24 min read
Somewhere along every creative entrepreneur’s journey, there comes a point when trading your time for money no longer feels sustainable.
It’s at this point that most creators go looking for another business model. And they find digital products.
Digital products like courses, memberships, and digital downloads allow creators to get paid for their skills and expertise without requiring nearly as much time as a 1:1 service, custom product, or content creation.
However, to scale your digital products business, you have to scale your marketing. And for many creators, this can feel like just as big a drain on their time as their previous business model.
Fortunately, there is a way to market your digital products successfully with minimal time spent.
It’s called email automation. Email automation allows you to send targeted marketing messages to your audience without being available or working 24/7.
In this article, I’m sharing email automation examples that established digital product sellers have used to sell out their offers, and how you can adapt them for your business.
Email automation is one or more emails sent automatically based on a trigger from a subscriber, spaced out with specific time intervals. Sometimes, email automation is referred to as a “drip campaign” or “drip sequence.”
For example, if you’ve ever bought something online and then a week later received an email asking you to review the product, you have experienced email automation. No one at the company is manually sending out these review request emails. Instead, the emails are pre-written and triggered to send to a customer exactly one week after they buy a product.
Email automation helps digital product sellers be strategic with their marketing. You can plan out your email campaigns weeks or months in advance, write them all in an afternoon, schedule them, and then put it completely out of your mind.
Let’s take a closer look at how email automation helps digital product creators sell more.
Email automation allows you to batch-create sequences that send out based on “triggers,” such as a customer purchasing your course or downloading a free lead magnet.
Batch-creating helps you get into a flow state to create your emails faster. And afterward, you don’t have to think about your email marketing at all because they’ll send automatically. This frees up your time to spend on other things, like creating new products or engaging on social media.
“Out of sight, out of mind” is true for marketing. To make consistent sales, you must show up consistently in front of your audience. In fact, 49% of customers reported wanting to receive weekly emails from brands.
Email automation allows you to send out emails consistently, even when you get busy, because all your marketing is scheduled in advance. And when people can rely on your emails every week (or on another schedule), they know they can trust you.
Email automation isn’t all about acquiring new customers. It also goes a long way toward keeping your existing customers happy—which is important for monthly recurring revenue.
One of the simplest ways email automation improves retention is through an onboarding sequence that shows customers how to get the most out of your product. When customers take advantage of the full benefits of your product, they are more likely to be satisfied, to shop again, or to recommend your product to someone else.
Email automation feels like a personal conversation between you and your customers, even though it’s heavily automated. This is because email marketing takes place between one inbox and another inbox, just like a letter. (Social media, on the other hand, inherently feels like a one to many relationship.)
Additionally, people can also reply directly to automated emails and get a personal response. In short, email deepens customer relationships and humanizes your brand, which helps people become more invested in you.
If you sell a digital product, start with these four types of email automation first.
A welcome sequence consists of a series of emails people receive after they subscribe to your email list. Welcome sequences are designed to set expectations, create a welcoming atmosphere, and set up the subscriber to be an active reader.
Ultimately, welcome sequences help reduce subscriber churn and prime your list to buy when you launch a digital product.
A lead magnet sequence includes the automated emails sent after someone downloads your lead magnet. The purpose of a lead magnet sequence is to give subscribers access to your lead magnet, introduce subscribers to your brand, and eventually convert them into a paying customer.
A launch sequence is a series of automated emails that promote an upcoming digital product launch to drive pre-sales and sales.
The primary goal of a launch sequence is to sell your new digital product.
As mentioned before, an onboarding sequence is a series of emails sent to people who have recently bought your digital product. It is designed to make sure customers use your product fully and reduce customer churn.
All this email automation talk can feel esoteric if you’re new to the world of email marketing. To ground us in reality, I’m sharing some real-life examples of email automation that industry leaders have used to sell their digital products.
Hello Seven’s We Should All Be Millionaires Club is a business coaching membership program. Launched in 2020, the program has since been featured in national media outlets like Women’s Health and CNBC.
Between June 11 and June 25, Rachel Rodgers (the creator of Hello Seven) sent a series of seven emails to everyone on their email list.
Here’s the breakdown.
The first email kicks off the launch sequence with some important elements for driving sales:
The second email of this launch sequence uses a personal example from the founder to highlight the benefits of the membership in a more tangible way. But that’s not all. This email is a heavy-hitter for persuasion because of the following elements:
The third email in the launch sequence does a nice job of providing free content but still selling the membership, so subscribers don’t feel like they are being “sold to” constantly.
Here are the other elements to watch:
This email doesn’t feel like a “sales email,” but it actually is highly effective at selling!
The fifth email is strategic, because the brand knows that if someone has not signed up after reading the other emails, it’s probably because they have some bigger questions or concerns about the membership.
