Email Best Practices

The art of empathetic email

Learn how to create genuine and empathetic email that resonates with your audience members and nurtures customer relationships. Read more...

Hermes creating grafic in front of the red mailbox

We’ve all seen them before—those marketing emails that try to be empathetic and genuine, but end up feeling fake and hollow. The only thing that’s worse are those emails that don’t even try to be empathetic, and just jump right into a blunt, heavy sales pitch. It’s like wanting to get an email from Mr. Miyagi, but instead getting one from the Cobra Kai. Too often, we all end up wincing, rolling our eyes, and clicking delete.

Of course, most marketers have wanted to minimize this kind of dismissive behavior (and maximize authenticity) for a long time—and, currently, empathetic emails are more important than ever. But how do you use empathy and achieve true authenticity and sympathy? 

Luckily, Mailjet and Mailgun recently hosted our 2020 Email Camp with some special guests—Matthew Smith at Really Good Emails and Alex Patton at—who spoke on this very topic. In this post, we’ll review their advice and show you how to become the type of empathy master who would make Mr. Miyagi proud.

Give yourself empathy before attempting to share it with others

Our first idea on email empathy comes from Matthew Smith at Really Good Emails. During Email Camp, Matthew spoke about “clearing your own mental inbox” before sending mail. This idea is pretty simple: you must achieve equanimity (basically, mental clarity and peace) and process your own emotions before empathy can truly flow from you.

Attempts at empathy without equanimity will always ring false with your subscribers. Why? Because, as Matthew points out, your emotions come through in your messages. If you’re distracted or upset, you aren’t truly focusing on your communications—you’re focusing on the thing that’s distracting or upsetting you. Your mental inbox is full of junk, and it becomes difficult to communicate effectively and authentically.

However, when you are relaxed, balanced, and focused, your clarity and peace shine through your emails and communicate genuine good feelings and honesty to your recipients. This makes them more likely to respond to your messages the way you want… basically, they know you’re being real with them.

Alex Patton at also adds that you should “send emails you’d be happy to receive.” This ties into the idea of being genuine with your readers—as we mentioned before, nobody wants to read those heavy, false marketing emails. They want messages that feel like they’re being sent by other (peaceful, happy) humans. So, be a human and lean into that positivity.

Camp lessons:

Focus on your own emotions before trying to show empathy. Show genuine emotion… what you feel comes through in your messages. Send empathetic email that you’d actually want to receive. In a camp sense, good emails are campfire s’mores, and bad emails are mosquito bites.

Balance self-promotion with legitimate customer benefits and empathy statements

Matthew posed an important question during camp: Do you know your customers?

While this question may seem basic, it has an important idea stemming from it. How well you know your customers impacts what kind of messages you send them. If you don’t know them, your messages will not resonate.

So, you need to figure out what your customers want. Maybe, as Matthew suggests, they want qualitative research like customer interviews and empathy maps. Or maybe they want quantitative information like business data and cost updates. Maybe they want cute gifs of cats. Whatever it is, find out what they want and stick to it. Remember, you’re doing this for your customers in the first place. Where is their incentive to read your emails if those emails are only serving you? Be that incentive (maybe with a cat picture or two).

Additionally, Alex advises to “make sure that your emails always have an upside for the reader.” If your email has no reason to exist, don’t send it! For some of those messages’ upsides, Alex suggests ideas like discounts, useful account info, and more. Send these messages sparingly, and at optimal times. Your readers will always appreciate fewer quality messages more than a glut of empty advertisements and reminders.

Sending lots of emails, no matter who from, will feel like spam to your readers. Too much of that, and your spamming may negatively impact your email program. Don’t take the easy route and, instead, put thought and care into your emails. Make your readers glad they opened your message, and make them look forward to the next one.

Camp lessons:

Get to know your customers. Find out what they want. Make sure your emails always have an upside for your reader. Don’t spam. You wouldn’t eat it in the mess hall, would you?

Use empathetic email to set expectations, follow through and improve customer support and relationships

Matthew at Really Good Emails makes a great point about email voice and scheduling: state upfront how you’re going to operate, and stick to it. Are you funny, friendly, or sarcastic? All three? Make that known to your readers. Do you send weekly newsletters on Tuesdays or discounts on Wednesdays? Tell your readers—and keep your word. It doesn’t take an email expert to know that consistency is one of the greatest keys to building lasting customer relations.

Kindness is another key to building great customer relationships. Alex at says to always “make sure that you are responding with kindness, clarity, and detail” when dealing with customer pain points and questions. If you say you’re going to do something in an email, follow through.

Relatedly, always make sure that your customer is satisfied with your answer or solution—show customers you care. Don’t ghost them or wait until they want to leave your business before engaging in a consistent, helpful way… that only leads to angry customers. Respond to them as quickly as possible and work diligently to find a solution. Look at the situation from their perspective and see what they need the most, and use that need to create customer satisfaction.

When you set clear email expectations and follow through with kind and empathetic email communication, you provide a steady customer experience metric for both your customers and your business. By examining that metric, you can see where your customer service may need improvement—and where you truly excel.

Camp lessons:

Tell your customers how you’re going to behave, and stick to it. Respond to requests with speed, kindness, and detail. Use customer feedback as a way to improve.

More Email Camp lessons

Now, you hopefully know a little bit more about how empathy in your emails can help you, and a few strategies you can use to facilitate empathy and build a solid rapport with your subscribers. With them, you can ensure that your customers will look forward to (and engage with) your super-cool emails.

Of course, we couldn’t have talked about these strategies without the aid of our awesome Email Camp 2020 guests, Matthew Smith at Really Good Emails and Alex Patton at

Check out Matthew’s session below to get more info on the mental inbox, email benefits, and more.

Watch Alex’s session below to get more info on email strategy, customer relationships, and more.

You can also watch other sessions individually, and the full replay of Email Camp 2020, by visiting our Email Camp page.

So, there you have it. Genuine, authentic emails are well within your reach, as long as you follow some best practices and, of course, be yourself. Go forth and become a master of empathetic email—no karate training needed.

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