I remember clearly the first time I heard Perry Belcher – master email marketer – make this statement: “The only job of the headline is to get them to open the email. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less, it’s simple”.
Except for me, it was anything but simple! And if you’ve have been struggling to see the results you want with your email marketing efforts, it’s possible writing effective email headlines isn’t ‘simple’ for you either?
In this article you’ll discover seven tried and tested copywriting techniques created by some of the best copywriters of all time – and used by some of the wealthiest internet marketers of all time – which will instantly help you improve your email open rates. And the best part about it is, they’re all simple and easy to use, let me explain…
- Use your recipients name
You would think that in 2015 at least an attempt at personalisation in your email marketing would be commonplace. We’ll not so! With many marketers buying into the idea that asking their potential subscribers to provide a name at the same time as an email address is asking too much, you’ll notice your inbox is heavy with impersonal messages.
But here’s the thing, when done right nothing will catch your reader’s eye more than seeing their own name in the subject line of an email – especially if it’s not something you do with every mail you send.
While there are many personalisation techniques which go beyond a name, this is by far one of the simplest ways to improve your email open rates.
Just to add, if you feel a little creepy about using your customer’s first name straight off the bat, build up the familiarity of what they can expect from you by putting them into a short nurture sequence that deepens your relationship with them – then start personalising with their name in your headlines and body copy.
Remember, personalised content isn’t about getting ‘fancy’ it’s about improving your connection with your customer by interacting with them like an individual–not just a name on a mailing list.
- If it bleeds, it leads.
This is a term you’ll hear used a lot in print journalism and news reporting for one simple reason: mankind seems to be obsessed and predispositioned to pay attention to bad news. People love carnage.
Think about it: “bad news”, “disaster”, “you’ll never believe what just happened…” Don’t these types of headlines tend to stand out more in your inbox, than: “you’re gonna love this”, “great news”, etc ?
As macabre as it may sound, for some reason we are naturally drawn towards trainwrecks and car crashes, and this same pull is present even within our inbox.
While you do need to follow your storyline to some extent within your body copy, and sensational, baseless headlines are discouraged, finding a dramatic or alarming angle will make you stand out in your reader’s inbox
- Don’t intrude, be part of the conversation.
It’s an incredibly powerful thing to be able to subtly enter the story that is already going on in your reader’s head. One of the quickest ways to do that is with tools like Twitter trends or Pop Urls – which aggregate the best performing content – and then aggregate it again leaving you with only the most engaged with stories on the web.
Whether it’s celebrity culture, international affairs, sports, etc, your task is to understand the topics and situations that interest and intrigue your ideal customer. To become familiar with the conversations, debates, and dialogue they are already having on the web, and to use this as a point of familiarity to connect with them.
One way to do that is to actively follow a few of your best/ideal customers over on Twitter, and see what hashtags they use, what debates they get involved in, and what types of content they share.
Building the know, like and trust factor through email is all about letting your readers know you understand and respect them. And the quickest and easiest way to do that is to talk about the things they want to talk about.
Does your whole email have to be centred on that issue, no!
But like with the above point, you do need to find a narrative that you can weave within your body copy or you’ll leave your readers feeling confused and ultimately, mislead.
- Use the word YOU. A lot!
Wherever possible try and sneak in the words ‘you’ and ‘your’ into your headline. Especially if there is no name personalisation. Pop quizz: What are the majority of us most interested in? Answer: ourselves – that’s why when you use trigger words like ‘you’ or ‘your’ within your email subject headline you’re more likely to catch people’s attention.
- Use the how-to headline
We are a curious lot, always looking to the answers and solutions to our challenges, and that’s why ‘how-to’ posts are some of the most widely read and shared on the net. In-depth, step-by-step posts that teach people something = win!
This is technique can also be used with email marketing, even more so if you’re sharing an actual how-to article on a topic – doesn’t have to be written by you – that your readers are likely to be interested in.
Go back to your customer persona’s, remember those?
Start thinking laterally about your subscribers interests, challenges, desires – make a mindmap if necessary, this is a great free tool that will help with that. Then, look at how you can start creating content that answers those question. How-to content can be short and sweet (depending on what you’re explaining) or lengthy and detailed.
Experiment with different lengths of email by all means, by that how-to headline will definitely help you get more email opens.
- Use numbers
We all know those numbered list posts that do the rounds: “101 ways to do X”, “47 Things You Didn’t Know About X”, etc. These types of posts (and headlines) work for a very specific reason; they let the reader know what to expect and what is in store for them. And in this way, you remove reader anxiety that going into their email will be a waste of their time.
They are also usually pretty self-explanatory headlines, so you know what you’re getting. The trick to having this technique lift your email open rate and not help it take a nosedive, is: know what your readers want list posts about?
- Decorate your name or subject headings
<> Angle brackets [ ] square brackets and ( ) parentheses are some of the most widely used, but feel free to get a little creative. The goal of decoration is to highlight either all or a part of your heading, and in doing so create a visual distraction for the eye as it scans through a list of email subject lines. which will mostly all be formatted in the same way.
Some businesses make decorated email headlines a part of their email identity and branding, and use them in nearly all of their email– while others use them occasionally and see a significant shift in their open rates when they do.
So that’s it!
Seven copywriting techniques that will instantly improve your email open rate. ‘Cos here’s the thing: while you may have an absolutely great offer contained inside, that won’t make any difference to your bottom line if you can’t get your subscribers to open your emails.
Which of these email subject lines are you going to try out? Let us know in the comments.
About the author:
Stacey is the founder of Brazen Profit Lab and The Online Marketing Boutique. An eCommerce expert and direct response marketer, she helps online boutique owners and fashion entrepreneurs learn how to create more visibility, web traffic and sales.
Tom Treanor is the founder of the Right Mix Marketing blog. He’s the author of the Search Engine Boot Camp, the co-author of Online Business Productivity, and regularly speaks at industry and corporate events. His writing has been featured on the Content Marketing Institute, Social Media Examiner, Copyblogger and other leading industry blogs.