Break Email Marketing Rules.jpgby Chris Brogan


There are so many rules for email marketing. Send email on this specific day at this specific time (great if everyone you mail lives in the exact same time zone and industry). Email must be this length and not any longer (or shorter).


Rules, rules, and all of them very much based on “someone else said.”


I propose you break a lot of rules to make your email marketing work better. At every step of the way, ask the same question: does this make sense to me? I promise it all will - unlike a lot of the “rules” you are told.


Get More Personal


First, change your “from” address in your email marketing to something like “” So many people send their email from and that starts the inbox relationship on the wrong foot. I never advocate that it come from the same address as your primary inbox, but something reasonable.


Mine comes from and people know that the “nl” stands for newsletter. And let me explain why this type of thing matters.


Encourage People to Reply


I send out a letter every Sunday to about 24,000 people. We cull the list often (removing people who haven’t opened or clicked on anything in a few months), so that list is highly focused and responsive. I frequently encourage people to hit “reply”, and often, they do. A few hundred every week.


Eek, you say. Let people reply? Won’t that fill my inbox? YES! With prospective customers and existing ones. Companies pay tons of money for just this: access to their customers. And you get it for free sent to your inbox.


Get Naked When It Comes to Formatting


I send out the plainest email I can possibly send and still be technically html. It’s black letters on white background. It looks just like an email your mom or best friend would send. Because that’s the plan.


When you send very formatted and “pretty” html letters with big banners and lots of graphics, our minds see that in the preview pane and think: Oh, I can ignore this until I get some time later. (Later never comes. You know this.)


If you send something that looks like it came from a human, oddly humans will check it out before deciding whether or not to ignore it. That extra few seconds is worth a potential open and click.


Be Brief


I write my newsletters to be fewer than 500 words. When I’m feeling even more clever, I shoot for around 250. Everyone is overwhelmed. Why bury them with more to read?


Use Segmentation/Labels/Tags


Every email service provider software offers a variation of this, most of it automated and super simple to use. I’ll use the term “tags” but it might be something different on your platform.


Use tags to separate out different clumps of email recipients and then get even more specific and personal to those groupings. This means you can send mail to one group saying: “Hey, I know you haven’t yet purchased an event ticket, so I wanted to see if I could answer any questions.” To another, you can say: “How to prepare for your trip to our event.”


More and more, if you can be very specific as to who you reach with what content, the world will get better for you.


One Subject Per Mail


If you really want to wow people, get very specific when you send out a newsletter. Make it a single-serving message with just one specific idea to cover and one specific call to action involved.


This laser focus sometimes shakes a distracted “Netflix-scroller” out of their malaise and makes them sit up and take notice.


Sample: “If we offered a spring cleaning, would that be interesting to you?”


Send Out “Ask” Emails


This is a favorite magic trick of mine. We think of newsletters as content to consume.


Instead, flip this. Send out an email asking a question to get actual feedback. “What should we focus on?” “Do you need more help with installing our systems yourself?”


Ask something you genuinely want to know about and try to keep it as open-ended as possible. Sure, there’s work in reading and responding, but it’s couched in a conversational email tone and people will respond in a very different way than your “just take this very brief survey.” (They’re never brief.)


Try Any and All of These


All of these ideas are simple and modular. You can do any one of them and see what works and what doesn’t. None of these are deal breakers, but all have an opportunity to make a difference.


And like I said at the beginning, just keep asking yourself whether these make sense.


I can’t wait to hear how it turns out.




Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.


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