Inside the Inbox: A content strategist shares her must-read newsletters

November 19, 2018 Lane Harbin

Inside the Inbox is a series created by Emma to empower you with an inside look at your customers’ favorite emails. We’re tracking down email subscribers from every industry and asking them to share the current state of their email inbox with us, ultimately giving you unfiltered consumer insight you can’t find anywhere else. From email messages they open right away to those that go directly to spam, we’ll uncover the good, the bad, and the undeliverable. 

You may or may not know Kaitlin Wernet as the usual host of the “Inside the Inbox” series—find our first installment here if you missed it. Most of the time, we take a peek behind the scenes of what other people are hoarding in their inboxes—but today? We’re flipping the script and going through hers. Let’s get to it!

Inside the Inbox of Kaitlin 

First things first: How many unread emails are currently in your inbox?

“I’m a pretty all-or-nothing kind of person, which means my inbox is usually at zero or over 100. During the day, I’ll flag or open emails I want to read, and before I go to bed, I usually go through the list one more time before archiving all of my unread messages.”

Takeaway: You have less time with a customer than you thought. 

“I can hear all of my hard-working email marketing friends cringe when I say this: I receive hundreds of emails per day that I never open. I’m sorry—but it’s the truth! For many of them, I only read the subject line and preheader text, so if one message is going to surprise me or stand out from the rest, that’s the best place to do it. Data shows that 54% of emails are opened on a mobile device, and that’s where I’m opening mine too, whether it’s when I wake up in the morning or I’m waiting in line at Starbucks.”

Which emails have you opened recently? 

Cup of Jo: “There are two newsletters that I keep an eye out for every week, and the first is from my all-time favorite blog, Cup of Jo. Joanna Goddard and her team of writers are content geniuses, but they also do a great job of keeping their readers’ interests in mind and chopping up their clever phrases and colorful images into bite-sized bits of inspiration. Although I’d usually advise against subject lines like ‘Hey, What’s Up?’ and ‘Happy (Almost) Weekend,’ it works here because the Cup of Jo team has done their due diligence in building credibility. 

Emily P. Freeman: “The second newsletter I look forward to every week is writer/blogger Emily P. Freeman’s ‘One Last Thing.’ As a writer, I know the ongoing struggle of too many words and not enough white space or images to go with them, but Emily has perfected this ratio. My favorite part of her newsletters is there’s almost always something that appeals to multiple senses—podcasts to listen to, Instagram images to enjoy, and lyrical prose to carry with you—and helps me catch my breath before the weekend begins.”

Takeaway: Newsletters are a great way to build brand loyalty and provide quality content your customers look forward to.

It’s a much-needed break from constant sales emails and gives you a great opportunity to show the heart and humans behind your brand. 

Rifle Paper Co.: “It’s currently mid-November and the holidays are just around the corner. I can easily become excited or stressed about it and the long list of festive things I need to accomplish before December 25, and email marketers know. While some emails are shouting to gain my attention or present an unnecessary amount of urgency (It’s not even Thanksgiving yet!), but Rifle Paper Co. presented an easy solution—be thoughtful. Their email shows me I still have time before I stay up all night wrapping gifts, but I do need to act now if I want to send something extra special and customized to my loved ones.”

Takeaway: Don’t just think about big holidays, but the progression and anticipation of them, too.

Consider what your customer is feeling as a particular season begins or important day approaches and how your messaging can help. In this case, Rifle Paper Co. relieved stress while also assisting a customer with their to-do list. 

Madewell: "This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning my #1 go-to for all things denim, branding, and retail therapy. When they sent me an email with subject line ‘Surpriiiiisee….,’ I knew they wouldn’t play games with my heart. And they did not disappoint—I scored a sweet discount on my favorite jeans (They remembered!) when I clicked the link.”

What about the trash?

Women’s clothing store: “I get multiple emails from this store every day, and they all basically say the same thing using too many exclamation points. I feel like they’re yelling at me, but when they do it every day, it’s kind of like the email marketer who cried wolf! I haven’t opened them in weeks because I don’t believe they are actually relevant to me.”

Website for marketers: “Marketers can sometimes get a bad reputation, and after receiving countless emails from a company looking to—Actually, I think that’s the problem. Do they want to hire me? Help me with marketing? Read their articles? I’m not sure! There’s too much information with not enough clarity.”

Takeaway: Have a clear call-to-action.

Anything good in your spam folder? 

Vitamins: “I actually wish these emails hadn’t landed in the spam folder, or else I would have remembered to order more vitamins! Products like this, with evergreen relevance and ongoing use, have endless possibilities for marketing because it’s not hard to convince me to make a healthy choice. The branding is really appealing, I just wish I’d seen it before now!”

Workout plans: “I signed up for a 30-day fitness challenge which promised to send an email per day for accountability, but I noticed something strange happening after day 3—I wasn’t getting any emails! I waited it out for a day or so before I realized they were going to my spam folder.”

Takeaway: If a subscriber has opted in for your content, make sure they receive it! Thankfully, there are precautions you can take to keep an eye on your deliverability score and stay away from the spam folder.

What’s the last thing you remember buying because of an email? 

“A ride to the airport! I’ve used a variety of rideshare services before, but Lyft one me over this round by sending me a 10% off coupon. I caught a ride from a Lyft driver from the airport, but after my trip, their email system was intuitive enough to know I may need another ride in the next week. They were right! And would you take a look at that gif?”

“I’d also be lying if I told you this ad from Jeni’s wasn’t tempting me...I know what I’m doing this weekend!”

How often would you say you check your email?

“Almost constantly. I always have my email accounts up on my computer, so I can see if something urgent comes in while I’m working on something else. The tab is always open somewhere, and when I get home from the office, I’m checking it on my phone.”

Choose three adjectives to describe your ideal email experience.

“Customized, thoughtful, and beautiful. Even before I began working at Emma, I’ve always loved the created experience of an email and all of the elements that make it come together."

What do you wish email marketers knew about you? 

“I wish email marketers knew that I want to hear their story—what drives them, why they go to work every day, how their actions are making a difference. The emails I’m most likely to open are those whose senders have truly considered who I am, what I’m interested in, and where I’ll be when I receive their message. Thoughtfulness goes a long way, and there’s nothing better than feeling heard and understood as another human, not just an inbox owner.”

Wrap up

From planned intentionality to compelling stories, there’s a lot to learn from taking a peek inside inboxes. In fact—I’d challenge you to take a look at your own email messages and see what you can take away to serve your customers better. They’ll appreciate it! 

About the Author

Lane Harbin

Lane Harbin is a senior content marketing manager at Emma. When she’s not geeking out over email marketing, she enjoys binge-listening to podcasts, catching up on the latest tech news, and constantly rearranging her living room.

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