Email Marketing

10 Email Testing Pitfalls + 15 Pro Tips

Email Marketing Pitfalls

Email is a numbers game, and we have all kinds of numbers we can measure. But when it comes right down to what really matters, money is the most important metric. And the more of it you earn, the better your ROI, right? The challenge is, knowing how to make more of it. And that’s why we test.

However, testing is kind of like flossing your teeth. You know you should do it, but you oftentimes only do a poor job or skip it altogether…until your semi-annual trip to the dentist looms large on your calendar. Then you’re flossing daily, but you can’t really undo all the neglect from the days, weeks or months you skipped.

The takeaway here is that flossing should be a regular habit—and testing should too. And like flossing, testing should be done to maximize results. Unlike flossing, there isn’t one set way to test to get one predetermined result. We’ve performed thousands of tests in our 18 years in this business. We still don’t know what will work, because it all varies greatly depending user-base and company, and best practices are only temporary at best.

However, we have gleaned quite a list of testing do’s and don’ts over the years, and we present them here, both the common pitfalls to avoid and tips for better testing.

Above all, remember that testing only seems hard. It’s not.

10 common email testing pitfalls

Below are the mistakes we commonly see marketers making—marketers who are well intentioned and want to test, but who are also getting in their own way when they do so. We highly recommend you avoid these:

  1. Waiting for IT or others to help make the testing happen. This is the slow death of a successful promotional email.
  2. Doing multivariate testing rather than a simple A/B split test. Multivariate seems awesome but hard to decipher. Instead, use A/B split testing to find your diamond, and then perhaps multivariate testing to polish it.
  3. Using unequal data sets. Be they quantity or records and time periods.
  4. Focusing in inconsequential details, otherwise known as not seeing the forest for the trees. When marketers test for logos, footer text, and little things like that, they are losing the opportunity to test for what really matters, like offers.
  5. Testing the wrong thing. Like opens rather than conversions. Opens are easy but unreliable, even dangerous.
  6. Investing too many resources into a single test. This only leads to wasted time and effort, and time is critical in email.
  7. Testing too often.
  8. One-time vs. ongoing. Avoid the set-it-and-forget-it mentality. Create a culture of testing instead.
  9. Lack of segmentation: These are the marketers testing for the lowest common denominator. These tests won’t take you far.
  10. Not validating the results. Take into account difference times and regularly monitor gain.

15 Ways to Take Email Testing to the Next Level

These aren’t best practices, per se, rather ways to do testing better.

  1. Create a culture of testing: Be relentless. In this case, fast and steady wins the race.
  2. Be agile and streamline processes. Find ways to be fast and use fewer resources.
  3. Align goals with effort: What are your goals? Lifetime value? Quarterly revenue? Customer loyalty? Be clear on the goals of your program and be clear on the goals of individual emails and campaigns too.
  4. Start big: Test apples vs. oranges, not red apples vs. green apples. For example, test offers and subject lines before CTAs and body copy.
  5. Find your champion via A/B split testing.
  6. Then iterate your champion.
  7. Validate: Retest your champion twice annually.
  8. Focus on If those are unavailable, then the open-to-click ratio. If that’s not possible, look at opens and clicks.
  9. A/B test one element every X days. Then move to test next most important element.
  10. Name things appropriately, with the goal in mind, because it makes a difference in how you approach the testing and what you look for in results. For example, your Welcome email should perhaps be renamed your Upsell email.
  11. Test your “forgotten” pages, such as your thank you page, confirmation page, etc. If you’re not testing these, at least evaluate them.
  12. Optimize the post-click experience: This is the fastest way to boost ROI.
  13. Put some skin in the game: Use team incentives, like a Starbucks gift card.
  14. Invest 25%-50% of your production time into testing.
  15. Monitoring is critical, so do it. Organize and schedule reports. Use the tools available to you.

Testing doesn’t have to be rocket science, and really should be quite simple to do yet profitable too, when you make it a habit, and do it regularly and well.

