Like many heroes at the beginning of their quests, our hero starts out as nothing special. He lives on a farm or under the stairs or in a hobbit hole.
Until something changes.
Luke receives a message from Leia. Harry Potter receives his letter from Hogwarts. Bilbo has a wizard show up at his door.
Doubts surface, a mentor appears to guide them, and they cross the threshold…And so begins an epic tale, known as “The Hero’s Journey.”
The Hero’s Journey is a storytelling structure first described by Joseph Campbell in 1949, but it can be seen at work in everything from Toy Story to Star Wars and The Odyssey to The Wizard of Oz.
Campbell studied the world’s myths and literature and found many of them shared this common storytelling progression:
- The Hero is shown in their day-to-day life.
- Then there is a call to action — a reason to leave that life behind, and go on an adventure.
- They meet a mentor — like Obi Wan or Gandalf.
- The hero undergoes trials and tests.
- Finally, our hero returns, having accomplished some key feat or acquired some important truth about himself.
This story format works because we see ourselves in the Hero. We follow along with their pains and struggles, and rejoice when they succeed.
And the truth is, we can use this same structure in our email marketing nurtures.
This is Your Brain on Storytelling
As human beings, we love stories. In fact, we love them so much, that even watching a narrative on video consistently causes oxytocin synthesis. The amount of oxytocin (known as the “cuddle hormone”) released can even be used to predict how much people are willing to cooperate.
Paul J. Zak, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, a professor of economics, psychology, and management at Claremont Graduate University, and the author of Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies wrote about it for Harvard Business Review back in 2014.
So the ideas here are nothing new — and yet, these techniques are still often overlooked when developing marketing funnels… and email nurture campaigns, specifically.
We’ve talked about email nurture campaigns before, but essentially an email nurture is a series of emails aimed at getting people to understand who you are, and connect with you and your product on an emotional level.
It can help gain your potential customer’s trust, and show them how the thing you sell can make them a better person. This is the Pain / Dream / Fix strategy that we often mention.
Over a few weeks, we can walk them through a journey, by sharing the story of our product’s founder or a customer who has used what we’re trying to sell to achieve great results.
Creating an Email Sequence Using The Hero’s Journey
The most effective Nurture Sequences are usually two weeks of educational emails that work to create an emotional connection and provide great content without ever talking about a sale.
Then, after your lead has completed that sequence, they’ll receive a 3-4 day sales sequence with a hard sell, ending with an email that offers them one last chance to sign up and walks them through everything they need to know.
This is the flow that I discuss in detail in “Why No One is Buying Your Info Product.”
When launching a new product or existing product to an internal list, I take this idea one step further.
Not only do I use the Hero’s Journey format, I add a second “hero” to the journey, whose presence relates to a niche within the main target market that readers can relate to.
So, for example, if I’m working on a sequence for a new productivity course, I might introduce “Tim,” the company founder, who used it to get away from navel-gazing and actually get stuff done; but I’d also weave in Mary, an early customer, who gave it a try and saw great results.
That’s because people like people who remind them of themselves.
So a woman might be more likely to relate to Mary, while a man may relate better to Tim (not that those similarities have to be along gender lines, but that makes for an easy example).
The Hero’s Journey Email Nurture Template
But what should you actually put IN each of those emails?
Let’s break down email one by one.
DAY 1, EMAIL 1 – On the first day we have the story hook. This is the part of the story that introduces our main character and how terrible his life was before he found the solution we’re trying to sell. If ultimately we’ll be offering a productivity product, this is where we talk about how he used to sit and stare at the screen for hours without getting anything done.
One of the most powerful emails I’ve ever read like this is from SCDLifestyle, where Jordan shared the story of writing out his will at age 23, because he thought he was going to die.
We want out reader to think, “Wow! You have really gone through it all!”
After describing the worst moments of our hero’s life, we say, “But I was able to get over it, and for the next several emails, I’m going to show you how I went from this to the guy you know I am now.”
DAY 3, EMAIL 2 – Our next email talks a little more about the pain our hero was experiencing and then introduces our first helpful resource, to give them a jumpstart in solving their problems. Usually this is a worksheet that helps people take the very first step in overcoming their problem.
