How to Write Emails That Get Opened

May 20, 2019

The world of email marketing has never been more competitive – and inboxes have never been more cluttered. It’s getting harder to just get emails opened, never mind clicked.

Donors won’t take any action if they don’t open the email! So today, I’m going to talk you through 4 key elements of email marketing that you can use to increase open rates and in turn, lift every other email-related metric!

What is an EMAIL open rate?

Before we start making changes, let’s first start with a benchmark. This gives you a starting point to measure from, so that you know if your tweaks are making a difference.

We calculate the open rate as follows: total emails opened ÷ total emails sent. Multiply that number by 100, and you’ve got the percentage of people who opened the email.

M+R’s benchmark for open rates is 14%, which is fairly stable year-over-year. So, be sure to measure your results against the sector, but most importantly, measure it against yourself. Compare your results with your past email campaigns.

The anatomy of the inbox

Yes, email is more competitive than ever – but you also have way more tools at your disposal! Your open rate is impacted by so much more than just a subject line. In fact, no matter what program or software you are using, you can always change these 4 elements to create an amazing donor experience.

  1. From name
  2. Subject line
  3. Preview text
  4. Preheader text

Optimize your From Name

Your From Name – that is, the name of the person or organization the email appears to come from – is the first thing people see. In English, we read left to right. On a desktop, the From Name is the farthest left element, and on mobile, it’s at the top. So, this is your first opportunity to optimize!

Use your From Name to create instant recognition and a sense of personality. We always suggest using a person’s name AND your organization’s name for exactly that reason! Using a human name will make the email feel like the communication was actually sent from a person, while the org name immediately resonates.

Get the most from your Subject Line

The subject line is where you want to create a hook. This is a chance to spark curiosity and tease a little bit of the content a reader will find inside.

Your subject line is an opportunity to start to create and manage expectations. Human beings like predictability – it’s hardwired into our brains to avoid danger and risk – so we like it when what we get is the same as what we expected. Your subject line sets the tone for your entire email, so keep that in mind when you craft it!

This is also a great opportunity to bring in some personalization. Our eyes will instinctually go to our own names if we see them, so it’s a handy trick to make your email pop in a jam-packed inbox!

Amp it up with preview text

Preview text wasn’t something we could control until the past couple of years, so I often see charities miss it. If you’re reading left to right, this will immediately follow the subject line. If you don’t manually fill this in, most email clients (like Gmail or Outlook) will just start pulling in email copy – meaning it’s a completely missed opportunity!

This can be a great time to bring it back to mission and cause. While your subject line hooked attention, you can use preview text to weave in the emotional connection, speaking to the cause that your reader supports through your organization.

Update your preheader text

Preheader text doesn’t always appear in the inbox, but it will depend on the client. This is the very first thing to appear in the body of an email – and for so many charities, it reads “View this email in a browser”. Not exactly how you want to spend some of your most prime email real estate, right?

So, when you’re updating the body content of your email, take a minute to update the pre-header too. Whether you take the chance to include some gratitude, feature a relevant hashtag, or mention a timely event, this is another element that you can customize to really make an email jump in the inbox.

Bring it all together

When you craft each of these elements, consider how they work alone – and, how they work together. They should all flow cohesively, without repetition or fragmentation. But at the same time, they should stand alone. If your preview text doesn’t render, your subject line should still make sense!

I hope this is a helpful walk-through of one of the most key parts of creating an email. If you have questions or want to talk more about it, leave a comment below!

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Charlotte Field

Charlotte Field

Fundraiser. Digital native. Word wiz. Tea drinker. Pun maker. Kitten cuddler. Pronounces GIF with a hard 'g'.