How to get recipients to open, read and respond to your HTML email newsletters

A wise man once said, “You never get a second chance at a first impression.”

I’ve always thought this old adage is particularly true in email marketing. Once your email reaches your recipient’s inbox that email needs to make a favorable impression – or risk being deleted into the great online oblivion.

When your subscribers decide whether to delete, read or respond to your email, they ask themselves:

1. What is the email about?

2. What’s in this for me?

3. What should I do now?

If the answers to these questions aren’t clear to them within seconds of opening your email, they delete and move on to the next item in their inbox. So, what is the best way to answer the questions in the space allotted?

Let’s apply some strategic thinking people.

The answer to all these questions should be clearly visible in your email. So keep it in mind while designing the email. By designing I don’t just mean the creative visual elements – I mean the layout, text and balance of text and images. Your readers’ eyes should be drawn straight to the point.

One of the first things subscribers see of your email is the subject line. Create strong, clear subject lines that are interesting or relevant to the recipient. Subject lines should be short and simple, convincing the subscriber to open the email. (You can read some more tips on how to write effective subject lines here.)

As well as seeing the subject line, they also see some kind of introduction to your email – be it in the form of a preheader or a preview pane. Like I said, one of the most important questions to answer is “What should I do now?” Be sure to have a clear call to action in your email and make this apparent from the preheader or visible in the preview pane, so that readers know what to expect even before opening. If nothing else your call to action should be clearly visible above the fold, so the reader can easily find the answer to their third question.

Often a call to action requires a click-through, like if you want subscribers to click through to a promotional landing page, or to an affiliate’s website, or to your site’s booking page or payment gate. Make sure that these click-through opportunities are clearly marked and that it’s clear to readers how they’ll benefit from clicking through, e.g “Click here for 50% discount on our new range of trainers!”

Believe it or not, simply ensuring that your email is clearly associated with your brand could be enough incentive for your subscribers to open, read and act on it. When your subscribers recognize your brand they may immediately know what your email is about. If you send out regular, consistently branded emails with quality relevant content (i.e. products that cater to their interest and needs and perhaps offering regular specials, promotions or valuable product information) the subscriber comes to trust that there is always something in the email for them. As an added plus, they’ll come to know that in order to get to that promotion or information, they have to click through to your site and will be more susceptible to your call to action.

Of course, all this can only be achieved if you make an effort to get to know your subscribers and what interests them. Having a good relationship with your audience makes all the difference.

Another very effective way to boost your open and response rates is to try sending emails on different days, at different times. See which gives you the best results and continue to send on those days or at those times. In fact, you can make use of our A/B split testing feature to also test variations on your subject line or design to see which yields the best results. Subscribers and the market place evolve continuously and through regular testing your email campaigns can evolve with them.

Basically, the key to a successful, efficient email marketing campaign lies within the answers to the three big questions. Your job is simply to make sure that the answers to the questions are easy and encouraging for readers to answer. Once you’ve given them the answers, they’re sure to give you the results you’ve been aiming for.

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