How To Convert Email Marketing Into Sales For Service-Based Businesses (With Examples)

Post by Alison Knott | Last Updated: March 11, 2023

Do you find it hard to turn email subscribers into clients? How can you convert your email marketing when you’re a service-based business that doesn’t sell something that’s easy to buy? The best approach can be summed up in three steps: “Wow, Nurture, Sell”.

In this article, I’ll detail this 3-step method that allows your email marketing to feel more like a conversation than a pitch. No sleazy selling or daily-email drip needed!

This article will be especially helpful for consultants and specialists whose audience needs time to feel ready to book a consultation or call.

Video: How to convert email marketing into sales for service-based businesses

How email marketing for service-based businesses is different than that of e-commerce.

If your plan with email marketing is unclear between getting subscribers and turning them into clients, I’m here to help.

See, email marketing for service-based businesses and purpose-driven brands is different from e-commerce.

You don’t have the luxury of selling ‘off the shelf’ products that someone can quickly fork over cash for. Maybe you offer intimate coaching programs where clients will get very vulnerable. Maybe you offer a service that takes weeks or months to complete, like web design or copywriting.

Underpants gnome meme that says Phase 1: Get prospects to subscribe to email list, Phase 2:? Phase 3: Profit.
Pardon the rip on this classic meme, but are you approaching email marketing like this gnome?

So while it sure would be nice to treat email marketing like you’re simply selling socks, selling big-ticket or involved services needs an intentional vision and game plan. And because what you offer isn’t a simple commercial transaction,  transitioning people on your list from passive readers to paying clients can seem tricky.

So let’s approach email marketing in a more natural and sustainable way. Which I like to describe as: “Wow. Nurture. Sell”.

“Wow. Nurture. Sell.” Three steps to help you sell to your newsletter subscribers.

The Wow > Nurture > Sell method covers introducing you and your clientele, breaks the ice, and creates an online space where for the duration of time it takes to read your email, you can convince them why your product/service is what they have always needed.

Person holding a large pile of brightly coloured wrapped gifts.
Make subscribing to your email list feel like a generous act. What can you give from a value standpoint that will make readers feel special for signing up?

1) Wow: give new subscribers a reason to stick around

The first step is? You gotta wow prospects the moment they sign up for your email list or lead magnet.

And I mean WOW. Not “oh, what a nice download that was.” I mean “Holy shit, this brand GETS me!” So how do you do this?

Create connection. 

Connect with your readers by introducing yourself. Some people come onto a list or lead magnet not entirely sure WHO the human being is behind the brand. So let them know!

Set up expectations.

Tell them what they can expect to get from being on your list. What they can look forward to. Create an environment where they feel they can ask you anything because you are the expert on the subject. A great way to do this is to ask questions about the challenges they face/solutions they would want to see or you can ask them to reply to a question related to your newsletter theme or lead magnet.

Pro tip: getting people to reply directly to your email marketing helps keep you out of spam!

Deliver more than what you promised you would give.

Ask yourself: what else could be sent that would add value to what they’re interested in?

If you’re a nutritional coach, do you have blog posts you could share with readers?

If you’re a copywriter, are there awesome writing apps you use that your audience might also enjoy?

Get creative. Be generous. And like you don’t have to do this all immediately, bombarding them with an email every day for a week. Leave that to e-commerce sales cycles.

The importance of the “Welcome Email” (with examples)

As a marketing consultant, the most common thing I see missing from client email marketing is a “welcome email”. This is the first email people get when they first subscribe. And they are very potent! Welcome emails have an open rate of over 50%. That makes them 86% more effective than standard newsletters.

Most often this is because you promised them something like a lead magnet once they signed up. But it can also be because they were already interested in the article or video that compelled them to sign up.

So it’s important to capitalize on the topic at hand, while also introducing yourself. Your new subscriber is not only interested enough in getting your lead magnet but there’s also a meaningful signal that they’re hungry for more!

This is your queue to strike while the iron is hot to WOW them, not sell them.

Cus if you don’t send a dang thing to your list until the time you have something to sell, make no wonder no one is biting.

That’s like asking for marriage on the first date. Or, going on one date, ghosting for 2 months then showing up in the DMs all “heeeyyyyyyyy… wanna see what I got?” So this welcome email should give readers the sense that you’re excited to communicate with them.

Here are some examples of welcome emails you can use when your audience is B2B or you offer a service. Remember that people like to get emails from actual people, not “brands” so write these like you would if you were having a 1:1 correspondence. Because you are!

Simple Welcome Email Example

This is ideal for your usual newsletter signup page where you don’t advertise you’re including anything extra (but you will! More on that later.).

Example of a welcome email for a sustainability in fashion newsletter. Defining all the important sections.
A welcome email that goes out when someone signs up for the fictional “Sustainable Apparel Appeal newsletter.

Lead Magnet Welcome Email Example

This example allows them to get the goods but also mentions who you are and what they can expect so they begin to build a connection between the content and the creator. Not everyone comes to your website knowing exactly who you are and why you do what you do!

Example of a welcome email for a lead magnet, defining all its sections.
This is the actual welcome email people get when they sign up for my monthly ‘Marketing Snacks’ newsletter. Having the food metaphor to work with helps to keep things light and approachable.

Welcome Email with Segmentation Example

This is a really effective way to segment your readership out of the gate. Segmentation simply means organizing your contacts into groups that help you send more targeted content to them. Or, helps you identify sooner if they’re a warmer lead.

This will only work if your email platform allows you to “tag” contacts based on what link they click. When they click the link, make sure you create a simple page they go to thanking them for the action. You can now send more targeted emails based on what they chose.

Example of a welcome email for a business coach using segmentation links. Defining all the important sections.
If your email marketing platform allows you to tag contacts based on links they click, uncover their main interests by asking.

