5 Practical Steps To Write Emails That Boost Your Open Rates

A marketer’s job is never easy. In addition to creating great content and promoting it, you also have to convert that hard-earned traffic into engaged email subscribers. As a blogger and online marketer, you absolutely cannot afford to ignore email marketing. Email is 44 times more effective than other channels (like social media) when it comes to acquiring customers.

However, your work does not stop there, either.

In addition to everything else, you also need to cultivate relationships with your email subscribers, then nurture them consistently if they are ever going to trust you enough to buy from you.

For you to do that effectively, you need to be able to get your subscribers excited about the emails you send them, as opposed to simply tolerating them.

The average email open rates will vary widely, depending on your industry. But typically, the range is between 15% and 25%. While that isn’t terrible, it certainly isn’t great either. It means that only ONE out of 4-6 people who asked for your emails actually open them.

And keep in mind that’s just opening, not click-throughs or replies.

The good news is that it’s possible to do a lot better than the majority of businesses in your industry just by following some of the unique tips in this article – and avoiding the mistakes other businesses make.

So, if you think about it:

If average businesses have an ROI of 4,400% from email marketing with such low open rates, imagine what you could do if your email open and click-through rates went up to 50% or more? This guide will show you exactly how to achieve those kinds of results.

But first, the basics…

After the Sign-Up, Set the Stage

You’ve managed to convince one of your readers to sign up to receive emails from you – great! In order to do this, you had to offer that person something. This could be regular content updates, free lead magnets, or whatever else it is that the subscriber wants.

In today’s era, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t deliver your lead magnet within just minutes of acquiring a new subscription. All the major email marketing platforms offer an autoresponder that you can use to automatically deliver what you are offering.

This is extremely important because people, these days, have short memories. Delaying with your lead magnet may not be such a big deal for one of your loyal readers who just recently got around to signing up for your list. But, for most subscribers who don’t know you well, that delay can be the difference between you embarking on a great relationship and having your emails sent straight to the spam box.

You’ve probably signed up for a few free bonuses yourself. If someone you did not know very well sent you the freebie at once, you knew where it came from and why it was sent to you – after all, you requested it.

But, if that freebie lands in your email inbox a day later, you’re sitting there thinking: ‘Who the heck is Steven Mann?’

People are very protective of their inboxes, as they should be. They are extremely cautious when they get emails from other people they don’t know. Some of them don’t mind, but others get annoyed and even angry when this happens.

The bottom line is, always make sure that you deliver whatever you promised straightaway. That’s the simplest way to avoid ending up in the spam folder.

And this brings us to the next vital thing you have to do immediately after your website visitor signs up and while you’re still fresh in the person’s mind:

Set Clear Expectations

Studies have shown that the first follow-up email is the one that gets the highest open rate. It’s often about 70% or more.

This is a lot higher than average open rates, which makes this email extremely important because what you say in it will either help you sustain higher open rates in the future or it will scare off your subscribers for good.

So what exactly should you say?

Well, it depends on a few different factors, mainly how your visitors signed up.

If the subscriber signed up to one of your offers that simply said ‘Send me the course’ or ‘Send me the lessons’ then it’s safe to assume that person knows who you are. They likely expect you to send them occasional emails. In such a case, it’s more about the frequency with which you will be communicating than it is about who you are and what you’ll be sending.

But, if the subscriber joined your list because they wanted a free report, e-book, etc., then that person may not be aware of the fact that they have just joined your email list.

Here are a few important things you should do:

  • Introduce yourself so your reader won’t forget you
  • Include a headshot
  • Introduce your product (but don’t be pushy)
  • Establish expectations and let them know what’s coming

This information should be at the top of your first email that you send to subscribers because you know most of them will read this part. Further down in the email, you can deliver what you promised.

If your lead magnet is a one-time download, something else you should think about doing is to add a blurb underneath your email with a simple reminder for your subscribers as to what they signed up for. The blurb could go something like this:

(Note: In case you are wondering why you received this email, it’s because you subscribed for _. If you don’t want to receive these emails, simply unsubscribe using the button below – although I admit, I will be sad to see you go.)

Why is this important?

It’s because oftentimes new subscribers will download and enjoy your lead magnet and within a day or two, they’ve forgotten who you are. So when they get an email from you a few days later, they get annoyed or angry since they believe they don’t know you.

