Yesterday, I posted a real-life email that contained almost all of the errors that will get an email deleted rather than read. It ran the gamut from biz-blab to sales talk to awkward redundancy.

Because of that, that email probably got a perhaps a 5% open rate and probably less that .1% response rate.  If he sent out 10,000 emails, he got 500 opens and perhaps 10 responses.  Well, that's 10 customers, right?  Pretty good, right?

Not so fast. Because the email is vague and fluffy, the people who respond aren't very likely to be actual potential customers.  For example, a new business owner might want to know about "digital marketing" even though he lacks a marketing budget!

If that new business owner responds to the email and sets up a meeting, the salesperson will be wasting her time educating that customer when there's no possibility that the customer will buy.

Of course, there is some value to  relationship-building with somebody who might become a customer in the future, it's wasted time compared to speaking with a customer who's actually got a budget to spend, today.

What you want with email marketing is an email that not only gets opened and gets a high response rate but which also tends to screen out people who aren't really likely to buy.  With that in mind, here's a rewrite, followed by my explanation.

Rewritten Marketing Email

Subject: RE:[1] Yearly Revenues[2]


I can help you reduce marketing costs by tweaking your mix [4] of online vs. traditional marketing.[5]

I helped Acme, LexCorp and Stark [6] do this remix, resulting in an average revenue gain of 23%.[7]

Is this of interest to you?[8]


Why This Email Works Better

  1. The "RE:" will increase the open rate because it makes the email seem as if it's part of an ongoing discussion.  Note: this is a trick and therefore risks irritating the recipient so only use "RE:" if the contents of the email are rock solid.
  2. Numerous studies have proven that two word subject lines have the highest open rates.  I'm not crazy about the "Yearly Revenue" and would prefer something more specific to the individual recipient.  It will do for now, though.
  3. A first name without the "Dear" implies that we're already business contacts. It also makes the email look and feel as if it were sent internally, thereby increasing the open rate.
  4. Everything from "Subject" to this point will be shown in the inbox summary. I believe what we have here is intriguing enough to get a high open rate.
  5. The first sentence answers the first question that every customer asks, which is "What's in it for me?"  While "reducing marketing costs" is a bit vague in terms of a customer benefit, the original email didn't give me much to work with.  If I knew more about the service, I could have come up with something a bit more original. 
  6. Citing some existing customers tends to increase credibility and therefore the likelihood that the recipient will respond.
  7. Overall, the second sentence answers the second question every customer asks, which is "Why buy from you?" The addition of a statistic--especially one that looks like it's not a rough estimate--makes the answer more credible. I need hardly say that statement of this type need to be backed by actual evidence, because eventually the salesperson will be called upon to justify the number.
  8. Providing a single, clear call-to-action increases the likelihood of a response. In this case, a simple yes/no question puts the smallest possible hurdle to getting into a conversation with the customer.
  9. A simple signature without the fake sincerity continues to make the email feel as if it's coming from an insider rather than from somebody outside the company.  This increases the likelihood of a response.

Based on my experience, the email above would easily get a 25% open rate and a 10% response rate.  More important, the responses would likely be from people who actually have a marketing budget and thus might purchase the offering.

It's possible to get much higher response rates on emails that are specifically crafted for the individual recipient.  If you're interested in learning more about targeted emailing, I discuss the issue fairly frequently in my free weekly newsletter.