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Four pillars of email texts

14 min read
by Alena Parfisenko
Marketing texts are science rather than art. Decades of development have led us to the point where most techniques, tools, and practices are already well-known. We know what works and doesn’t, what reaction we can expect, and how to achieve the desired response.
Marketing is largely based on psychology, and the mechanisms it appeals to are fundamental to human nature. People’s brains function in certain ways, and a good marketer knows exactly what strings to pull. It’s crucial to know since your marketing efforts will achieve absolutely nothing without triggering the right emotions — and we’re not exaggerating.
There are four major emotional triggers that you can use to stimulate the response you need. We call them the four pillars — the buttons you need to press to achieve what you need. Open- and click-rates, conversion, sales… You name it. You'll likely succeed if your marketing text is based on at least one of the four pillars.
You may already be familiar with a particular highly-efficient email sequence template that uses this scheme. And if you’re not, you’re probably wondering: what are these pillars?


At any given moment, we all want to gain something. Right now, for example, you want to learn about the four pillars and how you can gain better rates with them. We want to provide you with this information and gain your gratitude. You and us — we both want to do our jobs faster and easier.
The same goes for your audience. They always want to gain something. Something that’s better, the best, or just anything at all (we wouldn’t be counting on the last option, though).
  • Q
    What do I get if I click on this link/buy this thing?
    That’s what you should ask yourself (from the customer’s perspective) first and foremost because your subscribers will definitely be asking that when they open your email. When you’re writing, you have to keep this in mind. Point out, highlight, and triple-underline the benefits.
How can you do it?
Ask a question to grab their attention. Go for something simple, like Would you like to..? or Have you ever wanted to..? If the answer in their head is Yes! — or YES!!! which is even better — congratulations, you’ve got them. They’re now focused on what you say next, eager to discover how they can receive those benefits.
Now you can talk more in-depth about the benefits and the offer. Show them the value it provides, and raise their anticipation by promising even more. Paint the picture they want to see — how gaining said benefits would change the game for them. It’s great for the appetite, you see.
After learning all that, their anticipation should be at its all-time high. This is when you strike! Or rather, invite them to complete the desired action — like clicking the link, pre-ordering, leaving some information, etc. Tell them: What are you waiting for? It’s right here; it’s almost yours already! They know what they will gain, and they’re hyped about it. They want to click your link now.

Gain email example

Wanna get the most comfort, style, and protection — all at once?
Subject line:
Now you can talk more in-depth about the benefits and the offer. Show them the value it provides, and raise their anticipation by promising even more. Paint the picture they want to see — how gaining said benefits would change the game for them. It’s great for the appetite, you see.
Hi Mark,
Would you like to wear comfort, tie the laces on style, and walk around in protection? Would you like to have the PERFECT shoes for any season and occasion and stop worrying about the looks?

You can do it now!

You probably have quite a few pairs of shoes back home, so you’re wondering: what can we even say to convince you? Well, just the truth — nothing more and nothing less.

You’re one step away from getting the coolest pair in your life and changing the way you walk the walk for the best.

Introducing Green Boots — the ultimate shoes that have everything you’ve ever wanted from all your previous pairs.

What’s that, exactly?
  • Absolute comfort: Green Boots feel weightless on your feet, and their insole adapts to your leg like it’s been tailored for you specifically. It’s like you’re not wearing any shoes, but you are, so it’s safer.
  • Total protection: our shoes are borderline impenetrable with sharp objects, and they can withstand up to 1000 lbs dropped on them from a solid 6 ft — saving your feet from any insufferable consequences. Can your average sneakers do that?
  • Easy maintenance: Green Boots are almost impossible to damage since any marks, scratches, or olive oil residue can be removed with one hand move. Or leg move. Say goodbye to throwing out your favorite pair — not the pair itself!
  • Ultimate style: there are a dozen various models of Green Boots currently available, and we’re adding more monthly. They are designed to look good, and there’s a model for any look and occasion. And there’s the Green Classic, which works with everything.

And much more. This is not even the full list: you don’t understand just how much a shoe pair can offer you… Until you try Green Boots, of course!
If you order Green Boots today, your life will be changed for the better in 2 to 3 working days. Meaning that this weekend you can already be rocking the most bestest pair of them all.

So what are you waiting for? Cause we’re definitely waiting for you to try.
Get Green Boots now, and thank us later.

