How To Write Emails That Get Opened

writing emails that get opened

writing emails that get opened

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.

For example:

‘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:

Email marketing: How to write emails that get opened
Email marketing: How to write emails that get opened
Email marketing: How to write emails that get opened

Over to you: What will be the subject of your next email that gets opened?

3 Effortless Steps to Infuse Personality Into Your Brand

Absorbed. Connected. Engaged.

These are three things we all want our audience to feel when they read our website.

And the way to allow them to feel all of this? It comes down to your brand personality: the words you use, the images you share and the colours that tie it all together.

But what if, when it comes to personality, your website just… falls short?

Read on. Here, I’ll go into the detail of pinpointing exactly what your brand personality is, and how to use it effectively to attract, engage and connect.

1. Know your audience

Your brand will stand for nothing if it doesn’t connect with your audience.

Which is why it’s important to understand who they are, so you can tailor your messaging to them specifically.

Here’s an exercise that’ll help you understand them:

  1. Look at all the interactions you have with your audience: blog post comments, emails, social media interactions, call notes, etc.
  2. Go to sites your audience engages with that you might not (think forums like reddit.com, news sites, other sites in your niche) and make a list of the questions they ask, advice they want, struggles they detail.
  3. Write down what personality traits you notice, their profession, demographics, etc.

To organize your findings, create a spreadsheet with the following headings and copy and paste the relevant text you found in the steps above into each section:

  1. Problem/Struggles - What specific issues are they writing about? (for example, I don’t know how to start a Facebook group; Creating a header for my website’s a nightmare! or I have too many business ideas and don’t know which one to choose!)
  2. Desired solutions - Note those sentences that start with phrases like:  I want help with …, I really want someone to…, I wish I could…
  3. Service or post ideas - Using the text in the above two sections, write all the ideas you now have for services you could offer, or posts you could write, that help solve the problems your audience is struggling with.
  4. Demographic - In this section, write any details you find about their personalities/lives - age, location, cultural interests - anything that helps you define which demographic categories the majority of your audience falls into.

For your copy, the table you populated above is a goldmine of ideas. What patterns do you notice in the kinds of struggles they discuss? What pain points have you identified that you can you address as part of headlines, opening lines or sales copy? Also, what ideas do you have for blog posts, services and products as a result?

2. Simplify the complex

Your personality is yours and yours alone, but it’s never simple. With a personality (and history) that’s complex, how do you simplify this down to core messages that represent your brand and resonate with your target audience you’ve worked so hard to get to know?

The key to brand consistency is to repeat certain, relevant messages, so they stick in the minds of your audience and become associated with you and your brand.

You don’t have to share every detail. To figure out which parts of your personality are significant to share (and worthy of repetition), answer these questions:

  • What life experiences connect you with others? What difficulties have you experienced, and what risks have you taken (or not taken)?
  • What are your beliefs? What do you stand for?
  • What are your cultural influences?

Decide which stories/anecdotes are part of your bigger message, and most significant to the audience you most want to connect with. Start including these in your marketing messages.

From there, pinpoint your brand vocabulary down even further by paying attention to the words you use in your everyday communication. Try this exercise:

Keep a notebook (or app like Evernote) with you for a week and notice the words you use. Which ones do you use repeatedly? Which ones feel satisfying to say?

Jot these down.

Next, take a page on your website, or a blog post you’ve written, and edit it with the words and stories you noted. Slowly edit your work over time, and infuse your brand vocabulary into new work you create. Over time, with enough repetition of these words, your brand personality will start to shine.

Here are some examples where personality branding with consistent messaging and vocabulary works swimmingly:

Ashley Ambirge: Talks about life in Costa Rica and her experiences as an entrepreneur with a sarcastic and ever-entertaining tone. This connects her to her audience who are entrepreneurs (or aspiring to be) that enjoy the freedom that travel brings and the snarkiness of someone who tells it like it is. Her consistent message: smart businesses don’t do boring.

Danielle LaPorte: Her social media and blog updates consistently mention her spiritual side, her dog and her son. Is it a coincidence that her audience have these things in common with her? I think not. Her consistent message: it all gets back to desire.

Ramit Sethi: His audience largely consists of 20-30 year old men, so Ramit references his college scholarship applications, the bi-coastal life he lives and the fun he’s having in New York. His audience both relates to his past and wants his present to be their future. His consistent message: I will teach you to be rich.

How will you use the significant pieces of who you are to build consistency in your messaging and connect with your tribe? (Editor’s note: All three of these examples ended up on our 100 Best Sites for Solopreneurs list for a reason!)

3. Try something different

If writing isn’t your thing, find what medium is.

Whether it’s videos, podcasting, infographics, photos – find something that both you and your audience are comfortable with, that genuinely reflects your personality.

To discover which medium works best for your business, try these ideas:

  • Are you confident on camera? Rather than writing your blog posts, or having a PDF download for a teaching document, record videos instead. Don’t worry about “wowing” with technology in the beginning - get some videos out there and see how your audience reacts.
  • Do you interview experts as part of your business? Record the interviews and offer replays using voice alone - but don’t hesitate to offer the transcript for those who prefer to read.
  • Change text documents to infographics to appeal to visual learners.

What other interests do you have that you can bring into your business? For example, if you’re into photography but your business is unrelated, use your own photographs with text overlays as images on your site. It beats paying for them, amIright?

Being creative takes the limits away from how you present your material.

Branding takes less investment than you may think...

We often look at personality-driven brands and assume some huge branding exercise went into creating the brand we see today. While that is, indeed, sometimes the case, to create a brand around your personality doesn’t always require that level of investment. In fact, what the owners of brands like Ash Ambirge, Danielle LaPorte, and Ramit Sethi have done is decided to use their unique selling point - themselves - to differentiate their brands in the market.

In turn? This has meant their audience is always absorbed, connected and engaged.

Now, I’m curious: What aspects of your personality do you infuse in your writing to attract the kind of audience you most want to engage? Tell me below.