The Many Benefits of Engaging People’s Curiosity in Your Emails

My name is Benny Lewis, and I don’t have much experience in Internet marketing. I actually blog about rapid language learning. But a year ago I started an email newsletter for my blog and have been getting an excellent return out of it. How do I do it? I inject some personality into it, and I use people’s curiosity to get them on my list and keep them reading!

BennyThis is a guest post by Benny Lewis of Fluent In 3 Months. We were talking about how he builds his list and keeps subscribers’ attention from email to email, and he offered to share some of his email marketing methods with you.

Take it away, Benny! -Justin Premick

My name is Benny Lewis, and I don’t have much experience in Internet marketing. I actually blog about rapid language learning.

But a year ago I started an email newsletter for my blog and have been getting an excellent return out of it.

How do I do it? I inject some personality into it, and I use people’s curiosity to get them on my list and keep them reading!

Satisfying People’s Curiosity as a List-Building Technique

For example, every couple of months I get a surge of sign-ups (usually about five times my normal rate) when I offer something much more valuable than a free e-book (which I do anyway); satisfying their curiosity!

You see, every few months I move to a new country and learn a new language. But the thing is, I keep the next language and destination a secret and only reveal it in advance to those in the email list. When I state on Twitter, Facebook and on the blog that I’m about to announce my new mission in the email list, so many new people jump on board!

The best thing is that the announcement is part of the email itself (not an attachment, or link) so this gets them used to the idea of appreciating opening and reading the email itself. This means that I have an incredibly low unsubscribe rate; especially as I make sure each weekly email is worthwhile content.

Ensuring Long Term Higher Open Rates

The problem with this of course is that it was only giving me the higher open rates in bursts every few months, and then they would start going down again. While people constantly give me feedback that they love the content of the emails (which are unique and not simple links to blog posts), I still wanted to engage their curiosity over several emails, making sure those already in the list would be motivated to read some more.

So I found a fun way to do that! Instead of giving them the answer at once, I dropped clues in each email. This helped not only with open rates, but with engagement. I got more replies from readers than I knew what to do with!

For example, here’s the dramatic change of almost 11% in open-rates when I revealed just the destination of a recent language learning ?mission?:

Here are the contents of that email above with the big clue:

But of course, this didn’t actually reveal the answer of which language it was! (In a previous clue, I said that I needed to go to this destination in particular, so it wasn’t about distant-learning). People were emailing me with guesses all over the place, especially building on previous confusing but interesting clues.

Monetizing That Curiosity Without Unsubscribes or Spam Complaints

I put a lot of work into my emails; almost as much as into the blog itself! And there aren’t any sales pitches at all in my typical weekly broadcasts. But I do of course need to make this worth my while financially, so I take advantage of the peak open rate, and since the sales pitch is so rare, I actually get no complaints about it.

When I finally revealed the answer, I knew that a lot of people would be reading that email so it was a perfect time to announce an update to my Language Hacking Guide and a temporary price reduction:

? I continued to describe some other additions to the guide and details about how to take advantage of the temporary discount. And then of course, I followed it up with what they had all been waiting for!

and I went on to describe my objectives with this language.

Even though the email started with a sales pitch, the replies were immensely positive as I had given them the final answer that had been worth waiting for. It was quite a surprise of course, after my usual preference for spoken languages!

But here is the best part: Because this was all part of a long-term strategy, the results of this email, which started with a detailed sales pitch, were 0% complaints (nobody marked it as spam) and 0.3% unsubscribes, which is actually what it tends to be for any typical email I send! Even though I gave them the answer they had been waiting for, they still stuck around. 😉

And of course I got a huge surge of sales that week as I ran the special offer, the vast majority of which were coming from my email list.

While I can only engage in the curiosity of what my next language will be every few months, what I do now is give weekly mission updates that I never mention on the blog, to share my progress and struggles so that readers can relate to it in their own language learning challenge. I always follow it up with a weekly tip or a link to a very helpful website for language learners to make sure they get some real quality out of the email.

In this way I feel my personality is getting through and I am constantly satisfying readers’ curiosity about what is happening in my language learning mission. Because of this, readers know that they can always get something worthwhile when they open my emails.

How Can I Do This on My Email List?

I am subscribed to quite a lot of email lists, and I have to say that as a reader I don’t feel so much personal engagement in a lot of them. Competitions seem to be run on things you can win rather than simply testing people’s intelligence in a less superficial way. Sometimes ?winning? doesn’t mean getting a free e-book, but satisfying their curiosity.

  • If you run a competition, try to make it one that plays with their curiosity and make sure to say that the answer is within the email! Sending an email that simply links to an ebook or blog post makes the email itself less valuable. People should be opening an email for the content within the email if ever possible.
  • If your company has any public announcements that readers would be curious about then tell them that subscribers to the email list will find out first! It makes them feel like part of a special club. I go as far as to call my newsletter a ?league? (more precisely ?The Language Hacking League?) that people sign up to, since I’m sharing things with them they wouldn’t be able to find out anywhere else.

This very week I have reached the climax of another announcement and price reduction promotion, which you’ll see a part of on my blog. Of course, if you are curious about what my next language will be in advance of it starting, you can still find out by joining the e-mail list and reading the welcome e-mail this week, and hearing about it in advance in upcoming missions. 🙂

Benny Lewis teaches people to learn languages quickly at Fluent in 3 Months.


  1. Aaron Schulman

    6/9/2011 10:14 am

    Wow- don’t know what to say-

    This is so original and there’s a lot of good strategies and psychology packed in there-

    I’ll be studying this one several more times for sure!

    Thanks Justin and Benny

  2. Edwin Arenas

    6/9/2011 11:21 am

    In preconfigured follow up messages, to apply this strategy one would have to make sure that every mail leaves the reader wanting more, expecting something from the next email. And that he cannot just go to the website to find out the answer that he wants.

    I had thought of the list as an ad for the website content, but with this, the content of the email must be, at least in part, exclusive, so that the people stay tuned.

    Thanks, it’s great advice

  3. Gidon

    6/10/2011 1:18 am

    well well, another contrarian lesson!
    Conventional knowledge is, steer people to your website, get more traffic, more pagerank.

    perhaps not surprisingly for an email marketing company:-), you are highlighting the benefit of providing exclusive value in the email in contrast to the site. (as you did in too).

    But really, this whole internet marketing game is not zero sum, it’s a win-win competition. When the tide rises, all the boats go up.

    As long as we focus on using all the tools at our disposal to provide our users with the best experience we can, then we will end up like those boats – on top.

  4. Interview: Benny Lewis of FluentIn3Months

    8/16/2011 9:22 am

    […] I get a surge of sign-ups as I build up suspense about what my next language and destination will be, announcing it first in the email list, and my suggestions for that were so unique that Aweber themselves invited me to guest post on their blog about it. […]