Cocktail Party Approach to Email Nurture Sequences

Writing a successful email nurture sequence is a lot like having a successful conversation with that really interesting person everyone wants to talk to at the cocktail party.

While it can be intimidating at first, you can actually break it down into a few simple steps:

You read the room.

You know the person you want to talk to.

Then you do your best to keep them interested — and how you do this is going to be unique in every situation.

Writing an email nurture sequence is the same process. It comes down to having an understanding of your audience, putting your best foot forward, and making the campaign truly catered to your reader.

Just like there’s not a one-size-fits-all formula for cocktail party conversation, there is not going to be a formula for writing the perfect email sequence. Much of your success is determined by how well you know who you’re talking to.

A successful email nurture sequence for your company is going to be as unique as your audience. It’s all about who you’re writing the email to, what’s important to them, and what emotional state you want them to be in.

I wish I could give a 1, 2, 3 – Ding! Here’s an email sequence! But unfortunately, that’s just not how it works.

There’s a science and an art to developing the perfect email nurture campaign. The science is in creating the structure and experience of it. The art is in the writing and connecting through your words.

A Nurture Email Sequence Is a Relationship-Building Activity

Imagine now that you’re at a cocktail party.

You spot someone across the room that you really want to talk to.

What’s the first thing you do?

You scope out the situation. You read the room.

Is the person already engaged in a conversation? Are they surrounded by people trying to get their attention? Are they standing awkwardly by themselves? Are they getting food at the buffet table, or engrossed in watching the harpist? (Yes, in my imaginary cocktail party, there’s a harpist providing entrancing background music.)

What’s going on in the room around them will help you determine how and when you approach.

After all, every relationship starts with a successful approach. One person starts the conversation, and the other engages.

Relationships involve two-way conversation — and building a relationship through an email nurture sequence is no exception.

To be successful, your emails can’t be one-sided, loudspeaker-style marketing — they must be part of a nuanced, thoughtful approach to solving your audience’s pain points, and they must invite the audience to connect.

Know Who You’re Approaching

Sure, you can strike up an interesting conversation with a total stranger at a cocktail party. But if you’ve got a goal in mind (e.g. connecting with someone in a certain industry), it’s always better to have an idea of who the person is before you approach.

When it comes to writing email nurture sequences, most of my clients come ready with detailed information about their audience and specific goals for the campaign. They know that they want to sell X product and that Y audience is the one to reach.

They know exactly who the audience is comprised of, where they hang out in their free time, how they think about their struggles, what they would change if they had a magic wand, and sometimes even whether they like their cocktails shaken or stirred.

The more detailed the buyer persona, the better I can do my job when crafting appropriate email campaigns.

If you don’t already have detailed buyer personas, create them.

If you’re not already providing these personas to your copywriters, provide them.

If you don’t know who you’re talking to, you’re going to miss the mark.

If you’re trying to talk to everyone, you won’t reach anyone. The more specific and niched down you can be when creating these personas, the more effective your marketing will be overall.

Prepare to Leave a Lasting Impression

The most important question you need to ask yourself before you write a word of your email nurture sequence is: What do I want my audience to feel or experience when they read these emails?

Do you want your audience to feel smarter? Deeply appreciated? Excited about something? Like they’re on the cutting edge? …

If you know who you’re talking to / writing to, you will have a pretty good idea of what feeling would be most alluring to them.

An audience of IT Architects, for example, might be stirred most by making them feel like they’re getting ahead of their peers by reading these emails of yours. Or like they’re on the cutting edge of the next big, important technology and they’re the trendsetters of the future.

What do you know about your target audience, and what feeling or experience, if evoked, would make them more attentive to what you’re saying?

Lay Down a Strong Foundation to Build a Lasting Relationship

The first email in a nurture sequence should get the attention of who you’re targeting — it’s the introduction at the cocktail party. The first email is THE MOST IMPORTANT for your reader to open and engage with.

If you were meeting someone new at a cocktail party, what would you talk about? Well, if the relationship mattered, you’d probably talk less about yourself and try more to get the person to talk about themselves.

Right? You’d show them that you’re interested in them.

So in your first email, don’t bombard your reader with info about you, your background, what you can offer them, or what you want from them.

Instead, connect with them personally by talking with them (rather than to them) about what they care about.

Now You’re Competing With the Buffet Table

After you’ve successfully approached that person at the cocktail party, you need to keep their interest so they don’t start looking around the room for someone else to talk to — or worse, ditch you for the buffet table.

Your nurture sequence should keep them excited enough that they want to keep opening your emails, and not just immediately delete them.

Every email in the sequence should make the audience feel heard and appreciated, and should take them one step closer to solving a problem or meeting a goal.

Only then can you keep their attention when there are so many other distractions in the room … er, in their inbox.

Conversation that builds relationship is a two-way street. You should be listening to understand, rather than to respond. So pay attention to your metrics. Learn what subject lines work best to get this specific audience to open the emails.

Figure out which calls to action the audience is responding to. Pay attention to what sales-related activity comes out of the campaign (scheduled demos, purchases, inquiries, etc.). Then iterate the sequence and future sequences based on your discoveries.

Once the party is over, you’d want to leave the conversation on a high note or a cliffhanger to keep the person desiring more. The email equivalent is your final call to action. This is the part where they commit to taking the next step to keep the conversation going.

The Natural Next Step

At the end of your cocktail party conversation, if you’ve really connected with the person, you’ll probably exchange contact information. If things have gone really well, you might even put a coffee date on your calendar before you go your separate ways.

In an email nurture sequence, the “exchanging contact information” part might look a little different, but the idea is the same. At the end of the sequence, the next step should feel like the natural thing to do.

That means that not only should each email work to keep the reader’s attention, but the whole sequence should work together to build toward that natural next step — which in many cases, is buying a product.

To create the natural flow to the final CTA, you must look at the email sequence both as a whole and as individual emails.

Asking for the sale shouldn’t be awkward. If you’ve created this sequence properly and built up the reader’s desire to keep the conversation going, the sale (or the demo, or the call with the sales rep — whatever your end goal is) is a natural next step.

If that’s not happening, you need to bring the campaign back to the drawing board to see where the gap in the experience is, or identify any unintended dead-ends in the journey.

I don’t attend many cocktail parties these days, so if you’d like to chat more about this, connect with me on LinkedIn!

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