With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching many of you will be gearing up to send as many heartfelt emails to your subscribers as possible, encouraging them to treat their special someone.

Unfortunately many of those emails won’t hit the mark and you could see your unsubscribes and spam complaints increasing with every soppy campaign you send. 

I believe that email marketers would be a lot more successful this Valentine’s Day (and every other day) if they tried building relationships with their subscribers, much like you would if you were dating someone.

So here are five rules that will help you get lucky with your subscribers and your date this February 14.

1. Listen to your date

Ever been on a date with someone who does all the talking? It’s not fun and the same thing applies to your email subscribers.

Listen for all of the data that they’re providing you and create a dialogue rather than a one way flood of messages asking them to “BUY NOW”. These are some of the data points you should be tracking:

  • Email open.
  • Email click.
  • Email reply.
  • Preference centre.
  • Survey.
  • Website search.
  • Basket abandonment.
  • Page browse.
  • Product purchase.

2. Take an interest in your date

Everyone that you date will be a little bit different and you need to take that into account with your topics of conversation, you’re probably not going to be that successful if you can only talk about sports. Take an interest in your date, debate with them, find common interests.

Email marketers are great at asking for preferences and gathering data but rarely do anything with it to personalise content or create segments. Remember that you are probably sending to a large number of people and they are all a bit different.

Think about how you could use that data to send more relevant and personalised content. It could be as simple as segmenting based on gender or location.

  • Ask for preferences.
  • Personalise content.
  • Segment.

3. Pay for dinner

According to my thorough research, men should always pay for dinner and reject any attempts by women who offer to help. Whether you agree with this or not, it can’t hurt to give your date a small gift.

The same thing applies to email marketing. First impressions last, so make sure you include something for your new subscribers in your welcome programme.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a discount either, free content, tips and advice can also work well.

  • Discounts.
  • Value added information.
  • Inspiration.
  • Tips.

4. Don’t smother your date

Ever heard of the three day rule?

It's a rule used by douchebag guys who think that waiting three days after a date to call means that the girl will want them more, when really it just pisses them off.

Although the three day rule doesn’t really work in practice, you definitely don’t want to smother your date with a text message every two minutes.

Similarly in email marketing, you want to communicate to your subscribers at appropriate intervals. A welcome programme which includes several emails sent over the course of two weeks can be a great way to automatically send relevant emails to new subscribers and make a good first impression.

Segmenting your data based on when subscribers last engaged with you is another good way to communicate with the people who are most likely to respond.

  • Welcome series over the first seven days.
  • Segment based on email behaviour.
  • Lifecycle trigger emails. 
  • Personalisation based on preferences. 

5. End the date amicably

Not everyone you date is going to fall head over heels for you but there’s no reason for ending the date badly if things don’t work out, you could still be friends.

Unfortunately many email marketers seem to think that it’s okay to make it hard to unsubscribe, either by hiding the unsubscribe link in the T&Cs and/or making you login to their website.

The fact is that if you don’t make it easy, subscribers are just going to mark you as spam, email marketing’s equivalent to a restraining order. Ideally your unsubscribe process should just involve one click.

It’s also fine to offer alternative options such as less frequent mailings and to ask for feedback. So:

  • Make it easy to unsubscribe.
  • Offer other options – Less frequent mailings (let’s be friends).
  • Ask for feedback so that you can do better in the future.

So there you have it, five dating tips that could help improve your email marketing. Good luck this Valentine’s Day.

Andrew King

Published 11 February, 2014 by Andrew King

Andrew is senior strategy consultant at Lyris and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can read his blog here, or follow on Twitter.  

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Comments (6)

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Ann Summers

So do you have to wait for the third date before closing the deal?

over 4 years ago



I like the way that you relate email marketing with a date. Very timely for Valentines Day. Sending email is a vital aspect of online marketing that can do wonders for your business. The tips you have shared are very useful.

Personalise content is a good point as every customer is different. You can start by finding a common point on a number of people, putting them in one group, then focus on their underlying similarities and create an email that tackles on things you can offer with the particular customer similarities in mind.

If I may add a few things; always review and test your newsletter before sending. You don't want to address your Valentines date on a different name, do you? Check everything - from and subject fields, grammatical errors, links, try opening it on different browsers, etc.

over 4 years ago


Maggie Tolliday

Although personalisation is great be careful not to act like a stalker.

over 4 years ago


Andrea M.

Haha, great tips! (And thanks for the laugh)

over 4 years ago



Love the comparison to dating! I am still chuckling - especially at the part about not smothering. How often we do it personally and professionally, without realizing it...

over 4 years ago


Victorino Abrugar

It's really nice how you related marketing to dating. I have to agree that these two practice are truly relative to each other. I just want to add that marketers should also need to research well their dates before the day so that they can provide the most suitable date that will earn them loyalty and trust from their dates, or customers.

over 4 years ago

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