33 Industry Experts Share Their Best Email Marketing Strategies and Tactics

Image: Direct Marketing Association

Email is far from dead.

According to a 2016 study by eConsultancy, companies say that email marketing is their #1 channel for ROI, with 73% of respondents reporting a “Good” or “Excellent” return on their money.

It gets better:

  • 91% of consumers check their inbox daily. (ExactTarget)
  • Email is nearly 40X more effective than Facebook and Twitter for acquiring customers. (McKinsey & Company)
  • Companies using email to nurture leads generate 50% more sales-ready leads while generating them at 33% lower cost. (Forrester Research)

In this post, we asked some of the world’s top growth leads, consultants, and copywriters for their #1 email marketing tip.

Grab a notebook and pen, because you’re about to learn from the world’s best.

1. Devesh Khanal from Grow and Convert

Email is not just for sales and information — it’s also for entertainment. This is something very few brands do and it can cost you enormous revenue that is slowly lost as weeks, months, and years go buy and your stale emails get opened less and less.

I see two types of emails: (1) The sales email — enough said. (2) The “look we’re giving value!” email.

While (2) is important and should indeed be the core of your email marketing, I’ve noticed that masterful brands also include entertainment, fun, humor, and engaging stories in their emails. They include funny links, a personal story, a fun user story, a gif, or anything else to make reading the email pure fun.

This is transformative and shifts the relationship ever so slightly from company & customer to “fun brand”.

2. Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré from NicholeElizabethDeMeré.com

Identify your ideal customer, use their language, and know what success looks like to them. Don’t talk about yourself, or your product’s long list of features, talk about them. And when you write emails, write as though you’re talking to a person, because you are – while that may seem obvious, most people don’t do it.

3. Josh Pigford from Baremetrics 

Segment your subscribers in to every bucket imaginable and you’ll find you can email them exponentially more with much more effective results. Sending hyper-targeted emails reduces unsubscribes and increases conversions.

4. Joanna Wiebe from CopyHackers

Write in a one-to-one narrative style following the Problem-Agitation-Solution (PAS) framework:

Open with a problem to which the reader can relate; agitate that problem so your reader really feels it; then have your solution solve the deeply felt problem. This can be done in just a few lines or in a longer, story-like style.

If you’re in nurturing / educating mode and not ready to drive to a sales landing page yet – which is often the case in trial nurturing sequences – tweak this framework to PASOP. With a PASOP email, you open with the Problem; Agitate it; Solve it with information (i.e., not with the solution you’re selling); give a measurable Outcome; and introduce a new Problem, which you then promise to solve in your next email. Your second email follows PASOP, too. And your third email switches back to PAS, with your solution as the solution and with readers driven to your sales landing page.

5. Wilson Hung from FounderOrigins

Tracking just your “total # of email subscribers” is good for boosting your ego, but doesn’t give you much useful information.

Instead, try focusing on the “total # of ENGAGED email subscribers” by segmenting your list using Drip to find your most active users. These active users (high open/click/reply rates) are your cheerleaders and have a higher chance of buying your product, or referring your business.

To do this, start by creating a flow diagram of your emails and segment your users into three phases: Signed up, Activated, and Engaged.

Based on how often they open your email or reply to you, you can promote them to the “activated” or “engaged” phases. Here’s an example of the process flow I used for my website FounderOrigins.com.

In doing so, my “north star” metric is to increase the # of email subs in my “Engaged” list, which is more useful than just tracking my total email subs. This allowed me to find ways to optimize my email flow to encourage users to be more active and become loyal customers. Want to know more? Tweet me at @WilsonGHung with your questions/comments.

6. Dan Norris from WPCurve and The 7-Day Startup

My #1 email marketing tip is consistency. I’ve been managing 2 lists over the last few years, and one has got an email every single week without fail, while the other has been ad hoc.

