Your guide to better email marketing content

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Email marketing has so many benefits but it’s unfortunate how annoying some strategies have gotten. Let’s discuss some email marketing tips to be less annoying and more relevant.

Email marketing and email newsletters for content distribution work. Email – whether we love or hate it – often still gets checked. I certainly read more of my emails than the tweets that are posted by the people I follow. While email can be hard to keep up with, it is certainly easier than keeping up with social media posts.

These email marketing tips should help you stay top of mind with the people you want to connect with long-term. Also keep in mind that email marketing tips evolve overtime so ask yourself these questions for any campaign:

  • What’s the goal?
  • Is this relevant to my target audience?
  • Is it on the right cadence?
  • How are we measuring success and failure?

Really it comes down to doing what’s beneficial to the end-user. That’s what Matthew Vernhout of and and I discussed on this episode of the podcast.

Let’s dive into some more email marketing tips now….

What’s good copy in email marketing?

Good copy in email marketing gets to the point, informs and entice people to respond or take another call to action.

Email marketing expert Samar Owais also offered this tip on the podcast: Write what you think you have to write and then cut the first third. I’ve use that strategy several times now and it works.

Overthinking of time of sending

There are all kinds of studies out there that tell us when the best time is to send a newsletter. They can be helpful from time to time, but really it should come down to testing our own send times.

I can tell who is reading the latest studies. All those emails come at exactly the same time. Unfortunately, I usually don’t read them – too many emails are flooding my inbox at the same time. Rob and Kennedy, the Email Marketing Heroes discuss this topic on my podcast.

As they mention there are only so many times to go around. So pick an odd time. 7:04 or 12:37 or something like that. At the end of the day, most email marketing tips are worthless when they don’t work for your audience. So test, test, test and see what works for them.

Don’t make people click more than necessary

You’ve heard me talk about the unnecessary abundance of links on social media. The same opinion holds with newsletters. It’s OK to make people click on something, when there’s an actual reason to do that – like complete a purchase, sign up for something or watch a video on YouTube for example. Put in other words: These are tasks that couldn’t be done directly inside the newsletter.

But there are way too many newsletters that make people click for every little thing. Read two more paragraphs of this story. CLICK HERE. That’s probably one of most common cases. Make clicks count. You’ll lose people every time there’s a required click. In fact, why not let people read in the newsletter and just require clicks when there’s a purchase involved?

Email marketing tips: Consider following this model

In this episode of the Business Storytelling Podcast I talked to Adam Moore, former editor in chief of the Corridor Business Journal in Eastern Iowa’s Creative Corridor.

The Business Journal does share daily newsletter updates and those updates are completely contained to the newsletter. You don’t have to click to read more. You can read everything right there in the email.

They’ve done that for a long time and I find it to be a very user-friendly strategy. If you don’t want to read a story you can just keep scrolling. Clicks are reserved for advertisers.

Also consider sharing your email content to social media and making it part of your integrated strategy. For example, I read the CBJ’s “newsletter” through their tweets.

When you click on the link it takes you directly to that story in the web version of the newsletter. That’s more convenient than newsletters that have a subject line for a story a ways down and you have to go hunt for it once you open it.

If you do end up opening the newsletter directly you get headlines with links at the top – like a table of content – and you can directly click on only the headlines that you want to read.

The company sells ads and sponsorships inside the newsletter and that’s one way to monetize it.

As part of email marketing tips for companies, you can follow this model by making clicks count by using them judiciously.

Email marketing tips: Make the signup process easy

I know us marketers would love to have all the information we can get on our prospects, but nobody needs my home address or my cell phone number to send me an newsletter. They just need my email. I know their

Don’t make people fill out forms that ask for excessive information! Make it easy to join and connect with them on that channel.

Facebook even prefills your information when you sign up for a newsletter through the platform. That’s how easy it should be.

Emailing marketing tips: Minimize barriers

This is an example of being forced to sign up for an email before being able to buy a book on Amazon, but it’s also an example of making things too complicated. I assume this was done because it’s one way to capture emails of people who end up buying on Amazon. But it also might stop consumers from buying or signing up altogether.

Here’s how that looked:

Step 1

Email with call to action to download the book.

Step 2

The next screen is a landing page on their website:

Step 3

After giving my email, which they already had since they emailed me, they finally send me to Amazon to buy the book:

Step 4:

Send me a follow-up email:

That’s another thing to consider: If I’m already on your list, why am I ever prompted again to sign up! You already know that I’m on the list. This isn’t a new problem and I’ve seen few – if any – solutions to it.

