Learn How These 3 Businesses Get Their Emails Read

get your emails read

If you aren’t asking the question “How can I get more people to read my messages?” about your email marketing campaign, it’s time to start thinking about it! Even if you’re happy with your response rates, there is always room for improvement.

First off, it’s important to think about what influences a subscriber’s decision to read your message or not. Whether your end goal is a click or a sell, the subscriber won’t be taking any action until they actually open your email.

We’ll be looking at three different email newsletters that did a good job getting people to read the message, bringing in a unique open rate of over 50%, and then you can apply their strategies to your messages.

How the Messages Appear in an Inbox

These are what our examples look like in a Gmail inbox:

gmail emails

These three businesses have some different and some similar methods for getting subscribers to read their messages. We’re going to take a look at how they approach the subject line and how they make the from line something the subscriber will recognize:


  • Lawrence Chan’s Tofurious mentions a new product that the subscriber gets for opening the message.
  • This type of approach is great if you have a free report to share, a sample page from a new report or ebook, if you have a coupons, or if you are promoting a new product.
  • Lawrence takes a personal approach on his site by signing his blogs and including detailed personal information. People like to hear from people, and signing his emails with his name will carry over that personal touch.


  • Gary Rosenzweig’s Macmost has a different approach for their subject, and it’s very straight-forward: it’s the new MacMost newsletter and it even gives the issue number.
  • This is good for businesses that send out newsletters that are meant to be more informative than promotional.
  • Gary from MacMost doesn’t have his name come up a lot on his site, so if he used his name in the from line then subscribers may not recognize who it’s from. This is why it’s good he used his company name.

this week in photo

  • Frederick van Johnson’s This Week in Photo uses the subject to pose a question. This can make the subscriber interested in knowing what the answer will be. Is it the end of medium format cameras? If so, why? They’ll have to open the message to find out!
  • Asking a question will make your subscriber curious, so try and find what question your message answers.
  • Frederick has others contributing material on his site, so his name is not the only name there. Recognizing he name would depend on what pages the subscriber has seen on the site. His from line should be his company name since it’s on all pages.

Branding In the Subject Line
You want to use your brand as much as possible so that when a subscriber looks at your message in their inbox they immediately know who you are and what to expect from you. All three businesses included their company name in the subject line. Might seem redundant, but it’s working!

Other Tests for Increasing Opens

The best thing you can do is split test your broadcasts to find out what gets the best results. Besides what we talked about here, you many also want to consider:

  • Time and day the message is being sent: There is no universally agreed upon day or time to send your message, so your best bet is test. For a look at your own stats, you can go to the Reports page and look at the “Opens over time” graphs.
  • Snippets: certain email clients show a snippet of text from the beginning of your newsletter. You can use this to your advantage by putting catchy text at the top so they’ll open it or mark it to read later.
  • Preview panes: certain email clients will also show preview panes that displays part of the entire message. You can test this out by putting catchy text in the upper part of your email, or moving images around if it was initially top heavy with images, and see if this changes your open rates.

How Do You Get Subscribers to Read Your Messages?

Of course there are still even more factors that will determine whether or not your message gets reads. For example, setting expectations plays a big part in your ongoing subscriber response right.

So what do you do to ensure your subscribers keep coming back for more?


  1. Kevin

    5/18/2011 8:10 am

    For me, it is important to see consistency in the newsletters I’m expecting in order for me to open them each week. For example, I know that Gamestop’s weekly ad newsletter always Has a similar subject format of “Gamestop Weekly Ad 05-14-11”.

    Since the subject is consistent every week, and since I like reading it, it always catches my eye and gets me to open the email.

  2. Aaron Schulman

    5/19/2011 11:18 am

    Thanks Justin,

    I am going to make a small checklist from all of the ideas you posted up here.

    For our small marketplace bootcamp that we hold monthly events for –

    We use the “question approach” a lot like “this week in photo” for getting people to open because we have monthly sales training events-

    We also use it to get new and old subscribers to come to new events (used in the sub line to get opens)

    Another approach we have that has worked well is that we have a monthly theme for the public free training event (that leads to new clients) –

    and then we send out installments of lessons (appetizers) on that them to both get past attendees to come to new events, as well as to help warm them up and get them more involved in the content of the actual event so they are more likely to come because they have been chewing on the appetizers for 3-4 weeks before the event-

    At the end of each event- we also use p.s. and ask them to invite 1 additional person or to share the event links or pages. . .

    we have seen many new faces with these methods over the past 2 months- our main traffic generation being local radio and building email lists and face to face weekly contacts through meetings. . .

    Thanks again

  3. Aaron Schulman

    5/19/2011 11:27 am

    oh- one other thing we are testing (among many) is that in a series, we are also using the end of the current email to give a Johnson box approach to what they have to look forward to in the next lesson-

    things that we are testing in a Johnson box type “heads up” often use 3 to 5 benefit points that have curiosity approach type statemens, questions or a certain number followed by the lesson benefit- such as

    7 most vital factors for developing an effective squeeze-page.

    We use Johnson boxes at the beginning to give the reader a taste that the lesson is packed with some good pointers- but they are curiosity questions or statements – they have to read the body or click through to the video or come to the event to get 100% of the details-

    Thanks again-

    Great post-

  4. Nelson Tan

    5/22/2011 10:21 am

    I brand my subject line by my company initials enclosed in square brackets e.g. [IMC]. Initials can specifically refer to e-book titles, a free gift or anything that subscribers can recognize for it is the reason they subscribe in the first place. That will pique their attention.

  5. Pros

    5/26/2011 4:17 am

    Businesses have engaged themselves in many marketing and advertising techniques to market their name and their products…….

    Thanks for sharing this nice info!!!

  6. Crystal Gouldey

    5/27/2011 8:43 am

    Aaron- The Johnson box sounds like a great idea! Using the subject to grab their attention is important, and both Kevin and Nelson agreed that branding can help with that, but it’s also good to have your subscribers excited for the next email.

    We’d love to hear the results from your test.

  7. Aaron Schulman

    5/28/2011 1:03 pm

    Certainly- One is a new list we are starting and another is a central Ohio sales training list – (smaller and local)

    It might take a bit to get the results back because of the (small) size of the second list and the newness of the other – but will certainly get back to you about it to see how significant the response change is.

    Thanks again for asking

  8. Aaron Schulman

    5/28/2011 1:08 pm

    I also like Nelson’s idea about putting your brand in the [block] in the subject line- I have been getting more emails from lists I am a member of and I started trying it on a new autoresponse follow up training to see if it will help gain a higher open rate in the beginning-

    Have you had any experience or results with reminding people in the first several messages for a brand new subscriber that “You are receiving this email because you subscribed for (name of list) at (user’s email) on (certain date)?

    Some lists I am a member of are sending that in the top of the message right after the greeting and I wonder if it improves retention in the beginning, at least until new people get used to your newsletters and your frequency- etc-

    I started trying this too – but it is too soon to tell-

    DO you know of any other tests or reports on the Aweber blog that have shown promising results by using these strategies?

    Thanks again Crystal

  9. Crystal Gouldey

    5/31/2011 9:46 am

    We have talked about preheaders on our blog before. Using the preheader to remind subscribers why they are getting your emails can help, especially if you also include a reminder for how they can unsubscribe. This way you’re not only reminding subscribers what they’re getting (hopefully keeping them on your list), but they have easy access to unsubscribe if they wish (which means they’re less likely to mark your message as spam).

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