What Gourmet Bakeries Can Teach Us About Email Marketing

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One of the most persistent challenges I’ve faced while helping our customers achieve greater success has been learning how to talk about email marketing without stumbling over my words, squinting a lot, and gesticulating too much.

Recently, I attempted to distill the value of email marketing into some simple concepts. To do so, I had to go back over a century to the beginning of the advertising boom to figure out where systematized marketing communications came from in the first place.

Here’s what I came up with:

Back in the 1890’s, a clever advertising thought-leader named Elias St. Elmo Lewis proposed a concept that would go on to revolutionize the marketing of products and services forever. It was called AIDA, which in an acronym for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.

Elias proposed that the most effective way to sell things was to first capture the attention of your audience, then maintain their interest over time. His argument was simple: once you have the attention and interest of a group of potential customers, all you have to do is explain how your product will fulfill their desires, then ask them to take action and purchase the thing you created for them.

The AIDA concept went on to be the foundation for one of the most widely used marketing tools in history – the “purchase funnel”.

Bloggers who make a living from their work sell products in a repeatable, predictable way. One way to make sales repeatable and predictable is to craft a purchase funnel with four distinct parts:

  1. a way to capture the attention of potential customers
  2. a way to maintain the interest of those potential customers over time
  3. a way to offer your product to those potential customers
  4. a way for customers to take you up on your offer and make a purchase

The concept of a purchase funnel may seem a little abstract, so let’s talk about a very straightforward purchase funnel that exists offline: a gourmet bakery.

Gourmet bakeries usually rely on foot traffic to be profitable, so they’ve crafted an ingenious purchase funnel to make sure people walk in so sales are consistent and predictable:

  1. they put big glass windows in the front of the shop and show off their best creations to entice people to walk in
  2. once people are in, they’re greeted with delectable aromas and free samples to maintain their interest while they walk around
  3. there’s somebody behind the counter offering to box up a few of the danishes that made you smile, or that half-cake made of chocolate ganache that made your eyes as wide as saucers
  4. there’s a credit card kiosk and a cash drawer where you can trade your money for profiteroles

It’s a super effective, ubiquitous purchase funnel.

Purchase funnels exist in almost all industries and business models.

In older models (like traditional book publishing, for example), large companies usually control every aspect of a creator’s purchase funnel. They hire a PR firm to capture the attention of potential customers, buy ads to maintain interest over time, and get distribution deals with resellers who put your product on shelves and provide payment infrastructure.

There are a couple of problems with that model; many communication failure points exist, and there are a lot of gatekeepers and middlemen involved who need to get paid. In other words, you don’t have a direct relationship with your audience, and other people keep most of the money you make.

Gumroad is amazing because it empowers you to have full control over how you sell and distribute your work. Gumroad is incredibly good at providing a way for your customers to take you up on your offers and purchase the things you’ve created for them.

Now that we have a way for customers to make a purchase, how do we capture their attention and maintain their attention over time?

To answer this question, we can learn everything we need to know from professional bloggers.

Almost without fail, if you point to a blogger who makes a living from their blog – whether they publish web comics or paleo diet recipes – they have an email list full of people they keep in touch with regularly.

The benefit of building an email list is that it can fulfill three of the four parts of the purchase funnel: it’s an affordable way to capture and maintain the interest of potential customers over time. Even better, email empowers you to have full control over when and how you communicate with your customers, which allows you to be authentic when asking for the sale.

Imagine if you could combine the power of email with a distribution and sales tool like Gumroad – you could craft your own purchase funnels with ease, and you wouldn’t have to rely on anybody but yourself to get your work out there and make a living from it.

We’re building ConvertKit to be the email tool that helps you craft and automate your most effective purchase funnels so you can spend less time fussing with marketing software and more time doing what you love.

If you’re a blogger who makes a living from your work, you might just love ConvertKit. We’d love to schedule a demo with you!

Simply email support@convertkit.com and we’ll get something on the books ASAP.

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