How to crush writer’s block by mapping out your email sequence

Yesterday I got pretty frustrated with this email sequence I’m writing for a client in the mortgage lead generation niche.

This particular client has an ice cold list—nearly 1,000 leads and past customers that haven’t heard a peep from my client in months or years.

I banged out the first email pretty fast, but when I moved on to the second one, something felt… off.

The concept was solid—I was going after the big “lead farm” sites like LendingTree. Independent mortgage brokers HATE those guys because they spend millions to vacuum up all the leads, then turn around and resell the leads to 20-30 small brokers. It turns into a total fistfight and makes the brokers’ lives miserable.

But I couldn’t quite figure out how to end the email, and when I tried to move on to write the third message, I hit a brick wall.

After thrashing around for a while, I realized the problem:

I’d skipped a step.

In software development there’s a saying, “Weeks of coding can save hours of planning.”

Yep, I’d done it again. I just jumped right in and started writing without taking the time to plan out where I was going.

The planning step is especially important when you’re working toward a specific goal, like selling a specific product during a product launch or sale.

So I took a deep breath, opened a new tab in my text editor, and started sketching out a rough outline of the 10-email sequence.

Here are 3 questions I asked myself as I planned this out:

1. What is the main purpose of each email?

When you’re frog-marching your subscribers down a path toward a defined goal, each email should take them one step closer.

For this series, I decided that the main goal of the first 5 emails is to thaw out this fossilized list.

Then I’ll work on selling the product in the second set of 5 messages.

With that in mind, I decided that the first email would reintroduce my client to his list, put a positive spin on his long absence (he was focused on building version 2.0 of his software), and hint at valuable tips to come.

The next two emails are “nurture” emails that push emotional hot buttons and prompt the reader to download some free “action plans.”

I capture the purpose of each email in a single word, like “nurture” or “offer,” then add a quick phrase that signals the angle I’m going to take

2. What does my prospect need to understand or believe before he’ll be interested in this product?

This is a question I use any time I’m crafting a sales message, whether it’s an email series, social media post or sales page.

In this case, the mortgage broker needs to understand that his *advertising* isn’t broken—he’s actually generating good traffic to his website.

But he’s not getting leads because his website is scaring people off.

So I’ll spend 1-2 emails developing this idea before I make a pitch.

3. How can I create an “itch that must be scratched”?

You don’t have a lot of space in an email…

I typically like to stay in the 300-500 word range.

That’s not enough room to make a full sales argument for most products.

So what I do instead is use the email to smear a little salt on an open, festering wound in this prospect’s business…

Then send him to the longer sales page to find out how to fix his problem.

For example, most mortgage brokers have had bad experiences with shady, disloyal realtors.

So I might write an email about a mortgage broker who gave a hot lead to an agent he was trying to court…

Only to have the agent turn around and give that lead to another broker!

Then I’ll say something like, “one of the 6 bonuses that comes with product XYZ shows how to never have this happen to you.”

And I’ll link ’em over to the sales page to find out more.

I worked with these questions and a few others for half an hour or so, and I had my whole email sequence plotted out.

Now when I sit down to write, there’s no thrashing and agonizing—I just fill in the blanks.