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an in-depth article about email membership

The Essential Guide To Email Marketing For Membership Sites

If you run a membership site, you probably require new members to use their email address when they register. However, email is much more than a sign-in method. If you use it properly, email marketing will help you grow your membership and increase your sales.

You don’t need thousands of members to do email marketing. Email marketing has been proven to help membership websites rapidly increase their member base. In this article, you will learn how to use email marketing to generate fresh leads for your membership site.

Why You Should Use Email Marketing

Despite the seeming ubiquity of social media, email is still one of the most widely-used and effective methods of generating leads and turning them into customers. Consider these numbers:

  • More than 80% of small and medium businesses use email to attract and retain clients
  • 86% of professionals prefer email as their business communication medium
  • Email is the primary lead generation method for 89% of marketers
  • Email marketing enjoys an average $44 return for every dollar spent

Email isn’t going anywhere. It would be a mistake not to take advantage of a medium that produces such a high return on investment.

However, it’s not enough to just start sending emails. You need to develop an email marketing campaign for your membership site that increases brand awareness, keeps prospects in your sales funnel, generates conversions, and grows site membership.

In this guide to email marketing for membership sites, we’ll look at how to do this. We’ll review the type of email sequences you should create, and the campaigns you should.

Email Drip Campaigns for Membership Sites

Email drip campaigns are a series of automated emails you send to subscribers. These campaigns are generally launched as a result of a subscriber’s action. For example, a new subscriber to your list receives a welcome series of emails. A person who hasn’t opened your emails for a month or more might get a different series of emails.

There are two types of email drip campaigns you’ll want to set up for a membership site. They are:

  • Drip campaigns for people who visit your site or are on your list
  • Email sequences to keep course members engaged with your course

Setting up your email drip campaigns will be a time-consuming process. However, once the campaigns are up and running, and the email sequences are optimized, you can completely forget them. In the next section, I’ll provide a brief overview of the type of email sequences you’ll need to set up for your membership site.

3 Essential Email Drip Campaigns You’ll Need for Your Site

I mentioned you could set up numerous email drip campaigns for your subscribers. For general email subscribers, create the following three email drip campaigns at a minimum:

  • Welcome email campaign
  • Re-engagement email campaign
  • Promotion email campaign

Most email drip campaigns are between 3-8 emails. The number of emails you send will depend on what you want to achieve.

Welcome Email Sequence

A welcome email sequence will often look something like this:

membership email plan

In the first email, you provide the content upgrade or similar, and then introduce the course or the company and set expectations. For example, “I will email you twice a month. One of these emails will be pure value (great free stuff).

Also, try to connect with the subscriber across different channels.

The emails following on from this are where you offer value to your subscriber. In these emails, you provide your best free content. What you’re trying to do is establish a reason for your subscribers to open your emails.

In the last welcome email to your subscribers, you should make an offer. Often, the product you are offering is not your main course, but a tripwire product. This is essentially a product that costs less than $50. The idea of a tripwire product is that for little risk, a subscriber can sample the kind of products you produce. The benefit of a tripwire campaign is that once a person makes a low-cost purchase, they are more likely to purchase higher value products or upsells.

For more information about welcome email series, I suggest you read this article by ActiveCampaign. It provides a comprehensive overview of how to create an email sequence.

Re-Engagement Email Sequence

Unfortunately, some people will stop opening your emails. It happens. It’s also a problem.

If a large percentage of your email list stops opening your emails, it negatively impacts your spam score. This means your email is more likely to appear in the spam folder. Re-engagement email sequences are used to address this problem.

Here is what a re-engagement sequence might look like:

email marketing for membership engagement

You can see it’s a simple sequence. You first assign a tag to people who haven’t opened your emails for a specific period. This could be something like a month, or perhaps two months – it depends on how often you send emails.

Next, use an email verification service to clean your list.

Finally, send a sequence of emails to these subscribers. You’ll generally be sending a value offer. So, you might offer a free eBook, PDF, etc. The idea is to provide as much value as possible to try and re-engage these subscribers.

Inactive subscribers should be removed from your list. You can delete their details. People who open your emails can be added back onto your main email list. These are potential customers.

Product Launch Formula

The final email drip campaign you should set up for your list is for a promotion. There are a lot of email promotion sequences you can use. My favorite is the Product Launch Formula, which was created by Jeff Walker.

The Product Launch Formula involves sending a series of emails to your subscribers where you promote your offer, in this case, a course. The first three emails in the sequence are educational.

