March 15, 2021 Content Chat Recap: Email Marketing Hacks That Drive Results

A #ContentChat header image that says today's topic is email marketing hacks that drive results, with guest Nancy Harhut.

Are your email marketing efforts falling flat? Audiences are flooded with a sea of emails each day, which means that your emails need a way to stand out—and there are a few behavioral science principles that may help!

In this #ContentChat, we’re joined by Nancy Harhut, co-founder and chief creative officer of HBT Marketing, to discuss email marketing hacks that drive results. Read the full recap below, where we discuss how to write compelling email subject lines, ways to create a sense of urgency and exclusivity for your community, and other tips to drive action from your email marketing.

Q1: What type of subject lines work best for email marketing? What are some “eye magnet” words that instantly grab attention?

Per Nancy, the best subject lines have news, urgency, and “ignore at your peril” elements. Some effective eye magnet words include “today,” “introducing,” “alert,” and “action required.”

A1. Subject lines with news, urgency, and “ignore at your peril” messages do well. So do questions and subject lines ending in ellipses #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

A1b. Other eye magnet words, which scientific studies prove “attract” the eye, include introducing, today, and alert #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

A1: Words I love to use for email subject lines are words that indicate more underneath. Some favorites are “news” “steps” “questions” “announcement” and “ideas.” #ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) March 15, 2021

Since I have to email a lot of students I need to pull the “ACTION REQUIRED:” quite a bit. Know your audience and their email habits. #ContentChat

— Jette-Mari Anni (@JetteAnni) March 15, 2021

“Free” used to trigger spam filters but is now a top-pulling subject line word.

A1a. Free, which was a spam trigger, is now the top-pulling subject line word based on @worldata data. We overvalue free things and find them nearly irresistible. #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

Experiment with question, how-to, and list subject lines. 10 is an especially effective number because it’s easier for our brains to process.

A1 Subject lines that has questions or The Top 10…and How To’s. #ContentChat

— Danica N. Worthy (@danicaworthy) March 15, 2021

10 is a particularly powerful number because it’s easy for the brain to process (we learned to count on our fingers). #contentchat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

A1: I think this all depends on your audience segment. But I often see success with numbers (“5 reasons why…”) and “how to” SLs (“How to improve your email marketing”) #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) March 15, 2021

I think Buzzfeed has ruined the numbers thing for me. I don’t get their emails, but I see their teasers online #contentchat

— Dan Goldberg (@Jonas419) March 15, 2021

@BuzzFeed has definitely influenced the trend! For me, I still open those because I feel like it’s a promise for short content. Often it proves to be the opposite but… oh well 😅 #ContentChat

— Jette-Mari Anni (@JetteAnni) March 15, 2021

Questions and Ideas are definitely on top of my list too! I feel like they indicate mutual benefits & appreciation for the receiver. #ContentChat

— Jette-Mari Anni (@JetteAnni) March 15, 2021

Emojis also draw attention, just be sure that they align with your brand voice.

A1: SLs that ask questions (because nobody wants an email screaming an order at them with a bunch of !!!). Numbers (savings and dates) emojis (though some brands feel this doesn’t fit their tone) and personalization (know who you are emailing) #ContentChat

— Jennifer L. Dawson (@JLDContentQueen) March 15, 2021

Use your customer data to tailor subject lines whenever possible. Some audiences respond well when their name is included in the subject line, but not all people will be receptive to this tactic.

A1: Whenever you can tailor your subject line to reflect a recent action, customer preference, or specific insight, it works wonders. Putting someone’s name in the subject line makes me think it’s spam though. That sort of personalization is easy but… #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) March 15, 2021

Agreed, I dislike when someone puts my name in a subject line. Feels like you’re trying too hard to be personal, which makes it feel even less personal. Sell me with a compelling subject line, not because you know my (potentially misspelled) name. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) March 15, 2021

Names in subject lines have shown lifts though. Recently, for B2B emails, personalizing by company name has been driving opens. #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

Interesting! I always feel on the fence about that kind of personalization. I think it totally depends on your audience. Another reason why testing is critical! #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) March 15, 2021

The main thing is to experiment with different ideas and track your success. Conduct A/B testing to find the best way to approach your audience. Learn more about A/B testing here.

