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3 risky tactics to try in your next email

The best email marketing? It isn’t for the faint of heart, guys.

Sure, sticking to tried-and-true strategies is a popular (and safe) choice. But sometimes, it’s worth taking a big risk for the chance to reap some even bigger rewards. If you’re feeling courageous, here are three risky – but potentially rewarding – strategies to try out in your next campaign.


1. Use a wacky subject line

Bear with me while I get on my soapbox for a second: Whenever I publish a post on the Emma blog about my favorite subject lines, there’s always the inevitable backlash...

“These would never work for my brand!"
“Sound like spam.”
“Too out there for the B2B space."

I get that dropping innuendos and pop culture puns in an email subject line won’t work for a lot of brands. But as someone who sifts through literally hundreds of emails every single day, it’s the spirit of them – subject lines that do something I've never seen before – that I really appreciate.

There are tons of articles you can read to learn best practices for crafting solid email subject lines. Experts will tell you keywords to use, the ideal length you should aim for, the best ways to test… the list goes on. Considering that advice when you write a subject line is perfectly sensible, and you’ll likely achieve open rates on par with industry averages if you follow it.

But here’s the thing: Every other marketer out there is reading those same articles and crafting the same types of supposedly bulletproof subject lines. So it’s going to be pretty difficult to stand out in the inbox – or score any big results – if you don’t differentiate your brand from the pack.

That’s where the brave, bold subject line comes in. Yeah, it might be a total flop with your audience, but it could also help you score your highest open rates yet. If you’re willing to take the risk, why not give something exciting a shot? And hey, you can always A/B test it with something more traditional if you need a safety net.

Note: “Wacky” and “different” don’t mean “dishonest.” Never lie to your audience just to get them to open.


2. Be vague – very vague.

Conventional email marketing wisdom tells us to demonstrate clear value in both your subject line and the body of your email. But if you’re anything like me, you can’t help but pay attention when brands leave you hanging. An example:

The subject line? “You deserve this…"
The preheader text? “Go get it."

The elements of this email from Ann Taylor combine to tell you absolutely nothing concrete (and therefore nothing inherently valuable), yet I couldn’t help but click. It comes down to basic human psychology: According to Motivating-Uncertainty Effect, we’re more motivated by the possibility of a reward than by a certain payoff. So when you leave your audience guessing, they’ll feel extra compelled to learn more.

Don’t do this too often, as it will start to annoy your subscribers. But if you only pull it out every once in a while – when you actually have something exciting to tease – it can do wonders for amping up your engagement.


3. Change your “from” name.

As an email marketer, you’ve likely done everything you can to optimize your brand’s “from” name. After all, 68% of Americans say they base their decision to open an email on the “from” name over anything else. And 43% of email recipients will report email as spam based on the “from” name alone.

Plus, it’s usually the first thing your recipients see when they scan their inboxes – especially on mobile. And seeing the same sender on your emails every time builds a sense of trust and familiarity.

But sometimes, trying out a different “from” name can be an incredibly effective tactic. Consider Magnolia Market, the online store from HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.” Generally, their emails look like this, with the simple-but-recognizable “from” name, "Magnolia Market":

But recently, I received an email from them that looked a little different. Rather than “Magnolia Market,” the sender name was the one and only “Joanna Gaines” – one of the faces of the hit TV show.

It really felt like I was getting an email from Joanna, so of course, I couldn’t help but open. And though it was obviously from the retail brand, the email felt relevant and personal enough that it didn’t come across as disingenuous.

The moral here? Even though you risk throwing off subscribers and having them ignore (or delete) your email by changing your “from” name, it also has the potential to pay off big-time.

If you have any sort of recognizable public face to your brand, it’s definitely a tactic worth experimenting with. And even if you don’t, it can help add a human component to your marketing. Uberflip, for instance, always sends out these emails from their VP of Marketing “Hanna Abaza” whenever they have a webinar coming up:

Seeing the actual name of a real, live human always stands out in a sea of marketing messages. If you work in the B2B world, give this tactic a shot and see how your audience responds. It might just be something worth regularly integrating into your email strategy.


Taken any big risks with your email marketing that ended up paying off? We’re dying to know more. Please share away in the comments!