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Copywriter | Content Writer

35 Years Experience in Customer-First Writing
B2B | B2C

Email Marketing








Flint McGlaughlin asked this question at the 2017 MarketingSherpa Summit at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

As the founder of MECLABS Institute, the largest independent research facility focused on the science of why people say yes, McGlaughlin urged marketers to rethink “best practices,” which amounts to mimicry.

Sometimes, “best practices” yield average returns for a marketer, which is why the practice caught on and why employers today continue to post openings for writers where knowledge of “best practices” is a requisite skill. Yet without knowing the context by which some email was successful for another, “best practices” really amount to a blind and often feckless gamble, and as McGlaughlin had found through years of real-world client research and testing, “best practices” routinely yield middling to negligible results for marketers and can even backfire to cause email lists to go stone cold.

To get more clicks and conversions, McGlaughlin and dozens of successful marketers at MarketingSherpa presented hard data showing the above-average results of combining core email marketing principles with new approaches in content.

I’ve written on both sides of the fence. At the request of clients, I’ve delivered hundreds of emails written according to “best practices,” I've included some examples down the right-hand side of this page, and if you're looking for something similar, I'm happy to deliver.

I've also had opportunities to zig where others zag and apply the insights I gained at MarketingSherpa to write emails that delivered measurable above-average results.


Examples of these emails begin below. They all embody solid core principles of email marketing. Yet they're original in their approach and delivery. If the idea of something original appeals to you, I'd be happy to create something.

The best way to discover the difference between traditional and original emails is to read a few and compare the difference, and rest assured. For the original emails below, I promise you an enjoyable journey.

Why would you choose to settle for a 1% or 2% conversion rate in an email campaign when you could go for 10% or 20%?

Best practices” (a.k.a. modelling) is a widespread practice where a marketer takes an email or other collateral that has proven successful for another marketer and swaps out one product/service name for another in the hope of achieving the same success. Also known as “modelling,” the practice often comes close to plagiarism.

“A bad email reputation is like a hangover: hard to get rid of and it makes everything else hurt." —Chris Marriott

Long-Form Sales Letters

Marketers debate whether the long-form sales letter (LFSL) still works. Some believe the LFSL is too long for today’s readers and converts somewhere around 2% or less. Others believe the LFSL is best used as a video script. Still others believe the LFSL is suited to some subjects but not others. I’ve written many LFSLs, and while the results I’ve personally witnessed have been around the 2% conversion mark, my observation is that the LFSL arguably suffers from misapplication, poor channel choice, and formulaic writing.


Here are a few traditional LFSLs I've written.

Our Mistake Is Your Benefit

Click the icon to read the PDF == >

Weird Herb Stops Blood Pressure Dead in Its Tracks

Click the icon to read the PDF == >

The 100% Natural Solution for High Blood Pressure

Click the icon to read the PDF == >


Advocate Invitations

Asking customers to refer your product or service to a friend or family member is a lead-generation strategy that relies heavily on knowing your customers are pleased with your brand, as well as crafting advocate messages that people would actually write.


Here are six examples of real-person advocate messages.


Click the icon to read the PDF == >

Retargeting Email

When a prospect opts out of a landing page or some other sign-up form, the re-targeting email seeks to re-incentivize them to return, typically with some sort of attractive deal.


Re-engagement Emails

The Darth Vader Pizza Email

Or, how I outperformed the average email open rate for all industries

and increased a company's open rate by 950%.

== > Click here to read my published case study at MECLABS

The Challenge: Some while ago, Optimal Health & Wellness tasked me with increasing email open rates for a list about 150,000 people who’d once shown interest in the company’s weight-loss supplements.

The Problem: The company had so steadily inundated prospects with traditional sales emails, the list had gone completely cold with roughly a 2% open rate. Prospects had determined, “These guys just want to sell me stuff,” which is the same as some “friend” constantly asking you for money. Prospects simply didn’t like the company any more, and no amount of hammering with more traditional sales emails could ignite an improved open-rate pulse.