Now that you’ve set the tone with the perfect Welcome Email for your list, it’s time to deepen your connection and move them toward consideration. Which is why we move into a “nurturing sequence”.

Related Post: How to grow your email list as a service-based business

People of various races having friendly chat in a coffee shop.
One of the secrets to email marketing is making it more about a conversation with friends, then a hard sell to potential clients.

2) Nurture: the secret to always knowing what to send to your email list

A nurture sequence is a series of emails that are sent over time. They are also known as “drip sequences” or “evergreen sequences”. They are most powerful when you have segmentation set up so that the content can be a bit more personalized based on the tagging. That way, you provide value by addressing your readership needs without being terribly generic.

The length and time between each email in a sequence is unique to your goals, the nature of your content and the expectations of your subscribers. There is no “perfect formula”.

You may set your nurture sequence to be the actual “newsletter” you send out. Or it could be a separate series before your newsletter. Or during. There is no wrong way to go about this. As long as you’re being considerate of your reader’s needs, not yours. You can tweak things as time goes on by looking at your email reports. This post has some simple downloadable reports you can use for free!

Nurture email sequence example for a coach or consultant

Let’s pretend a subscriber came onto your list via a free workbook you created as a lead magnet. Here are some ideas of what you could write after the welcome email:

  1. Dig deeper into specific pieces of content of the lead magnet. Don’t try to cover it all in one email, but maybe two or three.
  2. Provided a shortlist of resources on the topic created by other experts in your field. Not all your content has to come from your brand!
  3. Move the reader away from the lead magnet content but remain relevant by sharing a client testimonial or story/lesson learned on that topic. Now you’re sharing expertise or important transformation/success other people had working with you. Still not selling here.
  4. Encourage them to follow you on social media – but don’t just ask. Write an email around one of your most popular posts and invite them to check it out that way.
  5. Get interactive with a polls, surveys and quizzes. Now your contacts have something else fun to do.
  6. Have other lead magnets? Don’t forget to let them know about those, two.
  7. Ask the reader to reply to a question you ask them. Most readers won’t reply. But those that do? They can provide valuable audience research that you can use to tweak this sequence, or create other useful content.

You don’t have to do this from scratch: Drip Scripts is an awesome FREE email sequence builder that gives you an outline to write each email, as well as the purpose and subject line. There’s everything from welcome sequences to webinar launches to abandoned cart messaging! And you don’t have to do this all immediately, bombarding them with an email every day for a week… unless you promised to give them a “daily email challenge”.

The whole nurturing aspect of email marketing is to deepen your relationship with your readers as they go through their buying journey. Get creative. Be generous.

 Creepy sales person rubs hands together as couple in background review document.
No one likes to write sales emails in a sequence that feels like this person wearing the tie. The secret is to know where your readers are in their buyer’s journey to a more natural fit.

3) Sell: how to ask for purchases and leads in your newsletter list without feeling icky

Now before you get all oogey because I mentioned the dirty word “sell”, hear me out.

Email marketing conversion doesn’t happen in one or two emails for a most service-based business. A lot of subscribers on your list need time to feel what you offer is what they’re ready for. They may be interested in what you have to say, but simply do not need to buy from you when you ask. They may not even be ready to take you up on a free consultation.

So how would you know when and what to ask in the sequence? Performing 1:1 interviews with past clients and referring to your marketing personas is a great way to understand the sales cycle of your target audience.

Don’t sell your largest-ticket item right away.

Since the sales cycle for your prospects is bound to be longer than 2 weeks’ worth of emails, take. Your. time.

Your goal is to let readers experience your genius through the magic of email. Show them how you solve problems for people just like them. Adding even more value as time goes on.

  • If you gave a workbook as a lead magnet, maybe you want to go into detail about each section over 3 or 4 emails delivered every couple of weeks.
  • If you’re a coach or consultant, you can ask if the reader is open to a free discovery call mid-way through your sequence.
  • If you’re a web designer, you may want to talk about a smaller-priced service like an audit to get curious clients into the door.

If you don’t have a lead magnet, maybe you want to send a series of emails that cover common questions or setbacks clients have faced. Cus if your readers are your ideal clients, these emails will resonate with them.

And if they unsubscribe within the sequence. That’s ok. Say it with me. Unsubscribes are ok!

You want people who aren’t picking up what you’re putting up to leave your list. Instead, focus on open rates and click-through rates to see how valuable you are to your readers.

Like most marketing results, good engagement numbers are lower than you might expect. Learn how to tell your marketing is working or not here.

The whole nurturing aspect of email marketing is to deepen your relationship with your readers as they go through their buying journey.

Run a “sales sequence” within your nurture sequence so you only sell when they’re interested

You can even set your email platform up so that if readers click the link to your offer, the main sequence is paused while they go through 2 or 3 sales-based emails.

And if they don’t buy? No problem! They go back to your sequence or regular newsletter issues and can connect with you later.

Once you include your welcome email, nurture sequence, and sales sequence, you might have an evergreen sequence that is 7, 10, or 15 emails long (or longer!).

Seems daunting, but guess what? You wrote it once, and as people sign up, they are going through it at various times. You published once, and continue to add value and connect with prospects while you sleep.

Spending 10-20 hours writing an excellent email sequence is still more economical than hiring a salesperson to do the selling for you. And, you can tweak content at any time as you learn more about your client’s needs.

Conclusion: selling without breaking into a sweat can be achieved when you have a conversational mindset

With a consistent, well-researched approach, selling into your email list can be natural and rewarding. The key is to understand what your target market wants, understand and package it attractively, and give them generous amounts of it.

What I love most about email marketing is its flexibility: do whatever you think will fit your brand and ideal audience best. And then run with it!