April 18, 2017

6 Psychological Hacks to Make Your Email Marketing More Effective

Reading time about 11 min
email marketing blog
Guest Post by Niraj Ranjan Rout
Psychological Hacks for Email Marketing

The key to email marketing success is similar to the psychology behind magic card tricks.

When a magician asks you to choose a card out of a deck of 52 cards  – you think it’s free choice. Then, when the magician gets your card right – you think it’s magic. In fact, it’s just good old psychology at work!

Magicians provide the illusion of free choice by letting you choose your card. However, without you even realizing, using psychological hooks, magicians have already influenced your decision of choosing a particular card. And, they even know which card has a high probability of being chosen.

Similarly, email marketing is not about how you perceive your audience, it’s how your target audience perceives your emails, that matters. It’s about winning hearts and minds of users so as to encourage them not only to open your emails but to convert and more importantly – love your emails.

Here are 6 psychological hacks that will boost customer engagement and help you win the battle of email marketing:

1. Be Generous in Your Email Marketing Offers

Generosity might seem ineffective or costly at first, but in the long run, it helps you achieve more effective email marketing.

The more generous your offer is, the more people will engage. This is because generosity is a high-return strategy. Reciprocity is human nature, which makes it a powerful hack for getting something in return, even if you aren’t asking for anything.

After offering your e-books, whitepapers, and other incentives, prompt customers to ‘buy’. By the principle of reciprocity, customers will feel the imperative to buy from you as a result of your generosity. So, even if you feel like you’re losing money by offering promotional discounts, your ROI will actually be higher in the end.

Here are three reasons why you get more bang for your buck by simply being generous:

  • Cost – Generosity requires you to send multiple copies of various pieces of content for free. But, considering there is no cost needed to duplicate you content, you end up actually saving more money than thought you would.
  • Engagement –  The more generous you are, the more followers you can attract. This gives you more influence with users by having a platform for genuine engagement.
  • Brand Identity – Continuous genuine engagement leads to more recognition. The second users hear your name, a brand identity gets registered in their mind. This way, you are always on the top of the mind of your customers.

Below is an excellent example of how the psychology of generosity can be used to increase user engagement.

Be Generous in your email marketing

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2. Use the Persuasive Power of Color

Using color to influence user psyche is a subtle, but effective way to boost the engagement in your email marketing. Color can have a big effect in determing our behavior and mood.

In fact, 90% of purchase decisions are based on color alone. That is why it has been used extensively by traditional marketers for almost a century.

To use this psychological hack effectively, it’s important to know which colors evoke which feelings among users. Here’s a few examples of colors and the emotion that they have been associated with:

  • Red – It can evoke one of the most powerful emotions. Pure red shows adrenaline and at the same time, when mixed with white, it can portray innocence.
  • Yellow – It can evoke cheer and liveliness.. However, it can lose its gravitas, if used in lighter shades.
  • Green – It’s one of the most calming primary colors, that’s why it’s so extensively used for representing nature. It evokes a sense of peace and harmony. But,  when mixed with shades of yellow, it can also represent sickness.

When it comes to applying colors to your emails, blindly using colors to evoke certain emotions without a plan is a naive approach. To reap greater benefits of color in your email marketing, you should also keep in mind these factors:

  • Think of your brand – When sending an email campaign remember that the color scheme you choose needs to complement your brand identity. Your color scheme and your brand color cannot be contrasting, as this can negatively impact whether or not a user will trust your brand.
  • Consider the gender of your audience – Men and women have different reactions to different colors.Experts have observed that men are attracted to bright colors and women are attracted to softer colors. This should be taken into consideration if possible when sending out drip campaigns.
  • Don’t overdo it – Use colors that politely ask for attention — instead of colors that scream for it. Choosing the appropriate amount of any particular color is very important when it comes to your emails. Why? Using one set of colors aggressively might be too ‘in-your-face.’ When this happens, your email will likely end up in the spam folder.

Here is a great example of how using the right color can have a huge impact on your CTA.


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The green color CTA button showed higher clicks as compared to the red color button. The simple reason being our minds have been conditioned to believe that green means ‘go’ and red means ‘stop’.

3. Leave the Decisions Up to Your Customers by Using Reverse Psychology

‘Sell to them by NOT selling to them.’

Reverse Psychology is a smart tactic that is being used by many organizations and people, even celebrities like talk show host Jimmy Kimmel. At the end of his Youtube videos, Jimmy discourages viewers to subscribe to his channel. The result — Jimmy Kimmel Live has over 9 million subscribers.

It’s a great ‘pull’ tactic that curbs the chaos generally associated with ‘push’ tactics. When you stop throwing stuff at the user, they can take a step back and think about your brand. This engenders a more genuine thought process that goes behind reading your emails.

