Tarzan Kay


June 13, 2023

to you

What you're reading is a copy of an email my subscribers received. This is an archive, so it's possible some links are missing or expired. If you want to stay in the loop, make sure to jump on my email list and get these delivered direct to your inbox!


the promotions tab, and how to stay out of it

Prefer to listen in? Tune in to the audio version of this email:

Want to watch me write this email? I took a new approach this week and talked my way through it, explaining why I made certain choices. Watch it here, Tarzan Writes Her Emails – Episode 2

So I’m on a date with this guy “Dave” who is at least 10 years older than his profile picture. Later he’ll reveal that his real name is Dimitri. (UM, WHUT? That is so much cooler. Why advertise yourself as Dave?)

His hair is one hundred percent gray. 

Later I’ll revisit his profile on Hinge and see that it’s brown in literally every picture he uploaded. Not a speck of gray.  

It’s our second date and we’ve just finished tennis practice, followed by a swim and a soak in the hot tub while “Dave” tells me in a thick Ukrainian accent all about his import-export business, admitting it is “not quite legal.” I assume it’s drugs but actually it involves selling truck containers of hotel towels or unsellable designer shoes in random sizes. 

At this point I’m losing track of all the flaming red flags but I also find him interesting, like I’m on a date with an elder Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. What will he do next?!

I ask him if he wants to go for dinner and he agrees. He keeps insisting we get in his car and drive to the restaurant together, and I keep affirming, “No, we’ll each take our own cars.”

“Trust me,” he says, flipping his hair back with a shrug, “I’m not going to [really awful thing] you.”* 


Okay, now I’m definitely on high-alert. 

Saying, “Don’t worry, you can trust me. I’m absolutely not going to do the thing you are most afraid of and that people like me have historically done a LOT to people like you”…

…that’s just not how trust works, which is why it is one of the worst ways I can think of to build trust. 

Bringing this around to your email marketing—I’ll close the loop on Dimitri in a second. 

I used to have this graphic on many of my thank you pages, asking new subscribers to drag my email out of Gmail’s promotions tab and put it in the primary tab. 

“Trust me!,” my landing pages would proclaim. “I’m not one of those people. You’re going to love my emails!” Then there’d be the standard fine print at the bottom saying, “We will never spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.”**

That fact is, everyone with an email address has been on the receiving end of an onslaught of emails they never consented to, and been given no obvious way to turn them off—or at least turn the volume down, say, by clicking an opt-out link that turns off promo emails but let’s you stay on the email list. 

Brand new subscribers don’t know you yet. 

It’s the email equivalent of a first date, and that new subscriber is taking a risk giving their email. They’ve been burned so many times before. 

For all they know you’re going to drop their email straight into a slick funnel with 75 emails making them feel so bad about themselves they will not be able to resist hitting the buy button just to make the pain go away for one second. 

As email marketers, that’s what you and I are up against. 

So asking to be allowed entrance into the primary tab, a sanctuary reserved for one-to-one emails from your boss, your bestie, your mom and maybe your girlfriend/boyfriend/theyfriend(s)…

…just why? 

Why would I invite you to dinner with my mom? WE LITERALLY JUST MET, BRUV! 

And anyway, that’s not what the primary tab is for. 

Does that mean business emails should never be there, or that you shouldn’t even ask for a seat at mom’s table? Of course not! It’s my goal to be in your primary tab. In fact, I’d love it if you dragged this email over there right now!

But being in your primary tab is a PRIVILEGE. Marketers have to earn their way in, just as you need to earn your way into your subscriber’s primary tab.

That means building trust first. 

Here are three ways you can build trust as an email marketer:

Nurture your list consistently. 

Show up when you say you’re going to show up. If you said you email once a week on a Tuesday, then do it. It’s okay to take a break now and then but let your list know. You could say, “I’m stepping back for a month to take care of myself. See you in July!”

Let them turn off promo emails.
Those who aren’t interested aren’t reading until the end of your email, so go a layer further than just including a link at the bottom of your email. Put it at the very top and encourage people to click it if they don’t want it or the timing isn’t right. 

Tell subscribers what’s coming.

Instead of springing a high-pressure promotion on them out of the blue, inform them ahead of time what you’ll be offering and when, a little about who it’s for and what it costs. Just one sentence is fine. For example, starting mid-June I’ll be promoting my mastermind Power, which is for business owners who want to grow their bottom line while wielding their power in a way that benefits more than just the people at the top. It costs $12K and starts July 26. 

Trust takes time. There are no shortcuts. That’s partly why we see so much use of coercion on the internet. If your goal is to make your business profitable AT SCALE in the next 30 days, coercion works really well. 

But the slow way is more sustainable, more fun, and you’ll like your customers better.

At the same time I’m building trust with you, you’re building trust with me, letting me know it’s safe for me to talk about things that are really important to me—like safe drug use, or being a polyamorous queer!

I love that you’re here, doing email marketing this way, with me. I hope you give it a try on your subscribers too. 

And Dimitri? I never saw again after that day. When I recounted the date to my bestie, I actually left out that awful thing he said as he leaned out the window of his car—it was such a flaming red flag I was a bit embarrassed that I still had dinner with him.

I’m getting better at red flags, both online and offline. I’m also getting better and not BEING a red flag myself, which takes time and careful study. 

I’m still learning.


*Actually Dimiriti used the “r” word, which I didn’t want to put in an email because it made my body sweat uncomfortably, but including a content warning at the top of this email felt unnecessarily sensational.

** “Unsubscribe anytime” is a promise that is often broken. Some email providers will continue to email subscribers even AFTER a person has unsubscribed, if those emails were loaded and scheduled BEFORE the person hit the unsubscribe link. This seems to happen particularly often with Maropost, which is why any marketer using Maropost is automatically a red flag for me. 

Watch me write this email → (you’ll hear me explain a TON of things along the way, including why I made certain subject line choices, why I chose certain images, and even why I took out the “r” word.)


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