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Step-By-Step Guide To Killer Email Marketing (w/ Video Tutorials)

Email Marketing

In five years, AppSumo built an email marketing list of 800,000 people. 

They used to send four emails per week to the full list and make $4,000 per email.

Now they have over 1.8 million subscribers, send four emails per week to 60,000 people on the list, and make $30,000 per email.

Screenshot showing Emails sent and revenue generated

In this blog post I teach you how to do email marketing the AppSumo way. 

I’ll show you the exact email marketing strategies AppSumo’s Director of Content, Ilona Abramova, has used to grow AppSumo’s email marketing from $4,000 per email to $30,000 per email (by sending to a smaller email list).

Follow along below:

What Is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is sending emails to a targeted list of subscribers who are interested in what you have to offer. The best marketing emails give subscribers what they opted in for.

Common marketing emails do the following:

  • Link to a blog post / podcast episode / YouTube video.

  • Make an offer to buy a product.

  • Show instructions to use a product.

  • Link to fill out a survey.

  • Ask questions to find audience pain points.

  • Give valuable information related to subscribers’ interests.

In this guide I’ll focus on how you can use email marketing to get people to buy your products 24/7.


The #1 Way AppSumo Passively Grows Their Email List (aka Buyers List)

One custom popup has added 25,000 highly qualified emails to AppSumo’s email list (and continues to add more every day):

Screenshot showing pop up conversion rates

To do it, AppSumo shows this BDOW! Welcome Mat to visitors who aren’t on their email list:

Screenshot showing welcome mat opt-in form

Because the offer is to “get kick-ass software deals” and AppSumo sells software deals to entrepreneurs, it’s the perfect offer to build a highly qualified list of people who are interested in what AppSumo sells.

Golden Nugget: When you make your Welcome Mat, make an offer directly related to what you sell. You might get fewer signups, but you’ll build a highly qualified list of buyers you can sell to using email marketing.

Watch Ilona explain how AppSumo’s Welcome Mat works below:

When you set up a Welcome Mat like this on your site, I recommend you add a few display rules to stop it from showing to:

  • Email subscribers (so people on your email list don’t get annoyed).

  • Mobile devices (so Google doesn’t penalize your site).

  • Checkout page (so people trying to buy don’t get distracted).

  • Pricing page (so people with purchase intent don’t get distracted).

Use the same display rules as above inside your BDOW! account for best results.

With a growing, healthy email list, you’re ready to use these four email marketing campaigns to sell your products.

4 Email Marketing Campaigns Making AppSumo Money Right Now (#3 Made AppSumo $250,000 In One Year)

Want the 80/20 of making money with email marketing? Below are the four set-and-forget email campaigns (AKA flows) you can copy to make revenue from the emails you send.


The key to a successful welcome email campaign is sending a custom message based on the source of your leads.

For example, AppSumo gets leads from their:

  • BDOW! Welcome Mat popup

  • Weekly Product Webinars

  • Monthly Influencer Webinars

  • Monthly Giveaways

So they have this waterfall flow set up to send custom welcome emails to leads from all four lead sources:

Screenshot showing waterfall workflow

The way this waterfall flow works is a:

  • Product Webinar lead gets tagged and sent a custom Product Webinar welcome email.

  • Giveaway lead gets tagged and sent a custom Giveaway welcome email.

  • Influencer Webinar lead gets tagged and sent a custom Influencer Webinar welcome email.

  • If the lead doesn’t match any of those lead sources (e.g., BDOW! Welcome Mat leads), then they get a general welcome email.

Two days after receiving a welcome email, the lead is removed from the welcome series and put in BDOW!’s master email list.

Note: All email leads keep their tag indicating their source, allowing BDOW! to track which lead sources generate the most revenue.

