Fast tip: how not to be boring

by mandy on October 24, 2014

Can you afford to send emails that no one opens?

Didn’t think so.

Everyone, except your boss, has to have a super-interesting subject line to get their emails opened.

Email in-boxes are pretty democratic: major national brands like Amazon, Apple, and American Red Cross are in the same boat as you and can’t get away with boring subject lines either.

The difference? Major brands just have more dedicated staff to come up with interesting subject lines and test them.

Clickbait works, but…leaves a bad after-taste in everyone’s mouth.

Don’t know what clickbait is? Here’s clickbait: “You may have already won $1M dollars”

Then you open the email learn that egg noodles are on sale and you can enter a sweepstakes to win $1M dollars with 1.7 trillion to 1 odds of actually winning.

Way to errode trust.

Don’t be that guy.

Instead, be interesting with your services, products, and mission.

Here’s how to do it without a huge staff and on a quick turnaround.

Watch Good Morning America

This is not an advertisement for GMA by any means.

But, by 7:20 a.m. GMA has run out the hot news and they start promoting their lifestyle-but-less-than-burning-news stories.

Make no mistake: millions in dollars of revenue ride on viewership staying tuned into GMA for the lifestyle segments after the top 15 minutes of news.

Tune in at about 7:20 a.m. to see how they promo their upcoming segments.

Here are examples of how they promoted the same “secondary” story more than once. See how they make it relevant to the viewer every time:

“Coming up: a new scam affecting your home computer. How you could be at risk.”

“New development in home computer scams: What you need to know “right now” to protect yourself.”

“What happens at the water cooler? New research on gossip”

“During football season, what you don’t know about keeping your food safe.”

“What you should know when you tailgate.”

Let’s be honest, not all stories covered by GMA are hot topics.

But the show “makes” them hot, by making all story promotions:

  • All about the viewer
  • A cliffhanger, or
  • A question

Here’s the thing, it might be hard at first, but you will build skill and subject line writing muscle if you keep writing subject lines that are “all about the reader.”

It gets much easier over time and the boost your open rates makes it rewarding.

CNN Promoted Stories are “bankable”

Another reference to see what headlines/subject lines are working is to go to Again, not an advertisement for CNN, but this is a great tool for you to use.

Here’s what you do:

  • Click on any story related to your services, products, or nonprofit mission (promoted stories aren’t on the home page)
  • Scroll all the way down to the bottom to the section titled “Promoted Stories”
  • These are stories promoted by the advertiser listed in the grey print right after the headline
  • Those headlines are “bankable” because they are constantly tested for performance
  • See the “recommended by Outbrain?” Outbrain is a company that specializes in driving traffic via click-throughs, so they are on top of all clicking trends in just about every industry.

Screenshot 2014-10-24 09.07.03

Want to get more specific with your audience?

Check out the “most clicked” stories, or the top 3 stories, on any publication related to your product or mission to see how they make the content relevant to the reader in the headline.

Better yet, know the publications your ideal customers or donors regularly read to see what kind of content and headlines they click on. Specialty magazines like these are “gold.”

  • Men’s Health
  • Good Housekeeping
  • Outside Magazine

What if you don’t like using “clickable” subject lines

Even if you personally don’t like it, or it’s not the way you talk about your mission or product, or maybe you feel it cheapens your mission, please keep in mind that your mission or business isn’t served when your emails aren’t opened.

Then go write a high opening subject line.


I cringe when I hear marketers coach you to grow your email list because a big email list is a “money machine,” or a ticket to “print cash.”

There’s no denying that your email house file is a huge asset that can drive massive revenue…

….but only if you do it the right way.

C’mon over to my new video blog.

Find out the 3 essential tips email marketing winners, including your competitors, are really using to set their campaigns on fire and inspire their readers to click.

I hope you like my new blog format.

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Who’s the best person to write your email copy?

It’s not you.

It’s your customer.

It’s your donor.

It’s the man, or woman, or teenager, or elderly donor, or 45 year old finance executive that’s reading your email.

That person you want to take action.

Here are 4 ways you can instantly boost your copy writing

1. Hire one of your donors or customers to write your email copy

2. Hire a copy writer that already has an excellent track record with your audience (this can be expensive)

3. Vulcan mind meld with your target audience (don’t judge me)…


4. The very best advice I ever got about copy writing: Immerse yourself in your reader’s mind to get as close to a Vulcan mind meld as possible without triggering a restraining order.

Here’s how:

  • Get to truly know your audiences’ biggest dreams, fears, what they want for their children, where they see themselves a year from now, are they bucking for promotion, trying to save their job, in a mid-life crisis?
  • Be crystal clear about why your donor first committed to your cause or why your customer first bought from you. For most of us it’s a triggering event or moment. If you don’t know what that is without a question, find out before you send out your next email
  • Know who they trust, you can find out by asking them. Is it their friends and colleagues, is it the Wall Street Journal, is it Oprah?
  • Know them on an emotional level–what are the emotions most associated with your product or mission? Pride? Fear? Relief? Security? Panic?
  • Sit quietly and feel what they might be feeling – literally feel it.

Think this “woo-woo” stuff isn’t for you?

Think again.

When major brands hire expensive copy writers, the $25K a campaign copy writing gurus, the first thing a copy writer will do is completely immerse themselves in their subject.

If they are hired to write to golfers and have never picked up a golf club in their life, they will hang out in clubhouses, take a few lessons, learn the lingo, learn the frustration, learn the exhilaration of making that shot from sand trap to the cup. They’ll spend hours watching the golfing channel.


So when they write, each golfer that reads that copy thinks that the writer IS reading their mind and knows them. Connects with them. Can be trusted.

This process is why the really good copywriters are so expensive. It’s time consuming to learn this.

It’s also where the “gold” is.

It’s gold because you connect more deeply with your reader than ever before.

And, it’s gold because all of sudden you know EXACTLY what to say and when to your target audience.

No more writers block.

Your writing becomes so much easier because you really, truly know your reader.

Look, you can always outsource your copy writing, but I strongly recommend you develop expertise in-house.

Copy writing is like a fresh water well.

You’ll always need fresh water.

shutterstock_Fresh Water


My deepest apologies that this week’s blog post was late.

Keep an eye out for this coming Friday’s post, back on schedule, with another great tip on how to truly connect with your readers in a way your competitors are missing out.

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