Read Time: 27 min

Delivering Episode 22: Friends on Email With Rachel Black

In this episode of Delivering, host Jason Rodriguez chats with one of his friends about how they use email, think about common email marketing practices, and how email marketers can make their campaigns more valuable for everyday subscribers.

Delivering is brought to you by Litmus. Litmus is the only platform that helps you send email with confidence, every time. Over 600,000 marketing professionals use Litmus’ tools to build, test, and analyze better email campaigns faster. Head over to to start your free 7-day trial of Litmus, and start sending better emails today.

Episode Transcript

Rachel Black: Okay, welcome to Delivering, a podcast about email design, strategy, copywriting, development, and the email marketing industry. I’m your host’s friend, Rachel Black.

Delivering is brought to you by Litmus – the only platform trusted by professionals to help you send email with confidence every time. Over 600,000 marketing professionals use Litmus’s tools to build, test, and analyze better email campaigns faster.

Head over to to start your free 7-day trial of Litmus and start sending better emails today. Be sure to subscribe to Delivering on iTunes or Spotify to listen to future episodes and join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #DeliveringPodcast.

Jason Rodriguez: I actually think you did that better than I normally do it.

Awesome. Thank you, Rachel. So yeah, I have, for everybody listening, I have my friend Rachel Black here. We’ve known each other for, god, since high school. So, I mean, I don’t want to age ourselves too much but going on 20 years here. But yeah, I, for anybody that’s been listening, I’ve been trying to talk to people that are outside of the email marketing industry and get their opinions on email. So, I guess I need to give it a name or something, so maybe I’ll start calling it “Friends on Email” or something, sort of series for it. But you’re kind of, you’re, I guess you’re my second friend I have on email, outside of my wife.

So, I clearly don’t have that many friends but it’s all good. That’s all, that’s all anybody needs. I’m just going to pick your brain about email marketing and how you think about things that we typically care about in the industry, but I am curious how you, as kind of a regular run-of-the-mill consumer, how you think about email.

Rachel Black: I’m ready?

Jason Rodriguez: Cool. All right. So, to kick things off: what email client, or what email app, do you use to actually read your emails?

Rachel Black: So, like Gmail, is that what you mean?

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah, that’s one of them. Yeah.

Rachel Black: I use Gmail. That’s my main personal one. And then I have a Hotmail account from when I was 19 that I still have so, Hotmail as well.

Jason Rodriguez: Nice. Are you comfortable sharing your Hotmail email address?

Rachel Black: I mean, it’s a band that I’ve loved forever. Guster gal or Guster is the band. So, it’s GusterGal19.

Jason Rodriguez: I was listening to Guster last night! It just popped in my head, “Two Points for Honesty” was like popped into my head for some reason. I was like, I have to listen to Guster now to get that out. It definitely brought back some memories. That’s awesome.

Rachel Black: Great band.

Jason Rodriguez: So, when you check your email, is it usually, were where do you check it? Is it usually on your phone? Is it on your laptop?

Rachel Black: I’d say, I mean, nine times out of 10 on my phone.

Jason Rodriguez: Is that in the Gmail app or are you using it through like the, I think you’re an iPhone user.

Rachel Black: I’m an iPhone user. Yep. So, the, whatever the email app is there.

Jason Rodriguez: So, just called Mail, looks like a big envelope?

Rachel Black: Yeah, I can see my Gmail and my Hotmail.

Jason Rodriguez: How often do you check email?

Rachel Black: Yeah, I don’t know what’s average. I don’t know if this is good or bad. I mean, I guess it depends on if I’m like expecting something to be shipped or I don’t know on average, I’d say 10 times.

Jason Rodriguez: 10 times a day?

Rachel Black: I guess.

Jason Rodriguez: When, when do you usually check? That might be the better answer.

Rachel Black: I mean more when I’m like, you know, if it’s like a slower day or a slower time at work, so, or like lunchtime or right when I get up, right. When I go, before I go to bed, just the times that I’m kind of maybe just playing on my phone anyway, probably check it then more.

Jason Rodriguez: That makes sense. For work do you use a specific email client?

Rachel Black: We use Outlook at work.

Jason Rodriguez: Is that on Mac, or do you guys, are you a PC-based company?

Rachel Black: PC.

Jason Rodriguez: Alright, that makes sense. Have you ever heard of the term “email triage”?

Rachel Black: No.

