Set It Up Once. Get Ecommerce Growth For Years.

Matthew Stafford Jun 01, 2016

Reading Time: 6 minutes

You know what sucks? Wasting tons of time, energy, and money on marketing that doesn’t work.

You know what rocks? Marketing that works for you, even when you’re not working. Marketing that pulls in clients while you’re at the beach, while you’re asleep, while you’re busy taking wheelbarrows of cash to the bank…

…if you’re still into that sort of thing.

Front-end email marketing can be almost entirely automated, and can grow your ecommerce customer base exponentially. All it takes is some awesome copy, a bit of tweaking at the outset, and the occasional check-in to make sure your campaign is performing the way you want.

Minimal time investment, maximum returns. Does it get any better?

What the Heck is Front End Email Marketing and Why Should I Care?

“Front end marketing” is marketing devoted to converting new customers. It means marketing that builds awareness and interest, takes targeted visitors and turns them into prospects, then nurtures their relationship with your brand to build trust and engagement. Successful front end marketing ultimately takes a solid chunk of your prospects and convinces them to make a first purchase from your ecommerce offerings.

A front end email marketing campaign is a series of emails that accomplishes the goal of any other front end marketing strategy. They’re meant to reach out to people who have shown an interest in your brand—or even people who may never have heard of your brand before—and build their interest to the point that they’re convinced to buy.

So that’s what front end email marketing is, in a nutshell. As to why you should care…

Does a 17% engagement rate and a 3800% ROI pique your interest?

Email marketing is consistently ranked by small businesses and major marketing firms as these most effective and highest-ROI form of marketing there is. While it’s true that I’m a big fan of building out your back end for truly explosive ecommerce profits, a front end email marketing strategy is the most powerful, affordable, and automated way to drive a steady stream of new customers to your site and make those back end profits possible.

OK, you can’t really set and forget your front end email marketing, but you can’t really forget your rotisserie chicken, either. They’d both get cold, unappetizing, and untrustworthy. But you can set up one awesome front end email marketing campaign and keep it going without much effort, giving you the freedom you need to focus on creating—and getting—more value for and from your customers.

Building (or Buying) a Front End Email List

The trick to getting started with a front end email campaign is getting a list of targets to turn into prospects. There are a few reliable strategies to accomplish this, and plenty of tactics for implementing each strategy—you can check out some of my fool-proof, step-by-step plans like our list building course. The goal is always the same: getting valid, working email addresses for people who truly might be interested in what you have to say…and sell.

*Note: some marketers define “front end email” as marketing emails that ONLY target people who haven’t heard of your brand before—once they’ve opted in to your email list, all other subsequent emails  would be considered back end. Here, I’m using the term “front end” to refer to anything that happens before a purchase, not just an opt-in.

Getting direct opt-ins for your email list is the best way to be sure the email addresses you’re collecting connect you to qualified, interested prospects. When your potential customer hands over their email address, they’re making a conscious decision that signals trust and starts a relationship. Grab their interest with an awesome PPC ad, promoted blog post, or organic blogging and SEO methods, drive them to a landing page with a strong opt-in CTA, and get yourself a list of prospects for your campaign.

You can make your list even more qualified and usually see a higher response rate to your front end email campaign if you use a double opt-in method, sending a confirmation email that requires another click-through to ensure a valid email address and real interest on the part of the user. A double opt-in typically results in a drop of 20-30% of initial subscribers, but also tends to significantly improve open rates and click rates while cutting hard bounces in half.

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Other ways to build a front end email subscriber list include reaching out to other businesses in your niche for a co-marketing opportunity, and outright buying an email list from one of the many services you can find online. Be careful with these approaches, though, especially the second: emailing people who haven’t raised their hands and said they want to hear from you can backfire, and will all but certainly give you a lower open, click, and success rate than emails sent to an opt-in list.

If you decide to purchase a list, make sure you research the provider extensively first. There are a lot of unscrupulous operators who will sell you lists of scraped or totally bogus emails that won’t ever get you in front of a reliable target—good lists tend to be expensive and carefully guarded, and a successful opt-in funnel can be more effective and affordable in the long run.

Setting Up Your Front End Email Sequence

Getting a targeted email list is the hard part. Once you have a few email addresses to start with—and as each new address comes in—all you have to do is drop it into your automated email marketing machine and let your sequence and your autoresponders do the rest.

Because you already have those set up and ready to go, right?

Well, just in case…

The key to effective and efficient front end email campaigns is sending a steady trickle of information. The right messaging at just the right intervals will lead your prospects to purchases like lambs to the lovely fields of clover you’ve prepared for them.

First, your primary front end email sequence. You can set this up using any number of email providers (most of them only want you using opt-in email lists—another good reason to go that route), and it needs to consist of about 5-7 emails with a specific, planned, carefully constructed strategy that is meant to build interest and trust that ultimately leads to a purchase.

Start by thanking them for joining up, and getting them excited about the value they’ll get from your emails—insights, discounts, exclusive offers, etc. Don’t lay it all out in one email, just give them a tease and an invitation to check out more on your site. Subsequent emails should be scheduled to send about once a week (more than 50% of businesses send between 2-5 emails per month), and each needs to build on that value and offer more information about your brand, your product, and what you can do for your customers.

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You can get super fancy with your email campaigns, differentiating which automated email gets sent out based on behavior: someone clicked through to your site after the very first email? Maybe they head down an email chain that pushes a purchase sooner. No clicks after three emails? Maybe they get a tripwire offer that isn’t publically available. Dream up each likely visitor scenario, write an email that speaks to that specific state of mind, and set it up to auto-send at the right time.

Writing effective front end emails is tricky business, and starts with the subject line—that’s going to control your open rate, and determines whether the rest of the email is going to have any effect on your prospects and your business at all. The actual email copy needs to be concise, offering a brief insight and a hint of value and always inviting readers to click through to learn more.

Don’t start pushing sales too early—the option will be there when they land on your site, but your first emails are about building a relationship of trust. Do that, and the subsequent sales will happen practically on their own.

You should also take advantage of the power of autoresponders in your front end email marketing. Research into B2C interactions on social media shows that two-thirds of consumers expect responses to questions the same day, and a full 25% want answers within the hour! If someone emails you with a question about your product, providing a prompt, concise, and on-target answer can quickly nurture that lead into a strong prospect.

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Setting up comprehensive autoresponders that are sophisticated enough to respond to specific inquiries can be tough, though it is possible, but an autoresponder that thanks them for the contact and directs them to an FAQ page or other source that’s heavy on information and low on sales talk can be just as effective.

And of course, now you have that prospect’s email address…we think you know what to do with it 😉

Front End Emailing Your Way to Ecommerce Success

Remember, building out your front end is just the beginning of a successful ecommerce business. Your back end is even more important, and I’ve got a post coming up all about back end emailing that will exponentially increase your profits. Front end emailing is essential for driving new leads to your business in a way that’s affordable and efficient, though, and is one of the best ways to grow your customer base so you are actually able to grow your revenue.

Now get out there and get emailing! If you get stuck, you know where you can find the best ecommerce help around.


About the author

Matthew Stafford

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