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Practical Persuasion in Your Email Marketing

Using persuasion in your emails is vital to email marketing success. Today we explore 6 expert principles of persuasion to help you win at email.

Cover of Dr. Robert Cialdini's Book called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Ever heard the name Dr. Robert Cialdini?

If you're in sales or marketing, we'd be willing to bet you have.

However, if you haven't, Dr. Robert Cialdini is the mind behind Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, one of social psychology's great and enduring works, along with several other books.

Cialdini’s work is among the world’s best resources on how we persuade others and how we are persuaded.

Today, his books are famous for their exploration of factors that affect the decisions that people make, notably when it comes to sales, marketing, and purchasing.

Cialdini introduced six principles of persuasion, which are commonly used all over the globe in various ways.

The main function of these principles is to explain automatic behaviours that most people exhibit, and how to leverage these to get them to take the action you intend them to take.

A.K.A: Persuasion 

By understanding what drives certain behaviours, you can leverage this knowledge in your email strategy to get your audience to take the actions you want them to.

(PS: There is a 7th principle released after this book called Unity, but we aren't covering that today so you can read more about it here.)

The great part is there's also no need to study a psychology degree to learn these principles! We all fall into the trap of making these nonconscious decisions.


Dr. Cialdini says it best:

"...despite their current widespread use and looming future importance, most of us know very little about our automatic behaviour patterns."

Today we'll learn how to leverage these nonconcious behaviours and apply these 6 principles to influence your email strategy in the right way.

Principle 1 - Reciprocity


People feel obligated to return favours.

This is great news for email senders!

One of the most common tactics used to grow an audience is by offering valuable content upfront, like upgraded content, free resources, or discounts, before asking for anything in return.

This builds trust, shows you aren't merely looking after your own needs and sets the stage for future engagement. 

Now that you know what basic examples of reciprocity look like, let's chat about three quick ways you can do this in your email strategy:

  • Focus on quality, not just quantity: Don't simply offer generic content. That's not what your audience signed up for. Providing valuable content is the best way to give, to begin with. You can offer exclusives and offers more easily if you lay a solid foundation on good content.  

  • Go beyond just content: Think creatively. Offer free shipping, personalised product thank-you notes to customers or early access to sales and events.  This incentivises engagement and shows that you aren't merely relying on the same old discounts to drive an offer.  

  • Nurture the relationship: Don't stop after the initial offer. Continue providing value over time. Many buyers or loyal readers may not be ready to take action in your emails at the same time. Be there when they're ready to do so. This shows you aren't desperate and you understand the value your offer has in a big way.

Principle 2 - Consistency


This principle suggests that by getting others to make some kind of commitment to you, they will be more invested and supportive of you.

For email senders, this means encouraging readers to give a little to you to feel part of your brand or community.

It is human nature to feel compelled to be consistent with what we’ve said/done in the past and you can leverage this immensely in your email strategy! 

Let's look at how you can do this well:

  • Leverage Interactive Content: Include interactive elements like polls, quizzes, or short surveys within your emails. Interactive content like this fosters a sense of co-creation. This strategy makes your audience feel invested in the process.  

  • Offer Early Access: This is often used, but not well. Provide exclusive sneak peeks of upcoming content, and products, and prompt your readers to confirm their preferences. This incentivises engagement while making the reader feel valued and appreciated for their commitment.  

  • Build a Progression Ladder: Design a series of emails that gradually increase in commitment. Start with simple tasks like replying or confirming preferences, and then progress to more involved actions like participating in a webinar or downloading a free trial. This helps the audience build confidence and comfort with your brand, making them more likely to take the next step.

A black and white sign saying "we hear you"

Principle 3 - Scarcity


FOMO is a thing.

We perceive something to be more valuable when it’s less available.

Many email senders already, nonconciously, use this principle. Think of how often you've received emails with "last chance to save" or "this offer expires soon" in them.

You will, however, need to use scarcity in a clever way to stand out. 

Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Focus on value, not manipulation: Don't create artificial scarcity just for the sake of urgency. Highlight the genuine value of the limited offer, whether it's exclusive access, early bird pricing, or unique benefits.  

  • Offer alternative solutions: While highlighting limited opportunities, be mindful of your audience. Consider offering alternative solutions, like waitlists or pre-orders, to maintain engagement even when exclusivity factors come into play.  