Art by Justin M. Buoni // Just Justin Art

Words by Gerald Marshall // Email Industries


How to Create a Fantastic Email Call-to-Action


Marketers know the call to action plays a critical role in email marketing success. In a recent Ascend2 study, 65% of respondents said a meaningful call to action was THE most effective way to increase click-through rates.

Improving a call to action (CTA) can be a complex thing, however, especially on smart phones and other mobile devices where a CTA can easily get lost in the crowd of a cluttered email, or be too hard to click on within a small screen.

These are not insurmountable issues, however. Rather, it’s quite easy to create more compelling calls to action by, well, taking action. To help you take action on your calls to action, below we offer our tried-and-true tactics for creating calls to action that compel. Always remember, though: You need to test, test and test again to be sure you find the right mix for maximizing your CTRs and ROIs.

Use only one call to action, and in more than one place

With email marketing—and especially mobile-first email marketing—short messages usually perform better, and that usually means keep your message focused on one point—and your call to action too. Resist the urge to use more than one kind of call to action in your email. You can use different treatments and wording. But only have one end goal in mind for your email and focus your calls to action on that.

For example, you might have your CTA as a big orange button (BOB) but you might also have it as hyperlinked text as part of a sentence too, with different wording. It’s okay to have up to three different places where people can click, but make sure all three have the same goal and go to the same place. What you don’t want is three options with three different landing pages.

Start with a verb

Consider what the wording “call to action” really means: It’s a call to do something, like a call to arms. I think we sometimes forget the compelling aspect of just what the CTA is supposed to do because we are so used to it as a phrase or an acronym. But really, we are quite literally calling on people to act, not sit there. And that, also quite literally, requires a verb.

Lucky for you, verbs are almost infinite in number, so you’ll be able to find the verb that delivers the best results for you. Some of our no-brainer, obvious favorite verbs for CTAs include:

  • Buy now
  • Order now
  • Discover …
  • Start…
  • Watch…
  • Be…
  • Save…
  • Call…
  • Join…

You absolutely positively have to test to discover the calls to action that will work best for your audiences, so we can’t tell you the best verb to use, only to use a verb.

Use the word “your”

If you were to add the word “your” to some of the example above, you’d be on your way to a compelling call to action, because you’d be speaking directly to that recipient.

Use a big and colorful button

We are talking about best practices for calls to action across screens, but primarily mobile devices, since that’s where most opens happen. Only pick up your smart phone that’s sitting next to you right now while you’re reading this and test drive some of the CTA buttons in the emails you get. How many of them are a) big enough to be easily noticed and b) big enough to be easily clicked? Make sure your CTA button can be clicked by fat fingers but easily noticed by busy eyes too. Test to find a color that pops and attracts.

Use a P.S.

Back in the days before email marketing reigned supreme and people still counted on sales letters as marketing tools, the P.S. was a big deal because people would scan a letter and really only focus on what jumped out at them, which included the P.S. You can still take advantage of this tendency for the human eye to look for something that stands out (as opposed to blocks of text). Place a P.S. with hyperlinked text below your CTA button, and see what happens. It can’t hurt! And it just might catch those super scrollers who take a quick swipe through an email and then move on.

What NOT to do with your call to action

There’s a flipside to everything, right? While there are ways to better your call to action, there are also ways to worsen it, including:

  • A lack of clarity—No wishy washy wording aloud!
  • Using articles such as “the”—They only add clutter.
  • Image-only CTAs—Are you sure you want to risk an image only CTA, knowing images are sometimes disabled and not every recipient will see it?
  • CTAs that are too small—We’re talking tiny screens and fat fingers. Make sure your call to action is actually actionable.

As mentioned above, you have to constantly test each of these best practices to discover those that will generate the best results for you in your mobile email marketing. But discover you must, in order to create compelling calls to action that will generate the click throughs and conversions you seek!

