How to Get People to Open Your Email

The first place I look at when I check my email is the From line to see who it’s from.   If its from someone I know then I open it up immediately.   Unless its from someone I know but don’t want to deal with and then I let it wait.  I’m not looking to get rich quick, buy prescription drugs, or to be pressured into buying something I do not need or want.

I’m sufficiently paranoid of email forgeries that pretend to be from someone they are not so if I don’t remember subscribing to you I will either delete or report you as spam.  Over the winter I began receiving some emails reporting breaking stories from CNN and because I was never subscribed to newsletters from CNN I reported them as spam.   Admittedly I’m a bit of a news junky so when I looked at the subject line I knew the emails were bunk.  My gmail account makes it easy to click on a Report Spam button whenever anything gets past their spam filter,  which happens rarely, and dealing with spam never seems to be a concern for me which is why I keep using it.

Sure,  I have other email accounts with other providers but I had to stop using them.   Too much spam was getting through their filter so I simply quit using them.   I’m not advertising one email service over another.  A lot of my friends use yahoo mail without experiencing the same problem I did.  My Dad still uses hotmail and will not use anything else.    He’s never experienced the same problems with hotmail as I have.   Everyone uses whatever email service works best for them and far be it from me to judge which one is better than the other.

After I’ve decided whether or not I want to delete or mark a mailing as spam I move over to the subject line.   There are many newsletters that I am subscribed to that I mark as read without opening if I decide that opening them is not worth my time.   If I find myself having to do that a lot for a particular From address then I will unsubscribe from their list.

The From Line

Your From address tells your subscribers who you are and if you do not get this right then your mailing will be either deleted or reported as spam.

Do not use an email address as your From line. This does not look good because most readers are use to seeing a name in that column.  But be forewarned, there may be some email clients where this is a moot point as they are configured to display the From address.   When this happens you should relate your email address to the purpose of your mailing. Some examples include ‘newsletter@yourdomain.com’, ‘info@yourdomain.com’, ‘news@yourdomain.com’,  and ‘yourcompany@yourdomain.com.’

If you use a person’s name follow this with a comma and then the organization you are from.  You only have 16 characters to work with so you should test this to see if this is enough space to reasonably allow a reader to make out who it is from.   Using just a person’s name should be avoided unless you are sure that this is someone that your reader will know.

Simply displaying your company or brand name should be sufficient for your subscribers to recognize you.   If you choose to use to use a department name be sure to also include your company or brand name so that your subscribers recognize you.

Also, keeping a consistent From address will keep consistency in your subscriber’s email clients and help avoid your message from being placed in junk mail folders.  You can learn more about this

The Subject Line

Keep the subject line consistent and familiar so that your subscribers recognize you.  One way to accomplish this is to start out with the same words.   For example, “Your Company Newsletter: Name of the Newsletter.”  Most email clients can display 50 characters or less.  According to Return Path subject lines with 49 or fewer characters had open rates 12.5 percent higher than those with 50 or more characters.  Click-through rates for subject lines with 49 or fewer characters were 75 percent higher than those with 50 or more characters.

The subject line is your hook and should draw enough interest from your subscriber to get them to open your mailing without appearing too aggressive.  This is a “soft sell” as opposed to a “hard sell.”  Newsletters are about establishing a relationship with your subscribers.   You are making them feel comfortable with your brand while letting them know what you have to offer.

Email is a very intrusive form of communication unless it comes from someone you know and trust.  Does your email address a need your subscriber has?  If it doesn’t then its possible that your subscriber shouldn’t be subscribed to your newsletter in the first place.   Your subject line should be non threatening enough for your subscriber to feel comfortable enough to open up your mailing and unsubscribe.  An unsubscribe is your subscriber politely telling you thanks but no thanks.  When we refer to a “soft sell” we are talking about softening your subscriber up enough so that they are willing to listen to what you have to offer.  If they unsubscribe after hearing what you say then they are saving you from wasting your time.

The more direct your subject line is the more likely your subscriber is to open your mailing.  You can be direct and still write an engaging subject line that gets your subscriber’s attention.  You just have to let the substance inside your mailing be your guide.  For this reason it may be wise to write your subject line last.   Ask yourself what’s in it for your subscriber.  If you do not have anything interesting to offer your subscriber by opening your mailing then you shouldn’t be sending it to them.   Its better to hold off on mailing to them until you can offer them something that would interest them.   That way you do not lose them as a subscriber.

What you do not want to do with your subject line is make it sound too much like a sales pitch.   Every possible cliche for trying to grab someone’s attention has already been exploited by spammers.  People prefer authenticity over spin.   If you make your subject line sound too much like a sales pitch or come off as being too needy they will assume you are being misleading.  We talked about about some of the things you want to avoid with subject lines when we discussed effective email marketing writing.   Avoid using $ signs, all caps, excessive punctuation,  exclamation points, % off, reminder, free, and help.  Stay away from anything that resembles anything in your spam box.

Even though you want to get your subscriber’s attention its better to be a little boring than too pushy.  If the subject line even resembles something your subscriber has seen in spam then this will turn them off and they will never open your mailing.  Worse they will report you as spam and this will jeopardize your ability to even deliver your mailings in the future.  Be simple, direct, and modest in your approach.  If the substance in your newsletter makes it worth opening then the subject line should write itself.

You may wonder if its a good idea to personalize your subject line with a person’s name.   This is a terrible idea.  Spammers like to put your name in the subject line.  Furthermore,  there are findings that show that using a person’s first name or last name does not significantly improve open rates.

Finally,  keep in mind this is not an exact science.   Test and retest until you find out what works best with your subscribers.    If you have two strong subject lines use a/b split testing to divide your list in half and send each group different subject lines to see which one works best.

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  • Johnny Rogers

    Which of these do you think is to pushy…?
    1. Is Your Business Leaving Money on the Table?
    2. Small Business Newsletter – October 2011
    3. Small Business Internet Marketing Newsletter
    Thanks!

  • Johnny Rogers

    Which of these do you think is to pushy…?
    1. Is Your Business Leaving Money on the Table?
    2. Small Business Newsletter – October 2011
    3. Small Business Internet Marketing Newsletter
    Thanks!

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