hit a wall,” where I was like, “This is enough. We need to move a little bit.”
I went from making the content for people to helping them figure out how to do it themselves. You listen to podcasts or things about marketing and they’re always talking about build your email list, which is important, especially in the world of constantly changing social media. You never know, you could be the top of Instagram one day and they changed the algorithm. It’s like, “Three people saw my posts.” While social media is very important as part of a strategy, if you can get those people off of social media and onto your email list, then you can talk to them all day long because they’re going to see the things. “I land in your inbox.” As opposed to, “That swooshed by me on Twitter. I wasn’t on Facebook when you posted that. Three hours later, it’s sunk to the bottom of my feed.”
The people who are pushing people to build these lists aren’t teaching people what to do with them. They’re maybe teaching them how to sell. If you’ve got a list of thousands of subscribers, you can’t reach out to them when you feel like it. They forget who you are. I got so many emails at the start of pandemic because people realized that their businesses were going to change rapidly. They had been doing live events or things where they could meet people in person. They had to rely on their email lists so much. All of a sudden, some coach I hadn’t heard from in six months suddenly sent me an email, trying to sell something. I reacted very negatively to that like, “Who are you? I kind of remember you. I think I signed up for something from you.” You have to nurture those people on your list. From doing sales, especially as a sales rep, it’s all about the relationships. You probably had tons of people that you brought off into stop by and say, “I call to check in on.” Even when you didn’t necessarily need a sale, you were taking care of them. You were treating them like people as opposed to customers.
These days more than ever, our relationships are built in a million different places. They’re not built-in going and knocking on a door like traditional. My dad and my father-in-law built their businesses door-to-door, selling stuff. They were showing up with a smile on their face and personality was everything. Now with the help of someone like you, you have to try to bring your personality into your words. People aren’t seeing you face to face and are not even hearing you.
They may never meet you. If you’re not into video, they might see pictures on your website. It is about personality. A lot of places people get stuck with is that they go into the, “I’m a terrible writer. This email has to be perfect.” I say to people, “We’re not writing for the New York Times here. We’re writing one email that we’re going to send to people.” Sometimes they bomb or you don’t get it right and that is okay. You’re going to send another one the next week. I sent out one recently that I thought, “This is going to be funny. No clicks, no reaction.” It got a decent open rate, so that was fine. I do this all the time. It’s okay. You have to experiment and not get it right. It’s about infusing your personality into it.
Write like you talk. That’s one of the things I tell people too, “If you struggle with the writing. You can’t get those words from your brain to connect to your hands then record it. Do a video or audio on your phone and have it transcribed.” I was listening to a podcast the other day where someone confessed it. That’s how they wrote most things. It saved them a lot of time. They didn’t like typing. You can hire a transcriber, you can use a lot of their machine transcriptions or auto transcription, which is a little bit less expensive but you have to clean them up afterwards but it’s a great way to get the stuff out of your head.
With email marketing, especially you got to show up consistently. Consistently is not always, “I send out my holiday newsletter every December.” That’s consistent. Every month at the bare minimum, hopefully it’s twice a month and maybe even every week. Some people commit to every day, which I think is a lot. That would ruin my life if I tried to do that. It’s not my personality. Consistently, twice a month or every week is great because you want people to think of you as a resource. If you’re an expert in whatever you do and whatever you sell, whatever your products are, you want them to rely on you for advice and resources to be a little bit entertaining and enjoy your emails. If you don’t show up all the time, they don’t get a chance to know you. You don’t get a chance to know them either. That’s important about figuring out what your list likes.
I had this email that bonds, “I’m going to learn from that. Next time, I won’t use that strategy in writing an email because it didn’t resonate with the audience I have.” That doesn’t mean I won’t try it again in six months to see once I add some more people and say, “Maybe this was right. Will this work now?” That’s important, showing your personality. There are million people that do what I do and what you do. If I like you and I think you’re a great person. I'm going to hang with you, click on your things, open your emails and maybe buy something from you down the line. It is about showing your personality and having fun with that too. If people have fun on Instagram and TikTok, have fun with your emails too. That’s much more interesting to read.
You can tell the difference in people that are willing to put themselves out there in their emails. I read your email and I hear you in it. This other woman Danielle who’s also a content writer. I hear her in her emails too. I use Rev.com to transcribe half my book. This is the trick to self-publishing is, I recorded half my book as interview style. Where someone asks you a question, you answer that question and recorded. You get it all transcribed and you clean it up. You make it into the different chapters of your book. That’s a cheat sheet for how to write a book. I transcribed a whole bunch of podcasts. I had interviewed a whole bunch of people on podcasts. I had those transcribed and I use those in the book also. I was like, “I need more content. I have podcasts.” It’s helping me.
