You Ask, I Answer: Counterintuitive Email Marketing Strategies?

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You Ask, I Answer: Counterintuitive Email Marketing Strategies?

Dennis asks, “What are some email marketing strategies that might seem counterintuitive but work well?”

You Ask, I Answer: Counterintuitive Email Marketing Strategies?

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Christopher Penn 0:13

In this episode, Dennis asks, what are some email marketing strategies? That might seem counterintuitive? But work? Well? Well, gosh, there are so many marketing strategies for email marketing that can be counterintuitive.

Let’s get let’s do the intuitive ones.

First, the obvious ones, your emails gotta be worth reading.

Right? If you publish an email that doesn’t add value to somebody’s day, it’s it’s a no go.

Right? No one’s gonna read it.


And it is so trite, it is so cliche to say that you got to create valuable content.

And yet, when I look in my inbox 99% On the marketing, they get us crap, right? It is stuff that you couldn’t pay me to read most of the time.

I mean, you could pay me you just have to pay me a lot.

Because so bad, it’s so bad, it is entirely all sender centric, it is all look at us, we’re an awesome company, we’ve got all these awesome products, you should buy something.


So that’s number one.

Number two, have a consistent sender.

Right? Again, that’s one of those things that people still do wrong.

They try messing around and being cute with all kinds of different senders and sender names and things to see if they can get you to pay attention.

And if you want consistent results, you’ve got to have consistent processes.

This, there’s no way to, to sugarcoat that if you are inconsistent in your subject lines in your format, in your sender, you’re gonna get inconsistent results.

And there’s, there’s a time and place for testing for sure.

But testing should be separate from production.

And a lot of people that’s not the case.

Now, there are three things that I do that people consider counterintuitive.

Number one, I have a really, really, really obvious, bold, obnoxious unsubscribe button, it takes up the whole width of the email.

It’s all these horrendously bright, changing colors, it looks like a an acid trip.

And it ends near the top of the email.

And then there’s another unsubscribe link at the bottom.

I want people to unsubscribe.

I should probably clarify, I don’t want people to unsubscribe, who don’t want to be here.

Right? If they’re not interested out of here.

Why? Because the very worst thing that can happen is that somebody can’t find the unsubscribe button and they just hit the market spam button, and the email client, if you know anything about email marketing, deliverability.

Reputation is what matters in email marketing.

Now it’s stuff like in a free in the sender line like that was how we filtered spam, like in the early 2000s.

Today, it’s all reputation based IPs, SPF D, Kim D mark, and individual user behaviors.

If enough people hit the Marcus spam button in Gmail, or Hotmail, or whatever the service is gonna say, Well, gosh, you know, this seems like everyone’s flagging this spam.

So let’s move it to the promotions tab or does not deliver it at all.

People hitting that market spam button is so damaging, so damaging to reputation.

It’s right up there with sending email to email addresses that don’t exist.

And it’s that bad.

So you never want to do that.

So how do you avoid that? You make it easier for people to unsubscribe, you say? Here’s the door.

Don’t let it hit you.

Right where the good Lord split? Yeah.

And that gets people who are likely to complain off your list.

Now, why don’t marketers do this more, because a lot of the times they’re measured on I hate the term vanity metrics, but they’re measured on metrics that may or may not have any correlation to actual results.

Just because your email list is big doesn’t mean that it’s good, right? If you send out an email to a million people at five people buy something, your list is really a five, right? And the other 999,995 emails are no good.

If five people are only the only one to ever buy anything, you may as well just have a list of five.

And so we are taught a bigger list is better.

It’s not true.

An engaged list is better.

A happy list is better.

A list that looks forward to your emails is better.

Bigger isn’t better.

And so if we get rid of that mindset, then we can get rid of the need to hide the unsubscribe link in two point font in light gray text, the very bottom the email.

That’s no good.

Stop doing that.

So that’s number one.

Number two blatant subject lines, particularly for sales pitches, a lot of my sales pitches start out saying blatant sales pitch.

That’s part of the subject lines, this blatant sales pitch, Google Analytics 4 course, I want you to know, it’s a sales pitch,

Christopher Penn 5:09

I want you to know when I’m sending you a sales pitch.

And again, when you look at the tactics your average salesperson uses, they’ll do things like you know, put our E and then you know, our meeting last week or whatever, or, Hey, you got a few minutes, kind of thing.

We’re all adults, we’ve all been around for a little while.

We all know exactly what those emails mean.

You’re not fooling anybody, and saying, I got two minutes.

You’re gonna You’re two minutes ago, stretch 20 minutes, and it’s going to be a sales pitch.

