Looking for a great source of content marketing inspiration? Look no further than your own email inbox! Your inbox (likely that promotions tab if you’re using Gmail) is filled with examples of brands using content marketing strategies and tactics to increase awareness and brand loyalty, ultimately leading to sales.

Today, let’s take a peek inside my inbox and see what content marketing takeaways and tips we can glean from recent email blasts from popular brands. 

1. Tie sales efforts toward a current event or holiday.

Tax Day was Wednesday and as I scanned the shopping folder in my inbox, I came across several marketing emails tying various sales and deals to that dreaded date on the calendar: April 15.

Examples included:

  • From Sandals Resort: “Let Us Give You a Break in Paradise”
  • From Old Navy: “File This Under Benefits! 30% Off Today Online Only”
  • From LivingSocial: “15% Off! Cheers To The End of a Taxing Season”

Tying a promotion to a current event or holiday shows timeliness and relevancy. It may also catch a consumer’s attention, as that event or holiday may already be on their mind.

2. Include something unexpected.

An email from clothing retailer Eloquii caught my attention with their “Johnson Box” or email pre-header which read, “New Spring PLAYLIST. We’re listening to it here!” Why did this catch my attention? I found it odd, yet cool, that a clothing brand created and shared a Spotify playlist. Their ultimate goal is to sell you clothes, but this email shows that they are also creating a larger brand here- a lifestyle they want you to be part of. Make your company’s purpose bigger than just selling your product or service- is there something a little different or unexpected you can do to stand out?

3. Create urgency.

This is a no-brainer, but as marketers, we all know that creating a sense of urgency and scarcity when it comes to selling a product or service can help increase sales. My inbox is full of emails with subject lines begging to be opened like “Ends TODAY!”, “8 Hour Sale!”, “Only 24 Hours Left on Two Big Deals!” and “Time’s Almost Up!” Even though I know in my head it’s a sales tactic, I still find myself opening those emails to find out what those deals are just to make sure I’m not missing out on something great.

4. Do something uniquely you.

Immediately upon reading my emails, I noticed something different about messages from the Kate Spade brand. It’s something extremely small (perhaps some people might not even notice) but this subtle difference made Kate Spade’s emails pop: every single subject line is written in lowercase letters (example: “put your best sandals forward”). To me, this signifies the brand attempting to appear like a friend might appear in your inbox: casually, without regard for proper punctuation and capitalization. Kate Spade is creating a persona- one they want you to feel comfortable being around..and comfortable opening and taking action on their emails.

5. Be useful.

A recent subject line on an email from Panera Bread reads “Jessica, 7 Simple Tips To Grow Your Own Veggies.” Sure, Panera’s ultimate goal is to get you to come to the store and purchase food, but this particular email has NO call to action to make a purchase. The email is purely filled with USEFUL content: information about growing your own veggies, a recipe you can make at home, soup tips from a Panera Chef and more gardening content. If you focus on being useful and helping others through your content marketing, sales usually follow closely behind.

I urge you to spend some time in your inbox today analyzing the emails you normally might delete immediately or scan and not give them a second thought. You may walk away with new ideas and strategies for your company’s email and content marketing efforts.

Jessica Lawlor is a public relations professional and freelance writer in the Philadelphia area. Her work has been published on Ragan’s PR Daily, Muck Rack, Brazen Careerist, Mediabistro, Business Insider and AOL Jobs. She blogs at JessicaLawlor.com about getting gutsy- stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals and live a life that makes you truly happy.