Past the Pop-Up: 10 Email Marketing Tactics You've Never Tried

Danny Schreiber
Danny Schreiber / Published July 1, 2014

Search Google for "email marketing tactics" and you get pages and pages of posts showing how to use pop-ups, sidebar sign-up forms and giveaways to grow your email list. This is not one of those posts.

Instead, we've dug far and wide to find the email marketing strategies that are just plain brilliant, ones we wished we'd thought of ourselves.

1. Get Email List Sign-Ups Right on

Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover keeps an active Twitter search to spot tweets sharing his writing across the web (he does so by searching for the URL of each post). When he sees such a tweet, he's replies to the individual with a personalized note of thanks. Such as, "Thanks for sharing, Grant :)" But he doesn't stop there.

If that individual replies again, Ryan sends this follow up:

thanks! Btw, if you’re interested, you can subscribe to my blog at

The link,, is Twitter's Lead Generation Cards, a feature available to advertisers on Twitter—or in other words, anyone who enters their credit card at

"By simply including a link within my tweet, the card is embedded, giving users the ability to subscribe to my email list with a single click. It’s beautifully simple," Ryan writes on his blog.

Ryan Hoover's Twitter card hack

Ryan's conversion rate after a few weeks: 60-80%

Here's why he thinks it works:

  • They’re primed. They have already shown an interest in my writing and the small sign of personal, human interaction (e.g. “@grantwebster thanks for sharing, Grant! :)”) compels people to reciprocate.
  • It’s damn easy. With a single click, they’re subscribed. They don’t even need to verify their email address. By reducing friction, conversion increase.

This method is neither quick nor automated for the marketer, Ryan admits, but it is effective. If you're strapped for time it might not be the method for you—in fact, since Product Hunt started taking off, Ryan himself has halted sending these manual reply tweets. Though you'll still find folks like Gary Vaynerchuk, Benedict Evans and Paul Jarvis from using this hack, though they've simply shared it in their main Twitter stream.

Gary Vaynerchuck

Campaign Monitor published a post and tutorial on this technique, too, after seeing use of it by Ryan, Adii Pienaar and Cabel Sasser. And MailChimp offers a tutorial on setting up Twitter cards with their software, as well.

Tip: Use a tool like TextExpander to quickly paste the Twitter card URL with a customer shortcut.

Tip: Check out Sharetally, too, for a quick search of your content's URL shared across the web.

2. Use the Author Byline to Prompt Sign-Ups

James Clear is a prolific blogger whose biweekly posts on health and productivity have more than 70,000 subscribers. If you want to join that group, you can find a clear sign-up form on James' homepage and blog index page. But what if you stumble upon a single post? There, you won't find a sign-up form above the fold. Instead, you'll find an extremely well-placed prompt: "Get free updates of new posts here."

James Clear's byline sign-up prompt

"One of the most widely seen areas of any blog is that little line of text 'the byline' at the top of every blog article," marketer Bryan Harris of VideoFruit writes on "The one that says who the post was written by."

After discovering the tactic on James' blog, Bryan was determined to add it to his site, as well. A Google search on the tactic, however, didn't result in finding a WordPress plugin or even a tutorial on how to set it up yourself. So Bryan found a solution by working with WP Curve, a team of WordPress support experts, who he's relied on to make the design tweak to his blog. He explains this technique in detail in a video on his site (tune to 9:55).

Bryan Harris' byline sign-up prompt

"With my byline opt-ins, I'm getting around a 0.6% opt-in rate of everybody that sees it," Bryan says in the video tutorial. "So it's not going to a be a massive boost, but a lot of these little things add up over time to make a big difference."

Visit to read more email marketing tips from Bryan Harris.

3. Link to a Pre-Written Email to Increase Referrals

AppSumo founder Noah Kagan, who ran marketing in's early days, is instructing a free 12-week summer course to share some of his best tips and tricks. His first: the "Samuel L. Jackson Marketing Hack".

Named for the fact that people "are lazy mofos," Noah writes on his blog, this trick makes it incredibly easy for individuals to refer their friends to your product, newsletter or content.

Instead of encouraging recipients to forward the email to their friends or share it on social media, create a templated email that they can access with the click of a "quick email" link.

Here's the lead-in to Noah's link:

quick email link

And here's what happens when I click that link:

quick email link click

All that's left is for me to add is my friend's email address.

"The easier you make it for someone to take an action, the more likely they are to take it," Noah writes on his blog. In an email to course subscribers, he noted that this trick "has been insanely effective at helping register nearly 10,000 people."

So how does Noah do it? He uses an expanded "mailto:" link, adding the subject and body to it. Here's what his looked like:


If that makes you dizzy—it does for me—don't worry, Noah takes you through the set up process step-by-step in blog post and video tutorial.