No, I don’t have two minutes for you.

If my subject line says blatant sales pitch Google Analytics 4 course, what happens? When you read that? It sets your expectations? You know what’s in the box, you know, you’re getting a sales pitch, right? What happens if I have a deceptive subject line? Right? Like, check this out? You open the email, and then you’re unhappy like a sales pitch.

Right? What happens when you’re unhappy? You unsubscribe, right? Or worse you mark as spam again, don’t want that is a blatant sales pitch.

You know, it’s a sales pitch.

And then what are you likely to do you just skip it? You hit the delete button, cool, fine.

If you just hit the delete button, then guess what? You weren’t gonna buy anything anyway.

So tricking you or trying to trick you is a fruitless endeavor, just call it a blatant sales pitch so that people know what’s in the box.

And if the subject line is good enough that you know in terms of advertising, what’s in the box, if somebody’s like, gosh, I’ve been thinking about taking a Google Analytics 4 course.

And look, here’s a sales pitch for one, maybe I’ll at least look at it.

That’s what I want.

I want people to have realistic expectations when they open the box when they open the email, and go, Huh, says blatant sales pitch.

And look, it’s a sales pitch.

Right? Again, expectations are met.

No one feels fooled.

No one feels deceived.

No one’s unhappy.

If you open a sales pitch, and it’s a sales pitch, and you’re unhappy, something something went wrong there.

So that’s number two.

Number three is I rigorously clean my list, I scrub my list, weekly, of anything that bounces.

And then I do a full list clean quarterly, I just validate my entire list.

And I get rid of a lot of emails, a lot of emails go away because they’re marked as you know, no longer valid mailboxes or undeliverable or something like that.

Again, a lot of marketers really hate doing this, because your subscriber numbers always go down.

Whenever you clean your list, your numbers go down, sometimes a lot.

And then your quarterly board report or your monthly marketing metrics review or whatever, you know, this that bright red negative number, and it was like, Oh, what happened? You know, it’s not a failing, it’s not a failing on you as a marketer, if your email list has emails that go bad, right? In the same way, that it’s not a failing that if you buy some fruit at the grocery store, and one of the apples is rotten, you didn’t make it rotten, right? You just bought it just that was a bad apple in the lot.

What it does do is to keep your reputation clean, because again, one of the markers of spammy behavior is sending a whole bunch of emails to addresses that don’t exist.

And the more you do that, the worse your reputation gets.

And it’s quick, it’s not a lot.

If you look at the deliverability metrics for like Amazon Simple email service, they will warn you, when your invalid email lists, sense, go to 1%.

Right, if you get 1% of a send, it goes bad.

Get a warning.

If you go, I believe, to 2%, your account just gets cancelled.

Right? Same is true for people complaining like that.

I think that’s like point 1%.

It’s really low.

Their thresholds before they just kick you off their service are really, really low.

So you cannot afford to have just bad addresses piling up.

So you’ve got to get rid of them as quickly as possible.

And the faster you get rid of them at the front end, the more your reputation improves on every single email service provider out there, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, those people who still use AOL, whatever, it’s all fine.

All of them are looking at reputation all them are looking at what’s going on.


So those would be my my three counterintuitive things and it works.

It works really well.

Christopher Penn 9:44

So my bounce rate on my list hovers around 0.0016%.

Right, it’s really low, my complaint rate 0.0004%.

Again, super, super low.

Well, far below, you know, 1000 times below the threshold where an Amazon SES would say your your account is cancelled right way below it.

That’s what I want.

I don’t care if people read every single email, I don’t care if you know people don’t get a ton out of every single email is sent, I don’t care if people don’t buy immediately, in an email, what I do care about as they stick around, I do care that I don’t get complaints, I do care that addresses don’t go bad.

And I do care that if you don’t want to be here, there’s an easy way for you to leave.

Right? There’s the big bright unsubscribe button says, Here’s the door.

Thank you for being here while you were here, we’ll miss you.

But the content no longer suits you anymore.

So that’s it.

That’s those are the tactics.

And I would encourage every marketer to embrace those tactics, have that big unsubscribe, have those clear as day, you know, can of soup style subject lines, and clean your lists, frequently, aggressively and set expectations, your stakeholders like, Hey, we’re gonna clean the list at the end of the quarter, it’s gonna go down.

It’s gonna go down a lot, right? But our deliverability will go up, our results will get better and our reputation will improve.

And those are the trade offs.

Really good question.

We could spend a whole bunch of time on email marketing, but these are these are some of the tactics that work really well that I think everybody should try using at least once.

Anyway, thanks for the question.

I’ll talk to you soon.

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