The Ultimate Guide To Newsletters For Life Coaches
A question about the best way to utilize a newsletter came up in the Coach the Life Coach Facebook Group recently and it seems there is a lot of confusion.
Let me start by saying this.
This post is long.
And the correlation between you being prepared to read it and succeeding as a coach, is very strong.
Also let me add this before we get into the meat of things:
There is zero point in knowing how to use your list if you don’t know how to build your list
List building underpins everything when it comes to online marketing for Life Coaches, and it’s crucial to build a sustainable strategy that will deliver a constant stream of new sign ups.
Coach the Life Coach gets around 10 new subscribers everyday which is pretty remarkable when you think it’s only aimed at Life Coaches.
The strategy I have adopted and implemented to achieve those results I share on the client acquisition course.
That however, is way beyond the scope of one, or even several blog posts, so today let’s take a look at how you maximize on the list you already have.
Note: The following post is applicable to Active Campaign and Aweber, both of which I use now. And it is also relevant to Constant Contact (which I used to use) and MailChimp.
Before we get into how to maximize your list, let’s establish why a list is so important and why you cannot just sell directly from your website. At least not effectively.
I was wandering around Best Buy the other day looking at MacBooks contemplating updating my MacBook Air to a MacBook Pro.
I couldn’t make my mind up and ended up just buying some printer paper.
To get to the checkout I had to walk past various forms of candy, drinks and low value goods all pulling at my attention and willpower.
Almost every large store position what are called ‘impulse buys’ at the checkout.
They know that as you wait to pay it’s relatively easy for them to get you to spend a buck or two more, especially when shopping for groceries as this will often have made people feel hungry.
If it’s that easy then why don’t Best Buy position 70” flat screen TV’s retailing for $3,000 in your path?
Obviously it’s logistically difficult, but that isn’t the reason, because if people were likely to buy they’d figure out a way to do design the store.
It’s because very few people spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on impulse.
The larger the purchase price the more likely we are to shop around, read reviews and conduct due diligence.
People Don’t Hire Life Coaches On Impulse
The same applies to most people looking to hire a Life Coach, it’s not an impulse buy. We’re not candy, we’re an investment.
Rarely do people drop on a website for the first time and decide that is the coach for them without exploring more.
People hire coaches who resonate with them and who they think they know and like. As such it’s difficult to build up that kind of relationship on your website with a first time visitor.
I have had clients hire me directly from my site, but, and it’s a big but, they are the exception not the rule, and they have almost always spent a lot of time digging through my site.
There are hundreds of pages on my site with blog posts going back to 2006. It’s obvious to anybody visiting that I have been at this a long time and have a wealth of experience.
For new or newer coaches that isn’t usually the case.
Even though I do get ‘cold inquiries’ and probably convert a dozen or so per year, that number is dwarfed by people who hire me from my newsletter list.
The purpose of your website shouldn’t be to sell.
Sure, give people the option to contact and hire you, but your website should be largely focussed on getting people on to your list.
Once you do that, you can then start to build a relationship with them by supplying a stream of high quality content.
I have NEVER run a coaching special that hasn’t sold out in the 7-years since I started doing them. That is the power of having a list populated by people who trust you.
Building a list isn’t easy, but if you can take the time to figure it out, then you’re in a great position to be successful because you have a group of people who to a certain extent much value what you do.
From here on in I’m going to presume you have a list of some description and will answer the most common questions I get asked.
Is The Size Of List Important For A Life Coaches Newsletter?
Yes and no.
What’s more important than the size of your list is the engagement. About a year ago I had close to 10,000 people on the A Daring Adventure list, but the engagement and open rate was very low.
I ran a search to see how many people hadn’t opened just one message from me over the previous 2-years. I got over 2,500 results, so I deleted the accounts.
I then did another search for people who hadn’t opened in 18-months and got over 750 more people, so I deleted them too.
There could be any number of reasons why those people had never opened a single email in all that time, but I really don’t care what the reason is because I don’t want disengaged people on my list.
But why on earth would I delete them?
Surely there is a remote chance they may suddenly open an email. As such, why not leave just them there?
There’s two reasons for taking the action I did.
