Are You Using The Right Type of Email?


You know there is a proper utensil for each course of the meal – but did you know that there is a proper type of email for the many different messages you need to deliver to your audience?

Ahh, hadn’t given it that much thought, had you?   That’s alright, that’s why I am here with this post!

emily post place setting

Why in the world would I need different types of email?

Would you expect someone to use an oyster fork during the fish course?  Or their water goblet for an opening toast when a champagne flute is required?  (I’ll stop this now…and give thanks to Emily Post for her assistance.)

Well, the point I am trying to make is this – you need to use the proper tool or utensil for email marketing especially if you want to increase your odds of success.

Sending out your newsletter with an offer hidden between the opening note and various news stories is not going to be as effective as an email dedicated just to the offer.  The presentation is key – so let’s talk about it for a moment so we are all on the same page.

1. The Welcome Email

A single email or an automated series – you need to have an email that welcome’s all new subscribers to your list.  Not doing so – and I will skip the Emily Post place setting metaphors for now – is like failing to respond to someone greeting you by name!

kate spade welcome email

For Welcome Email ideas, check out this post.

Forgive me for playing Art Director with a Kate Spade design but reversed out type on an orange background made my eyes cross, then cramp.  And I’m not a Kate Spade audience member so my reaction to the 15% offer being buried in the second paragraph in the same sized font might be wrong for the audience.

2. The Offer Email

There should be times when you have an offer that deserves its own email – feel free to make that happen!

Lippincott offer email

A discount offer. A coupon. What we’re talking about here is an enticement to make a purchase.

Lippincott Williams & Wilkins’ (above) is a good example of a strong offer email.  You can’t miss the offer or that it is in progress so you can start saving ASAP.

3. The Free Gift

For those of you that are not in the business of offering discounts or sales, you still need a way to show your readers that you value them – and a free gift is a way to go.

Keys to the success of a free gift email is the timing, the appropriateness of the gift and the perceived value that gift holds in the eyes of the reader.

free gift emailAre you sending the free gift as thanks for something they did for you?  Are you sure they will like it – or will they be adding it to their re-gifting pile?  (Personal Note: Yes, I know it’s rude to not be happy with the fact that someone took the time and made the effort…but sometimes you can tell that very little time and effort went into it.)

Or as an apology for something you did to them?  (Personal Note: Offering a discount on a service you offer as an apology for that individual’s bad experience with that service is a gutsy move.  For example, check out. For me, low perceived value…but maybe that’s just me?)

Start off with something easy to download, if possible.  That helps keep your costs down and allows the reader more immediate gratification!

ZapMail (above) does a nice job with an offer of “100 free email sends” if the recipient tweets about ZapMail.  That might be a strong offer to ZapMail but it would be interesting to see what the reaction was to the offer!

4. The Invitation

You have an event coming up and you want to invite people to attend – then the invitation email is what you need.

Visually attractive so it grabs the eye, attention, and interest of the recipient, then the email gets right to the benefits to the reader understands what’s in the event for them.

Invitation email Ann Handley

Ann Handley and the folks at MarketingProfs do a great job with this – it’s exactly the invitation you would expect from them because it’s fun to read, yet still focused on the who, what, when, why, where and how.

5. Review Request

Testimonials. Reviews.  You need them – and here’s how to get them.

Mr Clutch Review Email

Mr. Clutch is pretty simple, straight-forward but I would prefer this coming from a real person.  Coming from an unnamed “Customer Service Manager”, for me, is a missed opportunity to put a face with a name with a business – this should come from the location’s manager or even the District Manager and should have name, title, contact information and their picture.

6. Information Request/Survey

You always want to learn more about your audience so you can respond appropriately – and the information request/survey email is the way to go.

Great to use during your Welcome Series and something that should be used annually to get audience/reader input so you stay on top of possible changes in their wants and needs.

clear survey request emailKeys to success here include clearly explaining why and how long.  And when it comes to length, the shorter the better.  A 10-minute survey might seem short but to the person that has to complete it, it’s a long time.  So if you are going to go above 5-minutes, consider an incentive that your readers will value.

Also, remember not to invite any reader to participate in a survey more than twice a year – more than that and you invite burn out and bad feelings.

With the above example from Clear, I like the personalization (name and city), and the focus on the brevity of the survey.

7. New Product Announcement

New Product Email

Great product shot. Shows one product but mentions “new arrivals” so readers are more likely to make the mental note to “stop by the store”.

Could there be a stronger call to action? Yes, but who am I to second guess COACH?  With their audience, being the first to own the new designs might be enough of an enticement.

8. Product Enhancement

Depending on your product update schedule, this email can be sent when a new feature is

  • being tested (asking if you would like to test),
  • launched (informing customers that the new feature is available and what benefits the customer will enjoy because of it) or,
  • as part of a multi-feature announcement on a [ex] monthly/quarterly basis.  This is best when you have a lot of enhancements and you want to refrain from burying your reader/customers with too many small bits of news.

product enhancement email

Here’s an example of a nice, simple, straight-forward product enhancement email from the folks at Picjumbo.

9. Newsletter

The lifeblood of many email marketing efforts, the newsletter comes in all shapes and sizes.  And to be perfectly honest, what you see depends on the audience and the brand so there is no “one size fits all” format.

DWS Higher Ed Newsletter

DWS Associates has a newsletter for campus leaders at colleges and universities around the US – they have over 3,000 subscribers and have been testing various looks, lengths, approaches for 2+ years.   The above starts off with a personalized note from me, and then gets into recent blog posts and content tied to a theme like “new student recruitment” and “adult student retention”.  Check out the various formats by clicking here.

10. Abandoned Cart

So close, yet so far.  You attracted a qualified buyer to your online store and they spent some time looking around – even putting an item or two into their shopping cart.  But when it came time to ring up the purchase, they ran off and abandoned their cart!

Nordstroms Abandoned Cart

Assuming your online store has the proper tracking tools in place, and customers have logged into their account, you need to be sending an email like the above from Nordstrom.

Simple. Short. A friendly reminder that “we still have what you liked…come on back and let’s make this yours!”

A nice picture of the product helps play on the emotions and what I really like is that they didn’t rush and start negotiating the price against themselves.  Many will turn this reminder into a “Hey, would you buy this if we knock off 20%?”  Nordstrom didn’t do it here – they might in a later attempt, but they didn’t here and I like that.

11. Reminder/Reorder

Consumable items are going to need to be replenished at some point – and if you have people placing regular orders for consumable items, you should have a way to remind them to reorder.

One way is to have them sign up for a program that automatically sends them a new order ever # days – and the other is create a campaign that looks at your data then sends the email to “…anyone who ordered Product A more than # days ago…”

Belk Reorder Email

The above is good but some personalization would be fantastic.  The option between K-cups and Vue is another example of a missed opportunity for personalization.  Know my name. Know my product.

12. Triggered (An Automated Series)

You do something, it gets triggered.  You don’t do anything, it gets triggered.  It’s the triggered email, which is automated and can be a single email or a series.

Total Wine Triggered Email

In this example, the folks at Total Wine and More set up a trigger based on your birthday – a very nice thought that I am sure generates a lot of business and goodwill for them.  What I like about this approach is the focus is on the birthday wishes…then there is the suggestion that birthdays should be celebrated and then the $5 offer.


As you can see, there is a proper email for every occasion – so remember to use the proper tools to maximize your results.  Don’t limit yourself to [ex] a weekly newsletter when you have a darn good reason to extend a unique, valuable offer to your readers.

Thoughts? Did we miss anything?  Share your thoughts in the Comments section…

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