Art by Justin M. Buoni // Just Justin Art

Words by Gerald Marshall // Email Industries


Crafting Killer Email Subject Lines

Killer Email Subject Lines

Below you’ll find our collection of subject line writing wisdom, based on helping clients transition to effective mobile-first email marketing.

Be forewarned, however, that these are best practices based on our overall experiences and your results may differ. When it comes to mobile email marketing, that testing is even more important given the small screens and short attention spans of your subscribers.

Keep your subject lines short and sweet

  • In our experience, we have found that 28 to 36 characters deliver the best click rates.
  • And we have found that 6 to 10 words deliver the best open rates.
  • Medium length does not perform well, as far as we can tell.
  • Long subject lines sometimes work, but this can only be determined by testing.
  • In addition to keeping your subject lines short and sweet, you need to frontload your subject line since there’s a chance your subscriber will only see a couple of words at first. Put words with the most impact at the beginning, like verbs.
  • And always be running A/B split tests on your subject lines. It’s such an easy thing to test, and your subject line is such a critical step in getting an email opened and acted upon…if you have enough data…why wouldn’t you test every time?

Be visually different to stand out in the inbox

Have you noticed an increase in special characters in your inbox? From smiley faces to arrows to hearts. However, you don’t have to get that fancy to stand out. Even traditional characters such as pipes and parentheses and em dashes can work to catch someone’s eye as they’re doing a quick scan of their smartphone.

But do look into the special characters too. There is increasing support for emojis in subject lines, and quite frankly, we’re surprised we don’t see more of them. Granted, the use of such gimmicks needs to be brand appropriate, and of course you need to test everything, but if this is some uncharted territory that might work for you, try it!

Speaking of testing…

If you’re not sure what to test in your mobile subject lines, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Try being ultra-specific, stating your exact offer: “Save 30% on Your Annual Subscription”
  • Numbers almost always work, so definitely try those: “Master meetings in 3 steps”
  • Put your call to action in your subject line, like: “Upgrade Today”
  • Use a fear factor: “Claim your URL before…”
  • Use scarcity: “First 100 trial users get this..”
  • Ask a question “Prepared for your Trial Expiration?”
  • Awaken their curiosity: “Why selling $10,000 is easier than $250”
  • Be timely: “[Upcoming Calendar of Event]”
  • Create a sense of urgency: “24 Hours Left”, “Last Chance”

Proceed with caution!

Some habits die hard, even in email marketing. Below are some things marketers used to do that simply don’t work any more (if they ever really did), especially in mobile email marketing:

  • First Name personalization: This is just seen as gimmicky and spammy now. Subscribers would much rather get content that’s targeted to them in a very specific way than be addressed by name and served up generic content.
  • Adding FW: and RE: These might be the epitome of spam. Seriously. Check your spam folder and count how many times you see these.
  • Too many of the same type of special offers: Don’t keep touting the same deal in every subject line of every email you send.
  • Reliance on open rates: This is not how you measure the effectiveness of your subject lines, because a high open-rate does not always equal a high click-through rate or conversion.

The best and worst words to use in subject lines

We can’t give you the Holy Grail of subject lines, but we can tell you what we’ve learned works (and doesn’t work) in email marketing when it comes to mobile. As always, test and test and test again to be sure, but in general, we’ve seen good results from these words…

  • Upgrade
  • Just
  • Go
  • Better
  • Deserve
  • Your

…and poor results from these:

  • Miss
  • Deals
  • Out
  • Year
  • Learn
  • Register

Finally, how to do a subject line review

Once you’ve followed the best practices outlined above, take a good hard look at the subject lines you’re using and see if you can’t improve them even more based on the answers you give to these questions:

  • Is it useful or valuable?
  • Does it promise a reward?
  • Is it front loaded with the best words?
  • Can you make it more specific?
  • Does it trigger a strong emotion?
  • Does it contain something very familiar to the reader so that he immediately nods upon reading it?
  • Would the subject line be stronger if you add an action to it?
  • Could you can add an element of intrigue without misleading?