Once your audience stops getting used to hearing from you it has a big impact on your list. Make sure you have a process in place that sees your list getting regular great content without fail.

7. Steli Efti from Close.io

Segment out subscribers that haven’t engaged with your recent emails and send them another email telling them you’re breaking up with them if they don’t respond.

Use a subject line that makes this very clear: “This is the last time you’ll hear from me …” / “I’ll never email you again, unless …” and then in the email ask them to click a link to re-confirm that they want to keep receiving your emails. You’ll maintain a much more engaged, focused and valuable subscriber base.

8. Alex Turnbull from Groove

We implemented this three years ago, and it’s STILL our biggest email win.

Every new user gets an email that asks a simple question: why did you sign up for Groove? The insights we’ve gotten from the responses to that email have been game-changing. We learn what the “triggers” are for people to actually click ‘Sign Up,’ and we learn — in our customers’ own words — the deepest problems they’re struggling with (and, especially early on, these weren’t the responses we had assumed they’d be).

We’ve been able to transform our messaging based on what we learn, and we’ve been able to build deeper relationships with our customers by helping them with whatever unique goals or challenges drove them to sign up.

9. Brennan Dunn from Double Your Freelancing

I keep my email marketing app in total sync with my website. This means that people on my list never see opt-in forms again. Those who are subscribers but not yet customers are promoted my entry-level product. And those who are already customers are upsold my most premium products. This alone has been worth tens, and hundreds+ of thousands longterm, to my business.

The easiest way to get started is to pass a custom query string parameter both back to your confirmation page after opting in and whenever sending someone back to your site from an email. Write a cookie, and then replace out your opt-in forms with something more valuable in that real estate if that cookie is present.

10. Patrick McKenzie from Kalzumeus Software

You should consider using an engagement CTA to your emails at least some of the time, particularly if you have high unit economics.  e.g. “I love talking about [problem/industry/etc], and would love talking to you about it.  What is your biggest problem with [same]? Hit Reply. I read everything and respond to most email.”  The idea is to both increase people’s sense of engagement with you, and also to start some high-bandwidth conversations which might result in sales or perhaps additional marketing opportunities.  (Plus: free customer development any time you want it.)

11. Jason Quey from The Storyteller Marketer

One of the best strategies I’ve used is to play with different emotions in the subject line that will get the user to click.

For example, sometimes I’ll invoke curiosity. The headline “Salmon + Broccoli = Blog Growth” invokes a lot of confusion and curiosity. How do they resolve that tension? They open the email.

By rotating through styles, unlike the boy who cried wolf, my readers don’t become numb to certain subject lines.

Finally, make sure you deliver on what you promise. That’s the difference between a powerful headline and clickbait garbage.

12. Dave Schneider from Ninja Outreach

[Update - Dave no longer runs Ninja Outreach, but can be found at lesschurn.io and daveschneider.me]

If you’re in SaaS, use an email campaign to recover people who abandon your trial sign up flow. Just like an online store sends emails to visitors who leave their shopping cart.

To do this, capture an email before people advance to your credit card payment page. Then, if they don’t finish sign up, send a couple reminder emails. Since implementing this, we now rescue an extra 65 trials per month we were losing.

13. Noah Kagan from SumoMe

Here’s how you can easily increase your email open rates by 30%. I call it “Double Opens.”

Step 1. Take an email you’ve already sent and change the subject line to something new

Step 2. Email it out a week later JUST TO YOUR NON OPENS

You might think you have a great email open rate – but the fact is, 50%+ of people are NOT opening your emails.

With my first re-send, I got an extra 7,028 people to read my email, in just 1 minute of work.

Pro tip: Drip users can now automate this in one click with Automatic Broadcast Resend. H/t to Noah for inspiring this feature.

14. Brian Dean from Backlinko

Ask new subscribers to reply to your first email.

For example, here’s what I send people who sign up for my newsletter.

How does this help?