Tip: Sign up for Noah's free 12-week Summer of Marketing course (if you don't get in, email me!).

4. Turn Your Homepage into a Sign-Up Form

Speaking of Noah Kagan, if you've ever visited his blog,, you'll see he masterfully uses this technique, too. Instead of bringing visitors right to your blog, deliver a homepage with the clear call to action to subscribe to your email list and a link below to get to your blog.

Noah Kagan homepage sign-up form

"I just pulled up Google Analytics for my blog, and it looks like my homepage is the third most popular page for this last month," Jeff Bullas writes on his site. "That means my blog’s homepage gets as many visitors as my most popular posts!"

Jeff, a social media author and blogger, points to another marketer's blog as evidence of this technique's effectiveness.

"Andrew Chen, a Silicon Valley marketing genius, realized this opportunity years ago, and he transformed his blog homepage into a massive email form plus an introduction to his most valuable posts," he writes.

Andrew Chen homepage sign-up form

Over on OkDork, Noah writes that implementing the homepage sign-up form on his site doubled his blog sign-ups—for every 100 visitors, 14 sign-up for his email list. This isn't a wall, though, a "Read the Blog" link still exists, allowing visitors to skip the sign-up and get immediate access to the content.

To implement this yourself, Noah provides a WordPress plugin that he says was invented by Andrew and created by SEO expert Donnie Cooper.

5. Always Be Useful

This next piece of advice comes from Ben Chestnut, the co-founder of the email marketing software MailChimp. As expected, Ben has a wealth of email marketing knowledge, but among the tips he shared last year was a small nugget that's easy to overlook when penning an email campaign: always be useful.

"We try to include something useful in every email," he writes on the MailChimp blog. "If the announcement was totally useless, let’s at least give the recipient a case study, or something educational (even if it points to some other resource)."

In the post, Ben is dissecting his edits on a recent email campaign that announced Gather, an SMS app for event organizers. Though a fresh case study or exclusive resource would have been ideal to offer recipients, MailChimp didn't have either handy. But they did have blog post from four months ago that told about an agency that uses MailChimp's geo targeting feature to help them with their events. Since the email was targeted at event organizers, this piece of content could be valuable to them, albeit not directly related to Gather.

The bigger lesson, Ben writes, "always be blogging."

6. Add New Users, Purchasers to Your Email List

When someone signs up to use BillCutterz, a bill negotiation service, the registration form asks if they'd like to be kept "updated with money saving tips." Checking that box adds the new customer's email address to the company's newsletter. Obvious, huh?

What's not seen, however, is that BillCutterz uses Wufoo for its form and MailChimp for its email campaigns. Natively, the two don't talk to each other, but with the help of Zapier, every new form with the checkbox marked, the new customer is added to the email list.

BillCutterz's vice president Sydney Alcala set up the integration on Zapier without the need for any of her technical skills, and she's not the only marketer taking advantage of the convenience. Paul Jarvis, a web designer and author, uses Zapier to hook up Gumroad—the app he uses to sell ebook downloads—with MailChimp.

Whether it's a form builder, ecommerce tool or CRM app or an email service other than MailChimp, odds are integration with it is available on Zapier.

7. Remind Subscribers of Your Service

When the Zapier co-founders launched the first version of the product in early 2012, less than a half-year after founding the startup, it sent an email to its entire user base. What happened next yielded an email marketing tip that we still make use of today.

In our CEO's inbox came a reply from Ramit Sethi, author of the New York Times bestseller I Will Teach You To Be Rich.

Hey guys,

Quick suggestion.

I have no idea what Zapier does. I don't know when I signed up for it. When you're sending out an email, please refresh everyone as to what you actually do.

Chances are a lot of your users signed up – like me – just to see what you do / how it works. And months later, we don't remember.


When I read this, I think, "Of course!" As I fall right in line with Ramit—I'm signing up for services left and right in order to actually see a product versus perusing their marketing pages. This leaves me with product update emails where I too am clueless about the product.

We've taken Ramit's advice and have implemented a product reminder message in every all-user email we send.

Here's the screenshot linked in Amy's tweet:

reminder of service in email

Though I must admit, we've tweaked it slightly. Instead of including the product reminder to the full user base, it only appears in the inboxes of Zapier users who haven't logged-in in the last 60 days and who don't have any live Zaps (integrations).

Tip: Fork our Django code on GitHub for our custom-built email drip system.

8. Re-Engage Inactive Subscribers

Beyond the brief reminder that starts a longer email, why not send a targeted message specifically to inactive users? Buffer content crafter Kevan Lee encourages just this in a blog post that offers eight research-backed email marketing strategies.

