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How to Send a Great Promotional Email, Courtesy of Evernote

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One of the reasons we focus on transactional and behavioral emails is because most promotional emails stink. But as Evernote proves in this example, it doesn’t have to be that way.

We heard from our readers that this format is fun, so we’re going to break this email down to examine why it’s so effective.

View the full email here.

Here are five key reasons this email rocks.

1. The context is clear.

Context rules above all else in the email world. The more expected the message, the more likely you are to convert. So let’s start with the premise. Why am I receiving this email?

  • I’m an Evernote user but not a paying customer.
  • I was previously a paying customer.
  • I use the app regularly.
  • I use Skitch, which requires an Evernote login (they have data on me) and offers many of the same features as the annotation tool.

I’m not surprised to receive this email. In fact, I actually seem like just the right customer for this product. It’s much more relevant than most of the promotional email I receive. (Like this one … a perfect example of everything wrong with email marketing. Maybe we’ll break this one down next time.)

From the word go, we’re off to a good start.

2. It explains the benefit before the call to action.

Why would a free user want to pay money to use a product they already have access to?

Because there is additional value.

In this case, Evernote is teasing their PDF Annotation feature. The email focuses entirely on the value of the feature, then prompts the reader to learn more about upgrading.

They even used a GIF to demonstrate how it works:

evernote email marketing

3. The copy is loaded with strong verbs.

One of the writing best practices made famous by Ernest Hemingway is the use of action verbs. Hemingway’s sparse writing style is driven by verbs rather than adjectives and adverbs. He replaces flowery language with powerful verbs.

You don’t need to be Hemingway to put this into practice. Verbs are about action, just like conversion, says Daphne Gray-Grant.

Conversion = action

Forget about adjectives – they’re as floppy as a gaggle of 98-lb weaklings. Verbs, on the other hand, are the muscle-men of the beach.

And after all, if your goal is to make your readers ACT, doesn’t it make sense to focus on the ACTion words in your writing?

Nearly every sentence in this email begins with an action verb.

  • Mark it up
  • Upgrade to clear communication
  • Mark up entire notes
  • Give feedback on PDFs
  • Send a summary. Save time.
  • Upgrade your workspace

Action verbs keep your sentences short and clear. Use them whenever possible. (Check out Hemingway App for an easy way to edit your own writing.)

4. It highlights benefits, not features.

The Evernote annotation tool is really powerful. Users can edit, mark up, resize and pixelate images and PDFs. This email focuses only on the ability to mark up PDFs. Why, when there are so many other features?

Sharing feedback on PDFs is a problem for many businesses. This solution solves that problem. Sure, you can do all kinds of other things but the core of the product focuses directly on this problem.

Rather than bombard the user with a list of features, Evernote identifies the problem and offers a solution. The benefits for the user read like a short narrative:

  1. Mark up entire notes
  2. Give feedback on PDFs
  3. Send a summary. Save time.


By keeping the focus on the user, who would love to alleviate this pain point, Evernote reduces opportunities for distraction.


5. You cannot miss the calls to action.

Never underestimate clarity.

The calls to action are bold, clear and friction-free.

(Notice that they’ve used the word “Upgrade” in the email but not in the buttons.)

CTA #1:


CTA #2:


What else did Evernote get right? Anything you would change? Let us know in the comments.


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