With more than 205 billion emails sent daily, standing out in people’s inboxes can be hard work.
Small mistakes when sending out emails can cost you subscribers, weaken your credibility, and ultimately leave your carefully-crafted emails unopened altogether.
So how do you make sure that all your hard work crafting those emails pays off? How can you improve the email open rates of your marketing emails?
I’ve crowdsourced 10 tips from digital marketing experts who have perfected the art of writing engaging emails that make people want to open them.
Let’s dive in!
1. Craft your subject line first
Kathy Pay, an international email marketing expert, the marketing director at cloud.IQ and the CEO of Holistic Mail Marketing, says that writing your subject line first – rather than doing it as an afterthought – can help you stay focused on the objective of the email and get better results.
Over the years I’ve trained hundreds of email marketers and 90% of them admit that they save writing the subject line until a few minutes before they push ‘send’, which results in a hurried and potentially ineffective subject line.
Write your subject line before you do anything else. That way, you can be assured it’s a persuasive and effective one, rather than a last-ditch effort because you’ve run out of time. The subject line of an email is, obviously, pretty damn important. It’s what gets the reader to take the next logical action, which is open the email.
2. Humanize your subject line
On that note, Steli Efti, the founder and CEO of Close.io, recommends ensuring your subject lines sound like they are being sent by an actual human rather than a machine.
If you want to personalize emails, you’ve got to be a person or act like a person. When you write subject lines or write sales emails that say “10 ways we can help you accomplish your goals in 2015”, that does not sound human, especially when you capitalize each word. That sounds like marketing. That sounds like an ad.
A subject line that sounds mass-generated or too salesy will lead people to delete the email without opening it. That’s because they don’t want to talk back to a machine or spammer.
3. Invest in building a relationship
Noah Kagan, a digital entrepreneur and the founder of Sumo.com and AppSumo, advocates what he calls the ‘Spousal Technique’. Rather than tricking your customers into thinking your email is something it is not, treat your readers like you would treat someone you care about, Noah advises in this blog for Big Commerce:
In terms of good subject lines and bad, the ones that I’ve seen that have worked for me are ones I’d send to a friend. Can I call you? How was your year? What’d you have for dinner? Have you seen this? I don’t like lying in subject lines. Those piss me off and I generally stop trusting the brand.
In other words, act like you already have a relationship, and you’ll help make that a reality.
4. Email at the right time
Email filters are becoming more and more sophisticated, and if your message ends up in the spam folder, your open rates will plummet.
To stay out of spam filters, Patel says it’s best to avoid subject lines written in all caps or including the words ‘sale’, ‘free’, ‘rich’ or ‘deal’. In other words, make sure your email doesn’t sound like a flyer, and limit the number of links you include to keep your messages out of Gmail’s ‘Promotions’ tab. As well, select the best time to send emails for the highest open rates and conversion.
5. Keep it simple, stupid
A lot of email marketers have a tendency to overcomplicate things. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that you shouldn’t make things more complicated than they have to be.
He stresses the importance of using short and descriptive subject lines and recommends sticking to the Keep It Simple, Stupid (K.I.S.S.) principle. Basically, get straight to the point so your recipient can quickly decide what action to take.
6. Use a recognizable sender name
The first most important factor for getting your emails opened is actually ‘who’. What that means is that the person you are emailing, do they know and trust you? Do they know and trust the sender of the email?
It’s a good point. It doesn’t matter how compelling your email subject line is, if the person you are emailing has never even heard of you, then they are likely to be very suspicious and instead of opening your email, they may just decide to ignore it.
7. Focus on providing value
Content marketing keynote speaker and bestselling author, Ann Handley, emphasizes the importance of giving your audience a reason to open your email simply by making it relatable and providing value.
It helps to think of a specific problem that your offer or email resolves, then craft the subject line around that. For example, a message about a business coaching service might tap into the frustration mid-career people feel in their jobs. The key to any good content, in a subject line or elsewhere, is this: make it specific enough to be relevant, but universal enough to be relatable.
So your subject line could be something like, ‘5 signs you’ve stalled in your career’ or ‘How to become your own boss while keeping your day job’.
8. Make it about your audience
Jill Konrath, a thought leader, bestselling author, keynote speaker and leading sales strategist, says that when crafting an email subject line you should focus on what your audience really care about.
You need to think about what’s interesting about what you do from your prospect’s point of view. Put that in the subject line. It’s only about them – that’s all they care about. They don’t care about your company or anything you say about yourself!
When you do this, you also buy yourself a little bit of time and can often sneak in a hidden agenda. People will definitely read the first few sentences of your email if you’ve piqued their curiosity.
9. Optimize your emails for mobile
With a whopping 54% of emails now being opened through mobile devices, Cynthia Price, the vice president of marketing at Emma, says you can’t afford not to consider how pre-header text will appear on the mobile device your audience is using.
Making smart use of pre-header text is a great way to increase mobile open rates and avoid asking subscribers if they’re ‘having trouble viewing this email’.
Pre-header text can also offer details beyond your subject line – just be sure it aligns with the rest of your content. As Cynthia points out, “Your sender’s name, subject, and pre-header are all part of the same team, and should work together to set expectations with subscribers. Remember to pay attention to your customers’ preferred devices.”
10. Provide hints to pique curiosity
Aaron Agius, the co-founder of Louder Online, says that hinting what’s inside your email in the subject line can increase the chances of it getting opened.
“Depending on the type of email you’re sending, you can set the expectations of the customer ahead of time and remove some (but not all) of the mystery about what’s inside. This can be highly effective with promotions, as well as certain types of content.”
Agius adds that putting certain words like ‘video’ in an email subject line can boost open rates by as much as 19%. Words like ‘product sample’ also set consumer expectations that can work well for you.
No matter how engaging your emails are, if they don’t get opened, they’re useless to you, and your email campaign objectives won’t be achieved.
With email marketing making a dramatic comeback in recent years, getting every element right is crucial to make your content marketing a success.
What other factors do you think help achieve better open rates on your emails? Let me know in the comments below!