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.
What is email automation?
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.
How email automation helps sell digital products
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.
Maximize the time you have for marketing
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.
Consistently show up for your audience
“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.
Improve customer retention
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.
Deepen customer relationships
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.
The 4 email automation types your need to sell digital products
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.
Lead magnet sequence
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.
Successful email automation examples
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.
Launch email sequence | Hello Seven We Should All Be Millionaires Club membership launch
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.
First email, 2 weeks before membership enrollment ends
The first email kicks off the launch sequence with some important elements for driving sales:
- Screenshots of Facebook comment testimonials to add major social proof and credibility to claims
- Direct, first call to action ”Choose your membership level,” to make it clear what readers should do next
- Softer second call to action, “Join me in our free FB group,” occurs in the P.S. to catch readers who skimmed or who aren’t yet sold on paying for the membership
Second email, 1 week before membership enrollment ends
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:
- Future-pacing with specifics to help readers envision a better version of their life
- Highlights of other stand-out features of the membership, like the community
- Values of the brand shared directly, such as fighting against racism and white supremacy, to resonate with the target audience
- Softer, second call to action in the P.S. (watch an “Ask Me Anything” video with the founder) to nurture readers who aren’t yet sold on the membership
Third email, 2 days before membership enrollment ends
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:
- Biggest pain point mentioned (“uncertain times” for entrepreneurs) to resonate with target audience
- Built-in urgency (“Doors close in 48 hours”) to encourage readers to act now
- One clear and direct call to action (“Click here to checkout the details”) of the membership to tell readers what to do next
Fourth email, less than 48 hours before membership enrollment ends
This email doesn’t feel like a “sales email,” but it actually is highly effective at selling!
- Reveals what current members are already learning (how to earn $10k in 10 days) to spark desire, urgency, and a fear of missing out
- One clear and powerful call to action to “click here to learn more” and register for the membership
Fifth email, 32 hours before membership enrollment ends
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.
- Provides a list of FAQs and answers right in the body of the email to alleviate hesitations
- Announces a FB live to get more questions answered for people who still have concerns
- Includes a clear call to action to sign up for the membership
Sixth email, 10 hours before membership enrollment ends
The sixth email does a couple of key things to capture last-minute decision makers:
- Highlights number of people already signed up (over 600) to boost social proof and encourage others to join
- Explains that you can get started immediately after joining to take advantage of the desire for instant gratification
- Includes a clear call to action to sign up for the membership
Seventh (final) email, 8 hours before membership enrollment ends
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:
- Casual and funny tone gets the reminder across without feeling pushy
- Reminder of time limit to join increases urgency
- Clear call to action to sign up makes it easy to take action
We Should All Be Millionaires launch sequence takeaways
Borrow these tactics for your digital product launch:
- Increase frequency of emails as you get closer to your launch date
- Provide plenty of opportunities for people who aren’t ready to buy to learn more (even better if those opportunities involve face-to-face time with you)
- Include lots of social proof throughout your automation
- Sprinkle in the idea of urgency throughout your automation
- Focus on the benefits of buying your digital product, not on all the features
- Link to a detailed, fine-tuned sales page instead of cluttering your emails with all the details
Welcome email sequence | Pretty Fly Copy
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.
First email, sent immediately
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…
- Establishes the playful brand voice
- Makes a standard email feel fun to read
Second email, one day later
This email is a near-perfect welcome email. Here’s why:
- Click-bait subject line (a grammar mistake from a professional writer) ensures people open it
- Rundown of what to expect with this subscription sets expectations (two weeks of heavier voice content, then regular cadence) to reduce churn
- Invitation to engage (reply back) to get subscribers invested right away
- Introduction to his paid services and digital products to plant the seed of buying without feeling like a hard sell
Third email, 2 days later
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:
- Soft introduction of paid digital product without sounding salesy
- Personal story to help subscribers feel more invested in the brand
- Links to sales page to learn more, but no direct calls to action so the reader doesn’t feel “sold” to
Fourth email, 4 days later
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:
- Breakdown of what the course teaches proves expertise and unique content
- Addressal of common objections for buying (“But Justin, my clients care more about effectiveness than voice!”) overcomes hesitations
- A link to a video to see how the methods of the course work is a soft call to action that nurtures people who aren’t ready to buy yet
Final welcome email
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:
- Click-bait subject line entices opens, even if people are fatigued this far into the sequence
- Short and personalized content feels custom and intimate
- Call to action is to engage (not buy), because if someone hasn’t bought at this point, they likely have objections that an email alone can’t overcome (but a sales call might)
Pretty Fly Copy welcome email sequence takeaways
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:
- Immediately establish expectations in the first or second email
- Make every email entertaining and fun to read (especially if they are long)
- Keep content centered around a single product (instead of trying to introduce all your products)
- Only include soft calls to action (no hard sales emails in a welcome sequence)
- Use your final email to encourage people to book a 1:1 call or ask a question in a reply (not sell)
Lead Magnet sequence | Eleni Chechopoulos (Gut Rehab Blueprint)
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:
First email, sent immediately
This simple email is a good structure for the first email in a lead magnet sequence because…
- It’s short and to the point. People don’t want to read a long email before they can access the guide they downloaded.
