A unicorn company is a privately-owned startup that is valued at $US1 billion or more. As unicorn companies are often renowned for their innovative approach to sales, they set best-practice trends in email marketing and newsletters.
As every marketer can take inspiration from the marketing of unicorn companies, we’ve subscribed to the mailing lists of various unicorn companies cross-industry to see what trends these newsletters have in common and, more importantly, what sets them apart.
Here’s what we found.
Unicorn companies give customers a choice
Gold-standard unicorn companies like Grammarly work hard to give their customers choices that allow them to control their own sales journey. This is especially true of Grammarly’s email marketing.
As part of their welcome email (featured below), Grammarly asks customers to set their email preferences, directing them to choose what marketing they would like to engage with.
This is a powerful approach, as it makes it clear that Grammarly values their relationship with its customers above all else.
While pushing new email list subscribers to set preferences might scare a few people away, it ensures Grammarly keeps the trust of their leads long term: which is a killer sales strategy for a brand with long-term goals.
Although Grammarly uses other non-email-based marketing strategies, their dedication to providing customer-first marketing on all platforms has earned them over 30 million users in just 11 years.
Unicorn companies keep their emails are short and sweet
When it comes to email marketing, unicorn companies make it pretty clear that less really is more. Today, the average email is read for around 13.4 seconds. This is an increase from 11.1 seconds in 2016 but still shows that people spend very little time reading emails.
As most people can skim approximately 3.96 words each second, the shorter your marketing email, the more likely it is people will read your call-to-action. Naturally, the more people view your call-to-action, the higher your lead conversion rate will be.
But don’t stress.
If you’re wondering how you can design an effective marketing email that’s so short, draw inspiration from this clever sales proposal by Warby Parker. It’s short, sweet, and sassy, making it great email marketing.
This email is also a great demonstration of how unicorn companies use aesthetics to target specific demographics.
As images are interpreted differently by different audiences, using a design with specific colors, fonts and visual tones can help you align your brand with a particular demographic.
Warby Parker’s email uses a modern design popular with younger generations and emphasizes millennial-style dry humor (like “autumnally appropriate acetates”).
It’s also worth noting that the email is fall-themed, but uses winter colors. We might be reading into this, but that looks like visual-irony to us.
Unicorn companies put themselves in their customer’s shoes
Unicorn companies know their product isn’t for everyone, but this ultimately works to their advantage.
In their email marketing, unicorn brands target specific demographics of people by putting themselves in their customer’s shoes. They do this by using friendly language like ‘you’, ‘we’ and ‘us’.
This sort of language aligns the brand with its customers and takes the formality out of the brand-customer relationship. It also builds a sense of team spirit and unites the brand and customer in a common goal – customer satisfaction.
We can see this type of marketing in this email from Toast. We love this email because it is full of warmth and support, and gives restaurant owners and managers real ways Toast can help their business.
Unicorn companies care about customer education
According to marketing experts, 73% of millennials prefer email as a marketing outreach channel for brands. Unicorn brands know this, which is why they leverage email marketing as a tool for customer education.
Customer education is an important part of the soft-selling process. Instead of starting with the hard sell, customer education provides leads with information, perspective, and skills that help them make informed purchasing decisions.
Customer education can be multifaceted and includes tutorials, social media marketing, buyer guides, blog posts, and eBooks about the brand’s product/ service.
Some brands even include recommendations for compatible products, including productivity tools and writing apps that can improve the customer’s experience.
When customer education is supplemented with a free trial, leads are given all of the resources they need to take action and become customers.
Unicorn brand Squarespace provides great customer education through their blog ‘MAKING IT’. Run through their website, MAKING IT features lessons, knowledge, and expert tools that help Squarespace customers get the most out of the service.
You can see how Squarespace shares posts from MAKING IT in the email below.
Unicorn companies ensure their emails are hyper-personalized
As our knowledge around the psychology of sales expands, our understanding of what customers really want is changing.
We now know that the best brands care about the individual needs of their customers, which is why unicorn brands embrace hyper-personalization. Surveys are generally a great way to KYC and segment them. You can use free survey makers to go one step further.
Hyper-personalization is when brands use data from customers and leads to provide marketing content that is specific to the person receiving it. This includes tailored product recommendations – which we see in this email from Udemy.
In this email, we see that Udemy is matching customers with courses compatible with their preferences. This helps customers navigate their website, keeping them engaged with new courses long-term.
Hyper-personalization can also be used behind-the-scenes. With marketing automation software, marketers can run simultaneous campaigns that target subsets of their email subscribers list – ensuring the right marketing reaches the right people.
Unicorn companies use power-words to keep their marketing cutting-edge
Unicorn brands know the value of powerful marketing, so they aren’t afraid to engage their email list subscribers with powerful words.
Power words are words marketers use to trigger an emotional or psychological response in readers. This includes words that get readers energized, excited, and invested – like ‘free’, ‘sale’, or ‘special’.
As you can see in this email from Figma, power words like ‘new’, ‘latest’, and ‘simple’ are used to draw the reader’s attention to key takeaways from the email. This makes these sentences stand out as significant, increasing the chances the reader will click-through to Figma’s website.
Brands also include powerful words to paint a picture of the brand and its values. We can see this in Figma’s email as well, as they are careful to associate power words like ‘community’, ‘conversations’, and ‘epic’ with their brand.
This builds a culture around Figma and helps them attract a brand community of like-minded customers.
What unicorn companies teach us about email marketing
The email marketing choices of unicorn companies make one thing very clear: good businesses prioritize customer relationships over hard selling.
As more unicorn companies embrace the magic of a good customer experience, it is becoming clear that concise marketing, customer education, personalization, and power words aren’t just trends: they are ways to align your brand with your leads before they become customers.
As marketers should start saying, “treat them nice, serve them twice.”