Here’s what two of the emails look like, to give you an idea of how to write welcome emails like this:

Screenshot showing side by side emails

Notice how both welcome emails have two key elements:

  1. An opening line personalized based on the lead source of the subscriber.

  2. Bullet points setting the expectation you’ll get emails “a few times a week” with dope software deals.

By setting your welcome email campaign up like this, you make your welcome emails more personal and can see which source of leads generate the most sales.

You can then use that information to double down on the marketing activities driving the most sales for your business.

Watch Ilona breakdown exactly how it works in the video below:


The key to a successful abandoned cart email is getting your visitors back within 24 hours, while your product is still on the top of their mind.

BDOW! sends this abandoned cart email two hours after someone abandons the checkout:

Subject: What happened?

Preheader text: Looks like your cart has some abandonment issues – we’re here to help…

Screenshot showing cart abandonment email

Here’s what the setup for their cart abandonment email automation looks like, so you can do it yourself:

Screenshot showing cart abandonment automation

AppSumo only sends this one abandoned cart email because they sell time-limited deals. If you’re not selling time-limited deals, it’s recommended to send a second abandoned cart email up to 6, 12 or 24 hours after, like this one Tarte sends six hours after abandoning the cart:

Subject: psst… we saw you looking

Preheader text: RE – that item you left behind

Screenshot showing Tart's cart abandonment email


The key to a successful past-purchaser email campaign is to segment buyers of individual products in your email marketing tool, so you can then offer them complementary products they have a high likelihood of wanting to buy.

AppSumo has used past-purchaser email campaigns to make $250,000 revenue in one year. Watch Ilona explain how they do it below:

Here’s an example of how it works:

  1. AppSumo identifies two complementary products they sell (e.g., SEO rank tracking software + custom report software).

  2. After 10 days, they send the email below to purchasers of the SEO rank tracking software, selling the benefits of using the custom report software with it.

Screenshot showing email
  1. The past-purchaser email to the segmented list gets a 3x clickthrough rate (11.9%) versus the original email for the deal to the 90-day active list (4.2%).

Screenshot showing email clickthrough rate
  1. AppSumo repeats this email campaign for other complementary products they sell.

If you sell two or more complementary products in your business, you can set this email campaign to run all year round.

It’s the closest thing to free money in email marketing.


The key to a successful re-engagement campaign is segmenting your list into active and inactive subscribers, then sending an offer to re-engage the inactive ones.

For AppSumo, this campaign makes sure they’re keeping a clean list and only sending emails to subscribers that are active (e.g., have clicked an email in the last 90 days or purchased) so every email they send hits the recipient’s inbox.

Here’s how to do it the AppSumo way:

  • Filter your list into active and inactive segments.

Screenshot showing two different segments

For any subscribers who haven’t clicked an email in 120+ days, remove them from your list completely (don’t even keep them on your inactive list). 

Keeping them on your list will hurt your email deliverability, stopping your emails from hitting your active subscribers’ inboxes.

  • Send a re-engagement campaign to the inactive subscribers. Below is an example from one of AppSumo’s campaigns.

Screenshot showing re-engagement email

For this email to be successful, the best practice is:

  • If you run an ecommerce store, send an above-average value coupon code in the email.

  • For non-ecommerce businesses, send a piece of content your list has never received.

  • For any inactive subscribers who don’t click the link in the email, remove them from your email list.

Running this campaign once every three months will make sure the other three money-making email campaigns above work and your email blasts for product sales and content promotion get opened and clicked by more people on your list.

Now you know the four email campaigns that work, let’s look at how to send one-off email blasts proven to make sales.

How To Send Email Blasts That Make $1,000+ Every Time (Using AppSumo’s Three-Part Email Marketing Formula)

There’s a three-part formula every successful AppSumo email follows:

  1. Subject line. Get people curious.

  2. Preheader text. Tell people what the content of your email is about.

  3. Call to action. One clear call to action in the top third of the email.

Below are three examples from three different BDOW! customers (with revenue results after 72 hours) to show you exactly how to follow the AppSumo formula and write email blasts that sell in any industry.