Mobile email marketing ain’t going away and the subject line will only continue to increase in importance when it comes to garnering the attention of busy people looking at tiny screens. Sure, it’s only a few words, but don’t ever downplay the importance of those few words in getting your email noticed and opened.

Art by Justin M. Buoni // Just Justin Art

Words by Gerald Marshall // Email Industries


Don’t make these 8 email design mistakes…

Email Design Mistakes

Over half of all email opens happen on mobile devices, and that number only continues to climb. However, opens are high, clicks and conversions are lower on mobile compared to desktop computers, in part because of design mistakes. These rates are rising as marketers figure out how to optimize email design for mobile, but there is a lot of room for improvement.

If your email design is not yet designed for mobile, or you suspect it could be better, avoid these eight mistakes…so more of those opens become clicks, conversions and cash.

  1. Don’t forget that you’re working with a much smaller screen—much. This is perhaps the biggest consideration you must take into account when designing for mobile email. What does that smaller screen mean in the way of best practices? Lots.
  1. For one thing, you have less room for content and imagery above the fold. In addition to the smaller screen, you have smaller attention spans to work with too. Your emails have to rock. Period.
  1. You also have less real estate in general. Sure, you can ask people to scroll and scroll, but should you? No. You’ll need to tighten, tighten, tighten text and keep imagery to a minimum…and then put a lot of work into your landing page, because that’s where you’ll need to drive people if you have more to say than room to say it.
  1. Don’t forget about scrolling. There’s no way around it on a tiny phone, unless you’re doing a stand-alone promo with a clear CTA. However, beware the long scroll. There is a limit to how much you can expect people to do with that thumb!
  1. Don’t use small fonts. No, not because your audience is aging, but because email triage is a reality you’re dealing with and you don’t want to give your recipient any reason at all to delete your email at a glance. A larger font is immediately more appealing on a smartphone screen compared to a small one, because it’s more user friendly.
  1. Don’t use columns. This seems like a no-brainer, but I include it here just in case: Only use a single column when designing for mobile marketing. More than one column turns into a long scroll when rendered on a mobile device. Limiting your design to a single column will reduce your content too, and with mobile email marketing, less really is more.
  1. Don’t forget about contrast. You want to use more contrast in your design because a lot of people keep their phone screens dim to prolong battery life between charges. Remember what I said about larger fonts? A higher contrast results in a more user-friendly email on mobile too.
  1. Don’t cramp your layout. Using more white space is another design consideration for greater appeal when marketing on mobile. That increased use of white space has the same effect as the larger font and higher contrast: It’s more appealing to the eye at first glance, and therefore more likely to help you get those eyeballs to stick around long enough to draw someone into the content.

Although content matters more and testing matters most, design still matters in mobile email marketing. Give email design the attention it requires to be effective despite the limitations of small screens and fat fingers, and watch those clicks and conversions climb.

Art by Justin M. Buoni // Just Justin Art

Words by Scott Hardigree // Email Industries


Want better email results? Keep THIS in mind at all times.

Email Attention Spans

The average adult now has a shorter attention span than a goldfish.

There’s a little irony afoot: Although we’ve been battling tiny phone screens with the growing dominance of mobile device usage, those screens have been getting increasingly larger. Yet that doesn’t mean attention spans are getting any bigger.

So even if your prospects have moved up from the 4-inch screen phone to the 5.5-inch screen, that doesn’t mean their attention spans have followed suit—quite the opposite. We live in a world that is constantly vying for our attention, and we therefore have ever less attention to devote to any one thing…including email.

You’re not going to change that. You’re probably a victim of it too. (Hey! Are you paying attention? Facebook can wait. Stay focused. You’re already halfway through this post, and this is important…)

What you can do is—pardon the choice of words—pay attention. It starts with awareness. Know your audience is quickly scanning their inboxes on their phones, swiping mercilessly, and then judging harshly if they do pause long enough to open an email.

