How to write newsletters that get opened…

Reaching the Big O can be tricky. It involves a lot of trial and error, there are a bunch of factors at play, and sometimes it feels out of your control.

Yep, it sure can be tough getting your newsletters opened. (Wait, what did you think I meant?!)

More than 144.8 billion emails are sent every day, and this number is fast on the rise (Source: The Radicati Group). That’s a whole lotta mail, all competing for your readers’ attention and taking up their valuable time. So how on earth do you get noticed in amongst all that noise?

Although there are a heap of different aspects to consider, the simplest, most effective way to ensure you get the Big O is to focus on your email subject line. In fact, 64% of people say they open an email because of the subject line alone (Source: Chadwick Martin Bailey). It’s the single most important thing that will determine whether someone with an already clogged inbox will click on through and read what you’ve sent.

And the good news is, this is something you can easily tweak to your advantage.


The aim of the subject line: Your subject line needs to be both interesting and captivating. Intriguing enough that readers want to know more, but informative enough that they know what they’re getting. In industry speak, it’s your ‘teaser’ – a provocative and enticing glimpse of the juicy goodness that lies within. So if you want to super-charge your email campaigns in the simplest way possible, if you want sky-high open rates and a truly engaged readership, if you want to spread your amazing message far and wide, here are the tricks of the trade when it comes to crafting a killer subject line.

1. Promise to fix the reader’s problem.

We all want a simpler, easier life; we’re all craving that magic bullet that will solve our troubles. If you offer to fix a problem your readers have they’ll be eager to find out more.
Try something like:

  • How to get clearer skin by next week
  • Get more done in less time (guaranteed)
  • Clutter free living made simple


2. Play on their pain points.

What’s keeping your people up at night? Tapping into those fears, worries and doubts will enable you to connect with them on a deeper level, and will show them that you truly understand. Think:

  • Procrastinators need not apply!
  • Are your children really safe?
  • Would your health insurance cover you for this?


3. Use numbers + lists!

Ever noticed how magazine covers are plastered with numbers? Check it out next time you’re waiting in line at the grocery store. Our minds love numbers and latch on to them, a fact which magazine editors use to their advantage. We’re also suckers for lists. They help us categorize, digest and recall information. Putting these two tricks into action makes for a super tantalizing headline:

  • 11 things successful people do every day
  • 7 ways to get more energy
  • 5 things you’ll want to put on your bucket list


3. Ask them if they’re making a mistake!

No one likes to think they’re doing something wrong. And no one likes feeling left out or left behind. Headlines that hone in on potential mistakes or approaching deadlines can be really effective calls to action:

  • Are you making this big nutrition mistake?
  • Are you eating this one food that makes you gain weight?
  • Don’t miss out on the early bird special!


5. Teach them how

The drive to learn how to do things is a strong one. We all want to better ourselves and learn insider tricks. Your readers will be drawn in by the promise of your awesome insight and expertise:

  • How to clean your house with zero chemicals
  • How to be WAY more productive, every damn day
  • How to train for a marathon (even if you’ve never run more than 5k)


Taking it to the next level…

Now you know the basics. And the great thing about the art of crafting killer subject lines is that not only are they super effective, it’s also easy to become a master.

The best way to hone your skills is to take note of what YOU open. What grabs your attention? Start paying attention to the headlines that really pique your interest. The real gold can often be found in your junk folder – what makes you actually click open a potentially spam email to see if it’s relevant to you?

A great idea is to start a ‘swipe file’ in your email account. Create a folder where you can squirrel away any emails with subject lines that catch your eye as being effective or intriguing. Not just from your niche industry, but from anywhere. You can then flick through this collection of goodness whenever you need a spark of inspiration or a nugget of gold to build on.

Of course, your newsletter headline is only the first step to engaging your readership. You need to follow up on this bite-sized preview of brilliance with truly valuable content on the inside. But focusing on getting this one aspect of your newsletter working for you will serve as a truly potent weapon in your arsenal of online awesomery.

So give the Big O a go and see the difference for yourself!


Jessica Larsen is a writer, editor and creative consultant at Hello Wordsmith. As a creative industries expert and full-blown word-nerd, Jessica helps amazing, creative women tell their stories online. She is an ardent defender of the Oxford comma, a passionate militant against gratuitous quotation marks, and a firm believer in the healing power of cupcakes. You can connect with Jessica at her website or on Facebook .


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