Email is great IF people actually OPEN your emails…
Email is a great way to communicate with customers and Email Marketing as a strategy continues to be one of the most effective ways to attract, retain, and build relationships with long-term customers, but unfortunately, email response rates often leave a lot to be desired because many customers don’t respond to the emails you send them and all too often you don’t even know if the customers are even opening your emails to begin with.
Email Overload = Low Email Open Rates and Even Lower Email Response Rates
Why don’t customers open your emails? Why don’t customers respond to your emails?
The answer to both these questions is fairly simple – just like you, your customers are super busy, just like you, your customers get tons of email (way more than they could ever read), and just like you, your customers are now using email tools that pre-filter ‘promotional’ emails (especially those sent from email marketing companies like Mailchimp, GetResponse, Drip, AWeber, and the like).
As a result, there’s a very real possibility that your email response rates are low because…
- That ‘perfect’ email you took so long to craft may never even be seen by your customer because it got filtered into a promotional tab.
- If your customer does happen to see the email, they may not recognize its value and instead just ignore it.
- Even if they do read your email they may not bother to reply.
All of these are bad options if you’re trying to build a business relationship with your customer.
So is there anything you can do to increase the odds your customers will open AND reply to your emails?
The 13 tips in this article can dramatically improve your email response rates. Not only will more customers open your emails, but if you use these tips consistently more customers will actually respond to your emails too.
How do I know these email tips work?
Because like everything else i recommend on the Helpful Dad site, I’ve personally tested each one of these tips and I can assure you they work. I use them in my own businesses every day and they’ve helped me achieve consistent success with customer emails. They can help YOU too.
Where did these tips come from?
Just to be clear I didn’t invent these tips nor and I taking credit for them – there are a variety of sources for these ideas and I’ve listed them in the references at the end of this article). As with much of the knowledge on this site, I’ve curated this wisdom and packaged it in easy form for you to use. I’ve collected a LOT of email tips over the years and what you’re reading here is a whittled down list of the email best practices that have consistently worked for me to get people to open my emails and respond to them. Put these email tips to the test yourself and let me know your results.
13 Tips to Get Your Emails Opened
Get People to Open Your Emails Tip #1 – Avoid the ‘promotion’ filter of your customer’s inbox.
To do this, try sending ‘plain text’ emails.
Take a look at these emails – one is ‘html’ and the other is ‘plain text.’
Yes html emails look nice and pretty and the plain text are less fancy (minimal formatting, no pics, etc) but the fact is that plain text emails don’t get filtered as much as HTML emails.
Filtered emails = not seen emails.
Emails not seen = game over before you even started.
Get Your Email Opened Tip #2 – Where possible, avoid mass emails and send each email directly to ONE customer at a time.
If you must send email to multiple people, try keeping the group small (say 2-4 people). Generally, I only send emails to single customers (because of my #1 most effective tip below which, for some strange reason is actually #4 on my list?), but if I do combo emails I make sure it’s to customers of the same company.
The more you increase the group, the greater the chance that your email won’t get opened because…
When people see other names on the distribution list they will often ‘defer action’ to someone else in an effort to save time themselves.
Another way of saying this is – they don’t open your email because they figure someone else on the list will. Thus they save time for themselves.
Get People to Open Your Emails Tip #3 – How to Avoid Corporate Intranet Filters.
As much as possible (and especially for introductory emails to new customers) try to avoid sending attachments.
All too often corporate IT servers seem to filter out emails with attachments as a way to prevent an email virus from infecting their networks.
Don’t take the risk your email gets quarantined to the Land of the Unknown Email.
If you have to send an attachment, establish the connection with the customer first, get their buy-in that they actually want the attachment, and then ask for the best way to send it to them.
Find out from your customer is attachments allowed by their corporate email filter, if so how can you avoid the filter, and if something like Dropbox or Google Drive share a better alternative, etc?.
Get Customers to Open Your Emails Tip #4 – Use the Power of the SUBJECT LINE
This is actually my #1, most important, if-you-do-nothing-else-do-this tip. (I don’t know why it’s not listed first – perhaps because I like the number “4” best?)
In any case, this single tip has increased my own email response rate by at least 10x!
And it’s so simple…
Instead of writing generic, easy to overlook subject lines, write a compelling, action-oriented subject that (and this is the super-important part) starts with the customer’s name.
That sounds so obvious on paper, but yet 99% of people writing emails don’t do this put their customers name in the subject line. That’s a shame, because if you put the customer’s name in the subject line, that alone will get more people to open your emails.