You could even take those further. You could take that stuff and break them out into pieces that you use on Instagram and Facebook. You can make them individual graphics. There are all kinds of ways to take that material, stretch it out, repurpose it and make it longer. That was super smart of you. I’m glad that you did that and share that too people think, “I’m writing a book.” No, this is the modern age. We’ve got faster ways to do things.
It saved tons of time. Can you imagine if I tried to transcribe it? It was pennies a minute. It was inexpensive to do it and it made perfect sense. I remember people saying like, “When I read your book, I literally felt you were talking to me.” It’s because I write like I speak. You and I went through this exercise together where you were writing the outline for me. I’m like, “I threw like my judging in there where I made it more me.” You’re like, “That’s the point? I’m going to write and then you’re going to make it more you.” I’m giving away all the secrets here. Rob’s writing my emails for me. Don’t tell anyone.
A lot of people do that. Especially if it’s not your expertise, it’s a great way to get that stuff done. A lot of times, it can be a cost issue. You can’t afford to have somebody write all your emails for you. If you can do some of that, it can make you go further and faster in terms of showing up constantly. I know some of the top coaches and people who write their emails. I read it and it sounds like the person who it’s coming from but also, I can see the person who wrote it inside that email. I’m like, “He wrote that for her.” There’s no shame in that.
We only have enough time in the day. I always say to people, which is why I found you, “If you are not good at it, outsource it. Don’t try to do it yourself. It’s going to take way too much time.” You and I had that discussion when it came to building our Kartra for the new funnels. You and I can spend our hours of our time trying to figure this out. We can also hire somebody to do it for us and do it right. We hired her. She’s amazing.
We got to focus on the important parts which you need to. The structure of what you’re setting up, the content and all of those important pieces that you have to yourself or at least put down the framework for. That gave me the space for that.
What’s the biggest area where you feel people need to be having an email marketing presence? How important is it? If you’re on Instagram. I will be the first to say that I have completely slacked on doing any email marketing. Sadly, it’s usually when I have something to offer that I put it out there. I know that is not the way to go. I also value people’s time. I remember listening to somebody that was saying like, “When I do a blog post, I am requiring people to sit and dedicate their time to reading my blog posts. When I do a podcast, I’m allowing people to multitask. You can listen and run, you can be at the gym, at the supermarket or anywhere. I don’t feel as guilty because I’m not asking people to dedicate their time to me. They can certainly do something else while they’re listening in a very roundabout way.” What are your thoughts on how often should people be nurturing their email lists outside of when they’re trying to sell something?
My suggestion is if you can make it work is to do it once a week. If that is too much, then set it up regularly twice a month. You can make it a little bit easier by deciding what kinds of emails to send. Let’s say you’re big into sending in motivational or inspirational emails. These can be short too. Blog posts are typically at least 1500 words. You need a lot of content for search engine optimization to find those keywords. In an email, 300 to 500 words, that’s a lot easier for your reader to consume in terms of investing their time but also, it’s a lot easier for you to write.
If you can decide, “Maybe every Monday I’m going to send some inspirational email, a Tuesday tip or a Friday freebie.” You can put those in your calendar. “Every two weeks, I’m going to have something, whether it’s my thing to remote or somebody else’s.” To add some structure to it, so you know what you have to show up to do. Maybe one week, you do a resource email where you collect resources for people. Two weeks later, it’s a little bit more teaching. Maybe it’s a quick email that has like five teaching points of things that you maybe learned about your business. Creating some structure to it and putting it on your calendar, then it’s not like, “I have to write an email this weekend. I have no idea what to write about.” Put those dates in there. I have a reminder every Wednesday that says, “Don’t forget, you have to send this email this week.” Mine usually go out on Saturday. I know I have until Friday at some point to procrastinate. I got to sit down and write the thing because it’s going to go out on Saturday. That’s one way to manage it.
People get stuck in that it has to be brilliant. It doesn’t. You can get ideas from your own inbox. What are common themes you see that are going on in industries? What are people talking about? Borrow those ideas and then put your own per spin on them. Do the same thing with headlines too. That’s a great place to look in your own email box. What do you respond to? What do you open? What looks good? What didn’t you like? That’s is as important in terms of social media, email lands in someone’s inbox. They have the opportunity to open it whenever they feel it. They don’t have to open it right when you send it. The same thing with a podcast. I listen to three million podcasts. I might not listen to the one you put out. If there was something a little more timely in it, I might miss that. The same thing with social media is you can be selling the heck out of something you’re promoting or your message. If I am never on when you’re doing that stuff, I’m going to miss it.
