Russell Brunson is one of my internet marketing idols and in his book Dotcom Secrets: The Underground Playbook for Growing Your Company Online he introduced me to a powerful concept called the soap opera sequence.
It has been a hugely important part of my email marketing ever since.
In this article, I am going to share with you what Russell Brunson wrote in this book about email sequencing (email automation) and how and why you should implement his advice.
But first, let's talk briefly about email automation and why it's so important for digital marketers.
What Is Email Marketing Automation?
If you aren't familiar with the concept, email automation (sequencing) involves drafting a series of emails that are put into action when someone subscribes to your email list or completes some sort of triggered action.
Any quality email marketing service will allow you to set up these sequences and create various rules and parameters to make sure the right sequence is shown to the right subscribers. I use ConvertKit for my email sequences.
If someone subscribes to my email list to download a lead magnet targeted to marketers, I would want to add them to an automated sequence that would passively market to them.
An email sequence can be any number of emails, but I recommend at least starting with a 4 email broadcast. You will schedule time in between your emails (1-2 days).
The open rates and click through rates in the example are ok, but replacing that sequence with a soap opera sequence did wonders.
Why Email Automation Matters
Creating a quality email sequence takes a lot of work so it is completely reasonable that you are sold on the idea before investing time and energy into the process.
Automated email messages average 70.5% higher open rates and 152% higher click-through rates than “business as usual” marketing messages. –Epsilon Email Institute
Here's why you need to automate a portion of your email marketing (and always automate your soap opera sequences).
- Email Automation Saves Time. Your best emails should be shown to all of your subscribers. There is no need to continually write new emails when you have existing content that your new subscribers would love to read and that you know converts.
- Email Automation Creates an Instant Connection with Your Audience. Your email sequence will allow you to introduce yourself quickly to your new subscribers while you are fresh on their mind.
- Email Automation Leads to Higher Open Rates. Ironically, not emailing your list right out of the gate will usually lead to more unsubscribes and SPAM complaints. Think about it, people will forget who you are and why they are getting emails from you if you wait too long to get in touch with them and introduce yourself!
- Email Automation Leads to "Passive Income." I have gone on the record as saying I don't believe in "passive income" (you earn it by doing the work at some point) but an email sequence is going to make you sales for every subscriber that joins your list and it will do it whether you do anything else or not (once you set your system in place).
Over 75% of email revenue is generated by triggered campaigns, rather than one-size-fits-all campaigns. Automated email campaigns account for 21% of email marketing revenue.
Setting up an automated email sequence may be the best decision you ever make in your internet business.
Ok, let's get into Russell's takeaways from Dotcom Secrets.
What Is a Soap Opera Sequence?
A soap opera sequence is an email sequence that is used to quickly build a bond between you (the attractive character) and your new subscribers.
A "soap opera sequence" involves crafting a story that relies on open-ended, high drama "episodes" that draw your readers in and make them want to come back and find out more (in this case, open your next emails).
We end each email with something called an "open loop." This is something that drives the reader to want to open the next email to "close the loop."
Soap operas do this (hence the name) extremely well.
"Well, who's the real father then?1?!"
Dramatic Music AAAAAANNDDD ..... Commercial break!
Or the episode ends with "to be continued." Basically, you're left hanging.
This is a genius strategy to keep the audience engaged. If they're really watching, they are unlikely to resist waiting for the resolution in the next episode or after the commercial break.
This is powerful thanks to two psychological principles.
#1 The Zeigarnik effect which states that humans better retain information that is left incomplete (this keeps you top of mind longer).
#2 The Ovsiankina effect which states that humans have a tendency to desire completion and "close the loop," on open thoughts or stories.
Here is how Russell Brunson lays out his own Soap Opera Sequence emails (I emulate this model nearly exactly).
Here are some tips for creating soap opera sequences that work extremely well.
Tip #1 End with Open Loops
Each email should lead the reader to want to open the next one. Create interest and capitalize on our need as humans to have "closure." This is how soap operas work. They create unresolved situations right before commercial breaks or at the end of episodes.
Tip #2 Be Entertaining
Your first email needs to set the tone for future emails. If it is boring, you're toast.
Tip #3 Tell Stories/Parables
Nothing draws readers in like storytelling. The greatest marketers in the world understand this. Since our goal is to connect with our new followers, there is nothing more powerful than a relevant story (or many stories!)
Tip #4 Start on Point of High Drama
Most people make the mistake of starting at the beginning. This isn't the book of Genesis, it's marketing! Start with the point of highest drama. A perfect example of this is the show Breaking Bad. Every episode starts with the end and makes you ask, "What in the heck happened here? I have to know!" The show then fills in the blanks throughout the episode and then, leaves you hanging again at the end.
Tip #5 Provide Tremendous Value
One of the biggest mistakes marketers make is holding back their best content.
In Dotcom Secrets, Russell explains how you should GIVE AWAY some of your best content as part of your email sequence.
This sounds crazy right? Well it serves a purpose.
This is what a normal person will think when they get something from you for free that is really high quality:
"Wow! If this is the FREE stuff, what is the PAID stuff like?!!?"
This is part of why Russell gives away the Dotcom Secret's book for free (plus shipping). He is giving you his BEST content for free so you will become a lifelong fan and ascend up his value ladder (higher priced items).
That is the goal of an email sequence: to build lifelong fans who will buy from you over and over again because they know, like and trust you.
Tip #6 Build an "Attractive Character"
People buy from people they know, like and trust.
Your email sequence is your chance to make this happen. We can also indoctrinate our users into our community.
Russell Brunson shares why the attractive character is so important on page 63 of DCS,
You share your backstory because you want people to see where you came from. If they can relate to where you came from, then they will want to follow you to where you are now. If they don't see the backstory, potential customers won't follow you or listen to you.
Russell Brunson // Author of Dot Com Secrets
Your attractive character should do the following...
- Be Relatable. Your readers need to feel that where you are is possible for them too. If you are seen as some insanely gifted outlier, people will think you're an exception and will think that what you're selling and teaching won't work for them.
- Be Yourself (Even If It Is Polarizing). Being a people pleaser will keep you from having "haters," but it will also keep you from earning real money in this business. Don't be afraid to showcase opinions and stand by them regardless of what others think. Russell talks about working in the "prolific zone." Love me or hate me, there is no money in the middle.
- Show You Aren't Perfect. Don't hide your mistakes from your readers. Sharing your journey "warts and all" will help develop trust and prove you are not much different than your audience.
Building an attractive character has many components so I recommend you grab a copy of Dotcom Secrets and read more. I can't cover it all here.
Tip #7 Test Regularly
Each email marketing platform will have a different approach to testing. Some allow you to do a lot and some have little testing functionality at all.
You can (and should) test...
- Your subject lines
- Your calls to action
- Your story (hardest thing to test)
Never stop testing...Like David Ogilvy said.
Never stop testing and your advertising will never stop improving.
David Ogilvy // Legendary Advertiser
Learn More about Soap Opera Sequences
Dotcom Secrets is an absolutely game-changing book. Some of the advice I have implemented has literally made me tens of thousands of dollars (how I approach my email marketing was the biggest improvement). So, do yourself a favor and get a free copy! You'll learn more about email marketing and sales funnel creation. You will only pay shipping and handling.