Jason Rodriguez: So, email triage is when you like check an email one place and then you save it to look at later somewhere else. So maybe you might be out on the go and like, see an email pop open on your phone. And then you kind of save it for later to look at on your desktop. Do you ever do that?

Rachel Black: I don’t think so. So just, yeah, just checking and not being able to read it just then or something?

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah. So, kind of like, think of I need to look into this later. I want to see it on my laptop as opposed to my phone.

Rachel Black: No, not really.

Jason Rodriguez: What do you use email for?

Rachel Black: I mean more now for, I just, I mean, I was looking at my email today and this is really bad, but I have like 32,000 emails in there, which is really bad, but the majority are just companies. Very rarely do I use it for communicating with family or friends. Of course, you know, that happens occasionally, but mostly like Amazon or when something is shipped or coupons or sales, stuff like that. That’s probably, you know, 95% of my inbox.

Jason Rodriguez: So, what kind of emails do you subscribe to then? Are there any specific brands or companies?

Rachel Black: So like Ulta, which is the beauty store, they send a lot of coupons, so I get a lot of emails from them and that’s one of the ones that I actually, you know, actually open and read. When I see it, I don’t really flip through, like gloss through it or whatever. So, let’s see. I mean, I’m trying to think as far as like, subscribing that I like to look forward to getting an email from, I mean, there’s a couple like the comedian Gary Gulman, he sometimes sends newsletters. So that’s, that’s one. I’m in the My Favorite Murder Fan Cult podcasts where they send emails occasionally. But yeah, just as far as ones that actually look forward to stuff like that, I’d probably say those are the main ones.

Jason Rodriguez: So, are you an actual Murderino, like full fan club member? I’m surprised my wife. Hasn’t done that yet. She’s obsessed with that.

Rachel Black: Yeah. I am surprised, too.

Jason Rodriguez: What makes you sign up for an email list then?

Rachel Black: Usually, I feel like I’m kind of forced to, when I am signing up for something. I’ve never really, I mean, just like the comedian that I mentioned, I wanted to get updates from him about his tour, new stuff that he’s got going on, specials, all that stuff, but I don’t really seek them out. Like, I’m never like, okay, I want to get emails from this company typically. So usually if like, you know, you want to unlock a 10% off code, you have to sign up for emails.

Jason Rodriguez: That makes sense. So, have any of those emails ever prompted you to buy something directly from it? Like you actually saw it and you’re like, oh yeah, I need to like, get this right now directly from the email.

Rachel Black: I’m sure. Yeah. I think again, Ulta, I think there’s been a couple of times where I’ve gotten emails from them with stuff that I wanted and probably because they have my information, they know what I’ve bought before, so they send me that and I’ll get it right from there.

Jason Rodriguez: Makes sense. So does the design of an email matter to you at all? Whether or not something like an email actually looks good?

Rachel Black: Looks? Definitely. I mean, as far as like colors and stuff, are you talking about or…?

Jason Rodriguez: Whatever you would think that goes into the design of it.

Rachel Black: I mean, definitely. I was, when I was looking through some email today, I kind of, pass over the ones from Planet Fitness, which is the gym that I did belong to. Their subject lines are really long. So, I mean, most of the time I just delete or just scroll right through those ones. And they’re not appealing to me because it’s just too much in there, I feel. So yeah, as far as, you know, the look, if, if it’s super, super wordy, I don’t tend to stop and look, or cluttered, if it’s really super bright or if it looks like, you know, it’s like MySpace kind of looking then not typically appealing to my eyes, but yeah, it definitely matters.

Jason Rodriguez: So, you mentioned subject lines and Planet Fitness. That example having really long subject lines. When you think about, if you think about subject lines at all, what kind of subject lines get you to open an email?

Rachel Black: I mean, if I see my name in it, usually that makes me stop. Or if I see like, your like your order has shipped or, Rachel, your bill is due. Something like that, that usually catches my eye. If it’s, you know, super general, just like sale, it needs to be a little bit more specific. So, I mean, you know, not too long, but, and not too short and a little bit more specific. And if it’s personalized, that makes me tend to stop more.

Jason Rodriguez: That makes sense. Have you seen have any brands using emoji in subject lines?

Rachel Black: That I’ve noticed? They probably have, but no.

Jason Rodriguez: That makes sense. Is it usually, so when you do open an email from a company, is it usually the subject line that gets you to open it or is it the brand itself? Like, you know, the sender and you’re more liable to open it that way?

