There are two types of emails I come across in my Gmail Promotions tab. The first are ones I don’t open, immediately delete, then wonder for a moment how I regrettably wound up on this list. The second are emails that I leave as unread so I can revisit later.
It probably goes without being said that, if you’re sending automated emails, you want to be in the latter category.
Automated emails are a difficult thing to master. You want to come off personably, but you don’t want to sound like a robot that’s trying to come off as personable. I have come across some examples of automated emails that fail because they are simply trying too hard to sound like a real person. Sometimes, the best thing to do is ditch the pretense and give the people what they want.
That leads me to my first automated email example—first of five—each of which does one thing that I absolutely love.
Medium Daily Digest
Straight to the point
Every morning I get my Medium Daily Digest delivered to my inbox, and I know what to expect. There’s no attempt at cleverness up top, no personalized message to me, just stories tailored to my interests for my sweet, sweet reading pleasure.
I love this email. The individual titles are easy to read. I can skim the email in 15 seconds, bookmarking each story I want to come back to, and like that, I’m done.
Another great thing about the email is at the bottom, there’s a button if you want to change the subject matter included. If I become interested in a new topic, I can add it to my list and soon enough it’ll show up in my digest.
Of course, this isn’t a perfect email. I don’t receive the email until about 9:30 am. Sure this is a little knit-picky, but I’d much rather have these during my train ride to work rather than having to sneak steal away sometime during the workday to read the stories.
It’s also worth noting that this example is somewhat unique. Because Medium is an editorial publication, the email is the product. The email needs no preamble because it’s not trying to get you to do anything other than read the email. There’s no secondary motive. So while I love that there’s no preface before the meat of this email, I realize that isn’t going to be possible for every email.
However, the lesson remains: Get rid of unnecessary copy and get to the point of your email. Its recipients will appreciate the saved time more than a clever quip.
The Action Network Daily Email
Everything up top
The Action Network that provides content about sports gambling (no, I don’t have a problem, but the Super Bowl was not kind to me). Similar to Medium’s Daily Digest, this is an email that is all about content, but the goal is a bit different.
Their daily email provides content and insights for the sports gambler. It’s like a daily sample to get you hooked so you pay them for their premium content on the website (wait a second, maybe the gambling world is just as pernicious as people tell me).
Anyway, the email itself is good. The writing is strong and the subject matter is always relevant, but that’s not what makes this email so great. It’s the table of contents up top that I love so much.
Yes, it’s a simple concept, and they’re not exactly reinventing the wheel. But if you’re going to jam your daily automated email full of content, make it easy to navigate.
That is exactly what The Action Network has done, and I’m grateful for it. I never miss out on any content because it’s stuck all the way at the bottom of the email—no matter where in the email it is, it’s always at the very top as well.
Home Sleek Home’s Automated Follow-Up
I had never heard of Home Sleek Home until I needed some new cutting boards after absentmindedly putting my wooden ones in the dishwasher.
In fact, I bought the new cutting boards on Amazon, so I didn’t know what Home Sleek Home was until I received their automated follow-up email.
As you can see, it looks pretty simple. There’s not much to it—but that’s why it was so successful.
It actually looks like an email sent by a real person. And even though I know intellectually it’s an automated email, I still kind of believe in my heart that this wasn’t automated.
It’s bare-bones and without any fancy design, and because of that, I actually read it. And trust me, I’m not one to read emails from people I don’t recognize.
Now you’re probably wondering if I ended up leaving a review. The answer is no. I didn’t. But that’s not the fault of the email. I’ve never left a review for anything on the internet in my life, and probably won’t ever.
However, there was a part of me that was pulled to leave a review for these cutting boards. Cutting boards! That in and of itself speaks volumes to the effectiveness of this follow-up email.
Coursera Reminder Email
Keeps me coming back
I’m a big fan of MOOCs. It’s pretty incredible the amount of college-level courses you can take with just a connection to the internet. Of course the problem every MOOC struggles with is the ability to keep its students engaged and committed.
I’ve signed up for many a class, and more than once failed to finish. I’m currently taking a course through Coursera, and fell a bit behind. After a few days, I received this email.
This little nudge tactic is a great strategy if your business is one that requires consistent patronage, say a gym. These automated emails are simple, to the point, and deliver that little pang of guilt needed to keep people coming back.
Scott’s Cheap Flights
Scott’s Cheap Flights is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a guy named Scott that sends a daily email with cheap flight opportunities. Scott is just as crisp and concise in his email subject lines. His are a great example of how an automated daily email should be titled.
Unfortunately, I did not pull the trigger on this trip to Nairobi
He includes the destination of the deal and the price range. That’s it. No more no less. If it’s a destination I’m not interested or a price I don’t find alluring, I skip the email, but if it passes through those two filters I click to find out more. These subject lines accomplish exactly what an automated email subject line should accomplish.