6 Tricks for Getting People to Actually Open and Read Your Emails

Mark Pedersen

Email yields the highest conversion rates of any medium—beating out even social and paid search. It’s also one of the biggest bangs for your buck with 4400% ROI (Source: CampaignMonitor).

So if you’re not harvesting enough fruit from your email marketing efforts, don’t give up.

Like an unapologetic ex would say, when it comes to email, “it’s not me, it’s you.” In other words, it’s not the medium, it’s your strategy.

The good news is, that’s fixable. Here are a few easy tactics you can incorporate right away to start getting better click-through rates and higher conversion rates for your emails.

1. Get laser focused on your subject line.

47% of email recipients decide whether to open an email based on the subject line alone. That means your subject line is the most important element of your email, bar none. If the subject line is uninspired or otherwise boring, your entire email is dead in the water.

That’s why you should loosen up and get creative about your subject lines. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope a bit.

Take this subject line, for example: "Get 10% off printer ink!" It’s pretty boring and unremarkable. Here’s Hewlett-Packard’s twist on that same subject line: "Stop wasting money on ink." The latter subject line addresses a pain point, immediately offers value to the customer, and reads well. It’s something someone would actually open.

When it comes to subject lines, short and sweet works best, but "interesting" trumps all. What would YOU click on? Judge your email subject lines by your own yardstick.

2. Communicate at the right time of day.

The average working person receives 121 emails per day. The chance that your email gets buried under others is high—so optimizing when you send your emails is key. As a general rule of thumb, studies have found Tuesdays and Thursdays to be "slower" work days. People have more downtime, and therefore more time to leaf through their inboxes.

In terms of what time to send your emails, consider your target audience and their behavior. It’s best to send emails at times your audience is most likely to be checking emails, such as during morning and afternoon commute times (8-9AM and 4-6PM). Another great time to send out emails is around 11AM, when people have had their coffee and finally have a chance to settle down and catch up on emails from the day before.

3. Make your email actionable.

In this case, being bossy is a virtue. Don’t just talk at people, tell them what to do! What do you hope to accomplish by sending your email? Do you want your readers to visit your website, sign up for a service, or buy a product? Tell them so. By the time they reach the end of the email, it should be very clear what you expect them to do. Have a specific and calculable call to action and hold yourself, and your email, to that.

4. Consider text-based emails.

Image-heavy email templates can be beautiful—but they also have drawbacks. HTML emails can hurt deliverability. They may be marked by spam filters and images and links may not load correctly. They can also feel impersonal. No one wants to feel that they’re just another faceless recipient of another boring newsletter. In A/B tests, simpler emails come out on top way more often. In contrast to HTML-based emails, text-based emails are easier and faster to produce, won’t get blocked by spam filters, and feel more personal. It’s a win-win-win.

5. Blitz ‘em, but don’t blast ‘em.

First let’s clear the air: it’s OK to send multiple emails per week, or even per day. In fact, you can send as many emails as you can think of and it won’t increase your opt-out rates—provided you put thought and purpose behind EVERY email. Sending five "last chance!" emails in a row will have little to no effect—all it will do is annoy people. Sending a thoughtfully crafted email series on the other hand—each with unique messaging and an increased level of urgency—well, that may just work.

6. Don’t use cheap tactics.

Bait-and-switch email tactics from a few years ago don’t work anymore. People have clued in. No one is going to fall for a "Fwd:" or "Re:" in a subject line—all it does is cheapen your communication. Forget the gimmicks and focus on producing interesting messaging that will actually encourage clicks.

Yes& is the Washington, DC-based marketing agency that brings commercial, association, and government clients the unlimited power of “&” – using a full suite of branding, digital, event, marketing, public relations, and creative capabilities to deliver meaningful and measurable results.

Let’s talk about what the power of "&" can do for you.

Mark Pedersen
Mark Pedersen
VP, Marketing Strategy