A1: It depends on who your audience is. You can only find out what works with A/B tests. As an example, investment newsletters that have numbers in subject lines work better. #ContentChat

— Win Shi Wong (Win Shi, not Win) (@winshiwong) March 15, 2021

Q2: How can marketers create a sense of urgency and exclusivity in their emails?

Urgency and exclusivity are part of the Scarcity Principle, which can motivate audiences to take action. However, we as marketers need to act responsibly and not lie to or purposefully mislead our audiences to drive profit.

A2. Urgency + Exclusivity are both halves of the Scarcity Principle: “Limited times/quantities” and “available to some but not all” are very motivating. #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

As #email marketers, we need to act responsibly, and not use urgency (or scarcity, etc.) when it’s not true. But when true, it’s helpful #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

A2 I think it’s really important if you’re trying to build a positive relationship that if you use the scarcity principle you need to be able to back it up with the goods (be sure your offer is actually scarce). #ContentChat

— Derek Pillie 🎯 (@derekpillie) March 15, 2021

Same with “Alert” and “Action Required” because if these aren’t in fact 🔥 you are now “the boy who cried wolf” and I know your “alert” is not requiring my attention or time. #ContentChat

— Jennifer L. Dawson (@JLDContentQueen) March 15, 2021

AGREED! The deadline has to be true and honest. Create urgency but not utter mayhem! #ContentChat

— Shane Shaps (@520eastbrands) March 15, 2021

That’s true! Except, I LOATHE the countdowns that show I have 12 min left…. just to witness the timer reset. I definitely have purchased stuff as a result too. Which I guess proves the tactic effective, but now I bitterly sit there and watch it tick down. #ContentChat

— Jette-Mari Anni (@JetteAnni) March 15, 2021

Include a deadline to create a sense of urgency. A countdown clock/timer can reinforce this urgency and increase your clickthrough rate by 31%.

A2a. Deadlines, “today”, “now,” “time’s running out” and “last chance” all create urgency. #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

A2: When relevant, include countdown tickers, number available, deadlines, and other simple but effective methods of making your content or the offer clearly limited. #ContentChat https://t.co/uOA5wcpK9D

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) March 15, 2021

A2 There’s got to be deadline and call to action. FOMO is real. Use it if you can (but don’t be mean about it). #ContentChat

— Shane Shaps (@520eastbrands) March 15, 2021

A2: Stating the deadline in the subject line helps, especially it is a promotional email. Make it explicit like “Sale ends in 24 hours” really creates FOMO for them. For email content itself, having a countdown timer sometimes works, too #ContentChat

— Win Shi Wong (Win Shi, not Win) (@winshiwong) March 15, 2021

So true! “25% off ends tonight at 9 Pacific” is an email I can’t wait to open when it’s sent to me from one of my favorite brands. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) March 15, 2021

Yes, countdown clocks are very visual and visceral reminders that time’s running out. They can increase CTRs by 31% according to @worldata #ContentChat #urgency

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

A2: If you’re able to drive towards a date (app or completion deadlines for students) or offer/sale expiration you have built in urgency. Also great to build urgency with something new (product launch, course start, etc.) and tap in to FOMO #ContentChat

— Jennifer L. Dawson (@JLDContentQueen) March 15, 2021

Create exclusivity by offering early access, special discounts, sneak peeks, and other offers that are reserved for specific members of your community.

A2b. Offering early access, special discounts/privileges, sneak peeks, and using “just for you” create exclusivity #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

A2: Private loyalty offers get me every time! Even if I don’t buy – I still want to see what I could get that others can’t. #ContentChat

— Jette-Mari Anni (@JetteAnni) March 15, 2021

Yes – “members only” gets me most of the time! #ContentChat https://t.co/30zRcOfJFw

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) March 15, 2021

A2: A surefire way to create urgency is to have the word “hours” in your sub line. Followed by “only,” you’ve given your audience a direct line to your offer and it’s expiration. To foster exclusivity, “insider,” “special,” and “limited” are incredibly useful. #ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) March 15, 2021

Q3: What visual or other unique elements can marketers use to drive action from their subscribers?

Emojis can boost your email open rate by 21%.

