If you’re like me, you take great pride in creating email marketing messages that are just right.

You know that email marketing works and that it deserves the effort required to engage your customers and inspire them enough to click your links.

This is why you follow a pre-send ritual and make sure every email you create is as good as it can be before you send it off to customers.

But even after all that, sometimes things don’t go as planned. Sometimes you look at your email report and it becomes clear that it didn’t perform quite as well as you were hoping.

And when this happens, it can be quite depressing.

Don’t let it stop you though. We’ve all been there at some stage and the important thing is that we learn from the experience.

Plus when you break it down into tiny pieces, writing emails that get opened, read and clicked doesn’t need to be so hard. Simply find what works for your audience and continually test and measure new things over time.

That said, getting a little help from others doesn’t hurt as well.

Read on to learn some of the most important things that I’ve learnt about what it takes to write emails that get opened, read, and clicked.

Ready? Let’s go.

How to create emails that people actually want

Let me ask you a question. When you see a bunch of new emails in your inbox which do you read first? Do you start with emails from people that you know and trust? Or with the emails from people that you don’t recognise?

Simple choice isn’t it. We’re naturally inclined to read emails where we have a positive relationship with the sender. We trust them because we either know them personally (or feel like we do) or they’ve demonstrated their value to us in the past.

And that’s what you must aim for if you want readers to be waiting in anticipation of your emails.

Follow these tips to create emails that help build a rapport with your readers and add to your reputation as someone they want to read emails from.

1. Write as if you’re talking to just the one person. This instantly makes your emails more personal and forces you to be 100% focused on the person reading your email. Avoid generic words like ‘customer’ and ‘subscriber’ and replace them with words like ‘you’.

2. Value your reader’s time. Only email your subscribers when you have something truly helpful or valuable to say. This shows subscribers that you don’t want to waste their time and subtly conditions them to open your email when they see your name in their inbox.

3. Be helpful and don’t always sell. Avoid the temptation to only ever be selling in your emails. This is the quickest path to losing someone’s interest. So mix things up in your emails. Be interesting. Be friendly. And most of all, be helpful.

4. Earn trust by delivering on expectations. All good relationships are built on trust. And to earn someone’s trust you need to set clear expectations and then deliver on them. So tell people what they can expect to receive from you and how often. Let them know on your subscription page and remind them again on your welcome email.

5. Reward people for reading. Similar to the point above, you want people to benefit from reading your emails. This is critical if you want them coming back for more next time they see your name in their inbox. The obvious type of reward is monetary but there are other types as well. For example, you could share a useful tip and teach people something they didn’t already know. Or you could give away a free e-guide and inspire them with interesting stories.

6. Use a recognisable and consistent name in your from address. As I mentioned earlier, if people don’t recognise your name in their inbox then they’re not very likely to open your email. So pick either your actual name or your company name (whichever people know you for best) and then use this consistently as your from name. Don’t make the mistake of randomly changing your from name between emails as this will undo any of the goodwill earned using the tips above.

How to get your emails opened

Let’s quickly revisit my earlier question about your inbox. Suppose you have two unread emails in your inbox. Both are from people that you recognise and trust equally. Where do you look to decide which one you’re going to open first?

The subject line.

A good email subject line grabs the reader’s attention and entices them to open up the email in order to find out more.

Let’s explore a handful of tips for writing effective email subject lines.

7. Focus on the benefits. Remember your subscribers are only interested in what’s in it for them. They don’t care so much about your ‘July Newsletter’. But they probably do care about the ‘Free tickets + Discounted Widgets’ which they can learn more about if they open your email.

8. Be specific. Further to the point above, it helps to narrow things down to the specific benefits your email has to offer. A stronger and more specific version of the example used above would be ‘Free tickets + 50% off Widgets’

9. Create a sense of urgency. Few things prompt people to act more than a deadline. So if your email contains an offer that is available only for a limited time be sure to mention this in your subject line. So an even stronger version of our example would be ‘Free tickets + 50% off Widgets until 31st July’.

10. Use power words. These are words that grab people’s attention and evoke emotion. Think of words like ‘awesome’ and ‘devastating’. For inspiration and to learn more on the use of power words check out this devastatingly awesome blog post over at Boost Blog Traffic. (See what I did there?)

11. Look to others for inspiration. There is no shame in looking to your peers for help. In fact they’re an excellent resource for inspiration and helpful tips. So take a moment to subscribe to some top performing brands. It won’t hurt to subscribe to some of your competitors whilst you’re at it. Next time you’re stuck with your email subject line and can’t seem to get it just quite right, go to your inbox and see how others have approached the subject line in emails similar to yours.

12. Test and measure. There is no guarantee that what works today will work tomorrow. So experiment and try different things with your subject line. Just be sure to measure the results of your tests (on opens, clicks and conversions) so that you can optimise future emails and learn what works for your audience.

13. Focus on what works for you and ignore the rest. Email subject lines are complex beasts and there are mixed opinions on things like the optimal subject line length and whether or not using the word ‘free’ is a good idea. But the truth is there are no hard and fast rules here. The only true ‘best practice’ is to find what works for you and your readers.

14. Be smart in writing your pre-header. The pre-header is the very top bit of text in your email and some of the more popular email clients like Gmail and Outlook will display it alongside your email subject line. Lots of marketing emails use the pre-header to say things like ‘View online’ but this is a missed opportunity. To encourage more people to open your email, use the pre-header as an extension of your subject line or to reinforce the benefits of opening it up.

How to get your emails read and your links clicked

So you’ve got people to open your emails. Well done! But your job isn’t over just yet.

Readers can still lose interest and move on to something else, undoing all of your hard work in less than a second. And you don’t want that.

Instead you want them reading your email and clicking your links to find out more.

Here’s some tips to help you create engaging emails that entice readers to click.

15. Keep it simple. Respect your reader’s time and get to the point. Don’t complicate your email with long-winded sentences and try to stick with one key message per email.

16. Be clear in what you want readers to do. Would you like them to register for an event, purchase a product, read an article, enter a competition or claim an offer? Be specific and don’t be afraid to ask for the click in order to make it super obvious to readers what it is that you want them to do.

17. Use a mix of text and images for your links. Buttons, arrows and other clickable images are great at prompting readers to click. However a lot of your readers are probably scanning your email with the images turned off (which is the default setting in many email clients). So it’s important that you include text links in your email as well as images in order to make it as easy as possible for readers to click through for more.

18. Make the most of the P.S. There is something about a P.S that just grabs people’s attention. Whether the reader has read all the way to the bottom of your email or quickly scrolled their way through, the P.S is a great place to remind them why they should click and pursue your desired course of action.

19. Use your imagination. It’s not enough to just show people your call to action. You need to make them want to do it. Use your creativity to write compelling copy and use interesting visuals that entice people to click your button or link.

20. Gain insight from your reports. By referring to Click Maps and other link tracking reports you’ll quickly gain insight into what makes your readers click. Learn from your experience and optimise your emails based on what has worked in the past.

So these are some of the most important things I’ve learnt about what it takes to write emails that get opened, read, and clicked. They’ve worked for me and hopefully they’ll work for you too.

Have I missed anything? Let me know and share your thoughts in the comments section below.