Let me give you some examples…
Blah Subject Line: “Contract Options for Your Review”
Better Subject Line: “Attention: New Widget Contract Choices (Action Required)”
Best Subject Line: “Jim: New Widget Contract Options (Feedback Requested by Friday)”
Which one of these emails do you think Jim is going to open? Which would YOU open if you were Jim and your job was dealing with Widget contracts for your company?
I’ve used all of these email subject lines in my career and I can tell you that email #3 is the one that gets opened way more than the other two options combined.
Let’s analyze email #3’s subject line again…
Jim: New Widget Contract Options (Feedback Requested by Friday)
What makes this a good email subject line?
- The email subject line is specific to “Jim” so Jim knows it’s for him – that alone will increase the odds the email gets opened. (BTW I like to use first names whenever possible to establish long-term rapport and because (as Dale Carnegie says) ‘the sound of someone’s name is the most beautiful music to that person’, but if you can’t do that for some reason then full/formal names also work).
- This email subject line uses the word “New” which is a hook that generates interest and leads to people wanting to open the email to see what’s ‘new.’
- The email subject line clearly identifies a product (in this case “Widgets”) and assuming that Jim is interested in Widgets, he’s likely to open the email.
- The email subject line briefly details the main content (in this case ‘contract options’) and again assuming Jim is interested in new pricing options for his Widgets, he’s likely to open the email.
- And finally, the email subject line lets Jim know that not only is his ‘feedback’ requested (making him feel important) but his feedback is needed by a specific day (Friday).
What’s all this add up to? When Jim scans through his mass of emails for the day, you’ve just made it very easy for him to hone in on an email that is specific to him, has clearly identifiable content that (presumably) interests him, and requires his action by a certain day (pro tip – try to make the action day within the same week to create a sense of urgency).
The result – more of your emails get opened.
How do you know if someone opens your email?
This is a bit of a side tip – ever since Outlook made it harder for us to get an “Email Read Receipt,” it’s become more difficult to know when someone actually opens your email. Thankfully there are tools that can help you.
I use one called “Mailtrack” – it’s a free service that has been a worthy replacement for the Outlook Read Receipt function. The only caveat is that Mailtrack is exclusive to Gmail – if you can live with that parameter you’ll love it.
So now that you are getting people to open your emails, how do you get them to reply?
Tip #5 – Be Brief, Be Brilliant, and Be Gone = Get More Email Replies
Emails are not a place to write your next book (something I’ve often been guilty of since I love to write), but there’s a concept called “TLDR” which stands for ‘too long, didn’t read.’ THta’s a killer when it comes to emails.
TLDR – Email Not Read = Email Not Responded to.
Remember, your customers are busy.
Think of your email recipient like a little squirrel – you’ve got a nut, you’ve convinced the squirrel to take a step towards you, he’s interested, when he gets near, don’t drown him with a bucket full of nuts, just give him the little one he wanted.
The same holds for your email – you got the customer to open it, don’t overwhelm them with a 10 paragraph, single-spaced manifesto. Just give them the bite-sized version.
Your email should be easy to digest, short, and easy to see what action is needed by them so that it is easy for them to respond to.
Tip #6 – BLUF leads to more people responding to emails.
BLUF stands for ‘bottom line up front.’
Remembering that your customer is busy, help them save time (and increase your reply rate) by putting the action you want them to take in the very first line of your email.
Although you may not want to hear this, realize that…
Even IF your customer opens your email, they may only read the first line before deleting it or ‘saving’ it for another time.
Knowing this, make sure they read the single most important thing you need them to do/know by putting it that first line of your email.
Hopefully, that first line will compel more people to read your email beyond just the first line, but just in case they don’t you’ll at least have gotten them to see what your email ‘ask’ is and then you’ve put the ball in their court.
Tip #7 – Use Bullets to Get People to Respond to Emails
Don’t expect your customer to read your entire email.
- Recognize they are likely to just scan it (much like you are probably doing to this article – are you even reading THIS line? If so put a comment below).
- Put your important points in bullet format to draw attention to them.
- This is especially important for the email body (the part that your customer is least likely to read – kind of like this section of my article).
Get People to Open Your Emails and Get Them to Respond Tip #8 – Establish Credibility
Establish Credibility with your Email Customers.
This one is really important for customers you don’t know well, initial introductions in emails, or when you’re trying to set a meeting at a conference you’ll both be attending.
Let the new customer how you know them (for example, “I was referred by Mr. MaGoo” and then put “Mr. Magoo” in the “CC” line of the email. Naturally you will have already confirmed with Mr. Magoo that you can reference him).
