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Think Outside the Inbox: 6 Email Marketing Ideas That Really Work

Imagine for a moment that you’re at work (maybe you even are right now!), head down, and busy with a high-priority, tight-deadline project. Suddenly...

Imagine for a moment that you’re at work (maybe you even are right now!), head down, and busy with a high-priority, tight-deadline project.

Suddenly, a coworker loudly announces his presence at your side. Perhaps he’s holding a flashing sign or yells “ding!” He then asks you for something — help, a file, a meeting — and before you can respond says “thanks in advance!” then wanders off.

“How odd,” you think. Then two minutes later a different coworker approaches and does the same thing all over again (except she ends her speech with an oddly placed, “Cheers!”).

Over the course of your day, this occurs 122 more times. By the last visit you’re frustrated, distracted, and have all but tuned out your frequent deskside visitors.

This strange series of events happens all day, every day, to every one of us — in our inboxes.
The average person gets 124 emails a day, a small portion of the more than 200 million sent daily worldwide.

And despite the fatigue those numbers might suggest, email remains the channel through which consumers want to be contacted as well as the most effective method of brand outreach (40 times more effective than social media outreach).

Still, The Same Old Won’t Cut it For Long

Use email automation software. Personalize. Optimize for mobile. A/B test. Segment. These are the best ideas for email marketing strategies that marketers hear time and time again because hey, they really work. But more people using these tactics means more competition. It takes continual effort to stand out from the crowd, so once you’ve nailed the basics, it’s time to try something new. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. The email that asks for an opinion

Psychologically speaking, human beings like being asked for advice. It actually makes us feel more positive about the person doing the asking. Send your subscribers a simple survey or ask them to comment on a blog post. If you have a big enough team, you could even suggest they reply to your email directly (radical!). Depending on what advice you ask, this tactic has the added effect of providing information that you can use to segment subscribers and develop their personas.

2. The email that doesn’t come from you

Do you have zealot customers? Would they be willing to take a stand for your product or service? Try breaking up the monotony of your @ address with a send from a peer. You can still write and design the email, you just need to update the “from” field and, of course, get approval. What we’re essentially talking about here is influencer marketing, and, put like this, it doesn’t sound so intimidating. Then when you consider the fact that 92 percent of consumers trust influencers over ads or celebrity endorsements, it sounds like something that should definitely be on your to do list.

3. The self-aware email

This is an icebreaker, like when you see someone at a party whose name you’ve forgotten and instead of awkwardly sidestepping around it, admit your faux pas with a self-deprecating laugh. Write an email that confesses it’s a cold email. Try a subject line like “Is this a good subject line?” Email is strange (you’ve probably emailed your coworker sitting three desks away) and we all know it. It’s OK to laugh at ourselves.

4. The interactive email

Today’s consumers are inundated with so much content that we’ve regressed to the attention span of a goldfish. You really have to tap on that glass to get our attention. Interactive emails can be as simple as a custom-designed GIF or as unique as the ability to update a shopping cart, shop a photograph, or answer a survey (hey, that’s like #1) right in the email.

5. The email that doesn’t ask for anything

Most of our inboxes have turned into alternate to do lists. Even if we get a coupon or sale alert from a beloved brand, the expiration date adds one more deadline in our lives. Try to craft an email that doesn’t ask for a single thing, not even a click. Maybe it’s an insightful and short piece of content or just a whacky video celebrating a birthday or holiday. Without a CTA you won’t see conversions, but you will be building relationships.

6. The designer email

More email marketing proficiency and adoption of email automation has led to more monotony in email design. To keep up with the rapid pace of the digital world, many marketers rely on the same email templates for speed and ease of execution. It’s a recognizable pattern, and one simple way to stand out is to break it. Try something new with design — a different layout, a hand-illustrated look, updated colors, or custom photography. When your customer sees a beautiful email, they’ll take notice.

Email isn’t going anywhere, in fact its usage is projected to increase. So how are you going to stand out from the other 123 (or more) messages in your audience member’s inbox? Think outside of it and try something new.

About Author
Taylor Burke
is a contributor for, covering marketing and sales. When she’s not in front of her screen, you can find Taylor reading, cooking, running, or hanging with her dog—but rarely all four at once.

Taylor Burke

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