- There’s a soft call to action to become a more engaged community member by joining a free Facebook group.
Second email, 4 days later
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…
- It’s clear what the course is and who it’s for
- There’s a call to action which links to a detailed sales page
The Gut Rehab Blueprint lead magnet sequence takeaways
Even though this sequence is short, there’s a lot to learn from it:
- The short length of sequence is ideal, because its goal is to promote a low-cost digital product (in this case, $67).
- The short length of sequence is ideal because subscribers are highly targeted. If someone downloads this freebie, they are very likely to be interested in the course and don’t need a lot of education or nurturing.
- The sales email is written with the persuasive copywriting framework, P-A-S (pain, agitate, solution).
- The sales email links to a more details sales page, so it’s not cluttered with too much information.
Onboarding sequence | Confident Copywriting membership
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:
- Sets expectations of what to expect
- Helps new members orient themselves with what’s available to them inside the membership
- Includes a simple (easy) call to action to avoid overwhelm (“Simply click which of these best matches where you’re at right now”)
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:
- Helps readers sort this email in their inbox with a labeled subject line (important if they might also be subscribed to another list from this sender)
- Acknowledges the feelings of the reader (“excitement and overwhelm”) to establish trust
- Makes it easy to engage right away with a game
- Introduces a big part of the membership: live events
- Adds a P.S. to reiterate the big thing members should do (“Explore the Confident Copywriting dashboard”)
The third email reads a bit differently than the others, but it serves an important purpose. Here’s what this email does right:
- Introduces the creator of the membership in a memorable, human way to help new members feel more connected to her
- Asks for an easy engagement (“Tell me your answer here” to why they joined the membership)
- Reminds readers of the game from the last email, where they can play if they haven’t already
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:
- Introduces the different ways members can get involved with the community
- Shares images from the community to make it feel more “real” and enticing to start participating
- Includes a direct call to action to add the call dates to your calendar (so members don’t miss them)
The fifth email introduces members to another key feature of the membership: Personalized pathways for success. Here’s why this email works:
- Starts with a personal story to draw the reader in
- Uses clear subheads to highlight important information
- Breaks the call to action into steps to make it seem easier
- Reiterates the main call to action (step one) to take the quiz at the end of the email
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:
- Acknowledges emotions right away
- Uses subheadings to highlight important information and organize content
- Ends with a clear call to action to take the mini-course
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:
- Acknowledges the ending of the sequence and all that has been shared already
- Introduces one final feature of the membership (mindset) in a way that feels weighty and important
- Includes more screenshots of mindset wins from the membership community
- Ends with a call to action to watch the mindset resource
- Closes with a gentle encouragement to keep participating
Confident Copywriting onboarding sequence takeaways
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:
- Create a long sequence so that emails can share one feature at a time, instead of making a shorter sequence with overloaded emails
- Spread emails out over a few months to encourage new members to participate consistently at the beginning
- Group emails by topic or feature to help readers stay on track with what’s going on
- Include clearly marked subject lines so that readers can easily identify onboarding emails in their inbox
- Use subheadings in the body of your email to break up complex information
- Consistently acknowledge the emotions and perspectives of your readers to prevent overwhelm or alienation
- Make emails feel engaging and personal
How to create email automations in ConvertKit
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:
- Sign up for a free ConvertKit account
- Go to the Automations page in your account
- Select a starting place (or “trigger”) that will kick off your email automation, such as someone joining your email list via an opt-in form or someone buying a product from you
- Click the + button and select “Email sequence”
- Start typing to create a new sequence, such as a “Welcome Sequence”
- In the new window that opens, write the emails for your sequence
- That’s it!
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.
Start building your digital product empire with email automations
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.