The Psychological Hierarchy of the Email Campaign

  |  May 1, 2014   |  Comments

How email marketers and subscribers can deliver a win-win message every time.

The relationship between the email marketer and the email subscriber is an unspoken alliance, and also a source of constant tension and potential. The email marketer owes her job, database, and likely revenue to the subscriber who provides permission in exchange for (hopefully) special offers, content, and respect and relevancy. The email marketer often loses sight of this invaluable permission during the march to some interdepartmental meeting or shared goal.

Too often the email program becomes focused on the business objective and loses sight of the email subscriber. Without her, the email program is worth nothing. It is just an ad buy to eyeballs versus a targeted message to people who asked for targeted messages. That's the secret sauce of email, and once you lose sight of it you head down a slippery slope.

Where the challenge needs to meet the reality is evidenced in this graphic created by my talented colleague.


Each of these stages on both sides of the aisle are key - B2C, B2B, marketing automation, or batch-and-blast. It's the DNA to a successful email program, so let's review the path to success and inbox delight.

The Inbox

Your first chance to get noticed is often driven by your from line or maybe subject line. A busy consumer may be more on the lookout of what to delete or save for later. Mobile compounds this, so if you don't stand out you likely won't get read.


While there is brand awareness level and the power of a delayed purchase due to email, you want your email to be read and opened. Duh! Subscribers likely will scan your message that might have taken weeks to craft in mere seconds. The key is to make it clear what the value is for the subscriber, not your marketing goals.


Moving up the pyramid and into subscribers' psyche, the email needs to win their attention and gain their expressed action - in many cases a click. A subscriber is demonstrating their intent and that's a significant goal of any marketer. If the call-to-action is buried, not mobile-friendly, or lacks clarity, you will lose this opportunity. Make it easy and the path clear.


We aim to not just convert our subscribers but often surprise and delight them. An email subscriber is a VIP by virtue of providing permission, but many marketers fail to deliver the goods. Whether a special offer, unique content, or just something cool (and on brand), add something to close the deal and further incent the subscriber not only to buy but possibly to share her advocacy for your brand, service, or product.

A perfect email is often elusive but making sure your message lines up with these components and subscriber psychology is essential in today's crowed inbox. Your subscribers have let you in to this coveted space so make the most of it!

This column was originally published August 22, 2013.


Simms Jenkins

Simms Jenkins is CEO of BrightWave Marketing, North America's leading email marketing-focused digital agency. The award-winning firm specializes in elevating email marketing and digital messaging programs that drive revenue, cut costs, and build relationships. Jenkins has led BrightWave Marketing in establishing a world-class client list including Affiliated Computer Service (A Xerox Company), Chick-fil-A, Cox Business, Phillips66, Porsche, and Southern Company. The agency was recently ranked among the fastest growing private companies by Inc. Magazine.

Jenkins was awarded the prestigious AMY 2010 Marketer of the Year from the American Marketing Association for being the top agency marketer and the Email Marketer of the Year at the Tech Marketing Awards held by the Technology Association of Georgia. Jenkins is regarded as one of the leading experts in the email marketing industry and is regularly cited by the media as such and called upon by the financial community to provide market insight and consulting.

Jenkins is the author of two definitive and highly regarded books on email marketing; The New Inbox (published in April 2013 by ClickZ/Incisive Media) and The Truth About Email Marketing (published by Pearson's Financial Times Press in 2008). Jenkins is currently the Email Marketing Best Practices Columnist for ClickZ, the largest resource of interactive marketing news and commentary in the world, online or off. His industry articles have been called one of the top 21 information sources for email marketers.

He has been featured in Fortune Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Adweek, Bloomberg TV, Wired Magazine, and scores of other leading publications and media outlets. Jenkins is a regular speaker at major digital industry and general business conferences.

Additionally, Jenkins is the creator of and, the leading authorities on email and social media metrics. Prior to founding BrightWave Marketing, Jenkins headed the CRM group at Cox Interactive Media.

Jenkins serves on the eMarketing Association's Board of Advisors among other civic and professional boards. He is also a mentor at Flashpoint, a Georgia Tech-based startup accelerator program. Jenkins is a graduate of Denison University in Granville, Ohio and resides in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood with his wife and three children.

Follow and connect with Simms on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, The BrightWave Blog, and his book websites at and

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