You have to do everything you can to stand out in the inbox.

I mean everything. Pull out all the stops. Don’t tweak a subject line and add a pop of red to your email design and call it good. I mean go for broke. Imagine your audience is made up of three-year-olds and how hard you would have to work to grab and keep their attention, and then after all of that, get them to do something.

Now take that mindset and apply it to your mobile email marketing. Break down every little element and make it pop, sizzle and compel:

  • From name or address: If you haven’t considered a compelling From name for your mobile email marketing, you are long overdue. Look at it objectively and be ruthless. You know is a sucky From name. Do something about it.
  • Subject line: And your subject lines—are yours brilliant or blah? Would you open that email on your smart phone or pass it right on by? You have to be bold here, and you have to be willing to test and test and test again.
  • Preheader text: Another area that has to just rock is the preheader Think of this like teaser text instead, and how you will tease your recipient into dying to open your email.
  • Content: OK, you got them to open it! Next your content has to rock! You need laser sharp focus here. Get to the point immediately. And then stick to it. One message per mobile email. Period. Make it super scannable—think bullet points and short text and icons and color blocks and everything that can chunk up your template and visually deliver it in bite-sized pieces. Short. Short. Short. Short.
  • Email design: Pop pop pop! Make that email design something they can’t take their eyes off of! Images, color, contrast, type—use them wisely and use them well, my friend, so you can get those openers to the…
  • …call to action: Your call to action has to be crystal clear. And compelling. If you’ve gotten them this far, don’t lose them now! Test repeatedly until you figure out what this call to action has to be to compel them to click!

Your email anatomy has to differ for mobile marketing, but your mindset does too. You no longer have the luxury of generic From names, mindless preheaders, wishy washy content, or blah design. Attention spans have shrunk. They will only continue to do so. The time to get noticed is now.

Art by Justin M. Buoni // Just Justin Art

Words by Scott Hardigree // Email Industries


18 Excuses for Sending More Email

Ideas for sending more email


Most marketers would like to send a few extra emails out to their subscribers, to stay top of mind and possibly generate a few more sales. But there’s always the possibility of over-mailing if your not providing value.

If all of your emails are “buy now” ones, then, yes, you’ll most definitely be annoying if you send more of those. However, if you get even just a little bit creative, you can come up with all kinds of excuses to send more email—that subscribers will like to get.

To get your creative juices, we offer up 18 such ideas below…

There are—of course—the obvious reasons to send more email that you’re probably already doing:

  1. “Thank you for your order” emails
  1. Shipping confirmations

But why not keep them in the loop and send an email somewhere between the order being placed and the order being shipped? Why not a…

  1. “We’re working on your order” email?

Also, those “thank you” emails that you send when someone buys, registers or subscribes can be turned into something more, when you do a welcome series that can be just one email or several.

  1. Use a welcome email to acknowledge that someone has joined your list, and then follow up with a series of emails that educate them about your brand.

And on that note, you can…

  1. Do about anything as a series, and that gives you several excuses to email. You can do a “how to” series, for example, just as how to clean/use/maintain/get the most out of something they just bought or downloaded.

Then there’s introducing them to something new, while staying relevant to what they’ve already bought or expressed an interest in:

  1. “You might also like” emails aren’t just for retail. B2B marketers can use them too, to promote additional webinars or whitepapers, for example.

Another way to send more email is by asking your subscribers and customers for input. These kinds of emails not only give you an excuse to show up in the inbox, but can gather you invaluable information as well:

  1. Ask for feedback on a recent purchase, download or webinar.
  1. Ask for feedback on the emails you regularly send. You could ask for the input on the offers, content, frequency and/or design.
  1. Ask for feedback on a website redesign you’re considering or already launched.
  1. Ask them for ideas: What kinds of products or services would they like you to offer?

