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How to Create Conversion-Worthy Emails With Samar Owais

Perfection is an ideal, they say: it’s not a reality. They say there’s no such thing as a 100% email conversion rate. 

At a time when email has four billion DAU, transactioning 306 billion emails daily, creating email campaigns that convert has become tougher than ever. 

So what are the ingredients that make the conversion happen? What makes the magic take place? What makes the success potion work? What seals all the money-leaking gaps in your e-commerce emails? 

We decided to pick Samar Owais’s brains, an expert email conversion strategist whom you can trust to defy all odds when it comes to 100% email conversion rates. 

Samar is the champion in the arena of SaaS email sequences and has under her belt extensive work for brands like HubSpot, Drip, and Pinterest in the past 14+ years. 

So, let’s dive in and learn a trick or two from Samar. 

1. Let’s start with treating the doubt-itis! One of the most frequent Google queries around email marketing is, if it’s dead. What are your views on it? 

Oh, I absolutely disagree with this. 

Like email has been dying since the ’90s, right? And we’re what, some 30 years later, and it’s still not dead. But here’s the thing: we focus so much on an email that we forget it's not about the email but the people we send it to. 

So, even if email dies today, there will be some way to communicate with our customers. If we just focus on them, whether email dies, stays alive, or turns into this completely new technology, we will be fine. Practices and technologies are meant to evolve, and they do. Because our goal is to communicate with customers and email’s just my trusted weapon of choice. 

2. What is your favorite metric to measure email marketing’s contribution to a business’s success? 

There could be quite a few, but the biggest one is revenue. So, whether you’re a SaaS brand or an e-commerce brand, the one metric that converts you into a leader is revenue. It is the biggest impact email will have on your business.

So, you’re getting users for your SaaS company and sales for your DTC brand, it (email) starts building brand loyalty among your customers. They get used to receiving emails from you. They like knowing they are the only people or the first ones to know about a special discount or a promotional campaign, which builds brand loyalty.

So, these two things are the biggest winners regarding email marketing. 

3. Your top 3 actionable tips: micro to macro, for Unlayer audiences who want to run successful email campaigns?

1) Prepare for the long haul

My first tip is that running a successful email marketing campaign starts way before sending the emails. 

Thoughtfully priming your audience is where the dough is. So play email like a long game and start building a relationship with your subscribers and users before you want them to do something for you. 

Let me break it down a little more granularly: if you want them to buy from you, sending them a sales email will not get you the sales you want. But if you’ve been sending out emails beforehand, like talking about your product, showing them how your product or service solves their problems, making their life easy, and generally staying in touch or on top of the line, that will earn you their trust and eventually sales.

One of my favorite examples is that I created a Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotional campaign for a brand I’d been in business for over three years. They had a list of 25,000 customers who had bought from them. That’s how they built their email list. 

But they never sent them any email, and suddenly, they wanted to do a Black Friday commercial campaign. And I was like, “Oh, it’s all in the strategy; I’ve got this in the bag! We’ve got three months, so we’ll warm up your list, etc., etc., and it’ll be fine!” 

But it was not. 

We barely got any sales, and we only managed to break. And the reason was that those 25,000 people, some of whom had bought maybe two years ago, had never received any emails from them. They were cold. 

So, there was no relationship between the brand and its customers. I don’t know what happened to their list. How many people would’ve marked it as spam, never opened their email, deleted it, or maybe blocked them. 

In a nutshell, email is a long game. It starts way earlier. Hence, you should start sending emails three to four months before sending a sales email. That’s my first piece of advice. 

2) Work on the copy

Your next nugget is about the email copy. So often, we get stuck in writing emails that sound like brochures or promotional campaigns. And we forget that while we might have a list of 10,000 to 100,000 people, the person reading our email on the other end of the screen is one individual. 

So, whether you’re a B2B company or you’re a DTC brand, it’s still one person that’s reading your email. Make sure that your email is personalized, in first person, and it needs to speak to that one person instead of a large crowd. 

3) Watch your message

Lastly, ensure you’re sharing only one message per email. Many times, we make the mistake of including three to four messages in an email that we want our users to take note of or click through. 

This is why the more call-to-actions are included in an email, the more it dilutes our main call-to-action

So, figure out the one action you want your subscribers or users to take after reading your email and just focus on that. Zero-in on that one action. Don’t make multiple demands like asking them to click on a button to read your blog post, follow you on social media and sign up for a free trial, or buy your product, all in a single email. 

By making multiple demands, you’re just dividing their attention into many streams, and it’s taking away from that one big conversion you want from them. 

4. I love your point about the long-haul game. Please elaborate on that.  

There are two things that you need to focus on when you’re starting your email marketing program. 

First, I call life cycle emails the automated emails people get when they sign up for somebody’s list. The others are weekly campaigns and promotional campaigns. 

When somebody signs up for your email list, you must ask yourself what emails you must send them. The answer would be something like, “Hey, somebody signed up for my newsletter. I’d better send them a welcome email that will familiarize them with my brand, get us well acquainted with it, and then slowly introduce my product.” 

When it comes to this, you’re not burdened by sending emails to them every single week. And make sure it’s the right email for the right person every single time. 

The welcome flow will take care of the introductory phase. Once that welcome flow is done, they receive the weekly emails you’re sending out, and this is where relationship-building really picks up. 

You have to understand the welcome email experience, like the first date. On the other hand, the weekly email experience is a long-term relationship. You have to work on it to keep the spark alive. When you send them weekly emails that are focused on the customer, you’re staying on top of their mind, telling them that you understand their problem and have a service that can solve it for them. 

