Email Strategies for Product and Service Design

Sarah has sold a new online product.  She wrote a pdf about how to diet and offered it to her list for £10.  Up to now she’s offered coaching and workshops; she never thought people would buy something she had written!  Her customers were mainly people who opened her emails and so she could see her OVO strategy had paid off.  This is a low end sale but now Sarah thinks she may be able to sell an online course.  But she needs ideas for product and service design.  What else can she sell and how?


You can sell almost anything online.  It does not need to be an online product or service.  Here are a few guidelines:

  1. Build relationships of trust using email and sell on your website.  Most people get that if they follow the link, you offer them something. 
  2. Explain what will happen.  Paying online and being left with uncertainty is not a positive experience.  Deliver online products immediately.  Online services may be slower, eg a webinar will be on a specific day.  Offline products and services require time for delivery.
  3. Work out what the customer needs to know before paying and what they need afterwards.  For example, if it takes 5 working days to deliver, say so on the sales page.  Say the same again on the thank you page and what to do if nothing turns up! 
  4. Ask for feedback on the offer itself and its delivery – find out about the customer’s experience.
  5. When you record a negative experience, work out how to compensate the customer, commensurate with the inconvenience they suffered.  How can you mitigate this for future customers?

Online Products

These are easiest. You set them up and people download or access a members’ site, immediately on payment.  Drip-feed teaching material into a members’ site but immediate access and something to do before the start of the programme reassures.  Reward their enthusiasm immediately.

Introduce a bonus; something extra with a download or on a members’ site.  Perhaps not essential for a low-end product but always worth considering.

Consider an upsell.  “If you like this pdf, why not buy this online course?”  Offer an upsell at the time of purchase, the end of a course or after downloading a pdf.  Try something like: “Give me feedback on this product and I’ll offer something else at reduced cost”.  The customer has bought from you and so may be ready to buy again.  If you have something substantially bigger in mind – ask if they would like more about the topic and send them a sequence of emails, ending with an offer of the bigger product.

Examples of online sales includes pdfs, videos, podcasts, email sequences, webinars, online courses, access to an online community.

Online Services

These are likely to be more personal and so higher end products.  They may include online coaching, group work, masterminds.  The more personal the contact, the more you charge.

It is better to be paid up-front. There’s little point receiving payment for one session, when you need several to achieve the desired goal.  As soon as someone makes a payment, give them something.  You might have some teaching material and access to it could be a bonus (announced in advance).  Or give the customer something to prepare for the first meeting.  Book the date and time for the first session at the time of registration.  Book further meetings later but have the first in place at least.  This not only reassures the new customer but gives them a goal to prepare for.

Offline Services

These are similar to online services, the main difference is meeting face to face.  Communicate and provide preparatory material online.  This applies equally whether you supply coaching, workshops or training.

Offline Products

Perhaps most challenging because you need to package things and put them in the post. 

Let’s start with digital products.  Why don’t you provide these as a download?  You can prepare a course for DVD, to be copied and packed by a supplier.  When the customer signs up, the supplier receives the order, produces the product, packs and mails it.

The alternative is to do it yourself and this could become labour intensive unless you have loads of willing helpers who don’t make mistakes.  There are online suppliers who can help, so make enquiries.

Email Strategies Product and Service Design

Delivery may be offline but you can sell almost anything online.  The key is grow and market to your list.  When you make new contacts, get them to sign up to your list.  How can you use it?


The basic OVO strategy is foundation for marketing. From there, design product launches and other ways to bring your list to sales.  The basic structure is simple but you must design the details.  Some say give away up to 80% of your content and people buy the last 20%.  I’m not convinced this is true.  Is it particularly important what % of what you know is given away?  Mostly people need help implementing what they already know.  They save a lot of time working with you to develop their systems. 

Testing New Ideas

If you have a new idea, test it on your list.  Testing is not necessarily producing a prototype.  You could ask if anyone is interested in your idea.  Possibly a few people who respond and say “Yes, it’s a good idea” is enough.  Other possibilities include the seed launch, where customers pay to help you develop a new product and receive a copy, at the end in return for their support.

Ordering Products

Working out how much sales copy to feature in your emails and how much on your website is one of the tasks in designing your funnel.  Once you have a customer, you have someone who may respond to new offers.  Otherwise spend time offering value, to help customers make a purchase.  It helps when you know your offer sells offline; if you have sold it face to face, you have some idea how to sell it online.  The only way to make a sale is to make an offer.

This brings the focus back to Value, the V in OVO.  This is where you make a big difference by explaining your why.  How?  That’s my next topic.

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About the Author

I've been a community development worker since the early 1980s in Tyneside, Teesside and South Yorkshire. I've also worked nationally for the Methodist Church for eight years supporting community projects through the church's grants programme. These days I am developing an online community development practice combining non-directive consultancy, strategic management, participatory methods and development work online and offline. If you're interested contact me for a free consultation.

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