Spoiler alert: The best marketing email I’ve received in 2016 is not even a marketing email…and it went to my “Updates” tab in Gmail.

So how does that happen? How does an email that’s technically a receipt, end up adding more value to me than a promotion or discount? How does a company drive more revenue simply by telling you about the money you just gave them? Jacob Hansen recently wrote What Makes an Email Transactional or Promotional. This post will explore the idea of adding value to your transactional messages.

Some Background

Last Sunday, it snowed here in Denver and I was left with the choice of going out for a cold bike ride or heading to a new spin class I’d heard about: CycleBar. I chose to give CycleBar a shot because I’m a bit competitive and I heard they had the ability to track your ride and show you how you compare to the other riders. I got my friend to go with me and we got sweaty while listening to top 40 pop music.

The rumors were true. While spinning and listening to loud music in the dark, the instructor would flash class stats on the screen. The result was focusing more and working harder. All I could think about was beating the people around me…especially my buddy.

As we left the class, we argued about who had worked harder, who burned more calories, and how many other people we beat. Until I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. An email had arrived:

Your CycleStats Are In

That’s the subject line I saw. This is perfect because it’s to the point and it’s ridiculously timely. I was JUST arguing about my ride, and behold, I have the stats that will tell me how I performed. Let’s take a look at the message:

First, let’s address the elephant in the room. This is not the best looking email. The good thing is, it doesn’t matter. Here’s what I love about this message:

  • Timeliness – It arrived minutes after leaving the class, so it was hyper-relevant to me. I’m pretty sure I was still catching my breath.
  • Content – In addition to showing me I placed 3rd out of 31 people, the email shows me my watts (power/force applied to the pedals) during the class, and it tells me my calories burned. Honestly, this message gave me instant bragging rights and I brought it up to show people later in the day.
  • Calls to Action – I like that there’s more than just a link to schedule my next ride. There’s a link to see how I performed on the website in comparison to past rides and there’s even a link to the playlist that I just listened to during the class! This let’s me know that CycleBar is just as interested in keeping me engaged as they are about getting my money.

Add more value to your transactional messages

We encourage senders to keep transactional messages informational, but that’s not to say we think you should keep them boring. If you’re sending receipts or other transactional messages to customers, keep some of these things in mind:

  • What else would your customer find helpful in this situation?
  • How can you add value to your recipient’s relationship with your brand?
  • What other resources would help them after they open your email?

If there’s one thing that recipients love, it’s valuable content. Promotions and discounts will always be crowding the inbox, but finding extra content that increases a recipient’s appreciation of your brand drives loyalty and repeat business. You can also learn how to use great content to grow your recipient list in our best practice guide How to Authentically Grow Your Email List.

The message above could have simply provided me with the class information, a request to give feedback, and a link to schedule my next ride. Fortunately, they thought about their recipients and chose to provide extra content that I found informational and valuable. I’ll be back, CycleBar.

Warren Duff
Warren is the Sr. Content Marketing Manager at SendGrid, specializing in email and content best practices, he develops many of the new guides you see SendGrid release as well as other pieces of content, including blogs, videos, case studies, and emails.