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How to Write Content that Captures Your Readers’ Attention, Part 2: Email

This is part 2 in a series of posts about how to write content that people actually want to read and share. Part 1, which you can read here, focused on legal marketing article titles.

email subjectMarketers have been trying to invent new ways to get people's attention since the invention of the profession. This is particularly true online, where visitors' already short attention spans are even shorter. Email marketing is not new and shiny, but studies show that it is still one of the most effective direct marketing methods. SEO concerns are less relevant to your subject lines; your goal is to get people to open that email.

Writing click-worthy email titles

Similar rules apply to writing good email titles as do to writing good article headlines. People must be told up-front why they should bother to click on your email when they have so many others to occupy their time. And email titles must give people an extra incentive to continue reading since they have to work a little harder to get people to the meat of the article. Read your email titles. Ask yourself if they make you want to know what is inside. Do they look like all the other subject lines you see in your inbox? If they do, rewrite. Yours needs to stand out.

Email is an area in which traditional markteting-think ways of getting people's attention are no longer effective. Promotional emails by their very nature get fewer opens, so your titles must not appear overly salesy. Personalization is another example of this phenomenon. Marketers have long thought that adding custom fields so that emails contain the recipient's name will prompt them to take action. But studies have shown that this tactic has little to no effect on whether an email gets opened or read. Everyone is doing it, so it fades into the rest of the inbox background noise.

In order to make your email subject stand out, you must get straight to the point. Keep titles short and do not make over-the-top promises or threaten dramatic consequences. Email titles must be succinct. A good guide is to limit your titles to less than 50 characters.

The email marketing company Mailchimp performed a study of open rates to see if certain types of titles or certain words prompted more reads. The study found that the most abysmally performing emails contained three toxic words: Help, Percent off, and Reminder. It may seem to be common sense for an attorney to offer help with something in an email as a way to show a concrete benefit to the reader. But do not put it in the headline. Mailchimp found that many email titles that use those three words have less than a 1 percent open rate.

The study also found the following to be helpful:

  • Localization: mention of place and proximity to the recipient
  • Variety: using a consistent voice but varying topic and headline format
  • Clarity: telling recipients what to expect inside
  • Timeliness: providing information that is relevant to current events
  • Relevance: providing information with a personal connection to the recipient

The key is making your content and titles pertain to recipients in a way that goes beyond the standard marketing bravado or improbable promise. If you can establish yourself as a resource for good information, you can begin to build a base of loyal readers who are more likely to open and share your emails with others.