One time I got a plea for help from a fellow software developer-turned entrepreneur.
He'd built a web app to help other business owners improve the SEO on their website so they'd rank higher in Google.
And he'd even gone so far as to create an email course to get people to take his software for a spin. The course wasn't converting though—nobody was signing up for trial accounts.
I hopped on his email list to see what's what.
This particular email series was a 5-day crash course in search engine marketing. He did a fairly good job of “giving value”—he was spoonfeeding out actionable info every day. I could tell he knew his stuff.
So why wasn't the course converting?
And the short answer is, “too much teaching.”
Most people hear the term “email course” and immediately morph into the economics teacher in “Ferris Bueller's Day Off.”
Remember that guy?
“In 1930, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, in an effort to alleviate the effects of the… Anyone? Anyone?… the Great Depression, passed the… Anyone? Anyone? The tariff bill? The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act? Which, anyone? Raised or lowered?…”
The result is as dry as month-old toast—dense, droning emails, packed with facts, code samples and step-by-step detailed how-to information.
That just annihilates sales.
Hear me on this one:
The primary purpose of an email course is NOT teaching.
Yes, you want your emails to be informative and valuable, but not in the way that most people think.
The main task of an email course is to AGITATE the problem that your product solves.
See, you're in the business of selling a solution to some problem.
You're always thinking about this particular problem because you're immersed in it all day, every day.
But chances are your prospective customers are only dimly aware of the problem—in fact, they may not even realize they HAVE a problem.
And until they realize that they do in fact have a problem, and just how much that problem really affects their day to day lives, they are NOT going to take any action to deal with it.
In other words, they're in denial about their web traffic, and until they really “feel the pain,” trying to get them to use your SEO software will be like talking to a brick wall.
“Agitation” in copywriter-speak means “rubbing salt in the wound.” It's the process of showing your customer in iMax, 3D, ultra-high-resolution, terrifying detail just how much trouble they're in.
When you do this right, your prospect's awareness of the problem and its consequences will grow and grow, and along with it their desire for a solution.
With this in mind, it's easy to see why most email courses flat out fail.
Instead of building tension around a problem (and consequently the desire for a CURE to that problem), most email courses are actually doing the exact opposite—walking the subscriber through FIXING a problem.
So how could our SEO expert rework his email course to be more effective?
One way would be to spend the first part of each email dramatizing the symptoms of bad SEO by telling stories about frustrated business owners who can't get leads from their website.
Another way is to make the course itself about diagnosing or troubleshooting a problem.
Or you can list common costly mistakes and errors you see people making.
What you're shooting for is to have your subscriber sit back after each email and think, “Wow, I had no IDEA things were this bad…”
Only then will he be willing and eager to hear more about what he can do to make the pain go away.