Activate Takeaways: Ann Handley, Bold Messages, and the Welcome Series

Ann Handley speaking at Activate

Marketing is about creating experiences for customers. But what does that actually mean?

Do you remember the Red Bull space diving project?

Named “Red Bull Stratos,” the project sent Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner 24 miles into the stratosphere. It broke multiple skydiving and jumping records, and Baumgartner became the first human to break the sound barrier without any kind of engine power.

That’s big. It’s bold. But is it…marketing?

This is the question Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of Marketing Profs, posed in her keynote address at Activate.

Small businesses want to create marketing that people love. Marketing that matters. Marketing that people pay attention to because it’s genuinely important to them. Marketing that they would miss if it disappeared.

Red Bull shooting a guy into the atmosphere is definitely Big and Bold. It’s cool and awe-inspiring.

But it’s not the kind of marketing that most small businesses need or want.

Ann’s talk was titled The Big, Bold, Brave New World of Marketing. Her message? Marketers need to change the way we approach marketing.

What does “Big, Bold, and Brave” mean?

  • Telling a bigger story
  • Doing bolder marketing
  • Having a braver perspective

You can see Ann’s full talk in the video above.

In this post, we’ll share some key insights from Ann’s keynote address—and talk about how you can use them to do better marketing in ActiveCampaign.

Content is everywhere, and so is attention

Every minute of the day is filled with content. Content is all over the place, and all of our businesses compete with every piece of content for attention.

Most marketing adds to the noise. Ann shared a few stats that speak to the state of marketing and content.

  • 73% of marketers are producing more content than we were a year ago
  • 42% of marketers are spending more than they were a year ago
  • Only 35% of people know that their content marketing is effective

We’re trying to make more. We’re spending more to do it.

But the point isn’t to create more content. It’s to create content that drives business.

Said Ann: “I don’t think we need more content. We need more relevant content.”

An example: What do you do if you want a nice beer koozie?

Ann’s brother Bill faced exactly this problem. Beer koozies are given away at every conference on earth, but he wanted something a little more reliable and interesting than the usual conference fare.

His search revealed a variety of strange koozies. One made out of money. One that is literally a glove. One that looks like roadkill, and one that’s made of boiled wool.

The search wasn’t going well. But then Bill came across a company called “Freaker USA.”

Most of the koozie companies relied on the same old boring value proposition. “Keep your drinks cold.” Practical. Straightforward. Boring.

Freaker was different. They describe themselves as “Infusing lifestyle and personality into a drink insulator.” They call themselves a starter kit for a new lifestyle, and their “drink insulators” reflect that personality.

Freaker USA koozies

Ann’s point — this copy tells a bigger story. Freaker doesn’t rely on having a weird product. It tries to integrate itself into their customers’ lives.

They have a personality, and they sell a lifestyle.

If you covered up the logo of your company,
would you sound like everyone else?

“Your tone of voice is your gutsiest, bravest asset.”

Freaker USA stands out from all of the other koozie companies out there because they have a personality. Even if you’ve never heard of them, don’t know what they do, and don’t know who they are—you can read their marketing and come away smiling.

Every inch of copy you have an opportunity to make something interesting and meaningful. Something that’s uniquely you. Video captions, microcopy, landing pages, subscription confirmation — all of those are opportunities for personality.

As Ann shared, tone of voice in marketing comes down to three things.

  • Who you are
  • Why you do what you do
  • What are you like to deal with

It’s always a good idea to ask: “what is your customer really feeling?”

What does someone feel when your name shows up in their inbox? Or when they use one of your products? Or when they go about their everyday life (without you?). No moment is too small to consider.

How can you do bigger, bolder, braver marketing
with ActiveCampaign?

As Ann mentioned, your unique message should be plastered everywhere that you send any message.

Certainly it belongs on your website. Definitely it belongs in your sales material. Video captions, buttons, and social media posts are all fair game.

But one of your best opportunities to spread your message is your welcome series.

When you send a sequence of emails after someone subscribes to your list, you’re reaching your most engaged contacts.

Think about it—when will someone be most interested in what you have to say? Immediately after signing up.

When we put together our article on email funnels, we reached out to Andy Crestodina (also an Activate speaker) to get his thoughts on sending a welcome series.

Expert insight: Andy Crestodina on welcome emails

Andy Crestodina
“There’s one email that gets a higher open rate than all others: the welcome-to-my-list email.

It’s no surprise. The recipient is at their peak interest. They just converted into a subscriber, so they are want your content and trust your brand. Setting this auto-response it a no-brainer. Opens and click through rates are often 2x any other emails you send.

Think of it as just being polite. When someone starts listening, you should say hello, right? When someone asks for more, give them your best. I think of the welcome series as both smart marketing and common courtesy.”

A welcome series is a great opportunity to be big, brave, and bold, but…what do you say?

What people need to hear.

In her talk, Ann argued that marketers needed to integrated their product into people’s lives. The best way to do that is to speak to deep emotional needs—instead of simple value propositions.

How can you find those?

Our article on where marketing copy comes from (hint: you don’t need to be a great writer) is a good way to start finding your audience’s deep emotional pain points.

There are also a lot of free online sources of information you can use. We have another article about online market research. What are your customers saying on different platforms?

Some places you can look (also covered in that article):

  • Quora questions
  • Facebook groups
  • Reddit
  • Keyword research tools
  • Amazon reviews
  • Competitors

Once you know you message, putting together the welcome series itself is straightforward.

We even have pre-built automations you can use.

pre-built welcome automations

Welcome automations made for you in ActiveCampaign

Over time, as you get more data from your welcome series, you can get a little more sophisticated. How?

  • Create a different welcome series for each lead magnet you offer. Keep your messaging, but change the content of each message to deliver more information related to the lead magnet they originally wanted.
  • Segment your welcome series by industry. Not everyone has the same needs. If you serve multiple groups of people, you can create a different welcome series for each.
  • Use lead scoring to find your most engaged contacts right away. Who’s engaging with your emails? The sooner you find your top leads, the faster you can turn them into customers.

What does this look like in action?

Heather Read was a family photographer with a problem: she had too many leads.

A smart investment into local SEO meant that tons of people were coming to her website…but a lot of her visitors weren’t the right fit for her business. She was spending a ton of time on early conversations—and not nearly enough on paying photography clients.

Heather needed a way to find customers. People she really wanted to work with. People who were:

  • Ready to hire a photographer
  • Willing to pay her fees
  • Interested in her style

So she did. She focused her attention on being more selective—and instead of trying to reach out to everyone directly, she looked for ways to qualify leads.

We did a full case study of Heather’s automations, which you can read for inspiration.

The short version? She used lead scoring on her welcome series.

By the time her welcome series ended, Heather had found her best leads.

Conclusion: Telling a bigger story

Heather’s welcome series, and Ann’s talk, tell the same story.

To do great marketing, you need to have a great message. You need to know:

  • Who you are
  • Why you do what you do
  • What are you like to deal with

Once you have a great message, how do you share it?

In ActiveCampaign, your welcome series is one of your best opportunities to share your message.

By reaching contacts when they are most interested, you can nurture leads into customers—and find the people who will become raving fans of your business.

A trial is worth a thousand words.

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