Insanely Effective Email Tactics: Nancy Harhut on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

Effective marketing is a mix of art and science, but with the data available today on clickthrough and open rates, email marketing is heavier on science than ever before. Certain words in your subject line routinely achieve better results, and certain phrases in your copy consistently move people to take action. With the benefit of “decision science” (the study of mental shortcuts people use to make decisions), you can dramatically improve your email marketing results.

B2B Marketing Forum speaker Nancy Harhut has won more than 200 awards for direct marketing effectiveness. She’s held creative roles at Hill Holliday, Mullen, and Bronner (now Digitas), and worked with clients such as Dell, IBM, Novartis, Bank of America, AT&T, American Express, Sheraton, and GM, among others. 

In short, she knows more than enough about decision science to completely turn your email marketing around, and she’s ready to dish!

I invited Nancy to Marketing Smarts to share a sneak preview of her MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2017 presentation “9 Insanely Effective Email Tactics You Can Use Tomorrow.” But why wait? You can start in 30 minutes, as soon as you’re done listening to this podcast!

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:


Explain why people should complete your call to action (and be sure you use the word “because”) (09:20): “I read this piece of research that came out of Harvard University about the word ‘because’ being a compliance trigger, which is a fancy term for a word that makes people say yes or comply or do what you ask them to do. What social scientists have found is people are more likely to do what you ask them to do if you give them a reason why.

“But the Harvard research isolated and identified the word ‘because’ as a compliance trigger, so when we see or hear the word ‘because,’ we are so used to what follows being a good, logical, legitimate reason that we just say ‘yes’ without fully processing what comes next.

“What that means to a marketer is two things: You should always give that reason why you’re asking someone to do what you’re asking them to do, but more importantly, what it means is that that reason doesn’t always have to be this ironclad, bulletproof reason.

“There was a time when marketers could rely on their unique selling propositions, but these days it’s harder and harder to find them. Companies have a lot of competition… and it’s hard to stand out, but providing that reason why will help you. And that reason why doesn’t have to be based on a unique selilng proposition.

“It could be something as simple as ‘because we think this would be helpful to you,’ ‘because we think you might be interested in something like this,’ ‘because you’re the kind of person who would benefit from knowing X.’ Just that word ‘because,’ because it produces that automatic, instict to comply, can actually work in your favor.”

Two simple approaches consistently get people to respond to your emails more quickly (17:19): “There are actually two ways to get a really fast response or a faster than usual response and they both involve the use of the principle of scarcity. Simply put, we can define scarcity as ‘people want what they can’t have.’ If there’s something that’s readily available, we may or may not be interested…but just let someone know that that certain something is only going to be available to a particular group of people or it’s only going to be available for a certain amount of time, that can literally change everything. It’s like a switch flips in us, and it makes us want that item and want it badly.

“Social scientists refer to this as the ‘principle of scarcity’ and there are two halves to it: urgency and exclusivity. Urgency would be it’s only available in limited quantities or for a limited amount of time. Exclusivity would be it’s only available to certain people. The Email Institute ran a study and they found that you can get a 22% lift in your open rates by using the principle of scarcity—some form of urgency or exclusivity—in your subject lines.”

B2B email marketers can get a 39% lift by incorporating scarcity into their email subject lines (20:25) “World Data drilled down a little bit deeper specifically with respect to B2B marketers and analyzed 4 or 5 billion emails. They found that you can get a 39% lift in open rates by using urgency. So flash sales and early bird specials, ‘today only,’ ‘last chance,’ ‘final notice,’ ‘only X remaining’—those are all really powerful constructs for email marketers to use.”

To learn more, follow Nancy on Twitter @nharhut and register now to attend the MarketingProfs B2B Forum to see her speak!

Nancy and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

This episode brought to you by Kabbage:

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

This marketing podcast was created and published by MarketingProfs.

Kerry O’Shea Gorgone is director of product strategy, training, at MarketingProfs. She’s also a speaker, writer, attorney, and educator. She hosts and produces the weekly Marketing Smarts podcast. To contact Kerry about being a guest on Marketing Smarts, send her an email. You can also find her on Twitter (@KerryGorgone) and her personal blog.

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