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Variety Is the Spice of Inbox Life: Four Nonpromotional Email Message Types

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • Four email message types to include in your email marketing
  • Five reasons you need variety in your email campaigns
  • How promotional emails can be dangerous to your brand

One of my email seminar students recently asked, "I feel like the only emails my company ever sends are sales messages—like we're always asking people to buy, buy, buy. Should we supplement these with other types of email? And if so, what?"

Don't feel bad. Lack of variety in email marketing is a common dilemma for marketers. Businesses newer to email marketing or with fewer resources tend to gravitate first and only to promotional messaging, but there is plenty more you can and should communicate to your list.

Here are just four of many greetings to include in your message stream.

1. Email Newsletter

Whether it's weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly (I don't recommend less often than monthly), your e-newsletter is a fantastic email catch-all for many different types of content and messaging.

Include articles, useful tips, recommendations, testimonials, event information—and, yes, product offers and specials, too. It's a newsletter after all, so be sure you're weaving together not only what's new with your business but also what's new in your industry.

If you have an above-average perspective on developing practices, breaking news or trends, and legislation or inventions in your market, share that helpful information in the form of feature articles.

2. Personal and Holiday Greetings

Are you acknowledging your email subscribers' birthdays and service anniversaries with a thank-you email? You should be. How about holidays? Are you sending Thanksgiving greetings, Happy Holidays messages, and other emails reflecting seasonal celebrations?

Those are some of the easiest messages to develop and deploy, and some of the most cherished by subscribers because they're intimate, appreciative, and timely. Integrating them into your message stream makes you or your brand more personable and more welcome in the inbox, and therefore thought of as a trusted friend rather than the "friend who calls only when she needs something."

3. Triggered Follow-Ups

Did you know triggered email can generate 10 times the revenue and more than 20 times the profit of broadcast campaigns? Yes, triggered email is incredibly powerful and relevant because it is targeted to subscribers based on recent actions, dates, or unique characteristics.

So remember to include event reminders, bounce backs, purchase thank-yous, and browse or cart-abandonment follow-ups in your mix, and you'll achieve an incredible boost in email ROI.

(By the way, I just completed a new MPU class called The 5 Essential Triggered Email Campaigns That Are a Must for Your Program. If you're dragging your heels a bit with triggered email, it will get you up to speed).

4. Education, Information, and Entertainment

You probably know more useful, fun, and educational things than you realize—but do you share them? A weekly "hot tip" or "helpful hint" goes a long way toward "selling by way of serving," which is quickly replacing "selling by way of promotion." That kind of content marketing strategy also gives you yet another reason besides selling to keep in touch with your list, especially if your email frequency is low.

Why Strive For Variety At All?

Try these five compelling reasons on for size:

1. Variety is the "spice of inbox life." The average subscriber is a far more sophisticated inbox navigator than ever before and will tune out (delete) what looks like repetitive, same-old, same-old messaging.

2. Though some marketing thrives on continuity and predictability (e.g., newsletters), a pattern interrupt is a tried and true practice for grabbing attention and engagement. Increasing the variety of your email messages makes it difficult, if not impossible, for subscribers to predict when and how you will show up in the inbox, making it more likely for them to notice you when you do.

3. You can send only so many promotional "buy" messages before you alienate list members to the point of unsubscribing. If that's all you ever send, you'll see a steady list attrition pattern. Increasing variety is a fantastic way to increase frequency without being redundant and without causing alienation. In short, more variety provides more legitimate reasons to mail to your list.

4. Expanding messages to include educational, informative, and entertaining content improves your inbox mojo. Content marketing is hot because it positions you as an expert, influencer, or both, which correlates with higher trust, credibility, and appreciation. Subscribers like messages that help, serve, or amuse them, perceiving such messages as relevant and valuable—both necessary for long email relationships to thrive. Those types of messages can give you fantastic legitimacy and digital "street cred." Great content can even create loyalty and dependency. So, don't leave email out of your content marketing strategy!

5. Triggered email pays huge dividends. Triggered email accounts for a tiny percentage of overall email volume for most marketers but contributes huge amounts of revenue, engagement, and profit. So you'd be crazy not to work it into the mix.

What other types of messages have you included in your email marketing mix? And what have they done to benefit your business?

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Karen Talavera heads Synchronicity Marketing and writes about how to successfully use email, social, and content marketing on the Enlightened Emarketing blog. You can also follow Karen on Twitter (@SyncMarketing) and Facebook for daily tips and links to emerging email and social media marketing trends, facts, and research.

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  • by Michelle Tue Aug 9, 2011 via web

    Great suggestions on a much needed subject. We are always evaluating how we can improve customer interactions. Thank you for the tips!

  • by Fifth Gear Tue Aug 9, 2011 via web

    These are all great suggestions. One of the most important things in email marketing is building and maintaining a quality email distribution list - which is something that a lot of companies struggle with.

    Fifth Gear is hosting a webinar on 8/17 featuring list growth strategies that can help grow sales, too. Anyone is welcome to attend - you can register here:

  • by Carlo Goco Tue Aug 9, 2011 via mobile

    Thank you for this informative article. This is definitely something companies today should apply to boost production.

  • by SpencerBroome Wed Aug 10, 2011 via web

    "You can send only so many promotional "buy" messages before you alienate list members to the point of unsubscribing."


  • by HenGz Wed Aug 17, 2011 via web

    Great suggestion. But it's hard to find companies that'll send entertaining emails tat unrelated to them

  • by Michelle Mon Oct 24, 2011 via web

    @SpencerBroome & HenGz

    I agree with you both. Zig Ziglar, Dave Ramsey, and Dan Miller do an excellent job of sending engaging, informative emails that I actually WANT to read...But they always relate to their products. Dave sends stories on how people are saving money, getting out of debt and living their dreams. Dan Miller sends info on pursuing passion, paying your dues, etc. Zig's emails inspire hard work and personal development.

    They work because they are well done and touch areas I'm interested in, so I appreciate them. I sometimes forward the emails or tell others about what I read and where I got it. As a matter of fact, I share the links on our company website! And when I need to make a purchase related to those topics, guess who comes to mind first?

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