- I was very close to a big jump in what I was paying for Aweber each month. If I’d gone over 10k my monthly costs would have incurred a significant hike.
- The major email providers (Gmail, Hotmail, AOL and YahooMail) are paying attention to open rates. If they see low engagement then they are less likely to deliver your emails because they can see them as spam.
What’s that you say Tim, not all my emails get delivered properly, can that be?
Yep and it’s a big deal – more on it shortly.
There is one potential area I could hurt myself with trimming the fat on my list and that is JV’s (joint ventures).
As your list grows you will start getting contacted by people (or a group of people) who want to JV with you.
This will usually take the form of you sending an email (usually more than one if it’s a big product launch) to your list promoting what they are doing and then in return they give you exposure to their list.
I almost never get involved with JV’s because I often find them too spammy and I won’t push product or services that I have no knowledge of, even if they are paying me 50% or more commission for every sale which is pretty common.
Having said that, only this week I agreed to do a group JV for the first time in a couple of years, but only because there are no affiliate payments and 50% of all revenue is going to charity.
With this one there are a couple of dozen people involved, as such I get exposure to new people and get to help a good cause. Plus an interview I am giving will be part of the bundle so I get to control the quality of that part at least.
In this example size matters because they only wanted people with lists of over 5,000.
That’s reasonable, after all, it hardly seems fair if I promote you to my 6,500 subscribers and in return you promote me to your list made up of your mum, best friend Tracy and her cat Tiddles who has his own email address.
I have had people approach me and insisting on a 10k list, but after my slashing and burning session I cannot meet that.
But as I say, I’m not really bothered about JV’s so I can live with it.
Having 100 people on your list (presuming they aren’t just family and friends) who are super engaged and interested in what you do is far better than 1,000 people who hit delete as soon as your email drops in their inbox.
If you have a great niche then your list will probably be smaller than somebody like myself who just rambles on about self development in general.
The Coach the Life Coach list is at just over 3,000, but it’s highly targeted.
Whereas anybody can sign up, there’s not much value to somebody who either isn’t a coach or doesn’t want to become one.
Imagine you have a niche of working with attorney’s dealing with burnout and all you ever write about is relevant to that niche.
If you have a list of 100 people, then that would certainly be worth more to you than if I gave you both of my lists containing about 10,000 people.
My advice would be, don’t get too wrapped up in numbers, concentrate on building an engaged list of people who see you as an expert and value what you have to say.
Should I Have A Blog Or A Newsletter?
Both, because they serve different purposes.
if you do a search for ‘life coach websites’, this is what you see.
Not only am I the number one result after the adverts, but I have already snagged the rich snippet (that’s the box with the image that Google presents as what it thinks is the best result) and that brings a lot of traffic to Coach the Life Coach.
That was a deliberate tactic by me to go after that search term.
A good proportion of people who type ‘life coach websites‘ into Google will be new coaches and if I can help them with some useful information then there’s a very good probability they will sign up for my newsletter.
You cannot do that with a newsletter article. My blog is a vehicle for getting people on the list either by organic searches such as the example above, or through Social Media shares.
Note: Handing out business cards is not an effective way of building your list. Trust me, it won’t work!
Probably a better question is, ‘should I just send my blog posts to my newsletter list?’
There are 3 options available to you here, but let’s look at the most common two first.
- You write a blog post and then send out a newsletter telling people about it and linking back to the post so they can go and read
- You write a blog post and then dump the entire post in the body of the newsletter
With option number one you will get fewer people reading your article because some people just don’t like clicking away from their email platform.
BUT and it’s a big but, you are driving more traffic to your website and that is important. The more traffic you get (presuming it’s not coming from bad neighborhoods) the more authority Google accredits you.
Plus you are ‘training’ your readers to click through.
That may sound a bit icky, but it’s important that there is at least some expectation that people will have to do this because when you’re looking to sell to them (more in a moment) you will need them to click through to your offer.
The third option it to write new material for your newsletter readers, material that they cannot see just by visiting your blog.
By and large this is what I do with A Daring Adventure and probably 75% of my newsletters consist of exclusive material.