1. First, it improves your email deliverability. Email providers (like Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) want to see that people engage with your emails. This makes engagement 10x more likely than a boring welcome email from “noreply@example.com”.

2. It makes new subscribers feel more committed and engaged to your brand and newsletter.

3. It helps get you out of Gmail’s dreaded promotions tab. The reply tells Gmail that the person wants to see future emails. It doesn’t work 100% of the time, but my tests show that it definitely helps.

The best part? It’s REALLY easy to setup. Just add a sentence or two in your first email and you’re set.

15. Chris Mercer from Seriously Simple Marketing

Create a conversation with your audience from the very start. Ask them why they joined your list or what their biggest challenge currently is and specifically ask them them to respond directly by hitting “Reply” on the email. THEN ANSWER IT! The “back and forth” dialogue is a strong signal the ISP’s use and it’ll help improve your overall deliverability.

16. John McIntyre from The McMethod

Email marketing – and business in general – is about trust and relationships.

If you’re the company that blasts everyone once or twice a month, and that’s all you do, you come across like a money-hungry monster that doesn’t care about your customers.

On the other hand, if you take the time to learn about your market, and then use those insights to drive nurture campaigns, you’ll build genuine trust and rapport, whereby people will choose your company over your competitors, even if your competitor offers them a cheaper price.

17. Hiten Shah from Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics

When I link to content in an email I always try to put my spin on it and provide an opinion. When I don’t do that, I noticed a substantial decline in clicks and even get emails from people requesting I add my opinion back in.

18. Nathan Peck from Dollar Hobbyz

We started putting funny .gifs in all of our transactional emails. We got a bunch of good feedback, started the conversation with a laugh, and made any ‘delayed order’ notifications easier to swallow.

There’s no reason an order confirmation email has to JUST be information; give your customers a reason to smile and they’ll keep coming back for more.

19. David Hehenberger from Fatcat Apps

Running a WordPress plugin company, what’s worked best for me is offering a free 5-day mini course to users of our free plugins.

After installing the plugin, users see a popup right inside of their WordPress backend that lets them sign up for the course with a single button click (we’ve already pre-filled their email address based on their account configuration).

This results in hundreds of new leads each month for us.

20. Chris Davis from Automation Bridge

Manage your own opt-in process by using tags instead of the built-in double opt-in most email marketing platforms provide by default.

By doing so you can set the exact criteria for what a confirmed contact is and have full control over your list’s hygiene.

21. Joel Klettke from Business Casual Copywriting

I’m a big fan of never wasting a chance for a “P.S.” section. While younger generations aren’t all that familiar with paper mail, there are huge swaths of people that grew up understanding that the juiciest, most critical information in a letter was in the “P.S.”. I make use of that heuristic and use the “P.S.” to call attention to compelling reasons to take action, restate my offer, offer a critical piece of proof – or anything else I want to make SURE my audience will see.

22. Matt Antonino from Stack Digital

Prioritize sending regular emails. It’s not necessarily fun to spend a couple of hours setting up abandoned cart emails, creating that weekly tips newsletter, or starting to outline your nurture stream, but the results are worth it. Social media is the ‘fun’ marketing channel but email done right is the ‘money’ channel.

23. Steven Moody, Beachhead

I send out a well regarded weekly newsletter, and I used to send it to everyone in my database.  Each week thousands of people would receive an email from me that they didn’t want, and occasionally they would look up and unsubscribe.

One day, I decided to purge my list of anyone who hadn’t engaged with the newsletter in six months.  Because of that, my list decreased 90%, but I now could see more clearly my real audience.  Within months I had a clear sense of my real audience and could better create things that they actually want. If you want to build your 1,000 true fans and make something small but meaningful, purging your list of non-fans can be one of the best things you do.