This results in unsubscribes, having your emails marked as spam, and even the occasional ‘STOP EMAILING ME! I NEVER SIGNED UP TO BE ON THIS LIST!’ email reply. By simply including that short blurb at the bottom of all your emails, you will be able to eliminate virtually all such complaints.

And now, let’s take a look at what steps you have to go through in order to write emails that your subscribers are going to love receiving.

Step 1: Write an Enticing Subject Line

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork, you need to start working on creating future emails for your subscribers that they won’t be able to resist opening. It all starts with a compelling subject line.

When writing email subject lines, you need to craft them in the same way that you do the headlines of your blog posts.

However, with email subject lines, you have a lot more freedom with them. Here are a few tips that you can use to make your subject lines more effective:

Tip #1: Use Numbers

The use of numbers and headlines is something that many successful marketers have realized leads to higher click-through rates for their blog posts. It works in much the same way for email marketing. Using numbers in your subject lines leads to a boost in your open rates.

The reason for this is that numbers are specific, intriguing, and they are easy to read. If you are yet to be convinced about the power of numbers, simply conduct a Google search for any popular topic in your niche. I’m willing to bet that the first page will show you more than just a few blog posts that have numbers in their headlines.

The simple fact is that numerals break up your visual field whenever you’re scanning any piece of content, which means that a headline or subject line with numbers in it has a higher chance of capturing your audience’s eye. That’s why adding numbers to subject lines is among the most effective means of increasing your email open rate.

Tip #2: Induce Curiosity

As human beings, we are extremely curious by nature. We always want to know answers to things and the questions gnaw away at us till we find those answers. It’s important for a marketer to understand just how powerful curiosity is, and the ways in which you can use it to enhance your marketing efforts.

It takes a bit of practice to be able to write a blog post headline or email subject lines that induce curiosity, but when done right, this can be very effective in getting people to open your emails.

Here are some examples of email subject lines that induce curiosity:

  • This is how it all went wrong…
  • I never could have guessed how this would work out.
  • He couldn’t believe how simple it turned out to be!

The secret here is to be quite specific about some result or event, but remain vague as to what led to it. Naturally, readers will be itching to know how that result or event was produced if that’s an important topic to them.

For instance, if I were to send an email containing the subject line:

‘Here’s the unique tactic that led to $900 affiliate sales in one day on a new blog… ‘

It’s very likely that most of my readers will want to open that email simply to find out what that one tactic was!

Tip #3: Keep It Short

A lot of studies have been conducted, and it’s been found that shorter subject lines are generally more effective than longer ones. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should never use long headlines. It simply means that, in general, shorter subject lines prove to be better.

The reason for this is because:

  • Your subscribers get to read the whole subject line without any part of it being cut off
  • For the most part, shorter subject lines induce more curiosity
  • Most readers don’t open ambiguous headlines, and it’s easier to be clear when using short subject lines

Tip #4: Test Various Subject Lines

Every marketer should test their email subject lines to find out which one performs the best. A great way of split testing your subject lines is by simply sending emails with those different headlines to small groups of your list. See which one has the highest open rates, and then you can send the winning subject line to the entire list.

Alternatively, a lot of email marketing providers these days offer split-testing functions built into their platforms. If you use an email host like Aweber and simply create a broadcast in the same way you normally would by going to the Messages > Broadcasts menu, and then clicking the link below ‘Create a Broadcast’ which says, ‘Create a split test’.

Email marketing platforms aren’t that different, so you’ll be able to easily find this feature even if you’re using a different email host.

After clicking the link, you’ll then be able to choose the number of variations you want to create. Next, choose the percentage of your current list that you want to send each of your variations. This needs to add up to the entire 100% of subscribers, so it’s best to use an even split.

Save the split test and then return to the page with your broadcast messages. You’ll now see two or more drafts, depending on the number of variations you chose. Your next step is to edit each of the emails individually with the chosen subject lines and messages.

Step 2: Pile on the Value

Consider the reason your subscribers sign up for your list in the first place. They do it to get something. This means that right now you’re not really their friend. In fact, they don’t even consider you an acquaintance. But, you do have something they want – knowledge, a tool, or whatever else it might be.

It’s not always a bad idea to pitch your services straight away, or to at least mention that they’re available, but for the most part, it is.

People will generally tolerate pitches from you in order to receive value. If your pitches come too soon, too hard, or too frequently, you’ll undoubtedly scare way potentially good prospects.