I also do this with Coach the Life Coach when I send out an ‘Insiders Guide’. They are articles that you won’t find anywhere else and a way of me thanking people for putting their trust in me and subscribing.
In the past with ‘Insider Guides’ I have shared a lot of personal information such as earnings, book sales and stuff that has gone wrong and what I learned from it etc.
Apart from ‘Insider Guides’ I will also also send any articles under about 700 words just to my list.
The Panda update to Google’s algorithm in 20111 aggressively went after posts it saw as ‘thin’ or ‘skinny’ content (less than about 650 words).
Up until then too many people were going for quantity over quality and certain aggregate sites like Ezine Articles were tacitly encouraging poor quality content.
They got a very severe slap on the wrist and a demotion in the SERP’s (search engine ranking pages) when Google implemented Panda.
It’s highly unlikely you will get punished for writing shorter posts directly, but they can potentially dilute your site.
You are better off having 10 blog posts that totally crush a topic and extend to 2,000+ words than 100 posts of thin content, presuming that is you want your site to rank in the SERP’s.
Having said that, shorter articles work really well with newsletters which is why I will always share them that way as opposed to publishing them on my blog.
You can make an argument for any of the three approaches I have just explained and none are wrong. I prefer to mix and match, but you can choose whatever option you prefer.
How Often Should I Hit My List
There really isn’t an optimal time or a correct answer on this.
Seth publishes short punchy content spanning a wide spectrum from marketing to nudging into self development.
Sometimes his posts are no longer than 100 words and very rarely longer than about 350 and he is a superstar with tens of thousands of followers, probably hundreds of thousands.
On the flip side, Brian Dean writes in-depth content about SEO and online marketing and goes narrow and very deep with equally excellent content.
Seth includes the entire post and Brian always has a link back to the post on his site.
See what I mean about there being no right or wrong approach?
As I have said there really isn’t a right or wrong to this. However, try to be somewhat consistent. Do not disappear on your readers for 3-months and then hit them 3-times in a week.
An interesting quote that I like from Seth Godin about this topic (kind of). ‘I don’t have great ideas and so blog every day. I have great ideas because I blog every day’
The answer to the question of how often should you hit your list is fairly simple and it’s whenever you have something of value to share with them.
There’s nothing especially wrong with writing to a schedule so long as it doesn’t mean you churn out subpar material just because your calendar says it’s time to post.
What Is A Good Open Rate?
I was watching Shark Tank recently when Mark Cuban asked two guys pitching their product what their open rate was with the tens of thousands on their list?
They responded ‘well over 40%’.
Me, Mark Cuban and every shark there simultaneously howled with derision.
I had to pause the show and say to my wife, ‘what a pair of bullshit artists, nobody gets over 40% with a list that size’.
To begin with your open rate will be high, maybe even over 50%. But as it grows it will decline for numerous reasons.
- People get bored with what you have to say and just delete the emails as they drop in (in the short term it’s much easier to hit delete than to open and go through the unsubscribe process)
- Or even worse, they mark you as spam just once and then your emails permanently disappear into oblivion for all eternity
- Similarly, people will migrate to another email address and rarely check the one that they signed up for. Many people have that one email address they give to people they are not bothered about hearing from and seldom check
- The emails will not get delivered to a subscribers inbox
The last one is the most frustrating and a problem most coaches are unaware of.
In 2014 Google introduced the ‘Promotions’ tab in Gmail designed to snag any obviously salesy content.
It was supposedly to improve the experience from the user, but it also shifted the power in terms of what we see, from the user to Google.
Yes you could ‘whitelist’ an email address if you knew how to do that or even noticed you were missing emails from a certain person, but Google decided where to put your emails until you specifically told it otherwise.
All the major email platforms from Gmail to Hotmail and from Yahoo to AOL to a certain extent decide what you will and won’t see. Just because you have sent out a newsletter to 1,000 people in no way does that mean 1,000 people will see it.
There is no right answer to the question of a good open rate because there are so many variables such as size of list, time the email was sent out (hint: never send a post out on a Saturday), the industry you’re in, headline you use etc.
By and large though, if you have over 500 people and you’re open rate is over 30% then you’re doing well.
If you’re into the thousands then you’ll probably be closer to 20% and 25% is excellent.