"Research has found that the average inactivity for a list is 63 percent, meaning that once someone joins they are less likely to ever follow-up with your follow-up emails," Kevan writes. "Email marketing firm Listrak goes so far as to identify the first 90 days as the window for turning a sign-up into a devotee."

That stat explains Ramit's disconnect to Zapier—he signed up for the service more than 90 days before we excitedly sent him an email about product updates.

Instead of trying to communicate with your whole user base, direct a re-engagement email at those who haven't used your service for more than 60 days. Kevan offers an example of such an email from Digg, which contained the clever subject, "This Is Not An Email From 2006."

Digg re-engagement email

Visit the Buffer blog to see seven more effective email marketing strategies backed by science.

9. Ask Readers to Unsubscribe

There are brief product reminders, full-on user re-engagement emails and then there are emails that actually encourage the reader to unsubscribe from the email list. Ludicrous! Right? Not so says marketing consultant D Bnonn Tennant.

"What happens when you biff poor prospects is your overall list quality goes up," Bnonn writes on the Unbounce blog. "So your open rates, click rates, and ultimately your conversion rates increase—at the expense of your unsubscribe rate. That’s a good trade."

Better-looking stats on the other end isn't the full picture. There's an even more attractive reason to send these unintuitive unsubscribe emails than the trimming down of your email list.

"If you biff lousy prospects in the right way," Bnoon writes, "you simultaneously improve the quality of good prospects."

He goes about this technique by early on asking subscribers if he emails too often.

Do I email you too often?
You may have noticed by now that I email you just about every day.

If that’s too much, I understand. What I say, and how often I say it, ain’t for everyone.

So I just want to let you know it’s okay to unsubscribe. If you’re having trouble keeping up with my emails, or you’re just sick of getting them, I’d actually prefer you to unsubscribe — which you can do simply by clicking here:

That's not the whole email though, it goes on to include Bnonn's signature and a very important postscript (the MailChimp co-founder isn't the only one making the most of a P.S.).

PS. If you’re surprised that I’d send an email like this, you should probably check out the back-issue of the Shirtsleeves Marketing Communiqué entitled “The 6 Ballsy Email Marketing Techniques Smart Entrepreneurs Use To DOMINATE…While Competitors Struggle To Even Keep Their Heads Up”.

In it, I explain why you should not fear a high unsubscribe rate — indeed, why it is a sign of a healthy, money-making email marketing strategy. You can grab it here:

"I get a 38.9% open rate on this email, and a 15.4% click rate," Bnonn writes, noting he alerted his email marketing service before sending this email so an increase in unsubscribes didn't send any red flags. "But my unsubscribe rate is only 5.8%—so nearly 10% of people are clicking the offer link, not the unsubscribe link!"

With a bit of smart copywriting, Bnonn is asking those disinterested in his offering to leave, and those who are interested but might not have shown it in the past, to get re-engaged.

"In other words, I’m making them re-qualify for my list—thus consciously reinforcing my value in their eyes," he writes.

Bnonn also takes this strategy into his own hands, too—literally. He'll manually send the following email to subscribers he sees haven't opened any recent campaigns.

Should I remove you from this email list?

Not being snarky — but my mail system tells me you haven’t opened any of my emails for a while.

If you’re not reading them, there’s not much point getting them (unless you just like collecting emails or something…but honestly, that’s kinda weird isn’t it?)

So if you want to unsubscribe, just click here:

Around 50% of the people who receive this email unsubscribe, but again, that's not the full story. Bnonn also has people write back anxious because they've either been reading his emails and have fallen victim to poor tracking or they're stockpiling his notes for a rainy day.

"These kinds of responses confirm what I’ve been saying about the power of making people re-qualify themselves," he writes. "By asking them to leave, I make them choose. Either they agree that I’m not giving them what they want, or they don’t—in which case they are consciously reinforcing my value to themselves."

Visit Bnonn's Unbounce blog post for more tips on asking readers to unsubscribe.

10. Use a Friendly Reply Email Address

When your recipient opens your email, make sure you've taken this next tip from Storenvy to let the reader knows there's a friendly human on the other side. Instead of the all too common "" email address, be clever about the name. Storenvy uses "" (I replied!) and others, like Buffer and Kissmetrics, use the author or founder's email address.

Storenvy please reply

Though a small aspect of the overall campaign, this little detail will delight customers.

What Email Marketing Strategy Works Best for You?

If you've found a relatively unknown email marketing tactic that's worked well for you, please tell about it or link it up in the comments below.

You might also enjoy this article: "The Surprising Way One Startup Increased Email Click-Through Rates By 300%".

Credits: Skydive photo courtesy John P. via Flickr

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