[360] How to get people to open your emails

If you want to get people to open your marketing emails, you need to write compelling email subject headers.

But what makes a great email subject header? Which words and phrases make people more likely to open your emails? And which ones should you avoid?

That’s exactly what I cover in this podcast episode on how to get people to open your emails. It’s packed with tips, tricks and examples you can use to improve your email open rate.

{Click on the player above to listen to the podcast episode and/or read on for a detailed overview. Scroll down to the bottom to read the show notes including all the links mentioned in this episode}

Before you get started, here’s a bit of tough love for you. I wish I could give you one strategy or one blueprint you could follow to get people to open your emails. But as every audience is different, I’m afraid I can’t do that.

What I can do is share the strategies that work really well for me, for my clients, and for others in the industry. But if you want to improve your email open rates, you’re going to have to be brave, you’re going to have to be courageous, and you’re going to have to go and test things out and see what works for you.

1. Make a list of what keeps your ideal client (or newsletter reader) up at night

The first thing you need to understand is that people don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons. So if you want to write effective email subject headers, you need to understand your prospective clients’ emotions. That’s why I recommend starting by making a list of your ideal clients’ problems and their worries. For example, my prospective clients often tell me they’re worried their clients are going to dry up, that they struggle to stick to a consistent content publishing/schedule and that they feel overwhelmed by all the marketing options out there. The more I can understand that, the better placed I’ll be to write great email subject headers that will get them to open my emails.

2. Don’t be vanilla

Most of us have overflowing inboxes. We only open things that pique our interest.

So if you want to increase your email open rate – and increase your sales – you’ve got to be courageous. That means no playing it safe with boring and/or ‘vanilla’ email subject headers.

3. Go through your own inbox and look at what gets your attention (I save mine)

One of the best ways to get ideas for your own email subject headers is to go through your inbox and see which ones caught your attention. Analyse why they caught your attention and what you could use/adapt for your own email subject headers. Save them in a folder and look through them when you need inspiration.

4. Ask Questions

If you want to get people interested in opening your emails you need to arouse peoples’ curiosity. It can be helpful to think of your subject headers a like a ‘teaser’ for email content.

Asking questions often works well. For example: ‘can you answer this question honestly?’ or ‘what kind of results can you expect from working with me?’

This invites the reader to get into a conversation with you, which is what great email marketing is all about.

5. Surprise your subscribers

Introducing an element of surprise works well too. For example: ‘please stop listening to my podcast’,  ‘I was wrong about this’ or ‘Facebook hates you. Here’s why.’

Why would I ask people to stop listening to my podcast? What was I wrong about? Why does Facebook hate you?

These statements arouse curiosity and intrigue, which means people are far more likely to open the email.

6. Use genuine scarcity

If you have a genuinely time-sensitive offer, don’t be afraid to use that in your email subject header e.g. “Last chance’ or ‘enrolments close at midnight.’

Although do keep a close eye on spam trigger words i.e. those that are most likely to mean your email ends up in spam. For example words like ‘discount’ ‘bonus’ or ‘buy’. But don’t get caught up on lists like this – track and measure what’s happening in your own email list.

7. Showing vulnerability is also effective

If you send out an email with a missing link, don’t try to cover it up – email your list,  apologise for your mistake and turn it into a content opportunity.

One of my best performing email subject headers is ‘Oops! Of course we know your name really’. This was sent after we accidentally emailed my whole list with their location in the field where their name should have been. Showing that you’re human makes you seem more relatable, which can be a great way to build a relationship with your subscribers.

7. Use emojis

There is tons of research to show that emojis can increase your email open rates so experiment and see what works for you. Fun fact: we get a much better open rate when we use the 💩 emoji but more unsubscribes. Experimenting with this type of thing is what makes email marketing so much fun (in my opinion).

8. Experiment with fonts and layout

Try to experiment in other ways too. For example, using all lower- case letters. This can make your email seem more informal as if it’s coming from a friend. Or using brackets or a mixture of caps and lower-case letters (although do be careful, as capital letters can come across a bit ‘shouty’.).

9. Check how your email subject header looks on mobile

Test out how your email subject looks on mobile. Can you see the whole header? Or is some of it missing (in which case, try going for a shorter headline). Some of these seemingly small things can have a big impact on whether your email is opened.

10. Don’t take it personally if people unsubscribe

If you are sending emails as part of your email marketing strategy, you will get unsubscribes. This can be upsetting, but it doesn’t mean you are doing anything ‘wrong’. Track your numbers, but please feel reassured that the odd unsubscribe is fine. You only need to worry if you notice a big increase.

Podcast shownotes

  • About this podcast (12:24)
  • Why you need to understand your readers’ problems rather than their habits (13:50)
  • Why your email subjects need to be brave and courageous not boring and safe (16:07)
  • How to research emails that grab your attention (and examples of good subject headers) (16:48)
  • Why making your email subject header intriguing will increase open rates (20:18)
  • Examples of my best email subject headers with tips on how you can use them (20:32)
  • How changing sentence structures can trigger emotional reactions (29:40)
  • How showing vulnerability can really get your audience on side (34:38)
  • Why you should create email content out of mistakes you make in your business (and hear a few of mine including that gift email!) (38:22)
  • Why great email marketing is about starting a two-way conversation (44:51)
  • Why unsubscribes are not the end of the world and can actually save you money (47:06)
  • Why you shouldn’t feel bad if someone complains about your emails (49:06)
  • Things to consider about the layout of your subject headers and using emojis (52:16)
  • Why you need to test and experiment with your subject headers (54:47)


Spam trigger words to avoid

[359] How to create an email newsletter people look forward to receiving (podcast)
[300] How to Build an audience and why you need to  (podcast)
[318] How to write compelling email copy (podcast)
[325] Three social media posts that will help you generate sales (podcast)
[333] 39 surprisingly easy ways to increase your email subscribers list (podcast)
[335] How to create a high converting lead magnet (podcast)
[348] How to write social media posts that sell (podcast)
[358] 13 Ideas for engaging social media posts (for when you’re all out of ideas) (podcast)

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