Coach The Life Coach is usually between 22% and 25% whereas A Daring Adventure is right around 20%.
Note: You may wonder why you see adverts on Facebook from Coach The Life Coach if you are already subscribed to my list. This is called retargeting and it’s done for the reasons above. I know there is about a 75% chance you haven’t read or received a an email so I’m increasing the odds by paying Facebook to tell you. It sucks, but it’s increasingly becoming a necessity.
Are There Any Cunning Ways To Up My Open Rate Tim?
Well yes there are, thanks for asking.
The first and most obvious is to pay careful attention to your headline.
The headline is the first thing people see and if yours is boring and gives no reason for people to open then guess what? Yep, they won’t open it.
Using the headline ‘August Newsletter From Coach The Life Coach’ would invite apathy, whereas a headline of ‘An Insiders Guide To How I Get People To Open More Newsletters’ is going to be intriguing to any coach with a newsletter.
The latter is called a clickbait headline and they can be super effective presuming you don’t go nuts and oversell the post you.
If I saw a headline, ’10 Tips To Acquiring Clients You Have Never Heard Of’ and then I clicked through and number one is ‘open a Facebook account’, and number two is ‘start a blog’, I’m going to think you’re an idiot and leave immediately never to return.
Make sure your headline delivers on the promise it makes, otherwise you may get people to click through once but they won’t be fooled twice.
The other way to increase your open rate significantly is to send the email out twice about a week apart. If you’re emailing weekly then this is a tad trickier but I only write once or twice per month, so it’s easy to do.
Obviously you don’t want to annoy people who already read the article so what you do is set up a new segment of people who didn’t open the email the first time.
You can see in the screenshot below that I had an open rate for my last newsletter the first time I sent it out of 18.1%.
Pay attention to the title ‘The 4-Letter Word That Can Hold You Back (and it’s not fear!)’ – that’s pure clickbait and designed to trigger curiosity.
When I send out a second email I always change the title to try and appeal to different people, as well as avoiding people remembering the first email that they deleted without reading.
The next send went to the 82% of people who hadn’t opened the first and that resulted in 12% of those people opening and pushing the overall open rate up to about 28% – not too shabby!
I don’t do that with every email but I thought that was probably the best post I’ve written in a couple of years so I wanted to get as many eyes on it as possible.
People Are Unsubscribing – What Do I Do?
Wave them a cheery goodbye and move on. It’s not personal, it’s not about you.
People unsubscribe from newsletters for all sorts of reasons such as:
- They’re getting inundated with emails in general and want to cut back
- They’re no longer interested in what you have to say
- You may have caused them offense for any number of different reasons
- They subscribed with a new email address and don’t want duplication
- They did it by mistake in a pre-coffee early morning haze
None of those are within your control so let it go and let them go.
Whenever I try to sell to my list I almost always get more unsubscribes than when I send out an email linking to a blog post like this one.
Six or seven years ago I announced that I was going to start charging 99 cents for my five previously free ebooks (they are free again by the way, if you want to subscribe) and I had one person tell me flat out I was being greedy and another say she was disappointed in me.
They don’t know that I’m spending almost $200 per month for my two email platforms and that a blog post like this one can take me over 10 hours to compile.
It was my fault they reacted as they did because I had conditioned those people to ‘free’ so when I something was no longer free they took offense.
Here’s the deal with people who opt out for reasons like that. They were never likely to hire you or buy from you in the first place so it’s no great loss.
I have over 3,000 people on the Coach the Life Coach list, but I know damn well somewhere in the region of 2,750 will never even consider hiring me one-on-one or signing up to do any of the courses.
I’m more than happy to have them on my list and gaining value for free – I like helping people whenever I can, even if I don’t directly earn from it. However, I’m not going to lose any sleep over them storming off in a huff because I’m trying to make a living.
I give away a LOT of free high quality advice and the price you pay for having it is occasionally getting emails from me telling you about a new course is running on Coach the Life Coach.
There’s another reason people will leave you and it’s probably the one that most coaches back off from – and that is because you pissed them off.
I’ve had lots of people tell me I’m an idiot, offensive, that I swear too much and that I shouldn’t talk about politics and guess what? I don’t care.
