How to use a nudge in your email marketing strategy

Tigger bounces piglet. Tigger is neither subtle nor gentle and it leaves poor piglet feeling baffled and overwhelmed. A nudge empowers where a bounce leaves no free will.

This is especially true when it comes to email marketing strategy.

To get emails noticed in ever more bloated inboxes and keep subscribers on side you need to work harder and smarter. One way is to use your email to nudge rather than make a fully formed offering.

What do I mean by a nudge?

I think of a nudge as gentle pressure, a hint or bait. A nudge is listed in my Concise Oxford Dictionary as a verb that means : to push gently with elbow to draw attention privately.

Email is, after all a private and direct form of communication. That little push with the elbow can be a simple sentence, image or button whose sole purpose is to get the reader to click through to more information. A nudge like:

  • Bookings open for 2014 Festival
  • One day archive sale
  • Read the next instalment
  • Bookings open for January workshops
  • Introducing our winter soap collection
  • Have you heard about the Browns?
  • What’s hot at this year’s show
  • Win VIP tickets to the festival

Perhaps you have a freshly pressed list of business prospects gathered from networking events. They’re not ready to buy from you yet, they hardly know you. You can still use the nudge technique. Think article headlines.

  • Why physiotherapists are talking about video marketing
  • 5 ways to increase profitability on your web design jobs
  • 8 traps to avoid when setting up as a freelance copywriter
  • 10 ways to get a better return on Facebook advertising

These headlines intrigue and urge people to read on.

Why use a simple nudge?

Inboxes are crowded, smart phone screens are small, readers are impatient. Email clients, like Gmail, allow users to block images in email. Spam filters are hungry to capture and devour any emails that look suspicious. It’s hard to get through and harder to get read.

Remember the power of little notes? In your lunch box, or on your pillow. Those few words from someone special, made your heart leap. The nudge has that same appeal of simplicity, brevity and “it’s just for you”.

Another advantage for the time pressed, rural business owner, it is far quicker to create, format, test and send. But where does the meat of the content go?

How does this work in practice?

The substance of your offer, be that an article, offer, news, tips, entertainment, a photo gallery, a video, a survey, competition or game, is hosted elsewhere. On your blog or website. The email is then a simple nudge to go look at the content. That’s not all.

Get more meaningful statistics

Another benefit is: your email contains a hyperlink to the meat of your content.

That gives you far more accurate reporting. Open rates recorded in programmes like MailChimp and Aweber are generally lower than actual open rates.

That’s because the mechanism used to record open rates relies on an invisible image being downloaded by the subscriber’s email client. If images are blocked, the email won’t be marked as open. Plain text emails won’t be recorded as opened either.

Click rates on the other hand, are far more reliable. If they got as far as the link and clicked on it, you know for sure the email was opened and read.

Let’s take a look at an example

This email from Toast, a Welsh clothing business, uses a clean, simple message to drive customers into stores.


When do you use this nudge technique?

Consider it another tool in your kit. It will be more powerful and effective if interspersed with longer emails.

Time of day plays a crucial part in your email strategy’s success

An email received at 10am will only get read if it requires immediate action whereas an email received at 9pm lands in front of the subscriber when they are in a totally different mood. She may be checking her email on a tablet on the sofa, unwinding from a long day.

An attractive offer to browse a beautiful collection of clothes, art, toiletries, books, film reviews can be seen as part of that relaxation process.

Whereas, in my experience, 11am on a Sunday can be a good time to send a nudge to go look at some personal development courses or career enhancing study.

Doesn’t the idea of a nudge, break the rules of copywriting?

Rules like: setting out a problem; a solution; offering a guarantee and so on. Not at all, the nudge simply entices people to go consume all of that elsewhere on the web, away from the hated inbox, supported by the branding of the sending organisation.

A big bounce has its place and you’ve gotta love Tigger for his sheer enthusiasm, but a nudge, subtle, understated and friendly can quietly get you a much better response from subscribers who act with pleasant anticipation rather than being ambushed and left feeling disappointed.


About the Author: Juliet Fay
juliet fay

Juliet Fay is a farm-based copywriter offering: 1) Training in sales writing, email marketing and Twitter. 2) Marketing consultancy for farm retailers. 3) SEO copy and articles for the rural business sector. Sign up to get rural marketing articles direct to your inbox, twice a month

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