How to Write an Email That Gets Opened [Downloadable Template]

Pop quiz: Would you rather open a cheerful email from a good friend (with her grandma’s famous chili recipe), or a generic sales email from a giant health food company?

It’s kind of a no brainer. Who doesn’t love a good family recipe?

In today’s post, we’re going to dive into the psychology behind that choice and give you seven easy, actionable tips for writing emails that your audience looks forward to receiving.

First of all, forget about your email list. (You might have to read that sentence twice.) Yes, it sounds counterintuitive to suggest that you ignore the idea of an email list — we are in marketing after all — but that’s what you need to do.

Your emails can’t feel corporate if you want them to be trustworthy. Instead of writing to a whole group of subscribers (even though that IS what you're doing), pretend you’re talking to one friend. Be conversational, helpful, and even a little funny if your brand permits.

Here at Moxie, we believe there are seven key elements of an open-worthy email. We’ll explain each one below, and as much as we love visitors to our blog, you shouldn’t have to keep coming back to this page for reference.

Our gift to you: A FREE email checklist. Simply scroll to the bottom of the post and give it a download. Before you hit send on your emails, check off each box for an open-worthy email every single time.

But first, let’s dive into the good stuff, shall we?

Seven Elements of an Open-worthy Email

1. A great subject line.

Obviously the content of an email is important, but your customers can’t read all of your awesome copy if they don’t even open your email. These few words are even more crucial because 69% of email recipients mark emails as spam based on the subject line.

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect, one-size-fits-all subject line, but we do have a couple of tips: Keep it short, clear, and free of buzzwords. Best practices suggest keeping email subject lines less than nine words, or, 60 characters. Remember the chili recipe vs. the health food company? Consider these two subject lines:

  1. Passing along grandma’s famous chili recipe

  2. Julie, We’re Raising Our Spoons to Good Health and Wealth in 2021

The first subject line is casual, straightforward, and promises a recipe to the recipient. Honestly, who knows what the second one promises. It sounds kind of catchy, but it also feels like a whole lot like a promotion. Remember, people are scanning their inboxes with mental filters in place. They don't want to have to decode your subject line.

Consider writing with more casual capitalization and straightforward language. Those tend to stand out amid an inbox cluttered with corporate catchphrases. Although first name personalization is touted as a great email marketing tactic, so many companies do so that it no longer feels special. Not to mention, would your friend really put your name in the subject line? No.

Remember, a lot of successful email marketing relies on trial and error. What’s wildly successful for one company might flop for another. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Just make sure you have measurement tools in place so that you can see what works and what doesn't!

One of the easiest ways to gauge your audience is through A/B testing, a method of brainstorming two different subject lines and sending both out to see which one receives the most opens. Reputable email marketing platforms like ConvertKit or MailChimp have this capability. The more you run A/B tests, you begin to recognize words or phrases that your audience is more receptive to. Then, you can use this intel to confidently craft subject lines that connect with them!

2. Interesting preheader text.

Sometimes, we spend so much time on the right subject line that we forget about preheader text altogether. On both Gmail and the iPhone mail app, there’s a 50-word description that your audience sees in the preview pane; this is the first line of your email.

Since 84% of people 18-34 use an email preview pane, it’s a crucial part of the decision to open your email. As you write your copy, try to make the first line of your message intriguing, like a tagline. Consider beginning with a question or an interesting hook to pique your reader’s curiosity. They’ll open your email to learn more.

3. Benefit for your audience.

Think about the emails you hate receiving. Make a pact with yourself: Don’t send those same emails to your audience. Before you press send, think about what your audience gets from your email. Try to give them some sort of gift — even a small one.

Make sure you’re offering something to your readers and only send out emails with useful, helpful information that solves their pain points. If your emails are just a waste of time, eventually they’ll remain unopened and have a much higher likelihood of being reported as spam. (Hint: If you’d like to see if your emails trigger spam filters, check out Litmus and Email Spam Test.)

4. A friendly tone.

Use your emails to empathize with your readers. Be authentic. Understand their struggles and provide solutions. Treat your target audience like you would a friend. Don't just ask them to purchase products, send along helpful tips, tricks, and information. Become the brand that they know, like, and trust. As you create relationships with your customers, you build brand equity — that’s much more valuable than just a high open rate. Customers engage with companies they trust.

5. Mobile-friendly design.

In a world dominated by connectivity, 46% of all email opens occur on mobile devices. That means testing across devices is absolutely essential.

Your email might look fantastic on desktop, but before you hit send, make sure it has an equally friendly design across mobile devices. Keep in mind that your preheader text and subject lines might be cut off on mobile view — make sure that they’re still punchy at that length, and if not, try to rewrite them so that they work on both versions. Most popular email platforms (we'll drop ConvertKit and MailChimp again) have an easy toggle feature to test between different screen sizes.

6. Copy that’s short and sweet.

Nobody wants to read giant paragraphs of text. Break up your emails in digestible sentences with video, photos, or GIFs to help spice things up. If you have the means, consider designing a nice template for your emails to establish branding and make them more attractive.

Before you go crazy though, make sure that the images and videos are optimized so that they don’t slow down load time!

7. A clear call to action.

Finally, make sure that you have an exciting CTA — this brings in the clicks.

Do you want your readers to download a guide? Open an article? Purchase a product? Share something on their social profiles? Make the action clear (if you aren't even sure what your audience should do with your email, then they definitely don't know), and consider placing it twice in your email — once at the top and once at the bottom — that way even the skimmers see the CTA.

Well, there you have it, seven steps to an open-worthy email.

As we promised, we have a free, downloadable checklist for your reference:

Anatomy of an Open-worthy Email
Download PDF • 89KB

And as always, if you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to reach out.