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    10 psychological tactics to write better emails

    enJune 10, 2024

    Podcast Summary

    • Endowment EffectSmall changes, such as using the word 'earned' instead of 'eligible', can significantly impact behavior based on the endowment effect principle

      Tiny changes can have a significant impact, as demonstrated by Maya Shankar's use of the endowment effect to increase veterans' enrollment in a benefits program by 9%. Behavioral science, which underpins this concept, holds immense power in shaping behavior. Over the past decade, I've sent over half a million emails and conducted numerous experiments, and I've learned that small tweaks can lead to substantial results. For instance, changing the word "eligible" to "earned" in an email subject line can make a difference. This concept was first discovered in a 1975 study where researchers observed that people value items more when they believe they own them, a phenomenon known as the endowment effect. This insight can be applied to various aspects of life, including marketing, communication, and interpersonal relationships.

    • Scarcity PrincipleThe perception of limited availability can lead to increased sales, sign-ups, or engagement due to the sense of urgency and exclusivity it creates.

      Scarcity, or the perception of limited availability, can significantly influence consumer behavior. In the cafe study, customers bought 43% more cookies when they saw a nearly empty jar compared to a full one. This effect, known as the scarcity principle, was also demonstrated in an email marketing experiment, where a scarcity subject line led to a higher open rate and engagement. The scarcity principle works by creating a sense of urgency and exclusivity, making people more likely to act and value the offering. This principle can be applied in various marketing contexts to drive sales, increase sign-ups, or boost engagement.

    • Scarcity and Loss AversionUsing scarcity and loss aversion techniques in email marketing can significantly increase engagement and sales, with recipients who received emails with scarcity subject lines being 16% more likely to sign up and those with loss aversion subject lines being 2x more likely to respond and 5x more likely to stay on the email list.

      Using scarcity and loss aversion techniques in email marketing can significantly increase engagement and sales. The speaker conducted an experiment where those who received an email with a scarcity subject line (16% more likely to sign up) and a loss aversion subject line (2 times more likely to respond and 5 times more likely to stay on the email list) showed higher engagement compared to the control group. Scarcity creates a sense of urgency, while loss aversion taps into the fear of missing out or losing something. These psychological principles can be applied to various types of products or services, making them valuable tools for email marketers.

    • Loss aversion in email subject linesUsing loss aversion language in email subject lines can lead to significant increases in open and click-through rates, as shown by a 17% increase in opens and a 9% increase in clicks in an experiment, and a 12% increase in response rates in a study on tax letters with social proof

      Using loss aversion in subject lines of emails can lead to significant increases in open and click-through rates. The speaker, who runs a podcast, conducted an experiment by altering the subject line of an email promoting an episode. In one version, he asked listeners to "listen to this one," while in another, he warned them not to "miss this one." The loss aversion variant resulted in a 17% increase in open rates and a 9% increase in click-through rates. This simple change cost the speaker nothing but resulted in a noticeable impact. Furthermore, the British government's Behavioral Insights Team discovered a similar effect from a tiny change. They found that adding social proof to tax letters, such as "most people in your postcode pay their tax on time," led to a significant increase in response rates. This change boosted the response rate from 67% to 79%, resulting in an additional £1,000,000 in tax revenue. These examples demonstrate that small, cost-effective adjustments can lead to substantial improvements.

    • Social proof, special promotion daysAdding social proof and special promotion days to email marketing can lead to a 27% increase in open rates and a doubling of click-through rates.

      Using social proof in marketing messages can significantly increase engagement. I tested this by sending out two versions of an email promoting a podcast episode. The control group received a subject line with just the new nudge topic. The variant group received the same topic, but with added social proof in the form of download numbers. The results were impressive, with a 27% increase in open rates and a doubling of click-through rates for the variant group. This experiment demonstrates the power of social proof in encouraging people to take action. Additionally, research shows that special promotion days can also make emails more effective by making the content seem more relevant and timely. So, consider incorporating social proof and special promotion days into your email marketing strategy to boost engagement.

    • Special days in email marketingUsing special days or anniversal events in email marketing subject lines can lead to higher engagement and sales due to novelty and relevance.

