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🥇Forget stats & studies, focus on this

first principles

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Alright, Inbox Hackers, Today’s Feature shows how to use first principles so you don’t always have to rely on stats, studies, and research that may not exactly apply to your business.

Then brace yourself for these other sections filled with vim, vigor, and another v word if you can think of a fit.

  • The Knowledge Base (undelivered email costs, industry-by-industry)
  • Self Help (lies and longevity)
  • Facts & Stats (exaggerated demise)
  • Get Hacking (freshen up)

Let us dip our toes into Today’s Feature…

What are First Principles?

First Principle: A basic proposition or assumption that can’t be deduced from any other proposition or assumption.

It’s as basic as it gets. And that’s one reason so many businesses fail to consider first principles in our complex, fast-moving world. We look for awe-striking strategies to grow or improve a business instead of clearing the clutter and cutting to the chase or revisiting the baseline.

I read and post a ton of stats for Inbox Hacking. Some of these survey results and studies are super-intriguing and helpful. Others I read? They’re only intriguing. They don’t really help me with my work — even when it seems like they should. 

An example is A/B testing for email marketing. All the studies show how it can boost open rates, clicks, conversions, even regrow my hair! I’m sure those studies are on point. But I don’t have testing skills — I write. And… I don’t have time to A/B test everything. I test two subject lines occasionally, but I mostly trust I’ll come up with a great line without testing. 

So, I’ve been using a first principle for subject lines without really noticing I was. It’s worked well, BTW.

Let’s look at ways to utilize first principles for marketing and advertising, then peek at two example businesses.

5 Ways to Use First Principles Thinking to Improve Your Marketing & Advertising

  1. Write down all the assumptions you have about what customers need, then strike through those assumptions.
  2. Find successful ad campaigns from other brands then break them down into the simplest parts, like Bill Belichick would game film.
  3. Practice writing “Are you sure next to marketing copy. (i.e., “Are you sure”  this would be urgent to the reader or “Are you sure” this is the biggest pain point.”)
  4. Can your USP be simplified? Maybe it’s too complex for your audience, stealing the value from the uniqueness?
  5. Tear apart one of your past campaigns like they did Fonzi’s motorcycle that time and rebuild it using the basics. You’ll have lots of leftover parts!

Now for two very different business examples that could use first principles questioning to improve their business.

First Principles of an E-commerce Store

  • Should you copy social media advice that has made other products go viral? Or… dwell on the main goal, which is getting in front of potential customers. Where are they? 

  • Break down the purchasing process. What makes someone need/want products like you carry? Then, how do buyers find out about your specific products? How do they compare your offers with competitors? Can they afford to buy from you? Is the checkout process as simple as possible?

  • Why are your products priced the way they are? Is your pricing strategy maximizing sales and profits? Would customers buy more if you offered an easy subscription? Could you raise prices, sell less, profit more?

  • Product descriptions — are you following a template or a YouTuber’s advice? What if you tested infotaining descriptions or made them 50% shorter or 3x as long?

  • Shipping assumptions can cost you since it’s hard to match Amazon’s and Walmart’s free shipping. So, what are the basic principles of shipping? What do you want when you buy an item online? What problems do customers face besides slow or expensive shipping? Assuming those two are all that matter violates first principles – since the MAIN thing they want is their ITEM and thieving porch pirate low-lifes are in the way of that, so ponder on that shipping principle.

First Principles of a Physical Convenience Store

  • Most convenience stores are designed the same way. Does this interior layout meet the basic wants/needs of customers in a hurry? Is there a way to bundle products commonly bought together or at least stage them close to each other?

  • What makes customers use some types of discounts or coupons and ignore others? Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself what motivates them? Is it a percentage off or a dollar amount discounted or do they like the feel of getting freebies via a loyalty program?

  • Are products all you can sell? Or do your customers need services too? Are they already paying for services you could provide instead? Could you promote other local businesses that don’t get foot traffic (i.e., be an IRL affiliate for an insurance company in your town and earn commissions for referrals).

Bonus first principle thinking examples:

If I were hiring a dog walker, my first thought is not finding someone great with dogs. The first principle is finding someone who will protect my dog from speeding cars, other dogs, and running away.

What about building an email list? Most marketers assume they can only get email addresses with a sign-up form. Not true. The first principle is… to get an email address from an interested shopper, right?

But since signing up is seen as a hassle these days, sign-up forms are pretty ineffective.

So, *our sponsor, Smart Recognition, cuts to the chase by collecting verified email addresses from shoppers who land on your website. You can put these interested leads on your email list and in your online ads’ Network Audience — Fortune 500 Companies use this type of lead-gen technology, so it’s CAN-SPAM compliant! 

Want a free demo? Book yours here to start collecting email addresses without a sign-up form.


The Knowledge Base 

🥹Undelivered email costs brands $59.5 billion

3 B2B trends infographics 

📺Ask the right “buyer questions” (video)

Bite-sized YouTube Ad insights

🥴Consumers PO’d at inflation & on-the-fly price hikes

The EU doesn’t trust Amazon Ads (should you?)

Myth-bustin’ on personalized emails (w/ video)

How to make link-building suck less

🔐Paycheck-to-paycheck U.S. shuts down more stores 

Given up: What do NEETS do with their time?

🤖Deadgivaways to AI “writing” 

The 7 tells of deep fake pics/videos

👨‍🎤How hard is it to become famous? (unknown dude outsold The Beatles)


Self Help

Honestly? I lie to myself all the time, about as much as Lil Woody lies to the police. 

Looks like I’m doing the right thing because telling myself everything’s ok, even when it ain’t, can make a human live longer and function better while hanging around Earth as an Old. A new May study from JAMA Psychiatry confirms this stuff. 

So, try being a little more optimistic. I am 100% confident it can’t hurt. Check that, I’m 150% sure it’ll help😁.


Get email campaigns opened for business.

The key to increasing revenue from your email campaigns is getting the emails opened!

Inbox Mailers simplifies that goal and speeds it up. 3x your open rates, without the wait. Fixes deliverability problems fast too. Use the platform’s triggered emails or check your list quality with our Activity Checker to see active leads and those inactive leads to avoid (check your list for free).


Facts and Stats

  • 68% of Americans say that they will pay for news vs. 55% of U.K. folks said they will pay (Nieman Lab)
  • Printed papers not dead: 63% of respondents say print is either important or very important to their business (WSJ)
  • Thrift is big business and 74% of thrift stores are independently run (Piper Sandler)

Bonus: How the heck do folks afford to live in LooneyTown, aka California? Utilities are 2-3x of other states, and guess what the median house price is as of July 2024? Answer $860,500 (WSJ) 


Get Hacking

Ever tested an email campaign outside your normal format?

For example, a comic, infographic, or storyboard version of your email.

Test this on your most engaged readers. Ask their opinion, and compare clicks and conversions with your usual format.

If it’s well-received, test it with a bigger chunk of your list.

A new format, even occasionally, could save you time, freshen things up, and spike sales.


If you know another invincible marketer, share Inbox Hacking with them. Thanks for spreading the word.

Shane McLendon, Copy Kingpin – Inbox Hacking