How to Keep Your Email Subscribers Reading Your Emails


In internet marketing there’s often a marked difference between the number of email subscribers on your list and the number who actually read your emails.

You can see this over and over again on the leaderboards for offers – very often it’s people with relatively small lists but where the emails are read regularly who end up making the most sales.

The size of your list is often less important than the engagement you have with your readers.

But once they’ve signed up, how can you keep your email subscribers reading your emails rather than unsubscribing or (more likely) ignoring your messages or pressing the delete key when they arrive?

Keep things personal

If you treat your subscribers as just numbers they won’t react very well. If you ever watched the cult show The Prisoner you’ll remember that the lead character regularly said “I am not a number, I am a free man” and that’s very appropriate to email marketing.

If you treat your subscribers as yet another number on your list, you’ll get less reaction than if you treat each message as though it was personally written to them.

The closer you can get to the feeling that the message was written by one person to one person, the better.

Some of the best response I get to the messages I send out is when I slightly modify a reply that I’ve already sent to one person.

It’s a mindset thing – when you reply to an email or a Facebook post or a forum message, chances are that you’ll focus on the question the person raised and anything you know about the person.

The second part isn’t exactly easy to do when you’re sending out a mass email. You can’t normally mention country or time zone (OK, I know there are some options for this in some autoresponder systems). And you won’t know whether they’re mainly visual or audio or kinesthetic in how they interpret and learn things. Unless it’s specifically your niche, you won’t know whether they’ve got pets or the diet they’re following.

So you can’t get ultra personal.

But it’s still possible to write in such a way that the people reading your messages resonate with them.

For a start, don’t write in corporate speak – the kind of words and phrases that would be found in a faceless brochure.

Don’t be afraid to mention some personal details about yourself. The kind of thing you’d casually mention in a conversation in a coffee shop is good. It’s those seemingly inconsequential small details that allow us to form a bigger picture of the person reading the words we’re reading.

Even sending a link to an occasional video or audio can work well. It allows your subscribers to hear your voice, maybe see your face. If you use a photograph, don’t do like a lot of journalists and only update the photo once in a blue moon. OK, I’m probably guilty as charged there as the photo I use is several years old now but at least it was taken in the current decade, not back when I was 20 or 30 years younger.

Keep things interesting

Yes, I know that Amazon and other big websites sometimes send out boring emails about changes in their terms and conditions but most of the time they’re vaguely relevant to what you’re interested in, thanks to the mixed blessing of tracking pixels.

Interesting obviously depends on your niche.

If you’re targeting degree level rocket scientists then they’re likely to be interested in different things from someone who wants the latest Paleo recipes.

Sure, you could talk about the molecular structure of the foods in the recipes but it’s more likely the focus will be on the taste of the food and how easy it is to prepare and cook.

That’s not to say that a techie audience should automatically be sent emails that require a high-ish grade of English. They’ll appreciate you using simpler words just as much as anyone else.

But it does mean their interests will be different. So you probably shouldn’t be sending the same message to rocket scientists as you are to science fair students.

Personally, most of the time I don’t much care what you ate for dinner last night or which movie you saw. But some of the lists I’m on (even in internet marketing) do mention those as part of their message. One internet marketer I follow reviews the movies he’s seen. Another just tags himself at the local cinema and also posts photos of the breakfast he’s about to eat. So there’s no hard-and-fast rule there.

But generally speaking interesting means on-topic and written as though you’re keen to share the information rather than treating it as a chore.

Unless it’s your character, don’t get too hyped about it. But don’t be boring either.

Given a choice, I’d rather read an email that’s a bit too keen about a topic than one that’s dry as dust.

Mention if it’s not for everyone

People appreciate it when you don’t waste their time,

So if something you’re writing about will likely only be of interest to some of your subscribers – and you can’t differentiate them on your list – then be up front about that, early on in your message or even in the subject line.

For instance, because of the way I market things, I know that my list is unlikely to be particularly interested in a push-button, instant, solution to things.

It’s rare for me to promote or even talk about those kind of shiny-penny products.

But if I thought some of my subscribers would find such a product useful, I’d say early on in the email message that there was a good chance they’d want to ignore the product.

I’d then go on to say why I was even mentioning it in the first place – maybe because some people want to automate repetitive tasks or whatever else the product did – so that there was a justification for writing about the product in the first place.

You’ll instinctively know if something is likely to only appeal to a sub-set of your niche.

It’s then up to you to tell your readers why you’ve written about a product.

Some of the lists I’m on do this when they’re warning their subscribers not to buy the next hyped-up product. That’s not something I do often (I prefer to keep things mostly positive) but if it fits with your style, include that kind of message.

