When it comes to email marketing, no false idol is worshipped as much as the cult of the open rate.
This cult is everywhere.
From social media guru’s rattling their open rate sabres… to HuffPo infographics… to ESP companies who really should know better.
Because talking about open rates is like talking about weight.
There are healthy ranges and unhealthy ranges… but it differs so much between person to person that comparisons just aren’t helpful.
For some a 10% open rate could be “killing it”. While others wouldn’t be happy with anything below 50%.
These idolaters often talk about “gaming” the system to increase open rates. They do this by putting personalization (like your first name in the subject line) or adding an emoji or remailing your unopens.
All these ‘tactics’ may work at bumping up open rates depending on the list and offer.
But what will put far more sheckles in your coin purse is to focus on writing emails people want to open and read… creating offers people are interested in and want to buy… and positioning yourself as someone they look forward to hearing from.
No the above isn’t something you can do with a few clicks of the keyboard. It takes time and work. You have to understand your market and be able to problem solve.
You have to think outside the burrito and create products and services that solve pain points in wholly unique ways.
And you have to be good at what you do.
So that’s the tough news.
The not tough news is that I can help you write better subject lines. Below are some of my favorite subject line techniques:
1) Curiosity — If I had to rely on one copywriting technique forever, it would be curiosity. That’s because curiosity is such a powerful motivator. We’ll spend hours trawling the web to get an answer when we’re curious.
One way to inject curiosity is to use what I call the “90/10 Rule”. Basically, this is where you give away 90% of the answer, but leave the 10% that makes you go “huh…?”
An example the great Parris Lampropolous gave was a David Deutsch bullet. It said something like:
“Have eczema? Learn the saran wrap method on Pg 67.”
It makes you wonder: What does saran wrap have to do with eczema? I have saran wrap right here in my home? Can I use this method?
So remember, it’s not always what you write about. Sometimes it’s what you leave out.
2) Write Like Rutz — Jim Rutz was one of the best, most creative copywriters of all time. He mentored greats in the next generation of copywriters like John Carlton. He’s known for breaking all the rules and writing winning headlines like, “Read This Or Die…”
Another thing he was known for is subverting expectations. This means knowing what your market expects… then throwing that expectation on its face.
An example I have in my Rutz swipe file is an ad he took out trying to get a date (yes, he was a great copywriter, but not so great with the ladies). The headline of this ad read:
So he took the normal trope of “Damsel in distress” and turned it around to make it humorous and unique.
Another example is an email I wrote with the subject “The Planet of the Apps”.
You see, isn’t that fun?
3) Be Controversial — In a way, this last point uses the two techniques from above. Controversy is inherently curiosity-provoking and it naturally subverts expectations.
Like this article for example. I bet most articles you read by email copywriters talk about open rates as if they were the holy of holies. Hopefully, by subverting this expectation I’ve stood out from the crowd.
But the secret isn’t to do this as a technique. I’m not disagreeing with the industry norm just to disagree. It’s just something I fundamentally feel isn’t accurate. So I’m writing about it with the added benefit of it being ‘against the grain’.
Another thing being controversial does is position you as someone worth listening to. You basically become the canary in the coal mine. The only person speaking their mind while others repeat lukewarm drivel.
All of which makes people want to open your email. And also open the next one.
And if you write good emails regularly, the way I teach in my book, then some on your list will be so bonded to you that they’ll open all your emails… regardless of the subject line.
If you’d like to learn how to write better emails, you can download a free copy of my book. It comes with email and subject line templates you can use to begin making sales to your list as soon as tonight.
Get your free copy here: