5 Ways to Promote Anything By Email

I’m subscribed to several newsletters, as you know. I love soaking up as much information as possible and learning as much as I can about my profession. I want to stay relevant and on top of what’s going on.

I already talked about my “news” newsletters. But other newsletters fall into three categories: marketing, digital, and business (including consulting). In the business and consulting fields, the senders typically write every day, like I do.

I love their daily emails and don’t find them intrusive. But some of them I do ignore once in a while because they are overtly promotional and pushy. I don’t unsubscribe because they do offer value here and there. But their promos can be a bit too much. If they get out of hand, they’ve lost me.

This reminds me, I wanted to discuss the five ways you can promote by email but it can also apply to other media, whether it’s in videos, podcasts, or social media. They are:

  1. Direct
  2. Sponsor
  3. Bumper
  4. Inline
  5. Gradual

Before I describe them, and if you’re considering one of these, keep in mind that you have to comply with laws such as CAN-SPAM and others, such as identifying sponsored or affiliate links, or linking to a disclosure policy online.

Many commercial email providers will have this already embedded.

And offer a clear, one- or two-click (maximum) unsubscribe process. No need to have your subscribers jump through hoops. After all, you want engaged, interested subscribers. If they want to leave, then let them leave.

Some newsletter publishers I know tend to make the unsub process a little convoluted, which I don’t understand. They sell “ad space” in their emails, so large subscriber numbers are a key selling point. Problem is, their open and clickthrough rates are absolutely abysmal.

One professional I know, an “influencer” in his niche, has over a half-million subscribers. But his open rate is less than 10%, which is appalling (industry average is 25% and anything over 30% is considered amazing).

Mine is 26.5%, for example.

Anyone who’s informed enough and wanting to advertise via a list will ask for those numbers, too, and not just list size. So it makes no sense to me. I’d rather have high open rates than list subscribers.

Some professionals I know go through an annual purge.

Cheeky movie reference aside, they kill off a third to half of their lists each year. They create a new list and ask their current subscribers to click a link to optin to the new one, keeping their lists fresh and engaged, with open rates often hovering above the 40% mark.

Here are the email ad methods, in order of frequency or directness.


These are single emails that are, in their entirety, a promo of some kind. They can either be an ad for the sender or for a third party advertiser.

I remember back when I was the editor of a major marketing newsletter, which was later acquired by the late Corey Rudl. At the time, we had over 120,000 subscribers. The newsletter never did anything overtly promotional with their regular emails as they wanted to remain focused on their brand.

But once in a while, they would sell ad space in their emails in the form of something called “solo mailings.” I wrote articles and emailed every day, but once a week we would email a complete email promo (which I was often tasked to write the copy for) to the entire list.

Sponsored emails have ads in them, usually clearly separated or identified as “sponsors” in some way, although they don’t have to be. They can be boxed or wrapped around borders, and usually will have “sponsor” or “ad” near them. They usually are spread out throughout the emails.


Bumper ads are typically the same as sponsors, but they are usually at the beginning, end, or both. For example, I often watch drum cover videos, and at the beginning and end, there’s the show card (the video thumbnail) with the list of equipment for which the drummer is being sponsored by.

The video often starts or ends with the drummer saying, “This week, I’d like to thank my sponsors…”

In emails, these are often at the top and/or bottom of emails. A little less intrusive than sponsors, where the “meat” of the email remains pretty much ad-free. Sometimes, it can be mentioned as an afterthought, in the final paragraph, or in the P.S. at the end.


While inline seems to be like the sponsored ads above, these are typically subtle, often linked text sprinkled in the content, and they may or may not be identified as sponsored links or affiliate links.

For example, you’re a lawyer teaching other lawyers about how to create a website. And inside your email, you might talk about what to look for in a web host. You may or may not directly mention a name, but you could have “web host” linked to a host you’re affiliated with.

I do this mostly with Amazon. When I mention or recommend a book I’ve read, I’ll link it to Amazon, and it’s usually my affiliate link. Not always (I often forget to do so), and it’s not a moneymaker for me. But I do it because it’s a great way to gauge and track interests.


If you’ve been marketing online for any period of time, you likely have heard of Jeff Walker and his product launch formula. Jeff has been responsible for some of the biggest Internet marketing successes, including mine with John Reese during his million-dollar day in 2004.

Jeff teaches the concept of creating anticipation. Sometimes, it’s direct and overt. Other times, it’s indirect and subtle. The goal is to offer tons of valuable, useful, and relevant content, leading up to a launch of some kind.

In the context of email ads, the content never promotes anything directly, but leads up to it — it could be a drip campaign or a series of emails that discusses or describes that which is eventually going to be promoted.

For example, you’re a cosmetic dentist. Your email talks about the benefits of having whiter teeth. Over the course of several emails, you talk about different alternatives, the pros and cons, and what to look for when buying a teeth whitening kit or system. And after a while, you send an email offering one.

A final word.

Of all these, the bumper, inline, or gradual methods are the ones I personally prefer. Some marketers I know tend to send direct emails, which are the ones I usually ignore. Some of them are so bad, they send 10 times more promos than educational emails. I’m not a fan of those.

I like occasional, subtle ads or recommendations. I’m sure that’s the same with my subscribers. Although, some people I know hate those, too.

Whether you choose to promote anything via email or turn your email marketing into a business model of its own, you can use any one of the five options above. Just remember to provide value, listen to your subscribers, and comply with any rules, especially within your professional industry.

About The Author

Avatar of Michel Fortin
Michel Fortin is a certified SEO consultant, content strategist, and marketing advisor helping plastic surgeons, cosmetic surgeons, and medical aesthetic clinics attract more patients. Since 1991, he helps cosmetic and aesthetic professionals increase their visibility and grow their practices. He is the author of the More Traffic Memo™ SEO email newsletter.

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