Your First 5 Lessons in Email Marketing

When it comes right down to it, email marketing is all about getting the basics right. Yes, you need to segment your lists, and yes, you should upgrade your transactional emails, but every email marketer also needs to invest time in big picture strategies like positioning, voice, value, and conversion optimization. The tips we will share with you may seem basic, but you’ll find many are at the core of the best email marketing campaigns out there. Here are our first 5 lessons in email marketing. For best results, apply liberally.

 

1. Create an Exclusive Club.

Making your email subscribers feel special is a great way to generate excitement for the content or offers you are sending them. Making your readers feel special is also a powerful community-building tool.

 

Exclusivity can be subtle, like Apple, or it can be overt, like Groove. Whenever Apple launches a new product, customers often camp outside its stores to get their hands on the latest device. By offering a pre-order, Apple can cash in on that excitement without putting additional stress on its retail stores. With free shipping as an added incentive, these emails will no doubt drive huge sales before the next iPhone is even released. 

 

Groove’s Alex Turnbull takes a more direct approach. He emails new posts out to blog subscribers before they are available to people who read via RSS feeds or social media.

Subscribers can get links to posts hours before they go live on the blog’s homepage. Each email he sends begins with the words “Early Access.” It makes email recipients feel like they are part of an exclusive club because, well, they are! Early access emails can help build better relationships with readers. 

 

2. Show That You Care

Your email subscribers are getting dozens, if not hundreds, of other emails every day. They are constantly being asked to start a free trial, download an e-book, or follow someone on Twitter.

There’s an overwhelming amount of noise in the inbox. Showing your users that you care goes a long way towards earning their trust. Squarespace, for example, takes a friendly approach to urgency. False emergencies (“LAST DAY TO SAVE!!!”) come off as desperate. Squarespace acknowledges the reality of our busy lives and offers chances for an extended trials.

 

Buffer’s Kevan Lee told us that his best email advice is to “Delight your subscribers.” Dropbox took that advice to a new level. Every once and awhile, Dropbox will offer 10x the storage space for the same price! Do you think their customers will open the next email they send? You bet. Of course, this a major business decision, not just an email marketing tactic. But the decision reflects Dropbox’s mission as a company: to make their customers happy. Email is just an extension of their core beliefs. Thanks, Dropbox.

 

3. Ask for Feedback

As long as you aren’t pushy, it’s okay to ask for feedback. If you ask for help, be genuine, and people will respond.

 

If you are going to ask for feedback, you need to make it dead simple. Dollar Shave Club is fanatical about user experience. The subscription to the club is easy, the blades are good, but the marketing is captivating. Everything about Dollar Shave Club is a pleasure, including their survey emails.

 

The easier it is to leave feedback, the more people will do it.

 

4. Use Social Proof

From the KISSmetrics blog: “Over 70% of Americans say they look at product reviews before making a purchase. Nearly 63% of consumers indicate they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews.”

 

Social proof is the reason sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor continue to thrive. Consumers trust what other consumers think. The same principle can easily be applied to email marketing. It’s best used subtly, being care not to toot your own horn. 

 

Many forums and communities take full advantage of social proof. Because they have active users, they can parlay engagement into more engagement. Quora does this beautifully. Readers can use the number of votes on a discussion to decide which link to click.

 

If you don’t have a forum, consider including social share numbers in your newsletters. The effect is the same-readers want to know what their peers are interested in.

 

5. Get Personal

“Only strong people are comfortable talking about their failures.” – Hayes Drumwright, CEO of Trace3 said. 


Email is a good opportunity to humanize your brand. The inbox is an intimate place, a place mostly used for personal conversation. Your presence there is a privilege, so do your best to be a human: talk about challenges, obstacles, and even failures. Readers can relate because they are likely facing similar situations with their own lives and businesses. Give solutions. Identifying a pain point, then offering a solution is an age-old strategy that’s still effective today. Use your email marketing to get to know your readers and gain their trust.

Heather Catania