1 Special Offer Emails
Be careful with special offer emails. This is the kind of stuff that’s nearly guaranteed to end up in the “Promotional” tab in Gmail. It’s the kind of stuff that people get really annoyed with. When you send a special offer, make sure you segment your lists first. You don’t want to send an discount code to someone who just paid full price yesterday.
When there is real value for the customer, there can be real value for the business too. As long as you maintain that balance, special offers can be a win-win.
Most 500px users are familiar with “Plus” and “Awesome” accounts. They are mentioned frequently in emails and calls to action to upgrade are all over the site. So when an email shows up offering a discount, there is a foundation of knowledge in place.
The important parts of this email – “15% off” and “Upgrade Now” – contrast nicely with the white background. Users will know exactly what to do.
The copy in this email is all about giving, not getting.
Special offers are often seasonal and CrashPlan did something interesting with this holiday email. If you give CrashPlan to someone else, you get two free months for yourself. This is useful to people are the holidays and the added incentive makes it an especially useful email.
This special offer is framed liked a transactional email. The subject line – “You have a special offer from eBay” – sounds more like a notification than a special offer.
The offer itself is sold by the items you could have, if only you had PayPal Credit. This is a perfect example of benefits over features.
It’s not surprising to see a great email from Starbucks. They send some of the best promotional email out there.
In this email, which is sent only to “members”, they offer a buy three, get one free deal for a very limited time. Nearly all Starbucks offers are time-sensitive. This is because they need people to actually come visit a location, not just order things online.
2 Sale Emails
Avoid the gray area of email marketing. You know, that space where you aren’t really sure if the email you’re sending will end up in the inbox or a spam folder. Sale emails can be dangerous. Send them only to people who have explicitly requested them and consistently engage with your emails.
Low engagement rates are a spam signal. Tread lightly.
Crate and Barrel
Crate and Barrel does a great job emphasizing the “60% off” in a contrasting color. That number is key and the entire email is built around drawing attention to it.
This email is loaded with eye candy. The photos are great, the clothes and accessories look great and there are six calls to action in the body of the email.
Not only is the offer timely – “This Weekend Only” – it offers a discount and free shipping. The colors and layout guide the eye towards the blue box where the click needs to happen.
Notice how little copy is used. Less is often more.
This is a common theme you’ll see from big retailers. They throw a bunch of things at the wall and see what sticks. If you’ve got data, it’s much better to personalize but if your product selection is as broad as Target’s, you can use it to your advantage.
This email works because it gets the customer thinking about possibilities. “I don’t need a new camera but that’s a really good deal.” Use this tactic carefully as it can backfire.
3 Holiday Offer Emails
Everyone expects to get more emails during the holidays.
You have a green light to send a promotional email (to people who opted in) but not to badger your subscribers or annoy them.
Use the built-in context of the holidays to craft a message that will be welcome in the inbox.
500px sells everything with imagery. Their site has tons of beautiful images, so it makes sense to build that experience into their emails as well.
What starts as a holiday greeting ends with a nice offer. For people who aren’t interested in upgrading, this is just a holiday card. And for those that are, it’s well-timed offer.
By the time customers receive this email, they’ve likely already heard a few news stories about how Amazon is prepping for the holiday season. They know the deals will be good. The context is already there. This email is just a green light to start shopping.
If you’re a great copywriter, lean on that skill.
It’s exactly what Laura Roeder has done here and it makes for a great email. And this isn’t even the offer, it’s building excitement for one that’s coming soon. Not everyone gets tons of press coverage like Amazon so building your own momentum can lead to better sales and more conversions.
4 Event Announcement Emails
You have two options when it comes to announcing events via email. You can include the announcement in an exiting email (like a newsletter) or send a separate email dedicated to the announcement. Both can work and we have examples of each.
As always, the format is less important than the content. Can you concisely and clearly communicate value? Do that, and your event will be off to a great start.
This is an example of building the announcement into an existing newsletter. Peep does a great job using a conversational tone. If you’ve read the blog, it sounds like Peep. He sells the conference but he doesn’t go overboard. Why? Because if you’ve already subscribed to the newsletter, you already know ConversionXL does great work.
This is a different approach. KISSmetrics sent this email with the sole purpose of announcing the webinar. It’s rare that startups are willing to talk about their challenges so they get your attention from the beginning. The story builds your interest before sealing the deal with a call to action.
Another example of a dedicated announcement email, Unbounce doesn’t waste much time getting recipients to the conference website. Conferences are big investments so people are likely to spend a lot of time researching before they commit. The landing page really sold the show. This email was just a catalyst.
5 Upgrade Emails
Upgrade emails exist in many forms. There are a few different approaches in this section. Pay special attention to Buffer as they seem to be onto something great with their version.
This isn’t a dedicated upgrade email … or is it?
In this report that Buffer sends each week, they ask users to upgrade above the fold. Recipients see the call to action before they even see the metrics.
TripAdvisor does something very similar. This is a great example of making the most of transactional email. Users like receiving their reports and probably feel good about about the metrics. It’s the perfect time to ask them to upgrade.
Jason Fried on how to use free trials:
“You should emulating drug dealers. Drug dealers give you a little taste and get you hooked, then you buy from them.”
Instead of going for the upgrade right away, Spotify lets you try their premium service for free first. And the service is great. Email marketing always works best when the product does the selling for you.
