Bonus: The Quiet SaaS Email Marketing Strategy ConvertKit Used to Get to $2.3M+ MRR

SaaS email marketing has become complicated over the years and it takes more than executing a well-thought-out email marketing strategy to get the results your company needs.

Whether you are a SaaS founder, CMO, or even a solopreneur, you have already heard about AppSumo and its incredible growth.

In 2021, the company founded in 2010 by Noah Kagan plans to make over $74 million in annual revenue. And currently, they’re looking for an A-Class CEO who will take the company to the billion marks in revenue. Yes. Billion dollars. 

But, hold on, this is not the most fabulous part of the AppSumo story. The craziest part is that the company gets a whopping 49.59 percent of its annual revenue from email marketing. 

AppSumo’s 74M+ AR Marketing Plan

What’s more, the AppSumo website has more than 110 000 monthly traffic.

SaaS email marketing: AppSumo monthly traffic

And 6.70 percent of that traffic comes from their email list. That’s around 7300 visits per month.

SaaS email marketing: AppSumo's traffic source

This leads us to two conclusions:

  • Email marketing works when you know how to do it.

  • If you’re not getting results, chances are the $497 email marketing course you bought is not as effective. 

Now the 37 million dollar question is: HOW? 

How on earth do the folks at AppSumo approach email marketing to achieve this success?

It all started in 2010…

Let’s travel back to 2010 when it all started to help understand the Big Bang behind the AppSumo website and how they have been approaching email marketing since day one.

Upon acquiring their domain name, the one thing that was on their website was an email opt-in form. No content, no nothing. Just an opt-in form with an offer to pique visitors’ interest.

SaaS email marketing: AppSumo

As a brand new company, Kagan’s first goal was to grow the company’s customer base, capture as many leads as possible, and do it all while keeping the business afloat. He uses marketing tactics like exclusivity and scarcity to get people to subscribe to AppSumo’s email list. 

Fast forward to July 2010, they started creating content, moved the opt-in form to the right hand corner of the homepage and added their first pop-up opt-in form to the site.

SaaS email marketing: AppSumo 1
SaaS email marketing: AppSumo's first opt-in form

In September 2010, they revamped the website’s homepage, kept the same opt-in form at the top of the page, but improved the pop-up opt-in form by changing and using a more suitable color.

SaaS email marketing: AppSumo 2010
SaaS email marketing: AppSumo 2010 1

Now, let’s go a little farther. In 2015, the website homepage was improved and they had a welcome mat. 

A welcome mat is an email opt-in feature that is displayed at the front of a website and appears when visitors land on your site.

SaaS email marketing: AppSumo Welcome mat 2015

A little farther again. In 2019, they were no longer using any welcome mat. But instead, they gave the website a complete makeover and added above the fold and footer opt-in forms.

SaaS email marketing: AppSumo 2019
SaaS email marketing: AppSumo 2019 1

As you read this, the website has been upgraded to a modern day online business model and baseline standards. 

SaaS email marketing: AppSumo Blog 2021

They added some copy to the page and the above-the-fold opt-in form. They also nailed the color schemes to perfection. But nothing changed with the footer opt-in form, the design and the copy remained the same.

SaaS email marketing: AppSumo 2021 Blog

As of 2013 – which is 3 years after its inception – the company counted 150000+ email subscribers. And today as we write this piece, the company has a base of 730 000+ Email Subscribers to market its services to. 

Now, as you may have guessed, AppSumo’s first marketing move has always been growing their email list. As it turns out, from day one, the company has never stopped aggregating its email list through the multiple digital marketing channels available.

“What started out as an experiment for growing our small audience became one of the key marketing activities that helped grow our customer base,” said Noah Kagan, Chief Sumo Officer.  

Here are 4 steps showing how AppSumo was able to build its email marketing empire. 

4 Steps You Can Follow to Make $37M From Your Email Marketing, Just Like AppSumo

Step 1: Grow your email list

Growing an email list in your early days is one of the hardest things in any SaaS business. But AppSumo is living proof that this is possible. They started by creating simple above fold and footer opt-in forms. 

Use Above Fold and Footer Opt-in Forms

SaaS email marketing: Above the fold opt-in form

Position is key when it comes to the effectiveness of the opt-in forms on your website for the simple reason that you could be leaving thousands of subscribers on the table if you are getting the position right. And you don’t have to fill your website with opt-in forms to get amazing results. 

