I get too many marketing emails.

And by this I don’t mean emails that are marketing-based…

I mean emails FROM marketers… that tell me how to do marketing.

It’s not that they don’t have good points to make.

And it’s not that I know it all.

Far from it…

The Internet landscape is constantly shifting and transforming, and you and I both need to keep up.

It’s just that I get so many of these things, I’m becoming overloaded and bored with marketing advice from marketers whose business is solely based on marketing to marketers.

They all TELL you what you should do.

But I think it’s better to SHOW you what’s possible for your online business.

Recently I’ve been finding it much more inspiring (and educational) to look at emails from regular businesses: food and drink companies, movie websites, local shops, charities…

Here’s an email I got last month from Innocent smoothies.

It uses 4 proven techniques that you can try in your own email marketing.

I really love the third technique – it taps into something quite primal.

First let’s look at the email and then I’ll explain what it is they’re doing, so that you can do the same.

This email newsletter was sent on 10 February and it opens like this…

Technique #1 – Capitalise on Special Occasions

The worldwide web was supposed to be a brave new world, where time and location was of no consequence. And yet people’s online spending behaviour is still heavily influenced by the old fashioned calendar.

Special occasions are fast becoming one of the most powerful sales-drivers for online businesses. Birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Bank Holiday weekends…

If you can target promotions to these special days, you could see a huge uplift in your sales.

Here are some tips…

• If you currently have an email list of prospects, special calendar events are a great opportunity to send out a sales message with a one-off discount, special offer, clearance sale, or limited time-frame opportunity.

• Think about the sorts of occasions that might inspire people to buy one of your products or services. As well as the usual holidays there are special events like Royal weddings, The World Cup, The Olympics, The 6 Nations, Commonwealth Games, saints’ days and so on.

• Consider giving something away for free, or at a very low price, on special occasions, in order to build a qualified list of prospects.

• What matters most to your target customer? Think about the times of year when they’re most likely to be in the mood for buying. For instance, diet products sell well in January’s ‘detox’ season… big sporting occasions are ideal for betting products… Valentine’s Day could be a draw for food-and-drink lovers looking to book restaurants or buy chocolates.

• Try and link the offer to the mood of the occasion: “In celebration of the longest day of the year, we are offering you this discount on our holidays.” Or “To help you get through Blue Monday – officially the most depressing day of the year – you can get our ebooks at half price”.

• Use existing data – if you know specific information about your customers and can target them with special offers according to when they buy, or special days that matter to them, then do so! For instance, you might know when your customers have their birthdays, in which case you can send personalised messages to them with special deals.

Okay, so next up in this Innocent email is another special-occasion-based piece, but this time it’s the anniversary of the Rainforest Alliance.

Technique #2 – Cause Marketing

Cause-based marketing is where you champion an idea that your target audience can rally behind.

It could be a political idea, a social justice issue, an anti-authoritarian struggle, defence of an underdog, a trumpeting of a certain value or attitude, a rally cry for people with a similar mind-set, or an attack on a common enemy.

The idea is that you link yourself and your business to a cause that inspires and motivates your target audience.

In this case Innocent are championing the rights of rainforest workers. They then link to a film that shows their own ethical sourcing techniques.

Okay, so here’s what comes up next in the Innocent email…

Technique #3 – Tell human stories

The email tells an unusual story about man who became a bodybuilder at 87 then a world record holder in five athletics events in the 95+ bracket.

Why have Innocent done this?

Quite simply, stories sell.

Stories activate an area of the brain called the ‘insula’.

Pioneering neuroscientist Antonio Damasio was the first to show that our rational thinking was driven by emotions forged in the insula.

It’s this part of the brain that gives you impulses to drink alcohol, smoke a cigarette, or chomp into a bacon sandwich, even when your rational mind wants to do otherwise.

So stories tap into deep emotional experiences and unleash impulses in the reader that are addictive, making them want more.

They’ll feel emotionally connected to you… more trusting… and more compelled to click on a link, subscribe or open up your next email message.

The story about the 95-year-old athlete isn’t linked directly to Innocent… they’re not saying he is fit and healthy because he drinks fruit smoothies…

But what they’re doing is branding their business as something fun, inspirational, optimistic and life-enhancing.

And all it takes is a simple human-interest story.

So ask yourself, what story can you tell in your next email?

Here are some ideas for you…

• An anecdotal example of someone you know who is struggling with a problem or overcoming adversity.

• Inspirational people from history or the news who have faced challenges and achieved remarkable goals.

• Bizarre ‘strange but true’ stories that you’ve seen in the media.

• Real-life case studies of customers (trials, results, how your products and services changed or helped them).

In fact, this works so well that the Innocent newsletter does it again by sharing this customer’s story.

Technique #4 – Social Proof

This is an example of storytelling combined with the power of social proof.

Here were have a real person, in a real photograph, who loves the product and used it to cheer up a poorly friend.

This is really powerful…

We tend to trust a business when we can see that other people are using, and benefiting from, their products and services.

As much as possible, share customers’ stories and feedback. When someone sends you an email with a question or a story, include it in your next newsletter – even better, ask that person if you can use their full name and if they could send in a picture (offer a free gift, discount or product samples in return).

If you have a Facebook community page, forum or testimonial page, try and link to it occasionally, or share some of the latest comments in your email.

Try one or ALL of these techniques and see what happens

In just one email, Innocent have used 4 powerful techniques for email marketing without it coming across as cynical and manipulative.

And this is why I love digging out examples like this and sharing them with you.

I want you to see REAL case studies from bona fide businesses that use email marketing in fantastic ways.

By all means, study the emails of email marketers…

But more importantly, find businesses like yours that are sending interesting, lively, engaging and unique emails to their prospects…

…and then get inspiration from some of their best tricks!

I’d highly recommend trying at least one of these in your next email bulletin and measuring the response.