A3. Emojis lift opens. Earlier, I was not a fan. But the data, for B2C + B2B, convinced me. @worldata shows a 21% increase in opens with them. #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

A3: I’ve seen some pretty great results with emoji in subject lines and GIFs in the email content! It makes the email more fun to read as well #ContentChat

— Win Shi Wong (Win Shi, not Win) (@winshiwong) March 15, 2021

A3: I love when a subject line includes an emoticon matching the ‘urgent’ phrase it uses. For example, 🎁 or ⏰ when urging a “free gift” or “limited time” offer. #ContentChat

— Stephanie Lee (@StephanieRFLee) March 15, 2021

Special characters like /, [, >, etc. can grab attention. Put the first word or two of your subject line in brackets to see if it boosts your open rate.

A3a. Special characters, such as /// >>>> etc., also attract attention and prompt action #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

A3b. Putting the first word or two of your subject line in brackets will lift opens #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

A3d. These (brackets, emojis) all use the Von Restorff Effect (people notice and remember things that are different). But if everyone uses them, they’re less effective. #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

I found this to be especially true for emails promoting e-books, for webinar signups, etc. It signals there is something of value (and what it is) in exchange for opening. #ContentChat https://t.co/XGI4D6Oaa0

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) March 15, 2021

Use GIFs in your emails when appropriate, or find other ways to humanize your brand and showcase your personality.

A3: Animated GIF email hero images can get better engagement. Also, put a CTA/button in that image and link to where you want your audience to go, buy, complete their form, etc. #ContentChat

— Jennifer L. Dawson (@JLDContentQueen) March 15, 2021

A3 I like emails that show personality and a humanized brand. #contentchat

— Danica N. Worthy (@danicaworthy) March 15, 2021

The best way to provide value to your audience is to send them tailored messages. Use purchase, browsing, or demographic data to deliver personalized content.

A3: I love emails that have dynamic elements tailored to purchasing or browsing history. Or, dynamic content tailored to something specific to your region (sales on snow boots ahead of a big storm). #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) March 15, 2021

Yes! Like something I bought is available in a new color/design, or there’s a new addition to a collection I’ve purchased from before. #ContentChat https://t.co/dWFsWWDh5v

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) March 15, 2021

Totally. I get excited when I see these, too! Just this weekend I received an email that highlighted sales on items I had looked at a few weeks prior. My husband got the same email, but his products were different. That brand got some marketing respect from me. Haha! #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) March 15, 2021

Before and after photos can increase believability. One brand saw a 12-15% increase in conversions when using before and after photos.

A3e. Also, before and after shots, when positioned closely together, increase believability. A colleague’s recent tests show a 12-15% increase in conversions #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

Yes! I previously worked at a company in the supplement/beauty space and we loved to used these but they can be a legal mind field. Got to have all your disclaimers and testimonial release forms in order. #ContentChat

— Jennifer L. Dawson (@JLDContentQueen) March 15, 2021

Q4: What are the pros and cons of using “negative” phrases or elements in CTAs, subject lines, etc.?

Loss aversion can motivate email subscribers to take action. Use phrases like “don’t miss” to prompt a positive response.

A4. It’s counterintuitive, but negative can work. People are more motivated to avoid loss than to achieve gain. #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

A4a. “Don’t miss” is a good example of using negative phrasing (Loss Aversion) to prompt positive response #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

Be mindful of your brand voice and audience before you use negative phrases. You do not want to imply that you think your audience is bad at their jobs.

A4: Pro: It can be a big motivator. Con: It could fall out of line with your voice/tone or sound spammy, hurting the connection your subscribers have to your brand. #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) March 15, 2021

It is so important to consider if going negative is the right fit for your brand voice. In many cases, it’s out of tune. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) March 15, 2021

A4: For a while, I was receiving an endless stream of cold emails marketing to me by telling me my marketing skills suck. They got an auto mark-as-spam. I’m really not into negging in any context. Including pop-up close text. “I want to continue to fail at my job” #ContentChat pic.twitter.com/hzdcVeLlWI

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) March 15, 2021

A4 If your going the negative route read the email marketing room. I.E. know your audience. #ContentChat

— Danica N. Worthy (@danicaworthy) March 15, 2021

A4: It is okay if we use it sparingly, especially when the content itself delivers great value to the readers to counter it. If a brand consistently delivers “negative” phrases, it says a lot about them and how they think about their readers. #ContentChat

— Win Shi Wong (Win Shi, not Win) (@winshiwong) March 15, 2021

Agreed. I don’t want to give my money to a brand that (from their email messaging) thinks I am stupid, failing at what I do for a living, and desperate. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) March 15, 2021

Focus on audience value if you use negative phrases.

