6 Tips for Writing Effective Emails

6 Tips for Writing Effective Emails

26 March, 2020

Emails There is an art to sending emails. The first step to creating said art is following the three basic golden rules, which are: don’t spam, be a friend and automate your emails.


If you’re going to start implementing email marketing as part of your marketing mix, you probably also want to know all of the ins and outs about making emails – unfortunately, they don’t just magically appear no matter how hard you stare at your computer screen. Let’s just say I know from experience.

Here, I’ll cover techniques and guidelines — six to be exact — for crafting better emails.

  1. Make sure your emails are hitting the right inbox.
  2. Give a clear reason for opening your email.
  3. Send the email from someone they know.
  4. Greet your audience by name.
  5. Make sure your emails are free of errors and pretty (but not too pretty!).
  6. Track your results.

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The Tips

Okay, after that long-winded intro, let’s get to it and talk about the six things that make a successful email.

1. Make sure your emails are hitting actual inboxes.

If you use Gmail, then you know that it automatically sorts emails into tabs, which creates a roadblock for email marketers. That means that when your messages come in, they are divided into category tabs. You can define what categories you want them to be in – there’s Primary, Social, Promotions and Updates by default. If you’re not careful, your email marketing messages are going to show up in Promotions.

That sucks, because when I’m asking people for donations to CoMoGives that have to be done within a one month period, I need them to be in Primary so the recipients actually SEE the emails. This is especially true if I’m asking them over the holidays when marketers are spamming the crap out of them with tons of crazy offerings.

The good news is you can avoid the auto-sorting inbox and spam filters by being normal. Straight up. Be normal. And follow steps three through five.

2. Give a clear reason for opening your email.

Make sure the reason for your email is clear and relevant. People have to open the email to read it, and that means that you have to establish the need to open said email.

That’s where your subject line comes in. You see people creating urgency with phrases like “don’t miss” and “last chance” in their subject lines. Pay attention to what makes you want to open an email and try to emulate that.

There are also things that you don’t want to do in the subject line of your email like:

  • Multiple exclamation points!!!!!!!!

For a while, including emojis in email subject lines was a big question mark, but there are supportive studies showing they aren’t bad to include. Just don’t overdo it. 😉

3. Send the email from someone they know.

Are you more likely to answer the phone from an unknown caller or someone you really know?

Gmail weighs several factors to judge whether your email deserves a reply. It mainly looks at the frequency of previous interactions between a sender and a recipient. When applicable, it also reminds people when they haven’t replied yet.

The two reasons why it’s important to send emails from someone your audience knows are:

  1. Your audience prefers it, and they’re more likely to open the email.
  2. You are more likely to get it into the Primary inbox if it is from someone they’ve had frequent conversations with before.

For example: If your salesperson is the one usually talking to your customers, you would send your sales emails from that salesperson’s email address and not a general inbox (like info@domain.com or sales@domain.com).

4. Greet your audience by name.

Many email marketing programs can include a recipient’s first name into your emails – you can put it in the subject line and body of the email.

You can make this easy on yourself by organizing your email addresses into a spreadsheet using three columns:

  1. One column for first name
  2. One column for last name
  3. And one column for email address

Then when you go to import them into your email marketing platform, you can use a merge field in your email subject and body to pull in your recipients’ first names.

Storytime – Why Using Names is so Effective

One year we had a tailgate, and it was fun (as most tailgates are). We had smoked meats – compliments of my awesome meat-making husband – and invited all of our clients. I sent multiple emails (three to be exact). The first two, nobody looked at.

Nobody? For realz? Yes, for realz. I know because I care about the data tracking of things.

We used Emma to send the emails, and with Emma, you can see who opens them. I could see all the people that I sent it to and all the people who opened it, or in this case, didn’t open it. As a last ditch effort, I sent a third email to get people to come to my event. I said, “Hey, Katie, we’re having a tailgate. Do you want to come?” and guess what — people opened the email.

So I’m here to tell you that when you do it, it actually does work. Use. People’s. Names.

5. Make sure your emails are free of errors and pretty (but not too pretty).

Maybe I should say, make them not ugly.

Here’s why…

When you choose a pretty template in an email marketing platform, that email is built through HTML. Heavy HTML in an email is an indicator to Google that it’s a promotional email and should be put in the Promotions tab. Which makes sense. When was the last time you emailed somebody in normal correspondence, and you put everything in tables, added a gigantic teal background, reversed out the text in white letters, and included buttons and photos? Yup. Never.

Here’s a few more tips to keep your emails out of the Promotions tab and get people to actually open them:

  • Feature some message characteristics that aren’t purely promotional.
  • Communicate clearly with people.
  • Keep your content short (bulleted lists – like this one! – are handy to keep everything concise).
  • Don’t use a bajillion links and images (this is also a signal to Google that you’re sending a promotional email).

Even if you have 5 links in your email going to the same page, Google still counts that as 5 links and can make your email seem overly promotional. That’s straight from the mouth of the horse – Google being the horse. So try to send your emails with just one link.

I also read an article about someone who took a simple, unstyled Mailchimp email and added all kinds of things. As soon as they added price, the email ended up in the Promotions tab.

There are testing tools out online, so definitely test this out.

One tool is litmus.com. They have a free trial for 30 days, and after that, it’s about $100 a month. You can you try it out for free, learn what you need to learn, and then move on from there.

Be friendly to mobile.

This tip for making sure your emails are pretty and free of errors gets its own section. Why? Mobile responsiveness for websites is hugely important to the Google gods, so you’ve got to make sure your email works on mobile, too. A lot of people open their emails on their phone, so this should be a required step.

Some emails tools (like MailChimp) have a feature where you can preview the email on tablet or mobile.

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6. Track ‘em!

At-a-Glance Snapshot of MailChimp Tracking Report

I knew my tailgate emails didn’t work because I tracked them. The reason we knew our CoMoGives emails worked is because we had tracking on both the emails and the website.

You can’t win at marketing if you’re not tracking because you won’t know what to improve or remove.