Here is an example from Selfridge, one of London’s most popular department stores. They drop the name from their famous yellow shopping bags, as well as some other big brands. This takes the focus off of selling and brings focus to the product that you are buying.


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4. Make Your Customers Feel Special by Highlighting Exclusivity

Let’s be honest, everybody wants to be part of the “in-crowd.” Exclusive offers play directly into this desire.  Humans can be self-centered, and we love things that directly benefit us.

As an email marketer, you should package your email with an exclusive offer or piece of content. You can also use certain catchphrases to make users feel like the offer is even more exclusive or special. Here are a few examples:

  • Members only
  • Get it before everybody else
  • Membership now closed
  • Invitation only
  • Apply to be one of our beta testers
  • Exclusive offers
  • Become an insider

However, these catchphrases are just the tip of the iceberg. To hit the sweet spot with your email marketing, you should blend these catchphrases with other tactics, such as:

  • Limiting supply – By conveying a scarcity of supply for your new product, you can position it as an ‘exclusive offer’ to your subscribers.
  • Providing limited time offers –  Create urgency by showing a countdown or expiration date on the offer. By emphasizing the need to ‘hurry up,’ customers will feel more of an imperative to buy.
  • Creating exclusive memberships –  Members only groups allow you to distribute even more exclusive offers that are only accessible to your best customers.
  • Sending special offers on important events – Make users feel special by sending them special offers on important occasions. This could be done with a birthday email or a message on the anniversary of their first purchase from your store. Help users realize just how much they mean to you.

Here is an example of how you can use the psychology of exclusivity to genuinely engage with users:

Birthday email promotion - email marketing

5. Pull People in with Curiosity

Piquing the curiosity of prospects can help you garner conversions like never before. Genuine curiosity occurs when there is a gap between what users know, and what they want to know. It’s the intellectual thirst of acquiring more knowledge, and it needs to be immediately quenched. Marketers can channel this thirst to make their email marketing more effective.

The Zeigarnik effect states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. The keyword here being “remember.” The incomplete task of reading your email gets logged into the user’s mind once they read your subject line.

However, persuading customers to click on your email is just one part of the deal. By drawing customers’ interest with your subject line, you are making a promise to deliver value that satisfies this interest. Failure to follow through on this promise can actually backfire, and you might end up with the spam messages.

So, how can you generate curiosity with your emails?

Start with the subject line of your email. This is the first step in creating that gap between what you know and what you want to know!

Subject line: This hair clip saved a kid’s life in an emergency!

The subject line makes practically no sense, yet it does pique our curiosity, urging us to open the email. The same principle can be applied to emails from your business.

Another way of creating curiosity is through your email content. Here is a simple 3-step example:

  1. Publish the intro of a large piece of content (like an e-book)
  2. Ask them for to subscribe to your email list to get the rest.
  3. Users sign-up to satisfy their curiosity

Below is an example of gated content that creates curiosity in the reader.

Marketing automation workflow examples gated content

6. Personalize Your Emails

The internet is filled to the brim with content. This creates a challenge for users and email marketers alike. Users struggle to find the content they want, and marketers are looking to add new value that doesn’t exist yet. This is one of the prime reasons why personalization has become an integral part of email marketing.

The key to personalization is customizing your content to cut through your customers’ cluttered inboxes and influence their behavior.

Personalization has become so important, that some companies build their business around the idea. Take for example Bombfell, where personalization isn’t just part of the value proposition — it is the core value proposition.

Bombfell collects survey data from customers and compares them with other respondents. Then, a professional stylist chooses clothes that are personalized to the customer’s taste, which are then delivered to that customer.

You can use this same principle in your email marketing. For example, you can use segmentation tools to categorize your target audience based on a wide variety of elements (demographics, products they viewed in the past, the number of visits to your site, etc.). With this method, you are able to create emails according to each user’s tastes and preferences.

Here is an example of how Spotify hits the bullseye with this personalized email:

email marketing - personalization

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Wrapping up

Applying these psychological hacks can answer some of email marketing’s biggest questions, like:

  • What elements of an email’s content and design influences users?
  • To what degree can emails influence buying decisions?

Demystifying these secrets can lead to better insights into how your customers make decisions through engagements with your email marketing. Such revelations can help email marketers fine tune their craft and ultimately win the hearts and minds of their audience — and that’s when the magic happens.

About the author:
Niraj Ranjan Rout is the Founder of Hiver, an app that turns Gmail into a powerful customer support and collaboration tool. When not working at Hiver on programming or customer support, Niraj likes to play guitar. Niraj can be reached on Twitter @nirajr.

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