4 Tips to Make Your Marketing Emails Go Viral

September 28, 2015 Karen Axelton

email marketing

Do you want to create marketing emails that “go viral”—that get forwarded to recipients’ friends, and their friends, and so on and so on? Viral emails, like viral videos, don’t happen on their own, nor do they happen often. According to a study reported in MediaPost, the average commercial email got one forward for every 370 total opens, while emails categorized as “viral” got one forward for every 21 opens.

Here are some steps you can take to increase the chances that your marketing emails will go viral and be shared with others.

  1. Ask for it. When an ecommerce retailer wants customers to shop a sale, what does she do? Send out an email that includes the call to action “Shop Now.” The same tactic works for getting forwards and shares, the study found. Viral emails are 13 times more likely to feature a prominently displayed “Share With Your Network” CTA in the main body of the email (not hidden way down at the bottom).
  2. Get personal. Viral emails are 4.5 times more likely than average to include personalized messages, such as recommending specific products based on past purchases, or recommending certain services. While this may not make sense at first glance, it could be that friends and family members tend to have similar tastes, or needs for similar products (such as gifts for the same family members).
  3. Segment your customer list. Viral emails are 4.3 times more likely than average to be segmented. For example, you could segment customers by their behavior, such as sending a specific email to customers who shopped your last sale or visited your business in the past three months. You can also segment customers based on demographics (i.e., age, sex, income) or by location.
  4. Select the right topic. How does the topic of your emails affect whether they go viral or not? You might think viral emails would be kind of like viral videos—cute kittens or precocious kids. However, according to the study, the most common topics in viral emails are:
  • An offer of a free product or free trial
  • Announcement of a new product, service or store opening
  • Announcement that a location is closing, a product is being discontinued or a product is being recalled
  • An invitation to an event that recipients must register or RSVP for


The study concludes that customers like sharing useful information, even if it may seem “boring,” because it makes them appear to be in the know.

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Author information

Karen Axelton

Karen Axelton

Karen Axelton is Chief Content Officer of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her company’s blog at SmallBizDaily.com.


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