Ex-U.S. Air Force Officer Explains Battle of Inbox Attention for Email

Nate Wright
Nate Wright

Founder, Inbox Attack

About the author

Published on: February 17, 2022

Last updated on: February 16, 2022

Modern inboxes are warzones — the digital fight for attention, consent, deliverability, engagement, and retention has become almost violent against the backsplash of narrowing the attention spans of consumers.

Inbox Attack Founder Nate Wright will drive a discussion around the topic during MailCon’s upcoming webinar, set to take place on February 22 at 11 a.m. PDT.

During his virtual session, Wright will distill Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” into five different laws that email marketers can use to dominate the unique field of battle in the inbox.

Register here and tune into Wright’s talk with MailCon, which is titled “Picking a Fight in the Inbox: The Art of War and Email Marketing in 2022.” 

Inbox Attack Founder Nate Wright

Tell us about your professional background and what shapes your marketing innovation.

I started my career in the U.S. Air Force as a Communications Officer in 2001. “Communications Officer” was just a fancy word for “IT middle manager.” However, the experience introduced me to the influence of email communications, even in wartime environments. I transitioned to marketing in 2009 out of raw desperation. An eviction notice nailed to your apartment door can be a great motivator.

How has the marketing industry evolved during your career?

Honestly, I don’t think it has changed that much, other than getting harder. There are more channels now, and mobile certainly mixed it up a bit. The battle for attention has gotten more ferocious, as humans have only a finite amount of attention to give to anyone anymore. A John Naisbitt quote I stumbled upon in my first year of marketing is still a guiding principle for me, “. . . the more technology we introduce into our lives, the more we seek a high touch balance, a human ballast.”

Why Inbox Attack? What’s the story behind the company name? Tell us about the trio of marketing agencies and how they work hand-in-hand to create email innovation.

My company has gone through many — some ill-advised — rebranding detours over the years. Inbox Attack originally began as a training company, structured as a virtual “fighting gym.” We trained business owners to break through the attention barrier via email inboxes. Since then, we’ve found people — thousands now — who were willing to pay us to do that inbox fighting for them.

We have three sub-brands that serve different needs:

  • B2B Bandits is an unconventional B2B sales and marketing omnichannel team.
  • Email Ecommerce focuses purely on supporting online stores.
  • Voodoo Influence is our playground for test-driving weird ideas.

What’s the most powerful tool any email marketing campaign can have?

A human being to check for replies. Seriously, even a monster e-commerce promotion to a million subscribers can be optimized for replies, and even the best email platforms can’t outpace the big inbox providers. You should have a human check for replies and respond like a human. Big money is with sophisticated buyers who can sniff automation from a mile away. Their inboxes — especially with machine opens and clicks throwing everyone off their game — can sniff tracking a thousand miles away. It may hurt your margins a tiny bit, but a human reply can transform a one-and-done transaction into a long-term relationship.

As a chief strategist and copywriter, how can great copy separate you from the pack?

Great copy can make or break a campaign until it doesn’t matter anymore. Humans skim emails, and in some cases, a skimmable copy full of errors will outperform gorgeous messaging. If you want to craft effective email copy, stop reading marketing blogs and study dialogue in great movies. The best copywriters understand people and they know how to make conversation.

Which era of email marketing are we currently living in?

I sent my first email in 1994 from a free BigFoot account. The technology is still fueled by the same tech with added layers of alphabet soup (DKIM, DMARC, SPF, etc.). I’m hoping it’s the era that pays people like us a disproportionately high sum for being able to craft a campaign of the written word better than mere mortals. But, in reality, I think we are heading into an era where email marketing will mutate with all of the other inbox fillers. Then we will just have real-time communication via phone, face-to-face, video, and everything else like chat, snail mail, SMS, and email. For better or worse, culture will decide the era, not us email nerds.

Tell us more about your MailCon webinar. Why is now a good time to be talking about your topic?

Bandwagons used to be a convenient way to de-risk a marketing strategy. You may not be the first mover, but at least other people are making money on that wagon. Nowadays, marketing bandwagons will end up busted on the side of the road within months — or sometimes weeks — after gaining initial traction. But, thankfully, there are a lot of lessons culled from thousands of years of old military campaigns that still work today in the chaos of digital marketing.

What’s the story behind Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War?” Why did you choose this as the inspiration behind your session?

Sun Tzu, a brilliant wartime strategist, lived in a world where behaving predictably in an unpredictable environment could get you and everyone else around you killed. The battle for attention has only gotten harder. And if you treat email marketing as a battle for attention, and the inbox as the battlefield, then Sun Tzu’s strategies can be adapted to win more and lose less.

How does email compare to the concept of battle? What are the five laws you’ll be discussing?

When you send an email with a business objective in mind, three things need to happen to be considered truly successful. It must reach the inbox. It must be read. It must be acted on. The battlefield of the inbox is packed with obstacles in the landscape. In our case, that landscape is marked by deliverability, placement, and competitors. Sun Tzu outlined over a dozen principles, but these five are the most applicable to our industry. Here’s what I’ll be unpacking, and if time permits, I’ll workshop a few submissions through each of them.

1. Stop fighting fair
2. Vary your tactics
3. Use spies
4. Check your biases
5. Understand your true enemy

Register here and tune into Wright’s talk with MailCon on Feb. 22 at 11 a.m. PDT, titled “Picking a Fight in the Inbox: The Art of War and Email Marketing in 2022.”

About the author

Nate Wright
Nate Wright

Founder, Inbox Attack

Over the last 13 years, Nate Wright has crafted and delivered over 20,000 email campaigns with his company Inbox Attack. They are currently ranked in the top one percent of email marketing agencies worldwide on Clutch and Upwork. Nate has been featured by Bloomberg, Pitch Anything, Mailchimp, and Mailshake. Nate is based in Oceanside, California, and lives with his oh-so-patient wife, less patient daughter, and two ridiculous dogs.


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