How can e-commerce marketers get a serious leg up on the competition? By "framing" their customers for the perfect sale in their emails and marketing automation systems.

There are two main parts to this article: the Pre-Frame (everything that happens before the opt-in) and the Post-Frame (everything that happens after the opt-in).

Smart marketers place high importance on attention to detail in both cases (not just before, not just after), and they figure out ways to use the two in tandem—creating in prospects both the appetite for their product and the opportunity to quench that appetite by buying whatever it is the marketer is selling.

The Pre-Frame: How to Extract More Profit With Less Effort

In the ratio of effort to result, the goal is to increase the result without increasing effort. In short, you are after leverage in marketing: less "doing," more "result." It just so happens that one of the most leverage-able ways to beef up results is the Pre-Frame.

There's a legend about a fisherman named Captain John Rade, who, when asked how he caught so many fish (hundreds of pounds of fish per day), grudgingly shared his secret: "Don't think like a fisherman, think like a fish."

In truth, that is the entire basis of good marketing: To catch the most fish—to acquire the most customers—you must reduce the friction between where your customer is currently and where you want them to be.

And the only way to effectively do so is by understanding where they are (objections, fears, desires, problems, etc.) and what must happen to move (or attract) them to where you want them to be.

We set up our Pre-Framing the way we do because it's an attempt to reduce the conversion friction.

Imagine this scenario: You are taken to a news page that describes the tale of a recent mugging. A father was unable to defend his two daughters from a street robbery downtown in a town close to where you live. His only regret was not being better prepared to protect his family.

Then, after reading this story, you are taken to a page where you can receive free self-defense tips so you'll always be prepared for whatever happens.

In that example lies the power of the Pre-Frame. Often, the only thing more important than what's on the sales or marketing page is what the prospect saw just before seeing your marketing. It's called "priming," and it's one of the most powerful concepts you can use to "reduce the friction" between where your prospect is and where you want her to go.

In this story, there are a few things at play, and I want to point them out so you do not miss them:

  1. The reason: In your landing page and your emails, it's important to reinforce and remind your prospects "why" they care (or should care) about whatever it is you are offering them. In our example, you've done so with a story, eliciting the fears or negative pressures of your market in an attempt to have them take action to avoid the unwanted outcome.
  2. Bridging: Once you've clearly painted the reason why they care, you need to link up the next step you want your prospect to take as the way out of their fear, or toward their desire. (See why "thinking like a fish" is so important? You must know these fears, desires, and objections like they were your own.)
  3. Set clear expectations: Here, you lay out exactly what will happen once they take the desired action. Give your "thing" a unique value proposition. I have a friend who calls this "showing up different": i.e., clearly being unique in a beneficial way that makes people focus on your offer as an opportunity, not a commodity. Don't just say, "Get Free Self-Defense Tips Here."

If the prospect can go google it and find competition, you lose. Give it a name or some unique aspect that only you have in order to keep the perceived value high. (For example, my "Fast Frame" technique, the thing I'm explaining to you now, is unique to me. If I just said "Learn How to Sell More Stuff," it wouldn't be unique).

At this point, you're probably wondering why this article is halfway finished and we haven't even gotten into the main topic: email. That's because if you don't have your framing systems set up properly, you severely inhibit the positive results email marketing can generate for you.

Without further ado, let's dive in.

The Post-Frame: Creating Your Email Machine Flywheel

Once your prospects take action and opt in to your list, the first thing you want to do is reinforce the decision they've just made. Frankly, they've taken a risk giving you their contact information, and you want to honor that and show them what a wonderful decision it was. Doing so, more than anything else, elicits trust from your market.

On your "Thank You" page, remind them what you promised them and the benefits they are entitled to as a member or subscriber to your business, and make them feel great for taking action.

Now, once they receive your email, they are going to be reading through it with anticipation. The hardest thing to get from your prospects is their attention, and if you do this right you will have their attention safely secured before they even receive your next email.

In this initial email, you want to deliver what you promised them, and reinforce their decision. Although that can also be done with follow-up email offers and related products, today we'll focus on the immediate thank-you page and delivery emails (underappreciated marketing assets, to say the least).

Marketing is best described in terms of "rhythm." Like a nice blues piece, we are going to loop through several iterations of the same tune, perhaps slightly different but with the same structural pieces, several times—just to make sure it is fully internalized and properly enjoyed.

Then, you want to (again) Pre-Frame the future benefits to come in your upcoming marketing messaging. It's important to not give them everything in one, long-winded, fatal swoop. That kills the "attraction" process that all good marketing possesses. It's a bit of a "tease" here, and you want to simply deliver on what you promised and elicit desire for future communications. So go ahead and make your delivery of promise easily seen and accessible.

Sometimes marketers make people read the entire email and scroll all the way down to the bottom "P.S." to download what they were promised in the landing page. Making them work extra hard does not reinforce the trust of the consumer. Besides, there are much better uses for a "P.S." than delivering free reports... such as, getting them excited and looking forward to receiving your next email!

How do you get them excited about your next email? Pre-Frame the benefits that they'll get when they get your email!

Email Copywriting Brass Tacks

Joe Sugarman (a famous marketer) once said the only job of a good headline is to get the sub-headline read. And the only job of a good sub-headline is to get the first sentence read. And so forth and so on, through the entire letter, all the way down to the call to action.

In the same way, the only job of the email subject line is to get the sucker opened. And the only job of the first sentence is to get them to keep reading... all the way until they reach the final sentence of the email. And the job of the final sentence? Get them to read the next email!

(KISSmetrics wrote this post about Joe Sugarman's legendary copy, and it's worth a read.)

Final Thoughts

Simple. These concepts are very simple. When you are sitting down to write your emails, create your offers, put together your landing pages, remind yourself that it really is simple: think like the fish.

Captain Rade figured out that fish eat the same thing and there's no use buying a new bait every season... "New bait is for attracting fishermen, not fish," he'd say. Because he knew what his fish liked... and he capitalized on it.

You do the same. What is it your customers and prospects want—no, need? Identify it, and identify the fears and objections standing in their way, and you can put together marketing that attracts and compels them forward through your sales systems.

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How to Use Email Marketing to Create a Surge in E-Commerce Sales

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image of Daniel Faggella

Daniel Faggella is CEO and founder of both CLVboost, a marketing automation consultancy in Cambridge, MA, and Emerj, a San Franciso-based market research and discovery platform focused on artificial intelligence and machine-learning.

LinkedIn: Daniel G. Faggella