You can also send more email and be quite helpful when you send:

  1. Reminders about renewal dates, deadlines, sales, and when product is about to run out and should be reordered.

Then there are the more creative reasons to send emails, including:

  1. In celebration of an unusual holiday. Imagine the fun if your customers caught you celebrating Ferret Day, Tiara Day or Get Caught Reading Month, all of which take place during May. If you need ideas for unusual holidays to turn into reasons to send emails, try the Days of the Year
  1. Send a happy anniversary from the day they first subscribed or purchased. This is a chance to show appreciation for their patronage, and maybe re-engage them if they haven’t been engaged in a while. Plus it shows you’re paying attention!
  1. Speaking of re-engaging, “We miss you” emails can be very creative and can also be done as a series.
  1. You can also give them seasonal ideas that might or might not be related to what you’re selling. These can be summer yard care tips or ideas of Mother’s Day gifts…it should be something that’s at least a little bit connected to your business, but it should primarily be useful, helpful and seasonal.
  1. Tell them about upcoming events of interest, whether yours or someone else’s. Perhaps the nonprofit your business gives to is doing a fundraising event, or there’s a movie coming out that has some kind of connection to your business. Turn it into an inbox excuse!
  1. Tell them about something that happened, like opening a new store or branch office, or winning an award. These can be very engaging—not boring—emails if done right! People like to know whom they’re doing business with after all.
  1. And then there’s the “Just because…” email. What if—for no reason whatsoever—you sent an email just because, and you offered them a free download or a discount or you sent them a funny cartoon or video link? No sales pitch, not strings, just because you thought they’d enjoy the “just because…”

These are only ideas to get your creative juices flowing. There are probably as many reasons to send emails as there are subscribers, so go ahead and start brainstorming some today…and find a few more reasons to show up in that inbox in a way people will appreciate.


Gerald MarshallGerald Marshall is Head of Operations at Email Industries, the folks behind Indiemark and BlackBox.

The Seven Ducks of Deliverability—and Why You Must Have Them in a Row

When you think marketing, what do you think? Cool logos? Snazzy designs? Compelling copy? Killer offers?

Yes, all of those things are parts of marketing, the kinds of tangible eye candy you can see and react to. But when you’re in the world of email, there’s a hidden side of marketing, the “back end,” if you will. And it’s just as important to put in a stellar effort on the back end that no one sees as the front one that everyone does.

What is this mysterious back end, you ask? I’m talking about deliverability. As marketers, it’s easy to get focused on everything that happens up to the point of hitting Send. But to be effective email marketers, we have to make sure hitting Send gets our emails into as many inboxes as we can. And that requires having your ducks in a row as much as it requires that killer offer.

The Seven Ducks of Deliverability

  1. A DMARC policy
    Are you who you say you are? A DMARC policy says so, and it’s a sound way to authenticate your email so that the major ISPs know your email is trustworthy and actually from you.
  2. A quality list
    When building your email list, I can’t stress enough the importance of choosing quality over quantity. Remember: Your deliverability is will dramatically improved by emailing 1,000 people who want to hear from you vs. 10,000 people who don’t!
  3. A segmented list
    And after you’ve built that quality list, you’re still going to have different customer types. Segment your lists so you’re emailing relevant content to targeted lists rather than generic content to everybody, because it’s the relevant content that engages that helps your deliverability. Your segmentation can be as basic as gender, or as sophisticated as you want with a relational database.
  4. A real From name
    The From name that appears on your emails might seem a trivial matter, but here’s how it matters to deliverability: You need engagement to get deliverability. Engagement can’t happen unless an email is opened. Factors that get people to open emails include the From name and the subject line. So use a real name for your From name or one that is at least intriguing.
  5. A compelling subject line
    Speaking of subject lines, to follow up on the From advice above, your subject line also plays a role in deliverability for the same reasons (need the open to get the engagement to get the deliverability). Spend some serious time on the subject lines, and run some A/B split tests to refine them.
  6. A responsive design
    Depending on which study you turn to, mobile open rates are around 50%, with some studies citing them slightly higher and some lower. Still, about 50% is a significant number, and one that must be taken into account. Here’s why responsive design matters to deliverability: If your emails aren’t opened and engaged with, the major ISPs start to assume that the recipient doesn’t want to here from you and your emails become a.k.a. spam. Using responsive design means improving the chances of someone engaging with your email when it’s opened on a mobile device.
  7. A reason to engage
    Finally, after you have all of the first six deliverability ducks in a row, you must give people a reason to engage. Sure, you can have your DMARC policy, your segmented lists and a responsive design template, but if your subject line is promising something your email doesn’t deliver, you’re not going to get the engagement. The major ISPs have differing definitions of engagement, and you should familiarize yourself with them. But it’s not rocket science. In fact, it’s really pretty basic stuff: Deliver awesome content to people who want to get it in a way they can easily access and engagement just comes naturally.

