The Small Win Email: A New Way To Think About Conversions




  • February 21, 2015

    I’ve been hearing a lot about conversion optimization lately. It’s mostly good stuff – writing clear copy, focusing on clean designs, creating a strong value proposition, etc.


    Those are all conversion best practices but the truth is that most businesses are powered by small wins. It’s all the things that happen between the top of the funnel and the bottom that ultimately result in conversions.


    The reason this is frustrating is because it’s hard to keep track of (and create) small wins. Imagine someone discovers your product or service through your content or social media. That often serendipitously – these people are nowhere near ready to buy from you. Once they are aware, however, small wins make them like you, trust you and, ultimately, need you.


    vero conversion optimization


    There are lots of ways to create small wins, with email chief among them. In this post, I’ll show you some email examples from companies who are blocking and tackling in hopes of one day scoring a touchdown.


    These emails could be considered onboarding emails, lifecycle emails, behavioral emails or promotional emails. It doesn’t matter what you call them – they are being sent to people somewhere between the “initial interest” stage and the actual conversion. They are designed to net small wins like:



    • Introduce people to features or products
    • Build trusting relationships with content
    • Start a real, genuine conversation
    • Build momentum towards a bigger goal

    Here are a few great examples of Small Win Emails from some really smart companies and people. Let’s get to it.


    Backlinko: The Conversation Starter Email

    There are a number of ways you can subscribe to Brian Dean’s Backlinko email list. You can signup right on the homepage or you can opt-in via one of the many content upgrades in his posts.


    Regardless of how you do it, you’ll immediately receive an email like the one below.



    Reply to this email right now and tell me one thing that you’re struggling with.


    Even if it’s teeny tiny…I want to hear about it.


    The conversion isn’t signing up for his paid SEO course or even clicking a link. It’s simply replying.


    This accomplishes two key goals. First, it cements Brian as a real human being in the eyes of the recipient. This is not some corporate blog – Brian actually wants to hear and learn from you. Second, it builds trust. People that respond are making themselves vulnerable by sharing their challenges, struggles and failures. And when Brian responds, he becomes a friend, not just a blogger.


    Brian Dean Backlinko


    Dropbox: The “Just Because We Like You” Email

    How many of your users are one small win away from becoming a great customer?


    Well, no one really knows which is why it’s so important to keep people informed about updates to your product. Say, for example, you’re a Dropbox user that travels a lot. This feature – Microsoft Office integration – is huge. It could easily be the difference in using Dropbox instead of a competitor like Google Docs.


    This email works because it’s so matter-of-fact. There’s no flashy headline or overstated subject line. The information is important enough that it’s not necessary. The copy is straightforward and leads the reader to a practical call to action.


    dropbox new feature email-1


    Shopify: The “Over the Hump” Email

    This is a perfect example of a Small Win Email.


    There’s an onboarding problem that a lot of SaaS businesses face: their free trial users feel overwhelmed, so they do nothing.


    Shopify is tackling this issue.


    This email looks and feels a lot like a newsletter but it’s actually a very smart retention email. I signed up for a free trial but let it lapse without setting up my store. Instead of encouraging me to create a store or add a product, they are starting very small. Just create a logo. See how it feels. Dip your toes back in the water.


    It could be just the thing users need to get back in the game.


    shopify email marketing-1


    Evernote: The “Did You Know?” Email

    We’ve talked a lot about “Did you know” emails on the blog before but this one from Evernote really nails it.


    It’s as practical as it could possibly be. Notice that it doesn’t ask users to upgrade to a paid account and it avoids the flashy subject lines that have jaded most email users. It’s simple, clear, personalized and actionable … the perfect Small Win Email.


    evernote email marketing small win-1


    Automotive Specialists: The Replenishment Email

    This email isn’t pretty, but it sure is smart.


    We talk a lot about startups, e-commerce, and SaaS business, but here’s a great example of Small Win Email from a locally owned, family business. It’s behavioral in nature – the same type of email I might expect from a SaaS service if I’ve been inactive or a while or from an e-commerce store if I purchased something that needs to be replenished.


    It works because it makes my life easier. Of course I know I should change the oil regularly, but I always forget to look at the windshield sticker. Even if I do, I have to set a reminder on my phone and call when I have time. This is so much easier. It’s personalized with my name, my car, the mileage and it lets me book an appointment right away.


    It’s exactly this kind of email that is often overlooked by tech companies. Keep it simple – your customers will appreciate it.


    automotive specialists-1


    Do you send Small Win Emails? If you’d like to share an idea or ask a question, just drop a note in the comments.

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