How to use Gumroad's free email marketing to build an audience & generate sales

Learn how creators can build an audience and generate more sales using Gumroad's built-in, free email marketing tool.
“I do not get sales through Twitter. I just don’t. People find me through Twitter, but when it comes to actually getting people through the door, it's all about email.” — David Perell, Co-Founder and Instructor, “Write of Passage” 

The rise of social media over the past 15 years – as web 2.0 platforms have proliferated and achieved predominant positions in our lives and the economy – often obscures a simple fact: email never went away as the most important sales and marketing tool for businesses, creators, and entrepreneurs. 

Our intuition tells us social media power (from engagement to number of followers) must translate to sales and function as a central way for people to make money online. But successful entrepreneurs continue to understand a crucial truth: email works – and it’s perhaps the most important single skill to learn and apply for success in business.

This article isn’t about the “building on rented land” problem, or not depending on one social media channel or another. It’s about developing skill (and building toward mastery and excellence) in the now decades-old industry of reaching and successfully closing sales with current and potential customers. In other words, growing your business through email sales and marketing.

We'll show you how to use Gumroad's email marketing tool to build an audience and generate sales.

  • What Email Marketing Is and Why Creators Need It
  • The Benefits of Building an Email List as a Creator
  • When to Use Email Workflows
  • Examples of Automated Workflow for Creators 
  • Using Workflows to Generate More Sales 

Let’s dive right in.

What Is Email Marketing and Why Creators Need It

Email marketing is the process of targeting your audience and customers through email to develop relationships, generate sales, and grow revenue sustainably.

Email marketing makes it easy for you to promote your digital products. For example, if you have templates, eBooks or courses you'd like to sell online, you can simply send an email to your subscribers (i.e. email list), and they can directly buy it from you using email.

Moreover, email marketing helps you:

  • promote your digital products 
  • give your subscribers updates 
  • get feedback and reiterate ideas
  • connect with the people you're serving
  • promote your creator brand through content 

Instead of (re-)building your audience across multiple social media platforms, your email list gives you direct access to your audience. And when you launch or promote a product, you can directly sell to the people who are already subscribed to you.

The Benefits of an Email List for Creators

There are several benefits to email marketing for creators. Here are some of the most common ones.

  1. You have control over your audience. Unlike social media platforms that depend on algorithms, an email list gives you direct access to your subscribers. Your audience will hear from you – whether you're giving them product updates or asking for feedback. Even 50 years since the inception of email, growing an email list is still the best way to sustainably build your audience.

  2. High Return of Investment (ROI). According to marketing experts at Litmus, for every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can get a whopping $42 in sales. For a fraction of the cost of using ads to obtain customers, you can instead use your email list to nurture your fans and eventually convert them to recurring recurring customers.

  3. Spend more time creating, less time selling. With tools like segmentation, where you separate your audience based on their location or behaviour, you can set up automated email workflows that make your life easier as a creator. Unlike the “shotgun approach” or posting on social media, segmented email campaigns ensure the right message reaches the right customer. By using segmentation, you can spend more time creating or doing things you love the most and less time promoting your products.
  1. Data. Data. Data. Communicating with customers through email provides relevant and powerful data about customer intent, allowing businesses and entrepreneurs to understand customer profiles, cohort them, and assign dynamic scores that inform further communication, in a virtuous circle. This is because you can determine which customers are interacting with the content and products you’re delivering, and how – which often provides insights into why and what you can do to close more business and sales. 

How to Build an Email List using Gumroad

Building an audience as a Gumroad creator is quite simple. 

Anytime someone purchases a product from your Gumroad store, they must enter their email to receive their downloads — even if your product is free! Whether you have 0 followers or thousands, Gumroad makes it easy to start building your email list today.

Here are 3 simple ways to start building an email list:

Offer a freebie

A freebie is a digital download that others can use instantly, offered for free (or pay-what-you-want

You could publish a PDF, a template, a checklist or a resource as an initial freebie. For example, Gumroad's The Sale Every Day Course is an example of a high-value freebie. This freebie includes a complete course with daily emails, PDF instructions and resources for five days. Not only that, people who sign up get access to the Gumroad private community.

"The Sale Every Day Course" by Gumroad

Offering a freebie lets you capture your user's email while providing tons of value for them.

Pre-launch a product

Did you know that you don't have to create a product before you start selling it on Gumroad?

Pre-launching a product helps you to measure interest in your product even before you create it. You can start by asking your followers on social media if they are interested in the digital product you want to launch. Luckily for you, Gumroad lets you create a pre-order page in easy steps. 

Once you share your pre-order sales page to your audience, you can gauge the interest for your product, and decide whether this product is worth creating. 

For example, Gumroad creator Michaela Mendes did a soft launch of a product she was thinking about. On her Twitter, she posted:

She initially offered the product 50 days of content for free during her soft launch.

When she officially launched two weeks later, she already had people interested and could direct them to her Gumroad sales page. Pre-orders are also a great way to get ratings & reviews from early supporters before launching, which can help boost sales and get your products listed on Gumroad Discover.