This approach is similar to Spotify but Todoist spends a little more time on the benefits of the service. This is useful to newbies since the software does so much.
The emphasis on “no commitment and no credit card” alleviates some of the anxiety around free trials. And just when the user’s interest is piqued, they bring it home with a bold, red button.
6 Click-Bait Emails
Why is there so much click-bait out there? Because it works.
The problem with click-bait is that the headline oversells the content, leaving the reader disappointed.
“Most clickbait is disappointing because itâs a promise of value that isnât met – the payoff isn’t nearly as good as what the reader imagines,” [Verge Editor-in-chief Nilay] Patel said. “BuzzFeed headlines pay off particularly well because they actually make fairly small promises and then overdeliver.”
Read the full post: Why BuzzFeed Doesn’t Do Clickbait
So there’s your strategy. Now let’s see how some of the pros do it.
Keep an eye on the subject lines in this section. In this email, Digg’s subject is “The Only Way to Drink Puke.”
Digg makes money with ads. That means they need visitors. And that means they need consistently keep people interested and entertained so they’ll come back.
They can’t risk disappointing readers. So they don’t. See example A … this email.
Again, focus on the subject line: “The Sneaky Thing That’s Sabotaging Your Sleep.”
It’s exactly the kind of the thing a lot of people are sick of seeing. The copy is this email promises a lot. That’s fine if people are happy after the click.
Quora lets their users generate subject lines for their emails.
Each newsletter arrives with a question from my feed, meaning the subject lines are always interesting and cover a wide range of topics. You never know what you’re going to get with a Quora email but it’s always worth checking out.
We wrote more about this strategy in 20 Tips for Dramatically Better Emails.
7 Did You Know?
Survey your customers about your product. I bet you’ll find that they know about half of what it does.
“Did you know” emails are great for onboarding and inactive users. They can be promotional or behavioral. We suggest the latter, since highly targeted behavioral emails consistently perform better than promotional emails.
If you’ve ever used Adobe’s tools, you know they are beastly. Powerful and useful, yes but overwhelming.
Now that most Adobe users pay a monthly fee to use their creative suite, it’s important to continually remind users that they are getting something great for their money. This email is a perfect way to engage users with the software and make them feel good about their investment.
If you signed up for LaunchRock, you are likely launching something. So the marketing team at LaunchRock knows there is a clock ticking on your pending launch and their chance to get you using their product.
For users who haven’t setup their LaunchRock page (and the business is monitoring this on the backend), they offer paid services to do it for you. It’s a smart way to get people using the product and make money on the consultation service.
Pinterest sends a great onboarding series. Seriously, go sign up for a new account to get some great ideas for your own onboarding email.
As a new user, I didn’t know about “place boards” but after seeing this email, I created one. So it worked … really well.
Onboarding emails are designed to drive engagement. So when Pinterest says “Here’s something cool you probably didn’t know” then immediately prompts the user to try it, everyone wins.
8 Apology Emails
Saying “I’m sorry” can be really hard but sometimes it must be done.
If you’ve upset your users or customers, email is a good way to send a personal message apologizing.
You also have an opportunity to delight the recipient (more on that here) by giving them something free or surprising them. Check out what we mean.
When Buffer first added feeds to their app, users were upset because they could only add one. It was still better than before, just not as good as people hoped.
Instead of getting defensive, CEO Joel Gascoigne sent this email apologizing for the disappointment. And he announced that, effective immodestly, users could add up to 15 feeds.
Now that is a great apology email.
We’ve all sent an email we wish we could take back. Maybe it had a bad link, an incorrect date or a grammar error.
In this case, Copyblogger sent an email about an upcoming webinar but listed the time incorrectly. This email arrived shortly after apologizing for the error and for the extra noise in the inbox.
They got it right though. The correction had to be made and the email was short and sweet.
Your tech team invests a lot of team energy trying to achieve 99.999% uptime but somehow people are still upset when your site goes down. It happens, and it often requires an apology.
Sumday kept this email brief but still got the point across.
9 Invitation Emails
If you want to make people feel special, invite them to something. A special email list, a pre-sale, a beta group … it makes people feel really good.
Be sure to spend time segmenting your lists before you hit send on an invitation. Don’t send them to everyone – that defeats the purpose – and try to segment based on past behavior. It’s a great indicator of future behavior.
Perhaps because I’ve made a purchase within just a few days of signing up for a new account, Amazon wants to strike while the iron is hot. In this email, they invite me to join a site called MyHabit.com that curates deals for clothing and other fashion products.
Within five days of opening the account, I made two purchases.
- October 21: Open account
- October 23: Purchase #1
- October 26: Purchase #2
- October 31: Invitation to MyHabit.com
My purchasing behavior is trending upward. They’ve had to do very little to entice me to buy. They see this as a signal that Iâm ready to spend and are trying to built a habit of frequent purchasing.
Read more on this email in our post How Amazon Dominates E-Commerce With Email Marketing.
Everyone is used to orientation sessions. New job, new school, new software … you need to get oriented. So this email from Divvy inviting new users to an orientation is not only useful, it’s expected.
Inbox by Gmail
Google loves to build anticipation for new products by requiring an invite to join. By the time you get this email, you are well aware of the product and itching to get your “in”.
The email starts with the good stuff … the call to action. For those wanting more information, it’s there too, complete with a video walkthrough and an explanation of the new features.