Fresh ideas for writing emails that actually get opened and read

Your guide to extraordinary emails

You’re hard at work, minding your own business when suddenly a ping goes off on your computer or smartphone: you’ve got mail!

It may just be me – and I accept that sometimes providing companies with your email address is unavoidable and receiving unwanted, unappealing emails is a part of life – but 99% of marketing emails I receive, I glance at the notification and let them rot in my inbox, never to be opened.

The reality is that it’s harder than ever to get people to open your emails – even ones they’ve asked to receive – because of the intense competition and the sheer number of emails they receive on a daily basis.

Despite this, email remains the only direct digital connection a business has to its audience and, according to Campaign Monitor, the average Australian email open rate sits at a healthy 20.60%. So, despite my personal dislike for the daily flood of marketing emails I receive, it’s clear email marketing has an important role to play in growing a business.

As a marketer myself with KPIs that rely on achieving good open rates and engagement, this got me thinking – is it the overwhelming number of emails I receive that I dislike, or is it the fact that the vast majority don’t pique my interest nor entice me to open them?

From my own experience, utilising tips from marketing experts and even taking advantage of some sneaky psychological tricks, I’ve put together a list of innovative ways you can ensure your business’ marketing emails stand out in your customers’ inboxes and create a deeper connection in your brand amongst your readers.

1. [Use brackets] to grab your readers’ attention

According to an analysis of thousands of email campaigns by marketing solutions organisation Worldata, using brackets around a couple of words in your subject line can boost your open rates by up to 31%.

When people scan their inbox, they are usually greeted with a huge number of words, numbers and ‘hot deals,’ so using brackets around certain words or important information you want to highlight will help it stand out and get people to take notice.

Try and highlight words or phrases that are explanatory, personalised or timely, such as [white paper], [special offer], [must-read] or [ends soon].

2. Build curiosity and create a sense of urgency in your subject lines

Regardless of your goals, urgency and curiosity are both essential elements you should try to include in your subject lines to get people to open and read your emails.

If you’re offering a special sale or promotion, communicating a start date, end date or time frame will stop interested readers in their tracks and will encourage them to click to see what they can get in that window of time.

Other times, it’s good to maintain a sense of mystery to pique your recipients’ natural curiosity and interest. This can be done by providing only a small snippet of information in the subject line, or by using buzz words to entice your readers to click.

As this requires your recipients to actually open the email to get more information or the complete picture of what you’ve teased, this can result in far higher open rates. However, be warned – if your subject line doesn’t align with your brand, your readers could end up seeing this as spam or clickbait.

3. Should your subject line use CAPS, no caps Or a Mix?

When thinking of a subject line, a highly debated area is the topic of capitalisation. Should You Write Your Subject Lines Like This? Or should you write them like this? WHAT ABOUT LIKE THIS?

Straight off the bat, we can definitively say that you should never capitalise every word in your subject line as people will perceive this as if YOU’RE YELLING AT THEM! It’s too risky, will make you look unprofessional and will trigger spam filters, meaning your email will likely never get read in the first place. Sort of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

The next option is ‘sentence case,’ which is effectively writing your subject lines how you’d write any other sentence, capitalising the first letter of the first word and any proper nouns. People use sentence case to be more casual and conversational to make the email look less imposing as if it were a message from a friend.

When it comes to B2B emails, the most commonly used style is ‘title case,’ where you capitalise the first word, verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs and any word that’s more than three letters long. An example of this would be: Why Achieving a Good Open Rate is Important.

Title case will make your subject line seem more polished and professional, but can get overwhelming if your headline is too long. With justifications for the use of sentence and title case in your subject lines, you should test each style on your list and figure out what works best for you.

4. Use the word ‘because,’ because it works

Have you ever wondered why you enjoy reading some emails and why others just seem to completely miss the mark? Part of the reason is likely because some emails just don’t use the right words.

If you make it as far as getting someone to open your email, you only have a short period of time to grab their attention and hook them in, otherwise your email will become another drop in the ocean of emails in their inbox never to be read again.

According to a study from the University of Northern Illinois that investigated the different reactions of people when asked if someone could use the printer before them, simply using the word ‘because’ is a great way of getting someone to agree to go along with an action that you wish them to perform.

The study reported that when the person said “can I use the printer before you?” only 61% of people agreed to let them cut in line, with some even becoming irritated because they had no idea why the person wanted to use the machine before them.

However, when the person said “can I use the printer because I’m in a rush and my boss would be really mad if I don’t finish this right away?” the percentage of people willing to let the person go before them increased significantly to 89%.

Why’s this? The person created a sense of urgency and empathy, and it’s natural for humans to want to help someone asking for help when they provide a viable reason – and that couldn’t be achieved without the word ‘because.’

The same applies to your emails. Help your readers understand what you’re saying and give them a reason why they should take a certain action and they’ll likely have a far better response to your request.

5. Utilise the power of negativity

Think about the vast majority of emails you currently receive – it’s all positivity, positivity, positivity! Sure, positivity is great, and emphasising gains, benefits and advantages are all fantastic ways of securing business – but this article is all about encouraging you to try different things, so in your next email, why not try some negativity?

Specifically, I’m talking about loss aversion. In the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Schindler and Pfattheicher wrote that “the pain of losing is psychologically about twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining,” with people being more willing to take risks to avoid a loss than to make a gain.

In terms of email marketing, loss aversion is a powerful tool to increase customer engagement and encourage conversions, and when utilised correctly, can inspire purchases and even create long-term brand loyalty

Examples of loss aversion in email marketing could be offering a free trial of your product or service, as trials create a sense of ownership and instil a sense of potential loss when they end.

If it’s not viable for your business to offer a free trial, you could try something as simple as altering your language. Instead of saying “save $100 with the early bird discount!” try focusing on the negative and what your readers could lose, and perhaps say “Don’t pay extra – register today!”

6. Pick the right time to rhyme

While it’d seem a bit ridiculous to read an entire email written in rhyme, using witty, well-written rhymes in the right places – such as subject lines, calls to action, titles or headlines – could inspire your readers to take action.

Psychologist Matthew McGlone at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania discovered in his study that rhyme has the power to influence the way we think and validate a phrase’s truthfulness. When his study participants were given two sentences with the same meaning – “woes unite foes” vs. “misfortunes unite foes” – he found that they were more likely to judge the rhyming version to be more truthful.

According to McGlone, there’s a simple explanation: rhymes are easier for the brain to process, and because they feel ‘right,’ the readers assume they are. He even speculates that the rhyme affected the jury in the O.J. Simpson trial when his lawyer said “if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

7. Tailor your emails around this one question

The last tip is the simplest, but undoubtedly the most important one you should follow before you create, let alone send an email to your list. You need to ask yourself one question: does this content serve your readers?

If the email you want to send doesn’t deliver something your customers want or need, don’t send it. If you stay true to that rule, your recipients are more likely to look forward to receiving your emails and want to read it, no matter how witty your subject line is or whether or not it rhymes.

Need help with your Email Marketing?

Creating compelling email campaigns is tricky, so why not enlist the help of professionals? Orion Creative has the copywriters to produce engaging content, graphic designers to make your emails pop and digital marketing specialists to plan and implement successful strategies that actually get results.

Whether you want to reinforce customer loyalty, encourage repeat business and referrals, sell a specific offering or acquire new customers for your business, email marketing is a terrific way of doing this, so contact us today to learn how we can help.