Best Email Marketing Psychology Hacks To Boost Conversions

Micheli , Invited guest @ Mailrelay

Will you believe me if I say that the difference between mediocre and magnificent email marketing campaign results is – psychology?

I understand you’re reluctant to believe that because it sounds rather simplistic. After all, isn’t email marketing almost a science already!

You’ve heard of email finders, branded email IDs, clickbait subject lines, eye-candy email templates, well defined KPIs, analytics tools, A/B testing, and more gizmos.

Surely, there’s nothing remotely associated with psychology in all these, right?

Well, you’re right. These pieces of tech are for you to execute actions in a better manner than you can do manually. The secret sauce of email marketing success is this 3 step formula:

  • Understand your understanding of your target audience’s psyche.
  • Use this insight to define each step of your email marketing campaign.
  • Leverage all the gizmos you can to automate, measure, and optimize.

Of course, I’m just getting started here. In this guide, you’ll accompany me as I take you through the most dependable psychological hacks that will make your emails perform like superstars.

Instead of peppering you with 25+ hacks (most of which will be repetitive and impractical), I have decided to keep it real. I will cover 5 hacks and will make sure you don’t need to know anything else about them once you are done reading this post.

Hack #1: Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)

Think of FOMO as that gut-wrenching feeling you get when you see your best friends posting groupfies on social media. More technically, it’s the apprehension of being excluded from an experience of perceived value.

The Psychology Behind it:

As explained by John M. Grohol of Psych Central, FOMO as the urge to take an action, caused by the fear of losing out on a ‘different’ connection, which may be better or worse. 

It’s the timeless human proclivity to ensure they’re ‘getting the best deal’ that causes them to act to also ensure “they’re not missing out on what could be a better deal”. 

This behavior is manifested primarily on social media, by the millennial audience. It’s estimated that 69% of millennials experience FOMO on a daily basis. So, for any email marketer tasked with a campaign aimed at a millennial audience, FOMO is the golden rule to remember. 

Besides, FOMO is highly recommended to reach Gen Z audiences which currently consists of 22% of the US population

How To Make It Work In Your Email Marketing Campaigns?

It’s alright, let your creativity run wild. Remember, it’s a psychological hack after all. Here are some clever examples of marketing messages that exploit FOMO. Trust yourself to create emails in a similar vein. 

1 – Show stats proving how “most people have acted already” and “you could miss out”. does it perfectly.

2 – Create a limited time discount/offer. Here’s an example of an email that motivates users to take action to ensure they get the maximum discount:

3 – Be direct. Say it out loud. Here’s how on-demand grocery service Mercato uses this tactic. The email motivates users to order from the convenience of their homes and not miss out on their much-awaited entertainment.

This technique can significantly boost your email campaign’s response rates and conversions. 

Hack #2: Personalize. Personalize. Personalize.

Long story short: people love their names, so give them what they love. 

What’s the sweetest sound ever? Your name. Time after time, legends of sales training have highlighted the importance of remembering a prospect’s name. 

Still not convinced? Wait till you get an email that starts with “Hello reader”. It’s as exciting for a recipient to read the email as chatting with a bot can be. 

The Psychology Behind it:

When you address someone by their name, you align yourself with them. That’s because you’re using tangible cues of their existence, according to what they mean to them. 

The better you personalize your communication with your email recipient, the higher the chances of conversions. After all:

  • 74% of marketers believe that targeted personalization can significantly improve customer engagement. 
  • Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% likelier to be opened as compared to emails with generic subject lines. 
  • Birthday emails generate 342% more revenue/email as compared to standard email marketing campaigns. 

How To Make It Work In Your Email Marketing Campaigns?

