Grab Their Attention: 5 Content Tips for Creating Engaging Emails

Email is a fact of life. Not getting any feels like someone’s turned the volume down on your personal universe – we’re so used to seeing that little number that screams

Hey! Hey, you! 181 things need your attention!


No one knows this better than marketers. We send emails, and we get emails. It’s like the tide: it goes in, it goes out, and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut.

The average person receives 121 emails per day (The Radicati Group) – but how many of our carefully crafted messages they actually open and engage with is the important part. Spam filters are locked and loaded. A cool hundred other people are waving ‘30% off!’ and ‘Check out Our eNewsletter’ flags, and your email is all set with… another offer. If your emails are getting lost in the shuffle, use these tips to make your emails stand out from the crowd and build an engaged subscriber list.

Tip #1: Lead with the subject line

One thing that gets my attention right away is humor. If you know your audience well, humor is a great way to show off your company’s personality. Go for smart puns, timely asides, and little nods to industry standards, or inside jokes that will make your subscribers feel like they’re part of the in-the-know circle.

If you’re not feeling especially ‘punny’ (see what I did there?) you can use questions – whether they’re amusing or serious – to generate that ‘tell me more’ feeling. Simple ones like “How do you feel about this new technology?” or “Where do you want to be in your business?” just beg to be answered. Why? Because the focus shifts back to the recipient, especially when you’re asking (and subsequently answering) a relevant, timely question that they really might have.

But wait, you say. My content is focused on data, how can I make puns and questions out of numbers? Well, you can, but there is an easier way. Starting your subject line with big numbers – 1,000, 300, 25,000 – or percentages slows the eye down and tug at the mind making you want to know more: 80% of what? To avoid looking spam-y: “93% of people open this email” for example, use your best, most relevant statistics up front, and then elaborate on it in the body copy.

Tip #2: Value > Everything Else

In my own inbox, companies who specifically send me things I can use immediately like e-books, discounts, or eNewsletters get priority. I read and even bookmark those emails to revisit later. I might even save or forward them. Making your content identifiable as useful starts with finding out what your recipients consider useful.

You want the content you send to add real value. Whether it’s mind-blowing statistics about your industry, or a series of funny videos starring your company’s mascot llama, show your subscribers that you’re genuinely trying to provide them with content that they’ll find useful or entertaining as opposed to random sales pitches.

I once received an email asking me if I’d like to receive a curated newsletter of each month’s new demos and how-to videos. I had been subscribed to the email list for a few weeks, and had been primarily watching the demos and how-to videos that were sent out. I signed up. Tracking what types of content your recipients engage with is the first step to sending them content that will resonate – and that brings me to the next tip.

Tip #3: Make it Personal

Personalization positions your customers firmly at the center of the conversation, which is where they should be. Allowing subscribers to set the frequency of emails, or including the recipient’s name, are good methods of personalization (and pretty standard), so to really offer a personalized experience, think about enabling your subscribers to choose the types of content they want to receive.

Are they more into webinars? Big fans of blog posts? Or do they just want to know about new products? The choices they make can also give you some additional insight into what interests them about your brand as a whole, and what made them subscribe to receive your emails in the first place. From there you can send subscribers the content that will always be most relevant to them.

Offering a ‘pick your own content’ option can also help with defining buyer personas and choosing who to assign to lead nurturing campaigns without coming across as too intrusive. For example, you might add a form field that asks what kind of content a prospect is interested in receiving emails about. You can then include a link to edit or update these preferences in your emails, so that instead of unsubscribing recipients can choose to consume a different type of content.

Tip #4: Don’t be afraid of older content

I’m probably not the only one who loses emails. They get buried under the flood of new stuff that appears in my inbox every hour or so. Even when I flag things, sometimes I have a hard time scrolling through the 300 or so other messages to find the one I wanted to revisit. Particularly if you’re sending out a regular email with the week’s blog post, or new video, adding older content can provide more context and help with educating prospects about your offering.

You don’t have to make older content front and center, but adding a recap or archive section is a great way to revive older pieces and dust them off for a new set of eyes as your list continues to grow.

Tip #5: Be Honest

Honesty is valuable. Use it to tell your story, and to demonstrate your core values to your recipients. By being straightforward with what you have to offer and what you want from them in return, you’re positioning your brand as trustworthy, and building a positive association around who you are and what you do.

In your emails, explain to recipients why you want to be in touch with them – maybe you want to provide them with valuable content, or you’d like to share some things you think they’d be interested in based on previous interactions. Whatever it is, make sure you give your word and stick to it.

If you promise to only email them once per week, only email them once per week. If you say you’ll only send information about specific topics, then only send information that pertains to those topics. Doing so will help you build trust with your recipients, which will make them more likely to prioritize emails from you, and attach greater significance to the content.

Building a relationship with your subscribers takes time, but the rewards are well worth the investment. With people (and inboxes) busier than ever, turning your emails into conversation can help you turn the tide and increase email engagement.

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One thought on “Grab Their Attention: 5 Content Tips for Creating Engaging Emails

  • This blog is really helpful. Making the readers read the emails these days is very challenging what with all the spams they frequently get. It’s all about capturing and rataining their attention.

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