That’s one of the things about why Reels came into play about because it will stick around for a while and IGTV has a longer-lasting shelf life. You can waste a whole lot of money advertising on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. There are people who are excellent and if you’re not good at it hire someone because it’s easy to be like, “Here’s my vein. Start taking the money.” It’s not the easiest thing to capture people’s attention. On platforms like that too, people need multiple touchpoints. They don’t necessarily see once and I’m like, “Let me sign up for Hayley’s program because I saw this cool thing on Instagram.” They’re like, “I kind of like her. Maybe I’ll start following her more or sign up for her email list. I’ll dip my toe in the water.” People need to be exposed to you multiple times. That’s one of the good things. If they get on your email list, you have the opportunity to do that. With keeping this clean, you can touch them every week or other week to get them to know, like and trust you. There’s that thing.
Usually, you have to get to know, like and trust before they let you touch them.
It can take 7 to 20 points of contact before someone may be ready to make a purchase or commit to you on a deeper level or sign up for your newsletter. I was working with a friend and I was trying to explain the whole concept of creating a lead magnet to get people onto your email list. I said, “It’s like dating. If you were at a bar and you saw somebody that you thought was attractive, you might walk up to them and say, ‘Hello. Buy them a drink.’ The next step is, you have a conversation, exchange numbers, text a little bit and go out again.” You don’t go from buying them a drink to ask them to marry you.
That’s a big mistake people make with marketing. They go from, “I’m going to get someone on my list then ask them to buy my $5,000 coaching program.” There needs to be some romance in between that. It’s like, “Buy me a couple of drinks. Take me on a few dates. Romance me a little bit, then you have the opportunity to ask me to buy something.” It’s hard because you’re getting your list and are like, “I’ve got people on my list. I want to sell them this thing, this program or my new book.” The person that you’re doing that too is going to be like, “No, you keep your drink. Thanks. I’m not interested.” You’re going to shut them down quickly if you treat them like that.
That’s such a great point because many people do that. The way that the world works these days in terms of our accessibility to these people is we could either choose that we want that person to buy us a drink or they’re going to have to nurture us into the drink. I’m scrolling through Facebook and they start throwing all of their smoothness at me in there, sponsored posts. I get to make that decision. They start like, “She took the drink. Now, I’ve got to nurture her into buying a bigger product.” It’s the way the world works these days. Everyone has something to sell. It’s a competitive market out there. It even more important for us to be able to put ourselves out there in a way where someone is going to say, “There are one million coaches out there but I like what Hayley or Rob have to say.” It’s super important. I love the tips that you gave.
One of the questions I have for you is, many people struggle with the subject line. There is a lot of weight on the subject line. I don’t remember I told you the story. I was sending out an email for this new group I’m doing, my synagogue. It’s called small groups and their community groups. One of the groups is called It’s Time for Me. It’s about menopause. I was going to be like, “Launching small groups, check out the ones launching this week.” Then I was like, “No. I need something that’s going to make people either laugh, chuckle or smile.” The email’s subject line was, “I’m So Excited For Menopause.” The first line was, “Not really but I am excited to launch the community synagogue menopause group.” It did get a lot of response and they filled up that group in three days which is super exciting. I’m not saying that for a result of my amazing subject line. From your perspective, I know it’s important. What do you say to people that are stuck on the subject line? Is there like a cheat sheet for subject lines somewhere?
There kind of is. You hit one point in the head. It’s delighting and surprising people. Taking people off guard. I got one from a coach I follow and he was like, “Lessons I Learned in a Starbucks Bathroom.” I was like, “What?” I’m going to open that. I’m like, “I know this is not going to be anything dirty.” It took me off guard. If you can take people off guard and the unexpected, that’s good. A lot of times, it’s great to ask questions as the subject line. It’s people like, “I don’t know.” Try to ask open-ended questions. Not something like I can ask a yes or no to. “Do You Feel Stuck This Week?”
“No. I’m not going to read your email.” Try to get a little more creative and ask it something that’s more open-ended. That’s part 1 of the 2. If it’s a strategy, it can be used numbers and things like, “Five Tips For Finishing All Your Work Before 5:00 on Friday.” Use numbers, ask questions. Those are two great strategies. I keep a file of subject lines from things that people send to me. When I am like, “I don’t know how to start this.” I go through it and I find ones that resonate with me. I use them as inspiration to craft my own.
