How To Engage Email Subscribers From The Second They Sign Up

This is a lesson from Module #8 “Advanced Marketing Tactics” in our StartupCamp entrepreneur curriculum. Learn More

At the time of this article, I have over 115,000 email subscribers. I have built my list organically over the past 2 years. Everyone has been filtered through a double opt-in process to ensure quality and my open rates have stayed around 25-35%.


An effective email strategy is critical for the entrepreneur. But with the flood of spam-based email marketers and the desire for many to rid their inboxes of unneeded messages, email opt outs can be expensive for a small business. A strong email engagement strategy is now paramount.

But instead of talking only about tactics and strategies, I would like to take you back to the foundations of the human mind. Let’s start with an empathetic heart and what we know is true about people.

As entrepreneurs we have a vital decision to make every single day.

Give or Take

Sadly, most companies build their revenue models on an unsustainable frequency of taking by constantly sending emails asking for people to buy their products. This highly common approach inevitably burns customers out and results in an opt-out. Business owners… remember this:

Nobody can buy a product from you every single week.

Because customers know they can’t afford to buy another shirt, or pair of shoes, book, or gadget from you they naturally learn to ignore your emails, or even worse move them to their “unimportant inbox”. Instead, let’s look at the model I have adopted.

The Give Model

Consumers are looking to be taken care of. They are hunting for value, authenticity, depth, and connection. Unfortunately, products cannot fill this void. But empathy can.

Empathetic email marketing takes a mature leader. Someone who can speak to the customer how they need to hear it, not how the marketer wants to say it.

In my experience and in my industry, customers want wisdom. They want proven and dependable personal development lessons. They want to grow their intelligence on entrepreneurship, to be educated, elevated, and entertained.

But again, you can’t do this with products alone.

The give model is built around content. Content that fills the needs of the customer. Content that not only makes customers open your emails, but urges them to tell others about the incredible value you offer.

But what about sales? How are you going to stay in business? In today’s online economy, we know one thing is true:

If your brand is out of sight, your brand is out of mind.

Sales demand 24/7/365 brand engagement. A level of engagement that can only be fulfilled with content. In contrast to the constant “product only” emails that are rarely opened and unsustainable, “content first” emails are opened often and are highly sustainable. Few customers are upset because you’re sending them too much free value.

By simply adding a blog and including 1-3 pieces of its valuable content (great videos, thought provoking articles, short consumable lessons, interesting podcasts, free downloads, etc) to your weekly emails, you have now given your consumers a fantastic (and sustainable) reason to open your emails every single day. Can you add products too? Sure. But only second to great content.

As a result, when it comes time to buy a product your brand has not been forgotten. Additionally, you have also instilled the principle of reciprocity. A consumer psychology tactic that says: if customers believe they have been given substantial value at no cost, they feel indebted to repay your brand through the purchasing of goods and the referral of new business. Not a bad deal right?

The big question is this? How can your company educate, elevate, and entertain your customers? What content do you need to develop?

But remember, content isn’t king, Usefulness is.

If you only have the bandwidth to produce one piece of high quality, useful content per week, then you should only be sending one email per week. If the content quality drops, so will your open rates.

Have you implemented an engaging content strategy? Do you think this lesson would benefit your email marketing efforts? Let me know in the comments below.

Are You A New Entrepreneur Who Needs Help?


Dale Partridge
Dale Partridge is the Founder of He's also a keynote speaker and author of the Wall Street Journal & USA Today Bestselling book People Over Profit.


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  1. I know that I’m kind of late to the party, but I found immense value in one sentence and I have to publicly express my gratitude.

    “A consumer psychology tactic that says: if customers believe they have been given substantial value at no cost, they feel indebted to repay your brand through the purchasing of goods and the referral of new business.”

    I knew about this psychological principle, but the correlation with marketing never popped in my head.

    I do a lot of research on email marketing, by simply signing up to newsletters from various bloggers in my nice and monitoring their messages. One of them left really strong impression by sending 10 messages of incredible value in his welcome series. I felt connected to him, like I know him personally, and I couldn’t wait for the next mail. This is the kind of relation that I want to have with my subscribers. I don’t really sell anything, since I have the affiliate marketing blog, so there’s no need to promote anything through my emails, other than my content.

    Thank you so much, again, for this great piece of content.

    • Emily says:

      Milan, thank you for the wonderful feedback! We believe this to be very true (we LOVE the book “Never Lose A Customer Again” by Joey Coleman), and we believe that customer retention is ALL about customer experience (not just customer service). Thank you, again!

  2. Sarah says:

    Thank you Dale for being a voice of reason, of authenticity and calm power. I always love your posts and this one is a stand out 🙂

  3. Dale,
    Great article. I write a blog. I do not have any tangible products to be selling. My product is the information people read.
    #1. I’m posting 1-3 public articles per week, should I send an email newsletter as well and when?
    #2. When you say you built your list organically does this just mean by ” boots on the ground” efforts as opposed to a mass system?

    • I would do 1-2 emails per week. I meant I captured as many visitors as I could on my site. If you don’t get people to subscribe, you’re failing.

  4. I like the idea of giving your customers some added value with your e-mails by providing interesting content. It is truly a great way to stay on the customers mind and focus.
    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Great point Dale. Loved the give model aspect of your article. That Zig Ziglar quote always stands out to me, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” I struggle with understanding what content my avatar wants to receive via email. Any pointers of how to find that out. Thanks Dale!

  6. So with the give model.

    Would you recommend sharing topics related to what
    your audience is interested in?


    Would sharing a video I shoot say on my iphone about
    some personal development tip work just as well?

    Thanks for the post though.

    I’m going to start including content in my emails well at
    least more content in my emails to blog posts and videos
    I post on YouTube.

    Isaiah Jackson.

    • Hey Isaiah! Either would be fine. But leaning more on what your audience is interested in.

  7. Hi Dale, you’re right. That’s why marketing automation with a touch of human behavior is the best way to engage with your email list. Free tips are the best way to start a relationship based on trust with your readers and clients.

  8. As a GREAT point, this came to me in an email and got me to engage…
    The law of sowing and reaping is always at work. The marketers and leaders I have the best respect for are the ones who give the most wisdom. Consequently, I want more from them, and will gladly invest money if they ask for it!


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