food for thought

Stop acting like you know how to do email marketing

Email is dead. Long live email. This is an ongoing debate in online marketing. Not only are we swamped by more email, we have a lot more other things competing for our attention. Plus, Google is giving the consumer tools to filter out a lot of those emails in the promotional tabs. But people still overwhelmingly say that if they want to hear from a company, they want to hear from you via email.

So email is not dead. But it is changing.

Because it’s not that people have stopped using email. It’s that they’re sick of sales and marketing emails. They can spot that stuff a mile away.

Just because they say that the best way to reach them is through email, doesn’t mean they’re going to cut you any slack if your emails suck.


So what are you going to do to make better emails?

We have to give enough of a flying zucchini to break the conventions, figure out what works for your business, and be more human.

If you just follow email “best practices” or optimize for scale and that “set it and forget it” mentality, you’re making email less human. And that’s the exact opposite of what we want to do. 

We need to ask, how do we make email more human? 


Don’t automate if you don’t need to.

Recently, I was working with a client on a new lead magnet, and she asked what kind of automated nurture sequence she should create to follow up after people download her lead magnet.

And I asked, “How many opt-ins are you expecting per month?” To which she replied, “About five.”

Well first of all, thanks for being honest, and second, DON’T AUTOMATE THAT STUFF. 

If you’re only getting a small number opt-ins per month, just reply to them directly. Think how awesome people will feel getting an email directly from the owner of the business — they have no idea how many opt-ins you get, and they’re going to feel special and impressed if they get a reply directly from you, from your real email address.

Maybe you get too many opt-ins for that to be a legit strategy for you, but I bet there’s a place in your funnel where you don’t need to automate. Identify that and bring that back to a personal level.


Only email when you have something to say.

I preach the gospel of consistency when it comes to content, but for the love of Pete, don’t send me an email just because it’s been a while since you sent your last email. 

(And if you haven’t sent me an email in a while, don’t draw my attention to it by apologizing for how long it’s been since you emailed me… but that’s another post.)

Be consistent about providing real value. From a real human. Believe me when I tell you that your audience can tell when you’re phoning it in.

Here’s an interesting fact that’s especially useful when you’re making an ask in a sales email: if you say, “I’m emailing you because _______,” you get almost a 30% better response rate. Make it relevant to the reader. Personalize, “I’m emailing you because I know you read our last ebook on… and I think you should come to our event.” So having a POINT improves the response rate you get to an email.


Write like a person, from a person, to a person.

One easy thing to do is make sure your return email address says it’s from a person — not your company. You’re more likely to open an email from me if it says it’s from “Lacy” than if it says it’s from “Content Direction Agency.”

Not gonna lie; when I know the owner of a business, I’ve often been fooled when they have a great subject line and I think they’re emailing directly to me. It’s awesome.

I’ve seen too many examples of people who think they suddenly have to morph into a “business” when they write for their business. So they stop sounding like a human and start sounding like a weird business robot that speaks in marketing jargon.

Don’t do that. 

On the other hand, I work with a client who works so hard to make sure that all his emails are in his voice. I often provide a rough draft that he edits to make it even more him. That’s why when we wrote an email to his list about his search for angel investors, he got 16 responses that resulted in $300,000 in funding. From a single email.  Because they knew and trusted him.

The best emails come from a person, not a marketing department. Our goal as an agency is always to sound like our customers and humanize their marketing. Even though they’re outsourcing some of their marketing, we want their human voice to come through — especially because most of our customers are strong personality driven brands.

Use your personality to your advantage. You are a person. Act like it!


Ask for a reply — and then reply back

One of the best engagement strategies is to ask for a reply in your call to action. Again, unless you’re reaching a hundred thousand people with your emails, you’re unlikely to have the number of responses break your inbox. But it does show a big jump in meaningful engagement.

And guess what? That small percentage of people who actually respond are ready for you to reply back to them — and that can result in a very hot prospect who might want to buy what you’re selling.

We have to stop treating email as something we already know how to do, and start looking for ways to be innovative and interesting. The best practices of yore are tanking. The people and businesses who are killing it with email are doing things differently.

Go back to the steps I repeat for all kinds of content marketing:

  • Ask yourself what’s your goal.
  • Define the metrics that will let you know how you’re progressing toward that goal.
  • Come up with a strategy to hit those metrics.



This blog post was written by ROOT teammate & collaborator Lacy Boggs. Lacy is a content strategist, author of the bestselling Kindle ebook, “Make a Killing With Content,” and the director of The Content Direction Agency. She helps personality-driven brands create and implement content marketing strategies tailor-made to support their customers and reach their goals. To learn more, go to


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