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Increase Email Click-Through Rate with These 4 Emotional Triggers

To the untrained email marketer, getting subscribers to click links in your emails can feel like throwing spaghetti at the wall. But as chaotic as that simile sounds… 

…when you know which noodles stick, it isn’t all that messy.

In the world of email marketing, we call wall-sticking noodles “triggers.” And they work because humans are all hardwired the same way. When you push on certain persuasion buttons in the brain, you can get readers to perform the actions you’re hoping for with your copy.

The 4 triggers to increase email click-through rate are:

  • Gain
  • Logic
  • Fear
  • Scarcity

These principles of persuasion can be applied ANYwhere you want your customers to take action.

Think about the last time you made a big decision. I guarantee it had something to do with:

  • What you could gain…
  • Your desire to maintain consistency with your previous decisions, based on deductive reasoning…
  • A fear of what would happen if you didn’t make that decision…
  • A ticking clock…

…or some combination of the four.

Let’s break each of these emotional triggers down one by one…

Emotional Trigger #1: Gain

At any given moment, we all want to gain something. What that something is depends on the moment. 
Sometimes we want to gain the knowledge of why our email open rate decreased by 10% this week. Other times we want to gain a burrito bowl. 

It really depends on the moment.

In the moment that someone is reading your email, you want to ask:

What will they gain if they click on this link?

That’s what your reader is wondering and you need to answer it. Your email copy should make a promise that clicking on the link in the email will deliver a specific gain.

That promise might be obvious or subtle.

For example, Joe Polish outlines the gain of clicking on the video link in his email not once, but twice (we highlighted it in yellow below).

Increase Email Click-Through Rate

First, he identifies if the person reading it is interested in the gain he’s offering, “…does creating that value sometimes get in the way of your health, or in the way of the relationships that are most important to you?”. 

Whoever sees this gain and has an emotionally triggered response to say “yes” in their mind is going to keep reading.

Then, he goes for the click-through close, “…lead a sustainable, creative life and never have to choose between ‘thriving’ and actually achieving your business goals.”

On top of adding the social proof of Arianna Huffington giving the advice, Joe is painting the beautiful picture of a life spent in creative pursuits without tanking your health and relationships.

Joe is showing his readers looking for this type of guidance they have a lot to gain from clicking on that link.

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Emotional Trigger #2: Logic

Increase Email Click-Through Rate

It’s true. People buy for emotional reasons—but they justify the purchase with logic.

If you’ve appealed successfully to a buyer’s emotional side, it’s time to give them something practical to justify the purchase.

Use statistics, odds, comparisons, expert opinions and other practical facts to encourage email clicks.
For example Trends by The Hustle uses this copy to get people to click-through and subscribe for their $1 trial.

The logic is that all of this information cost attendees of Hustle Con. $600, but it will only cost you $1. 
Pretty logical, right? 

Casper, Away, and Twitch are 9+ figure businesses. Being able to see what their founders talked about at Hustle Con. seems like a no brainer for somebody interested in a business newsletter and community.
This justifies the $1 trial offer. If the reader used the $599 they saved from not going to Hustle Con. and just signing up for this trial, they’d be able to buy 80 burrito bowls.

And that’s bulletproof logic.

Emotional Trigger #3: Fear

Increase Email Click-Through Rate

With the right audience and the right promise, you can get outstanding click-through rates when you push on a reader’s fear button.

This sounds scarier than it really is. You don’t need to go full Parasite on people, you just need to convince them if they don’t click on this link something they don’t want to happen might happen.
For example, Canva does a great job of this. When you initially read this email, you may think, did DigitalMarketer really just tell me this copy is creating fear?

This is why Canva did a great job. Without many realizing, they’re evoking the fear that if you don’t click on the turquoise button you won’t know what design trends are emerging in content and you’ll get left behind.

A business owner is going to see their social media engagement dropping, their emails getting less clicks, and their website not converting. 

A graphic designer is going to imagine an email from a client saying the graphic they designed didn’t perform the way it used to.

That’s scary—and that’s what makes it clickable.

Emotional Trigger #4: Scarcity

Increase Email Click-Through Rate

If the reader feels there is no urgency to take action on your campaign or product launch NOW, often they won’t do it. You might be offering gain, logic, and fear…but if you don’t put a time limit on it they’ll just tell themselves, “I’ll get to it later.”

If you want to increase click-throughs on your email in your email marketing strategy, you need to communicate that what you have for them is limited in some way.

Health insurance providers in the USA have mastered scarcity. They’ve opened enrollment for health insurance into just a few months at the end of each year, pushing the scarcity of the time remaining to get health coverage. 

Take a look at this email from Health Insurance Marketplace.

Notice how they show the reader they still have 2 more steps to complete before April 15th to get coverage. This pushes the scarcity of time (there’s a deadline AND two steps left to complete!) and makes the reader feel a lot more motivated to prioritize clicking on the Finish Enrolling button.

Mixing and Matching Emotional Triggers

These persuasion buttons don’t cancel each other out. If you push on the gain trigger, you can still catch people with a logic trigger, and follow up with a scarcity trigger.

And this is exactly what you want to do.

Your subscribers haven’t banded together to decide that on Monday’s they feel logical, on Tuesday’s they prefer a little scarcity, and on Wednesday’s they need to know what’s in it for them.

Your emails are meeting readers where they are. 

Some are going to be really happy when they read your email. Others might feel overwhelmed. And some might feel like they don’t actually need what you’re selling them.

That’s why you want to meet your customer avatar where they are in that moment.
Happy readers are going to feel excited to learn that you have something for them to gain, and in turn make them even happier. 

Overwhelmed readers can be extremely inspired by scarcity. 

And the readers who aren’t totally convinced need some logic to show them why this is a good solution/answer for their problem or question.

By mixing and matching emotional triggers, you can personalize batch emails a bit more.

For example, an email could be structured like:

  1. Gain Section
  2. Gain CTA
  3. Gain trigger segue into Logic Section
  4. Logic CTA
  5. Logic trigger into Fear Section
  6. Fear CTA

Would we be a digital marketing education platform if we didn’t say TEST at least once in this article?
Once you’ve decided the best flow of pushing on these emotional triggers, you want to test it.


Experiment with the order in which you push these buttons. Try GAIN > FEAR > LOGIC > SCARCITY. Then, switch it up and test FEAR > LOGIC > GAIN > SCARCITY.

Also, experiment with emails that focus on a single emotional trigger and others that combine more than one.

For example, a single sentence in your email might touch on gain, logic and scarcity.  It might read like this:

Until midnight tonight [SCARCITY] and for less than it costs to fill up your gas tank [LOGIC] you can learn how to negotiate thousands of dollars off of your next car purchase. [GAIN]

The same sentence could be tested using fear instead of gain,

Until midnight tonight [SCARCITY] and for less than it costs to fill up your gas tank [LOGIC] you can learn to stop a used car salesman from ripping you off. [FEAR]

And that’s how you get the click.

Find your emotional triggers and then mix them together to create the perfect email campaign.



The lovely content team here at DigitalMarketer works hard to make sure you have the best blog posts to read. But some posts require a group effort, and we decided to stop the rock-paper-scissors tournaments that decided the byline so that we had more time to write. Besides, we all graduated from kindergarten: we can share.

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