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Want To Write Amazing Emails? Here Are 5 Proven Strategies 

By Cory Smith, Head of Email, Metric Collective

I was in junior high when I got my first email address.

I registered at because I thought it was a cool name. And I used email primarily to talk to people who went to camp with me in the 51 weeks a year we weren’t at camp, and it was awesome. As far as I’m concerned, it was the first online social network.

They were the first real email marketers: Our weird family members and friends who sent out mass emails warning us about urban legends that had long been proven false.

Of course, before the days of, it was up to us to email them back and let them know that it was Fake News (maybe things haven’t changed much since then).

But eventually, marketers caught wind and things took off like wildfire. I once worked at a company that celebrated the year they sent 100 Billion Emails.

Three decades later, all of us marketers still have a duty to do email right. And not just right, but amazing. Here are five proven strategies to help you do so:

1. Give the user what they want

What do they want? It depends on your brand.

As a brand, of course we all want to sell more stuff. In 2010, I worked with a brand that was in the business of printing money whenever they chose to send an email. But part of the reason we were so successful is that we all looked long and hard at what users were actually doing with the email we were sending them.

We categorized, segmented, and tested with users constantly. We’d send at different times of day until we found what worked just right for users. We didn’t guess, we let the users tell us what they wanted through their actions. If I sell socks and t-shirts, and I have users who only ever buy socks, then I should show them socks.

2. Don’t be afraid to surprise them

That said, if someone buys all the socks, there’s no reason you can’t still show them a t-shirt from time to time.

If t-shirts are a better business for you, then converting them over to t-shirts should be something you’re trying to do. We all do it. Show them the best t-shirt you’ve got (but don’t forget, they still want to buy your socks, and you should remind them of that).

3. It might not be worth it to beat the system

About a month ago, I got a chat from one of my friends who works at a media startup.

“Do you happen to know how the Gmail promotions tab works? Is it just some unsolvable Google mystery?”

Around June of 2013, the Gmail Promotions tab rolled out. This seemed like the end of the world to a lot of email marketers:

“No one will ever look at my emails again if they’re banished to the promotions tab!”

At the time, I had the same thought. But after using the promotions tab for about a week, I changed my tune. A promotional email in the Primary tab is an intrusion. A promotional email in the Promotions tab is just the place it should be. If someone reads their promotions tab, then they’ll see your email. If they never do, and never open your emails, then maybe you shouldn’t be emailing them in the first place.

4. Cleanliness is next to godliness

On the topic of staying away from people who don’t care about you, maybe it’s time to take a long, hard look at your lists.

In the early 90’s on Friday nights, I’d gather by the TV and watch TGIF, and get to one of my favorite shows, Family Matters. Steve Urkel was tireless. He loved Laura Winslow and he didn’t care who knew, especially Laura.

In retrospect, it was pretty creepy. He had a reputation for showing up when he wasn’t welcome. He went over the line of sensibility. He even invented a machine to transform himself into something completely different in the name of getting Laura to go on a date with him.

Consider this: You have a new subscriber, and you want them to convert. You start them off with a welcome series that tells them a little bit about you. If they haven’t converted, then maybe you move on to a sale. You show them all of your deals. You keep digging deeper, talking to your revenue team about how low you can go on prices and sales. You discount more. You have an Ice Cream For Breakfast Day sale, and you send it to them. You get desperate. You send them an email that says, “We Miss You.” You send it over and over. Like this company did.

Look, you build a bad reputation when you mail tons of subscribers who never open your email. This can make your emails go to spam. It’s also painful to purge users from your list.

What if you start your cleanup by scaling those people back to once a month, just to test? Maybe you’ll see all of your metrics improve, and sales won’t suffer. Maybe it’s time. And this isn’t a call for a yearly spring cleaning, you need to do it all the time. Don’t be a Steve Urkel.

5. The customer has invited you into their lives. Don’t let them down.

When a customer signs up for an email list, they’re inviting you into their lives because they think you have something worthy to give them.

Sure, they may just be shopping a deal, but it’s an opportunity to show them what you’ve got. Merchandise your email to showcase your best unknown stuff, but don’t forget about your staples either. If you have a sale, tell them about it. And please, please know that your subscribers are over clickbait. Trust me. Try an emoji instead.

# # # 

Every couple of years, someone proclaims that email is dead. As an email marketer, this is panic-inducing, and as a business owner, it can be downright apocalyptic.

But remember: Email is still the best marketing channel for most businesses by a long shot.

You might as well get it right. And not just right, but amazing.

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Cory Smith Head of Email The Metric Digital Blog A Blog on All Things Digital Marketing