How to get your subscribers to open (and read) your emails

(Lessons from the magazine stand.)

It’s frustrating.

You spend hours thinking about and writing a brilliant email newsletter to your subscribers and only 10% open your emails. Even less read them. And only a small handful buy the products or services you’re promoting.

What gives?

And how can you get more people reading on a regular basis?

These are the questions Donna asked me recently. She said:

“My list is growing but I feel like I’m writing to myself. I don’t think people are reading what I write. How can I get more people to read my emails?”

Here’s what I told her:

Take a leaf out of the magazine industries book.

You’ll find a lot of similarities to email newsletters.

For example, magazines are fighting for attention on a crowded news stand or magazine rack at the shopping centre. So too are your emails fighting for attention in a crowded inbox. As a result, the magazine editors spend a lot of time planning the cover. The cover’s job is to get people’s attention and get them to open the magazine. Your email subject line has the same job: get attention and get opened. So that’s the first thing:

Write intriguing subject lines that pull readers in.

Listen: Nobody will read your email unless it stands out like a zebra on the subway. So your subject line better pull readers in and practically force them to open your email.

I’m sure you’ve had the experience many times standing at the store checkout or passing a newsstand and a headline on the cover of a magazine grabbed your attention. News websites are good at this too. They give you a picture, a headline and a few lines of teaser copy – all designed to arrest your attention for a few seconds like lights on a police car in your rear-view mirror. The goal is to get you to click and read what’s inside.

Your subject lines need to do the same thing (only without the benefit of using an image).

Or at least that’s your goal.

This means your subject lines can’t be an afterthought. Can’t be something you do at the last minute.

Writing subject lines is a project on your to-do list and needs as much time as writing the actual content.

If you spend an hour writing the newsletter, spend at least half an hour writing the subject line, it’s THAT important.

Next …

Create memorable content that’s worth reading and sharing.

Don’t know about you but when I read a magazine or a news website I usually find one or two articles that really hit me in the feelers and stand out in my mind. I then find myself quoting those articles in conversations with family or friends.

This is called social currency.

Ideas worth spreading.

Ideas that make you feel intelligent, better informed, more knowledgeable, more up to date with the latest whatever.

When you find a source of information like this you continue returning to read what they have to say.

You want your email newsletter to have a similar effect.

Aim to become the voice of your audience.

Aim to be the voice people look forward to because they wonder what you’re going to say next.

And finally …

Tease about the future.

Magazines do this too.

Or at least the magazines I read as a kid did this.

You get to the end of the magazine and there’s a section tilted: NEXT ISSUE. Followed by a quick preview of the top stories or interviews coming up in the next issue. Cartoons and comics do this really well too. So do TV series. They leave you hanging, wondering where the story is going next.

You can do the same in your email newsletter, either in the PS or midway through a good story. Tell the reader you’ll talk more about this next time. For product announcements don’t just say “Here’s the product”. Say “Next Tuesday’s email will announce a brand-new product that will totally change the game.” And so on.

In summary:

– Give subject line creation the time it deserves. If your subject line doesn’t grab the reader’s attention they probably won’t read your email newsletter.

– Create content that gets people talking. The more readers love your content the more they’ll look forward to your next email and read it the second it arrives.

– Leave readers wanting more. More about this when you subscribe to my email newsletter.

Use these three ideas to get more subscribers opening and reading your email newsletters.

Want more ideas like these to help you build and profit from a successful email newsletter?

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