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Three types of emails

by Randall Craig on January 30, 2015

Filed in: Blog, Content, CRM, Make It Happen Tipsheet

Tagged as: , ,

Look into your inbox, and you’ll see emails that others have sent to you.  Look more closely though, and you’ll see three types.  From a marketer’s perspective, each has its own place, and each has its own purpose. Used incorrectly, they often will have the opposite impact: annoyance, disengagement, unsubscribes, and complaints.

Three types of emails:

1) Direct emails:  These are the personal emails that are sent from one person to another, with content that is designed to do a specific thing: thank for a meeting, book lunch, introduce the organization, or convey an attachment.  They are customized, specific to the sender and recipient, and sent directly from a person’s email program.  Pros:  Personal and relevant. Cons:  Very time-consuming – doesn’t scale.

2) Broadcast emails:  These are the “eblasts”: the newsletters, alerts, advertisements, and other flotsam and jetsam that are blasted to a list; think Constant Contact, aWeber, MailChimp, and others.  Broadcasts can also be sent mechanically to a distribution list from within Outlook or Gmail.  The key driver behind this type of email is the one-to-many nature of it.  The Make It Happen Tipsheet, which I have been distributing via email for the last decade, is an example of this.  Today, the effectiveness of Broadcast emails is constrained by spam filters (that incorrectly categorize many broadcasts as spam) and legislation – CASL as an example – that requires onerous tracking and permissions to be able to send an email.  It is possible to customize Broadcasts, but it is usually limited to inserting a first name into the body of the email.  Pros:  Fast and (mostly) pain free.  Cons:  Bulk mail content is not customized, and may be irrelevant.  No one wants to be on a “list”.

3) Sequence emails:  Sometimes called nurture emails or drip marketing emails, these are a series of emails that are sent to a specific person after a specific stimulus.  For example, if your organization does a repeated event – say a seminar for prospective clients – then the attendees likely have an interest already.  Yet only a certain percentage – perhaps 5% – will likely commit to the next steps immediately; the remainder are in the negative.  Unpacking this, what are the reasons for those who are not interested?  It is very likely that this other 95% – are not not interested, but are not interested right now.  If they received something of value from your organization from time to time (perhaps every 2-3 months), this would serve the dual purpose of filling in data points/reducing risk, but also reminding them that you provide the service.  The last thing that you want is for them to have the desire to purchase perhaps 6-9-12+ months later – and for them to choose someone else only because they forgot about you.

A nurture email series is written as a Direct email – eg one-to-one – but it is only sent out after the stimulus event.  Unlike Direct emails, however, the sending of a nurture email can be automated.  Pros:  Maintains a connection, and when well-written, highly relevant.  Cons:  Tougher to write, as they must be written to be relevant to all potential recipients.  Investment in technology.

This week’s action plan:  Three key questions if you are considering Sequence emails: What is the stimulus, what is the goal of the nurture email sequence, and what is the “off-ramp” call-to-action for people to self-identify as ready to transact.  You’re likely already doing Direct and Broadcast emails.  This week, consider how you might integrate Sequence emails into the mix.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

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Randall has been advising on Digital Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of eight books, including Digital Transformation for Associations, the Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business, and Social Media for Business. He speaks and advises on Digital Transformation, Digital Trust, and Social Media. More at

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