The sixth email does a couple of key things to capture last-minute decision makers:
With eight hours left, this email manages to feel urgent but not desperate. Part of that is because of the other elements that make this email great:
Borrow these tactics for your digital product launch:
Justin Blackman’s copywriting company, Pretty Fly Copy, sends out an effective welcome email sequence to new subscribers. The trigger? Any time someone joins his list from any opt-in, whether it’s from a lead magnet or a sign-up form.
Let’s take a closer look.
This email is straightforward; the goal is to ensure that everyone who subscribed is a real person (not a bot) and to make sure they did so on purpose. But it also…
This email is a near-perfect welcome email. Here’s why:
The third email in the welcome sequence is where subscribers are first introduced to the Pretty Fly Copy flagship digital product: a course called the Codex Persona. But still, the tone never verges into “salesperson” territory. Instead, the introduction is made through a long personal story.
Here’s why this email works:
The fourth email in the sequence is meant to drum up interest for the Codex Persona course. It’s the first time that an email feels like a sales pitch, but by now, subscribers are nurtured enough to be ready for it.
Here’s why it works:
This welcome sequence continues on after the fourth email for about another week, sharing more information about the Codex Persona course and some soft calls to action.
But the final email really stands out. Here’s why this final welcome sequence email is ideal:
This email sequence does everything a welcome email sequence is supposed to, but it also does a lot more heavy lifting to prime readers to become buyers. Here’s what to replicate in your welcome email sequence:
Eleni Chechopoulos is a nutritionist who has several digital products, such as courses, for sale. She uses a lead magnet to build her list and prime subscribers to buying her latest digital product, a course called “The Parting with Birth Control Protocol.”
Her lead magnet is a free digital download called, “Birth Control Mistakes.”
Here’s how her sequence goes:
This simple email is a good structure for the first email in a lead magnet sequence because…
The second (and final) email in this short sequence is a straightforward sales email, announcing the waitlist for her latest digital product, a mini-course called “The Parting with Birth Control Protocol.”
This email is effective because…
Even though this sequence is short, there’s a lot to learn from it:
Confident Copywriting is a membership for copywriters run by Belinda Weaver. This onboarding sequence allowed her to recover from a retention rate drop due to COVID-19:
Retention was going down over the year of COVID. I also became aware of the challenges of new members. Namely, they were super excited to join the group, but when they hit the dashboard they didn't have a clear idea of what to do OR what was even there (so what to search for).
The onboarding email sequence connects them to resources in the archive, organised by pain point. Together with the BINGO game, they get to explore the nooks and crannies of the membership and there are multiple prompts to engage with the community—as the more people connect with the content and the people, the more likely they will stay.
Belinda Weaver, creator of the Confident Copywriting membership
There are 14 emails total, sent over 46 days. Here’s the breakdown:
The first email is a great example of an onboarding email that manages to include a lot without overwhelming the reader. It does a couple of key things:
Right away, this email is bound to be opened by most members, because it includes a clear subject line: [CC IMPORTANT]. Here’s why this email works:
The third email reads a bit differently than the others, but it serves an important purpose. Here’s what this email does right:
The fourth email is meant to highlight one of the key features of the membership, the community, and make sure new members know how to take advantage of it. Here’s how it works:
The fifth email introduces members to another key feature of the membership: Personalized pathways for success. Here’s why this email works:
By the sixth email, we’re starting to see a pattern: Each email introduces new members to a key feature of the membership, walking them through it like a roadmap.
This email introduces the “Instant Traction Mini-Course” that members get with their membership. And again, we see that this email uses some effective tactics to keep members engaged:
Emails 7-13 follow a similar format at the above—introducing members to a different feature or resource and giving them the “why” and “how” to take advantage of it.
We’re skipping to the end of this onboarding sequence to take a look at at strong closing email:
Here’s why this is a great example for closing out your onboarding sequence:
This onboarding sequence is inspiration for how to take a complex digital product (like a membership with a community, resources, monthly calls, and more) and make it feel easy to start participating in it.
Here are the big things to replicate in your own onboarding sequence:
Creating an email automation in ConvertKit is simple, because the process was designed with creators—not email marketers—in mind. Case in point? ConvertKit email automations can be built visually instead of just in a list.
Here are the steps to get started:
You might find it helpful to watch this video walking you through the process. Or, if you’re ready for a more advanced lesson, check out our in-depth guide, Building Your Email Marketing Funnel: Advanced Automations for Online Creators.
I couldn’t find a single successful digital product seller who doesn’t use email automations to sell their digital products, keep customers engaged, and increase their audience.
There’s a reason for this: Email automations are the best marketing tools to launch and scale a digital product business.
Email automations allow you to show up consistently for your audience and send out targeted sales messages without requiring that you actually be working on your marketing 24/7.
And you can start using them today to build your digital product empire.
Get started with a free ConvertKit account.