Rachel Black: Probably a combination of both. I mean, I know I get a lot of, back to Ulta, which I’ve mentioned a million times. But I like that brand and that company, but I know they do send, you know, a lot of emails. But if I see that they’ve included a 20% off coupon, then I’m more inclined to open it.

But yeah, I guess it’s kind of a combination of both. I mean, there are some things that I should probably unsubscribe to that I just never, ever opened, but that’s, it goes back to the 32,000 emails that I need to go through.

Jason Rodriguez: That’s not a rare situation.

Rachel Black: Yeah. Embarrassing. But yeah…

Jason Rodriguez: We’re all like that. My email’s the same way. Have you ever gotten an email from, so it’s from a company, but it’s from a person at that company, like “Jason from Litmus.” Do you ever see that in your inbox?

Rachel Black: Yes.

Jason Rodriguez: Do you, how do you respond to those kinds of emails?

Rachel Black: I feel like they’re more personal, so I feel like I’d be, you know, more inclined to read it. And you know, it seems a little bit more thoughtful and personal than just the brand or the name.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah. That makes sense. How about, have you ever seen the, like the regarding subject lines? So, it will say like RE: like whatever the subject line happens to be as if it’s somebody’s responding to you.

Rachel Black: I don’t like that.

Jason Rodriguez: You don’t like that. How come?

Rachel Black: Because they’re not actually responding to me and it’s kind of misleading.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah. That makes sense. And do you typically open those or is that kind of like…?

Rachel Black: Yeah, maybe the first couple times I opened them because I wanted to see what was up, but yeah, I think, I guess I realized that that’s, that is maybe a marketing thing that gets people to open them, but I think at least I have, or maybe others have caught on to that. I don’t personally think that’s the most honest way to get somebody to open it.

Jason Rodriguez: It feels like a trick.

Rachel Black: Kind of, yeah.

Jason Rodriguez: Alright. Have you ever heard the term interactive email?

Rachel Black: Not related to email. I know the term interactive, but yeah.

Jason Rodriguez: What do you think an interactive email is?

Rachel Black: Something that you like, I mean, I can’t use the word interactive in there, but something you have to do when you’re in it, like, press this. If you do this, or play this game in here, you know… I don’t know what it means.

Jason Rodriguez: No, that’s totally right. So, it’s any email where the subscriber can perform some action inside of it. So, it’s usually, the examples that I feel like most people I’ve seen, are things like ratings, you might see like a five-star rating thing and you fill out your rating or…

Rachel Black: Gotcha, or feedback of some sort.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah. Have you received any emails like that? That you can think of?

Rachel Black: I don’t know if this will count, but just after purchasing something, it’ll say like, how was your service? Just press like a thumbs up or thumbs down or, yeah, like five-star rating. So yeah, most, mostly I’d say feedback like that or rating a sale or transaction.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah. Are you liable to do that when you see those emails?

Rachel Black: If it’s because I’ve purchased something, then I have taken the time to do that before.

Jason Rodriguez: Okay. How about, countdown timers in emails. Have you ever seen those?

Rachel Black: I think I have for sales before.

Jason Rodriguez: Do those work on you?

Rachel Black: No, I haven’t seen any that have got me too excited. Is that okay?

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah. I’m trying to think how to phrase this. So if you were to see one like that, do you, is it more the sense of urgency that might work on you or is it like this deal is really, really good, and I needed to take advantage of that regardless of the time limit on it.

Rachel Black: What do you mean? Sorry.

Jason Rodriguez: So, if you were to get a countdown email, like there’s a timer saying, you know, you have three days left for the sale. but the sale is only, it’s like 20% off, like a run-of-the-mill sale. Would you be liable to like, take advantage of that because there’s a countdown timer associated with it?

Rachel Black: I think so. I mean, I guess maybe more than if it were just to say like, you have until June 21st, I guess I would feel more of a sense of urgency if I saw that timer. I haven’t thought about it too much, but when I do think about it, I feel that way.

Jason Rodriguez: Okay. Have you ever gotten an email with a mistake of some sort, so it could be like a poorly worded email, some typos, links that don’t work, missing images?

Rachel Black: Yes.

Jason Rodriguez: What did you think about those?

Rachel Black: I mean, I’ve gotten a lot from like, you know, companies saying that they’re Netflix or PayPal or Apple, I get them it seems pretty constantly, but, I know now what, you know, if I do see a typo, I know it’s not legit. If it doesn’t address me by name, I know it’s not legit. So, I mean, there’s those that are like, you know, scam emails.

