How to Land in Your Customers’ Inbox Like a Pro


It's easy to get it wrong.

Words by Tess Robinson, Smack Bang Designs

I don’t claim to be an expert on many topics, but I have learned a couple of things in my 27 cycles around the earth. And the chief pearl of wisdom that I’d like to leave as a legacy and pass on to generations to come is this: never share your email address with Alibaba.

On the surface Alibaba looks like a no-brainer your one stop shop for cheap packaging options, custom printing, fast shipping and a seriously extensive range of products, including their featured item of the day: ‘Virgin Brazilian Hair’. All in all, a designer’s dream, really.

But let me tell you. Share your email with Alibaba on just one occasion, and you’ll soon be begging for someone to tell you they’ve come into a small fortune and would like to share it with you. If there’s one thing that I now know, Alibaba have a rather extravagant email marketing strategy. Aggressive? Maybe. Annoying? Kinda. Lavish? Definitely!

I get it. Email marketing converts much, much higher than any social media platform. For both reads and clicks, it obliterates Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest you name it. According to Despreneur Magazine, we’re seeing anywhere from x25 to x10 when directly comparing email and social in terms of clicks generated.

So yes, it’s important. But how do you do it effectively?

Which email do you prefer to see land in your inbox: an email from your long lost bestie living overseas, or an email from a massive corporation with the subject line “Buy now, this will change your life?”

The “experts” say you’ve got to offer freebies, discounts, value-value-value, and other shiny goodies coated in magic gold foil and fresh unicorn tears. In all this sales hype and marketing hoo-hah, the fact that there are actual live human beings on the other end of every email list is forgotten as was made clear in my dealings with the charming, but very intense marketing team at Alibaba.

When someone voluntarily subscribes to your newsletter, they trust you with their inbox and with their time two immensely sacred commodities. So, what’s a brand like you to do? How do you talk to them? Consider the following:

Why are you sending it?

Always know your why before you fly. If your email contains content less stimulating than your year 11 Biology textbook, or if it sells sells sells like a psychotic liquidation sale TV commercial, then you might need to reconsider your tact. But there are so many appropriate reasons to shower your people with email love, of course! A new service or product, an exclusive for subscribers, a delightfully brilliant sale, to wish them a terrific Christmas season – regardless of the message, you need to always have a ‘why’ behind it, and a design appropriate to suit that context. You’re knocking on your people’s door every time you hit ‘send’, so knock with good reason.

Get personal

Imagine if your best friend only ever saw you in a group so he or she could address you all at once – the horror! The nerve! Don’t talk to your audience collectively. Cater your language to make it feel personal. Adopt a tone that makes your people feel special. Look them in the eye, smile, and say all the things that good friends tend to say! Empathise with them, ask how you can be of help to them, show them that you’re on their team and that you care about them. Because, you do. They are your world (literally).

Having said that, don’t over personalise to the point of being a possible stalker-creep. There’s definitely a balance.

Time is money

To you, and to them. As stated above, only knock with something useful to offer. A cup of sugar, a loaf of bread, a packet of Tim Tam’s – give them the sugar and simple carbohydrates we all desperately crave, and respect their time.

Be useful to them, so that their time spent perusing your email not only lands you a click and a conversion, but a happy customer that feels as though their time was well spent.

Don’t be a smart arse

I love garrulously grandiloquent verbose language as much as the next guy. Look, there’s no need to overdo it with complexity in your words. Speak directly, articulate clearly, get to the point, stop faffing about.

Keep your subject line clear and specific, experiment with fun or ‘zany’ words to reflect your brand identity, unless you’re a Superannuation fund. But hey, why not make Super fun too? Don’t be a smart arse, but do be a rebel. Throw caution to the wind and try something different from the usual drudgery that rolls in on the daily.

Reward your peeps

You love them, so put your money where your mouth is and throw a reward their way. Make your email the most rewarding thing they’ve opened all day. A feel-good story, a hilarious meme, a video of a dog riding a bicycle. Or you could even give them some content that helps them grow and develop.

Keep the faith

Don’t abuse the trust your audience has graciously given you by sending them something they weren’t expecting, or tricking them into subscribing. People subscribe to lists understanding the sales aspect, but they don’t love it when they feel as though they’ve had the wool pulled over their eyes. Outline reasons why they’re receiving the email where necessary, and make it abundantly clear what they’re signing up for when they excitedly enter their details and wait for the next dosage of gold that you are going to send their way.

Try new things, learn from the masters, don’t worry about the mysterious ‘average reader’ dished out by statistics. Your readers are far from average, and you know it. So go ahead, make their day.

Tess Robinson

Guest Editor

Tess is the muscle and heart behind Smack Bang Designs and a few other business babies.


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