Psychology and Email

Marketing Crossroads: At the Corner of Email and Psychology


Psychology and marketing go hand in hand. In today’s market, the importance of customer behavior is astounding, with a vast amount of research and resources going into finding out how consumers make decisions. Many influential factors involved in decision-making have their roots in psychology. That’s why it’s crucial to have an understanding of basic principles and how they apply to email marketing psychology.

In fact, behavioral psychology lays the foundation for modern email marketing practices. The process of persuading your subscribers to open an email and click a call-to-action (CTA) becomes simple when you understand the psychological principles at play. The dependence of marketing on color theory, buying behavior, and cognitive science shows that psychological theories are needed to decode some of the trickiest marketing conundrums. Basically, psychologists don’t have to be marketers, but marketers have to be psychologists.

When you get into the nitty-gritty of email marketing, there are some psychological concepts that’ll help you know what your subscribers look for in an email, how they interact, and finally what makes them engage. Here’s a quick rundown of seven concepts to up your campaign game.

#1 Anchoring Effect

Make your first move the best

Anchoring effect refers to the cognitive bias in which decision-making heavily favors the information that was offered first. It involves setting initial information as the anchor and making judgments from there, depending on the anchor. This theory can be particularly seen when you’re haggling over a product—the initial price sets the bar for subsequent negotiations.

When it comes to your email campaigns, make sure your first email captivates subscribers and presents a strong brand image. A welcome email is something you can implement to engage subscribers. If they like your first campaign, they’ll tend to judge you positively and look forward to future correspondence.

A warm welcome email by Dev
Source: Really Good Emails

#2 Mere-Exposure Effect

Keep your efforts consistent

This theory posits that people develop a preference for something the more they are exposed to it. Think about making friends with your coworkers—when you become familiar and comfortable with them, you gradually develop good relationships.

This concept is useful for keeping your audience’s attention. By sending relevant email campaigns consistently, you’ll get them acquainted with your business so they develop an affinity for your brand. For example, you can create and send a nurture email series to your subscribers and then stay in touch with them so they can get familiar with your offering.

A follow-up nurture email by Mention
Source: Really Good Emails

#3 Rule of Three

Great things come in threes

The number three has always been significant in storytelling, advertisements and philosophy. One can never forget the three bears Goldilocks visits, the three traffic light colors that direct traffic, the ever-popular “live, love, laugh” quote, and even the pre-race instructions, “on your mark, get set, go”. Even the Latin phrase “omne trium perfectum” directly translates to “everything that comes in three is perfect.” This shows that the rule of three in content represents concision, rhythm and a sense of tradition.

If you’re designing email content, organize it in three sections. When highlighting points, call out the three main points like Threadless did below. And when crafting subject lines, try to make them punchy with three striking words.

An email with three content blocks by Threadless
Source: Really Good Emails

#4 Reciprocity

Give more to get more

How do you feel when someone offers to pay for your meal? You probably feel thankful, and deep down you want to do something nice for them in return. That’s the rule of reciprocity—people repay what they receive.

Reward your readers with every email. Resources like e-books, guides, infographics and articles will encourage your subscribers to take a keen interest in connecting with you. Your CTAs will be a lot more compelling when you give your readers a reason to take notice.

A free resource email offering by Yieldify
Source: Really Good Emails

#5 Clustering Effect

Group to organize

The clustering effect is the tendency to organize information into different memory-related groups. When you have a list of groceries to buy, you automatically group similar products together so that finding them in the store becomes much easier.

When your mailing list contains subscribers from different countries, it’s good to separate them into location-based segments. If some of your subscribers share common interests, you can create unique tags to group them together. Segmentation can also be done based on several attributes; there’s no real limit to it. Segmenting lists and tailoring content to each niche will make your campaigns more effective as a whole.

A geo-segmented email by Uber
Source: Really Good Emails

#6 Picture Superiority Effect

Let your images speak

The mind is much better at recalling visuals than text. In fact, humans can retain 65% of visual information, even after three days. With such importance attached to the visual cortex, it’s beneficial to strike a healthy text-to-image balance. And always make sure your email is impactful for subscribers who won’t see your beautiful images. Otherwise, you’re missing out on reaching subscribers who use screen readers to digest content, as well as people who use image-blocking email clients, such as Outlook.

When designing your campaign, keep it exciting and visually attractive. Let your images be clear, colorful and easy to understand. Make sure they are relevant to the content’s purpose, and don’t forget to put your brand’s logo in each campaign to make them authentic.

A picturesque email by Headspace
Source: Really Good Emails

#7 Analysis Paralysis

Make decisions faster

If you’ve ever found yourself spending more time trying to figure out where to eat than what to eat at the actual restaurant, you’ve fallen victim to analysis paralysis. This universal quirk displays itself when a person overthinks to the extent that a decision is never made. Remember the famous line from Aesop’s The Fox and the Cat fable? Better one safe way than a hundred on which you cannot reckon.” The solution is to avoid ambiguity and reach decisions by keeping your intentions simple and direct.

Your campaigns should stick to one concept and not divert your readers. Don’t put too many CTAs or deliverables in your email or your recipients won’t have a clear idea about which action to perform (they’ll likely only do one). The CTA should also be short. Instead of “Click here to download the guide that makes you a great marketer,” use “Become a Great Marketer” or “Download Now”.

An engaging email CTA by The Knot
Source: Really Good Emails

Connect with More Subscribers

These theories show how greatly psychology and its underlying biases play a major role in marketing. Adopt these techniques in your campaigns and you’ll be well on your way to connecting with more subscribers! Let us know how it goes and share your own tried-and-tested psychological methods in the comments below.

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Author: Aishwarya Ashok

Aishwarya is a Product Marketer at Zoho Campaigns, the email marketing platform from Zoho’s business suite. She is a techno-futurist and has a passion for driving marketing through technological humanism. She loves writing as much as painting, and certainly wishes to retire on one of those seascapes she paints. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn, where she never misses the daily rundown.

Author: Aishwarya Ashok

Aishwarya is a Product Marketer at Zoho Campaigns, the email marketing platform from Zoho’s business suite. She is a techno-futurist and has a passion for driving marketing through technological humanism. She loves writing as much as painting, and certainly wishes to retire on one of those seascapes she paints. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn, where she never misses the daily rundown.

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