Getting someone to pick your email among the flood of communications to their inbox every single day can feel like a herculean feat.  And to your credit – it’s not easy. With all the competition and information overload, getting anyone to truly listen to what you have to say takes much more than it used to 10 years ago. But, the thousands of entrepreneurs with engaged emails lists will tell you it’s not impossible.


Here are the 3 reasons someone opens an email that’s not from their mom or an electric bill statement:

 1. They built trust with that person or brand


How many times have you subscribed to an email and open it over and over because you’ve built a relationship with the brand or person? I do it all the time. Reading someone’s blog about their life, perspective, or advice is a relatively intimate thing! They’ve put themselves out there in order to impact you in a positive way. When I find someone that speaks to me, I want to hear more of what they have to say and eventually become addicted to their content.


2. That person or brand gives way more than they ask for in return.


We’re all really busy and we see through the game. If you’re in my inbox every day with a sales pitch – forget about it. I’m either unsubscribing or never opening your email – I’d guess you are the same way. There are a few exceptions, for example, I have a tea company I’m addicted too and love when they send me sales and promotions that I jump on like a bad habit. Still, they are emailing me to offer something of value, a discount or an update on new products. If they emailed me every day with a “buy our tea” message, no matter how much I like the tea, I’d get sick of that real quick.


Emails that offer some serious value are a whole other story. Getting these emails makes you feel like that brand or person is putting effort into the relationship. It’s easy to forget that the business to customer relationship is built like any other relationship. How do you feel when a friend only ever asks you for stuff? We’ve all had that friend and chances they aren’t your friend anymore. After a while, you feel used and the friendship, if you can call it that, ends. On the other hand, we all have those people who would kill or die for us and we would do the same in return. It’s that simple. With that in mind, I’d recommend sending 3-5 value-packed, no asks, emails to every 1 sales email you send to your list. Even my tea company sends educational emails that teach me more about tea, where it comes from, how it’s made and more about their company and brand. I just love them!


3. The Email Subject Line Caught Your Attention.

It’s no doubt an email subject line is arguably the biggest reason people either do or don’t open an email – so you have to make it count. Many of us (I’ve been guilty of this in the past) pour over our email content for hours, make it full of value, rewrite it 17 times until it’s peeerrfect! Then slap an email subject line in the prompt field and hit send. *Sigh.* For how great that email was next to no one is going to open and read it because I wrote a crappy, half-assed subject line.

To start, write down at least 25 ideas for email subject lines. Yup, I said it, 25. I promise, your first 1-5 are crap, 6-10 are meh at best, 11-20 will be viable and the 21-25 is where the open rates live. 

Download Our Guide:

How to Craft The Perfect Subject Line


Without this exercise, the first idea that pops into your head will be the one you run with and I promise – that’s the worst one out of all of them. This exercise may take a little time but it’s 100% worth it. People who don’t open your emails can’t buy from you or build a relationship with you to want to buy from you later. So we’ve got to get them to open it gosh darn it!

Here is a list of questions you should ask yourself when you write a subject line. Your subject likely won’t include all of these, but you should absolutely be checking at least a few boxes:


  • Is it short and to the point? Emails with 50 characters including spaces are opened most frequently. You also don’t want it to get cut off when someone views on their cellphone. When someone is skimming through their inbox you want them to get the full message at a glance.


  • Does it spark curiosity? There is nothing better than a subject line that creates that sense of “Hrmm, I wonder what’s inside.” People are curious and if you spark that feeling inside them it’s almost humanly impossible to not want to dig deeper. Curiosity is a powerful motivator.


  • Are you speaking to one person? Listen, people know when you are sending an email out to your list, even if it’s personalized, they aren’t dumb. But, that doesn’t mean language speaking directly the individual reader doesn’t grab their attention. Your intention may be to have thousands of people read your email but to the reader, they are just one person. Speak to one person and not the masses.


