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Email Marketing Tactics: Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

By November 3, 2015December 30th, 2022Uncategorized

How many times do you check your email per day? Did you know, according to research conducted by Gloria Mark at the University of California at Irving, that that number is 74 times per day? At first that number may sound ridiculous and exaggerated, but take a second to think about it.

Email has become so engrained in what we do, that we don’t even realize that we do it as often as we do. 74 isn’t such a big number if you think about all the opportunities mobile brings to check our email: Before work, during lunch, after work, before bed, and of course while sitting at your desk. Email is a part of the way we live and that we get things done.

Now that you’re aware and thinking about how often you look at emails, think about how often your leads receive emails from you. Today, we’ll be using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, as one of our email marketing tactics to determine how we can make our marketing more effective, and the experience more enjoyable for our leads.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

For those of us who fell asleep during Psych 101, here’s a quick refresher on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs: A theory proposed by Abraham Maslow, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, attempts to describe what motivates human behavior. The hierarchy suggests that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other, more advanced needs.

The 5 levels, pictured above, are briefly described as follows:

  1.  Physiological – Breathing, sleeping, and water/food
  2. Safety – Home, medical, and job
  3. Love/Belonging – Friends, family, and love
  4. Esteem – Self-respect, recognition, and confidence
  5. Self-Actualization – Problem solving, morality, and creativity


Physiological needs include the most basic needs that are needed for survival, such as the need for water, air, food, and sleep. Let’s take a look at specifically the need for rest and it’s relationship with stress.

With the increase in mobile email usage, emails are getting looked at earlier and later than ever before. Does the constant bombardment of emails every morning wake you up? What about the stress of all the different things you know you’ll have to take on tomorrow morning?

There are two things we can do to help improve your lead’s response rate and well-being. The first of which is segmentation. Send out target emails using the information they’ve given you and how they fit into your buyer personas. For example, you could create a list of the different time zone’s that your leads are in so you can make sure your emails aren’t arriving at 3 in the morning.

We can also offer leads the opportunity to say how often they want to hear from you, this may be especially useful if you run a newsletter. Some people may want to hear from you every week while others may prefer once a month.


These needs include those important for survival, but that are not as demanding as physiological needs, such as job security, health care, and shelter. In fact, job insecurity has been linked to deteriorating health conditions such as changes in sleeping patterns, self-rated health, and a number of physical symptoms. (NCBI)

For this step in the hierarchy, we’ll be looking at something we should try to minimize, and that’s negativity bias. Yes, it’s a fairly successful marketing tactic designed to drive metrics: Negativity bias: Given that all things are equal (the good, the bad, and the neutral) the negative results will stick out in your mind more.

For example, “Click here to see 10 things you’re doing critically wrong with email.” Or giving users the option to sign-up to your newsletter with a pop-up that says “Click here to learn how to grow your revenue” paired with the option “No, I don’t care about generating revenue.”

Be aware of the value your product/offer can create for your leads. Focus on the positives you can offer to a potential client and be transparent/honest. They will appreciate you much more than someone who is just trying to prey on their insecurities.


These needs are based on feelings of belonging, love, and affection. Friendships, significant others, and families help us fulfill this need for companionship and acceptance. Emotion can be very difficult to convey through email. Your readers can’t see your face, hear your tone, or read your body language. What you write is taken at face value, and can often feel impersonal.

“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” – Dale Carnegie The simple implementation here of personalization can make what would normally feel like an email blast, feel like a warm greeting from an old friend.

Using personalization fields such as “first name,” “company,” or “when we last talked on” can make your leads feel like more than just a number. It can also help to make sure your emails are coming from a person, sign with a name, not your company’s name. It helps give potential clients a name to familiarize with.


At this point in the hierarchy, it becomes increasingly important to gain the respect and appreciation of other people. It can help improve our confidence, but failure to gain that respect/appreciation can leave feelings of failure/inferiority.

If we begin to send informational emails, such as those filled with infographics, or key points from our most recent blog post, we can call to this need for recognition in our leads. A foundation of information helps them feel much more confident and appreciated while driving engagement in your email campaign/product.


The tendency to become everything that one is capable of becoming, achieving one’s full potential.

I know that many of you probably thought the last point or two were probably a stretch in associating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with email marketing. There is really no realistic way a marketing email can help you reach self-actualization.

However, finding what motivates your leads behavior, is what ultimately will help you drive engagement in your email campaigns.

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Larry Levenson

Larry is passionate about inbound marketing and is a HubSpot Certified Trainer. He's learned the "secrets" of leveraging HubSpot to make marketing hyper-effective and customizes that information to help our clients meet their goals. Larry lives in Prescott, AZ, and when not at work, he is hiking or hanging out with teenagers as a volunteer with Boys to Men USA.