1 – Personalization is not merely about your recipient’s name. Deeper your personalization, the better your email campaign results will be. Consider variables such as:

  • Name
  • Brand name
  • Last transaction/exchange between the user and your company
  • Their designation
  • A blog they liked
  • A Facebook comment they left
  • A product they abandoned

Here’s an email that uses the recipient’s music listening behavior to deliver a personalized message, from the persona of the listener’s favorite artist, promoting the artist’s upcoming tour :

2 – Instead of another example, I’m sharing a trick here. Measure your email campaign’s performance on key KPIs and optimize them. Try different personalization variables, and see which works best. You can automate your A/B testing for email marketing campaigns by using a solution such as Mailrelay

For instance, consider you have a list of 100 subscribers and wish to try an email with two different subject lines. MailRelay allows you to set up an A/B test campaign. Send the same email with different subjects to, let’s say, two groups of 10 recipients each. The subject line of the email that gets the higher open rate can then be used while emailing to the other 80 recipients.

Apart from A/B testing, MailRelay offers superb email templates, an HTML email creator, and dozens of features such as autoresponders, schedulers, mail merge, analytics, and more.  

3 – Here’s the worse email you’d ever send:

This can happen to you too. If you’re using an email finder tool to create your list of prospects, followed by a mail merge or email campaign management tool for bulk personalized emailing, such bloopers can happen. The best practice is to always send a test email to yourself before activating a full-fledged campaign. So that your email looks like this:

Hack #3: Keep It Short, Sweetie (KISS)

While I’m certain you’ve heard of the KISS acronym many times in the past, this time we’re going to use it to explain the ‘focusing effect’. 

We tend to base our decisions on the information that remains in our working memory. This piece of information may not be the one that’s necessary to make the right decision.

As a marketer, it’s your job to make sure that your emails always introduce the desired information in the working memory of the recipient, to elicit a desirable response. 

The Psychology Behind it:

Bombard your readers with as much information as you want; they’ll always ascribe more importance to one specific piece of information. You can’t change their behavior, but you can use this understanding of primordial human behavior to get your audiences to remember what you want.

The next time you design an email marketing campaign, remind yourself to stop before you send a 500-worder with a list of benefits of your products. Instead, find the one piece of information that’s supposed to push the reader to take action. Make this info the superstar of your email. 

How To Make It Work In Your Email Marketing Campaigns?

1 – Here’s an example of how an otherwise well-crafted email gets it wrong on the KISS front. While it looks appealing, it’s messaging is completely muddled up.

This email tells me:

  • What I donated
  • What the future of this transaction is going to be
  • The background of how this started
  • What the non-profit is doing with the money
  • To leave feedback

I don’t know about you, but if I were the donor, I’d feel it this non-profit could do me a favor by not bombarding me with information in a single email. 

2 – Here’s a great example. This email is so special, I won’t even describe what it’s doing. Check it out:

There’s hardly anything other than the one core message in this email. It’s the perfect example of leveraging the focusing effect to ensure the email gets the right outcome. 

3 – And here’s another. Decide the outcome, and direct each word towards getting your reader to bring that outcome for you.

Observe that the only possible user action in this email is precisely what this email is aimed at. 

Hack #4: Price Anchoring

Quiz time. What’s the best way to sell a handbag for $300? 

Answer: Put it next to a handbag priced at $1,000. 

If you understand why, you understand price anchoring already! 

The Psychology Behind it:

Numerous psychological studies have demonstrated that our perception of price is not dependent on the ‘value’ we assign to a product, but governed by many external factors. 

Ordinarily, the first ‘offer’ a user is introduced to help in creating an anchor in his/her mind. Any subsequent offers are then evaluated with reference to the price versus value impression created by the first offer.

You’ll find this pricing psychology trick in action every time you visit a retail store. You’ve paid premiums for products many times because your brain is hard-wired to act this way. Time to use this trick to elevate your email marketing campaign performance. 

How To Make It Work In Your Email Marketing Campaigns?

1 – Selling a product in your email. Remember the golden rule followed by every SaaS company in creating their pricing page. 

Observe how the MAX plan makes the GROW plan appear a great bargain. 

2 – Which product among these three appears to be the best value for money?

Observe how the middle product creates the perfect impression on the reader’s mind:

  • Has the biggest stone
  • Has the lowest price
  • Is almost 50% cheaper than the next best option

3 – You can use the same psychology hack to sell an item whose base price can be repeatedly established at a much higher price than what it actually is. Then, throw in a mega discount, and let ‘price anchoring’ do its magic.

