3 Tricks to Write an Email People Will Actually Read

3 Tricks to Write an Email People Will Actually Read

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Imagine what it would be like to receive over a hundred versions of your favorite thing every single day. At first thought, it seems really nice, right? But the more you ponder the sheer room those things would take up, or the calories you’d take on, or god forbid the zoning and code enforcement regulations some of us would be breaking, over a hundred of anything on a daily bases seems like a horrible idea. Realistically, our email inboxes tell an equally horrifying yet excruciatingly real story:  the average office worker’s inbox is inundated with, on average, 121 emails a day.

It’s likely that merely mentioning the words “inbox” and “email” was enough to send a quick shiver down your spine, but attempting to write an email that shines among those 121 emails and breaks through the barriers of modern open rates is enough to make many of us reflect back upon that package of 121 kittens or pizzas with sheer glee.

So how do you write an email that stands out as a contender for the recipients time and is not only opened but read and acted upon, be that by responding or clicking through? Though your target recipient/audience, industry, and prior interactions with the recipients all factor into the answer, there are a few ways you swing the odds in your favor.

1. Don’t skimp on subject lines.

While we’re consistently reminded of the hazards associated with “judging a book by its cover”, when it comes to email, judgement starts as soon as we read a subject line. That’s why so many efforts to become independently wealthy overnight are sitting in Spam boxes around the world – we know that’s not happening, and we’re not wasting our time reading past the subject line promises.

Here are a few strategies to consider as you craft your perfect subject line:

  • Use a question to intrigue the recipient, and if you’re selling a good or product, consider ones that focus on the problem/solution relationship with your recipient.
  • Be aware of character limits. Some mobile services will limit the amount of characters recipient see (around 25), so make the most of that space.
  • Personalized subject lines can raise open rates by over 40% in some industries.
  • Use a call to action or suggest urgency to increase open rates.
  • Be selective about the words you choose. Some words and characters (“free”, “$$$’, “earn”, “guaranteed”) can send a red flag to readers and spam-filters alike.

2. Create concise content and a clean format.

The number of people who read their email from a mobile device continues to trend upward, with a solid 56% of recipients opening on their mobile devices in 2016.  Pair that with the fact that many of us read on the go (in the car, while walking form one place to another, in line at the grocery store), and it’s no wonder that we prefer short, sweet and easy to read as opposed to a wall of never ending, hard to navigate text.

The body of your emails, much like other forms of writing, should be succinct in both structure and content.

What is the main message you want readers to take away from your email? Add a high level message to the top of your email, and short paragraphs or bulleted list underneath that quickly and efficiently supply your read with the important information and any desired follow up action.  In addition to that, avoid overly wordy emails. If you can say something in 5 -7 easy-to-understand words, don’t expand it to 15 – 17 for the sake of verbal hubris.

3. Get to know your recipient and personalize your email.

There’s just something about the formulaic, over-used, and underwhelming catch-all email template that leaves me feeling, well…like just another number in the rat race of life. And I’m certain I’m not alone. Of course, there are best practices, things you should put in the beginning of an email (attention getters, thought provoking relevant questions, closings that call your reader to action, etc), but that doesn’t mean one blanketed email fits all.

Personalizing your emails can lead to increases in both open rates, and, for business owners and marketing leaders, sales.

A good way to do that is to rely on something you likely learned way back in the hay day of your grade school career: the 5 W’s.

Who are you writing to? This is the first question you should ask.  Identifying the individual or segment you’re emailing will help you determine what to include in the email and how to approach the recipient.

What are you asking of them? If you don’t know exactly what you’re asking of someone, how can they respond appropriately?  Have you explicitly stated how they can act upon your email (call to action).  Are you clean in your explanations and requests?

When should you send it? There is a wealth of information available to help you determine the best time to send your email, and in large part, it varies from industry to industry and purpose to purpose. Sending at the right time can increase your open rate, so it’s worth answering the “who” and “what” and then pinning down the “when”.

Where is your recipient likely to read your email? This question can be two-fold:  the physical location of the recipient (are they at work? On their commute home?  Is their location subject to a specific weather event? What about time zones?) and the device their reading it on (is your content dynamic enough to read it on any device?).

Why should they care/react/respond to your email? How can their life/business improve if they read your email?  What happens if they don’t respond? Ultimately, what’s in it for them?

Though sending an email can be a quick and efficient way to reach out to friends, family, business contacts, or potential clients, the process of writing one should be anything but.  Take the time to craft a worthy email, and you’ll reap the rewards of increased open rates and responses.

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About the Author — Jennifer is a alum of the University of Denver. While in the graduate program there, she enjoyed spending time identifying ways in which non-profits and small businesses could develop into strong and profitable organizations that while promoting strong community growth. She also enjoys finding unique ways for freelancers and start-up businesses to reach and expand their goals.

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