This images is a stat from the Marketing Sherpa report, which showed personalized subject lines often get a lift in open rates.

How To Write a Marketing Email That Actually Gets Opened

Sending emails is easy. What about writing emails that actually get opened?
Article Outline

Twenty-two percent … that’s the average email open rate across all industries. 

But who wants to be average, right? 

Especially if you’re a marketer. You’re a pro, which is why you’re always working to beat the averages, not merely meet them. 

But here’s the thing: You have a lot of factors working against you, especially with the ongoing influence of AI and machine learning filtering what lands in a prospect’s inbox. For example, a recent article discusses how 300 billion emails are sent daily; at least half of them spam. That leaves email providers with the huge task of determining what’s spam and what isn’t. 

Machine learning models typically work by analyzing a ton of messages and tracking how many times an email is labeled as spam. They use this information to determine if your email deserves a spot in the inbox or is relegated to “junk.”

That’s why mastering how to write a marketing email that gets opened can boost your results and signal to Google and other email clients that what you are sending isn’t junk

Ready to write email copy that converts? Great! Here’s a clear path for how to write emails that convert and cut through the inbox noise.

High-Converting Emails Start with Your Subject Line

Eight out of 10 people will read a headline, but only two out of 10 read the rest of the content. And we’d argue that headlines are pretty similar to subject lines, so getting it right has the potential for big impacts. 

Plus, your subject line affects deliverability. Consider that 69% of people will report an email as “junk” solely based on the subject line. 

“Personalizing your email subject line could lead to open rates that are up to 50% higher.”

Opt-In Monster

So, not only do you need to create a subject line designed to get opened, but you also need to make sure it won’t create problems. No pressure, right? 

Here are a few things to try: 

  • Personalize your subject line. Personalizing your email subject line could lead to open rates that are up to 50% higher. Automation software makes it easy to do this and allows you to test different subject lines to maximize results. 
  • Add emojis to your subject lines. I know, it seems too casual, right? But research shows that organizations that use emojis in their email subject lines have open rates up to 56% higher than companies that don’t. 
  • Use retargeting. You work hard to attract prospects to your organization, which is why it’s so disheartening when many leave without taking the next step forward along their buyer’s journey. Retargeting is a powerful tool that helps you recapture attention. Research shows that, on average, 48% of retargeting emails are opened – and that’s over double the 22% open rate average. 
  • Include “how to” in your subject line. Combine your audience’s largest pain points with a relevant how-to subject line to boost open rates. Simply having the phrase “how to” in your subject line increases the average open rate to 37.2%.
  • Avoid this one mistake at all costs. Did we pique your curiosity? Good! Because doing just that can trigger a 22% higher open rate.  Easy, right? By the way, that “one mistake” we mentioned is giving too much away in the subject line. Don’t be afraid to leave your audience hanging.

The above are just a few ideas to get you started, but try them out, test your results and iterate to improve performance. 

Learn more about how to write an amazing subject line.

Write High Converting Emails That Have Shorter Content 

Unless you’re publishing a long-form newsletter, keep your emails short.

This applies to outreach emails, sales emails, transactional emails, and even to promotional and company announcement emails.

Why keep things short? Because:

  • People don’t read online; they scan.
  • Nobody wants to spend a second longer in their inbox than is needed.
  • The average time reading an email is nine seconds, according to MarketingProfs. 

So how short should your emails be? Research points to an optimal length of 50 to 125 words

Do you need help writing more concise and effective emails? Joanna Wiebe has an excellent series of tutorials, one of which is about writing cold emails. Additionally, you can use the Chrome extension TinyMails to create shorter emails. This extension tracks your word count and calculates how long the content will take to read.

Emails That Convert to Sales … Keep It Clear

The best measurement of your writing’s clarity is the grade level it’s written at. We’ve previously noted how important readability is. But with emails, it’s even more important. So, while your on-site content might be okay at a seventh-grade reading level, consider writing your emails at a third-grade level.

Is that crazy? Nope. Emails written at a third-grade reading level get the highest response rate.

Now, does this mean you have to distill your messaging down to “Bob ran fast. See Bob run.”? Definitely not. It does mean you’ll need to talk to people without using jargon. And without meandering sentences or murky thinking. You can write about complex things with simple words. It just takes work – and skill.

Personalize the Email for Higher Conversions

We touched on this point earlier with subject lines, but wanted to give personalizing emails their own moment. Why? 

Personalization works. Period. You saw how a personalized subject line could lift open and click-through rates. 

And that’s all true and good.

But it’s also important to acknowledge a different kind of “personalization” ‒ sending the right message to the right customer (or influencer, or prospect, or co-worker) at the right time.

This is the kind of personalization that’s more effective than just dropping somebody’s first name in.

It’s also far harder … but it gets much better results.You probably get plenty of emails from people who say things that make it vividly clear they have no idea who you are or what you do. And do you answer those emails? Probably not. Instead, you tell Google it’s spam. A highly effective way to personalize at scale is to use marketing automation so customers and prospects feel known in the moment of relevance.

How do you sign off on your emails? With “Best Regards”? “Yours”?

I usually mirror back what the other author wrote. So if they close with “Best Regards,” I will, too.

But maybe I need to try a different tack. According to other research from Boomerang, “Emails that closed with a variation of thank you got significantly more responses than emails ending with other popular closings.”

Close Strong to Dial in Results

When your prospect reaches the end of your email, you’ve already outperformed most marketers. You got the reader to open your email (win!), you got them to read your content (win!), and now you need them to do something. You’ve got to move them forward in the buyer’s journey.

“Whether or not you’re selling something, you should send every single email with a goal in mind.” 


And that’s why you need a CTA that aligns with that goal. It tells the reader what he or she should do next. 

Your CTA has a seriously important job: to drive action. So, use short phrases with words that are action-oriented to drive it. Copyhackers provides us with a few helpful examples:

  • Click
  • Get
  • Join
  • Download
  • Enter

Align these action words with what you want your audience to do. Do you want them to book a call? Download a white paper? Join a free trial? Match your CTA to the buyer’s journey to get better results. For example, you don’t want to go too big and ask someone at the top of the funnel to buy. But you might want to ask them to join a webinar covering some basic concepts.

How to Write a Marketing Email That Actually Gets Opened … and BEAT the Averages

Okay, we’ve thrown a lot of suggestions your way, so what should you do next? 

Start with mastering your subject lines. Experiment. Measure. And iterate. This is probably one of the most important things. Why? First, you want people to open your emails. And second, you don’t want your email to be labeled as “spam.” 

Then master writing short, concise and engaging content. After that, you can test and measure your CTA and iterate as needed. 

Do you need help getting your subject lines to perform better? Would you like to improve engagement and decrease the risk of ending up in the dreaded spam folder? Check out our free guide, “12 Tips for Amazingly Effective Email Subject Lines.”

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