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August 21, 2015

How to Write Strong Emails that Your Readers Will Open

Image courtesy of (FrameAngel)/

You know the struggle.

You sit down to craft an email and you spend hours polishing each sentence, removing unneeded words, testing and re-testing subject lines and agonizing over what time of day to send the email out to your followers.

You hit “send” and wait several hours but, when you look at the email’s results, it becomes clear very quickly that your “perfect” email didn’t do as well as you wanted it to.

Your readers received it, sure enough, but maybe they didn’t open it and, if they did, they didn’t click on anything.

Fortunately, you’re not alone.

Crafting great emails is a difficult process and, in order for a business to prosper, it needs to be done well.

The Importance of Email Marketing

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you know how important email marketing is.

Well-constructed emails can provide a valuable boost for companies by bringing in more customers, continuing engagement with existing customers and getting the word out there about your company.

Additionally, email marketing is a great vehicle which can be used for other aspects of content marketing, such as gaining subscribers, keeping in touch with readers, offering promotional deals, spreading the word about sales, promoting new content and even encouraging reader engagement through surveys, comments and other forms of response.

Although email marketing is an important tool, it’s also one that needs to be consciously built up and maintained in the long term. It’s hard to utilize effective email marketing without first knowing how to write great emails and, for this reason, companies that invest time and money into learning how to write strong emails are more likely to succeed than those who do not.

Fortunately, crafting irresistible emails is easy. Read on to learn more:

7 Foundational Rules for Learning to Craft Great Emails

Think about how many emails land in your inbox on a daily basis. Chances are, you get a healthy assortment of junk mail, promotional email, business email and personal email and, chances are, each morning you make a series of split-second decisions about which emails stay and which ones go directly to the recycle bin.

Work email stays and personal email from aunt Kathy gets opened and read – lest you suffer her wrath at the upcoming family reunion. But what about sales emails?

Which of those are you likely to open?

More likely than not, you only open the ones that address you personally, the ones that seem like they know something about who you are, what you like and what you need.

The reason for this is that successful emails treat you like a friend rather than a subscriber. With that in mind, here are seven actionable tips for writing emails that your readers actually want to open:

1. Treat Each Subscriber Like an Individual: If you’ve built a healthy subscriber list, it’s obvious that each of those readers has been attracted to your site on the basis of something specific. Maybe you offer personal development advice and your readers are interested in wellness tips and healthy living. Maybe your company sells fitness products for runners and your subscriber list looks forward to weekly running tips.

Whatever the case may be, the #1 most important important tip to creating great emails is to write like you are emailing an individual rather than a list. Writing to an individual is a much more personal experience than writing to a subscriber roll of hundreds of people and, when you write from a standpoint of considering what will be valuable, interesting and productive for one single person, you make your weekly emails much more useful and personal.

2. Don’t Send Out Junk Email: Nothing will earn you an “unsubscribe” click faster than filling your reader’s email inboxes with junk. While email marketing is a valuable way to stay in the forefront of a customer’s mind, spamming your customers is a guaranteed way to brand your company poorly and effectively smash your chances for future interactions.

If you’re going to email your subscribers, make sure you are providing them with something valuable. A weekly list of niche-related tips and tricks is great, as is a weekly roundup of valuable content, as seen in Maria Popova’s weekly Brain Pickings digest. Feel free to email regularly, but ensure that you’re employing a give and take model in your email marketing: you give your readers value and you get increased readership and subscriber numbers.

3. Reward Your Readers: Your subscriber list opted-in to receive your content and they’ve been faithful and dedicated ever since. Think of your subscriber list as your inner circle and treat them accordingly. When you’ve got a special promotion to hand out or news of a super-secret sale, it should go out to your subscriber list first and foremost.

Additionally, your subscriber list should be the first recipients of free eBooks, helpful niche-related materials and other goodies. In addition to promoting feelings of loyalty between you and your readers, this reward-based system also keeps readers coming back and makes them more likely to open your emails in the future.

4. Maintain a Consistent Presence: Second only to spamming your readers is only reaching out when you need something. If your readers only receive your emails when you’re asking for a purchase, it’s likely they’re going to opt-out of your subscriber list. For this reason, it’s important to maintain a consistent presence and do more giving than taking.

While it’s true that readers are more likely to buy from someone they know, it’s also true that nobody likes a hard sale. Provide your readers with great, free content 9 days out of 10 and feel free to mention your sale on the 10th. Generosity begets generosity and providing consistent value is one of the best ways to earn yourself a spot in your reader’s hearts.

5. Be Straightforward: One of the most important aspects of great email marketing is committing to being straightforward from the get-go. Don’t promise your readers free content when they sign up for your email service only to spam them with sales offers once they’ve subscribed. Let them know what to expect beforehand and then deliver on that promise.

6. Make Use of Power Words: In order to get emails opened, you need to catch your reader’s attention. Nowadays, everyone’s inboxes are crowded with useless junk and including some strong power words in your email’s subject lines will help make your emails stand out from the crowd.

Sensory and emotional words are a great place to start, as are strong action verbs. No matter what you choose, ensure that your action words of choice are still offering value to your readers rather than just serving as verbal fireworks.

7. Stop Trying to be Clever: Generally, readers don’t want to decipher witty, clever emails. They just want simple, specific content that offers them something good. For this reason, your email marketing practice will get infinitely better the moment you stop trying to be clever in your emails.

Tell people what’s inside in language they can understand and then deliver great content. It’s as simple as that. Think of it as the difference between reading Finnegan’s Wake and Harry Potter – some things are just best left simple.

3 Ways You Can Optimize Email for Mobile 

No matter how great your emails are they won’t be much use to anyone if they can’t be accessed from a mobile platform. An estimated 34% of mobile users utilize their phone as their primary means of accessing the web so its clear that if you aren’t optimizing your emails for mobile devices, you’re missing out.

In order to be optimized for mobile access, an email needs the following things:

  1. Larger Font: Although they get larger every year, mobile screens are still tiny compared to larger laptops or desktops. For this reason, emails that do well on mobile devices need to feature larger fonts in order to be readable on a phone.
  2. Simple Content: Great mobile content should be streamlined and simple, featuring only needed links and images. The importance of being concise cannot be overstated here and there’s no end to the importance of making your subscriber emails easy to read on mobile devices.
  3. A Single Column: Mobile-friendly emails are best formatted in a single-column style in order to make them easier to read. Additionally, they should offer simple navigation bars that are easy to tap and pertain to the email’s content.

Irresistible Emails 101

Learning to write great emails can only mean upward mobility for your company. By engaging people with strong, direct language, providing great content, delivering on promises, offering rewards and provoking interest, anyone can craft emails that their readers can’t wait to open.

Its easy to feel like you’re drowning in today’s world of expansive content and sneaky marketing but, no matter what else changes in the world of content marketing, one thing remains true: thoughtful, well-crafted, valuable emails are one of the best ways to remain relevant in the eyes of your reader and promote future interactions.


Julia Spence-McCoy is the CEO of Express Writers, an online copywriting agency that began in 2011 with thousands of web content pages written to date and more than 50 talented writers on the team. Her passion is copywriting and all that pertains, including the ever-changing game of Google algorithm updates.