To make this easier for you to grasp, simply think of your new email subscribers like bank accounts. Each time you add value in their lives, it’s like making a deposit. However, whenever you pitch them or if you don’t deliver what you promised, it’s like making a withdrawal. Too many withdrawals and your account will end up getting closed!

The point here is that trust takes time.

It’s important for you to earn your subscribers’ trust by giving them immense value time and time again. Once your subscribers begin to realize that you are not in it just to part them with their hard-earned money, and when they realize that your work actually makes a massive difference in certain aspects of their lives, those people will begin to trust you.

For instance, say you ran a digital marketing blog. If you were to send email newsletters to your subscribers, and they knew every time they got an email from you it would contain something that would help them improve their marketing results, then you can be sure your open rates would be outrageously high.

Step 3: Make It Personal

Consider the way you make new friends. Over time, you learn more about the person and they learn about you. You become better and better friends by bonding over your common interests and similarities.

You obviously know that you and your subscribers share an interest in your niche, but in the beginning, there’s nothing else beyond that. All you are to them is a name behind a piece of content. Use the tips outlined below to help you start to make friends with your new subscribers:

Tip #1: Share Fascinating Personal Stories

Sharing personal stories with your readers is a great way of getting them to know you by showing them a glimpse into your life. There are so many different ways to do this, such as in your blog posts and videos. However, email is one of the most effective means to do this effectively because when you think about it, if a friend wants to tell you a story, they don’t write you a blog post. Instead, they send you an email.

As a marketer, you will have greater engagement and response from your audience if you often begin your emails with entertaining short stories.

Just remember, whatever story you decide to share, you must always have a way to tie it back to your main point, otherwise it’s just a waste of time. By doing this, not only will your audience learn a bit more about you in each email, but they will also manage to get the value they are looking for.

Tip #2: Talk to One Person

None of your readers want you to talk to them in a corporate tone. So write your emails the way you write your blog posts.

Use the words ‘I’ and ‘you’ and don’t shy away from including questions, the occasional slang, and so on. When writing emails, simply pretend that you’re writing to a specific person who’s a friend.

Tip #3: Don’t Rush

Have you ever been freaked out by someone that you just met and they start telling you their entire life story straight away? It’s creepy, right? It’s a little like going on a date with someone for the first time, and they tell you they love you…


Any relationship takes time to develop, and your email list is no different. So share personal stories and details carefully.

Take it one step at a time. When a new subscriber joins a list, they may want to know about you, and you can maybe include one of the most interesting facts about you, but now is not the time to reveal your life story to them.

Step 4: Create Cliffhangers

You already understand how powerful curiosity is. Creating cliffhangers is a great way of taking advantage of that. You know what cliffhangers are from the TV shows you watch. It’s when they end the show just after something unexpected has happened, which leaves you dying to discover what happens next. And for you to find that out, you have to watch the next episode in this series.

Although TV shows have done this for a long time with great success, online marketers are still yet to catch up. To help make this concept easier for you to understand, simply think of each of the emails you send to your subscribers as an episode which will lead to the next.

Always build upon every email you send. So when approaching the end of your email, reveal some kind of results you or someone else achieved (such as getting a 150% increase in your email opt-in rates), and then tease away.

Tell your subscribers that your next email will reveal to them exactly how you managed to achieve that result. BOOM! – Instant cliffhanger.

There are a few different ways that you can create cliffhangers.

First, simply continue the topic your readers already have an interest in. For instance, instead of overloading your subscribers with too much information in a single email, you can tell them that you will send the next part tomorrow and that they should keep their eyes out for that.

You could say:

  • Tomorrow morning, I’ll share a few case studies that you can use as motivation.
  • In a few days, I’m going to send you the details on a blog marketing strategy that will triple your
  • …or something to that tune.

So you see how easy it is to get your subscribers hooked so that they are eagerly anticipating your next email? You can also be subtle if that’s more your style. You can simply ask one or more questions at the end of your email which will prompt your readers to open the next email to find out the answers.

Just make sure you choose questions that you know your readers will absolutely want to know the answers to. If I were to ask my audience a question such as ‘Is it possible to run a successful six-figure blog working just one hour a day?’ I’m sure the next email’s open rates would sky-rocket.

