Principle #1: Social Proof

Social proof (aka informational social influence) is the phenomenon that people look to the behavior of others when determining how to behave or when deciding upon a course of action. It is a way for a person to quickly validate their planned course of action for the best possible outcome. This can be applied to email marketing in the following ways:

  • Incorporating positive ratings of the product or service you are promoting. If someone has any need or desire at all for what is being featured in your email, reading about another positive experience will give them a push towards that offer.
  • Highlighting the number of other people who have done what you are asking them to do, whether it’s buying your product, using your service, reading your white paper, or “Liked” your offer or gave it a “+1”.
  • Including of a customer quote about your product, service or brand. Even if the quote is anonymous, it should reference some details about the reviewer, such as location and some sort of description that relates to the target audience like “32 Year Old Mother of Two” for a kid’s clothing retailer or “Vice President of Information Services” for a B2B technology company.

These additions are reasonably done and can increase your response rates dramatically.  They can even be dynamically published to make them even more relevant to specific segments.

Principle #2: Conditioning

Conditioning has to do with driving predictable behavior. There are two distinct types of conditioning in psychology,classical (dealing with involuntary actions—“I can’t keep from doing this or that”) and operant (dealing with voluntary actions—“I will think about this before I act”).

By sending emails that aren’t relevant, you may be employing classical conditioning that makes your subscribers delete your emails without even reading them.  To avoid this, track the behavior of your subscribers in the first ninety days of being in your email database.  Pay attention to what they do and don’t open or click.  After the first three months, use that behavioral data to be more selective in what you send to them.

Here are some ways of using operant conditioning to increase engagement with your emails:

  • Include an element of content in your emails that causes your subscribers to anticipate receipt. For example, as a frequent flyer, I consistently open and review the emails from my preferred airline to see how close I am to the next status level. Also, people are happy to give their opinions, if it’s easy.  Put a simple “Rate this email” with the option of up to five stars at the top of an email for regular feedback and engagement.
  • Always include a personalized recommendation. It can be extremely individualized using a recommendation engine or done by segment.  It can, but doesn’t have to include images. Also, keeping it understated by placing the recommendation in the header or footer as text rather than in the body of the message can make it more effective.
  • Categorize your promotional emails and send them consistently at the same day and time. Whether you send weekly or monthly, be consistent and predictable. This builds trust with your subscriber, and it’s a subtly positive commentary on your brand as well.