The 7 incredible laws Steve Jobs would teach you about email marketing

One of the pillars underpinning Apple’s success story is that the company understands human behaviour. Apple knows how we work.

Because of the tech giant’s intelligence, Apple has been able to deliver technology that elevates human experience to a place of convenience, simplicity and entertainment.

Across the spectrum of email marketing, the same rigours apply. Like Steve Jobs did, “dig deep.” To optimise email marketing, you must also emulate Apple’s ethos. Understand how emails work. Understand how humans (yes, people!) interact with emails.

"Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works."  Steve Jobs

These seven email laws will illuminate your understanding of how emails work (not how they look!), bringing customers closer to business objectives and revenue flowing!

 1. The inconvenient truth - there is no secret sauce

All laws will come back to this place. It is a place that is like an inconvenient truth: it’s going to take some actual work and real life practice.

You need to test. Only through testing and measuring your emails at multiple levels will you begin to answer such questions as:

  • When is the best time to send an email? 
  • What are the best subject lines?
  • What is the best call-to-action (CTA)?

If you can measure it, you can manage it. Get scientific. Befriend statistics and numbers - they don’t lie. Data will illuminate the path. (There are some data friendly email marketing platforms revealed later in this article which will assist.)

So the infinite loop of optimising email performance will flow like this:

  1. Set the objective - begin with the end in mind 
  2. Measure
  3. Refine
  4. Test
  5. Measure
  6. Refine

And so on.

2. KISS and get textual

Email marketing has followed a similar path to website design. Ten years ago, websites became so fluid with moving imagery and other trickery that the user experience became poor.

At the same time, email marketing design was similar. “Let’s make them bright shiny objects and impress the boss,” exclaimed the marketing professional. These beautiful brochures popped into inboxes for years. The bosses were pleased, but did the emails achieve the desired result?

Like website design, the trend for email marketing has thankfully returned to simplicity. That is, easy to use and mobile responsive – two favourable Google SEO algorithm elements.

Don’t box yourself into email brochure (bright and shiny) marketing. Depending on your email objective, some email marketing is just about getting the conversation started. Why not test a simple text only email? The “nine word email” made famous by Dean Jackson is a beautiful example of a simple text only email that asked an old lead one question.

You can hear more about it here

Remember that emails are read by people! KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). Create text only emails and compare the performance versus the version with pictures and graphics. Then return to rule one – test, measure and refine.

3. Get mobile

According to, mobile email will account for 15 to 70% of email opens, depending on your target audience, product and email type.

Mobile is on the rise. So before sending, test your emails on desktop and mobile device.

4. Get an email programme

We go back to law one – test. A sophisticated email programme will help load, send and produce email performance analysis.

Programmes like these will assist:

The good news is that they are affordable and easy to use.

5. Get personal

Do you like a letter being addressed “Dear Customer?” Probably not.

Emails are read by people with a name. So why not use their name? Using a person’s first name in emails makes the experience personal, generating a closer conversational experience.

Try using the first name in the subject header and/or the opening line of the email. Then test, measure and refine. You’ll experience a positive uplift in response.

6. Get opened

Nothing happens until the email is opened. This part is crucial.

To optimise the email open, ensure you’ve got a quality email programme to measure email open rate percentage – law four.

Then test different subject headings.

From the Small Business Big Marketing podcast, Tim Reid interviewed email marketing specialist Shayne Tilley. Mr Tilley provides four tips to improving email opens from effective subject headings:

  1. Personalise
  2. Make it concise
  3. Be factual 
  4. Make it enticing

Of course, you won’t be able to achieve all four simultaneously! Test, measure, refine, test – law one.

7. Get actioned

So the email has been opened. You may have even engaged your customer to read a little.

Thomas J. Watson once said that, “nothing happens in business until something gets sold.”

Similarly, email marketing must drive action through a call-to-action (CTA).

Make the next action step strong and obvious.

Deliver the CTA a minimum of three times in the email copy or design.

Be creative and different with CTA language. “Subscribe” and “submit” CTAs are boring. For example, if it’s a health product, try “I want to feel great now.”

Like Steve Jobs, dig deeper. Take customers to different landing pages from the email. Test the landing pages and measure the uptake.


Article sources: 

The hazards of marketing in the nude

6 reasons why you need to join the videolution - optimise now or miss out