Email can be painful.
Most of our inboxes are compilations of stuff we don’t bother looking at. Almost every email sounds and looks just like the last one you opened. Which reminds you why you never open any of them in the first place.
For months you’ve been collecting spam from that one website, though all you wanted was a free e-book. “I’ll unsubscribe later”, you thought. But you never did, because, well, you forgot. You always do.
Still, you kept doing it for every newsletter you subscribed to. And now your inbox is littered with emails that would be reeking of mold if you could get a whiff.
Among those hundreds of emails are special offers, actually interesting stuff, and blogs you’ll never read. And it’s all thanks to one reason: they don’t look interesting enough. They don’t grab your attention. They don’t make you think “hey, that could be something that won’t waste my time”.
You don’t click something that looks uninteresting. If you don’t click it, you won’t open it. If you don’t open it, it can’t engage you. If it doesn’t engage you, you won’t read it (or buy it). Simple enough, right?
The same happens to your subscribers. They, too, have hundreds if not thousands of festering emails just waiting to be noticed. Some of them could be yours. That newsletter you worked hard on? It’s no use if no one’s interacting with it.
If you’re determined to maximize your open rates, your clicks, and engage your readers to the point they’ll not only see your email but read it all the way through and take action, you must do a few things differently.
All of the following key tips go with real-life examples from successful emails. Use them in your own newsletters, and keep your eyes on the analytics to see magic.
Let’s get started.
Tantalize Subscribers With a SHORT, Enticing Subject Line
“Short” is in caps for a reason.
Let’s venture to guess it hasn't been long since you last saw a subject line along the lines of:
This is your LAST CHANCE to make SIX-FIGUR…
Aaaand you’ll never know what the rest says. Of course it has something to do with making six-figures. But dozens of other emails you’ve seen featured LAST CHANCE warnings (when it wasn’t really the last chance). Your audience is smart, treat them as such.
And let’s be honest here. Have you ever opened any “make six-figures” email? Probably not. And if you did, here’s to hoping you’ve made it.
If you’re going to do it, at least do it better.
Look at this email subject line from a Motley Fool campaign. All it says is:
Sorry, you missed your chance.
What chance? Did I lose something? Let me check what this is about…
Even if you ask yourself “what website is this from, anyway?”, this line gives you a curiosity itch. And that’s what it’s supposed to do.
This type of subject line works for promotions your subjects have been warned about, but missed. In the body text, you can always let your subscribers know when their next chance will be. Or if there will, hopefully, be another chance. Make it interesting, and they won’t miss it the next time around.
You can also swipe Early To Rise’s example:
Did you miss this?
This line is great for weekly article roundups, leading subscribers to go over the week’s latest topics, and encourage them to read your blog. You can even throw a few offers in there, but make it subtle.
Now, for another catchy example.
Ryan Deiss’s “The Death of the Sales Letter” subject line is a thing of beauty. If you’re a marketer, you’d certainly want to know if sales letters are obsolete, and why exactly. Plus, a powerful word such as “death” piques interest.
A subject line should get the message across without dot dot dot. It should be the one thing in your subscriber’s inbox that doesn’t make them want to delete Gmail once and for all.
Start With a Bang
This is a rule for every single email. You don’t necessarily have to begin by saying “dear reader”. Not even “hey”, if you don’t feel like it. Sometimes, unfollowing the rules is bliss.
In the words of master copywriter Eugene Schwartz, the goal of the first sentence is to get the reader to read the second one, and so on.
But what does “starting with a bang” really mean?
No need to dramatize every first line of every email. But write it with the purpose of leading the reader down the page.
Remember Motley Fool’s “missed your chance” email above? Here’s how it starts:
It sounds as though someone really needs to talk to you. And that your attention is really important to them. Notice how an enticing subject line paired with a banging first line can make a huge impact. They guarantee an open and the beginning of reading. We’ll talk about the rest in a minute.
The other example is from an email campaign from Dan Kennedy.
“This will be short”.
Well, thank goodness.
A simple guarantee you won’t be wasting your precious time can do wonders. Think about it: when scrolling down and seeing lots of text, the result would probably be a resounding “nahhh”, followed by a back click.
If the text really is short as you (and Dan) have promised, you’ve got a reader.
But what about longer emails? Does that mean they won’t work? Not at all. In fact, there are successful techniques you can use to make sure your longer emails have a higher chance of being read from top to bottom. Here they are.
Don’t Write in Huge Blocks
Use one-sentence paragraphs. One-word paragraphs, even.
And yes, in high school English you were told you weren’t supposed to use bullets, write sentences that are way too short, yadda yadda. Here’s the place to say it: that’s bullsh*t. Unlearn it. At least if you’re going to be writing emails from now on.
There’s a reason authors like Ernest Hemingway and Nora Ephron are so easy and delightful to read. Their sentences are minimal. Short. Crisp. Like this. They vary in length, giving rhythm to the writing. You can do it, too. Train yourself to write sentences that read as crisp as the first bite on a buffalo wing.
