My name is Ollie and I’m the co-founder of MindJournal. We are an ecommerce brand but also a men’s health wellness movement.
Our core product, MindJournal, is a physical journal that we’ve reinvented for guys. Built around a scientifically researched 30-day program, it guarantees to 10X your life in less than a month.
We’re a community-led brand, and everything we’ve done has been achieved by the support of the ‘guys’ in our group. That group is essentially a mailing list but we don’t ever think of them as just a list of email addresses.
In this article, I’ll explain the power of not just a newsletter but how to build an email-based community of engagers.
Email marketing at a high level
For most people, email marketing is exactly what it says on the tin: “marketing via email”. And the things you might want to market are your products or services.
And this is what a lot of brands and ecommerce business do. They essentially send multiple email campaigns, in a variety of formats asking their reader to do one thing — buy whatever it is that they’re offering.
And this might work great for some businesses but the chances are they could be doing a lot better by creating a nicer experience for their reader — instead of constantly trying to sell to them.
Quality is better than quantity
Since we launched our subscriber list in 2016 we’ve slowly grown our community organically. We’ve focused on quality rather than quantity.
There’s literally no point having 20K subscribers, where only 3% (600) of those subscribers engage in your newsletter. All you’re doing is spending $150 per month to MailChimp (for example) to ‘host’ the other 19K subscribers that aren’t evening opening your emails.
That’s just a waste of money that could be spent elsewhere on marketing.
Our small email list of 4K subscribers has an average open rate of 30% and click rate of 7%. Which is far better stats wise than the bigger subscriber list above — and we pay $100 less per month to MailChimp.
By having a small community of subscribers, we’re able to communicate with them on a 1-1 level about what they like about our content, and want they want more of. We listen to our audience and react accordingly. We don’t just keep firing off email campaigns hoping that someone will click on a link and buy our product.
The result is high converting campaigns and content. For example one of our drip campaigns generates a 56% open rate and a 37% click rate. And a ton of new orders every month.
Growing our early list with our very first customers
We knew when we first started MindJournal that we were going to need some help from other guys to bring the product to life.
Involving our customers in the early days
We needed testers to try the writing programme we were developing — to make sure it worked. And we needed guys to back us on Kickstarter so we could manufacture the product. This is where email marketing started for us.
Our tactic was not to market the product directly but to ask for help in making it, as the tactic instead. People are more likely to engage and share what you’re doing if they feel part of it – not just a passive bystander.
Getting started was really easy. We created a launch page with an email signup as the core call to action — and asked people to get involved. It wasn’t just a ‘signup to get notified’ it was a statement to join the movement and actively be a part of what we were creating.
We created a post-signup thank-you page that asked them to share us on social media. And we also sent them an automated welcome email that provided more information on our product and what kind of help we were looking for.
Don’t be afraid of asking for someone’s email address, but respect the fact that they’re giving it to you. Value each and every subscriber right from the beginning. Every subscriber is a potential client or customer and should be valued.
The annoying fact is that those pesky pop-ups that ask for your email address the second you land on a website — work.
However, don’t just slap one on your site and think ‘job done’. Every touch-point of your customers experience is an opportunity to make them feel special. And also filter the good leads to the time wasters.
Have a good opt-in offer
A pop-up that asks for an email address and offers nothing in return is a bad place to start a subscriber relationship. You also won’t get many signups. The tactic that we’ve seen work time and time again is offering something that can be received via email.
We use a digital document called ‘The MindJournal Manual’. It’s packed with additional product information but crucially a small free area of our product for people to try. To get the Manual you have to pop in your email on our pop-up and wait for an email to arrive in your inbox with a link to download it.
The critical point of this is not only in the quality of the subscriber (they clearly want our product, not just some money off) but that we take them to a thank-you page asking them to check their spam/junk folders for the email and to mark us as not spam.
This means when we come to email them again, we know we’re going straight to their inbox.
Some pop-up tips
Using a pop-up is also an opportunity to filter the leads that come to your site. Use different pop-ups at different times for example. Wait until people have scrolled 50% of your homepage before you show it so you know they’re interested.
Have a pop-up with an offer on your product page or cart to increase conversion. Think of the pop-up not just as ‘collect an email’ tactic but a customer service tool that helps people through your funnel.
Email campaigns and content
We have 3 email marketing campaigns that are constantly running:
Abandon Cart Campaign
This is a 3-email drip abandon cart campaign that is triggered by our Shopify store.
The first email is sent 1-hour after they’ve left our store without purchasing. The email is a short friendly reminder that they left an item in their cart. But we keep it personal and try to help them as much as we can. We also offer a 10% discount in the email to help them convert. Again the tone of voice is that we’re trying to help, not sell.
The second email goes out 1-day later, if they still haven’t converted. It’s very similar to the first email but not an exact clone. We use a different opening line that keeps it friendly and conversational.
The third and final email goes out 3-days later, again, only if they haven’t converted. And follows the same tactic as above but we add a bit of urgency in, as it will be the last reminder we send them. We also use a FOMO tactic that gets them thinking.