Jason Rodriguez: Phishing emails.

Rachel Black: Yeah. Yep. I’ve, if it’s for Apple before it’s like we’ve charged user, you know, $99 for this. I usually forward it to their phishing scam email but that’s, yeah. Usually if I see a typo or if it’s not, you know, addressing me, then I usually know it’s not legit.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah. That’s good know, good thing to know. How about from a legit company, have you ever seen those kinds of mistake emails or a company sends an apology email?
Rachel Black: Sure. I’m sure I have, yeah, they accidentally sent a coupon or something or said like, yeah, we have a sale going on this day and then whoops, we actually don’t sure I’ve seen it before.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah, no like strong opinions or like response to that though?

Rachel Black: I mean, I appreciate those kinds of emails. I’d rather, you know, I immediately know that a mistake was made, so yeah, they’re appreciated.

Jason Rodriguez: So, do you know anything about laws and legislation surrounding email and marketing?

Rachel Black: I don’t think so. No.
Jason Rodriguez: Have you ever heard the words CAN-SPAM or GDPR?

Rachel Black: No.

Jason Rodriguez: Okay. What kind of expectations around privacy do you have on email? If any.

Rachel Black: I mean, if I get an email from a company that I’ve never ever heard of, then I know that, you know, somebody, somehow in my business and knows, you know, I don’t know how they got my email, but that means that somebody gave it to them. So yeah, if it’s something I’ve never heard of, then I, you know, that concerns me.

Jason Rodriguez: Do you have any expectation then? So, you expect people not to sell or like transfer your email address or anything?

Rachel Black: Yeah but I know that’s, you know, not realistic.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah. I mean, it’s a good hope. So like CAN-SPAM and GDPR… so CAN-SPAM in the US is from years and years ago and then GDPR is from the European Union, more recent, but it’s, those are, they are to try to prevent that kind of stuff. But those are two acronyms that we email marketers care a lot about, but kind of, I guess it’s lightweight research to see if consumers have heard about them at all.

Do you ever unsubscribe from email lists then?

Rachel Black: I do. I need to do it more, but yes.

Jason Rodriguez: What makes you unsubscribe?

Rachel Black: I mean, if I get a million emails from them and it’s, you know, something I don’t care about, or if it’s something that, you know, maybe I signed up for 10 years ago and I’m still getting emails from them, most of the time. It’s so hard. I feel like it’s in like 0.5 font at the very, very bottom of an email. But yeah, if it’s just something that I haven’t interacted with in a very long time, then I’m more likely to unsubscribe or if they’re just bombarding me with junk then.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah. Have you ever marked an email as spam?

Rachel Black: Hmm. You know what? I don’t do that often if I ever have. I just, yeah. I just kind of hope my email recognizes when it’s spam, but yeah, probably it doesn’t.

Jason Rodriguez: So you’re a Gmail user, so I’m assuming when you’re like on your laptop or at home or whatever, then you, if you’re checking on your laptop, you go to the Gmail, like web interface, right? Do you see in there, do you have like the tabs available to you? Like the primary, social, forums… there’s like different tabs or is it all just one big inbox?

Rachel Black: Yes, I do have those tabs.

Jason Rodriguez: Do you use those tabs?

Rachel Black: So yeah, my phone, they don’t show up, I don’t believe. But on the site, they do. I mean, I know certain things go to the social one that I guess I might care a little bit more about, but, I mean, I don’t, you know, use them to organize or I don’t spend that much time kind of paying attention to what’s in which one, but it seems like a helpful tool.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah. Right. Makes sense. All right. Just a couple more questions I told you I would try to make this as painless as possible.

Rachel Black: No problem.

Jason Rodriguez: So obviously there’s very real, very scary global pandemic going on right now. I don’t know if you’ve heard. Have you, have you received any emails about COVID-19.

Rachel Black: Oh, yeah.

Jason Rodriguez: Have you noticed like a lot of them then?

Rachel Black: I mean, probably like two months ago, it seemed many times a day. The CEO of a company would release some statement about COVID-19 and these unprecedented times. So yeah, probably a couple months ago I would get most of them still do, but right when stuff was kind of really getting started, that’s when I would receive most of those.

Jason Rodriguez: Did he find any of them helpful?

