I can’t wait to open your emails!
Your emails are my favorite ones to read...
Your emails make my inbox sing!
When the emails you write to your list are engaging, entertaining or instructional, it’s easy for the readers to love them.
When they ooze with personality and make a connection with your readers, they can’t help but reply to you.
But when the subject line or content encourages a whole world of snoozes, you get…crickets.
As a copywriter, the majority of my 1-1 client projects involve writing emails, whether it’s sales emails, autoresponder sequences, or email courses. Each one of these email types follows a formula that elicits a connection with the reader of the email.
In this post, I’ll talk through two key elements of writing emails that get opened, plus the formula I teach my clients to use. Let’s dig in.
Key element #1: Subject line
Your email subject line is typically the biggest influencer on whether your email is opened.
To up your odds, try writing subject lines that fall into one of two categories:
1. Subject lines that talk benefits
What’s in it for the reader? What result will they get from reading the email? How does it help them specifically?
If this article were to be sent in an email, the subject line could read:
How to increase your email open rate by 30%
It clearly explains the benefit to the audience if they want to increase their email open rate.
2. Subject lines that create curiosity
The brain is wired to close the loop on any story. We can’t help but want to know the answer.
It’s why movie trailers work to promote films, and sadly, why clickbait headlines (like: ‘Banker buys his mother a dog – you won’t believe what happened next!’) are so good at getting us to click.
We can’t help but want the answer to close the curiosity loop. (Why a banker? What kind of dog? What happened next?!)
Using words like secret, hidden, and little known in a subject line will create curiosity. Who doesn’t want to know a secret?
Again, if this post was sent via email, a curiosity-filled subject line might read:
The hidden strategy standing between your audience and your email being read
The same works if you ask a question. Our brains want to know the answer, pronto. For example:
What’s the one thing standing between your audience and your email being read?
Writing subject lines gets easier with practice, and it’s always helpful to write at least 10 different versions of the subject line to find the best one.
So, why not start practicing?
Here are some templates to get you started:
Template: At last, you will find out how to [goal]
Example: At last, you will find out how to effortlessly create Facebook ads that convert
Template: Are you protecting yourself from [problem]?
Example: Are you protecting yourself from your website being hacked?
Template: The [time] guide to [action]
Example: The 10-minute guide to meditating every morning
Template: The only way to [thing they want to achieve] without [thing they don’t want to do]
Example: The only way to find a boyfriend without dating online
Template: Never worry about [thing they want to avoid] with [what you’re offering]
Example: Never worry about emails being opened again with these 15 subject line templates
Key element #2: Storytelling
The second key element of emails that get opened is stories. Just as curiosity creates action, stories create connection.
Think about a book you read that you didn’t want to end, or a movie you watched that made you cry. Why did this happen?
When we experience a story, we see a part of ourselves in it. It brings us closer to the characters in the story.
This is why stories in emails encourage positive responses from your readers – they connect with you because you’ve given an insight into your life, and they see parts of themselves in your story.
Using stories in your emails can be as simple as explaining how you started your business, a problem you overcame, or something you’ve experienced in your daily life that your audience will relate to.
What do you do when you don’t have any stories to tell? Or when you’re struggling to find a story that connects with the message of your email?
Give some of these a try:
- A testimonial or case study from a client
- Make references to movies, music or literature
- Use a parable to explain your point
- A story from a friend or relative (with their permission)
How to focus on your reader in storytelling
The first way to focus on your reader in storytelling is to change all the ‘I’ or ‘we’ statements into ‘you’ statements.
‘What do most people think is the best way to grow an email list?’‘What do you think is the best way to grow an email list?’
Or ‘Here’s how I used Facebook ads to get my first 100 subscribers’ becomes ‘Here’s how you can use Facebook ads to get your first 100 subscribers’
The second way is to actively encourage the reader to see themselves in your stories or statements.
For example, drop in phrase and questions that encourage a pause:
Can you relate?
Tell me if you see yourself in this …
Are you nodding your head while reading this?
How to structure emails that get opened
Most successful emails follow a simple structure that’s easy to replicate.
(Keep in mind that “successful” is relative. It could mean the email gets opened, sells a product or service, garners comments on a blog post, elicits responses to a survey or encourages replies, or more.)
Here’s the structure to apply to emails that leads your reader down the page and onto the call to action (the instruction that tells them what to do next):
- Subject line: A compelling subject line that encourages the reader to open the email
- Intro: The opening sentence that sets the scene. This could be a question, statement, reminder, or quote -- anything that peaks the interest of the reader
- Context: More detail on what’s to come next. Here, you can appeal to the hopes, fears, or dreams of the reader (choose one, not all three)
- Story: A story that’s related to the context will help make your concept a
reality in the mind of the reader
- Close: A friendly close that includes your name
- Call to action: An ask for the reader to take the next best step. The CTA
must be related to the context and story
Finally, let’s see an example of this in action.
The following screen shots were taken from an email from Adam Gilbert from MyBodyTutor.com. His audience includes people that want to lose weight and are tired of fad diets. Let’s see how Adam applied this formula:
Over to you: What will be the subject of your next email that gets opened?