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It’s time for a hard truth.

People aren’t reading your emails.


People are bombarded with emails to the point that having tens of thousands of unread emails in your inbox isn’t even that uncommon anymore. No company’s emails are that exciting that you can assume the majority of people are engaging with them, and learning how to engage in effective email marketing means, first and foremost, accepting this basic reality.

Go ahead. Breathe. Take it in. Go zen for a second if you have to.

Now. Let’s get to work.

So you’ve accepted that mostly your emails are just kinda junk mail clogging up people’s inboxes, too valuable too just delete and too unimportant to ever actually read. Email marketing is a numbers game, ultimately, and what that means is that you need to do two things:

  • Maximize the number of people who open your email
  • Make sure that those people get the information or take the action you want them to

Getting Opens

There are lots of ways to improve your email open rates, but the easiest to learn (and hardest to master) is the most basic: subject lines.

Your subject line is the first thing your prospect sees, and it’s the main thing they use to determine whether or not they open the email at all. Assuming they’re even seeing the email (which is its own art), the right subject line is the difference between swiping it off the screen and the beginning of a long, fruitful marketing relationship.

So what makes a good subject line? Lots of things. But the overall theme is personalization, clarity, and orientation towards their pain points.

In other words, people are much more likely to open an email that’s addressed to them personally and clearly offers a solution to a real life problem. By adding a personalization token, you immediately catch their eye. By addressing their problem, you give them a reason to open.

And if you take the extra step and make the email feel urgent or time sensitive, your open rates will improve even more.

In other words, you need to make opening your emails feel like something they should do, and that they want to do – not by overpromising or shouting at them in all caps, but by directly addressing the problem you’re trying to solve.

And the problem you’re trying to solve isn’t “I need more sales.” It’s your client’s problem you’re trying to solve, and that’s what gives you permission to market to them.

Speak to the client, and not to the sale, and you should be fine.

Delivering Information

At best, most people are just skimming your emails. So as much as you want to deliver high-quality content marketing, you sort of can’t when it comes to email. On the internet, people scan more than they read, especially when they aren’t convinced something has any value. So you want to write for that reader.

You need to write in an inverted triangle we call the “greased chute.” Put the most valuable content at the top, and the least valuable content on the bottom. That means the first thing they see should connect with them.

After that, you make it easy to get down the chute. Bold the important stuff. Include bulleted lists, just like in the landing pages. Communicate what matters in such a way that the people just scanning the email can easily pick out the main points – and make a decision to engage – without having to invest a lot of time.

It can be hard to write like this, but it’s easy for people to read. And getting them to read is basically a matter of making it as little work as humanly possible; after all, so many people are trying to get their attention all the friggin’ time.

The key thing to remember as you send out marketing emails is that you can’t ever assume your audience has read anything you’ve sent them. You’re better off assuming every email is their first. And always make sure that every email you send matters to the lead. If there’s no benefit to the lead, they won’t read it and won’t take action, and that doesn’t get you anywhere.

Email marketing isn’t especially complicated, and we don’t need to make it complicated. It’s essentially a matter of talking to your prospects like human beings and keeping aware of (and responsive to) demands on their attention. Keep focused, keep clear, and keep your eye on meeting their needs – and you should start to see your open rates tick up.