  • Transparency is key: Clearly communicate the timeframe and limitations of your offer. Be upfront about how many items are available, how long the offer lasts, and what happens once it expires. That is how you establish trust.

Principle 4 - Liking


It's pretty obvious, but customers are more likely to buy from a brand that they connect with.

And when it comes to email, recipients are more likely to open and engage with emails they actually like.

In short, we’re more likely to agree to someone's request if we know and like them, and you can leverage this in your email strategy. 

How? Again, here are 3 quick ways:

  • Inject empathy and humour: Show your audience you understand their struggles and aspirations. Use humour strategically to create a positive and engaging experience. But remember, avoid humour that treads the line of offensive or culturally insensitive.  

  • Be authentic and transparent: People appreciate genuine communication. Don't try to be something you're not. Be honest about your brand's values, limitations, and successes. Follow through with what you commit to. This fosters trust and builds a stronger connection.  

  • Encourage two-way communication: Don't just send emails; create a dialogue. Encourage responses through surveys, polls, questions in your emails, or even social media engagement. Actively listen to your audience and respond thoughtfully.

Young person holding up a peace sign looking at their cell phone

Principle 5 - Authority

Brands and individuals who hold authority, credibility, and are well respected in their field are far more influential than those who aren’t.

That’s because authority equals trust. People assume that those who have authority know exactly what they are talking about, and therefore their advice and suggestions can be relied upon.

With the rise in the creator economy, and because influencer marketing is on the rise, you're afforded a plethora of creative ways to use various figures of authority in your strategy.

It does, however, need to be well-planned. 

Here are a few ways to apply this principle:

  • Partner with micro-influencers: Instead of chasing big names, consider collaborating with smaller, niche influencers (micro-influencers) who have a dedicated and engaged community within your target audience. Their recommendations hold greater weight with their audiences and feel more authentic than endorsements from distant celebrities.  

  • Feature creator-generated content: Partner with creators in your niche to generate authentic and engaging content for your email campaigns. Creators provide fresh perspectives and connect with your audience on a relatable level, fostering trust and brand recognition. You'll also have a steady stream of relevant future content.  

  • Host webinars or live Q&As with industry experts: Partnering with leading figures in your industry for interactive sessions within your email marketing strategy positions your brand as knowledgeable and connected. This not only establishes your authority but also adds value to your subscribers. Let's not forget that this is also a great way to grow your email audience!

Principle 6 - Social Proof


Humans are social beings.

We enjoy feeling part of a community and find reassurance in others’ opinions when it comes to decision-making.

In fact, 92% of consumers trust word-of-mouth or recommendations above all forms of advertising and marketing.

That is massive!

The great news is that this can become a great part of your email strategy to influence your audience over time.

This final principle also comes with a few practical tips you can use in your email environment:

  • Rely on more than static elements: While featuring customer testimonials and logos is a good start, consider dynamic and engaging ways to showcase social proof. Include snippets from positive social media reviews, user-generated content like photos or videos, or even short customer success stories in your emails.  

  • Personalise and segment: Social proof is most effective when it feels relevant and relatable to your audience. Segment your subscriber list based on demographics, interests, or purchase history. Then, use targeted emails featuring testimonials or case studies that resonate with specific segments, showcasing the value proposition in a more personal way.  

  • Integrate social media: Don't just include subtle social media sharing buttons in your emails. Incentivise your audience to share your content with their network, which helps expand your reach and leverages the power of social proof beyond your email list.

Applying practical persuasion in your email marketing

If you consider these principles carefully, you can go about applying practical persuasion in your email marketing quite effectively.

The big question is why does it matter to understand the motivations behind your audience's behaviour?


You can use this knowledge to build an email strategy that resonates with your audience on a deeper level.

At the end of the day, the biggest driver behind persuasion in your emails is the ability to resonate with your audience, after all.

Do this well and your email results will flourish!

Before you go! You'll need an audience to persuade before you begin. Learn the fastest ways to grow your email list today by using the tried and tested Email Database Growth Playbook.

Click here or on the image below to get your FREE copy👇

Preview of The Ultimate Database Growth Guide for Email Marketing by Email Expert Africa

Want to become an email expert? Get our expert email guide today! Click here to find out more


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