How many times do you check your email each day? If you’re like a lot of people, you have no idea. All you know is that you’re constantly peeking, refreshing, and waiting for the next new, bolded message to appear in your inbox. It’s exciting: there’s a shiny newness to an unopened communique, and there’s the potential for great news.


Unfortunately, checking email can be an addiction that frequently leads to stress and disappointment. Sometimes there’s a good, personal, and relevant message that comes in. However, it’s more often spam, a reminder to pay your credit card bill, or yet another marketing email that you find waiting for you. The majority of these let-down messages are usually met with brief regard before being sent to the virtual trash heap.


As a marketer, how can you cut through the email stress and clutter to present your email recipients with something fresh, new, and attention-grabbing? The big answer is by understanding the psychology behind email. The more detailed answers — five of them, anyway — are below.


  1. Appeal to emotions. You don’t have to be a philosophy scholar to know that using pathos, or emotion, is the best way to appeal to someone. The language of your email, especially of your headers, should speak to the hearts of your recipients. Strong emotional verbs like “protect,” “care,” “secure,” and “safeguard” can be more effective than more frivolous verbs like “treat” (as in the currently popular “treat yo self”) and “indulge.”


  1. Include testimonials. Of course you’re going to say that what you’re promoting is great, but do other people agree? Including a few testimonials in your marketing email, especially from respected and knowledgeable individuals, can go a long way in getting your recipients’ attention.


  1. Use colors and pictures. So much email is text-based, and that means there’s a lot of content that simply goes unread. Go beyond text with one or two good colors and one or two good images. Photos of people’s faces are especially effective, as we relate to them on a more emotional level than photos of places or things. It’s crucial, though, that when adding colors and pictures, you keep your email formatting mobile friendly. Otherwise, you’ll lose the attention of many recipients.


  1. Make it exclusive. There’s got to be an incentive for your recipients to not click the “unsubscribe” link, and the old line of getting information right in the inbox is less and less effective every day. Offer some exclusives for marketing email recipients. Not only will they be more likely to read the message in front of them, but they may even begin to look forward to your messages.


  1. Don’t add to the stress. Again, checking email is stressful for a lot of individuals, so an antidote to the anxiety is always welcome. Messages, language, and even visuals that are calming can be a welcome distraction.

Email marketing, like almost everything else in the marketing field, is not an exact science. However, understanding the psychology of email and the consequences of people’s email-checking habits can help you create a more effective email campaign. By appealing to recipients’ emotions, not adding stress, and providing incentives for subscribing (visual and otherwise), you can command their attention and, hopefully, improve your bottom line.