How to Write Effective Emails that People Will Actually Read

February 7, 2017


Email is one of the noisiest places on the web. When people willingly sharing their email address with their favorite businesses, businesses often wind up falling short in what they deliver. Which, in turn, makes people no longer want to read their emails; they are soon relegated to the deleted file, or even worse, they wind up in SPAM.

The good news is there is that the art of writing effective email can be mastered. The simple tips below should help start you off on the right track.

Effective Email Practice 1: Know Your Why

Why are you sending that particular email, of that particular “type”, to that particular audience?

  • Are you writing a sales email to pitch a new product or service?
  • Are you writing an information-rich newsletter, building a relationship with your audience?
  • Are you writing something that’s a bit of a hybrid of the two?

If you don’t know your why, you certainly can’t write an email that holds value for your reader. And delivering value is essential in building a relationship, especially through something like email that can feel so “impersonal” for many.

Related: 3 Tips for Growing Your Business With Email Marketing

Effective Email Practice 2: Remember Your Subject Line is a Headline

Your subject line is crucial. It’s what initially captures the attention and interest of the email recipient and it helps them decide whether to click to open that email. So if it’s not intriguing, it will no doubt wind up in the virtual trash bin.

However, the even more crucial aspect of any good subject or headline is that your email content live up to the expectation that your subject line creates. There’s nothing worse than following a captivating headline into an email that falls flat in the content or value department.

Even worse are the headlines that trick you into opening them, but then offer nothing but a hard sales pitch, screaming “buy me now!”

Effective Email Practice 3: Be Brief – People are Busy

Just as you appreciate a short but succinct email that “hits the spot” so to speak… so do your readers. While a longer email is not always a bad thing, it really boils down to knowing your audience well.

However, as a general rule, busy people are busy people, and most don’t have time to read a massively long email, even if they want to. The best case scenario is that they save your email to “read later” and then never really get around to doing it.

A message that no one reads is a message that has zero chance of achieving its goal.

Related: 5 Things to Do When Starting an Email Marketing Program

Effective Email Practice 4: Avoid Tangents & Stick to Your Point

An effective email will stick to one point and have one focus. Running off on tangents or focusing on too many things at once simply confuses your reader, stresses them out, and turns them off.

Instead, focus your message around one key offer, or one key idea, and lead with the most important and impactful information first. Minor details can be filled in later in the message.

Another great strategy that seems to work well for Chris Brogan is to let your reader know right off the bat if your email is a pitch or if it is just sharing information. Then invite them to continue reading, or not, and leave the ball in their court.

Those interested in hearing your offer will continue reading, those not interested will delete the email, and ultimately any response you get to your offer will be much more valuable.

Effective Email Practice 5: Consider What’s In It For Them

Every audience is different. It’s up to you to figure out what your audience views as “valuable”. When you do, deliver it.

You might even need to ask them what they want from you. That’s OK, too. It means you’re opening up the lines of communication and making your readers aware that you are a person on the other side of that email, and their feedback is important to you.

Whatever you have to do to get the information, figure out what your readers prize most from you, and then deliver that to them consistently, respectfully, and in a way that resonates the most with them. That’s what will encourage people to open your emails week after week.

Effective Email Practice 6: Be Genuine

Someone who allows you access to their email is basically inviting you into a part of their lives. So when you’re genuine and honest in your communications to your readers, you build trust. People like people they trust. People do business with people they trust. People refer people they trust. It’s really that simple.

Related: Find Your Brand Voice: Avoid These Common Copywriting Mistakes

Why would you jeopardize the possibilities of your email marketing efforts being anything less than genuine?

Following these simple steps when crafting your next round of business emails will ensure your message is actually read by your audience. With engaged readers on the other end, your inbox should be buzzing with replies in no time.

This is an archived post from the FreshBooks Blog and was originally published in May 28, 2013.


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FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.