Read Time: 5:52

Key Takeaways

  • The longer your course, the more "support" required to keep the reader engaged

  • So far I've put 7 different email archetypes to use — each with a different goal and structure

  • What you choose to use (or not use) is up to you and the needs of your readers

Good morning*, 

*(or whatever time of day it is wherever you're reading this)

Today we're talking about how to make use of a handful of different "email archetypes". Before I go any further, I want to make something abundantly clear: this is just how I think about this stuff.

It doesn't mean it's the only way (it does often mean a bit more work...) and I encourage you to play around with what you like — and more importantly, figure out what your readers like!

So when I say there are 7 of them, don't freak out

For starters, sometimes I don't use them all, but I want you to keep this in mind: the longer your EBC, the more structural support required.

What do you mean when you say, "structural support"?

The longer the course, the more you need to remind the student of where they are, where they're going, and why this is important. Structural support mechanisms are things like chapter overviews, quizzes, action items, recaps — all the stuff that tells our brain we're making progress.

Let's breeze through 'em! And we'll start with the three that you've already seen.

1. Start Email

You remember, plain text, trying to give yourself the best shot at landing in the inbox, and being just entertaining enough to get your reader to do two things: move you to their primary inbox and take an action that will start the course. This little psychological move means they've put skin in the game (it's also a nice option for folks who aren't yet ready to start the course).

2. Chapter Overviews

This serves as the map for the upcoming content — tell the reader what they're going to learn about, where it falls in the grand scheme of things, and why it's important.

3. Deep Dives

This is where you get to explore a single topic in detail. I have found that there is a structure for these emails that makes them exceptionally readable. You hook 'em, set expectations, define new concepts, provide context, demonstrate relevance, give great examples, summarize key takeaways, and foreshadow what's coming. If you're thinking, he should do a whole email on this, you're in luck (we'll circle back to this structure in the next chapter).

4. Quizzes

Writing a good quiz is an art form. The rule of thumb on quizzes is this: quizzes should be designed to reinforce knowledge, not to test it. I usually limit my quizzes to 3-4 questions and almost always use the multiple-choice format. Why? Because I can provide one clearly correct answer. I'm also a HUGE fan of using metaphors in quizzes (and elsewhere) — in creating new associations, they actually deepen our understanding of a concept. Here's an example:

Notice how I use a logic jump to reinforce the right answer — regardless of whether they get it right or wrong.

5. Action Items

With action items, there should only ever be ONE thing to do. Not only that, but all roadblocks should be removed — that means including step-by-step instructions, video walkthroughs, recommendations... make sure you actually take the action item yourself before you ask your students to do the same. Try to be upfront about the time commitment.

"Doing" is a massive part of making learning sticky, so use action items to strike while the iron is hot. Did you just introduce a new concept that your students can apply immediately? Follow it up with an action item.

6. Asks (Reviews, Feedback, Surveys)

It's likely that you'll use the same technology for quizzes as you do for reviews (in this course, I'm using — I've used Typeform before, but Tally gets the job done for a lot cheaper). A great way to solicit reviews is to put a video in the email. This is the only place where I'll "link out" and then encourage the reader to come back.

Something to note about reviews as your EBC matures... what you seek from the reader should change over time. In the beginning, you're looking for feedback and areas of improvement. As the course gains popularity, you want to create opportunities for social proof and additional content exploration.

In the first iteration of Big Later, we put a "check-in" after each chapter. We'd ask people a series of questions around clarity (what was poorly explained/hard to understand?) and satisfaction (are you getting what you thought you'd get, and if not, what did you expect?). This was useful very early on, but once we'd gathered the consistent themes, we improved the weaker points in the content and moved to a single survey at the end.

7. Call to Action

First, show them how far they've come! In the next email we're going to talk about how different design elements can help accomplish this. It's important to lead with this because it will, like other components of structural support, evoke the feeling of having learned something.

With any call to action, it's essential to make it easy to buy (or complete - whatever the CTA may be). If the EBC has been intentionally designed, it will not feel like selling — rather, it should feel like the logical next step in their path to becoming a better version of themselves!

At the beginning of this email I made a comment about course length. Another rule of thumb (and yes, I am keeping track of all these "rules" in the EBC builder) is that if your course is less than 15 emails, it's not super necessary to have multiple chapters. See my little diagram below:

Where did I get the number 15 from?

I pulled it out of my ass. But to me, having written a good number of email courses... it just feels right. Play around with your structure and make the decision that best suits your content.

Depending on how many emails your course has

The format of your subject lines will vary. With a multi-chapter course, I like using the "[#.#] Subject Line" format (like you see with this email). With a single "chapter" course, I prefer a subject line like "[Lesson 1] Subject Line".

In either case, you're taking a small extra step to make your emails more navigable for your reader. They WILL want to come back and revisit your content. Make it easy for them.

Before you proceed...

I'd encourage you to watch the video linked below. It's easy to get super overwhelmed by this process -- most of my students go through a similar arc:

  1. Start with a grandiose idea for their EBC

  2. Experience panic when the reality of the work required sets in

  3. Niche down quite a bit

  4. Publish an MVP

  5. Iterate, develop, and expand

Here's the video.