How To Get Your Emails Read Instead of Just Deleted

I delete a lot of emails without reading them. I mean a LOT, and many of those are from organizations that I support. A couple are from theatres that I support. Local theatres. Where I attend shows.

I delete these emails automatically without even pausing to scan the content because I have learned over time that these emails are not going to contain any new information that’s important to me.

Think about your emails. Are you training your subscribers to expect a tired retread of the same information they’ve already seen somewhere else, or are your email messages something for them to get excited about cracking open?

Hopefully you work hard to provide content that pulls your subscribers in, and leaves them looking forward to your next email.

Here’s where it gets tricky

Not everyone likes the same kind of email. There is no perfect formula for what your emails should look like in order to please your audience. I talk about this in The Email Marketing Primer For Theatres, but the bottom line is you’re going to have to do some work to figure out what your subscribers are interested in.

You can and should try to come up with educated guesses about what they want out of your emails, but you’re going to be doing more than just shouting into the darkness and hoping for the best.

Your email campaign service provides information about how many people are opening your emails, and what links (if any) they click on once they do. That’s powerful information you can use to understand what your audience wants, but don’t stop there.

Just ask

Just ask people what they like or don’t link in your emails. Do it conversationally. Start talking to patrons in the lobby and ask if they receive your emails. If they say no, then obviously try to sell them on subscribing, but if they say yes ask them what they think of the messages.

It doesn’t have to be an extravagant survey. Don’t get me wrong: there’s a place for hard data, but anecdotal evidence can give you incredible insights that you won’t learn any other way.

Finding the best format

If you’re really at a loss where to begin, one of the most useful things you can try to figure out is what content format works best for your audience. Here are three common types.

  1. Digest – in this format you’re curating all of the events and promotions you have going on in one place. This format is ideal for subscribers who want to know everything you’re doing, but don’t like to hunt around across your web page, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The benefit you’re providing your subscribers is convenience.
  2. Original – the idea here is to reward your subscribers with unique content and promotions that are not available anywhere but your email list. The incentive to open and read every email is that it contains exclusive content they won’t find anywhere else.
  3. Highlight – in this format you would pick the biggest thing you have going on this month or week (depending on how often you send emails) and focus the whole message on that. Some elements of the email may be things that are talked about on social media and other outlets, while other elements may (should?) be unique to your email.

In my mind it makes sense to generally stick with one of these formats, but don’t take my word for it. If you like all of these, maybe you should change it up. Just pay attention to the metrics because your audience will tell you which format they want to read.

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