Email marketers think they are pretty smart.
Some of them make tens of thousands of dollars per email campaign. But the old letterbox marketers are pretty smart too. In fact, some stores make millions of dollars straight off the back of a letterbox drop, while certain politicians get elected to office by virtue of writing letters to their constituent.
I wonder which of the two has better open rates?
In this post I am going to look at some lessons from email and letter marketing that might help us discover what really gets people to open an email. This is a vital thing to know if you want to start making money from your blog.
Why is this important?
As you know by now I am always spouting the importance of having an email list that is both large and active. If you have 100 thousand subscribers it is totally useless if they don’t open the emails you send them. I’d much rather have 100 active subscribers that are engaged and interested.
When you have such an email list you are able to make money quite easily by promoting products and affiliates that you think your subscribers will like. For example, if I released an Official Blog Tyrant WordPress Theme I imagine a fair few of my email subscribers would purchase it.
But all of this is completely futile unless you know how to get people to open your emails. I might release the best WordPress Theme in history and sell zero copies and help absolutely no one because I sent out a terrible email with a boring header. But that’s not all. You need to know what makes people open emails so you can:
- Pitch ideas to the big guys
I get at least 20 emails everyday from people asking me for this, that and the other. And although I try to treat them all equally I have noticed that I open and prioritize certain emails by sheer fact that they got my attention.
- Get more traffic from RSS
Remember, a lot of your readers are reading your blog posts by email RSS syndication. If someone wakes up to an inbox filled with 100 emails and yours is sitting there somewhere you want to make sure it has a pretty amazing title.
If you want to make money with this online gig you need to know how to get people to open up your stuff.
What makes people open an email or letter?
I am including letters in this article because I want you to think really carefully about any offline letter marketing techniques that might help you send good emails. The online marketing world still has a lot to learn from its offline older brother.
One of the most important things that the good email and letter marketers do is personalize your experience and make it as intimate as possible. There are many examples of this so I will just share a few that I find particularly interesting.
Letters in ink
Hand written addresses always have a higher open rate than those printed out. The pen and ink gives it a very personal touch and also has the brief illusion of appearing as though it came from someone you know. This can automatically put the receiver in a good mood.
Emails with a name in the subject
When you capture email addresses it is important to get the first name as well as the email address. This is one reason why I switched to Aweber because Feedburner only captures the latter. You can then set your emails to automatically use the person’s first name so you get:
“Do you want to make a full time living online John?”
As opposed to:
“Do you want to make a full time living online?”
Without the name the title appears dry and impersonal and some would say rather spammy. When you send out an email campaign you really want to make sure it connects with the person as an individual and doesn’t make them feel like just someone else on a list.
Something that a lot of new bloggers fail to grasp is that being specific is actually quite alluring. This is particularly true of emails where the bulk of headings that come through are things like Hi, Hey, Quick Question, etc. If you can include something specific in the title you often get a much greater response.
For example, which one do you think works better?
“How I Made Money Online”
“How I Made $125,678 in Six Days with One Blog”
The latter, of course. The reason is plainly obvious. We relate to numbers. When you see that figure of $125,678 staring you in the face you begin to think about how long it would take you to earn that. Maybe it would take you a year, or two years, or more.
But here is a guy who has done it in six days and with just one blog. Not a month and fifty blogs. One blog and six days. The speficicity is very important for helping people create mental images which capture the imagination.
3. Emotionality and cause and effect
When you can cause someone to become emotion and then show a final solution you are much more likely to get a higher open rate and then convert them to whatever is inside. There are some fantastic examples of this but there are two that really stand out for me:
Charity letters with sick animals on the front and happy ones inside
I donate to a fair few charities but I have noticed that I usually cancel my monthly payment after about a year. Greenpeace, the Salvation Army… so many charities got my business and then lost it.
Not the Humane Society International. I’ve been donating for years because every now and then they send me a letter with a tortured dancing bear on the front, bleeding and emaciated and extremely unhappy, and then on the inside a shot of that same bear living it up in his new Zoo exhibit with all the other bears. Very hard to ignore.
Chain emails with threats
This might seem strange but those annoying chain emails you get are actually extremely clever at marketing. They use a catchy title like This kids mom died right after getting this email and then order you to send it to at least five other people so that it doesn’t happen to your mom. It is complete nonsense, of course, but how often do they keep popping up? People love sending them on.
With both of these tactics the idea is to create a visceral emotion and then link it to some cause and effect. For example, because of my donation that bear is no longer chained to a pole all day but now enjoys freedom. Emotion, cause, effect. If you can incorporate this into your email titles in a positive way you will get a substantially higher open rate.
4. A grand or group-related call to action
We all know about calls to action; the little piece of text that tells a person what to do next. We use them on our email sign up forms and on our advertisements but we often forget to use them in email titles.
The best examples of these calls to action often come from the local politicians. Some of them do it better than others but often you will receive a personally addressed letter where the back side reads something like:
“Vote tomorrow to move Australia forward”
“Tell me what I can do for you in Capitol Hill”
These types of calls to action work a lot better when they are combined with the emotions of the previous point. For example, Barack Obama’s “Change” campaign was perhaps the most successful in history because it represented hope and possibility. Having said that, the fear-based campaign that was run by the Republicans is usually a lot more successful that the positive ones.
The reason for this is actually quite interesting and it has to do with the human brain’s loss prevention centers. Humans are wired to prevent loss – sexual partners, food, money, property – our brains fires out signals that make us act to avoid losing. So when you are shown marketing that tells you that you might lose [insert political rhetoric] you often feel more compelled to act.
What has worked for you?
Have you ever sent an email to a big-shot blogger that got an amazing response? Have you ever had a post title or an email campaign subject line get a particularly high open rate? Please leave a comment and let me know. Finally, if you have never done any of the above then please tell me what makes you open an email. I’m very interested to hear how your brain ticks.
P.S. Check out our guide on how to create an email newsletter.