The folks at AppSumo captured thousands of email addresses using only two opt-in forms. One above the fold and the second at the footer.

Why was it so effective?

Well, if you are like most people, you won’t care to scroll down to the footer of a website. You would just pinpoint the content you’re looking for and bounce away. 

So, placing an opt-in form above the fold (aka: where visitors can see it firsthand) will give you a better shot at capturing the email addresses of the visitors without having to scroll down your page.

On the other hand, if you are a veritable digger like me, you are more likely to scan the whole webpage before taking any action. And if you have your opt-in forms both above the fold and at the footer, that makes it easy for the visitors to sign up wherever they want.

SaaS email marketing: AppSumo footer opt-in form

Add Lead Magnet Opt-in Popups to Your Website

Firstly, a lead magnet is web content offered to a prospect in exchange for contact information. 

Secondly, an opt-in form is a signup form intended to collect the email address of website visitors in order to contact them in the future for prospecting purposes. 

And thirdly, a pop-up is a window that automatically pops up (depending on its programming) on the screen of a web page. 

So, how do you come up with a lead magnet opt-in popup? 

Simple. 

You can create one following two straightforward steps:

  1. Create a popup opt-in form (like a traditional one) and then,

  2. Gate in a lead magnet along with a compelling copy as a traditional lead magnet to capture leads. 

Here is an example from AppSumo.

Email Marketing strategy: AppSumo lead magnet opt-in form

First, the opt-in popup (All the business ideas you need) appears, then it displays something the visitor will be ready to trade their email contact for (75 No-code business ideas). 

We know this whole thing might seem complex. So we decided to break down two lead magnet opt-in popup tactics AppSumo used to grow its email list. Let’s jump in it. 

  •  Grow your email list using these 2 lead magnet opt-in popup tactics 

Let’s clear something first. In most cases, people find pop ups to be annoying, especially instant intent pop-ups. And as an online business, the last thing you want is your website (aka: your business venue) to be annoying, and AppSumo understands it very well. 

Pop-ups do work, but you have to approach it the right way – leveraging timed and targeted popups. 

Case in point, AppSumo waits quite some time to pop its opt-in forms. By doing so, AppSumo gives the visitor the time to decide whether their website content aligns with their expectations and if the business model is the right fit for them.

What’s more they only add pop ups to specific pages (i.e. pages or posts with the most traffic). 

Ultimately, as a result of the combination of great copy and perfect fitting pop-ups, people conveniently and easily sign up to the AppSumo email list.

Here are top-performing pop ups AppSumo used to grow its email as a breeze. 

Popup 1 : The Freebies Popup
Email Marketing strategy: AppSumo freebie opt-in form

AppSumo gathered 78,888 emails using the Freebies Popup  tactic alone. 

How?

  • Perfect Timing

It is quite commonplace to come across websites where you get blasted with popups while you still have yet to find what you’re looking for. And that is the reason most people don’t like popups. They’re not timed to appear at the right moment. 

The AppSumo Freebies popup never appears unless the visitor has spent at least 15 seconds on the site. This way, AppSumo gives visitors time to view the latest products or deal opportunities before they are invited to sign up for an email.

  • Great Targeting

You can get the timing right. But if you don’t understand your audience, no one will sign up for your email list. 

In most cases, the people who visit the AppSumo website are looking for products, services or are start-up operators looking for a good deal. AppSumo understands this and uses this information to tailor the popup copy to what visitors are interested in.

  • Valuable Offer

After the attention-grabbing and interest-piquing popup copy, AppSumo brings something valuable to the table for visitors. 

The AppSumo Freebies popup invites visitors to register their email address and receive over $100 in freebies items each month. As a result, they sign up easily.

Popup 2: New Product Popup (Optimized For Mobile)

AppSumo created a popup form dedicated to presenting new product suggestions with an email signup form. They then optimized this popup to render appropriately on mobile devices. 

The outcome? 

AppSumo witnessed a 100.49% increase in mobile conversions in just a single day and, of course, more than 2,000 new email subscribers. 

Here are the main parameters set forth by the company to nail this popup to perfection. 