Company: Suavs


Screenshot showing example email

Subject Line: Dreams do come blue

Preheader Text: You voted, we listened. Introducing: The Navy Zilkers

Call To Action: Shop Now

Recipients: 19,758

Open Rate: 20.3%

Click Rate: 2.4%

Revenue (72 hours): $4,516.25 


Company: Cuvee Coffee


Screenshot showing example email

Subject Line: Don’t miss this one ☕

Preheader Text: This limited edition coffee won’t be around forever

Call To Action: Shop Pinkies Up

Recipients: 2,185

Open Rate: 38.4%

Click Rate: 4.9%

Revenue (72 hours): $4,780.93


Company: Bare Performance Nutrition


Screenshot showing example email

Subject Line: The Wheyt Is Over – NEW Flavor Available 💪

Preheader Text: Maybe Our Best Yet — New BPN Protein Flavor Available Now

Call To Action: Get Some Now

Recipients: 37,319

Open Rate: 13.6%

Click Rate: 0.9%

Revenue (72 hours): $2,518.42

Notice how all these emails follow the same three-part formula:

  1. Curiosity-filled subject line.

  2. Preheader text telling people what’s inside.

  3. One clear call-to-action button to buy.

You don’t need to be a world-class copywriter to make sales from your email blasts.

Follow the formula.

Then use the email marketing hack below to get max revenue from every email you send.

One Unconventional Email Marketing Hack AppSumo Uses To Make $30,000 Revenue Per Email Blast

Before segmenting their list into active and inactive segments, AppSumo would send one email to their full list.

The result: $4,000 revenue per email. Not bad 😉

Today they send one email to a segmented list of 90-day active subscribers (people who have clicked on an email in the last 90 days).

The result: $30,000 revenue per email. Woah!

The difference: Quality > quantity.

Instead of sending to 1.8 million active and inactive subscribers (the size of AppSumo’s full list), they now only send to 60,000 active subscribers.

It’s literally the difference between $4k/email and $30k/email.


Email deliverability gets better when you send to active subscribers.

Here’s how it works:

  1. If postmasters (administrators of a mail server) see your emails are unopened, marked as spam, or unsubscribed, your reputation with them will go down.

  2. The more negative points you get with postmasters, the more likely your domain will go into a spam trap (Gmail, Outlook, etc. will stop receiving your emails and mark them all spam).

  3. If your deliverability goes from 98% to 70%, that means you’re no longer getting inboxed in one big email provider (Gmail, Outlook, etc.).

The best way to avoid that is to only send to a list of 90-day active subscribers.

You set up this list in your email marketing provider (see screenshot below from how AppSumo does it), then every time you send an email, only send to that list.

Screenshot showing how to create segment

Note: If you don’t have a shopping cart on your site, keep it simple and set up your active segment to be subscribers who have clicked on an email link in the last 90 days.

Once you’ve got that set up, continue reading to learn about the two best email marketing tools to get your active subscribers opening AND clicking your emails.

Two Little-Known Email Marketing Tools Pros Use That Rookies Don’t

There are two tools AppSumo uses to check every email before it’s sent.

1. SendCheckIt

SendCheckIt is a free tool that gives your email subject line a rating from D to A+ so you can compare it to other marketers, stand out in the inbox, and get more opens.

Screenshot showing Sendcheckit

This tool checks for 16 things:

  1. Scannability (how easy it is to read your subject line).

  2. Reading Grade Level (how wordy or complex your subject line is).

  3. Length (how many characters your subject line has).

  4. Preview (what your subject line looks like on desktop and mobile).

  5. Sentiment (if your email has a positive or negative sentiment).

  6. RE or FWD: (if your email starts with a fake RE or FWD and will go to spam).

  7. FREE (if the spam word ‘free’ is found in the subject line).

  8. Spammy Words (words and phrases more often found in spam emails).

  9. Bad Tab Words (words that push your email from the Primary to the Promotions tab in Gmail).

  10. Exclamation Mark (an exclamation mark can hurt open rates and Gmail tab placement).

  11. All Caps Words (a check to see you’re not shouting like a spammer).

  12. Punctuation (a check for the use of excessive punctuation).

  13. Personalization (if your subject line is personalized with name, industry, title, interest, or geographic info).

  14. Question In Subject (if your subject line is a question or not).

  15. All Lowercase (if the subject is all lowercase and more personal).

  16. Emoji (a check to see if there are any emojis that catch the eye).

Tool URL:  https://sendcheckit.com/email-subject-line-tester

2. Litmus

Litmus is a paid tool that tests your email for broken links, missing product images, wrong typefaces, missing call-to-action buttons, and spam in over 100 email clients. 

Screenshot showing Litmus

This tool checks for seven things:

  1. Previews (check the size of your email on mobile, tablet and desktop side by side to make sure your email looks great).

  2. First Impressions (check that your subject line, from name, reply-to address and preview text are all clear, concise, and of a sensible length).

  3. Links (check if your email has any broken links).

  4. Tracking (verify click throughs are being tracked by Litmus, your email marketing software, and/or Google Analytics).

  5. Image Blocking (check your email with images off to see if any images are missing alt text)

  6. Loading Speed (check how long it takes your email to load).

  7. Spam Testing (check issues that could impact your deliverability before you send — and get actionable advice on how to fix them).

Tool URL: https://litmus.com

Now you know the tools you need to use BEFORE sending an email, let’s look at the metrics you need to measure AFTER sending.

3 Email Marketing Metrics You Need To Measure (+ What Is A “Red Flag”?)

The average open rate, click rate, and unsubscribe rates across all industries are:

  • Open rate: 20.81%

  • Click rate: 2.52%

  • Unsubscribe rate: 0.21%

AppSumo uses these three key metrics to measure email marketing success (because they know the more people they can get to their sales page, the more money they will make from their email marketing).

Except knowing these averages is only the first step.

To run a successful email marketing campaign, you need to be able to detect “red flags” in your own campaign data.

Here’s an example of how AppSumo does it, using the unsubscribe rate as an example:

  1. Get a baseline of your unsubscribe rate from your first email campaign.

  2. If later emails go 50% over the baseline, you know you did something wrong.

  3. Review your next email campaign for possible improvements.

You can follow the same three-step process for detecting red flags in your open rate and click rate data as well.

If your open or click rate drops 50% below your baseline, identify the issue and fix it on your next email.


Now let’s look at where you can get inspiration to make improvements to your emails and send professionally designed emails.

Really Good Emails You Can Legally Steal From The Best In Your Industry

One website has made it copy/paste easy to legally steal professionally designed emails in any industry.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Go to the Really Good Emails website (URL: https://reallygoodemails.com/)

Screenshot showing Really Good Emails
  1. Pick the type of email you’re sending. Some examples are:

    • Behavioral (abandoned cart, survey, testimonial)

    • Enhancement (GIF, video, countdown timer)

    • Industry (ecommerce, fashion, financial)

    • Promotional (discounts, giveaways, product sale)

    • Holiday (black friday, christmas, mother’s day)

    • Seasonal (autumn, winter, summer, spring)

    • Punctual (newsletter, terms of service, infographic)

    • Transactional (receipt, password reset, GDPR)

Screenshot showing really good emails categories
  1. Pick your favorite design.

  2. Scroll to the bottom of the email and click the Edit on CodePen button.

Screenshot showing Really good email's edit button
  1. Update the HTML in the editor pane on the top left of the page to change the email text to match what you want to send.

  2. Click the Fork button (this will save your version of the HTML to your CodePen account), then click the Export button on the bottom right of the page (this will export a .zip file with the HTML file in it to your computer).

Screenshot showing instructions for exporting HTML
  1. Import the HTML file into your email service provider when you create your email.

Screenshot showing how to import HTML

That’s it.