The Solution: Rather than writing more hard-sell emails, I started with five key principles of email optimization that I’d learned in Las Vegas from two MarketingSherpa Summits and two  MECLABS Email Messaging Optimization certifications:

  1. You don’t drive traffic. You attract it. In marketing emails, the purpose of the subject line is to compel the open. It’s not to try to make a sale.

  2. The purpose of email content is to compel the click, which equals the kind of person a prospect will become by doing something.

  3. Customer-first marketing puts prospects and customers above the needs of a company.

  4. Email is a conversational medium.

  5. People are not leads. People are people. So treat them like people.


With these five principles as my starting point, I drew on intrigue and crafted an email that blended a universally loved character (Darth Vader) and a globally loved food (pizza) with humorous content designed to re-engage. While I included a call to action, my main goal was to re-ignite brand affinity while strengthening prospect connection.

== > Click here to read the Darth Vader Pizza Email

The Result: The email ignited a 21% open rate from a completely cold list. To put that in perspective, by foregoing a traditional sales email, I outperformed the average email open rate for all industries in 2017 (20.81%) and increased the company’s open rate by 950%.

Replication With Variables

A fundamental tenet of science says that for the results of an experiment to be true or valid, the experiment must evidence that the results are reproducible. Although I’d written one successful re-engagement email, I didn’t know whether it had been a fluke. So, I wrote a series of follow-up re-engagement emails for the list of 150,000 cold prospects.


Emails included:


While the subjects and writing styles varied in the follow-up emails, I was consistent with three core things:

  • An unconventional approach

  • A focus on building brand affinity and strengthening prospect connection

  • A soft call to action


As an example of the three core concepts under a different subject and style, the follow-up emails included The Wheelchair Skateboarder, a true story written to change how prospects see themselves (the customer perspective) rather than trying to change how they see a weight-loss product (the company perspective).

The Result: The follow-up emails consistently saw open rates around 18-20%, and a formerly dead click-through rate began showing signs of life.

Replication With Variables Under Different Conditions

I next decided to test the viability of unconventional emails on cold email lists for three demographically different audiences that were not former weight-loss customers:

  • Older adults who’d once purchased blood-pressure supplements

  • Younger women who’d once purchased skincare products

  • Both older and younger adults who’d once purchased general health nutrients like ALA and CoQ10, as well as nutritional supplements for cleansing and detox


Remaining consistent with MECLABS’ five key principles of email optimization under different subjects and writing styles, I sent out a series of unconventional emails, including:


The Result: The emails re-ignited all three lists. Open rates immediately and consistently clocked in around 17-21%, and gradually, click-through rates and conversions showed a good pulse.

I can still recall the day when the Director of Customer & Email Experience walked in and happily said, “Whatever you’re doing, just keep doing it.”

But what had I been doing?

The Ghost in the Machine

Sure, I’d figured out something that felt like a formula. Yet the sheer number of variables led me to realize there was something else working in the emails that transcended empirical examination. There was some sort of ghost in the machine, and in my desire to understand it, I asked the Director of Customer & Email Experience what he thought it was.


I remember him sort of laughing, seemingly puzzled that I couldn’t see the answer when it was so plain to him.


“Just keep doing Xris,” he said.

The Final Analysis

In the Director's view, formulas were fine as general guidelines in marketing because replication serves growth and profitability. Yet to microscopically dissect my emails and boil the parts down into a fill-in-the-blanks template would be to negate the humanness of the emails in all their imperfection, quirkiness and personal signature—the very qualities that, in the Director’s view, had ultimately connected with people.

In other words, success in marketing—or in life—appeared to come back to what we were all told as children but which many of us (including myself) can periodically forget through societal conditioning, the compliance model of marketing “best practices” or just plain fear:

Be yourself.