  • Organized Displaying

One of the reasons for this success is that the AppSumo website does not squash visitors’ eyes with its popups. The company uses certain display rules to tweak the display of its popups to perfection. 

For example, signup forms do not appear on all pages, but only some predefined ones, once in a certain time frame, and not on all devices.

  • Mobile Rendering

The AppSumo website gets a great deal of visitors from mobile devices. So, optimizing new product popup forms for a good mobile layout is nothing short of a great idea. The company used its highest-converting popup on desktop and optimized it for mobile layout. 

The mobile layout highly resonated with visitors and made it easy to enroll when browsing on mobile. So as a result, it doubled the mobile conversions and boosted email signups.

Takeaway: People hate pop-ups by nature, let alone when they block them from getting what they want. So, don’t blast your visitors with annoying pop-ups. Instead, design your pop-ups to appear only on specific pages and after the visitor has spent some time engaging with your content. And use CTAs that improve clicks.

Bonus: Using the cool stuff you did in the past to get new subscribers.

Are you familiar with the old saying: “he who gave in the past is likely to give again in the future”?  Well, it is verified and people believe it. 

In the setting of email marketing, this means that people will be more likely to sign up for your email list if you have already presented yourself as a benefactor in the niche. 

So, highlight the cool stuff you did in the past in your popup copy to create interest around it. 

Here is an example from AppSumo.

Email Marketing strategy: AppSumo cool stuff

Run Viral Giveaways Campaigns

Most dictionaries define a giveaway as something that is given for free. 

For the sake of clarification, we’d like to express giveaways as something given to a specific group of people for promotional or marketing purposes. 

In other words, you don’t have to market your business or pitch your services all the time to increase conversion. And for the same reason, you don’t have to create opt-in forms or pop ups all the time to grow your email list. 

Why?? 

Because the cool stuff you do to get attention matters just as much. And a giveaway campaign is the coolest thing any company could ever do to grow its email list. 

Here is what Noah Kagan thinks of giveaways.

The one method I can consistently recommend for people starting their customer base has been giveaways.” 

He’s absolutely right and I can relate. When people value what you give away, they are more likely to recommend their friends to take action. That way, they help create virality around your brand and grow your customer base like crazy while you’re drinking coffee. 

This is nothing new for AppSumo. Their very first giveaway conducted in October 2012, a giveaway for 10 Dropbox lifetime licenses, resulted in a 200,000 person email list growth for the company. And today, AppSumo strives to do one giveaway every quarter.

Bonus: Leveraging influencer marketing to grow your list

There is always some nice thing going on at AppSumo. And no matter where you look from, you’ll always see Noah Kagan among the trailblazers. 

Noah is known for being more than the founder of AppSumo, he’s the corporate face of the company – a cool face. He’s to Appsumo what Elon Musk is to Tesla. 

And that status, Noah leverages it to send messages to AppSumo target audience to pique their interest, spur them to action and ultimately improve customer lifetime value and brand awareness. 

Thanks to his emails, the company gains trust and credibility with its target audience and is able to win them over. 

Well, this is influencer marketing. 

People like Noah and trust him for his track record over the years. So they’re more likely to take action when they sense that he’s part of the team that caters to them and especially when they feel like he’s talking directly to them. 

Here’s a sample of the emails Noah sends.

Email Marketing strategy: Noah Kagan influencer marketing

Takeaway: Noah Kagan is one of the hottest entrepreneurs in the world right now. And so, when people receive an email from him, it definitely affects them differently so they are more inclined to take action. Therefore if you have someone like Noah in your company, you can leverage that influence to gain the hearts of your subscribers.

Step 2: Send More Emails

If you are like most email marketers, chances are you always have your email marketing plan mapped out – top to bottom. What emails to send, what day to send them, what segment to send them to, how far apart should each campaign be sent and everything. The usual suspects.

Awesome!

Now with that in mind, sending more emails than you traditionally did may strike you as being invasive, bugging your subscribers or blasting them with emails. 

Good thinking!

But get this. Over the last year, AppSumo doubled the number of emails they sent at the company. And here is what they’ve gotten from it:

  • A 25% increase in customer lifetime value 

  • A 33% increase in average purchase rate 

  • Their open rates are higher than ever before 

  • Their email list is bigger than ever before

This is a radical shift in the company’s email marketing approach. And the result is literal: sending more emails translates into making more money. 

