Not trying to sell? Here's what you send

McKenzie Gregory

Email best practices for when you aren't trying to sell something
Email marketing best practices tend to revolve pretty heavily around generating revenue – but not every email marketer sends with the direct goal of selling something. 
If you’re a publisher, you might want to drive more traffic to your content.
If you're an alumni organization, you might want to get more people to Homecoming. 
If you’re a B2B brand, you might want to encourage subscribers to register for a webinar. 
And even if your brand DOES offer some sort of goods or services, the best email marketers know that not every message you send should shout “Buy, buy, buy!” To do your most effective marketing, you need to balance out your sales-focused messages with emails centered around goals that don’t involve adding items to a shopping cart. 
Here are five ways to effectively do email marketing when your goal isn’t to drive revenue. 


If you want people to engage with your content… 

This is a goal that applies to any brand regularly producing blog posts, how-to guides, video content, etc. 
Whether you send a regular newsletter or only distribute content when you have something new to share, your goal is to get people to visit, engage with, and (hopefully) share your content with their peers. 
The best way to do that in your email marketing? Keep things scannable and easily digestible, whether you’re sending out a single piece of content or twenty. Here’s how your email could look in either case: 
B2B email marketing example from Wistia
In this email from B2B brand Wistia, for instance, they’re sharing a guide for you to check out. The value proposition is made abundantly clear in the headline, and the design (with ample white space and a bold, singular call-to-action button) makes it easy to hone in on where you're supposed to click to access the guide. 
Visit Philadelphia sends a beautiful, mobile-optimized email newsletter
Even though this email from our client Visit Philadelphia contains way more content (their newsletter generally features 10-15 posts), it feels just as streamlined as the Wistia example. Part of that can be attributed to the single-column, mobile-friendly design, but it also helps that they feature a single piece of content above the fold. 
In either case, making your email easy to navigate ensures people will actually get to the content you’re promoting, rather than getting lost in the depths of the email and never clicking through. 

If you want to share important information…

Sometimes, your brand needs to spread need-to-know information to your subscribers. 
Here are a couple of examples of the type of message I'm talking about: 
“You need to update your password.”
“We're changing our Terms of Service.” 
"Applications are due tomorrow." 
Online bank Simple does a fabulous job of effectively using email marketing in these situations. For example, check out this mailing. 
An email example from online bank Simple
This email explains to recipients that it's time for Simple users to either close their accounts or move to their new partner bank, BBVA Compass. It's clear, friendly, and outlines easy-to-follow next steps. 
When your email contains something genuinely important for your audience to know, clarity and brevity are your best friends. From your subject line to your call to action, keep your messaging laser-focused so there's no chance the key takeaway gets muddled or lost in the noise. 

If you want to leverage your subscribers to grow your audience… 

Growing your brand’s audience can feel like a daunting task, but one of the easiest ways to draw in new people is to leverage the folks you’ve already won over
These email campaigns can take lots of shapes, from straightforward referral programs to giveaway contests (share this email for X entries). But no matter how you frame it, make sure to adequately reward your subscribers for the effort they put in – AKA, don’t ask them to share an email with 30 friends and offer nothing in return. 
An example of an email referral program from The Hustle

If you want to promote brand loyalty… 

This is where “just because” messages come in.
Whether it’s a simple thank you email, a piece of exclusive content shared only with your biggest brand fans, or a fun company culture video, surprise and delight your subscribers with the occasional email sent for no other purpose than to put a smile on their face. 
Wayfair sends a "thank you" email just because

If you want to drive IRL experiences… 

Whether you’re hosting a networking event or encouraging students to tour your campus, email is a great way to enable "in real life" experiences. 
If you're using Emma, consider taking advantage of our Eventbrite integration. You can use it to display your Eventbrite events directly in your emails and track the resulting registrations in our Response section. 
If you're using another ESP,  investigate your options for integrating with an event platform – and do so if possible! It's the best way to make sure your email marketing is driving attendance, not just opens. 

What other ways do you use email marketing that don’t involve selling? Sound off in the comments! 

About the Author

McKenzie Gregory

McKenzie Gregory is a senior content manager on Emma’s marketing team. A Nashville native, she can be found covering all things email on the Emma blog, debating hyphenation rules, and watching obscene amounts of Netflix without a trace of shame.

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