By putting the mutual reference in the email by name, when the new customer you are trying to connect with sees the name of someone they know (Mr. Magoo) AND sees that Mr. Magoo is in the CC line this makes your credibility skyrocket.
This technique dramatically increases your email reply rate because the customer also feels a sense of ‘obligation reply’ to the mutual reference.
It’s a powerful tool so don’t abuse it.
Bonus Tip – if you’re both gonna be at a conference, reference that event to validate yourself and use that as a SMART goal opportunity for a live meeting – another winner.
Tip #9 – Remember The “Smartphone Preview” to Get People to Open Your Emails
Most people read email (first) on their mobile devices. Emails on mobile look a lot different than on desktops/laptops.
Space is smaller so long emails become super looooooooong. Long email thus get nixed, which means long emails have less chance for a reply.
If you really want to make it easy for people to open your emails and to respond to them, try to keep your email bodies “mobile-view friendly.”
Tip #10 – Setting Simple, Clear Expectations for a Reply = More People WILL Reply to Your Email.
If you already have a good relationship with a customer and your email requires a response, give them a courtesy ‘heads-up’ that you’re sending them an email AND expecting a reply.
Again people are busy – that doesn’t mean they don’t want to help you, just that…
They may not realize you want a reply.
Make it easy for them to reply to your emails.
Send your customer a quick text, give a call to their admin, or find another way (LinkedIn, hallway chat, etc) to ensure they understand you’re expecting a reply to your email.
Don’t yet have a good relationship? Connect with them on LinkedIn (with a personal message as part of the connection) and once they accept your connection invite, then send them a brief note via LinkedIn messaging about why you connected and that you’re sending them a win-win email that would benefit them to reply to.
These first 10 tips will make more people open your email AND make it easy for people to reply to your emails. That’s great, but how do you take your Email Game to the next level?
Increasing Email Response Rates – The Next Level
Tip #11 – Make it easy to meet.
You want to set up a time to talk? Whether you want to chat by phone, do a webex, or meet live, the worst thing you can do is close with a blase offer like ‘if you’re interested let me know when you can talk’ or something similar.
Instead, (and I’m gonna beat this drum again) remember your customers are busy, so…
Make it easy for them by offering them date/time suggestions upfront.
Here’s an example…
“What’s a good time to [chat/meet/etc]? Would Monday, May 1 at 4, or 5 pm EST work? How about Wed May 3 at 10 or 11 am EST? If not suggest a day/time that works for you.”
Using this tactic speeds the process up because it removes the guesswork and rather than make the customer do the work of finding the time to meet, all they need to do is check their calendar to see if one of your suggested times will work.
Tip #12 – The Best DAY and TIME to send Emails
Timing is everything in the world of email overload. If you’re trying to break free of the email clutter…
Send your emails at times when your customers are most available to read them.
Good times to consider are…
- When are they on Social Media and in ‘work mode?’ In my business, it’s Sunday Evening as they get ready for the work week so a brief, action-oriented email sent at this time gets great response rates.
- Other times during the week that work well are mid-morning (after they’ve had a chance to settle into the day) or mid-afternoon (after lunch but are not yet in ‘go-home’ mode) – both are great times when people check emails.
- I also try to avoid Mondays (people are usually too busy) and Fridays (people just want to clear their desks and focus on the weekend).
Email Tip #13 – Update Subject Lines During Replies To Avoid Email Conversation Views.
A great way to get your emails lost in the shuffle of email filter tools is NOT to update subject lines – don’t let that happen to you. Instead…
- Remove those “RE” and “FW” identifiers – they only create clutter and are sure-fire bundle targets.
- Be sure to modify the subject line in some way to make it stand out and not get bundled in ‘conversation view’ emails because bundled emails = lost emails and lost emails = emails not replied to = lost business.
- Change subject lines as the needs of the conversation changes – put new actions first, note important dates, or better yet make a whole new email (using these great email tips of course!).
Get People to Open Your Emails AND Get them to Reply – The Bottom Line
Use these 13 tips and you’re pretty much guaranteed to get more people to open your emails and more importantly get them to reply to you.
These email tips worked for me and they can work for you too. And when they do help you get more people to open and reply to your emails be sure to let me know.
Now go forth and start hitting ‘send’ with more confidence that someone is actually listening!
References – Increase Email Response Rates
- DreamIt Email Tips Video
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5 thoughts on “13 Tips to Get People to Open Your Emails AND Respond”
Michael these are great, I especially love the idea of the person’s name in the subject line. Powerful!
Thanks for the feedback, Michael. I’ll be interested to see if these help you too. If so, keep me posted which one works the best for you.
Thank you for your helpful tips…much appreciated.
glad to help, Steve