“I think the biggest problem right now, that most people have, is that they’re not simply sending enough emails […] if you could do one thing from this video, it is sending a ton more emails […]  the people that are on your email list, even if it’s just an email of 300 people, you should be hitting them up every week” Ayman I Al-Abdullah (Outgoing) CEO of AppSumo

But here’s the kicker. Unless you send great, personalized, well-targeted email sequences, you’ll piss your subscribers off and that’s when you will see your churn rate skyrocket. 

In other words, if you send generic, non-targeted email broadcasts or automated drip emails, even if the subscribers have a huge crush on your company, you will end up bugging and pissing them off. 

But before you start sending more emails, there are a few things you need to know.

Firstly…

Know Your Business

Data from marketingsherpa show that 91% of people love to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with. And sending promotional emails helps companies improve their average purchase rate (aka make more money). 

But before you start beating that drum, you need to take a step back and look at your business model, the service you offer and your target audience. Only this information will help you determine if you need to send more emails or not.

Here is an example.

If you do business with AppSumo, chances are you own a SaaS company or any product you’d want to promote. And since AppSumo helps SaaS companies promote their service by offering them good deals, you will be interested in the many deals (aka emails) that AppSumo will offer you. The idea is that deals don’t perish, the more you get better deals, the more you’ll love it. 

However, if you use SEMRUSH, you wouldn’t want to know anything about the company. You simply renew your plan, gain access to the software and that’s it. No promotional emails needed. You are most likely to be like:

Email Marketing strategy: AppSumo know your business

The idea is that the company doesn’t have anything to offer you anymore (except maybe guides that will help you better use the software) and you won’t want emails that will be useless to you. 

Secondly…

Know Your Audience

You need to know your audience. If you don’t know your audience then nothing else matters in your marketing strategy. 

Knowing your audience is the central key to any email marketing strategy. If you get it right, your emails will always appeal to your subscribers, then you will become their favorite email correspondent and of course you will make more $$$.

AppSumo has put email marketing to the frontline since day one. So, they knew firsthand that knowing their audience is vital to email marketing success. The company has always been digging to learn more and more about their audience. 

“You got to take a step back. It took us six years to get to that point, seven years to get to that point […] the only way we could have gotten to that point has been through knowing our audience over the past 7 years.” Ayman I Al-Abdullah the CEO of AppSumo

Clearly, you don’t have seven years to learn and get to know your audience. Here are a few tactics to help you nail this down quickly. 

  • Create surveys and ask your audience questions that will help you paint a sheer picture of who they are.

  • Conduct a market research to know whether the audience you’ve selected resonate with your brand and product – vice versa.

  • Create customer personas to better ideate your target audience.

  • Monitor the comments and engagements around your work or social media post to develop a set of patterns to better conceptualize your audience.

  • Learn everything you can about the way your competitors market their business as they share the same audience as you. Steal from them what works and what does not. 

Takeaway: The secret sauce to making more money with email marketing is sending more emails. But first, you have to ensure your email content is personalized, well-targeted and valuable to your audience. If this is checked, then you can send tons of emails without pissing your recipients off. That’s how you make more money with email marketing. So make sure you do it.

Email Marketing strategy: AppSumo send more emails and do it

Step 3: Write kickass copy

According to the outgoing CEO of AppSumo, Ayman I Al-Abdullah, it takes their creative team 3 weeks to finalize an email. One email.

Here is the procedure they follow to write such witty emails.

Be concise and to the point

Have you ever come across an email as long as an ebook? 

If so, have you read it all? No one would blame you if you haven’t. 

The point is that it’s hard for someone to spend about an hour reading one email when they have 125 others to explore. 

Don’t get it wrong. We’re not saying that long-form emails don’t work. When if it’s well crafted and centered around a story, people read and love it. 

But, again, that’s no reason to copy-paste an entire blog post and send it to your list. In doing so, the recipient becomes confused and misses your message.

If you want a better clickthrough rate, you’d better go to AppSumo school and learn how to write short, clear, and concise emails. 

For each email, AppSumo has a specific goal. It could be to promote a product, a YouTube video, or to make a flash sale. That’s why their emails are streamlined and to the point.

