What No One Wants to Tell You About Email Marketing

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Do you get the impression that people hate email marketing? If you ask around, you’ll probably find a large percentage of people who say they don’t like it at all. I’d probably say that too. But then I check my email and…what’s that? 20% off everything at Bloomies? Groupon has a great deal for my favorite restaurant? It’s Cyber Monday and the deals are insane? I check my email on my smartphone when I’m in a store and…there’s a 20% off coupon! 

The only thing I hate about email marketing is that, it works. It distracts me and makes me want to buy. I also really really love it because it gets me some great deals!

Carrots work and so does email
I consider myself a shopping expert and I’m very influenced by email marketing, so I’ve decided to share my opinions on what does and doesn’t work from a customer’s point of view.

First, you have to get people to give up their email addresses. If you’re going to give them something in return — a discount, a coupon, inside info about sales — most people who shop online are willing to give you their email addresses. Once you have an address, though, it is very important to use it wisely! These 8 strategies will put you on the right track:


When I get an email from a favorite store or service I use and there is a mention of % off, I read it. Always. And I usually end up on the website to see what’s up. The discount should be mentioned in the subject line of the email message, of course.


When one of my favorite stores that carries my favorite brands announces that its sale items that were 20% off are now 50% off, I click right on through. Immediately. There is no time to waste because most of the good stuff is probably gone. Sure enough, not much left, BUT! What is this cute item that I haven’t seen before? Not on sale…but so very cute and so perfect for …something. Now that’s effective email marketing.


Often, I will put something in my shopping cart then get distracted or not be so sure I want the item and I don’t complete the transaction. But then later, maybe even a day or two, I get the email: “Did you forget something?” I open the email and it shows me the item that’s waiting in my shopping cart. Oh yeah. I should go back and take another look at that. Very smart.


Love this. Reminds me that I have something I liked enough to put in my cart and now…it’s on sale or they’re offering free shipping or if I buy it now, I can take 20% off. I’m a sucker for that type of deal. Sometimes the email will say: “This item is almost sold out, hurry!” That can close the deal.


Coupons always get my attention. But, if I have to print it and remember to take it with me somewhere, forget it. Without fail, I’ll leave it at home. Those people who do extreme couponing and go to the grocery store with a portfolio of organized (and unexpired) coupons amaze me. I need the coupon that can be scanned on my phone. I’ll sign up to get an email or a text with a coupon code, especially when I’m in the store. The best thing ever!


One retailer emails me every day. Every. Day. Telling me that everything is some percent off. Sometimes 20%, sometimes 30%, sometimes 40%. And the headline is usually something like “Last chance to save.” No it’s not! Why would anyone ever pay full price for anything at this store? And why would you buy on a 20% off day and not wait for the 40% off day? It just feels shady. A special offer should be just that: Special. Otherwise, people have no motivation to act.


There’s really no formula for how many emails is the right number of emails. But if you don’t have anything new or interesting to say, wait until you do. The last thing you want to do is annoy your customers and make them want to unsubscribe.


If it’s all cluttery and messy and I can’t find a quick link to your website, I’m not buying.

One more thing…You’ve seen those studies that say never send an email on a Sunday, or a Thursday, or late at night, or first thing in the morning … Nonsense. I suspect people will argue with me on this, but I don’t believe that one day is better than another for sending emails. People are online and reading email pretty much non-stop, especially those who carry a cell phone (i.e., everyone). I’ve heard people say that emails won’t get much attention on Monday morning when there are so many emails to be read…because people don’t check their email over the weekend!??C’mon.

Ironically, my job description was recently expanded to include managing email marketing for my firm’s SEO reseller program. The guys at the top have been working on this automated email marketing tool to help our resellers get leads and nurture clients. I knew this was all in the works but who knew this would end up being my job?  So now I’m going to experience life on the other side of email marketing. I wonder if my boss will let me have a sale on SEO.

P.S. to my boss: None of this online shopping action takes place during my work hours. It may seem so but it’s not the case. I would also like to add that I’m not a shopaholic.


Photo credit: Carrots Work – courtesy © pixdesign123 – Fotolia.com

Ellen Gipko

Ellen Gipko

Content Marketing Specialist at HubShout
Ellen Gipko is a content marketing specialist at HubShout, a US based white label SEO reseller, website reseller and web marketing firm with offices in Falls Church, VA (Washington, DC Metro) and Rochester, NY. HubShout’s full service web marketing program includes SEO, PPC, social media, email marketing, website development, customer review service, lead and sales tracking and reporting services.
Ellen Gipko
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  • http://Campayn.com Campayn

    Great article – especially the “it’s a big deal – really” section. I receive emails everyday from some places and experience the same thing. I believe the main take away here is make sure you content is great and has a call to it (structured well) or answers/gives your customers a result, a draw or a cause to follow. Content is king now-a-days, but only if it’s great content. Completely agree on the keeping it clean suggestion. Content + Clean look = Awesomeness.