Now you know how to legally steal professionally designed emails; let’s go over high-priority tests you can run to get more revenue out of every email you send.

Use AppSumo’s “High-Priority Test List” To Get More Revenue Out Of Every Email You Send 

When Ilona Abramova joined AppSumo as head email marketer, one of the first things she did was make a brand-new email template with the purpose of the email in mind.

  1. The subject line = get people to open the email.

  2. The email = get people to click to the website.

  3. The website = sell the product.

Here’s how Ilona optimized for #1 (getting people to open the email):

Screenshot comparing subject lines

Notice how in the new subject line:

  1. The title is short and filled with curiosity.

  2. The preheader text is an alluring little snippet that clearly and concisely sums up the product.

Through testing, AppSumo has found this one-two punch gets more people to open the email who are interested in the product (by measuring the clickthrough rate to the product page).

With subscribers’ limited patience and attention spans, it’s also a key to reducing unsubscribes and respecting your audience’s time. 

When it comes to the email, here’s a before and after of AppSumo’s email templates:

Screenshot comparing templates

Notice how in the new template Ilona:

  • Made a better header image.

  • Shortened the copy so it was easier to read.

  • Added a call-to-action button higher up in the text.

  • Added a new block of content (AppSumo in-house branded videos talking about the product).

Watch Ilona explain why she did it in this video:

From analyzing email clicks, AppSumo noticed 80% of clicks happened in the first quadrant of the email. So the new template now optimizes for this, and AppSumo gets 30% of clicks on the call-to-action button and 50% of clicks on the video. 

Why am I telling you this?

  1. You can learn from AppSumo’s email tests.
  2. You can use AppSumo’s “high-priority test list” to optimize your own emails.


Here are the list of email tests that are “high priority” and you should test first:

Email TestPriority
Subject lineHigh
Long vs. short copyHigh
New block of contentHigh
Button colorLow

Watch Ilona explain how to run a successful test:


  1. Isolate one variable at a time (AppSumo tested clever vs. informational subject lines and found clever won).

  2. Run each test enough times to be significant (at least 500 opens/clicks per variation and two weeks minimum).

  3. Rank-order your tests based on impact.

Here’s the Content Prioritization Calculator AppSumo uses to prioritize their tests:

Screenshot showing content prioritization calculator spreadsheet

Click here to get your own copy (no email opt-in required).

Use that spreadsheet to:

  1. Prioritize email marketing tasks to work on first from this blog post (past-purchaser campaign, abandoned cart campaign, TL;DR preheader text, etc.).

  2. Start improving your email marketing one step at a time.

Follow Ilona’s advice in the video below to combine the ease and impact scores in the spreadsheet and prioritize the tests you’ll work on first:

8 Key Takeaways To Grow Your Business With Email Marketing (The AppSumo Way)

  1. Grow your email list by setting up a BDOW! Welcome Mat with an email opt-in offer directly related to what you sell.

  2. Use four set-and-forget email campaigns proven to make sales: welcome, abandoned cart, past-purchaser, and re-engagement campaigns.

  3. Follow AppSumo’s three-part email marketing formula to make $1,000+ on every email blast (clever subject line + TL;DR preheader text + one call to action).

  4. Segment your email list into 90-day active subscribers (people who have clicked on an email in the last 90 days) and inactive subscribers.

  5. Use SendCheckIt to check your email subject lines. Use Litmus to check for broken images/links/call-to-action buttons and spam across 100+ email clients.

  6. Get a baseline of your open, click, and unsubscribe rates. If any metric goes 50% in the wrong direction, review your email and improve it.

  7. Find professionally designed emails on the Really Good Emails website. Edit the emails on CodePen, export, and import into your email software to send.

  8. Use AppSumo’s high-priority test list to test email elements proven to get big wins by the AppSumo team.

P.S. Need to grow your email list so you have an audience of people to market to? Click here to see how to get new leads in your sleep.