How to Assure Your Emails Get Opened

In the universe of marketing tools, email is still the biggest bang for the buck. Yet it’s only worthwhile if you can get your customers to open it, act on your messages and continue to look forward to hearing from you.

This is not an easy feat when you consider you’re competing with the deluge of business and personal emails that are already in any given inbox. However, there are some simple, surefire ways to get your email opened, acted upon, and ideally forwarded by your readers to their friends. Here are ten tips for doing just that.

1. Character limit. Readers tune out to long subject lines and, like an overblown award acceptance speech, messages tend to get cut off when they’re too wordy. Limit your subject lines to no more than 50 characters yet challenge yourself to get your point across in 45.

2. Avoid rhetorical questions. Since email can sometimes be misconstrued, you want to avoid any confusion and steer away from inviting a less than positive response. While there are certainly examples of successful campaigns that started off with a question, your opening lines will be more effective if they’re declarative statements versus rhetorical ones.

3. !. Ah, the exclamation point. Compelling messages don’t need exclamation points and for many readers, they’re right up there with using all CAPS to alienate your audience.

4. Think headlines. Consider the newspaper headlines that attract you to continue reading a story and approach your opening lines the same way. Follow the style of newspaper headlines as opposed to supermarket tabloids since you don’t want to mislead readers.

5. The “from” line. Whether the email comes under your name, your business name or the name of the newsletter will depend on the relationships you have with your readers. Just be sure the “from” is consistent with every message.

6. Timing is everything. Consider when your email is sent, because timing can impact readership. Oftentimes, emails sent overnight are deleted simply because the recipient is waking up to a slew of messages. With this in mind, aim to put out your email during traditional business hours yet always at the same time -- whether that’s the 15th of every month or first thing Monday morning. This way, readers will be expecting it and are more likely to read, save and share it.

7. Picture this. Images draw in the reader but not if they’re overwhelming. Since most email systems require you to download the message in order to view the content and images that go along with it, make sure your image doesn’t take up too much of the reader’s screen. Also, be sure to take into account customers who will be reading on their mobile devices.

8. Customize when you can. Since you’re likely to know about your customers’ interests based on past purchases, articles they’ve clicked on and content they’ve forwarded, use this information to personalize your messages. For example, a sporting goods store may have a customer base made up of fishing enthusiasts, campers and hockey fans. Customized messages can be sent to these subgroups to further boost open and response rates.

9. Create a sense of urgency. While you don’t want to be the merchant who cried wolf, you do want to include a call to action such as “Sale Ends Friday,” or “Free Shipping Until the 21st” to inspire your readers to act on your email.

10. Spam filters. Make sure your readers know to add you to their address books so your messages don’t get lost in a junk email folder.

Steve is Constant Contact’s small business expert in Illinois and Wisconsin. A knowledgeable marketing expert with 30 years of experience, Steve has helped thousands of small businesses, associations, and nonprofits develop and implement effective email marketing, social media and online survey strategies. A popular speaker and educator, Steve gives small businesses and nonprofits the tools, techniques, and strategies they need to grow and expand their business and to maximize the power of relationship marketing. Steve’s experience in small business ownership, business development, sales, and fundraising help associations, small businesses and nonprofits achieve success.

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