It may be a top five daily checklist, or something else that won’t take a lot of time, but that people can start using right away and that will provide a ton of value.
In your email, it’s positioned as being from your hero — something they really wish they’d had when starting out.
The worksheets and downloads throughout the nurture serve two purposes:
- They work to build trust in your ultimate solution.
- They measure engagement. Your email open rate tells you how good your subject line is, but your click through rate to your downloads tells you how good the content of that email actually is. If you don’t have anything for people to click in your emails, it’s difficult to measure real engagement.
DAY 4, EMAIL 3 – At this point it’s time to introduce our secondary hero. Here we talk about Mary’s story, share the problem she eventually overcame, and how she started down that road to success.
Again, at the end of this email, we give something away. Usually, for email 3, I choose a video testimonial from Mary, to help people connect with her, where she shares some helpful pieces of advice.
The important note about Mary is that she should be talking about a different aspect of the problem than our primary hero did, or a different niche that could benefit from the solution you’ll eventually provide… because no product only solves one problem.
That concludes the first week of our sequence.
DAY 8, EMAIL 4 – To kick off the second week of our nurture sequence, this email will dive into how things always get in the way of our success; it’ll seek to explain why our reader hasn’t succeeded yet, even if they know what they need to do. It’ll address why they haven’t actually done it.
This email is about getting people over the initial hurdle of inaction. So we share the story of how Tim went from his initially crappy situation, overcame that first step, and began to work toward where he wanted to be.
Again, we offer a worksheet that’s all about taking action and how readers can move from a place of, “I’m in pain but I know what I want” to actually taking that first step and sticking to it.
DAY 9, EMAIL 5 – Our fifth email should focus on presenting a new idea — something different that no one has ever told readers before. I usually present this from Mary’s perspective. She shares something most people don’t know, that’s kind of a secret, but that we know as experts.
As an expert, you know something about your product and your field of expertise that 99% of the population does not — this is your chance to shine!
As our link to measure engagement for this email we share interviews with authority figures that back up our perspective. This might be a video or audio interview, or even just a written interview with someone who is an authority in your field. It provides social proof, and helps establish that you are an authority, too.
DAY 11, EMAIL 6 – Now it’s finally time to start talking about how our main hero, Tim, started to solve his problem. We’ve talked, so far, about the problem itself and the first steps he took to get over the inability to move, how he finally began to feel motivated to change.
This is where we share how he started putting all that into practice and how he used these tools, ultimately, to solve his problem. Essentially, this email says, “Hey, this is what I did. This is how it worked. My life is getting better now.”
DAY 15, EMAIL 7 – This email deviates from the stories of our heroes, and instead focuses on the story of someone famous who had the same issue as our heroes and our readers. I call this the “Dying with your music still in you” email; it takes a look at a famous person and shares how they struggled with these issues but overcame them to become successful.
We often forget that famous people have problems; they are just like us. So by attaching the problem we’re solving to someone people admire we show that it’s a solvable issue and they don’t have to be ashamed of it.
As a download with this email we’ll include a case study on either that famous person or another one who overcame their problems.
DAY 16, EMAIL 8 – This is the last email of our nurture sequence. In this email we share a story from Mary on “A solid strategy that works.” At this point we’ve shared how Tim started to solve his problem, how a famous person overcame their problems, and now we’re going to do the same for Mary — share how she started to fix her life and overcome her problems.
In the email, we’ll offer readers the option to download a student case study — the goal here is to show readers how this person, who is just like them, and was having a really tough time, overcame their problems successfully.
This serves to prime the pump for the sales emails you’ll be sending them the following week. We don’t want to talk about sales yet, but we can hint that something cool is coming… or maybe even mention something like, “X student took my course and she was able to do this.” But we want to be careful not to start selling yet; this is just the first time we’re mentioning the product.
At this point we’ve shared how our two heroes started out their journey just like our readers, and then were faced with trials and tribulations. To round out our story, in our sales emails we’ll show how they then overcome those obstacles to accomplish a key feat, and return to their lives better than they were before.
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