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Email Bag: Email Marketing Questions, Answered

Email Bag: Email Marketing Questions, Answered

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We get a lot of questions on how to send better emails.

Chris Hexton and I typically answer them via email, Twitter, webinars and live Q&A calls.

We thought it would be fun to start sharing the answers publicly, so here’s the first ever Email bag.

If you have a question you’d like us to answer, leave it in the comments. You can also register for our upcoming webinar with Unbounce (learn more and register here). Chris and Oli Gardner will be talking about landing pages and taking questions. Hope to see you there!

What do you think is the impact of subject and snippet on e-mail open rates? – Vinicius

There is definitely an impact but it’s less important that 1) the context of the email (i.e. does the person understand why they are receiving the email) and 2) the level of trust.

In other words, if I receive an email two minutes after signing up for a product, it’s expected so I open it. And if I get an email from someone I trust, I open it regardless of the subject line.

So, my advice is to be expected and earn trust over time.

With tech like Inbox by Gmail trying to lessen the noise in the inbox, do you think promotional emails like newsletters are doing more harm than good at this point just because of sheer volume? Or would a timely combination of promo and triggered be best? – Courtney

You nailed in the second question. A combination is promotional and triggered email is likely best.

Take Airbnb as an example. I get promotional messages from them occasionally but there are no deals, no coupons, none of the things that likely to hit the spam folder. They just remind me that next time I travel, I should check out Airbnb. Then, when I actually interact with the site, they learn exactly what I’m looking for and use triggered emails to seal the deal.

Inbox, the Promotional Tab and all the other tech seems a lot like Google’s SEO updates. You should only worry if you’ve been doing crappy stuff. That being said, triggered emails are a really good way filter your emails to the top.

Do Airbnb triggered emails mean you to have an account and be logged in? – Johnn

(John is referring to this post.)

Yes, but you can also track visitors with a cookie before they signup or login so you have data on their behavior to use later.

I deal B2B, these ideas such as a great welcome email is more effective than a promotional blast sound like where I need to head. Have you found that these concepts apply to buyers that generally purchase more logically than the average consumer? – Justin

Great question. We find that triggered emails perform well across the board. If you create an absolute gem of a welcome email, it’s going to keep working for you over and over again. You’ll get data that you can use to refine it and it will keep getting better and earning you business.

That doesn’t mean you should quit with promo email. Airbnb, even though they are B2C is great a example of this. They email occasionally with promotional stuff. Not coupons or deals, but just little reminders about their service, new listings, etc. Then, when I interact with the site, they collect info about me and use that to trigger emails and seal the deal. It’s a beautiful process to watch.

In the absence of good behavioral signals (like in-app activity or website activity) what types of content is good for keeping top-of-mind with people who have maybe opted-in by downloading a free guide? – Rob

This is a great question and one we’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Here’s my advice:

  • Over-deliver. I get a ton of emails and most of them over-promise and under-deliver. Once that happens, I’m out. But when emails actually over-deliver, I’m hooked.
  • Create a habit. Product Hunt nails this. Nir Eyal has some great content on this topic.
  • Address pain points directly. It looks like you are working in IT, so I know there are plenty of pain points. I used to write content for CDW and we always had the most success when we could clearly define a problem then offer a simple solution.

Is there an ideal max of emails to send per week? – Cotuh

This is a good question, and I will give you some hard data to answer it. But first, I recommend sending as many emails as your subscribers expect.

Product Hunt, for example, asked me to subscribe for a daily email so I expect one each day (more on that here). HelpScout asked me to sign up for a weekly email, so I expect it once a week.

I’ll caveat that by also mentioning that industry matters.

So for most newsletters, once a week is the max (unless there is an expectation for more.) The attached chart shows you how open rates fall with each extra email per week.

Based on our data, this doesn’t hold true for e-commerce businesses, who actually get higher open rates when they send two emails per week.

How do behavioral marketing principles apply to bought email lists, if at all?

This is a tough question. My first reaction would be to say that these suggestions do not apply but I do think there are nuggets you can takeaway.

I would definitely recommend running your lists through one of these tools to clean them up:

Then I’d recommend sending feelers in small batches. You might also consider uploading your list to an ad platform like and doing some targeted ads before emailing them.

Leave an email marketing question in the comments and we’ll answer it in our next post.


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