For example, I sometimes run an email signup pop up on this site and everyone gets it. Including the people who clicked over from my newsletter. Sorry. If anyone has solved this, let me know.


Related: How to turn your blog content into a book that is not just a collection of blog posts

Just always ask yourself: How much am I asking consumers to do and will they? Will it be worth it for them?

Email marketing tips: Monitor replies

Telling people not to reply at least is transparent, while not very inviting.

It’s even worse when subscribers do reply, but nobody pays attention to those replies. Obviously, when nobody monitors responses subscriber messages can’t be responded to either. Having a two-way conversation and engagement does require us to pay attention. When people do reply to our emails it’s one of the strongest forms of engagement really.

Of course, this can get quite cumbersome with a large list, but consider setting up filters for replies that are not out of office replies so somebody has the chance to reply.

Read next: How I grew my email list 5 percent in one day with one small website update 

No do not reply emails, please!

With that, I also don’t recommend “do not reply” emails.

The “Do-not-reply” sender name is just not very inviting or relationship building. It screams at me that they don’t want to talk to me. It says that here’s my message. Take it or leave it.

I get that there can be financial advantages to not allowing people to reply. Clearly, to have somebody monitor and reply in a meaningful way costs money.

Unfortunately, the unanswered email (or tweet) are all too common still.

In essence Do Not Reply emails might say:

  • Here’s an email from us
  • But don’t dare respond to it

Sounds like one-way communication to me. Here’s our message. Take it or leave it.

Some brands actually encourage people to reply. I’ve seen notes like this:

Yes, this is an automated mass email, but we are happy to hear from you. Simply reply with your questions and comments. We will take them to heart and respond when necessary.

And people do respond with their questions and comments. It builds a relationship with the brand. It’s about the communication and being heard. And, of course, since many organizations aren’t responding to emails, tweets or contact us forms from websites, responding to people can help brands stand out. It can be a differentiator.

I’ve worked with a nonprofit brand before that sent monthly newsletters and people responded all the time. They weren’t even encouraged to do so but they did because they felt like it. Sometimes their messages were along these lines:

  • What a powerful story!
  • Sorry, I can’t make your event.
  • This was an interesting update.

Responses by the brand were simple:

  • We thought so, too. Thanks for emailing.
  • Hope to see you next time.
  • Thanks for letting us know.

It’s really not that hard to do, it does take some time, but can go a long way with customers and improve their experience with a brand.

Communication is a two-way street – especially online. The organizations that make it work can stand out.

[Tweet “”Communication is a two-way street – especially online.” – @ctrappe”]

re emails

Do not use “Re:” subject lines

Subject lines get us to open the email or – when they are bad – let us ignore them. I prefer specific subject lines myself, but sometimes generic ones work best. For example, one of my daughter’s teachers emails daily updates. Her subject line simply read:

(Today’s date)

Since I care about my daughter and I recognize the teacher’s name, I read them daily. Every single one was opened. More specific subject lines may not work in this case:

Drop off for our class

For example, if I’m not in charge of dropping my daughter off, this email might not have much relevance to me and gets ignored.

But potentially the worst subject lines are the ones that start with “RE:” as in the sender is replying to us even though we didn’t email them to begin with. They likely work often. I know I usually take a second look, just to make sure it’s not something important and there isn’t an established conversation going on.

They are just a bit sneaky. If you aren’t replying to me, don’t pretend you are.

Too many emails

The frequency of how often emails should be sent depends on the content and the audience. I don’t mind getting daily emails from some blogs. I don’t need a daily email to remind me I should be ordering a pizza for dinner.  Some organizations email too often and it can be easy to tune those emails out.

Consider the content and the response form your audience before you settle in on how many is too much.

Just because people don’t unsubscribe doesn’t mean that they are engaged with an newsletter either. Mailchimp, the email platform offers subscriber ratings to give you an idea of how engaged subscribers are.

Volume of emails upon sign-up

I don’t need three emails just to confirm, verify, etc., that I just signed up for a new newsletter. You might be excited that I just signed up, but no need for excessive welcome messages and confirmations.

Be aware of relevance and personal experiences

I’ve shared the story of a vet sending me birthday emails for my dead dog. Here’s another example:

Many brands are using days like Father’s Day and other newer “holidays” as reasons to write a blog post, do social media posts and also send email marketing campaigns.

I do appreciate when brands try new things. One of those new things came in the form of an email that basically said that when I entered my father’s life I changed his life. Being a father myself now that’s certainly true.

It also said that I should thank my dad for everything he’s done.

