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How to get your emails opened and read

By Rob Drummond on Wed 02 November 2011 in Email Marketing

As I explained in the last article, getting your emails delivered is only the first piece of the puzzle. With corporate email users typically sending and receiving around 110 messages a day, getting your emails opened and read is a difficult task!

Because of the volume of email we all now receive, the way we read email is changing. We no longer read every email, but scan a number of key elements to decide what gets opened and what does not.

What are these key elements?

1. The sender name. Do I trust this sender? What have they sent me in the past? Is it likely to be worth reading?

An email from your company MD is likely to be read before an email from your intern. The from address or sender name is the first thing we check when deciding what to read. If your recipients do not recognise the sender, they are far less likely to read the email!

In some cases, setting your sender name to be your company name or department name can lead to better open rates. The answer lies in testing what works for you!

2. Subject line. Am I interested in the content of the email?

You email subject line is generally the next most important factor in getting your email read. We scan the subject line, and make a mental judgement of what the email is likely to contain, and whether we want to read it.

In nearly all cases, including a subject line that appeals to the self-interest of the recipient will out-perform one that does not. (Although don’t take our word for it – test it!)

Instead of using ‘November newsletter’ as your subject line, sell your recipients on the idea of opening and reading your email. Including the term ‘how to’ can often increase responses, for example ‘How to use [your product] more effectively and save £19.99 this month’. We love to know how to do things, and most of all we love to save money!

You will need to be creative, and test a range of appeals in your subject lines to find what works.

3. Preview pane. What do I see when I scan the email?

For recipients reading your email in Outlook, Thunderbird and a range of other email clients, it is now usual for the email to be initially viewed in the preview pane, typically only exposing the top six lines of your email.

In the preview pane, images are not normally downloaded by default in most email programmes. This means that if you are sending HTML emails, having a large banner image at the top of your emails means that when your email is scanned in the preview pane, all the recipient sees is a box with a small red cross! As one of your 110 email a day, would you prioritise this email? Probably not!

Instead, try making use of the first six lines by using a subheading and introduction paragraph that gets the reader’s attention.

Also, test putting a call to action (link to your website) within the top six lines. In your recipient’s inbox, competition for eyeball time is high! Make a goal of your email to get the reader away from their inbox and onto your website.


Hopefully this post has given you plenty of ideas for getting your emails opened and read. If you found it interesting, until Christmas we are offering three months of no monthly charges on ProspectSoft Email Marketing.

ProspectSoft Email Marketing allows you to scientifically test the effectiveness of your sender name, subject lines, and preview panes. You can learn more at