Email Marketing strategy: AppSumo email example

Don’t be pushy and salesy

Most people have a bad experience with email marketing simply because they don’t know the difference between spammy and valuable content.

Email marketing is a two-way street: you have to give before you can receive. No room for fluffy and salesy emails. And AppSumo has figured this out early on. 

If you’re on the AppSumo list, you’ll probably have noticed that their emails have two characteristics.

  1. They are loaded with humor.

  2. They show and tell what’s in it for the reader. 

  • Humor

AppSumo uses humor to appeal to the reader’s emotional instincts, while improving open rates and building loyalty. 

That makes their emails memorable and creates a stronger connection with prospects and customers.

Email Marketing: AppSumo email example

https://youtu.be/-94sDdgX1V4

  • Show and then tell 

Show, don’t tell is one of the most common pieces of advice given to marketers. 

Well, the copywriters at AppSumo follow this advice to perfection and even make it better by “showing and telling”.

Each of AppSumo emails begins with an image of the interface of the software or product they’re promoting. Then, using carefully-chosen words, they try to convince you to buy or click.  

Think of this technique as the Swiss army knife of email marketing. It kicks ass!

Email Marketing: AppSumo email example, show and tell

Leverage FOMO

In marketing, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is a technique that triggers your audience’s innate fear of missing out in order to make them more likely to take action.

Using the Countdown technique, AppSumo triggers emotions that encourage the email recipient to convert or click to ensure they get the exclusive offers before it’s too late.

But it’s not just countdown timers that drive FOMO. Simply writing that the “deal or offer ends soon,” also creates a sense of urgency in the reader’s mind, which encourages them to click.

Email Marketing: AppSumo email example FOMO

Write catchy subject lines

If you want your email content to be opened, read and clicked on, then spend a little more time on your subject line, just like AppSumo.

AppSumo subject lines are short and curiosity-provoking. 

Here is the simple reason why this type of subject line works. 

Sometimes subject lines work because they directly translate what’s in it for the reader. But other times, by maintaining a sense of mystery, you manage to pique the recipient’s natural curiosity and interest. This compels them to open your email for more information – which translates into a higher open rate.

There is also a scientific explanation for keeping subject lines short and sweet. 

Statistics show that subject lines longer than 10 words have very low open rates. At the same time, subject lines with few words get a lot of clicks.

Email Marketing: AppSumo email example good subject line

Never use more than 2-3 CTAs

The number of CTAs you have in your email can make or break your click-through rates. 

Think about it. What would you do if you had an email that asked you to do a zillion things at once? 

You would be confused. No doubt about it. Anyone else would be. 

Well, AppSumo improves clickthrough rate by using very few CTAs. Two or three at most. 

Keep in mind that having multiple CTA buttons does not mean having different CTAs. You can have 2 to 3 CTAs that all do essentially the same thing.

It is also important to remember that AppSumo in each of its emails is focused on a single action or offer and in such a case, a visitor does not need more information on another product. That’s why Noah Kagan and his team opt for multiple CTAs of the same type.

Also note that in every AppSumo email, there is a CTA button. This type of CTA is effective because it is more visible and emphasizes the action to be taken.

Statistics show that you can improve your click-through rates by 127% with a button-based CTA.

Email Marketing: AppSumo email example good ctas

Step 4: Be serious about segmentation

As you can imagine, segmentation is one of the key elements of a successful email marketing campaign.

AppSumo’s email marketing empire would have crumbled by now if the company didn’t double down on segmentation.

In fact, segmentation is one of the first personalization tactics long before the use of variables like {First name} and {Company name}.

AppSumo uses this tactic to send appropriate messages to its fans according to the stage of the buyer journey or funnel where each one is. 

Here is a break down of the sequences AppSumo uses: 

Email Marketing for SaaS: AppSumo email sequence breakdown

3 email series welcome sequence

Only 39% of companies send a welcome sequence after a user subscribes, and AppSumo is one of them.

The AppSumo welcome sequence has a series of 3 emails.

Email Marketing strategy: AppSumo 3 welcome emails

The first one is just a welcome message with a goal to get the recipient acclimated. It’s very simple and the CTA doesn’t ask for anything BIG.

