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There are two main ways to grow a service-based business with email marketing. 

The first is autoresponder sequences that nurture each lead along a set path, prospect to buyer. And the second is one-off promotions targeting one segment of an email list, or even 100% of it. 

Now, I’ve got nothing against either of these strategies. I’m a service-based business owner, and I use both in my email marketing! But there is a more sophisticated, third way that none of us can afford to ignore… 

I’m talking about behavior-based marketing emails. 

The way they work is simple:

  1. A lead takes a specific action that your marketing systems can track and respond to…
  2. And a preprogrammed email campaign, or campaigns, goes out to that particular lead.

This allows marketers and entrepreneurs to put highly targeted messages in front of highest-probability buyers, at the exact right time. Ah, the wonders of technology!

Of course, I’m making it sound like behavioral emails are some kind of sci fi breakthrough — but they are nothing new. For example, ecommerce brands use them all the time to close sales on abandoned carts, recommend similar items to recent buyers, and perform all sorts of nifty revenue-boosting shenanigans.

Well, today, I’m going to show you how us service-based folks can do the same! 

Not literally the same: we usually don’t have carts people could abandon, and we often sell through calls, and the buying journey of a client is different from that of a customer… Don’t worry, though, I’ve thought about all the different challenges of running a service business and how behavior-based email campaigns can help.

And I’m psyched to share my insights with you!

Read on, and you will learn 7 types of behavior-based emails you can use to make more sales for your service-based business — and in general make your life (and the life of your sales team) at least 3.689 times easier.

I will cover:

  • 7 common prospect behaviors that can push them away from your business… or become a sales opportunity if used right.
  • Simple email examples you can swipe for inspiration (I’ve even made annotations to explain what the different elements do and why)
  • Specific timing recommendations on how to deploy each campaign for maximum impact

And more. And now without further ado, ‘cause that intro was quite long, let’s boogie!


1. The “icebreaker” email

This is a short and sweet email designed to start a conversation with a potential client, so you can learn more about them — and nudge them further down the funnel if they’re a good fit. You can use it with brand-new leads AND with qualified, interested prospects (I’ll show you some scenarios for both right below).

What it looks like: a simple template based on Dean Jackson’s famous 9-word email pitch. Here’s an example I jotted down in like 5 minutes (honestly, it took way longer to make it look like a genuine Gmail screenshot!)…

An example email designed to go out to each new lead after they download a specific lead magnet

Your job is to make sure the lead / prospect opens the email and responds to it. So just keep it as simple as you possibly can.

When to use it: deploy this behavior-based email as soon as you get any indicator of interest from a potential client. Here are just a few ideas…

  • When someone signs up to get your lead magnet, email them your “icebreaker” immediately after the lead magnet itself.
  • If an existing contact clicks through to your Services page but doesn’t convert, you can strike up a conversation with them using this email.
  • When someone opens a sales email from you but doesn’t book an appointment, you can hit them up the following day with this automated email.

Note: use this as a conversation STARTER — emphasis on the second word. To get the most out of this kind of email, you or someone on your team should be ready to continue the conversation manually after a reply!


2. The “sales call pregame” email

What do you call that stretch of time between your prospect booking a sales call, and that sales call actually happening? 

I don’t know about you, but I call it full of potential! You can make the most of this “pregame” anticipation period in 2 crucial ways, by…

  1. Nurturing your prospect with valuable autoresponder emails — e.g. try sharing 1-2 jaw-dropping case studies with them.
  2. Setting their expectations ahead of your sales appointment, and priming them to feel excited about the opportunity.

If you have to choose only one, just focus on #2 and send a priming, expectation-setting email before your scheduled call. Here’s an example of the “pregame” email in action:

What it looks like: the exact content of your email varies a lot, but you want to hit a few key “beats” to set the tone for your meeting. Like so…

An example (once again written by me) of an in-depth “pregame” email that leads with USP and value to be gained by the prospect

Notice how this example email:

  • Reminds the prospect about the appointment
  • Validates their decision to book a call
  • Reiterates the valuable outcome they will get
  • “Future paces” the prospect about what happens after they say yes
  • Sets some ground rules for how the appointment will go

When to use it: set this email up to hit your prospect’s inbox the morning of the sales call, or the afternoon before it. Like I said, it’s more about setting expectations and priming rather than serving as a straight-up reminder (you’ll have other emails for that).


3. The “easy reschedule” email

Prospects not showing up to sales calls is frustrating. Not just because each no-show represents a missed opportunity, and an unnecessary extension of the sales cycle…

…but also because, logistically speaking, chasing down leads to reschedule an appointment is a massive pain in the a… neck! I was going to say neck.

So to make your salespeople’s jobs easier — at least a little bit — it’s worth implementing some contingencies for sales call no-shows, like the “easy reschedule” email I’m going to share with you right now.

What it looks like: at its core, this behavioral email is a simple note that feels very personal… except it isn’t. Here’s just one way you could write it:

Example of a reschedule email. Pro tip: use humor if your brand voice allows for it, you will boost your odds of success

Note how the copy doesn’t guilt trip or make a big deal out of the no-show — it quickly moves on to the solution. And how the rescheduling can be done entirely on the prospect’s side, with no back-and-forth.

When to use it: ideally, you want this email to go out as soon as the prospect gets tagged as a no-show in your CRM. That way, your sales team won’t have to do any manual follow-up.


4. The “failed call back” email

Research shows: the faster you call a prospect back — assuming they asked for it, of course — the more likely you are to get a sale.

But what if you do call back and nobody picks up? Do you: A) feast your ears on their hold music for 6 hours and compose a review of it in your head, B) put the phone down and scream into your pillow or the belly of your VERY scandalized French bulldog… or C) immediately follow up with a special autoresponder email? 

