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Email Marketing

How to Write Marketing Email Openers That Sell

While the subject line is important, so is his often forgotten cousin—the introductory paragraph.

As any experienced marketer will tell you, each line of copy has ONE goal: To get the reader to read the next. That's it. Easier said than done, right?

While this goal is undoubtedly pertinent to every piece of communication you produce, it is vital when it comes to marketing email openers. That's because inboxes are becoming increasingly crowded places. If you don't catch someone's interest within the first 3 to 5 seconds, you've been deleted (or worse, marked as spam).

3 Tips for Writing Email Intros that Sell

If you've ever done a quick search for "email templates" online, you know there are no shortage available. Many marketers even charge for them, so you can just fill in the blanks according to your business. While you could very easily use such resources, we think it's much more helpful to understand the thought process behind creating exceptional emails.

That way, you're less reliant on others and more able to craft emails in your unique brand voice. In this article, we'll review some professional tips for creating email openers that convert.

Tip 1: Write For One Person

When writing an email for broadcast, it's best to think of it as from you to one other person. You may be writing to 5 or 5,000, but it should feel like you're communicating with one. A large part of that is understanding your Buyer Persona. (Note: If you have several different personas, that's where list segmenting comes in.)

So, who are you writing for beyond the demographics? Don't get us wrong, knowing things like gender, location, and job title is great, but it's more important to understand the psychographics of your buyer. What sort of language do they use to describe their problems? What sorts of blogs, magazines, and media do they consume? What's their general view on life?

If you've done your research—through digital surveys, forum participation, and 1-to-1 conversations—you will have a clear picture of this person. Sit down and write to them in the first person.

Tip 2: Write a Good Lead

Your lead is the beginning hook that compels someone to keep reading. If you think back to your grade school writing experiences, you may recall being told to start your papers with, "Today I'm going to tell you about..." While that level of specificity isn't wrong (it's actually quite desirable), it's not a lead. For something to qualify as a lead, it needs to either a). Invoke curiosity or b). Entertain. Though that may seem a tall order, there are actually several tricks for achieving your goal.

1. Use Short Sentences

People like short sentences. Mark Twain knew this, and it's why he said the following:

“I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words, and brief sentences. That is the way to write English—it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them—then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart."

(On a side note: We suspect Twain would have great fun with Twitter!) So, try beginning your lead with a four or five-word sentence. Here are some examples:

Hey <name>,

I've been thinking..

You'll never believe what happened.

I love candles.

Not only does the ample white space naturally draw the eye, the unfinished statements induce curiosity that encourages continued reading. Remember, the goal is to get to the next line.

2. Use Questions

Perhaps, nothing invokes curiosity better than a well-formed question. In the right circumstances, a question can be a powerful way to break the ice. Begin with an interesting question before tying it into your overall story or reason for writing. Here are some examples:

Hey <name>,

Have you seen the new DiCaprio movie?

Have you ever been so frustrated with something you could just scream?

What have you done to prepare for retirement?

3. Use Facts

People LOVE statistics. What? Seven out of 10 dentists recommend Trident?

Well then, I must try it...

If applicable, begin your lead with a relevant industry quote, stat, or fact. Be sure to cite, but not link to your sources (remember, you want people to clickthrough to your page, not someone else's). Here are some examples:

Hey <name>

The average household spends $500 per year on their water and sewer bill. The EPA estimates families could save $170 per year—just by installing water-efficient fixtures and appliances.

If you spend $100 at a local business, roughly $68 stays in your local economy. That's compared to only $43 if spent at a national business, according to the Civics Economic Study in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

When recently surveyed, only 14 percent of businesses deemed their content marketing strategies 'very effective.' According to Forrester Research, most businesses are struggling to achieve results, despite increasingly shifting budgets away from traditional advertising campaigns.

Tip 3: Tell a Good Story

No matter what lead you use, make sure to focus on storytelling. Whether you're telling someone else's story (i.e. an anonymous company referenced in a stat, a recent prospect you had coffee with, or a fictions character ) or your own, people like illustrative examples. Here are the key elements to good storytelling:

  • Brevity: Again, avoid extraneous details that aren't absolutely necessary to get your point across.
  • Details: Was the woman holding a brown bag, a red one, or a black one?
  • Organization: Have a beginning, middle, and an end—know where you're going.
  • Personalization: Tie in happenings from your own life to the message you want to convey.

As you can see, writing a compelling email intro is simply a matter of talking like a real person,understanding your audience, and ruthlessly cutting out unnecessary words. Practice using the above tips in your marketing copy and let us know how it goes.

Free Ebook: Climbing the Inbound Marketing Mountain

Written by Ashley Gwilliam / June 16, 2016

Ashley is a content writer and brand developer. After graduating with a degree in print-journalism, Ashley’s storytelling skills took her from the bizarre world of on-camera acting to the practice courts of NBA basketball players to the virtual meetings of inbound marketers. Today she specializes in building memorable brand voices online, with a focus on the travel & tourism, e-commerce and tech industries.

Articles by Ashley Gwilliam