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7 Emotional Triggers to Hook Your Subscribers

Authors: Janice Kersh Janice Kersh
Posted Under: Digital Marketing
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7 Emotional Triggers to Hook Your Subscribers

Over the years, I’ve managed the creation and analytics of nine email newsletters, each with over 1,000 subscribers, with varying success. An average engagement rate has never been good enough for me. Through trial and error, all-nighters spent on A/B testing, and strategy building, I’ve created a more-or-less accurate picture of what works and what doesn’t. And when it comes to improving open and clickthrough rates (CTRs), I can tell you that emotional triggers are the secret to successful email campaigns.

The groundwork, build-up, and execution of rousing emotions via email is an art that can take a while to master. Luckily, you’re going to learn exactly what it takes to elicit feelings that lead to conversions. Let’s discuss the most important point first.

Emotional triggers are the secret to successful email campaigns. Share on X

Laying the Foundation with a Goal in Mind

Before making a decision about which emotional triggers to use, you need to know the purpose of the email campaign. Are you nurturing leads, building customer relationships, or promoting sales? Trust me—it makes a difference. Only once you know the goal (content traffic, social media likes, sales, etc.) can you make a decision about which emotion to provoke.

Common Goals for Email Campaigns

Everyone’s circumstances are different, but here are the some of the common examples of professional email marketing goals:

  • Deliver high quality, relevant content.
  • Drive additional traffic to a website.
  • Increase sales conversion and/or revenue.
  • Boost email engagement metrics (clickthrough rate, open rate, etc.).
  • Grow and retain subscribers on a list.
  • Integrate email with other marketing (social, mobile, etc.).
  • Strengthen lead generation.
  • Build brand awareness or reputation.
  • Effectively nurture prospects.
  • Segment email database.
  • Achieve or measurably increase return on investment from email efforts.
  • Improve deliverability and inbox placement rates.
  • Expand testing and optimization practices.
  • Improve database health.
  • Qualify leads.
  • Integrate email data with customer relationship management software and other databases.

What Emotions Do I Trigger in My Emails?

Once I’ve determined the goal for a campaign, I choose from the seven basic emotions that drive conversions:

  1. Belonging: Make the reader feel like part of something bigger than themselves.
  2. Hope: Create a sense of expectation for a certain outcome.
  3. Guilt: Help the reader understand that they have the opportunity to make something right.
  4. Vanity: Flatter the reader with praise over their intelligence or smart decision-making.
  5. Fear: Inform the reader what they’re in danger of if they don’t take action.
  6. Lust: Tug the heartstrings of the reader by waving the carrot of desire in front of them.
  7. Greed: Appeal to the reader’s want for wealth or power.

I choose one of these emotions and put forth effort to prompt it before I ever ask the reader to take action.

Email Campaign Structure

When outlining an email campaign, follow a general outline: Each email should include personalized details, a physical problem, an emotional trigger, a solution, and a call to action (CTA).

Personalized Details

With the use of email marketing tools like MailChimp, HubSpot, or Aweber, you can choose personalization tokens from any contact information in your database. Personalized emails generate 600 percent higher CTRs. Consumers like to feel they’re having a conversation, not just being spoken to. Personalized emails help create this feeling.

Using the reader’s name in email body text is common. I sometimes use the reader’s company name, month of birth, city of residence, and more. Get creative with this, but make sure it makes sense if the reader hasn’t given you all of their information.

Real World Problem

In order to be a problem solver, which is exactly what email marketing professionals are, you have to address an issue that your reader has. In each email I write, I state a real-world problem that can be resolved with the information being presented. At the end of the day, it’s all about helping your readers out and providing valuable solutions to help them resolve their pain points.

Emotional Trigger

After you state the problem, it’s time to stir one of the seven emotions that create conversions (listed above). I step inside the mind of my reader and actually imagine how I would feel if I were reading this message for the first time. When I can actually make myself feel a converting emotion, I know that I have fine-tuned my trigger.


As soon as the target emotion has been initiated, write in a solution (relevant to the linked content) to the real-world problem that has just been stated. I do this quickly because the most important piece comes next.

Call to Action

The call to action (CTA) provides the reader with a sense of what to do next. Depending on your industry and skill level, you can expect a clickthrough rate between two and 10 percent. Including a link and CTA more than once in the email body will help increase the odds that your reader will actually click.


Finally, Time for the Engaging Subject Line

Though the subject line is the first part of your email that a reader will see, I save this for last. Only after you know the content of the email can you write a relevant, clickable subject line. Because it takes the guesswork out, I use to test several headlines before I decide upon the best one for my needs. Choosing a headline that falls above 90 percent on this scale makes emails more likely to be opened. The tool even gives advice for perfecting your subject lines when they still need work.

The Writing Process

I’ve always written all emails myself. I wanted to learn what works and what doesn’t the hard way. But if you are not a confident writer yet and could use some professional help, hiring a copywriter on websites like Upwork, Freelancer, and Essay Writer Pro.

After you’ve practiced your writing craft for some time, you can get to writing the emails yourself. Don’t be too shy to seek help if you need.

These are the seven emotional triggers that lead to email conversions and how to execute them effectively. Take some time to study this information, take notes, and try this out with your next email campaign. Note the open rates and clickthroughs of the emails you were sending out before compared to the ones you’re about to send.

In addition, start paying attention to the email lists you’re subscribed to—even the emails you don’t want to read. What made you want to take action, and what made you want to pass over without engaging? You will learn more through hands-on experience than anything else.

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