Email Marketing: The Sell-Through Process

Email marketing is simple, right?  You get email addresses from your customers, and you send them emails. How hard could it be? The truth is, it doesn’t need to be that hard. To truly succeed, though, you need to understand that an email is not a simple object.  An email is made up of  several important pieces, each of which has a role to play.

Think about how you read email. You open your inbox. You  scan over the available new emails. You decide which you want to read first. Then, you decide what you want to read of the emails left unread. Once you’ve read those, you probably delete the rest. It’s a process.

Before the reader ever opens your message for reading, they see two to four key pieces of information.  These are your email address, your “from name,” the subject line, and the sub-header. Each of these components working together can convince the reader of the importance of your message. Success means your email is opened.  Failure means it is deleted unread.

Usually the readers will see the from name and the subject line. They may, though, see the from email address and no from name.  The from name may not be as you expect if the reader has added you to their address book.  The address book  entry will override your from name.  This is why I received emails for months from “Assasins Creed” which were actually giving news about other games.  The from name in that campaign changed depending on the game being discussed, but my address book entry had it frozen in time.

That’s why your subject line should carry on your branding. Your from address/from name branding may break.  Plan for it.

The subheader is something fairly new in email marketing. Some email clients include the first line of your message body in the inbox, to help you identify important messages. Use the first line of your message to build on your branding and sell the reader on opening.

The inbox is the first step of what I call the “Sell-Through Process.” When the reader is in the inbox, you’re advertising the message body.  It’s all about getting the reader to open your message.  If they don’t open, the message fails.  If they do open, the message succeeds.  Help them understand why they need to see your message.

Step two is your actual message body. This step is selling your call to action.  What’s the call to action in your message? Is it to visit your website? Do you want them to make a phone call? Do you want them to visit your business location?  Whatever it is you want the reader to do when they read your message is your call to action. Your message should be focused on this call to action, and convincing the reader to take the action you wish.

You don’t want to be pushy. In fact, it’s helpful to defer the sales pitch in favor of helpful hints, or other useful information. If you’re focusing on a product, perhaps you might have a short article about an amazingly way the product could be used by the reader. If it is all sales, your readership will shrink over time.  If it’s useful information plus a sales pitch, the info will win the day for you.

Remember, though, this is Step 2. It’s all about moving them to step 3.

Step 3 is what happens after they’ve read the email.  If they follow a link to your page, it needs to be a GOOD page. Create a landing page for your product, service, business, book, or whatever it is you’re selling.

Keep these steps in mind as you create your message. They’ll help you succeed in your  email marketing efforts.


  • Step 1 The inbox view sells the message body.
  • Step 2 The message body sells the landing page, phone call, or visit.
  • Step 3 Wherever the reader lands, give them a welcoming place to be.

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