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Email Marketing: What Gets People To Open Emails

May 12, 2010

What’s the first thing people look at before deciding to click open an email?

It’s not the subject line… let me give you a hint –  it’s uncle Bob.

Uncle Bob gives you candy when you were a child, every you see him, he gives you stuff.

He may not be the smartest guy around the block but uncle Bob knows his stuff, he’s trustworthy.

Everyone of us has an uncle Bob… and we’ve got an uncle Jack.

Uncle Jack’s the smartest guy you know, ever since you knew him as a child, you hear him talking about his latest project and how much he’s making. He gave you candy too… but only when you wanted to play with him.

It seems all he ever wanted was to speak with your dad… you’re practically invisible around him.

Now, you’re all grown up and you’re working, making an income and making your mark in this world. One day, you receive a letter that says “I need your help” and you see it’s from uncle…

Uncle who?

Have you got the answer? It’s the “From” column in the email inbox. That’s the biggest determinant in getting a good open rate.

See, in most list building courses available online, they talk about building a huge list and making an income from there but quite often, they neglect the factor of making it worth the subscribers/customers time to be in the list.

I did an online check and I hardly found anything that supports my claims… but I’d be willing to bet I’m right.

Most of the online stuff I found are about email subject lines, about having it less than 50 characters in total, about having certain magnetic words in them like you/free/new, etc.

But those are 

to talk about.

Because you can always start anew with the next email… with a brand new subject title.

But the “From” column?

That doesn’t change.

Bob or Jack?

Shouldn’t we be paying attention to the kind of things we’re attaching to ourselves every time we send out an email?

See… if you have some hyped up email attached to your name, you become hyped up.

And when your new subscribers get a emails or pre-set autoresponder messages, that’s when you become either uncle Bob or uncle Jack.

In your early emails, your subscribers don’t know who you are yet and you’ve got to get your name embedded in their minds. The emails you send should contain stuff that’s helpful to them.

If you make it a point to send good content together with promotions, you’ll make more money than just sending promotions after promotions.

It’s like “buying” a kids obedience with candy. Some kids can be ruckus but when you’ve been good to them, they’ll pay attention to your words.

But if you’ve been bad… they’ll get it straight away. And forever, you’ll be uncle Jack. Fortunately, if you’re uncle Bob, you’ll be that way for a long time too.

But what about subject lines?

The Reverse Email Subject Line

One particular thing I like to do before I send out emails… is to write the content first and then summarize the email. After writing the email, I’ll actually spend a few minutes contemplating the subject line.

I ask myself…

  1. Is there a way to say the exact same thing with lesser words?
  2. Is the subject covered in the email?
  3. Will it arouse curiosity/surprise or wrath?
  4. Is the title “blind” or am I revealing everything in the title?

Think of the long terms aspects before sending it off… once it’s out there, it’s out there.

The simple goal is to get the click – it’s to get them to open up the email so they can get to the content.

But if the title (or your name) immediately pushes their 

button, the battle’s lost.

Worse, they’ll unsubscribe and you’ll forever lose a potential client/customer.

Personalized Email

Another thing I try not to overuse is the first name and last name tags in the email autoresponder.

Back in the olden days when people would go “wow, he knows my name!” when they see their name in the emails, nowadays, it’s more common to see the tag misused and a follow up email saying “Oops! Sorry about that”.

The trick’s revealed… the magic’s gone.

The first name tag doesn’t work because it’s been abused over and over again.


If you use it once in a while, it can still do its magic of grabbing attention.

I remember getting an email from a well-known marketer who did not use my name until the middle of the email. I was surprised to see my name… even though I know it can be done.

But it was tastefully and beautifully pulled off.

If I see my name in the subject line or the early “Hi (firstname)”… I turn an immediate blind eye to that. Because it’s been abused.

If you apply these regularly to your email marketing and list building, I’m quite sure you’ll have a happy list who love hearing from you over and over again.

Uncle Bob. =)