1361 words|5.3 min read|

Remember the old story about how most mail gets opened over the waste bin? Anything that looks like junk mail goes straight out with the rest of the rubbish, unopened and unseen.

Nowadays, it’s mainly electronic mail we’re processing. And you can bet that as soon as your email goes out to your subscribers, you have only a few seconds to make sure that they don’t hit “Delete.”

Worse, your message may simply languish untouched and unread, buried in their inbox under a tidal wave of electronic flotsam. A bit like a valuable message in a bottle that made it all the way to the mainland, only to wash up on a beach already marred by thousands of discarded bottles.

Depressing, isn’t it?

After all, you spent so long crafting the message, making it look nice, making your company’s latest product sound like the best thing since someone at Apple said “I wonder what would happen if we tried to build a better mobile phone than every other one on the planet?”

What if I told you there are some simple ways you can double (or more) your email marketing open rates, just by using some already-proven techniques to make your message beg to be opened?

Don’t believe me? (Did your eyebrows just shoot up suspiciously there?!)

Look, this stuff works. Right now. In 2015. It’s not the same old reheated tips you’ve heard a million times before. This is what happens when you apply the techniques I’m about to show you here:


Did you see that? Open rates shot from less than 20% to over 50%! Pretty cool, eh?

So, are you ready to learn? This is going to be fun. You’ll love it, I promise.

Draw up a chair, let’s get started.

Email Marketing Truth #1: Curiosity Beats Everything.

Stay with me here. I’m not talking about lame subject line attempts everyone else try to get people curious, (you know, like “Open this now to see our latest special offer….”)

No, this is how to arise curiosity so powerful that the recipient has to open the email, because your subject line is like a scratch that demands to be itched, right now.

This takes some effort, because whatever you do, you have to make sure it ties in with your message once it is opened and read. Otherwise you’re just going to look like the 21st century equivalent of the boy that cried “wolf” – and your subscribers will abandon you in droves.shutterstock_280611122

We all know the magic marketing formula is AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. But we often forget that if we don’t manage to get the attention in the first place, we’ve lost already. No point worrying about all those other good things if you don’t grab attention first of all. This is why the subject line needs as much time and thought as the entire remainder of the message.

You have to stand out in the inbox of your prospect. You have to be so different from everyone else that your email will prompt an involuntary exclamation to slip out of his or her lips.

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Here’s a selection of ways you can do this with your subject lines:

Option A: The Outright Bizarre

Good examples:

  • “Freddie Starr ate my hamster”
  • “Boy finds new way to shave his brain every day”
  • “The disgusting personal habit that helps me be more creative”

Why it works: these emails demand to be opened. They are strange enough to get the attention of almost anyone with a pulse and an internet connection. The biggest challenge is not so much coming up with a headline like this, it is the skilfully weaving it into your message that takes time and practice. Well worth the effort, though.

Option B: The Personal Shock

Good examples:

  • “I’m leaving. But don’t worry, the company is in good hands.”
  • “I’m sorry, but we don’t need you any longer.”
  • “This could be the last email I ever send”

Why it works: these emails go beyond the professional relationship you have with your subscribers and into the personal realm. Again, the skill is in creating a compelling message that doesn’t leave the recipient feeling short-changed after such a dramatic headline. One thing is for sure: your open rates will demonstrate the power of a subject heading like this.

Option C: The News-Linked Subject Line

Good examples:

  • “Why now is the perfect time to consider relocating to Roseburg, OR”
  • “The almost completely unknown Presidential candidate who could romp to victory in 2016”
  • “Three things about the refugee crisis that no one is talking about”

Why it works: we humans are hard-wired to pay more attention to things that we already have some awareness of. You can take advantage of that fact by taking a local, national, or international news story that is likely to be high in the consciousness of your audience and placing it right in the subject line.

We have found ways of using these kind of subject lines that have pulled incredible results, even for re-sends of emails that had previously been sent out but had suffered from open rates.

You can also plan some of these ahead of time – sports events, national holidays, elections, movie releases, commemorations – all of these present you with opportunities to boost your open rate if used carefully. Leverage the power of the media for your own emails!

Option D: The Subject Line that Challenges Conventional Wisdom

Good examples:

  • “Why standing at work could be no better for your health than sitting”
  • “Why you should eat MORE carbohydrates”
  • “Playing violent video games REDUCES real acts of violence: new report”

These type of emails tend to get opened by far more of your subscribers, because they challenge the mountain of popular opinion. They cause your reader to raise his or her eyebrows and peer at the screen of their phone or their computer to make sure they read it right.

All of these curiosity-generating subject lines cause the sought-after “pattern interrupt” with your subject: they break the mold of the “normal” emails that they receive day in, day out.

Because they stand out, they get attention. As a result, they’re far more likely to be opened and read.

Maybe you’re thinking there’s no way you could use any of these examples in your business. Maybe you think your industry wouldn’t tolerate it. Perhaps you feel like your clients and prospects are too easily shocked or offended.

I understand your concerns. I don’t know the sort of people that your business has on the email marketing list. But I do know this:

Whether they’re lawyers, accountants, law enforcement professionals, medical professionals, veterinary surgeons, funeral directors….they’re all people – living, breathing, emotional, humans!

No matter how serious their profession, they have many of the same needs as us. They want to have a break from their routine and be entertained by something different for a few minutes. Your email could be just the welcome distraction they need.

You need to connect on a human level to get a great response from your readers. Don’t be afraid to be different. If you upset one person, you can be pretty sure that for that one person who took exception to your email, there are two or three others who are reading your email and nodding vigorously, agreeing wit