target-and-arrow The field of marketing has changed more drastically over the past 10 years than many other professions, due primarily to the advent of more advanced (i.e. easier) methods of communication that cater to our desire for immediate gratification. Social media, blogs, short-message services – replacing seven turns on the rotary dial with the click of a button.

But even as all other marketing strategies come and go, including the cold call, email marketing is the stalwart method of communication, growing ever stronger as the years go by, even amid the introduction of social media and search marketing. While all are important factors in the online marketing equation, email marketing is the most invasive and, thus, the most effective. Your audience is giving you permission to be in their email inbox – that’s a pretty giant leap in the sales process.

That being said, before we dive into the meat of this article, if you’re just beginning to utilize email marketing, be sure to follow these best practices:

  1. Give your audience a reason to subscribe: insider information they can’t get anywhere else, special promotions and coupons accessible only via the email list, etc.
  2. Always, always, ALWAYS have a call to action.
  3. Utilize landing pages that measure up to the expectations of the people clicking on your links. Don’t have pop-ups on landing pages advertising something your audience isn’t looking for.
  4. Keep subject lines short, snappy and to the point. Ambiguity, unless expertly done, is the death knell of your email.
  5. Build your lists organically by creating trust and adding value to your subscribers’ lives.


Once you’ve got your lists built up, you’re in good shape to begin a little more advanced targeting. At this point it’s time to start learning about and incorporating your audience’s personality types. For this post we’ll qualify and categorize our audience using the DISC Theory Personality Traits, developed by scientists at Harvard.

DISC Theory divides human behavior into four categories: drive, compliance, influence and steadiness. But how do we incorporate these into our email marketing strategy? How do we target them?

Let’s look into these four personality types using the best practices we discussed above:


1. Give Your Audience a Reason to Subscribe

Everybody, regardless of personality type, wants to know what’s in it for them. Give them a compelling reason to subscribe. Drive personalities are results-oriented, so demonstrate to them up-front exactly what they’re going to get out their subscription. The influence personalities may appreciate a little more sensationalism and excitement, as they tend to be a bit more impulsive and emotional – pump them up with great original photography, inspirational one-liners, and some imagery that caters to the emotional side of the brain.


2. Always Have a Call to Action

Compliance personality types appreciate structure and organization, so they will appreciate being pointed to the call to action (CTA). Put your CTA in plain sight, somewhere their eyes won’t pass up. Remember: people’s eyes naturally begin scanning content from left to right, top to bottom. In other words, putting your call to action in the bottom right-hand corner of your email may not be the smartest decision in the history of mankind.


3. Utilize Landing Pages

You have more room to work with on your landing page than you do in your email, so using visuals and an easy-to-read layout and content structure is key upon your audience’s arrival. This is where compliance personality types may appreciate a well-organized, straightforward list as you guide them along the cognitive process toward the coveted conversion. Your steadiness personality types are the most likely to thoroughly peruse your content, so long as it’s consistent with what they’ve seen before and isn’t out of character with your voice or your brand. With any kind of marketing, consistency is key.


4. Keep Subject Lines Short and to the Point

This also applies to all personality types. Nobody likes their time being wasted, so whether they’re a drive, a compliance, a steadiness, or an influence personality, be direct and succinct with your email subject lines. You can use the principles of the DISC Theory in regard to your keyword selections in this instance. Understand the psychological profile of the audience you’re targeting, and then tailor the keywords that might apply to them. This will take some conscious experimentation, and potentially some A/B testing.


5. Create Trust and Add Value

The only way to obtain longevity with your audience’s emails is by creating trust and adding value to their lives. One does not achieve this with list buys (list buys aren’t a bad idea if you’re just getting off the ground – they’re just not a sustainable business practice). Drive personalities may start trusting once they see some measurable outcomes with your offers – demonstrating how it affects their bottom line with good visuals like charts and graphs can be a great targeting strategy here.

Marketing visually isn’t always about having those great images and iconic stock photography. It has much more to do with overall layout, structure and placement of your calls to action. Like a website, email marketing is about navigation: if you make your content difficult to find or use, you’ll watch your open rates plummet followed quickly by the number of subscribers you have.

So remember the best practices, build up your list organically and always stay ahead of the competition by going a little deeper into your target audience’s cognitive processes. If you do it right, they won’t even realize what you’re actually doing is marketing. Because, as the greatest minds in marketing will tell you, it’s not marketing. It’s storytelling.


About the Author:

Jeff Hirz is a writer, freelancer and content marketer. A firm believer in and proponent for the cross-over of marketing and psychology, Jeff does his best to bridge the interdisciplinary gap and bring marketers closer to their goals through the use of comprehensive strategy. He contributed this article on behalf of