A4c. Benefits definitely work though. Do not walk away from them. Being too negative can turn some targets off. People want to know what’s in it for them. #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

And avoid using the word “hate” if your audience does not respond well to it.

I got an email this morning with aa subject line, “Hate Mondays?” No.. .I don’t. But I really don’t like your subject line. Let’s not use “hate” please… #ContentChat

— Shane Shaps (@520eastbrands) March 15, 2021

Q5: What brand(s) do you feel are most effective with their email marketing? Why?

Check out the below community recommendations on brands that have effective email marketing. Is your favorite missing from the list? Let us know in the comments.

A5. I’m a fan of Harry’s Shave Club. They use Loss Aversion (Stop Overpaying), eye magnets (Free), Social Proof (Millions made the switch) in clean, clear emails. #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

A5b. For enewsletters, I like Total Annarchy by @annhandley because of the smart marketing advice and distinctive voice #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

A5c. The J. Peterman Company emails beautifully embody their brand. Copy and design = uniquely theirs. Their stories, as good stories do, transport you. #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

Any brand I already love. If @onepeloton emails me, I open it. #ContentChat For me it’s really more about my relationship with the brand than it is the actual message.

— Shane Shaps (@520eastbrands) March 15, 2021

A5 Most effective email marketing company in my book is @VenetianVegas – if I had money they would get it every time. LOL #ContentChat

— Derek Pillie 🎯 (@derekpillie) March 15, 2021

A5: I like the Container Store emails. They know what I like to buy, and they keep me informed of good deals and new additions to those categories. #ContentChat https://t.co/fEVAQjJLDq

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) March 15, 2021

A5: I feel Starbucks has always been good. Fun SLs, good balance of graphics/visuals and their look and feel is always recognizable. #ContentChat

— Jennifer L. Dawson (@JLDContentQueen) March 15, 2021

A5: Going to give a quick shoutout to @UtzSnacks. Urgency in subject lines, countdown clocks, dynamic email content. #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) March 15, 2021

A3: Bath and Body Works Canada. Good mix of humour/don’t take themselves too seriously, visuals, variety of copy (not the same old thing for every email). I know exactly what’s going to be in the email before I click it #ContentChat

— Stephanie Lee (@StephanieRFLee) March 15, 2021

Q6: What tools do you use to create and manage your email nurture streams and newsletters?

Nancy recommends SubjectLine.com to workshop your subject lines and email timing.

A6. I’m more focused on writing than tools and tech. But I do like https://t.co/YhLMnjHz0p for doublechecking the strength of my subject lines. And it’s free! #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

A6a. https://t.co/3VVq72WWOi also offers a free best days/worst days email marketing calendar which can be helpful when planning campaigns. They update it regularly. #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

The community recommends ConvertKit, Mailchimp, and MailerLite to manage your email newsletters.

A6: @Mailchimp can be helpful for nurture or email marketing newbies. I love @reallygoodemail for content inspiration. #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) March 15, 2021

A6: I’ve been using @convertkit for a while now and really like how easy they make it to segment your subscribers, create landings pages, etc. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) March 15, 2021

A6: We made the switch from MailChimp to @MailerLite early last year – best decision ever. With the lower cost, MailerLite gives much more features, they have amazing customer support, too! #ContentChat

— Win Shi Wong (Win Shi, not Win) (@winshiwong) March 15, 2021

HubSpot, Mailchimp, and Really Good Emails all provide valuable content to help improve your email marketing.

Yes, HubSpot shares some good content, too. Anyone willing to share good content is good in my book! #ContentChat

— Nancy Harhut (@nharhut) March 15, 2021

Those are two of my favorite resources too. Mail Chimp has fantastic industry benchmark data. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) March 15, 2021

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