[Get my new favorite pair now!]
Copy body:


Some people use logic to find the best offer among many competing ones. Some try to logically justify their irresistible urge to buy that pretty new dress. And for some, it’s essential to know that their actions today are a logical continuation of something they’ve been doing or believing in since last year.
Either way, while people buy emotionally — especially in the fashion industry — they always feel better and safer about the purchase if they can rationally justify it. And the next one, since they’re at it anyway.
  • Q
    Why is it logical to click this link/buy this thing?
    This is the new question you’re answering. They need a solid, rational reason to justify the suggested action, and it’s on you to provide them with one. The better the explanation, the more convincing the reasoning… You know the drill. The more clicks and sales you have.
What’s the pattern?
You can ask your subscribers if they’ve been searching for a rational answer to this exact scenario. Or you can start with a statement — there is a rational answer, and you’re about to share it with them. It works the same way: if the situation and the question appeal to them, you have their full attention.
Provide facts to support the point. You can use expert opinions, statistics, comparisons, and whatnot — as long as these are rational arguments, they do the job. Show that there is reasoning behind completing the desired action, and the more reasoning you provide, the better. Every little fact and argument justifies the purchase more, and eventually, it’s completely rational in your customer's eyes.
A strong emotional message is not even that necessary if you’re going for the rational approach. In the end, it’s only logical for the subscribers to proceed with the action after all these arguments. A good discreet CTA will do the job just fine.

Logic email example

Look, it’s not your fault you can’t walk the walk…
Subject line:
…it’s your boots’. 5 reasons to make them Green
Hi Mark,
We’re here because we know you want to learn the truth. You want ANSWERS.
Most shoes are… there. They just exist. They can look good, they can even feel good (that’s something to be proud of, but not in the 21st century), and they can put a significant dent in your wallet. But they’re not perfect; they’re not truly yours. So what’s the point?

Have you ever asked yourself, "Why should I make my Boots Green?”

Oh, you haven’t? Well, you definitely should. And here are five reasons why.
  1. Green Boots are up to 95% more comfortable than any average shoes, according to our customer survey. We consider all people that have a need for shoes our customers, but this time, we only polled 5,000+ people. They love their Greens!
  2. Green Boots save your money. On average, most shoes in the same price range last around 2-3 years. Green Boots will be there for you for at least a decade — that’s if you keep trying to wreck them from time to time. You won’t need another pair, money saved!
  3. Green Boots deliver. No, they DELIVER. Out of all our customers, only one has left a negative review. Not bad, considering we’ve been on the market for almost five years, right? And it turned out the guy just misclicked when we reached out to him. Funny stuff!
  4. Green Boots are awesome, but we care about your experience. This is why we give you a 5-year guarantee, and if you want to return them in the first 60 days, we will give you a 100% refund. It means two things: we’re confident in our product, and you risk nothing!
  5. Green Boots are 25% off till the end of the month. And we give you an additional 10% discount since we just like you that much. Let’s do the math together: it’s $195 instead of $300, 100% refundable. You can spend the $105 as you please AND look great doing it.

Everyone wants to improve their lives, but it’s a long way to go. You need to be comfortable walking it, so it only makes sense you get Green Boots.
Try them for yourself. You will never regret it.

[Order my Green Boots!]

Copy body:


It’s hard to find a person who’s not afraid of anything. There’s a good reason why The Encyclopedia of Phobias, Fears, and Anxieties exists, after all. But we’re not talking about fears of darkness, spiders, or height — even though these things can be scary, too. In marketing, we induct a different kind of fear. It’s all about missing an opportunity and losing potential gains.
  • Q
    What will or won’t happen if I don’t click this link/buy this thing?
    The answer to this question is the fear you’ll use. You need your target audience to believe that something bad will happen or that they won’t get something good if they don’t complete the required action.
Basically, you’re playing off the consequences of their inaction here. Making a purchase can be a tough decision — right until it turns out that not making a purchase can have even worse outcomes.
What’s the play?
Ask your subscribers about what they want. Ask them: how would they feel if it didn’t happen? This exact outcome doesn’t sound too good, does it? Or, say, missing an opportunity. It would be great if there was a way to avoid it, that’s for sure. They need to picture and feel what you’re implying first. Then they’re listening: they want to avoid it.
Then you say that there is a way to solve the problem. It gives them what they want, takes away what they don’t like, and has them living happily ever after. Look: it has one, two, three benefits. It’s so much better than not having those benefits and losing an opportunity, isn’t it? It’s a scary thought, missing out on this golden chance.
And they’re just a step away from solving the problem once and for all. It’s that easy. Here’s what they need to do: click a link, make a pre-order, purchase this particular item, etc. It doesn’t matter. Show them that this fear will stay in the past, and the undesirable outcome will be avoided. Finish it off with a CTA that says: no more!

Fear email example

Warning: risky online purchases!
Subject line:
Scary online shops are at it again!
Hi Mark,

Don’t you enjoy the convenience of shopping online? It’s awesome: you order some fancy shoes, and they arrive at your doorstep. You click a few buttons and consider it done. Nice!