And make sure you have a cool logo too.


scottScott Hardigree is the Founder of Email Industries, the folks behind Indiemark and BlackBox.

Being Negative Can Have a Positive Effect on Your Email Marketing

Being Negative Can Have a Positive Effect on Email Marketing

It has been said that your biggest competitor isn’t your competitor: It’s apathy. That’s because it’s easier to do nothing than to make a change, even if you aren’t happy with your current widget. This willingness to settle for what is rather than try to make things better applies to everything from deodorant to lawn mowers to accounting software. It’s a case of the devil you know vs. the one you don’t: We humans are usually more comfortable with the devil we know.

That’s why it’s okay to sometimes talk about the stuff that hurts in your email copy. Many marketers want to avoid appearing negative in any way in their email content, but that’s actually riskier than being willing to call out pain points.

After all, if you don’t point out that there’s a problem, how can you suggest that there’s a solution? You have to raise a little doubt in the mind of the prospect.

Let’s take deodorant as an example—not because deodorant gets marketed by email (at least not the deodorant I buy), but because the principle applies no matter the product.

So, let’s say we’re going to market this deodorant to males between the ages of 18 and 49. We can go one of two routes in our email marketing:

  • We can extol the virtues of this deodorant, telling them how great it is, how long it lasts, how good it smells, how cheap it is, etc. Anyone who opens this email likely already has a stick of deodorant sitting on his bathroom counter and it works just fine, thank you very much. So why change? Sure, that other brand sounds good, but what a hassle to go buy a new brand when he already has the other one that works “good enough.” We stick with the positive that so many marketers want, but were we effective?
  • Or we can risk being negative. We can use fear, and warn these men of the dangers of inadequate deodorant. For example, we can paint a picture of being on a first date or in an important meeting with a slight stench coming from one’s armpits because his deodorant wasn’t up to the task. We can talk about the poor impression he’ll make on someone if he stinks, and the assumptions people will make about his personal hygiene. Then, we can talk about how our brand of deodorant is X times stronger than the next leading brand and lasts X times longer, suggesting that it’s worth it to buy our brand and not risk the consequences of another.

Yes, it’s negative email copy, but it is designed to plant doubt in the prospect’s mind. When we point out the risks involved with that other deodorant, we switch his thinking from, “My deodorant is good enough,” to, “Is my deodorant good enough?”

Apathy is an issue for just about anyone in marketing, because it’s always going to be easier for someone to stick with what they’re buying than to switch to what you’re selling. Being willing to risk a little negativity in your email content might be just the thing to nudge that prospect a little closer to buying your brand.

I used to drive past a tree-trimming company that advertised their business with a huge banner saying “Are your trees safe?” All of the thousands of us that drove past that business each day were likely all thinking the same thing: Yes, they are.

What the banner should have asked is, “Are your trees dangerous?” Now that’s raising doubt…and it’s a lot more likely to get someone to call and arrange for an assessment of their trees.

Positive vs. negative. Use the one that works.

Thanks for reading!


scottScott Hardigree is the Founder of Email Industries, the folks behind Indiemark and BlackBox.