 24. Peep Laja from ConversionXL

Test your offer. The most important factor for getting more people to opt in to your email list is your offer – how compelling the value proposition is. The actual offer itself and the way you present it (copy + design) can make a huge difference. The offer needs to be relevant to your audience, create curiosity and offer instant gratification. Run lots of tests to find the right one.

25. Joe Stych from Zapier

Don’t over-promise or mislead your subscribers just to get a click. Remember that the best way to build a list is to build trust—provide value in every message and the rest will take care of itself.

26. Kath Pay from Holistic Email

Stop thinking about email marketing as a technology, and start thinking about it as being a marketing channel enabled by technology. To action this you simply need to use the basic principles of persuasive marketing that we’re all familiar with from other channels, and begin to market to unique individuals via their emotions, and not simply push a message to a database.

 27. Matt Ackerson from Petovera

The best “hack” we use in our email marketing is a smart (behavioral / survey driven) email sales funnel. The way it works is after someone opts-in to our list we ask them a couple of simple questions. Then we use that data to put them into the proper follow-up email sequence. This way their experience is personalized based on what they tell us they need, and we give them the resources to match that need. The impact of this segmented sales funnel approach is that engagement is 2X higher, and sales are also up.

28. Tim Soulo from Ahrefs

Of all the email marketing tips out there, my absolute favorite is the so-called “content upgrades” to turn readers of your blog into email subscribers.

The trick is very simple. All you need to do is come up with a cool bonus material for the article that you’ve published and put it behind and opt-in form.

Once people read your article – they will naturally want to get the bonus, because the article will feel kind of incomplete without it. So they will happily give you their email address in exchange for that bonus content.

I’ve seen some bloggers have a crazy 60% reader-to-lead conversion rate on some of their articles that had content upgrades in them. On my personal blog, I’ve used this simple strategy to increase overall signups by 300%.

29. Jordie van Rijn from EmailMonday

Before starting, write the main message down in a compressed version with your subject matter and benefits to the reader. Then add the “why now” and “what’s next.” This will help you to define your angle, structure your message and make your email more clear overall.

30. Kevan Lee from Buffer

Number your newsletters.

When I run a weekly/monthly newsletter, I like to treat it like a new issue of a publication. I’ll give it a number (e.g., “Issue #37 – Blogging Tips of the Pros”), which does a couple of things: 1) Helps build a bit of momentum in the mind of the reader who sees these emails as an ongoing series that they don’t want to miss (psychology!), 2) Helps establish an air of authority and consistency, if the issue number is high, and 3) is pretty catchy in the inbox.

 31. William Harris from Elumynt

For blog update emails, I change the CTA to something tailored to that blog post’s content. For example, instead of making the CTA “read more,” I write “Read about the 40 ways to XYZ”.

My click-thru-rate on these emails went from 1.3% to 8%, which is a big deal if you have a large email list. Make your CTAs specific.

32. Justin Brooke from IMScalable

Some email marketing platforms have the ability to score your leads based on actions. Or they have automations you can set up based on clicks.

You can use these features to increase your clicks and sales, by turning your emails into a game. A game where subscribers earn points for actions.

In my email marketing my email series tells readers they can earn 10 points per click. Once they get to 100pts they get access to VIP list with exclusive content and deals.

I use the automations to send them emails based on how many points they’ve earned. I also make sure to make it easy to earn points. The links they click are strategic content that increases their desire for my marketing services.

 33. John Rampton from JohnRampton.com

Try sending sales emails on Thursday night at 9PM Pacific. This pings our prospects when they are either in bed or getting ready for bed on the night before Friday: pay day. We’ve found that our prospects are 4x more likely to buy on Thursday night over any other night.


Building an email list for your business is a no-brainer.

But working hard to collect emails is pointless if you can’t cut through the noise and build a relationship with those subscribers.

When you get this right, it can transform your business.

Experiment with these email marketing tips in your campaigns. If you get your emails turning cold opt-ins into buyers, you’ll be able to spend $1 to make $2. (Or $40, according to the DMA.)