How do you know what they want, what they really, really want?

90’s music references aside, how do you know what types of emails people want?

Emails are a marketer’s best friend. According to MarketingSherpa, 61% of consumers enjoy getting promotional emails weekly (and 38% would like emails even more frequently).

And you can tell what types of emails they want based on who they are (and what they do).

If they…

  • Browse around, grab a cart and then bail: trigger an abandoned cart email
  • Just subscribed to your list: send a welcome email
  • Have been a long-time loyal customer: send an anniversary email

“That seems like a lot of emails. Do I really need multiple campaigns?”

(Note: This article is about standalone emails – you can learn more about email automation and email funnels here)

Yeah, you do. Because…

  • Your email list isn’t all the same types of people
  • Not everyone on your email list will open every email marketing campaign
  • Promotional emails are different from lead nurturing emails, which are different from transactional emails, which are different from announcement emails
  • A series of emails is one of the best ways to sell – but it serves a really different purpose from your newsletter emails
  • Email is the best way to reach existing customers – whether you want to send a piece of content, a special offer, or a call to action to a totally new product

Here are the top 10 types of emails to send your customers:

  1. Newsletter emails
  2. Special offer emails
  3. Milestone emails
  4. Review request emails
  5. Welcome emails
  6. Curated content emails
  7. New product announcement emails
  8. Abandoned cart emails
  9. Progress emails
  10. Confirmation emails

1. Newsletter email

True or False: You should send a newsletter email.


According to a survey by research firm Nielsen Norman Group, 90% of people prefer to receive company updates via email (10% prefer social media).
Newsletter emails help you:

  • Build a relationship with customers
  • Inform customers of company and industry news
  • Reinforce your brand’s reputation
  • Increase visibility for the brand and its products
  • Send out your latest content (like a blog newsletter)

Here’s what a great newsletter looks like, courtesy of Fitbit.

Biggest takeaway:

  • The newsletter gives extra lifetime value beyond the product itself

This monthly newsletter gives you content that targets the things you would use a FitBit to help with.

  • Feeling good
  • Eating well
  • Hitting your fitness goals

All of this supports a core message – you know FitBit has products to track your health.
Only at the end of the email is there a direct mention of the product.
The content of this newsletter isn’t telling FitBit subscribers “love our brand.” It’s telling them “here’s how to love yourself.” And it ends on a CTA helping them get what they need to do it.

2. Special offer emails

Offer emails (also called promotional emails) include discounts, coupons, or other special deals that VIP subscribers get as a “thank-you”.

I’m a fan of comfortable shoes that last for years, something the classic brand Keds knows well. Here’s an example of an email they sent exclusively to customers like me.
This is the subject line:

Oooh, a secret? Tell me everything.

This is the email content:

Biggest takeaway:

  • Targeting the idea of exclusivity

Not to “discount” the discount (because of course we all love getting those), but the biggest takeaway from this offer email is the targeting.

One of Robert Cialdini’s persuasion techniques is scarcity, which means making things exclusive or only available for a limited time. It’s a natural reaction to think that something is worth having because only so many people can actually get it.

Making an offer exclusively available to VIP customers makes it infinitely more appealing (and you’d better believe I bought some shoes).

The goal of these promotional emails is simple – promote something. Even simpler – sell something

You can make your promotional emails more effective by:

  • Using exactly one email call to action
  • Creating a mouthwatering email subject line
  • Segmenting what you send to existing customers
  • Making sure you keep your email deliverability high
  • Optimizing the little things – like your email from name and preheader text

3. Milestone emails

A milestone email that celebrates a victory can help your readers feel special.
The Skimm is a current events newsletter aimed at millennial women. See what makes their 5-year milestone thank-you email a success.

Biggest takeaway:

  • They are specific about what they are thankful for

The Skimm is thankful for your help reaching this milestone, but they don’t just say it – they show it.
Anyone can give a blanket thank-you in a milestone email, but The Skimm takes you on a journey to show you exactly how your subscription benefits you and them.
Plus, they use numbers. Numbers are concrete, indisputable proof that the time spent engaging with a brand was worth it. You put in the time, they noticed, and they are able to keep going because of subscribers like you.

4. Review request email

Research shows that 91% of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews – and 84% trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

In other words, you must have reviews for your brand.
Asking for a review is the best way to get to know your audience. And the more you know them, the better you know what emails to send them.

Here’s what one really great review can accomplish:

  • Confidence in your brand
  • You learn about customer pain points
  • You find out what product or service gaps you can fill

68% of customers form their opinion of your product after reading between one and six online reviews.
Don’t have 1-6 online reviews? Time to send some emails.
LOFT is a popular women’s clothing retailer (whose website I frequent regularly). The one thing I always do is check reviews for sizing caveats and other wearing experiences.
And they know just what to say in their review request to get that info for me.
The following review request email example from LOFT is perfect from the subject line down to the content.

$1,000….that’s not a typo??

A $1000 just for my thoughts? You sure know how to make a girl say HECK YES.

Biggest takeaway:

  • The subject line incentive – give a little, get a lot

I love this subject line for two reasons:

  1. What it’s offering
  2. How it offers it

I’m a frequent LOFT shopper (definitely more than I should be on a budget) and, of course, I want a chance to get some free money. But what’s even better about this is the copy offering it.
1,000 is a big number.
One thousand. Say it out loud. It feels good, right?
It stands out and makes you look twice. This kind of copy is hard not to click on.

5. Welcome emails

Welcome emails are the cash cow of emails: on average, 320% more revenue is attributed to them on a per email basis (over other promotional emails).

And you need them. This is not a debate.

Expert insight: Andy Crestodina on welcome emails

Andy Crestodina
“There’s one email that gets a higher open rate than all others: the welcome-to-my-list email.
It’s no surprise. The recipient is at their peak interest. They just converted into a subscriber, so they are want your content and trust your brand. Setting this auto-response it a no-brainer. Opens and click through rates are often 2x any other emails you send.
Think of it as just being polite. When someone starts listening, you should say hello, right? When someone asks for more, give them your best. I think of the welcome series as both smart marketing and common courtesy.”
– Andy Crestodina is a marketing expert, thought leader, and co-founder of Orbit Media Studios. He’s an expert in SEO, web design, and using data to guide marketing strategy.

Cool? Cool. Let’s dive straight into a killer example of a welcome email from Lyft.

Biggest takeaway:

  • It’s clear from the content to the CTA

It’s really easy to turn a welcome email into a long ode of thankfulness that a customer is officially on the list. That may seem like a nice opener, but honestly? People who are new to your list don’t want an ode.
They want information.
Clear, immediately useful information about what you can do for them.
This Lyft welcome email example uses copy that leaves nothing up to interpretation. Their service is fast, trustworthy, and cost-effective. Bam. Done.
Plus an actionable CTA literally saying “Take a Ride” – this welcome email tells you everything you need to know to start using the service.

6. Curated content emails

Curated content is a collection of relevant, high-quality content.
It can mean a collection of content pieces related to one topic, or it can be curated info from other content used in a new content piece of your own.
Often it’s the first option, like this curated content email from Really Good Emails.

See any familiar names?

So how do you do content curation well?
Pick a rele