  • http://www.webmaxformance.com Igor Mateski

    there are tons of articles and studies that rely on raw data to make the point about email marketing, and most of them are so packed with data that only a non-marketer would dare to not read through the ennd. This article is categorically diferent because its really a work of art. I dont remember Ever reading such a well written text that relies on pure artistic creativity to get a point across. Thank you for this reminder that we do need to make our content fun to read. Excellent job!

    • http://hubshout.com Ellen G

      Thank you Igor. You made my day 🙂

  • Ulrik

    I used to be a consultant for one of the larger low price airlines in Northern Europe and they had somewhere between 10-20% of their revenue coming from e-mail as last touch attribution.

    There are many oddities around e-mail marketing, the oddest would IMO be open rates. Why anyone put any faith in that number is beyond me. It is equally non sensical as visitors.

    Good article! Thanks 🙂

  • http://www.localhomespot.com Evelyn M

    I never check my emails during the day on purpose, but I always check them in the evening. This allows me to focus my full attention on them if I need to. This happens 7 days a week. I scan marketing emails to see if there is anything relevant and if not it gets deleted right away. So if the email is worded in such a way that important information gets losts in the “noise”, then the email definately did not do its job. Same as a blog. I like Subheadings , they make scanning through the copy easier on my tired eyes.

  • Onega Ulanova

    Generally, e-mail marketing is one of the most powerful tool in today’s market. Especcialy related the fashion, electronic devices and other consumer products. The main problem related to this is to find a balance between how much and how often send such adv. I am becoming annoyed when I receive deals everyday and they are the same each weak. I think, the companies have to get customer’s attention by mailing some really usefull information about their products and tips – to be remembered by customer. And at the end of the week create a list of super sales related that products. I think it will be preferable by the most of the customers.

  • Beth Beck

    I second Igor’s comments! But, Ms. Gipko, might your PS be BS? Everybody is a shopaholic these days!

    • http://hubshout.com Ellen G

      Sounds like a personal problem, Ms Beck 🙂 But if it’s true that everybody is a shopaholic, I give full credit to email marketing. I’m glad you liked my article. Thank you for your nice comment.

  • http://Www.gmcivilandstructural.co.uk Mike Carlin

    Great article, however, how can it be used to help our company gain more clients? We are a company of Civil and Structural Consulting Engineers and have tried email marketing before with very limited success.

    Any ideas would be really appreciated.


    • http://hubshout.com Chad

      Mike. Good question. Email marketing is an important part of content marketing. If you figure out what your target audience needs to know (i.e., the latest regulations or protecting against super storms etc…) and then use email marketing to communicate the message it can work very well.

      I don’t think you could ever expect to offer coupons like the ones Ellen mentions here but there are plenty of other ways to use it.

  • http://www.hubshout.com Eric

    I’m definitely not a huge shopper, but I’ll agree with you about clicking through on discount and “deals” emails. Obviously it’s got to be from a company that I actually like/have thought about buying from. I see a 20% off groupon for a restaurant or for some type of athletic equipment (What?! 40% off golf clubs… I’ll click on this email…), I definitely check it out. The email’s got to be targeted towards something I actually want, otherwise they’re going in the trash bin.

  • Matt

    I have been pounding the table about email marketing and yelling at anyone who will listen to do it. The data is there.

  • Matt

    If email marketers take this aticle to heart…there will be a lot less poorly written, cheesy emails in the world.

  • Nicole

    Spot on. Another thing that makes email marketing relevant is that these promotions are not only money-savers, but also time-savers. If I need makeup, and I get a $15 off coupon from Sephora in my email, I know I don’t have to hunt down the deals on whatever product I was looking for. Don’t have to comparison shop online, don’t have to look at the circulars for CVS and Walgreens, don’t need to scour Ebay. For some (big-ticket) items, I will do that kind of research, but if it’s something simple like mascara or my favorite brand of t-shirt, it’s easier to just click through and buy it using the discount or sale price or free shipping.

  • Chun lee

    It is such an nice article and so well written. Thank you. 🙂
    I completely agree with your views. Many a times I get to see so many such e-mails on my account which really annoys me.

  • Jenna

    What a funny and well-crafted article! And, true! Email marketing is a fantastic way to offer deals to your subscribers and hook them.

  • Adam

    Very good stuff. While email lists are not the bomb they used to be, there is no doubt that nurturing prospects who have shown an interest is an extremely high ROI activity. Too many people let these contacts slip away when they could be converted into sales.

  • Dave

    I too must admit to have bought from low, low, low prices emails before. Curse their successful advertising, but what a deal!!!! 🙂

  • Chris

    🙂 This made me laugh out loud more than once. But, this is full of good advice, email is great if you use it right.

    Last chance!

  • Renee

    Great article, Ellen. I HATE shopping and am thankful I live during the online shopping era. It saves me time and stress. For years, my kids didn’t even know you could buy shoes in person. They thought only the UPS truck could bring them. I am definitely convinced by targeted emails from the places I regularly shop both locally and online. I won’t buy something just because I get an email, but those businesses who pay attention to how and when I shop get my business when I need things.