      Using special days or anniversal events in email marketing subject lines can significantly boost engagement and sales. This was demonstrated in a study with a dog clothing brand, where celebrating the anniversary of their mascot dog's rescue led to a 100% increase in click-through rates and a 9% increase in open rates. In my own experiment, sending an email on International Podcast Day for a marketing course resulted in twice as many clicks and a higher open rate compared to a regular promotional email. This effect might be due to the novelty and relevance of the special day, making customers more likely to pay attention and engage with the email content. However, it's important to note that overusing this tactic might come across as tacky, so it's recommended to use it sparingly and only for truly relevant events.

    • Commitment and Consistency PrincipleAsking people to commit to a behavior increases the likelihood of them following through, even if it's not related to morality. Reminding people of their past commitments can also boost compliance rates.

      The consistency principle significantly influences human behavior. This principle suggests that people are more likely to stick to behaviors they've previously committed to. An experiment by Thomas Moriarty on a beach illustrates this principle. He asked some people to keep an eye on his radio while he went for a swim. When his radio was stolen, those who had agreed to watch it intervened 19 out of 20 times. However, when he didn't ask for help, they intervened only 4 out of 20 times. This shows that people act based on their previous commitments, not out of morality. I tested this principle in an email campaign by asking my loyal subscribers to leave a review for my podcast. In the control email, I simply asked them to leave a review. In the consistency version, I reminded them of their long-term support for the podcast before asking for a review. The open rate for the consistency version was 7% higher, supporting the idea that reminding people of their past commitments increases the likelihood of them following through on a request.

    • Communication PrinciplesSubtle modifications in communication can lead to significant results, such as the 'consistency effect' increasing engagement and the 'curiosity gap' sparking interest.

      Small changes in communication can have a significant impact on behavior. The "consistency effect" experiment demonstrated that acknowledging a person's past engagement doubled the number of reviews. Similarly, Barack Obama's successful fundraising email campaign utilized the "curiosity gap" to spark interest and increase open rates. These examples illustrate how subtle modifications can lead to substantial results. In the world of marketing and communication, it's essential to understand the psychological principles that influence people's actions and use them effectively. In the case of the "consistency effect," recognizing and appreciating people's past engagement creates a sense of belonging and encourages them to take further action. Meanwhile, the "curiosity gap" taps into our natural curiosity and makes us more likely to engage with a message. By applying these insights, communicators can optimize their messages and campaigns to better resonate with their audience and drive desired outcomes.

    • Email strategy improvementsImplementing curiosity gap, social proof, and loss aversion in email strategies can significantly boost open rates and engagement by up to 7% and 41% respectively. AB testing is recommended to determine effectiveness.

      Small changes to your email strategy, such as implementing the curiosity gap or utilizing psychological nudges like social proof and loss aversion, can significantly improve your email open rates and engagement. These tactics, which include the use of intriguing subject lines and persuasive messaging, have been proven effective in various studies and can be easily tested through AB experiments. For instance, the curiosity gap, as demonstrated by the example of a "Jose Mourinho on nudge?" subject line, can increase open rates by 7% and boost listeners from emails by 41%. Other psychological nudges, such as social proof and consistency, have also shown positive results. However, it's important to remember that not all experiments will yield successful results. But given the low cost and potential high reward, it's worth giving these strategies a try. Beyond email, there are numerous other tactics to persuade and convince someone, many of which can be applied to email marketing. For those interested in learning more, there is a free 3-part email course available that covers 9 different studies on persuasion and how to apply them to email marketing. Sign up by clicking the link in the show notes and entering your email address to receive the video lessons and tips over the course of 3 days.

    • Learning, growthContinually expanding knowledge and skills is essential for personal and professional growth. Prioritize learning and seek out new opportunities.

      Learning from our discussion today is the importance of staying engaged and committed to personal and professional growth. Whether it's through attending courses or listening to podcasts like Nudge, continually expanding your knowledge and skills is essential. I encourage everyone to make a conscious effort to prioritize learning and seek out new opportunities to grow. Additionally, I wanted to express my gratitude to all of you who have tuned in to Nudge. Your support and engagement mean the world to me, and I'm always here to answer any questions or provide guidance as best I can. So whether we connect on the course or through future episodes of Nudge, I look forward to continuing this learning journey together. In summary, never underestimate the power of learning and the impact it can have on your life. Stay committed, stay curious, and never stop growing. Thank you for joining me on this episode of Nudge, and I'll see you all next time.

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