Use bullet points and fascinations where applicable (especially if you’re listing the lessons on a webinar, course, or e-book).Also, don’t be afraid to make your emails look like a poem at times.
Would you rather read a fluid poem or an academic essay? You don’t have to answer.
Here’s an example from Webinar Jam.
One-sentence paragraphs. Lots of them. There’s even an isolated “or” hanging around.
If that sounds far different from the way you currently write your emails, give it a try. This technique will increase readability. Promise.
Tell a Relatable Story
If words like “storytelling make you feel like abandoning your career in marketing, you’re not alone.
Sometimes, storytelling is one of those things some of us hear often but never quite grasp. So we start hating it.
Truth is, storytelling isn’t about writing full-fledged stories with made-up characters. It could be as easy as writing about a funny incident that happened the other day. Or telling people about the current book you’re reading.
Storytelling is essentially about painting pictures in people’s minds. Because when you activate people’s imagination, they pay attention.
Of course, these stories shouldn’t be told without a context–they should tie into the subject of your email.
Say you had a great chat with your co-worker Jim over the weekend, from whom you extracted a few precious marketing insights. Writing about marketing in your email? Score. Talk about those insights, and how they can help your audience. But give Jim some credit, will ya?
It doesn’t have to be all about YOU, though (this one’s for you, introvert). Storytelling can also be as simple as citing interesting facts. Look how AWAI grabs the reader’s attention by talking about the Big Mac.
Not only it keeps us reading, but it makes us wonder: what the hell does a Big Mac have to do with writing? And wait, 550 MILLION BIG MACS?!
So you keep reading…
In some emails, interesting visuals like images and GIFs can (and should) be used to break down text. In others, they are the content itself.
For example, GIFs are excellent to display various products such as clothes and makeup without taking much space. Plus, you get to show one product from various angles, and they look amazing! If good copy and kick-ass CTAs accompany, you can get that click. Lookie here:
Let’s see another example–this time with static visuals.
We don’t need to get political here. But here’s a great example from Hilary Clinton’s campaign. It’s an e-mail featuring a list of 5 things you could do to elect her. It was quick to read, had a colorful and catchy background, and photos to illustrate.
Five things, in five minutes or less. Again, this reassures the reader that it will be quick, so she doesn’t have to worry.
This list wouldn’t be remotely as interesting if it was written in plain text. If you get the chance, give your lists and informational content a bit of a zing by making it look great. You don’t even need a designer for it.
Now, if your email is on the plain side but you’ve got a lot to say, use images and GIFs to give your reader something to look (or laugh) at besides text.
Blend Your Content Into the email, Seamlessly
Seamlessly is such a graceful word. It sounds just like what it means: it blends itself in in a smooth flow. It doesn’t sound terrible, like moist.
If you want to flee from the usual “here are this week top blog posts” you have a seamless alternative. It’s easier to lead people into reading your content on another page when you give subscribers interesting tidbits.
Chances are, if they only see a link pointing to it, they might not be so sure they will find what they need. So it’s your job to tell them.
Peep what Cole Schafer wrote before linking to his post about writing badass newsletters.
He was already talking about his own cool newsletter and how starting it was a great thing. So why not drop a link to his post talking about how to write a cool newsletter yourself?
He blended it in, seamlessly.
Alright, enough of that word. Soon it will start sounding like moist.
Don’t Be Afraid to Throw in a Few Jokes and Humorous Reflections
If a situation applies, of course. If you’re giving news about a hiatus due to your grandmother’s passing, you probably wouldn’t want to joke about that. Unless you’re a sick f*ck.
See what was done with seamless up there? This article doesn’t necessarily need that. It won’t add anything to knowing how to maximize opens, clicks, and engagement. But it was funny, right? Right?
Emails are supposed to sound casual. Laid-back. Above all, they’re supposed to make readers relate to you, in some way. Find you interesting and cool. Laugh a bit, even if through their noses.
If you have a reflection or something funny pop in your head that's relevant to what you have to say, type it in.
In The End, Give Them More Than Just One Option
You’ve reached the end of this article, and your subscriber reached the end of your email.
Time for the grand finale. Time to tie everything up with a link and a click-worthy CTA. You’ve given them one link to interact with. Trouble is…
They could just say “nah, I don’t want to buy that” or “I don’t feel like clicking this right now” and call it a day. They did read your email, but at what cost?
Giving your subs more than one option will increase their chances of converting–one way or another.
If you give them the option to download your E-book
Buy one (or more) products
Redirect them to your blog posts because they’re so awesome
Just let them do whatever they want to do without being pushy about it…
…Then you’ve catered to multiple needs.
In this instance, if they don’t click it, it wasn’t meant to be. But your chances to get a click and potentially a conversion? Higher than Mount Everest (which, if you don’t know, is the highest mountain in the world).
How do YOU Maximize Your emails?
Share your wisdom in the comments. Reply to this post with your infallible email techniques to help a few readers out, c’mon. (Or not. Keep your secrets.)
Otherwise, just follow along with this article, do the work, and reap the rewards.