What it looks like: this email is similar to #3, the “easy reschedule” — except you’re attempting to schedule a new appointment instead of rescheduling a pre-existing one.

Your email could look something like this:

Once again, a very similar email to #3 (and again, try to use humor to lighten the mood + start the conversation on the right foot)

Also, here’s a free idea I haven’t seen done before: instead of escalating to a “real” sales call, give your prospect another chance to get a call back. E.g. give the clickable call to action in the email, so the lead can immediately signal they are ready for call back #2. Or better yet, give them a range of times to choose from.

The core copy can stay the same, but here’s how the CTAs might change…

A segmentation-focused ending for the previous behavioral email

When to use it: just as with phone call backs, timing is EVERYTHING here. You want to make sure this email goes out fast — like so…

Prospect requests a call back => Salesperson calls back ASAP => Prospect doesn’t pick up => Salesperson tags them appropriately in CRM => automated email goes out requesting appointment


5. The “deal reminder” email

Limited-time, one time only discount codes and special deals can be a powerful tool for converting first-time buyers, or getting a new client to buy from you again.

But just because you give someone a deal with a ticking clock… doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to take advantage of it in time! People let discount codes expire left and right, no matter how mouth-watering the offer.

Solution? Right before the deal goes bye-bye, poke them with a gentle reminder email like so…

What it looks like: there are only two rules for creating a “deal reminder” email that works.

  1. Keep it simple and short
  2. Make it super easy to act on the discount immediately

This is super straightforward, so I’m not going to make up a new entry in the James & Andy Saga, and just grab an example from my own inbox…

You come to Europe and use Uber Eats literally once, and they’ll never leave your inbox. Their emails are like herpes glitter!

When to use it: you want to leave it until not-quite the last possible moment — right before the deal is set to expire, but not so down to the wire that your prospects have no chance to see the email and take action.

Generally, anywhere between 24-48 hours until T-minus 0 (it being the time their limited discount becomes a dud) is good.


6. The re-engagement email(s)

Even in impeccably designed funnels, prospects can go cold and fall through the cracks. It happens to the best of us and your business is (probably) no exception.

But if you kept letting $100 bills fall behind the couch, day after day… at some point you’d crack your knuckles and move the darn couch, wouldn’t you? Well, same here! It’s time you did something to recapture those lost opportunities.

Luckily, it doesn’t take much. All you need is one, or several, behavioral emails that automatically reach out to, and re-engage, leads who vanished off your radar — e.g. after 3 months of inactivity.

What it looks like: a re-engagement email can be as simple as the 9-word pitch I’ve already referenced in template #1… or as complicated as a surprise gift out of nowhere. Here’s one of my favorite examples of all time, coming from Jon Morrow.

I know this doesn’t count as a service business example, but the template is sound and works just the same way

Also, pro tip: re-engaging a prospect with a gift or a limited-time, one time only offer can work wonders.

When to use it: deploy this email after 1-3 months of inactivity from the lead, some time after your “normal” sales follow-up has been unsuccessful. You can even do an entire re-engagement sequence of several emails designed to warm up a lead gone cold!


7. The referral request email

Did you know that 91% of customers say they happily give referrals… but only 11% of businesses actually ask for them? (source: Dale Carnegie and Associates)

Now THAT is a missed opportunity if I’ve ever seen one!

And listen — I know that asking for referrals can be stressful, even scary. Luckily, you can sidestep all the heebie-jeebies associated with this task by letting automation do the work for you. 

All you need is to plug in the behavioral email template and let it loose at the most opportune moment…

What it looks like: I know you’ve been itching to see where Andy and James end up next, so I fired off a new example to show you how a business owner might ask for a referral. Observe…

Making referrals a condition for getting access to an exclusive offer is kind of genius… but it’s fine to make a straightforward request, too.

When to use it: there are two possible scenarios when asking for referrals makes the most sense, and is most likely to get a yes.

  1. Do it after you complete an entire project for a new client. When their jaw is on the floor and they stare in amazement at the amazing work you’ve done… that’s when you’ve built up the most goodwill. The only downside is, depending on how long your project timelines are, you might have to be VERY patient.
  2. Do it when your client hits their first big “win” or another major milestone. E.g. if you’re a business coach teaching new entrepreneurs to launch businesses, ask for referrals after they land their first sale, or close out their first profitable month.


Build a bestselling funnel for your service business

I hope you’ve found a ton of value in today’s article, and you will soon deploy these behavior-based campaigns in your own marketing funnels.

That said, these are advanced strategies that work best on a strong foundation. So if you aren’t using email marketing and funnels to grow your service-based business yet… start with those.

Not sure where to begin? No worries, I’ve got you!

My team and I want to build a high-performing video-powered funnel for your business, from start to finish. You won’t have to lift a finger, or even show up in front of a camera — we’ll build all the assets, produce all the content, and even set up the entire thing for you!

Check out all the assets you will get as part of your brand-new, shiny, revenue-generating funnel:

  • 2 prospect-pulling video ads to drive targeted traffic to your site
  • Powerful explainer video that captures the life-altering value of your offer
  • Personalized video-powered landing page that converts (plus a thank-you page!)
  • Custom 5-part nurturing email sequence to convert prospects into buyers

Plus, you’ll get:

  • 1-on-1 marketing audit where we’ll deep-dive into your business and strategize how to create a funnel that supports your goals.
  • And hands-on tech support and implementation — so you can deploy your new funnel and start generating revenue as quickly as possible!

Interested? Then book a free, no-strings-attached appointment below:

Click here to book your free funnel consultation, and let’s talk shop!