Email Marketing 101 Course

Lesson 4: Do I have to become a writer, or a tech nerd?

There are two big challenges you will need to overcome when you start email marketing:

  1. Learning to use your email marketing system (the technology bits)
  2. Writing compelling emails (marketing or otherwise)

Let’s have a look at the techie part of it first.

Do I have to become a tech nerd?

Chances are you use Excel (or one of its equivalents) somewhere in your business or personal life. When you started using Excel, you learnt the basic formulas like adding stuff:


The more you use Excel, the more you realize just how powerful it can be. Eventually you may have learnt how to use some of the more complex formulas like SUMIFS:

=SUMIFS(A2:A9, B2:B9, "<>Bananas", C2:C9, "Tom")

But you didn’t start off with the complex stuff. You started with the basics and you had your first working spreadsheet in just a few minutes.

The point is this:

Just like you progressively learnt Excel (or any other technology), you will start with the basics of email marketing and get more sophisticated later.

Just how much learning is involved?

Of course this depends on your comfort with technology in general and the quality of the online help and courses available (which differ from one email marketing system to the next).

In general, if you’re familiar with navigating the web and your emails, you can start sending your first broadcast emails from your email marketing system in a couple of hours.

Budget 10-20 hours of learning over the first 4 to 6 weeks to learn the basics. If you regularly use these skills, they will last a lifetime.

In the grand scheme of things, investing 10 to 20 hours of learning how to use a system is a very small investment. You’ve probably spent a lot more time learning Excel.

Do I have to become a writer?

Short answer:

Yes, but you will need to put the common misperceptions of “being a writer” out of your head. Email marketing is quite different, and it’s easier than you think.

Longer answer:

To understand the learning curve in “becoming a writer” (in the email marketing sense), it’s useful to think of the types of emails you will have to write. They fall into the following categories:

  • welcome and onboarding emails
  • marketing and promotion (sales) emails
  • all the other emails (demonstrating your expertise, building trust, staying top of mind)

Note that we’ve already made this “big” problem of writing emails easier to deal with because we broke it up into smaller problems.

Welcome and onboarding emails

When someone first gets on your email list, you will need to welcome them. The content will depend on how they got on the list - they downloaded a lead magnet, signed up for an event, just signed up for your email list, or purchased something. (Those are pretty much the only ways people get on your list.)

In each case, you will want to:

  • say thanks
  • follow up with some useful advice
  • tell them what to expect next

Here’s how to make it easy to think about what to write:

The easiest way to understand what you need to write, is to think about what you would find useful or helpful.

Your email subscribers are human, just like you, so what you would find useful will most likely be useful to them.

Marketing and promotion emails

Here’s what I know to be true:

The biggest challenge you will have to overcome in writing compelling marketing and promotion emails is how not to sound like a marketer.

This sounds a little counter-intuitive, so hear me out:

None of us like to be “sold to”. We prefer to be in charge of our own decisions, and we shy away from anyone who tries to sell too hard. Therefore the worst thing you can do in your marketing and promotion emails is to try too hard to convince them to buy.

Take this email, for example. It is a marketing and promotion email. And yet you haven’t seen any “buy now” or “how great is this” talk - it’s all been about giving you the information you need to make a decision. No sales talk - just information.

You will of course have to learn some things about marketing and promotion.

Some people take to this naturally. Others (like me), have to actively learn what works and what doesn’t. But we can all learn to do it. The key is to understand that you don’t have the be the world’s best (you just have to be good enough). Then the learning curve is very manageable.

Then there’s all the other emails.

All the other emails

These emails belong in your lead nurturing and long-term stay-top-of-mind email sequences. This is where you want to demonstrate your expertise, build trust, and stay top of mind.

These are deceptively easy to write, but it took me a couple of wrong turns to get it right. Here are the basics you will have to learn:

  • Emails don’t have to be long. A 2- to 3-minute read is much more likely to get read than a tome. (That’s about 500-750 words.)
  • Even the “obvious” is valuable. What you think is obvious will be new to at least some of your subscribers. Don’t be afraid that they will know all the stuff you’re writing about.
  • Not every email is going to be great. And this is just fine, and you will get better over time.

The key thing to remember is this:

Your experience, skills and insights are valuable. If you can break that knowledge up into small, bite-sized pieces, you have a lifetime’s worth of knowledge to share.

I leant how to do this. You can too.

Writing emails is a transferable skill

One of the unexpected side benefits of learning to write compelling emails is that the skills are transferable. You will use exactly the same skills to write courses, proposals, marketing on social media platforms, crafting your website - it’s all the same core set of skills.

Don’t let the idea of “oh now I have to become a writer” phase you. You already have some of these skills - you just have to transfer them to email marketing. And what you learn there can be applied back to the other areas of your business.

Here’s what you’ve learnt

So do you have to become a writer, or a tech nerd? Here’s what we covered:

  1. You won’t have to become a tech nerd. Learning the basics will take 10-20 hours over 4-6 weeks. Then build your tech expertise as required.
  2. You will have to learn to write. But you have to let go of the preconceived notions we have of what “writing” entails.
  3. There are three types of emails you will have to learn to write.Welcome and onboarding emails, marketing and promotion emails, and knowledge sharing emails.
  4. These skills will last a lifetime. And pay back very handsomely.
  5. Email marketing skills are transferable. What you learn here can be applied to other areas of your business - and vice versa.