  • Do you have numbers in your subject line? Numbers are eye-catching. It breaks up the text and jumps off the page when someone skims. This is why blogs with numbers in the title do better than blogs without a number. Our brain filters an insane amount of information at once to only bring your awareness to what’s important. Numbers strike our brains as noteworthy and will draw your customer’s attention.


  • Do you use action words and an active voice? As a general rule, passive language sucks. It sucks in blog posts, it sucks in emails, and it exponentially sucks in subject lines. It doesn’t create an emotion or have any power. Be very mindful of using an active voice in your email subjects lines and, well, in general.


  • Does it include a deadline or create a sense of urgency? Urgency is a powerful thing! Have you ever wanted to buy something but didn’t want to spend the money and then all of a sudden there is a 5-day close out sale?? I’d be shocked if that didn’t motivate you to buy right away before it was gone – even if you’d been sitting on that decision for weeks. Creating urgency is a great way to make someone take action right now that was in the “I’m not sure” or “I’m not ready” phase of the buying process.
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  • Does it articulate the value of what’s inside the email? People want to know if reading the email is worth their time. You have ideally 50 characters or less to convince them it’s the best way they could spend the next 5 minutes of their day. If your subject line doesn’t give them a glimpse into the value, then they won’t give it the time.


To get your email subject right every single time, download our guide “How to Craft the Perfect Email Subject Line.” 

This is great information but if you are new to email marketing it still may feel a little overwhelming and hard to jump into. Finding examples and testing your ideas is the absolute best way to be sure your email subject lines are the best the can me.

4. Consider your own behavior.


When you jump into your email every day, what emails do you open? Maybe you have a brand you buy from that sends exclusive sales right to your inbox.  Or, you might have a blogger you follow because you love their business strategies, food recipes or style tips. You probably even have a few emails that you open from someone because they give you your daily dose of news or inspiration. Think like an entrepreneur and stop just mindlessly going through your inbox. Every time you open an email ask yourself “Why? Why did I open this email but not the others?” Often times the things that compel you to open an email are the same things that compel others to do the same. Don’t miss the opportunity to be your own research study.

5. Take a deeper, more deliberate, dive into the strategy of successful brands

Knowing what makes you open emails is one of the best and fastest research there is and like we talked about earlier, you can jump into your email right now and get some ideas. But, I’d recommend doing this in a more deliberate way.


Create a separate email address and sign up for email lists of several brands that are killing it in your industry or that you really admire and would like to model your business after their success blueprint.


Once you’ve signed up for a ton of email lists create one folder per brand or person with the following subfolders:

    • Newsletter Like & Newsletter Dislike
    • Sales Like & Sales Dislike 
    • Informational Like & Information Dislike

As you start receiving emails assess what you like and don’t like about them. Then (this is important) reply to yourself with notes on your thoughts and preferences. Once your email to yourself hits your inbox, then filter it into the appropriate folder. This practice alone will help you to get a crystal-clear understanding of how to best approach your emails but now you’ll also have substantial concrete notes. You could also take this into a spreadsheet and track the data. This will also help you to better understand the kinds of emails brands and people send out and at what frequency.


4. Finally, put your top subject lines through A/B testing with your own audience.


Once you have 2 in mind that you really like then it’s time to A/B test. Take a segment of your list and split it into Group A and Group B. Each group will get the exact same email with the only difference being the email subject line. Once you send the email out, check the stats – did one perform better? If it did, then use that subject line and send the email out to the remainder of your full list.


Just remember, a true A/B test only has ONE variable. If you change the subject line, the main picture, and some of the text then if one performs better than the other you’ll have no idea what change is causing the difference. For data that you can actually leverage be sure to only change one variable.


Now you’re ready to launch! By following these strategies you can expect to build a strong relationship with your email subscribers by adding value to their lives, not inundating them with strictly sales emails and create eye-catching email subject lines that will get your emails opened. If you take it one step further and do the research and A/B testing you’ll be well on your way to skyrocketing your email open rates.

We’d love to hear from you! What have your challenges or tips and tricks to getting higher open rates? Leave it in the comments below.

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