It’s every marketer’s dream: send an email out to hot prospects and get a flood of positive responses. This dream isn’t necessarily a pipe dream. Because even though technology has dramatically changed the way people buy, the human brain hasn’t changed. What it responds to is the same today as it was thousands of years ago. Which is fortunate for marketers, because this means we can take advantage of what the field of persuasion psychology has to teach us about how to influence people’s buying decisions.
But this article isn’t going to overview theories. (Although if you’re interested in the field, I highly recommend checking out the work of David Straker and Robert Cialdini.) This article is going to apply principles of persuasion psychology specifically to marketing email, giving you five ways to generate more conversions from your email marketing.
1) Send from a consistent “from” name and a personal email address.
You’ve probably read dozens of articles on how to improve your subject lines, and you likely regularly A/B test your subject lines. But just as important is that little piece of information that appears next to your subject line: the “from” name.
The “from” name offers a valuable opportunity to build trust with your recipients. If you consistently send highly-relevant emails with the same “from” name, your recipients will start to associate your “from” name with good things. And because they’ll want to receive those relevant emails, they’ll be looking for your “from” name and be less likely to overlook your emails in their overly-full inboxes.
So what “from” name should you use? Your company name or the name of a specific team member? I recommend using both. You can build trust in your brand while creating a more personal feeling by using both simultaneously. You might try “[Team Member First Name] @ [Company Name]” or “[Company Name] — [Team Member Name].” It’s worth running a few tests to see what exact combination works best for you.
Of similar importance is the email address your emails are sent from. In short, it needs to be personal. At the end of 2014, HubSpot ran an article reporting on the trend of human-to-human marketing. This trend has only increased in importance as more and more of life has become automated while the basic need for human connection hasn’t lessened.
Sending from a “no reply” email address is convenient (and who really wants to sort through all those out-of-office notifications?), but it discourages engagement, can come off as arrogant, and can also increase the chances that your email will be sent to the spam folder. Sending from an “info@” email address or other similarly non-personal address is better than a “no reply,” but if your goal is engagement, you’ll get better results if you send from a personal email address.
2) Personalize more than the recipient’s first name and company name.
Most buyers are tech savvy these days. They know you can use personalization tokens easily and know that it doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily taken the time to learn about them or their preferences. What does have an impact on buyers is personalized content. When you segment your lists to deliver highly-relevant content to each segment, your recipients will feel that you understand them and are inviting them to connect.
Research by Dr. Hugh Mackay shows that one of the basic human desires is to be seen as a unique individual. When you’re able to demonstrate to your recipients that you understand them and you acknowledge them to be unique, they’ll pay attention to what you have to say.
But how are you going to get that kind of detailed understanding of your recipients without using forms that have so many fields that your visitors hit the “back” button? Smart fields and progressive profiling. This is one of my favorite things about HubSpot — that we have the ability to keep forms short while gradually learning more about subscribers.
Over time, you can deliver a more customized experience to each of your subscribers as you learn more about them. Match your content to what you know about each subscriber, and continually be gathering more detailed knowledge to enable you to further customize your content for relevance. I guarantee your engagement will increase.
3) Offer relevant content that’s not locked behind a form.
This strategy may be controversial, but I truly believe that not all your premium content should be locked behind forms — especially the content you share with people who are already subscribers. I just talked about the importance of learning more about your subscribers through forms and customizing your content accordingly, so let me explain why I think you should occasionally offer and link to premium content that’s not walled off behind a form.
Sharing no-strings-attached resources demonstrates generosity. Generosity is a powerful persuader because it hits on two of Dr. Robert Cialdini’s principles of influence: likeability and reciprocity. We are inclined to go along with someone’s suggestion if we like that person and if that person has done something nice for us. When you generously share content without asking for anything in return (including personal information through a form), people are more likely to do what you suggest.
This is not at all to say that forms are bad or that you shouldn't use forms — you have to, in order to deliver relevant content! But occasionally offering content that’s not locked behind a form can generate the goodwill that will result in people eventually taking the action you want them to.
4) Bring in subject matter experts.
We defer to people who we perceive to be superior. If we believe someone knows more than we do about a particular subject, we tend to accept what that person says as truth. Marketers have been taking advantage of this fact for decades. Commercials feature recognized experts. Ads quote recognized experts. Marketers have spent a lot of money trying to convey credibility through the use of experts.
But we sometimes forget that credibility is just as important in our content as it is in our paid ads. A recent study by Relevance in partnership with Nielsen revealed that 85% of consumers regularly or occasionally seek out trusted expert content in the buying process. No one is going to believe what you have to say just because you say so.
But you, as a content producer, don’t have to be a nationally-known expert with highly-impressive credentials. You can bring these experts in and benefit from the credibility they lend to your content. Whatever you’re writing about, include research. Quote experts in the field. Reference studies and reports. Interview experts and include their comments in your content.
5) Include social influence.
Experts aren’t the only ones people believe, however. Your email recipients can also be convinced by social influence, or social proof. Humans are wired for conformity. We take cues from our peers. If others we identify with are doing something, we’re drawn to do whatever it is. This is why we see mob mentality prevail in social situations — people engaging in behavior they would not have engaged in if they were by themselves.
Social influence can be a force for good, however, and you can use it to persuade subscribers to take action. Testimonials, case studies, and reviews are all powerful forms of social proof that you can include in your emails.
So enough dreaming of email responses dancing down your computer screen. . . . Put these principles into practice, and start making that email marketing dream a reality!
Originally published Aug 16, 2016 1:00:00 PM, updated June 10 2021