For Relevant Email, Keep It Current

In today’s absolute hailstorm of buy-this-now messages, how do you write a marketing email that will actually get noticed?

Generic discount alerts and %-off offers won’t cut it. Everyone sends those. Dull and disconnected from any audience, they might as well be churned out of an ad factory.

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Instead, focus on connecting with your readers. Show that the solution you’re offering is right for their needs, because you understand those needs – you’re right there with them, experiencing the struggles and joys of these times.

And how do you do that?

By Writing About These Times

Whether it’s the long-awaited rescue of the Chilean miners or the finale of Dancing With the Stars, your subscribers are always talking about something. Talk about it with them, and suddenly you’re their buddy at the water cooler and they’re all ears.

Not quite sure how to pull this off? Well, we recently stumbled upon a few emails that did this well. And if you promise not to copy them exactly, we’ll share them so you can get your own ideas flowing…

What's Breaking In the News?

Goodness knows there were plenty of ways to get creative with Christmas emails, but even with the holidays past, there’s plenty nto talk about. If they hear it from you first, they’ll be impressed. Plus, they’ll appreciate the fact that they’re now in the know.

Mike's Mission to Mars Sm

Here, Mike’s Cigars frames their wares in terms of the new NASA project. Readers get two perks: a discount and a topic for lunchtime conversation. Next time Mike’s emails, they’ll be twice as likely to open for more.

Stage Your Own Mini-Event

If your readers are observing Election Day – well, so are you! They won’t be able to help but notice when your message reflects what’s already on their minds.

Harry David Election Day

Gourmet gift store Harry and David wanted to showcase all the available varieties of their trademark snack mix. So they presented each as a contender in their own electoral race.

While the voting took place on Facebook, the main body led back to an order page – always a good place for readers to go.

Fall Back On the Weather

Cocktail parties, the office water cooler, your email campaign…no matter where you are, the weather is always a relevant topic.

Barnes & Noble knows this. During a recent snowstorm in the Northeast United States, they sent subscribers in that region a very appropriate offer.

First of all, B & N knew we were snowed in – impressive from the start. Secondly, they provided something for us to do (other than e-shop). And finally, in case non-Nook-owning subscribers felt left out (which I did), they offered other ways to read the e-books. Who could resist?

Get Started Yourself

What’s going on in the next month? Check a calendar. Check the news.

Does anything you see tie in naturally with your business? Is anything especially fitting for a celebration with your subscribers? Or is an upcoming event the perfect launch for that new product? Stay on the lookout!

And if current event emails just don’t work for your brand, here are six other techniques you can try.

How do you make your emails more relevant? Tell us below – we want to hear your stories!


  1. Susan Negen

    2/1/2011 12:21 pm

    Love this idea – we use it frequently. For example, this week we are having a one-day sale on our high end product (2K) on Groundhog Day.

    The hook? Punxsutawney Phil gets to pick the sale price. If he sees his shadow it’s $700 off, if he doesn’t see his shadow it’s $500 off.

    So far it’s been a fun thing to mail about and our customers’ reaction has been great.

  2. Carol Carlson

    2/1/2011 12:44 pm

    Thanks for the ideas! Very creative. I’ve been sending out text emails about my craft hang tags, but might need to try your ideas. Visuals could be fun to work with, especially if they are tied in with current events.

  3. Lance Nelson

    2/1/2011 1:08 pm

    Good tips here. thank you.

    I use weather and it always get good open and click through results.

  4. Jared Kimball

    2/1/2011 10:33 pm

    Susan Negen…that’s a great idea. I’m sure your subscribers get a kick out of the idea. Plus you build more brand loyalty and put some fun into your marketing messages.

    I’ve seen a ton of email marketers that focus on “buy Buy BUY!” And forget that running a business can be fun. It doesn’t have to be so serious all the time.

    Great post Amanda.

    Relevant content is what email was invented for. Sometimes we forget that’s the power behind email.

    Thanks for keeping things relevant 😉

  5. Justin Premick

    2/2/2011 10:31 am


    That’s a great example of incorporating current events into your email marketing. Clever and creative.

  6. Cheryl Walters

    2/2/2011 1:00 pm

    Thanks for the good tips! Susan, it’s a good thing that Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow today! Best wishes All!

  7. HS

    2/5/2011 5:49 am

    I received the Barnes and Noble email and thought it was brilliant. We are being hit with hard weather this year. I will definitely be working with my email marketing clients on creating campaigns with this idea.

  8. Yee Shun Jian

    2/24/2011 5:28 am

    I actually shared a video I made for my girlfriend for valentine’s day to my list and it was well-received by my subscribers. Got a couple of emails saying it’s sweet and the open and clickthrough rates were higher than normal!

    I guess your subscribers need to know that you’re REAL and sending them things like that help them see that (at least in my experience)

  9. Jay

    3/19/2011 7:11 pm

    I agree with the previous comments very creative. You send an email that fulfills a customers needs, actually helps them solve a problem. And is relevant to your subscribers everyone will be happy and you will not lose a lot of subscribers trying to sell them junk. Cool tips.

  10. The Hipster Email Marketing Handbook

    7/8/2011 9:05 am

    […] that matters to them to keep them engaged once you’ve captured their attention. We’ve offered some advice in the past on ways to keep your emails […]

  11. Chaz Desimone

    7/26/2011 2:56 am

    I am SO glad to read how important relevancy to seasons and topics is, because my latest campaign is a free poster every month that contains a phrase that’s relevant to the weather, or a holiday, or a topic. It’s been a lot of fun designing these posters, and my subscribers love them! Of course, they are attached to a good marketing email. I am thrilled I can place the form for my posters right on my web landing page, and still keep the site looking well-branded and clean. Thank you for making all this possible.

  12. Tony Argyle

    6/7/2013 1:40 am

    We find a GIVE-GIVE-ASK approach works best. It’s very off putting for customers if you hit them with selling emails all the time. Why not GIVE them something regularly? This could be a freebie passed on by another business e.g. get the local coffee shop to give you free coffee vouchers to give your customers, you can look like the good guy and they get leads to sell food and more coffees to (who doesn’t take a friend to the coffee shop with them?). Set up arrangements like this with other businesses and pass the freebies to your customers. They wont mind selling emails if you mix them in with good giveaways!