How to Get People to Open (and Act On!) Your E-mails

Posted by Rachel Pillow on February 7, 2018

It’s all in the subject line, baby.

You know that saying: “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, as a graphic design firm, we think that’s a stupid saying. You should totally judge a book by its cover, and a company by its website, and a product by its package design, and a potential employee by his resume … you get the picture. Design matters and first impressions matter — which is exactly what that e-mail subject line is: a first impression. According to Hubspot, 47% of e-mail recipients decide whether or not to open an e-mail based on the subject line alone. So here are three quick tips on crafting a catchy subject line that will entice people to open your (equally catchy and well-designed) e-mail.

  1. Add personalization. E-mail marketing programs, such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact, allow you to use merge tags to include the recipients name in the subject line.

  2. Keep it short & sweet. Many of your e-mail recipients will be reading from mobile devices, so the first four words or 50 characters need to be the most attention-grabbing and communicative of your offer/message.

  3. Don’t use spammy languageUsing words such as free, urgent, one time only, please read, don’t delete, you’re a winner, act now, etc., tend to trigger spam filters. Check out this comprehensive list of spam words to avoid in your e-mail subjects.


Include a CTA in the body of your e-mail.

In last week’s blog post we explained what a CTA (call-to-action) is and why you should use them. We talked about the benefits of incorporating CTAs on your website and blog, but they should also be part of your e-mail marketing plan. After all, the purpose of your e-mail is to get someone to reply, buy or otherwise act on an offer. Tell your reader exactly what you want them to do next. Examples could be: Learn More, Download, Watch Video, Shop Now, Sign Up, Register or Donate. Focus on one CTA per e-mail, but include it in both the beginning and end of the e-mail.

Here is a good example of a CTA used in the body of an e-mail:


Make sure your e-mail is relevant to the recipient.

Having a huge list of contacts is irrelevant if those people aren’t opening, or worse, opting out of your e-mails. This is why it is extremely important to segment your contact lists. List segmentation ensures that you are sending content to the people who would be most likely to click that CTA. If somebody lives in Ohio, then don’t send an e-mail about an offer only available in Florida. But, list segmentation can dive even deeper than geographic location and incorporate a number of demographics including age, gender, education level, professional industry, organization type, job function and more. The more data you gather from your contacts, the better — which is done during the lead generation process. If you haven’t optimized your website for leads yet, don’t worry, the contacts you already have are still valuable (as long as you didn’t buy them, never buy an e-mail list). Fortunately, e-mail service providers like Mailchimp and Constant Contact have intuitive tools that allow you to segment contact lists, and offer free accounts up to a certain number of subscribers.  

In a nutshell:

Knowing and understanding your different audiences, and customizing the content, CTAs and subject lines accordingly, will drastically improve your open and conversion rates, leading to effective e-mail marketing campaigns that actually get read (and acted on!).

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