But we bet you also had some bad times with those orders. The shipment takes ages. Poor transportation conditions, they say — snow on the roads, love in the air, etc. By the time you get your order, it’s not even winter anymore.

Then, you didn’t get to learn the quality before you received it. After all this time, you receive some F-tier garbage, or the size is like an inch off, or both. And you can’t even return the shoes in time — poor transportation conditions, remember? No refund for you.

Now you either wear them with disgrace (if they fit, that is) or throw them away along with your money.

Terrible, miserable experience.

We’ve had this type of online shopping experience in our lives. So we made sure you won’t have to — not anymore.

Green Boots is where it ends.

  • We ensure you receive your Green Boots in time. If somehow we fail to do so, you get a refund AND keep the Boots.
  • We make the best shoes ever. If somehow you don’t like the Boots (impossible!), you get a refund.
  • We get our sizes right. If somehow the size is off, you get a free replacement OR a refund.
  • We make unkillable, highly-resistant shoes. If somehow the Boots weather or break on their own, you get a free replacement AND a refund.

And we don’t pressure you with the dates: you have 60 days to return them anyway.
This is what a risk-free, high-quality online shopping experience looks like.
Forget delays, poor product quality, formalities, and all other BS.

Choose Green Boots.

[Start my risk-free shopping trip!]

Copy body:


There’s a reason why all the -50% OFF TODAY ONLY!!! ads work wonders, too. Most people are afraid to miss out on something, to be late. Remember when you bought that thing you didn’t exactly need just because there was a timer on it? If you know some stuff will be off the table — or twice as expensive — tomorrow, you’re likely to buy it today.
A time limit and a sense of urgency outweigh logical assumptions. When the clock’s ticking, people react in a particular way: they hurry up and want to make it in time. People often postpone purchases and other decisions because they know they can always do that later. You need to show them: there is no time; they need to do it now.
How do you do it?
Create urgency from the start. Say it straight: time’s almost out, there are just a few nanoseconds left, and then it’s gone for good, whatever it is. Put it in the subject line, preheader, and header. Grab the attention immediately.
Tell them how great and limited in time the offer is. That’s it. You’re surprised they haven’t completed the action by now — they need to click the now link before the sale ends, or they need to purchase now while there are still five items in stock, etc. Also, if the time limitation was not a thing for the subscribers before, here you can announce it. For example, if they order in the next 12 hours, they get a 20% discount or a gift to go with the purchase.
Repeat that the offer’s limited in time, too good to miss out on, and you doubt you’ll do another one anytime soon (this adds another pressure point). Include a strong, active CTA that says: get it now, while there’s still time!

Scarcity email example

Tick-tock, we can’t keep these in stock…
Subject line:
…3, 2, 1 — and they’re gone!
Hi Mark,
We’d love to do the small talk, but the time’s running out.
The new Green Boots’ ReBooted Collection is sick; everybody and their family dogs know that already. Clean design, ultimate comfort, impeccable warmth — everything you need this winter.

The thing is, we didn’t expect it to be THIS popular. We know we make great shoes, but this got out of hand quickly. We’re running low on the stuff, and it’s been just three days since the ReBooted Collection launch! Insanity.

We’re a bit surprised you haven’t booked a pair yet. This is likely the last chance to get one, so we’re here to remind you. We still have some for you; get it before it’s gone!
The afterlaunch sale ends tonight, and 95% of the Boots are already sold out.
Don’t miss out — tomorrow they’ll be charged at full price if any left at all.
Click to book a pair for you and your loved ones:

[Grab my Green Boots now!]
Copy body:

Which triggers work best?

The answer is simple — none. If you only use one trigger every time, you’re not playing your cards right. These triggers are supposed to work together, though in some cases, you could go for a specific one (scarcity is the best example).
Your subscribers don’t have a specific schedule you can check to learn if they’re feeling logical today or not. You have a bunch of very different people that receive your emails when they have very different moods, and your job is to catch most of them. Even the exemplary emails we provided you with combine a few triggers.
The next logical question is: which combinations work best?
And the answer stays the same — none. Your audience, brand, Tone of Voice, content, etc. — it’s all unique. So even if we said that scarcity and gain work fabulously together, it could fail you. The combination is great on its own, but you have to always consider your situation.
Does a scarcity-only email perform better than a logic-gain-scarcity email? Which order is more effective: gain to logic or logic to gain? There are endless possibilities here, and only A/B testing will give you the essential information: what works for your audience.
But at least two triggers are known to go exceptionally well together: fear and scarcity. Their combination even has a name! It’s called FoMO, or Fear of Missing Out, and it’s one of the most effective marketing tools in general.
As for the others… Do A/B testing, experiment, mix and match — and you’ll find the right combinations. And from there, your marketing texts’ efficiency will skyrocket!

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