Five Ways to Make Your Email Marketing
Work Better

Email Marketing 101

When I wrote a few weeks ago about making your email so good it can’t be stopped, a few readers wrote to ask for more specifics.

It’s an understandable request, given the percentage of permission-based messages that are being thrown away by email service providers.

So beyond providing killer content, what can we do to give our messages the best shot of getting through?

Build trust before you pitch.

Remember, the success of any email marketing program depends on genuinely compelling content. You want your readers to dig through spam filters, complain to their email providers, and do anything they can to make sure they’re getting your content.

Most email newsletters are pitchfests, which makes them no fun to read. Make sure yours is nicely loaded with cookie content, so readers begin to be trained to open everything you send.

If you don’t build this trust and credibility with great content, the rest of the techniques won’t work very well. But there are a few practical things you can do to give your messages the best possible fighting chance.

1. Start every newsletter with a great autoresponder

The autoresponder feature of your email provider lets you create defined sequences to send to your readers. The millionth subscriber has the same experience that the first did.

This means that no matter how busy you get or what disasters you might be coping with this week, your new email subscribers are always well taken care of.

A great autoresponder builds a strong foundation for your relationship with your new subscriber. The old cliché is true: you never get a second chance to make a first impression. The warm, friendly feelings you’ll establish with your first 10 or 15 messages will carry over throughout your relationship.

2. Use a single warm, personal message early on

This is a trick I learned from Product Launch Formula founder Jeff Walker, and it creates a really nice rapport with your list.

Early in your autoresponder sequence (I usually put it at message two), include a cheerful, warm, individual-sounding message. Something informal, like, “Hey, really good to see you here, hope you enjoy the content.”

You’re not trying to fool anyone that this was an individually typed message for that recipient, but you are trying to create the same feeling of personal relationship. Invite questions, comments, and feedback at this point, and let them know that you’d love to hear from them.

I typically create this message as text only, rather than HTML. This is also a good spot to use technique #3.

3. Ask them to white list you

No matter how good your email provider is, some messages end up in spam filters. The best defense against that is to convince your readers to add you to their list of “safe senders” or their “white list.” And the best way to do that is simply to ask them.

I send a text message in one of my sequences right before a message with a few red flags in the content. (The message has the audacity to talk about making money. Shocking, I know.)

The message explains that the next email in the sequence is a little more likely to get trapped in a spam filter, so this would be a great time to add me to their safe senders list.

Some readers immediately white list me, which is great. Others don’t, then the message is caught in a filter the next day and they see that adding me to their approved senders list would be a good idea.

Obviously, it’s smart to get yourself onto the white list as soon as you can, so you’ll want to bring the subject up early on.

But if you do have a message you can’t reasonably lower the spam score on, this technique can give you a good reason to ask a second time.

4. Conversations have two sides

Make sure you’ve got a real human being monitoring any replies to your email marketing, and that that person is giving thoughtful, personal replies to each message they get.

It’s also smart to use an individual person’s name in the “From” field, rather than the name of a company. Anything you can do to capitalize on the intimate nature of email just makes sense.

When I started adding the words, “Just click reply to ask me a question, your message will come directly to my personal in-box,” I noticed that more people felt comfortable doing just that. And not only do questions and feedback build nice rapport, they’re also a fantastic window into what your customers want and need.

5. Pay attention to spam triggers, but don’t obsess

Most good email providers will let you know if your content has certain hot buttons that are likely to be flagged as spam. Some of them are obvious, like pharmaceutical brand names.

Others are annoying, because they tend to be the words and phrases that have the most selling power. For example, links that say click here can make your content look a little spammier to the filters, precisely because savvy marketers know that explicit calls to click here get better results.

This is one good reason to put a long sales message onto a landing page, rather than an individual email message. The last thing you want to do is to use less persuasive language just to keep a spam filter happy.

Always remember that you’re writing for people, not filters. When you make your readers happy and deliver the content they need and want, no spam filter can stop you.

Check out the rest of the Email Marketing 101 series.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication.

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Reader Comments (48)

  1. Mike Drips says

    This is better than Brian’s article on how Leo got 100,000 followers in two years, plus you don’t have to download anything. Er, no dig about Brian what I meant is that this short article is just as relevant as the Zen Habits ebook, and it contains somewhat more porn, uh, no, um, well I don’t know it’s just better, so I’m going to have more coffee now.

  2. says

    Rock on. I was just writing on this topic and it got me thinking about how to get going with emails. Thanks so much. Sonia, you never disappoint!

  3. says

    Thanks for the tips, Sonia!

    I’d like to ask a question about point #1, when you talk about building trust and friendship in the first 10-15 messages, do you mean we should we avoid any promotions for the first 10-15 messages?

    I know there is no fixed formula and being sincere about it is more important, but what is a rough guide as to how many “cookie content” emails should we send before the reader starts trusting you?