I do tend to ask a lot of questions in emails. Sometimes I get a little silly. The one I sent was, “A JV Partner, Two Podcasts and a Checklist Walk Into A Bar,” which was completely ridiculous. I went on to say, “This is a terrible start to a joke. I’ll just get to my point.” Sometimes you have to make sense of it. Those are two. Ask questions, shop in my own inbox and use numbers of things like, “Five Things to Help Me Get X, Y, Z Done Faster.” I’ll look at that because I know it’s going to be concise. It’s five things I can quickly consume and then do something with.
Funny as I started writing some of those. A good way to brainstorm too is to search online and find some of those email subject line lists. Find ones that resonate with you or tie into your audience. I did a brain dump where I sat there for probably 45 minutes. I took every subject line. I’m like, “How would I change the subject line to be about my business? What would I answer this with?” It gave me a whole bunch of great content. I know you have a nurture email sequence template or something that you are offering. Tell us what that’s all about.
I have to make writing emails easier. I have put together a guide it’s called Create Fast Nurture Emails. It’s got five templates in it. You can use that range from minimal writing to a little more advanced writing that runs the gamut of different kinds of emails you can offer people. There’s an inspirational one, resource email, one that you can teach in, you can use like if you’ve got a blog or a podcast you can use to start in your inbox and take them to the blogger podcast. They all show you how to add value. Something you want to do in every email that you’re writing is to add value to your subscriber’s life. You’re not giving them stuff. You’re helping them with their business or their life. It’s got templates. You can plug and play to create emails quickly and get them out the door. If you like to grab that, you can get it at NurtureEmailTemplates.com and get that for free there. You can use it to start doing stuff right away. These are all kinds of emails.
I developed it from emails that I get and write. I did a lot of research. I get from you, Hayley. I get lots and lots of emails I subscribed to because I want to know what other people are doing and see how they’re writing things. That’s a great way to get going, get unstuck from, “I don’t know what to send.” You can use it to create an email plan to get going and get those emails out the door. Some of them only involve five lines of writing. There’s one of them at the beginning. That’s the easiest one. If you’re like, “I know what to read this week.” You grab that template, graphic plug play, done, send.
That couldn’t make it any easier for people. Who’s an ideal client for you?
I work mostly with coaches, solopreneurs and small business people like consultants. Mostly people who are one-man or woman bands. They don’t have enough money for a marketing department but they need some help, guidance and coaching. They’re willing to do some of the stuff themselves or at least learn about it. Those are ideal people for me. People who are good at what they do. In terms of talking about what they do or getting out to the world after they need a little help. That’s when they come to me.
Anything else you want to share with my readers?
Hayley is amazing. Checked her out with all the things that she offers to help, especially women entrepreneurs. From my end, I get a lot of questions about what’s the best marketing strategy. The best one is the one that you’re going to do consistently. I’m partial to email because you get people on your list. You can wrap them in your loving arms and take care of them. It’s about being consistent. If you’re going to do something, video, podcasting, whatever it is commit to it and to figuring out how to make it work. Don’t try it and say, “That didn’t work.” Maybe you weren’t quite doing it the way you should. You haven’t quite figured out the approach to it yet. Do what you’re going to do consistently. That is important in marketing.
That’s the best advice ever. Major words of wisdom here from Rob, “The best marketing strategy you can do is the one that you will do consistently.” I absolutely love that. This can’t get better from this point unless you have some other freezy value nugget to trap here. That was amazing. You were super helpful. I love you so much. I can’t wait to meet you in person. I feel like we’ve known each other for one million years.
Thank you for having me. It’s an honor to be here, help people out, get this message that people need to show up and do their marketing. Get it done, people.
Do it, people. Thank you, Rob. Have a great day and don’t go anywhere.
About Rob Fortier
Rob Fortier is a Content Marketing Coach. His goal is to help coaches, consultants and solopreneurs better understand how to develop and nurture the relationship with their email subscribers, as well as harness the power of their email lists by offering content that inspires, educates, and entertains. He teaches strategies to get writing done quickly, even for those that don't think they are good writers. -- "I went to school for theater, and after a few years of professional performing, decided that the actor lifestyle was not for me. NYC is a challenging place to live if you’re not working regularly!"
He worked briefly in advertising, and then returned to work on the business side of theater in a box office. He liked working in theater but missed creative work. He decided to start his own greeting card company (which landed him a spot on an HGTV special). With one of his sales reps, he wrote 2 books about the industry- Pushing the Envelope: The Small Greeting Card Manufacturer’s Guide to Working with Sales Reps and Showtime! The Greeting Card and Gift Company’s Guide to Trade Show Success. It led to people going to him for advice, speaking engagements, and eventually coaching clients. Rob saw so many talented people that were great at what they did as creatives, but were terrible at running a business. He finally decided to get a coaching certificate. Loved working with creatives, but didn’t want to limit my offerings to that audience.