In the early days I used to write in a vanilla way hoping I wouldn’t offend anybody, but then I realized that I needed to be me.
To paraphrase John Lennon, this approach doesn’t get me the most clients, but it does get me the best clients.
If me typing the word ‘fuck’ is going to have you meltdown and choose to get all offended, then I probably don’t want to work closely with you and we both dodged a bullet.
Me swearing and talking politics and using a lot of humor in my writing at A Daring Adventure is part of my brand.
Sure, 75% of people who stumble upon my site won’t ‘get me’ and that’s fine because I can focus on the 25% who do.
You just being you, will get unsubscribes and you don’t need to be as acerbic and sarcastic as I can sometimes be.
It may be that you turn somebody off because your religious or because you’re not religious. Or that you love talking about your dogs to a cat person. Or that you drop into a post your love of meat to a vegan. Or you mention you’re gay to a homophobe. Or even that you’re a raging liberal like me to a right-wing conservative.
There are 1,001 ways for people to choose to be offended – let them get on with it because it’s no concern of yours.
How Often Should I Sell To My List?
I rarely sell to my list outside of full on launches.
As a rule we run 3 Coach The Life Coach courses per annum. Two are aimed at client acquisition and one is the full course aimed at total newbies looking to learn both coaching and also how to attract clients.
Prior to each course we schedule what is called a launch sequence.
With the coaching specials that I now only do once per annum over at A Daring Adventure I can afford to send out just one email.
Other than I’m not even bothered if I sell them because I’m always full, the main reason is because I offer only one of each of my three packages at half price.
As such I don’t need to warm up my audience or batter then over the head with it because I know all places will be gone inside 24-hours.
I cannot say that about Coach the Life Coach courses, it’s generally (although not always) a harder sell and I’ll probably need 5 or 6 emails to spell out the benefit.
If I just send one email out saying, ‘Come and get it, Coach The Life Coach is open for business – hurry, hurry, hurry’ I’d probably get crickets and tumbleweed.
A launch sequence is just that, a sequence of emails over a limited period of time (usually between 7 and 10 days).
By and large we don’t buy based on facts, we buy on emotions and then justify it with facts after the event.
The Coach The Life Coach client acquisition course will have an early bird price of $799 and a full price of $999.
An average client is worth about $1,500 to me, so for me to vindicate it’s worth I’d need to be able to help you acquire about half a client.
Alas, clients don’t come in halves, but am I confident that I can share enough information to acquire a living, breathing whole client?
Unequivocally I am, and a lot more than that.
You have to then diligently implement what I share with you, but there’s no doubt that it works.
Therefore, I have to tell stories that help you understand that I too was once a struggling coach with no clients and can help you avoid the pitfalls I regularly fell into.
People love stories because we can then relate to a person and/or situation.
However, even though your are selling, the majority of emails still have to have stand alone value to somebody not looking to buy, otherwise you just irritate people.
It is possible to sell by battering people into buying from you. A member of the Coach The Life Coach Facebook Group (click the link if you want to join – it’s free) recently had a bad experience with marketer, Frank Kern.
She attended his free webinar and then he continued to try and upsell her to his paid course no less than 18-times in 48-hours using emails, texts and direct calls (the screenshot was her final response).
That approach can definitely work if you don’t care about harassing people. Whereas there was nothing illegal in what he did it’s certainly morally dubious and not a path I’d encourage you to go down.
This post is now closing in on 5,000 words and that is long by anybody’s standards, so well done for reading it all and not taking the TL:DR approach.
The fact that you did read it all separates you from most coaches who will have seen how long it was and didn’t bother.
I’ve shared a lot of very valuable information, much of which I’d have killed for a decade ago and I hope you can implement as much as is relevant to you and reap the benefits.
If there’s an element I didn’t cover, then please ask away in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer.
This post has taken me over 12-hours to write and compile and I want it to be a resource moving forward. As such, I’ll update or add bits as and when relevant.
In the meantime if it has added value to you, could I kindly ask you share it with one other coach and/or on Social Media please? It would mean a lot to me.
Muhammed Ali image courtesy of Charles LeBlanc