Interesting and Non-Obvious Uses of Email

Illustration by Ksenia Shokorova Paint brush over graph

“If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.”

Jim Rohn said this—and while he probably wasn’t talking about email, it’s a good reminder that sometimes, ordinary can be a little… boring. It’s good to mix things up from time to time.

That’s why today, we wanted to go over some interesting and non-obvious uses of email (that go beyond the traditional sales and marketing approach.) Let’s take a look at a few ideas that add some variety to your email efforts.

Show life behind the scenes

Car in photo studio.

Ever thought about doing mini-updates on your business year-round?

When you let your email subscribers peek behind the curtain and see what’s happening at your business on a day-to-day basis, it introduces real people (with faces! and names!) that the audience can then associate with your company. In short, it makes your brand more down-to-earth and relatable.

Think about it: Would you rather read standard marketing and sales emails all the time, or would it be nice to get an occasional inside look at day-to-day life at the business? (Probably the latter.)

So what does behind the scenes content entail, you ask? This might be an email that includes:

  • A video of your team putting together orders to be shipped out
  • A story about a lesson you’ve learned recently or a customer you interacted with
  • A series of “Meet the Team” emails that introduce your employees and spotlights their areas of expertise
  • Photos from a recent training session or group retreat
  • A look at your operation and offices
  • A peek at new products or services coming soon

At MailPoet, we recently did this in our newsletter. In all honesty, we could probably do this more often ourselves.

LessFilms, a startup video production company, does this well. They showcase photos and videos on the job not only within their emails, but also across various social channels (to get extra mileage out of this interesting content.) Here’s a photo taken on location at a shoot:

Photo of man looking at camera.

Image source

Gather feedback through surveys

Conveyor belt illustration.

So often, emails can feel one-sided. But when you start collecting feedback through email surveys (or simply by asking subscribers to reply with their two cents), you give your audience a voice and let them know you’re interested in what they have to say. Now that’s unusual.

Surveys help you to:

  • Find out what subscribers enjoy seeing in their inboxes from you (Promotions? How-tos? Behind the scenes material?)
  • Find out what subscribers dislike in your current approach to email
  • Spot areas of improvement around your products, processes, etc.
  • Learn what questions/topics your audience wants you to tackle in future emails.

In most cases, it’s best to include a mix of multiple-choice questions and open-ended response questions. The reason: Open-ended questions let your email subscribers tell you exactly what they think. Give them the opportunity to share with you in detail.

Email expert Shayla Price said,

“Feedback emails work well when they’re the sole purpose of the email. The goal of these should be to find out more about subscribers’ interest and values so that down the road, you can send more relevant emails.”

There are lots of ways to send a survey via email, but most of the time it’s easiest (and cheapest) to simply include a link to a survey built via Typeform or Google Forms. This way, your subscribers will be directed to complete your survey and results will be gathered in one place for you to study later.

Share an end-of-year review

Illustration of various logos.

An annual “Year in Review” email is not only a great way for you to reflect back on all you’ve accomplished over the past 12 months within your business, but it’s also a great time to celebrate successes around your customers as well.

In a unconventional email like this one, you might share:

  • Testimonials from happy customers or stories from customers who shared how your product/service made their life better
  • What went well/what went not-so-well
  • How much your company grew employee or revenue-wise
  • How many products you sold or how many new customers you added
  • Personal/team wins (like babies born, company retreats taken, etc., if applicable)
  • New team members added/notable work anniversaries (if applicable)

When writing an email like this one, approach it like you’re writing a letter to friends and family. Recap major wins and get the audience caught up on what’s been going on in your world. Doing this makes email subscribers feel like part of your extended family—and like they’re part of something special.

Online educator and designer Paul Jarvis sends an email like this out once a year:

Example of an update email.

Image source

Using email in this non-obvious way allows you to break from the normal marketing messages and add in a human element that’s so often missing.

Here’s how to create an email that looks like a normal email (and not a newsletter) in MailPoet.

Final notes

  • Think of what’s missing from your current email strategy and how you can add some interesting variety to the mix.
  • Look for ways to make your audience feel closer and more connected with your business.
  • Don’t be afraid to share! You might feel vulnerable letting subscribers peek inside your business, but sharing the reality of what you do is an easy way to break down walls between you and your readers.

Hopefully, this article gave you some good ideas on new types of emails to send. Are there any questions you still have about this? Let us know in the comments!

Illustrations by Ksenia Shokorova