If she decides to launch another product, she already has subscribers from her first digital product. 

No product? Use Gumroad as a newsletter

If you don't have any plans to launch a product just yet, you can still start with something even smaller, like a newsletter.

When users follow a Gumroad creator, they are automatically subscribed to the Gumroad creator's email list. If you don't have a product but feel like you have something to share, you can use Gumroad as a newsletter. Instead of writing blog posts on your website (where most people won’t know about new posts), you can direct your followers to your more insightful and valuable posts on Gumroad. 

For example, Steph Smith uses her Gumroad posts dashboard to update her current customers with new strategies & releases.

You can use your Gumroad account as a newsletter to update your followers on your journey, product launches, and insights as a creator. 

You don't have to have a product to grow an email list on Gumroad — best of all, it’s free!

Examples of Automated Email Workflows for Creators

Did you know that even if people don't buy from you on Gumroad, they can still follow you?

And once they follow you or subscribe to your email list, you can set up powerful email workflows to convert them into customers. We’ll look at three examples of scenarios of when to use an automated email workflow.

How to create an email workflow

Creating a workflow on Gumroad is simple. This page has a full tutorial,but here’s a quick recap:

  1. Go to Workflows dashboard in Gumroad, under ‘Posts > Workflows’

Gumroad Posts - Free Email Marketing Tool

  1. Click on the ‘New workflow’ button
Gumroad Posts - Free Email Marketing Tool
  1. Add an email workflow by choosing the right ‘Audience’ and adding a ‘New Nameto your new workflow

Gumroad Segmentation - Free Email Marketing Tool

If you’d rather watch a video, we also have a 4-minute overview here: 

Building automated workflows for your Gumroad audience

Now that you know how to create an email workflow, here are 3 examples of scenarios that you can steal for your email marketing strategy.

Scenario 1: Converting Followers into Customers

Gumroad lets you create email workflows for people who follow you so you can send them gifts like a free product or discounted offers to increase your chance of sales. Here’s an example.

Day 1: You can send an email thanking the person for following you. If you’d like, you can offer a discount for following you inside the email.

Gumroad Free Email Marketing - Scheduling & Segmentation

Day 3: A follow-up email on the discount you've given them if they haven’t used it yet. This email will give them a reminder.

Gumroad Free Email Marketing - Scheduling & Segmentation

Day 7: A follow-up email letting them know you'd like to get their feedback. Ask them to give you some feedback by replying to the email or messaging you on socials.

Gumroad Free Email Marketing - Scheduling & Follow-Up

Scenario 2: Discounts to Cross-sell Your Other Products

Let's say someone buys a product from you, and now you'd like to give them a discount for your other products. There are multiple ways you can automate an email workflow to send discounts for upsells & cross-sells after a customer’s first purchase. Here’s one of them. 

Day 1: An email thanking them for buying your product. If you'd like, you can also send them a discount code for your other products.

Gumroad Free Email Marketing - Scheduling & Segmentation

Day 7: If they haven't used your discount code, then let them know that it's still valid. You can promote your most popular digital products and see if they're interested in purchasing them. If you don't have any products, start offering free templates.

Gumroad Free Email Marketing - Auto Follow-up & Scheduling

Day 14: A follow-up email to give them a last chance to use your discount code for your other digital products.

Gumroad Free Email Marketing - Email Sequences & Automated Follow-Up

Scenario 3: Get Feedback From a Purchased Product

When someone buys your product, there's a high chance they might forget about it. Using automated workflows can help you nudge them by asking for feedback from your product. 

Getting feedback can also help you improve your product and give your customers a chance to ask you questions. This is a great way to build up your ratings, which can help improve your conversion rate, and also allow you to gain free traffic from Gumroad Discover.

Day 1: Send an email after buying your product and offer a discount for your other products (if you'd like).

Gumroad Free Email Marketing - Scheduling & Segmentation

Day 3: A follow-up email to give them a nudge of what they think of your product. This is a good reminder if people have forgotten about your product, and it gives them a chance to dive into it.

Gumroad Free Email Marketing - Scheduling & Follow-up Automation

Day 10: A week later, you can send another email to ask them if they have any feedback, questions or comments about your product.

Gumroad Free Email Marketing - Scheduling & Follow-up

Monthly update: In any scenario you create, try to give a monthly update. You can give updates on your journey, your upcoming launches or things you've most recently learned in your journey. This way, your customers don’t forget about you.

Using Workflows to Generate More Sales

Email marketing is a powerful tool to generate sales.

We've covered the basics when it comes to email marketing here. However, there are many ways to create automated workflows. They may seem complicated in the beginning, but anything worthwhile usually requires heavy lifting at the start. 

Your hard work will pay off as your audience & sales numbers grow.  

Oefinal tip: test one email workflow at a time — once you get the hang of it, you can start adding more complex email workflows and segmentation.

Ready to jump into email marketing? Start with the 5 Day Email List Challenge today.

To your success,

The Gumroad Team