How to get people to read your emails

CAROLINE JAMES
Last updated 14:22 06/01/2014

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Do you suspect your emails are often met with yawns or, worse yet, rapid-fire deletion? To help you attain must-read status in your business associates' inboxes, we have compiled these hot tips:

Use punchy subject lines

You get one shot to catch your reader and a persuasive subject line is the prize hook. Steer clear of hard sells or writing essays. Think short, active and slightly elusive.

Mel Bowman advises using a personal touch to have your emails read.

Social media and online content expert Steven Lewis has written more than 2000 subject lines for businesses.

He says there is an argument for spending as much time on a subject line as the rest of the email.

"I write them for internal and external use and recent examples (that have achieved strong open rates) include turning 'December office move details' into 'You're getting some special boxes this Christmas' and 'Is it time to apply for a promotion' into 'Are you too good for your job?' "

It's all about the subject line, says Steven Lewis.

Write newsy no-nonsense copy

OK, your email is open. So how do you get it read?

With concise content that contains new ideas or solutions, Natalie McKenna, managing director of business consultancy Regeneration Unlimited, says.

Answer all your reader's initial questions - who, what, where, when, how and why.

"What you say in the email body needs to be targeted to its audience," McKenna says.

"For example, before the federal election there were a few gaffes by politicians, so my emails included a link to a clip of a political gaffe and an article about how to prepare for on-camera media interviews; practical advice, not too long and easy to read.

"It was topical and relevant and this email gained many inquiries and new clients for a one-day media training program we offer."

Make it easy to read

It seems obvious but if you want your emails read, make sure they can be read on a smartphone.

"If your emails can't [be read] or are hard to read on today's phones, you're burning leads with every email campaign you send," Shayne Tilley, of the Avalanche Technology Group, says.

Good use of space, dot points and topic headings also boost readability.

Time it right

Boost your strike rate by hitting the send button when your reader is most likely to have the time and motivation to read the email.

Find out when they take their lunch break and their open hours.

Internet marketing company Swift Digital says research shows effective email publishing times are from 1pm to 2pm or during rush hour between 5pm and 6pm.

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Ask yourself questions including: When do I check my emails? Do I expect certain types of emails at different times of day? And do I have a pattern of checking certain types of emails (reminders, updates and promotions)?

Add personal touches

Something unique to the reader in an email's opening lines almost always keeps them reading.

Wedding planner Melissa Bowman, of MB Weddings and Events, discovered this while following up future brides she met at a trade fair last month.

She attended a similar event last year but only received a 5 per cent reply rate to her follow-up emails.

"This year I sent 450 emails to women I had met, each email referencing something unique to that woman I had noted during the fair and, to help them remember me, I offered savouries and homemade lemonade at the fair, which I also referenced in my emails.

"I have ended up with a 40 per cent response rate from those emails. Starting a personal conversation has worked a treat."

Pete Williams, from Simply Headsets, agrees. One thing the headset business has done which has had a big impact is "make our emails look like personal emails" with normal text style and informal language. "We started using emails where the subject line is not overly sales-y, like 'how's the headset going?'

"The email is 'from' a person on our sales team [Sophie], not the brand itself, and the language is designed to appear personally written ... you get a higher open rate and evoke person replies, instantly increasing engagement."

Don't mislead

Never bait your reader with a subject line irrelevant to the email content.

"You will only build a reputation and no one will respond to your emails in the future," strategic consultant Amanda Rose warns.

Avoid the spam blacklist and tell it straight: "If you are thanking them, say 'thank you', if you have an idea, again say so, and when you say urgent, you must mean it. Give a deadline."

- Sydney Morning Herald

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