Here is how it works:

  1. Establish credibility: Show why they should listen to you, discuss the problem they have and touch on the solution (your course)
  2. Discuss the impact: Explain how you found the solution, the trouble you went through to learn these lessons, and the impact that this had on your life
  3. Your framework: Provide an overview of the framework for success.
  4. Sell the Solution: Now you make your sales pitch

Each email in the series has a link to a landing page. On the landing page is a video where you discuss each of those points listed above. You can create this whole sequence easily with WordPress & MemberMouse.

email launch for memberships

The Product Launch Formula helps to establish a desire for your solution before you sell. By generating desire, you maximize conversions. It’s an effective email marketing campaign, and I strongly suggest you use this campaign, or a variation of it, to sell your course to email subscribers.

Course Specific Email Drip Campaigns

The general email campaigns you set up will help you gain subscribers, keep them engaged, and sell your course. You will need to create a second series of email drip campaigns for people who have signed up for your course to keep them engaged.

I recommend you set up the following email sequences for people on your course:

  • Getting started email sequence
  • Assignment email sequences
  • Re-engagement email sequence

The getting started sequences you create will mirror the drip campaign you create for your email list. You’ll introduce the course, provide useful resources for the course, and potentially links for people to engage with other course members.

The email drip campaigns for the course should help maximize your course completion and membership retention rates. You need to monitor this closely when creating your assignment and re-engagement email sequences.

Monitor things like when people start dropping out of the course. Evaluate what the reason for this could be. Maybe improving the lessons will help maintain engagement levels. Alternatively, some face time with students, and supporting email drip campaigns can help maintain high engagements.

Email Engagement Campaigns

The final type of emails you’ll need for your course are what I call “email engagement campaigns.” These are the regular emails that you send to subscribers. Unlike drip email campaigns or promotion email campaigns, the aim isn’t to generate sales. Instead, they’re designed to engage the member and prevent subscriber fatigue.

Most engagement emails are informative, educational, and engaging. They aim to impart knowledge to the reader and make them feel like they’re part of a family by providing value, even if they haven’t made a purchase yet. Here are three ways to do email engagement campaigns:

Send an email with useful tips

When you run an email engagement campaign, one of your targets should be to educate your readers. Your emails may include tips that your readers can use even before they close your message. You may also throw in links to more detailed content that’s related to the information you send through email.

OptiMonk is a lead generation and exit popup builder for ecommerce website, so it’s expected that their engagement emails seek to educate their subscribers about lead generation:

email membership example

The email above, for example, gives useful lead generation tips and even includes a link to an article about gamification. If you read all the way to the end, you’ll notice that it’s signed “Nicole, CEO, OptiMonk”, making you feel important.

Promote your site content

Another thing you can do with engagement emails is to direct traffic to your website. For example, you can tease your readers about some information you’ve recently uncovered, then attach a link to your own site, where they could find out more.

In the example below, The HOTH is an SEO agency operating out of Florida. They offer a lot of useful tools, like an online logo maker and keyword tool. Naturally, their engagement email campaigns promote content about their key competencies. In this case, it’s SEO for multiple-location businesses.

example of email membership

You’ll notice that there are two CTA buttons in the same email. Both of them lead to the same link. That’s how badly The HOTH wants you to read their content — you need to learn more about their area of expertise so you’ll realize that you might need their services soon. Neat, isn’t it?

Provide free giveaways

You may have also produced an in-depth case study or white paper about a topic within your niche. Engagement email marketing is an excellent way of promoting your study while gaining subscribers for your site.

For instance, the foreign exchange operator OFX produces its Currency Outlook newsletter regularly. The latest edition features in-depth looks at crisis interventions and the effect of the upcoming elections on the U.S. dollar, and the engagement email promoting the Currency Outlook lists what readers can expect to find:

email membership idea

Because this type of content is produced through months of intense research and analysis and is useful for making high-level business business decisions, you can normally expect to shell out a substantial amount for it. However, OFX offers it free of charge to its email subscribers to establish their reputation as a reputable currency exchange operator that also cares about its clients.

Using Email Marketing Methods to Promote and Maintain Engagement in Membership Sites

Email marketing is one of the most commonly used and effective promotional methods for both B2B and B2C businesses. It offers the highest ROI and amongst the best conversion rates for any marking channel. Therefore, you cannot afford to ignore email marketing when promoting your membership or online learning website.

It’s essential that you learn how to create effective email drip campaigns for new prospects, promotional campaigns to nudge people into signing up, and engagement campaigns to keep your members and participants interested. Seek to add value at every stage and to focus on solving customer problems instead of hard-selling.

You might not get your email marketing campaign right the first time. There’s an art to this type of marketing, and it takes practice. The best marketers are always learning, tweaking, and improving. Monitor important metrics such as your open rate, click-through rate, conversions, and membership retention. These figures will give you an insight into how you’re doing and what you could be doing better.

Here’s to more signups to your membership site, more engaged participants, and greater success!


Owen Baker

Owen Baker is a content marketer for Voila Norbert, an online email verification tool. He has spent most of the last decade working online for a range of marketing companies. When he’s not busy writing, you can find him in the kitchen mastering new dishes.

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