Here’s the thing: I haven’t spoken to my dad in decades. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you what he’s currently doing.

I know I’m not alone in that regard of the situation. And it’s fine. But what’s the point of an email like that anyway? Why use a valuable communication touch point with the consumer to remind them and ask them to thank somebody they may or may not have a relationship with?

The other thing I couldn’t figure out was what that entire message had to do with the brand that sent it. Maybe I’m missing something, but given the over abundance of brand communication nowadays really every touch point with the consumer needs to count.

So for me this touch didn’t count as very positively. I don’t want to say it was a totally negative touch. But it was definitely a “what’s going on here event?”

Now on the flipside, putting myself in the shoes of somebody who is still in touch with his dad, I likely would’ve had a different reaction:

  • Thanks for the reminder that it’s Father’s Day. I forgot.
  • Oh yes that’s a great idea.
  • I am so thankful.

I’m thinking of Mother’s Day emails. American Airlines sends me a Mother’s Day reminder every year with the friendly note that I can send flowers ? and earn airline points. Just about 100% of the time I will send flowers to my wife on my daughters behalf.

Maybe again it comes down to personalization of our messages. Personalization of content distribution has come a long way in recent years but it’s still a  ways from being perfect. For example, the message to thank your dad should only go to people who actually have a relationship or are in contact with their dads.

Of course, how would a brand ever know that? It’s not something that typically comes up in conversation or transactions with a brand or wherever. In fact, I hardly ever talk about my dad.

I remember when I first started doing email marketing and personalization of messages wasn’t always possible. So we wrote  around it and considered the different audiences that way. Sometimes that worked and sometimes it didn’t.

Make use of the right technology

I use the WordPress Jetpack plug-in on here but there are certainly many other tools that you can use to send your emails. Adam’s publication uses Constant Contact.  Other tools include tools like HubSpot, Marketo and also artificial intelligence, which we discussed in this podcast episode featuring, at the inaugural Marketing Artificial Intelligence Conference in Cleveland in 2019, was also telling attendees that they should consider linking to other content creators’ stories and articles from their newsletters!

Why not? Plus, they likely will appreciate it since you are sending traffic to them! I know I appreciate it when others link to me. And I do have a few informal agreements in place where I specifically gave some organizations permission to grab my content for their newsletter.

I say informal, because really anyone can link to anyone without much of an agreement. But it’s nice to have the collaborative partnership discussion.

Rasa company works on “smart newsletters” by the way! Notice how they don’t say e-newsletters! Because if you think this is a trifold, mailed newsletter, double-sided, you probably aren’t their target prospect. Of course, it’s e-mailed. Anyway, I will have to start using the no “e” newsletter verbiage myself.

So let’s look at their newsletter! Are they practicing what Jared preached? Where is all the content from? Here’s a look at the one I received while still in Cleveland at the conference:

rasio newsletter

Then the bottom two boxes link to the rasa website as conversion points. For example, the one on the right leads to a landing page that is optimized to get you to ask for a demo.

Here’s how that page looked:

From a conversion path and workflow perspective this is pretty great.

  • Most of their links are informational and link to wherever
  • The conversion/business links send people to the company landing pages for an immediate and easy conversion!
  • Curation presumably takes less time than creating brand-new content.

But why not use this tactic of linking to other content that is relevant here and there? Most everyone can do that and as long as your main call to action still goes to you, it should be all good.

Of course, curating content can still take time. I assume somebody can curate 5 articles quicker than writing 5 – or even 1.

Jared explained to me that “we have multiple tools to filter what comes in, but we also have machine learning techniques for the sender to train the system on what content is wanted more and what is wanted less.

It’s another tactic worth keeping on your content and marketing tool belt. Your audience and the people whose content you are sharing will likely appreciate it too.

Measurements of newsletters

How you design and distribute your newsletter also matters for your goals. If your goals are opens and reads this could work. If your goals are website clicks this strategy would not work.

Figure out how you can engage with your audience and what can ultimately drive revenue for your business and go with that.

I find the CBJ strategy highly audience-centric and user-friendly. Being able to just consume the content and not constantly being pushed to do something-like click along-is nice and can be a differentiator for companies.


At the end of the day…

We need our email marketing to drive results, but we also need our audiences to do that. Especially long-term we need to offer value without being overly obnoxious.

Here’s one podcast that discusses the importance of always putting the audience first.

On this episode with Karri Carlson of Lead Tail we also discuss how annoying the constant barrage of emails can be and even hurt relationships with our customers.

Let’s use these email marketing tips to stay relevant while not being annoying and while driving business results.


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