  4. says

    Charles, as you say, there’s not hard & fast formula, but I’d generally recommend keeping a pitch pretty soft in the first 10 emails. But within those, it’s perfectly acceptable (and smart) to provide full contact information and say something along the lines of, “If you need help with any of this, I do take clients/offer a product/offer a service/etc. that may be useful to you.” Then click them off to a landing page with more details.

    Laughing, Mike. You might want to make it a triple-shot.

  5. says

    Great content!
    Is it just me or are companies executing terrible email marketing on a more frequent basis?

    I will put a link to this content on my blog post: It’s an Epidemic! …Poorly executed Email Marketing Campaigns, as you do a great job of telling companies the right way to drive business.

    I share some emails I received lately that not only not make me want to buy, but they challenge me to believe the people who sent them have a competency in what they are selling.

    Thank you for this content as I needed a thought leader in this space to help chime in.

    Mark Allen Roberts

  6. says

    Hi even better post than the last one. Can u add a few really good autoresponder and email provider as well? That would be great.


  7. says


    Thanks for the great reminder!

    Along with #2 – I think its important to also keep the human voice to your emails. So many times, I come across emails that sound, well… generic. Like the author put all his best stuff in what I already received & forgot how unique they were in the email. Continuity is key and the old adage that you can create a really great free product then the rest of your stuff can be less-than-stellar no longer works.

    Well, you can do it – but I wouldn’t…

  8. says

    I’ve been following Jeremey’s Xtreme Marketing Training Course within the past few weeks. I guess it all boils down to keep your goal in line with your subscriber’s needs. That way, it wouldn’t be too hard to even go through with persuasion. Still of course, there’s a long list of lessons to be learned before one can attain this.

  9. says

    Thanks for this post Sonia. I think it is definitely important to ensure a personal message is included within any email. Whether this is a response to an enquiry, a promotional email or just to get back in touch with your customers.
    I think it’s aspects like this that people really take notice of and respect.

  10. says

    @Rob, overall I still think Aweber is the best. Have also heard good things about iContact but haven’t used them myself.

    @Mark and @Jenny, I agree, email is personal by nature, and it just makes sense to capitalize on that. Even email from a bigger company can still have a very human voice and tone.

  11. says

    According to Website magazine iContact is the most popular. is number 8 on the top 50 list. –Just sayin’

  12. says


    Awesome post! I use GetResponse for my emails, and although they went completely off the rails when they upgraded their platform recently, things do seem to be back on track pretty much. If I was starting out though, I think I would go Aweber just because of the lack of testing from GetResponse when putting such a crucial system live!

    Sorry for the rant…now that’s off my chest…:-)

    There are some great tips in here for email marketing, it has inspired me to change a few of my emails in my sequence :-)

    Talk soon,


  13. says

    This is a great post. I emailed it to some of my clients because it is so succinct and covers some tactics I have trouble getting them to buy into. Plus it’s a bit of a ‘I told you so’ for them to.

  14. says

    Nice tips! I liked point no:3. When I did a similar newsletter thingy some time ago, I never even thought about mentioning this. Result..all my mails ended up in spam folders, only to be trashed later :(

  15. says

    @NarenUBI, yep, that’s very common. Even if you write on a “safe” topic, many of the spam filters will trap your messages simply because they’re sent to so many recipients.

  16. says

    So glad to see such a great article about email marketing. There are so many marketers out there that have completely forgotten that fact that they need to be having a conversation, not a one way broadcast. I receiver countless messages each day from marketers trying to sell me stuff.

  17. says

    Thanks especially for “conversations have two sides.”

    It’s so rare and wonderful when someone does respond; to treat that like another “incoming lead” is tragic. Often these folks end up being your biggest fans, and all you have to do is be a human being!

    Amazing how hard “being human” can be sometimes.

  18. says

    “Just click reply to ask me a question, your message will come directly to my personal in-box” — this is an excellent tip I’m going to use immediately.

    It’s amazing how many people create e-mail campaigns that are only focused on pitching products. The e-mails I remember are the ones from people who attempt to development relationships by addressing my needs and encourage interaction.

    For those who are interested, I have a free autoresponder writing crash course at

    Thank you for the great post, Sonia.

  19. says

    Very practical tips for even the most seasoned campaigns. Early in the article you mentioned building trust and credibility. I think this gets overlooked by many marketers. This is huge when it comes to businesses using Twitter as well. You can’t always be selling.

  20. says

    This was really timely. I had just finished segmenting my list, developing copy for the 1st email and was working on a tie-in blog post when I came across this. Good advice. My task is to convert my online sales customers into blog subscribers and purchasers of my affiliate products. Back to the copy table for some revisions. Thx.

  21. says

    Another thing you could do is be sure to use your real name as your From Address.

    I believe people are more likely to read your email when they see that it is coming from someone who is actually using a name versus using names like: “Members Download” or “Free Access” and things like that

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