Friendly Advice on How to Get People to Read Your Emails

We use email to communicate almost everything.  What do you do though, if people don’t open your email?  Here is a story about just that!  I was recently talking with the executive director of a nonprofit who sent out an end-of-the-year email appeal to his best volunteers asking for help and including some exclusive sponsorship opportunities. He was flabbergasted that weeks later only a few had even opened the email. As we were talking I asked him a few more questions about the goal of the email and then asked him to send me the email so I could provide some suggestions.

A few days later, the email popped into my inbox and I took a look. Overall, the email wasn’t bad, but it didn’t convert to the desired action (opens and then donations) so there was a deeper issue.

There were a couple things to adjust and I suggested a few ideas to fix them.  Here is what I sent to him:

Below are suggestions that should help the email get opened and read (open rate).  Of course the next step is to get people to donate after reading it, but increasing the open rate is first.

There are some specific instructions below, but the best tip for this type of email is to write it, not to all of the volunteers, but to one volunteer. After the letter is written  go back and make sure it still works if you apply the language to all of them.

The reason for this is because while you are sending it to multiple people, it is a personal email to each individual.  So if it looks personal it will get opened and if it reads personal it will be read.

Adjustment #1 – From

1) From – Your email appeared in their inbox as from “ABC United Corp” – I’d suggest changing it to be from you, “Nathan Jones” since they know you well.  You can still send it from the MailChimp system, but updating this will change the “from name” field in their inbox.  They’ll recognize your name and open it as a personal email from you.  This the difference between me sending an email as “Gavin Baker” or “Baker Labs” – how it looks in their inbox is VERY important.

Adjustment #2 – Subject Line

2) Subject Line -Your subject line, “Support ABC United Corp” is good.  It’s short and to the point. But you want to make it more personalized; try “Can you help financially support the ABC United Corp?” My suggestion would be to write this subject like you would if you were only going to send it to your best volunteer.

It will come across as a personal  email and more personal = more opens.

Adjustment # 3 – Body Text

3) Body Text – the last change that I’d recommend is that the text of the email be long and very text heavy. I’m sure it will change some with the resend, but I’d reformat the text to keep it in small paragraphs.  When we are on the computer (email and the web) we don’t read, we scan.  So to compensate, it’s easier to get what you want communicated if the text is in small paragraphs.

Remember, what we are addressing is that we want more people to open the email, so then they see the need to donate and are more likely to do so.  The first two should help the email get opened more and the third should help with the number of people that donate.

He hasn’t resent the email yet, so I don’t have stats to share how these changed his results, but I’ll be sure to provide a follow up once I’ve got them!