Hack #5: Foot In The Door (FITD) /Yes-Yes Technique

Foot in the door is a time tested compliance tactic that aims at getting someone to agree to a considerable request by first getting them to agree to a modest request. 

Here’s an example:

The core idea is:

  • Build a bond based on an initial transaction.
  • Leverage that bond to maximize the chances of success for the second (more considerable) transaction.

The Psychology Behind it:

Daryl Bem, a social psychologist from Cornell University, is believed to have been the proponent of the self-perception theory, which also explains why the FITD technique works. Without making myself sound like a psychologist, here’s the breakdown of why it works:

  • Humans inherently want to be agreeable and find it easier to agree to a proposal than say ‘no’.
  • Agreeing to something that doesn’t require any effort is easy enough. The result: most people will agree to let you send them a free ebook.
  • Humans are also wired to conform to their past behaviors and don’t want to break patterns. 
  • A subsequent request, though considerable (a ‘better’ ebook for $5, let’s say) is likelier to elicit a ‘yes’ response. 

How To Make It Work In Your Email Marketing Campaigns?

Ask yourself, what do you eventually want to sell via the emails? If it’s a product or idea that’s unlikely to be sold easily, the FITD technique is for you. 

Here are some of the several ways you can execute it:

1 – Get your audience to say ‘yes’ to a no-brainer proposition. Here’s an example. 

2 – Appeal to the ‘goodness’ in humans to be a part of something that doesn’t demand a lot of effort from them, and follow it up with the bigger request. 

3 – Keep it basic, offer something for free. Here’s an example of HubSpot keeping audiences engaged by offering them a free guide with exclusive data.

How to Measure The Performance of Your Email Campaigns?

Now that you have started leveraging the tips mentioned above, it’s time to measure the effectiveness of your email campaigns. This helps in determining which strategies are working best and which are not. 

Here are four key things you should be tracking for each email campaign.

  • Open rate: What percentage of people read your email? 
  • Click-through rate: What percentage of people clicked on the link or CTA inside the email? 
  • Conversion rate: What percentage of people completed your desired action (such as purchase a product)?
  • Unsubscribe rate: How many people click on the unsubscribe button? 

While most email service providers offer analytics, you can also use tools like Google Analytics and Finteza to track the metrics mentioned above. 

To track the performance of email campaigns on Google Analytics, you will need to add additional UTM parameters at the end of your email links. Use Google URL Builder to create custom URLs and tag each email campaign with a unique code. The next step is to create a goal in your Google Analytics account. 

You can then check the total number of sessions, new users, bounce rate, and more. 

The only problem with Google Analytics is that it doesn’t tell who completed your desired action. That’s where Finteza comes into rescue. 

The detailed conversion report by Finteza can give you insight into who completed the desired activity along with the conversion rate. 

Finteza allows you to set two types of goals. 

Event: This is perfect for you, if you want the subscriber to perform a desired activity, such as purchase an item or register for a webinar. 

Target Page: This is perfect for you, if you want a user to visit the desired page, such as a new product launch page. 

Once you choose your goal, Finteza will start tracking your email campaigns. It will give you a clearer understanding of high and low performing email campaigns. You can then use the information to make tweaks in your current campaigns to improve their effectiveness. 

What’s Next?

I know you’re already jumping with excitement. I don’t blame you, each of the hacks discussed in this guide has been proven to be successful in multiple email marketing experiments. Also, it may not even be right to call them ‘hacks’. At these core, each of these methods can be explained by mainstream psychological literature. 

Another word of advice. Start with a method that most closely associated with your email marketing campaigns that:

  • Are highly critical for your brand.
  • Have performed well-below expectations in the past. 

As you prepare to use these methods in your campaign, remember this. Your campaign’s audience and goals are unique, so no single recipe will work. Hedge your bets. Use a robust email marketing automation suite to set up A/B test campaigns, measure results, and optimize your campaigns to maximize results. 

About the Author

Joydeep Bhattacharya is a digital marketing evangelist and the author of He has helped numerous brands improve their presence online. His articles have been published on sites like Search Engine Watch, SEMrush, Smartinsights, Hubspot and several others. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

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