MindJournal Manual Download Campaign
Triggered by our Privy pop-up, subscribers are put into a 2-part drip email campaign. The first is a really short and simple email that provides them a link to download the Manual. The document itself includes a number of links that points them back to our store and a discount code to help them convert.
If they don’t convert, don’t open the email or don’t download the Manual we then send them another email 3-days later. The content is friendly to see what they thought of the Manual and if there’s anything we can do to help.
Our weekly newsletter ‘Run Your Own Race’ is sent every Monday, at exactly the same time. This helps build a habit for our readers, they know when and what they’re going to get. And the focus on the email is not about selling but helping them in everyday life. We provide links to the best 6 stories we feel will positively impact their week, along with a quote we’ve found inspiring and a task to complete in their Journal.
Our weekly newsletter is essentially a sub-brand of MindJournal and is a free product that we offer, essentially. That’s how we see it anyway. And that’s how others should too.
It takes a week of collecting content, hours of curating and time to build each newsletter but it’s worth it. We have open and click rates that are well above the average and an incredibly low unsubscribe rate.
You can see an example of one of our episodes here.
We also have an ad-hoc newsletter which is focused purely on the MindJournal brand. This is essentially content that is all about us that we think are readers would like to know or might sell more product.
It has its own theme and name — ‘A Collected Mind’, which is important as it helps distinguish it from our other email newsletters. The content is always varied but usually consists of an article we’ve recently written, top reviews from customers, our best Instagram post of that time-period and finally promo to buy a MindJournal.
Each email we send has a clear objective, and content to match. If we want someone to make a purchase, then that’s what the email is about. It’s about consistency and clarity.
You can see an example of our latest one here.
Every subscriber and customer gets a welcome email that onboards them to the MindJournal community. We keep it short and simple, highlighting our mission and what kind of content they should expect from us and how often. People like knowing what they’re going to get — and then they’re not annoyed when you email them. Everyone has a different relationship to email, but your job at a minimum is to help them enjoy emails from you.
Lessons learned about email
We’re a visual brand so plain-text emails don’t do that well for us. At the same time, image heavy emails load slow and get collected more easily by spam filters so there’s a balancing act.
Service level brands could benefit from text only emails but if you’re an ecommerce brand like us, you’re going to want to include some images. Just make sure you don’t overdo it.
Sending constant emails asking people to buy, via offers, competitions, reviews etc just gets annoying. Your job as a brand is to help your customers, in some way or another. Be helpful in their everyday.
Make them stick with you because you provide more than just a good product or service. Email will outlast every social media unicorn business that comes and goes. So put the time in and build an email community for the long-term.
My advice for others getting started
The first thing we did before we started was map out the entire user journey of all the different subscribers and the different content they would get. We just did this on A3 paper but you can use a number of digital tools.
Once we did this we started designing them in MailChimp as templates so we could create a consistent style and theme. Once everything was designed, written, set up and tested, we switched it all on.
The trick is in the planning and not rushing into it because you want an instant increase in sales/conversions etc. Email marketing needs time and patience and is part of the long-term future of your marketing efforts.
Just because you have 20K subscribers, doesn’t mean you’ll convert 100% of them. Some people on your list might take months of seeing your newsletter content until they feel ready to buy. That’s why you should be consistent in your frequency, quality and content.
The best resources are found by subscribing to other newsletters. Sign-up to your competitors or brands you like and look at their content and frequency. I save them to Evernote so I have a reference of everything and a scrapbook of ideas. However, I recently came across Really Good Emails which is like a Pinterest of email newsletters to get inspiration from.
Don’t try and reinvent the wheel, just make sure the wheel looks like it came from your cart.
A great book on all of this is Do Open by David Hieatt of Hieatt Denim. It breaks down the strategies I’ve mentioned above into a step by step process. Ben Heath of Lead Guru is also worth mentioning.
We’ve learned a ton by following Ben’s advice, and whilst he mainly focuses on Facebook Advertising he’s a pro in all kinds of marketing, including email. In fact since following his advice on several components of our marketing strategy, we’ve added 500 new subscribers to our community via a highly successful Facebook Ad campaign.
Using Paid Ads is definitely the next area for us to explore as a brand to increase our subscriber rate — but at this point in time, it’s not an area we have enough experience in to offer valuable insights. Check back in a few months perhaps!
Thanks for reading!
Hopefully, some of the advice I’ve provided will help Kickstarter your email marketing campaigns. Start with the basics and build your way up. Nail the experience for that first subscriber like we did and grow from there.
I’m not a digital marketing expert and have only achieved the success I have by trying and failing multiple times. The best experience is the experience of doing and learning from your mistakes.
When I’m not running a global men’s journaling brand, I run a super successful brand agency for ecommerce startups. If you need help with your brand, website or marketing I’d love to help! Just use the links below to find out more.
Want to start your own business?
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
We interview successful business owners and share the stories behind their business.
By sharing these stories, we want to help others get started.
If you liked this story, join our mailing list for new interviews every Tuesday.
- Pat Walls, Founder of Starter Story