Step 5: Don’t Make Your Email One-Sided

As a marketer, you need to ask yourself whether or not you truly value your subscribers’ opinions. Most people will be quick to answer yes, but take time to really consider this. Because if you don’t value their opinions, then there’s really no point to all the work you are doing in order to improve their lives.

So even if you answered yes, you still need to take a look at your emails and you’ll probably discover that a lot of them sound like one-sided conversations. Marketers talk, the audience listens. If that’s the way you’re doing it, I’m here to tell you that’s the wrong approach.

The solution?

Involve your readers.

Even those marketers who already know that it’s important to get readers involved still go about it the wrong way. They attempt to get responses from their audiences in the way that some teachers do when they ask their students a question.

But, the way they do it doesn’t entice any of them to answer (that’s why you get that awkward silence in the class until the teacher has to single someone out). As a marketer, you need to anticipate such situations, think about why people don’t answer questions and how you can deal with each scenario.

Reasons why they don’t answer your questions:

  • They are afraid of being wrong
  • They don’t particularly care about that question
  • The answer seems obvious
  • The person feels insignificant (as in, ‘just let somebody else answer it’)

Here’s how you can deal with each of them:

Reason #1: They are afraid of being wrong

You’re the expert on the subject and your subscribers may not want to look dumb by answering a question wrong. To avoid this, let them answer your questions anonymously. If, for instance, you simply want to collect data, then send them a Google Forms link and make sure they understand they have the option to leave their name out. This should be a clear option in your email.

Secondly, share what you answered when you were first asked that same question (if you were wrong). You can challenge them by telling them that almost nobody gets the answer correct the first time, but encourage your subscribers to take a guess.

Your third option is to give your subscribers an alternative. Some of them may be intimidated by the idea of having to reply to you directly, so you can offer them the option of leaving a comment on your website instead.

Reason #2: The answer seems obvious

It’s okay to ask questions that have obvious answers on your blog if you don’t need people to reply. However, when it comes to encouraging engagement in your emails, it’s important that you avoid asking ridiculously simple questions because you subscribers want to take them seriously.

You simply can’t trick readers into engaging, so only ask questions which serve a purpose.

Reason #3: They don’t particularly care about that question

This is an easy one that you probably don’t have to worry too much about. Occasionally, marketers will try to ask questions about unrelated topics. For the most part, these will be ignored. Instead, make sure all the questions you ask are closely related to your niche if you want to get more engagements.

It’s that simple.

Reason #4: The person feels insignificant

This is one of the hardest hurdles to overcome, particularly for those with bigger lists. It’s extremely hard to make someone feel special when they are just one of so many. A simple technique to combat this problem is by targeting specific portions of your readers with your questions.

So instead of asking something like this:

‘What have you tried to boost your email opt-in rates?’

You may try:

‘Not everyone here has a huge email list, but for those with 500 or more subscribers, what have you tried to boost to email opt-in rates?’

It usually works out better to focus on one part of your list while excluding others to make that group feel more special. The other segments won’t mind at all. Just make sure that you’re not doing it to them all the time.

Yet another technique that you can use to make your readers feel special is to ask for feedback or answers to feature the subscribers in a future email, video, or blog post.

Finally, don’t let your readers ever feel like their responses are being sent into a giant black hole.

As a marketer, once you send out questions, make sure that you respond to ALL the answers you get on your email or blog. At the very least, read all of them. While your list is still small, it may be possible to respond to all your replies and even though this may be time-consuming, it’s one of the best ways of building relationships with your subscribers, and in time, you will gain true fans.

In Conclusion

It’s obvious by now that email marketing isn’t going away any time soon. It’s here to stay and if you want to make the most of your email marketing efforts, then you need to apply the five steps listed above to all your future emails.

Of course, there are many other tactics that will help to boost your email open rates, such as determining the right length of your email copy for your particular niche, choosing function over form and making your emails more readable, formatting them for all devices, and so on (things that we’re going to discuss in future articles).

Whichever tactics you decide to go with, just remember, they are all guidelines and not rules. Basically, you need to consider the underlying concepts discussed in each of the sections above in order to see which parts can be applied to your emails, as well as when you should use them.

You may have to reread this post a few times if you’re still new to email marketing, but you’ll be able to gain a much deeper understanding of the principles discussed here. Over time, implementing these into your email marketing strategy will allow you to achieve consistent open rates that far exceed the industry norms, resulting in record profits!

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July 8, 2019