I continue to field-test the effectiveness of this approach today, and I’m happy to say, I continue to see the results. And I would encourage you to do the same to experience the results you want, whether you’re a copywriter or not.

Bonding Campaign

Bonding campaigns seek to build prospect trust and brand affinity before making the ask. Commonly offering tips, tricks and other information connected with a product or service, bonding campaigns are designed for long-term sales built on customer loyalty, and are often stacked with other campaigns.

Here's an example eight-email bonding campaign for a website service.

Click the icon to read the PDF == >

Welcome and Upsell Campaign

Combining elements of a bonding campaign to build brand affinity, the welcome and upsell campaign takes its time to build a sense of connection with a new customer. Written in a conversational style that real people use, the welcome and upsell campaign introduces the customer to a holistic view of a company before making an ask, as in this 14-email series for a line of skincare products for women.

Click the icon

to read the campaign == >

You may also enjoy...

Black Friday Upsell Series

Click the icon to read the PDF == >

Re-engagement and Transition Upsell Series

Click the icon to read the PDF == >


Breaking News Sales Email

Sales emails built around authentic breaking news generally perform well when delivered from a position of authentic public service, as in this breaking news sales email warning women about an authentic danger in beauty products.

The FDA Ban on THIS Dangerous Chemical DOES NOT Include Beauty Products!

Click the icon to read the PDF == >

Secondary Market Sales Email

Although businesses position products for target markets, secondary markets often develop on their own. Both recognizing and empowering those secondary markets has always made sense to me because the opportunity affords the potential returns of a new product launch without the cost of launching a new product. Example: This engagement email recognizes the quiet market of men who use women’s skincare products and empowers them from the knowledge that using such products gives them an advantage in business and life.


Skincare and success:

one man’s exclusive

story—for everyone

Click the icon to read the PDF == >

Focused Empathy Sales Email

When a prospect truly feels understood by a brand, they feel connected, which compels improved sales. While many marketers convey empathy in sales emails, they often do so with a vagueness that imparts weak connection. By focusing on a very specific and relatable situation, connection becomes stronger, as in this focused holiday empathy sales email for a women’s skincare line.

How to Get HIM

to Give YOU the Perfect

Stocking Stuffer

Click the icon to read the PDF == >

Content sales emails ideally serve backup value as inbound marketing. That is, if a copywriter writes a content email that a marketer chooses not to send out for some reason, the same email does not become lost time and labor to a company if a marketer can take the email and post it as a blog with only the most minor of tweaks. 

I generally tend to write content sales emails with backup value in mind. Here are a few examples.

Why Sex Is Good for Heart Health

== > Click here to read the original two-part content email

Real Beauty Is About Respecting the Amazing Story

That's You

== > Click here to read the original two-part content email

Going Nuts Can Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease

By Up to 30%

== > Click here to read the original content email

Content Sales Email

Similar to inbound marketing blogs, content sales emails deliver relevant and timely information that supports a call to action, as in this content sales email for a weight-loss supplement.


Breakthrough Study Reveals

Sleeping Naked

Fights Dementia

Click the icon to read the PDF == >


Soap-Opera Series Emails

Badass email master André Chaperon doesn’t call himself a copywriter. He calls himself a storyteller, who studied with author and Hollywood story consultant Michael Hauge to leverage the power of movie-style storytelling in direct marketing, invent the soap-opera series email (SOS), and create AutoResponder Madness.


I had the pleasure of studying directly with both André and Michael and applied what they taught me in my own original soap-opera series emails. I also combined what I learned to invent the story-doing email (leveraging the power of social proof) and the empowerment coach email.

The Story of Mary Clarkson

== > Click here to read the PDF

The Empowerment Coach

== > Click here to read the PDF

The Pleasure Secret to Weight Loss

== > Click here to read the PDF

The Story-Doing Email

== > Click here to read the PDF


“Disruptive strategies begin with the courage to zag where others zigIf your competitors are all starting to turn left,

you look right.”— André Chaperon

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