Pay attention to how you phrase things

I mentioned earlier that people fall into one of three main “modalities”: visual or audio or kinesthetic. Sometimes more than one.

NLP (neuro linguistic programming) goes in to a lot more depth about this but it’s basically how our minds process things.

You’d probably pick up on this in a face to face conversation – you’d notice when the person you were talking to lost interest or their eyes glazed over.

But you can’t in a group situation, which is what an email list is.

Instead, it’s worth paying attention to how you phrase things.

Get the visual people on your list to visualise whatever it is you’re talking about.

Get the audio people to hear what would happen in the same situation.

And the kinesthetic ones to feel their gut reaction or whatever else relates to the point you’re trying to make.

This takes a bit of practice and you probably won’t get it right every time,

But just re-reading the email you’re about to send out and seeing (visual) whether it includes at least an occasional reference to each of these options will help get your message heard more (audio) and you’ll feel happier (kinesthetic) once you’ve done that.

Obviously – unless your niche is NLP or sales letter related – you probably wouldn’t highlight the options like I’ve just done.

Don’t go overboard with this – it’s much better to have your messages reading in your voice than it is to contrive to make them perfect for everyone.

If you do write in a particular style, that’s OK, there’s a very good chance your messages will be opened and read more often by the people who resonate most with that style.

Which is OK. It’s all part of not trying to be all things to all people.

Contact your list regularly

It’s unusual to have long lost friends on email lists.

I think there’s maybe one list I used to be on where I’d welcome another email – he hasn’t written a message in several years and I suspect he’s no longer involved in internet marketing.

Most of the time if I haven’t had a message from someone I don’t know personally for longer than a week or two, there’s an exceptionally good chance I’ll think something along the lines of “who an earth is this” and will either delete the message or unsubscribe.

That applies doubly to the lists I sign up to using a secondary email address.

Re-read that last sentence.

A lot of people use a variety of email addresses.

They’ve got their main address – the one that they give to friends and colleagues.

And they’ve got secondary or even tertiary email addresses.

I typically use a separate identity to sign up for lists and webinars where I’m not sure whether or not I’m going to get spammed day in, day out or where I only want to test whether the free info is as good as the squeeze page wants me to believe.

I’ve got yet another separate identity where I only sign in to the email account to confirm the subscription (if I even bother to do that).

So, for me, there are actually two hurdles to overcome:

  • Me reading or watching anything beyond the initial freebie
  • The trust of getting any regular information from you in my email inbox

Depending on how people get on to your list, there’s a good chance they use a similar process.

Or they let Gmail or whoever handle the junk side of things but that’s another topic altogether.

Keeping in reasonably regular touch with your email subscribers may not keep you top of mind but at least it should mean there’s a glimmer of recognition when they get your messages.

Make your first few messages really count

This leads on from the previous section.

First impressions count and that really does apply with email lists.

If your new subscriber has to jump through hoops to even get on your list, that’s unlikely to happen.

Recently I nearly asked for a refund on a product that made me fill in all sorts of fields in a non-disclosure document before I could access it. Complete overkill for a product that cost under $10 and that – along with poor product quality – meant I didn’t promote it. But even if the product had been superb quality, I still wouldn’t have promoted it because of the arduous and non-trusting signup process.

The easier you make it for someone to sign up to your list, the better.

Personally, I just ask for an email address – nothing else for most of my lists.

Other people ask for a name and that can help you to personalise the messages you send out. So long as you use the drop-down list supplied by your autoresponder company – I’ve lost count of the messages I’ve received that address me as some variant of Dear FirstName_Fix

And I never give out my real phone number if there’s a box for it on the subscribe form. Because there’s almost never enough trust at that stage for me to do that. Here in the UK I find that 01234 567890 works if the form is looking for a number and refuses to accept “not disclosed”. If I was in the US, I’d probably use a 555 number. And remember I’m a marketer so I should be receptive to this.

To keep people from unsubscribing immediately, the freebie product needs to be good.

It shouldn’t be some rehashed rubbish or unedited PLR that was written half way across the globe and wasn’t much good even when it was first released.

For me, it should also be short and to the point.

I’d much rather have an executive summary than something approaching War and Peace in length,

That said, some of my squeeze pages link to quite long videos. So (as usual) I don’t always practice what I teach – it’s always a testing process.

But regardless of the length of the initial giveaway product, your first few messages really do need to have a high impact.

Because those are the training period where you want as many of your subscribers to make reading your emails part of their routine as possible.

So the higher quality and more personal your messages are, the better.