Email Marketing: AppSumo onboarding email example

The second one is an email that explains a little bit about how AppSumo works and details a little bit what the recipient should expect up front.

The third one is also a welcome email with the only difference that it offers a 10% welcome coupon on any purchase on AppSumo. This is the email that introduces the promotional email sequence.

Note that each of these emails are 1 day apart – making the welcome sequence a 3 day series. 

Promotional emails sequence

Once the recipient is acclimated by the welcome sequence, they’re taken to the promotional email sequence.

At this stage, every day, Appsumo sends them emails containing offers. These emails range from Limited-Time Offers and Sales Promotion Emails to Subscriber-Special Offers. 

Sometimes there are also Seasonal Campaigns and Giveaway Emails, like the last year when Noah Kagan gave away his Tesla during Black Friday. 

As seen in the Email Copy Teardown section, each of these emails is concise, to the point and not aggressive from a sales perspective. 

When the recipient clicks on the offer link in the email, they are taken to a landing page where there is more information about the product. At this point, there are two possibilities.

The first event is that they decide not to buy the product and leave the page. After a while, AppSumo sends them an email to try to encourage them to return to the page and make a purchase.

Email Marketing for SaaS: AppSumo promotional email example

This kind of email is called cart abandonment email. Its purpose is to try to win back a person who was close to buying an item. It has been proven that 50% of the users clicked purchase after being sent a cart abandonment email. 

The second possibility is that the person decides to buy. At this stage, it is taken in the post purchase email sequence. 

Post purchase email sequence

AppSumo’s post purchase sequence contains just one email. The purpose of this email is to thank the buyer and solicit feedback on their experience with the purchased product.

Email Marketing Strategy: AppSumo post-purchase email example

Post purchase emails are an excellent way to increase overall satisfaction. It allows you to maintain a good relationship with your customer base, and to easily upsell and cross-sell when needed. 

After the post purchase email, you are taken back to the promotional sequence and continue to receive emails on a daily basis. 

Email Marketing Tools AppSumo Use

KingSumo

KingSumo is a WordPress plugin and platform that allows users to grow their email and fan lists through viral contests and giveaways. 

It is ideal for small businesses and entrepreneurs who want to generate tons of new leads.

Using KingSumo, you can offer your own product, physical and virtual goods, partner products, PDF, etc.

One of the benefits of KingSumo is that it allows you to get leads at a fraction of the cost of Instagram influencers and Facebook ads.

Sumo

Sumo is a powerful tool that helps businesses grow their email lists, increase conversions and generate more sales. 

It is the email collector that has helped AppSumo get over a million emails on its list.

SendFox

SendFox brands itself as an “email marketing platform for content creators,” making it easy to “automatically send personalized emails to your followers, subscribers, and fans.”

SendFox is part of Sumo Group’s suite of offerings that were created by Noah Kagan, and are now used by millions.

Recap

Growing a business through email marketing is not easy. Nevertheless, email marketing is always fruitful. So you need to approach it the right way to achieve optimal results. Chances are, this article has helped you learn a bit more about how to take your email marketing to the next level. Here are a few things we’d like to leave you with.

  1. Understand your business

    Understanding your business is the foundation for the success of every action you take to move it forward. Failing this, everything goes downhill from there. 

    In addition, understanding your business will help you better conceptualize which audience you need to address in order to create a better product for them. And remember, successful email marketing is all about a great product/service. So make sure you understand your business.

  2. Grow your email list

    Your email list is your customer and prospect base and this is how you should view it. These are the people you will be promoting your services to through your email marketing efforts. So, the bigger it is, the better. Develop a great strategy and capture as many email contacts as possible.

  3. Write email your subscriber will love

    People like emails they can relate to. And this comes down to knowing your audience, segmenting your email list and personalizing your email content. Learn from AppSumo, don’t be too strict with your content. Let people feel alive in your content and they will like it more. 

  4. Send more emails 

    As you’ve seen, sending more emails translates into more money. But don’t just close your eyes and bombard your subscribers with promotional content. Understand your business first. Then find out on what basis you can send more emails.

  5. Run giveaway campaigns

    Giveaways are always nice, people love giveaways. It helps appear as a cool brand. Plus, it creates a lot of buzz for your business. Give away valuable products and grow your business through word of mouth.