Rachel Black: I did. I appreciated getting some of them cause I was wondering, you know, what, if they cared about it, what action they were going to take, especially places like, you know, Starbucks or places that would be closing or where there was, you know, an issue with sanitation or a lot of people. So, I did want to know if they were going to be taking any action, if there were closing stuff like that. But it’s also nice just that it’s, you know, recognized by the company if they didn’t recognize it or didn’t acknowledge it in some way, that just seems kind of irresponsible. Cause it’s, you know, the elephant in every room. So, if I didn’t get one from a big company, then I would have, I don’t, I would have been surprised.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah. How about, have you been receiving any Black Lives Matter emails from companies?

Rachel Black: I have gotten a couple.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah. How about those? Have those been helpful?

Rachel Black: I mean, along the lines of the pandemic, I just, I appreciated them.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah.

Rachel Black: It’s something important that they’re acknowledging and, you know, acknowledging that they do stand with the movement, I think is really important and respectful. So, I do appreciate those kinds of emails too.
Jason Rodriguez: Do you subscribe to any political emails or like nonprofit emails?

Rachel Black: Yes.

Jason Rodriguez: What do you, what do they usually look like? Or what kind of content is in them?

Rachel Black: To be honest, they’re not really anything. I don’t really read through a lot of them because I feel like I get, yeah, I get a lot of them. Maybe closer to the election, I’ll be paying more attention to them. But a lot of times it seems, yeah, I don’t, I don’t know. I don’t really spend a whole lot of time reading those ones.

Jason Rodriguez: Okay. Have you, I guess this isn’t email by it’s something that a lot of us in the industry have been kind of discussing and stuff, but have you been getting any text messages from companies or especially political campaigns? How do you respond to those?

Rachel Black: I mean like some of them require or don’t require, but some of them actually want a response. Like, will you vote this day? And sometimes I’ll respond most of the time not.

Jason Rodriguez: Are they, are they, I guess, welcome or do you find it more of an annoyance than anything else?

Rachel Black: The ones I’ve gotten have been a little bit more of an annoyance.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah, that makes sense. All right. All right. Last question. If you could tell email marketers to do one thing to make email more valuable to you, what would that be?

Rachel Black: I guess to personalize them more. I think that would make it more valuable to me anyway. That’s what I value.

Jason Rodriguez: What kind of things could they do to personalize those emails?

Rachel Black: I think just the addressing by name is an important one.

Jason Rodriguez: As you mentioned earlier, in theory they know your purchasing behavior. Do you, is there an expectation that companies you interact with they do know that and they kind of personalize your emails based on that?

Rachel Black: I assume that most of them do anyway. So. I guess if you know, I subscribe and I, they have my information and I’m okay with it, then I, I guess I would expect and, you know, welcome that kind of content from the companies.

Jason Rodriguez: Alright, cool. Awesome. That’s I mean, those were all the questions I had for you, but you did an awesome job. Once, once all the lockdowns ease up a little bit and people start having concerts, who are you most looking forward to seeing? I know you’re a music lover and a big concertgoer.

Rachel Black: Well I was supposed to see Theo Katzman. Have you heard of him? He’s from the band Vulfpeck.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah, I know of them.

Rachel Black: Well, he was supposed to be here in March, that got postponed to August, but that one just got canceled. So, I was really looking forward to seeing him. So, if he does come back, maybe in the winter or something, that’s who, that’s the number one person – Theo Katzman.

Jason Rodriguez: All right. Good to know. I will definitely check that out. And then I guess the last kind of question for everybody in lockdown, that has access to streaming, what show do you think everybody should be streaming these days?

Rachel Black: Hmm. The Jeffrey Epstein documentary. Yeah. I think it’s called Jeffrey Epstein, Filthy Rich. That one’s really good. It’s disturbing and heavy, but very good.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah, we haven’t seen that one yet. So, we’ll put it on our list, our massive list of documentaries. Awesome. Well, thank you, Rachel. I appreciate you coming on and talking about something that you probably normally don’t think about too much.

Rachel Black: I’m going to now!

Jason Rodriguez: All right. That does it for Delivering today. Again, Delivering is brought to you by Litmus, the only platform trust by professionals to help you send email with confidence, every time. Over 600,000 marketing professionals use Litmus’s tools to build, test, and analyze better email campaigns faster.

Just head over to to start your free 7-day trial and be sure to subscribe to Delivering on iTunes or Spotify, or really any podcast app of your choosing to listen to those feature episodes and join the conversation over on Twitter using the hashtag #DeliveringPodcast.