Even though you’re not actively selling, but by sending value-based emails, you’re staying on top of their mind. So, now might not be a good time for them, but two months down the lane, when they decide to solve this problem, your brand will be the first thing that comes to their mind. 

5. We are fans of that one particular success story of yours. You know which one we’re talking about. Please share the tea with our readers. 

The most successful email project of mine is also what I call an outlier. 

I got a client a 100% conversion rate, which is unheard of. Like ever since I started email marketing, I’ve said on every discovery or consultancy call that there’s no such thing as a 100% conversion rate. 

And then I proved myself a liar. 

Storytime! A couple of years ago, a client of mine asked me that they needed to release a new version of their app and that the old version support was being discontinued. But they had 66,000 paying users using the old version, so they didn’t want to lose them. 

But they realized that they were going to lose some of these customers. Even then, we created a strategy, implemented it and told them we could use and resend these emails to people still using the old version until the support stops. 

And then, I did a three-month conversion check-in where I reached out to the clients and asked them how the emails were doing and if any re-optimization was needed. And they checked that the number of customers who had not yet transitioned from the old version had dropped to 23,000. 

And that’s an incredible number, so we decided to do a case study after the support period ended. And my client told me that they didn’t lose a single paid user and managed to move everybody to the new version. And this was the real success story.

Now there are a bunch of reasons why this happened. My strategy was great, but we only got a 100% conversion rate because we’d been sending that brand’s emails for two years. There was no missing context for the audience. 

We had built a relationship with our subscribers where they were used to receiving high-value emails from us and engaging with them. So, we got a good response.

When I started working with this company, their open rates were in the late teens and early 20s. And by the time open rates became irrelevant, they went up to the 60s. So we spent that time building relationships with our subscribers, and they were familiar with our brand tone and voice. 

They knew if it was a Monday, they’d get a link to one of the blog posts published on the website, or if it was a Thursday, they’d get a link to a podcast episode. So we created and met expectations. 

And they also knew that if they were receiving emails from a certain someone in the company, it was about company news. So, we played email like a long game which resulted in getting us a 100% conversion rate.

6. As a B2B email conversion expert, what challenges do you frequently face? How do you deal with it?

A few come to mind … top of the line would be evaluating the wrong metrics. So often, people focus on how the email performed and completely forget why they created those emails. 

Let me explain that. Emails are meant to solve business problems for clients. In themselves, emails are not the solution, these are just a weapon of choice or the mode of communication I choose to solve the business problem with. But many times, the stakeholders start focussing on the performance of the medium instead of the solution to their problem.

For instance, a client came to me and said that their business development manager was under much pressure from managing many manual customers. So, they needed to set specific parameters that customers had to meet to connect to the business development managers. 

That meant we needed to create an email onboarding sequence that allowed the users to reach those conditions to be connected to the business manager. 

So, we created emails to reduce the burden on the business managers, but when we did the conversion check-in, the focus was on how the emails performed, which was never the metrics we were measuring. 

Hence, one of my consistently recurring challenges has been creating awareness of the performance metrics, and I have to remind everybody that they’ve been tracking the wrong metrics. If left unaddressed, this is like the father of further challenges: too many cooks jumping in to cook a meal that is not even on the menu. And so on and so forth…  

7. What’s the most prominent challenge most email marketers are facing recently? 

Honestly, I’d say missing clients. 

Email should not be the first thing they get rid of when things get tough in business. This is my conversation with junior strategists or people I’m training. Many people are slowing down on email marketing even though that channel is making them money, in the case of e-commerce and turning users into paying customers. 

So, that’s the one challenge I keep hearing about in the current economic situation.

8. In your opinion, what is the importance of the design of an email? Any tips on how to create conversion-worthy or trendy designs?

It depends. 

Trendy emails usually look like an email trying to do too much. So, they’ll have many interactive elements that don’t always translate well into the app or have a bright background with buttons fading out. 

I would say that one design trend that people need to keep in mind is simplicity. Ensure that your messages and call to actions are prominent and the eye is tracked down to the CTA. That’s my only design advice. 

Also, white spaces and email font sizes are extremely important. 

Create Simple, Yet Trendy Emails With Unlayer

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9. As a SaaS email marketer, how do you convince clients to agree with your idea in case of a disagreement?

When I was a beginner and had no experience managing these conversations, I would say, “That sounds interesting; what are you basing these suggestions on?” And often ask for background context to understand where somebody is coming from. 

It goes a long way in sorting that situation out because when someone’s explaining why they want to do something a certain way, they start seeing the pitfalls themselves. It is very important that you allow them the space to see the merits and otherwise of their argument themselves. 

Apart from this, when someone didn’t get convinced and was adamant about it, I would say, “That sounds interesting; let’s try both ways and see which one our audience responds to better. This way, we’ll understand how our audience wants to interact with us”. 

And my way was mostly simpler to implement, like creating simple HTML-based emails. So A/B testing was my friend back then. 

Now I say, “Listen, I’m going to be upfront. If we change anything in the strategy or how emails are set up, then I can not guarantee a rise in conversions”. And then the responsibility on me is gone, and there’s no three-month check-in. 

10. What’s the one email marketing trend to look out for in 2023? 

Many brands will be sending similar-sounding emails because people are using AI tools to create emails.  

And this one trend will either make or break your business because if you’re not using AI properly to write your email copy or design your emails, it will be a very costly mistake for you. 

Wrapping Up

Isn’t it interesting to learn how the maestros of email marketing work? We’re sure you enjoyed reading this interview just like we had fun conducting it. 

Now that you’ve learned impressive skills to create conversion-worthy emails, who else should we interview next? Tell us in the comments below. 


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