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Email marketing psychology: How to use it to make your emails more appealing

  • On 02/09/2019

Hundreds of millions of emails are sent every day and you only have a few seconds to capture and hold your audience’s attention. To make things even more difficult, email marketing is a dynamic field and many of the tactics that used to bring success to marketers before are an anathema to buyers today. In fact, using tactics can only alienate your audience, mainly because that’s all it is: tactics.

If you want to succeed in email marketing today, you need to understand your customer. Not an easy task when you have thousands of leads you reach out to every day, isn’t it? That’s why psychology is becoming an increasing factor when it comes to successful email marketing campaigns. That’s what this article is all about: email marketing psychology. Let’s start:


Everything starts with the subconscious

A recent research by the Harvard Business School showed that almost 95% of decision-making is subconscious. This might not seem like something groundbreaking but it really is. This means that most decisions nowadays are made on an autopilot.

So how, do you attract your customer’s subconscious and break through the decision autopilot process?



Don’t forget that people are egocentric and show them the value

email marketing psychology

Most people are self-centered, especially in the business world when their career is at stake. That’s why when they see a call-to-action they don’t want to act upon, the question “what’s in it for me?” always pops up.

Remember to always create and UNDERLINE a unique value proposition that will unambiguously answer this question. Explain to your readers what will they gain from reading your new blog post, why should THEY download your handbook or participate in your event.

Many content creators make the mistake of thinking theirgoal is obvious. Don’t assume. Make sure to let your readers know…


What are they gaining and what are they missing

If you want to be successful in email marketing, you need to know how to play benefits against one another. Emails that highlight benefits can be powerful but ask yourself what would your reader rather read about: the benefits of using YOUR product or how it can solve THEIR major problems.

In the past, we did a quick A/B test on two versions of our newsletter. The first one had a subject line “5 ways to improve your business” and the second one had a subject line “5 ways to ruin your business”. The second one had a twice higher open rate and three times higher click rate! This happened because…


People are afraid of missing out

email marketing psychology

One of the biggest motivations for doing something is missing out a significant deal. Emails that can make an appeal to this drive often use urgency and scarcity to convince users why they need to act in order not to be left out on a valuable opportunity.

If you’re reaching out to B2B leads, keep in mind that the fear of missing out will apply to getting an edge over the competition rather than a personal sense of urgency. In both cases, it always helps if you have…


A social proof

email marketing psychology

A great way to make your target customers act is to show them other people that have something they don’t. Oftentimes, we look to other people for cues about things that might work well for us. We ask our friends and colleagues for advice and read reviews online to see what others tested and approved.

Although social proof is oftentimes seen in a commercial context, it’s still a strong motivator for B2B leads as well. Don’t forget that you don’t need to have an actual face-to-face meeting with your clients to understand what makes them tick.

According to a study conducted by CompUSA, 63% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a site with product ratings and reviews. Keep this in mind when making your next email campaign.

In order to make this approach work for you, you should also help your customers to…


Overcome their “analysis paralysis”

It might sound a bit strange but giving your customers too much choice won’t make their customer journey any easier. People today make more decisions than ever before and when presented with another overwhelming number of choices, some of them might make no choice at all.

Let’s take dining in a restaurant as an example. When you want to order a desert, you’ll see 4-6 different variations in most restaurants menus and there is a good reason for that. You should use this approach in your lead generation and email marketing as well.

Keep this in mind and do a lot of testing to find out how many newsletters should you send in a month, how many offers will you make during a campaign etc. This should help you eventually find your “Goldilocks zone” for your CTA, the number of links per email and other variables too. You should also pay some attention to…


Psychology of color & images

It’s widely accepted that different colors elicit different emotional responses. If you know what emotion you want to evoke, understanding the psychology behind colors can be a powerful weapon. Even though color can have a different meaning in different countries and cultures, here are some general guidelines:

Red=energetic; Green=relaxing; Blue=trustworthiness; Yellow=optimistic; Orange=aggressive (may be used for CTA); Purple=soothing; Pink=romantic; Black=powerful (often used for luxury products)

However, you shouldn’t blindly follow this general guideline.It’s important to keep testing and discover the right types of colors for different campaigns.

As for the pictures, the old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is still very true in email marketing. Images are also capable of eliciting certain emotional responses from your reader. Additionally, more than 80% of your readers will just skim through your email and not actually read it. Hence, a relevant image is communicating your message to the on-the-go reader. When using images, note that images of faces always cause emotional responses.

This allows the reader to create an emotional connection with your content and ultimately, your brand. There are two types of visual cues that can help you with your email marketing: explicit and implicit. The explicit cue usually features the person in the image pointing towards a CTA and the implicit one is a bit more discrete (ex. The person looking towards the CTA rather than pointing).

Talking about psychology, we really shouldn’t forget about…


The Foot-in-the-door technique

If you want customers to do something for you, start by asking them to perform smaller tasks. The research that examined this psychological phenomenon took place in the 1960s’. It started with the researchers calling several housewives in California to discuss the household products they used. After a few days, they called again and asked the housewives if they would agree to have their kitchens inspected. The women research showed that the women who agreed were more likely to agree to an even bigger request.

This research is very important for email marketing too. Rather than trying to push your products and promotions to your customers, get them to do some smaller task first. Make your emails more interactive. Maybe start with a simple quiz or something creative. Don’t put all the effort on salesy emails. No one likes receiving those. Something that can help you when using this approach is…


The magic word ‘free’

email marketing psychology

One of the most effective ways to make someone open your emails or perform an action is the word ‘free’. In the psychology of email marketing, the word ‘free’ can still help you significantly improve your conversion rate. Additionally, giving your customers something free without asking anything in return enables the effect of reciprocity when your customers start feeling they owe you something. This is a great starting point for building a relationship with your customers.

The next step after you built the foundation would be…



Remember your childhood days and how annoying it was when someone would mimic your every move? Well, it turns out we don’t hate it as much as we thought. In fact, hearing the exact words we use feels kind of soothing according to this research. The experiment first took place in a restaurant where the waiters were divided into two groups. The first group just confirmed they heard the order while the second group repeated the exact same words the customer said.

The final result was the second group getting a 26% higher tip. In email marketing, it’s all about getting to know your customer. And if you can define the problem better than the customers themselves, chances are they’ll assume you have the solution too.

Make your life our newsletter easier by collecting as much information about your customers as you The second emails, surveys, and other sources. After that, replicate some of the common answers in your content. Use this in sales emails and landing pages for the results. However, don’t forget about


The Exposure effect

People buy from people they know and trust. Through all of your marketing channels, you’re building your authority and expertise. People tend to like things and people that have more exposure and most customers will need to see an ad at least three times before buying something. That’s why you have to be omnipresent and follow your customers everywhere they go. Don’t limit your activities only to email marketing.



Be consistent with your marketing

If you already have an established email list, don’t send emails sporadically. If you do this, you risk your audience completely forgetting about you. Consistency is crucial for the “foot-in-the-door” technique because once customers take one action, their subsequent actions will likely remain consistent with the initial one. Humans have a tendency towards consistency and this is something you must use in growing your email list.

Have you tried applying some of these tips in your email marketing strategy? Feel free to share your experience in the comments!



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