How a Top Consultant for Google, Disney and IBM uses Email Marketing (Hint: It’s Not What You Think)

When it comes to email marketing, Chris Brogan literally owns a day of the week.

The New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker and marketing consultant for worldwide brands including Coca Cola, IBM, Google, Disney and countless others has a Sunday email newsletter that is the stuff of digital legend.

And what’s most fascinating is that Brogan’s approach to email marketing isn’t one many would consider emulating, let alone on the scale he does each week. Also, his views on the size of one’s email list seem to go against what many consider the Holy Grail of email marketing – the bigger the list, the better the results.

At the same time, Brogan is a NYT Bestselling author of nine books, one of the most sought-after marketing and social media speakers in the world and  has a client list that reads like a who’s-who of the biggest brands and companies on the planet.

So he’s obviously got something figured out when it comes to email marketing.

Chris Brogan

Email Marketing Done Differently

“What would it be like to sit down and talk over coffee with a trusted ally, who knew enough to help you make the next move, and who could help you see a better path to your own success?” Brogan asks on his Sunday newsletter signup page. “It would be a LOT like my newsletter.

“Unlike most every newsletter in the world, you can simply just hit reply to talk with me. I’m there. Not some team of people. Me. Chris Brogan. Test it out. Lots of people do. And yep, I write back.”

LISTEN: Chris Brogan Talk Email Marketing & Audience Engagement

Brogan told me on a recent podcast that he does indeed write back to the tune of 400-600 emails each and every Sunday.

“Well, if you give a minute to each of 600 emails, that’s 10 hours, and that’s a lot of time, right?” he asks. “You’re like ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t even fathom that.’ But the truth is, every Sunday is a lot of emails, and then every other day is a lot fewer emails.

“And you can get a conversation back and forth really quick with one or two responses per human being that are personable and directly to them, and make people see and feel that they’re heard and that they’re out there and that what they’ve said, you know, matters.”

Despite all the tools and technology that make it easier than ever to scale our communication to reach tens of thousands of people at once, Brogan’s personal touch (one you can also see others like Gary Vaynerchuk practicing daily) and audience engagement sets him apart.

Small + Engaged > Large + Disengaged

One other area of email marketing where Brogan breaks from the mainstream is in the size of his email list.

“I mean, my email is just around 32,000 people right now,” he says. “We do a lot of paring all the time. So I could have one of those fat lists that people boast about, with 200,000 people, but where only 300 people actually open the emails.”

The reason, Brogan says, is that he wants a dynamic, responsive and actionable audience on the other end of his emails.

“You know, my idea was that my email list … it’s somewhat personal, and it’s somewhat business,” he says. “Everything about my email newsletter is antithetical, meaning the opposite of most of what everyone else does. It’s not HTML. It doesn’t have pretty design. It does not have tons of links to tons of things.

“And this is so weird … it looks like it comes from a human being.”

Brogan’s efforts to humanize and simplify his email marketing not only results in higher open rates and engagement – it also helps his audience get to know, like and trust him as well.

“And in my newsletter, I do this other weird thing that no one ever does,” he continues. “My newsletter doesn’t come from It comes from a real email address. And you can hit reply, and a real me replies to you, not some staff, because that would be weird.

“People test it all the time. People just like write back, ‘hi,’ like they’re talking to a robot. And so I make fun of them.

“And (in my reply) I’m like, ‘Hi, Patricia. Two letters, like, not even a period? Like, you couldn’t even capitalize the H?’ And I’ll tease them, and that always gets a response.

“People will say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were really real.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, why would I keep asking you every week to reply to me?'”


LISTEN: Chris Brogan Talk Email Marketing & Audience Engagement

Email Marketing – Mastered

For Brogan, authenticity, value and a personal touch are the hallmark of successful email marketing.

They’re also a refreshingly human approach in a digital world filled with a virtual firehose of fast-moving, impersonal and often irrelevant marketing messages gumming up your inbox and social media feeds on a daily basis.

Take it from Chris Brogan: If you want to be more successful, be more human in how you market to and engage with your target audience.

It’s really that simple, and it’s something Brogan does better than most.