3 Ridiculously Clever Ways to Get Subscribers to Buy Your Stuff

When it comes to triggering impulse purchases, supermarkets are doing it right.

They put the bakery up front because the smell of freshly baked bread is hard to resist. The flowers are by the door so you’re tempted to grab them. The checkout line is chock full of easy-to-reach candy bars and magazines that entice you while you wait.

We’d like to think that our purchasing decisions come from a place of rational thinking. In reality, however, crafty marketers are steering us toward certain products every single day.

It’s the same with email design, too. The best email marketers and professional designers on the planet use psychological triggers to compel us to open, read, click, and buy.

Sure, it’s a bit manipulative. After all, they’re influencing how we act and make decisions on an subconscious level.

But if these mental triggers are used in the right way — to put a valuable product into the hands of someone who really needs it — and not unethically, then it can be extremely powerful for both you and your subscribers.

As a design professional, I use these triggers in email all the time. Here are 3 of my favorite ways to do it.

(Put these design tips into practice with AWeber, which gives you the tools and templates you need to be an email marketing pro. Start your 30-day free trial right now!)

Establish trust with a brand identity.

Nowadays, marketing messages flood people’s inboxes daily. In order to stand out, you might think the flashier and shinier the template design, the better.

You’d be dead wrong.

If you constantly change the format and template of your emails, readers will be left scratching their heads as to who the email is from. You’ll only increase confusion and decrease reliability.

Instead, stick with a consistent look — even if it’s super simple. By doing so, you’re establishing a brand aesthetic. Over time, your customers will come to understand your core identity and they’ll feel as if they can rely on you. When you reach that level of influence, your subscribers will trust you.

And if they trust you, they have a greater affinity to buy from you.

Pick a template, make it yours and stick with it. It’s never too late to start creating standards and establishing consistency.

Not sure where to begin? Kim Robbins, an AWeber email designer, put together this great brand standards worksheet to get you started.  

Create authority and likeability through great photography.

Marketing teams spend thousands of dollars on captivating product shots. That’s because fantastic high-quality images help guide our decision making and accelerate the purchasing process. They add professionalism and authority to the content.

While product photography is a skill that can take years to hone, it’s now easier than ever to take fantastic shots with some very basic photography tools (some of which you may already own).

Take the examples below. Both skateboards are listed on Etsy.

The one on the left is a basic shot that shows the product. While you know exactly what you’re buying, the image is amateurish and doesn’t show off the board’s uniqueness. It also doesn’t create much of an emotional desire to like or buy the skateboard.

By simply changing the angle, location and lighting, though, the photo on the right becomes more professional and appealing. You can easily see the features and characteristics that make this board different from other ones on the market. The image lends clout and instant likeability to the product.

The best part: You can shoot photos like the one on the right with an iPhone.

Natural window light + an iPhone + a simple background = the formula for inexpensive but high-quality product photography.

If you want to go a step further, I recommend getting a lightbox to use with your iPhone or a DSLR. This folding one works great if you’re selling small goods. For larger products, you can use a seamless background paper roll. The photographer of the skateboard on the right (above) probably used something similar to shoot that image.

In addition to those tools, here are some other tricks to accomplish this level of photography:

  1. Get closer to the object to decrease the amount of clutter in your image. You want your reader to focus on just the product — not, say, the bookshelf or the buildings in the background.
  2. Change your angle from the expected human eye level to something more dramatic. For instance, try lying on the ground or standing on a ladder. Your reader isn’t used to seeing the product from these new perspectives. This instantly makes it seem more interesting.
  3. Shoot the small details as well as the full product. The more aspects a buyer can absorb without actually touching the product, the more likely they are to  want it.

Build a community with visuals.

Belonging is a basic human need. We have an inherent desire to be part of a group — a family, a workplace, a team, a club, a hobby, an online group, or a religion.

Capitalize on this sense of belonging in your email designs. If you can make your subscribers feel as if they’re part of a community by owning your product, then there is a greater chance they’ll buy from you.

Here are a few ways to visually do that:

  1. Show a behind-the-scenes peek of the product creation. This creates the feeling of exclusivity. Subscribers feel like they’re privy to a process that not everyone gets to see.
  2. Showcase an aspirational lifestyle. Take shots of your ideal customer using your products in the wild. It gives your subscriber something to desire. They start to picture themselves as the model in the images.

  3. Create FOMO (fear of missing out). Include user-submitted images of other customers using your product. (Always ask permission before sharing.) By doing so, you’ll provide social proof of others using — and, essentially, recommending — your product. We take cues from others. So if your reader sees others using the product, they might take action and buy.


A quick reminder: These design tips should be used responsibly. Your product or service is a solution to your subscriber’s problem. The goal isn’t to coerce someone into buying something that won’t add value to their life.

(Looking for a way to send beautiful emails to your subscribers? Start your free trial with AWeber today!)


  1. James Clark

    1/16/2018 9:24 pm

    Outstanding tips Michael! It’s really a big challenge for email marketers to keep subscribers on the list. I really like your clever tips to get subscribers.

  2. Michael Smith

    1/18/2018 9:17 am

    Thanks for reading James!

  3. Michael Katz

    1/18/2018 2:45 pm

    Really helpful, Michael. It’s nice to have an understanding of what’s going on with those images I see in ads!

  4. Renae Gregoire

    1/18/2018 3:00 pm

    Wow, thanks for the great post, Michael! So much goodness in it! Love the email design style guide, as well as the idea for taking photos from different perspectives. I’ll be using that one for sure. I also like the idea of sharing behind-the-scenes stuff, and it comes at a perfect time, as I’m in the process of creating a product. It’ll be neat to share the journey with readers, and your post here just gave me ideas of screenshots and whatnot I need to capture. Love it when I find juicy posts like yours with lots of goodness inside. Thanks!

  5. Michael Smith

    1/18/2018 8:11 pm

    @Michael – Totally! Now you know how they draw you in.

    @Renae – I’m glad this was so helpful. Good luck on launching your new product! Feel free to share it with us once you’re done.

  6. Victor Ikani

    1/26/2018 6:52 pm

    Thanks, Michael. Great tips for sellers. Although, I render services.

  7. Satya

    2/1/2018 5:46 am

    Awesome post……. your article is really informative and helpful for me and other bloggers too