The ONE Misconception About Getting People to Notice & Open Your Marketing Emails

Email is one of the oldest technologies introduced on the Internet and is still fully integrated within the web even with the introduction of social media networks.  Remember how you were required to have an email address

Email is one of the oldest technologies introduced on the Internet and is still fully integrated within the web even with the introduction of social media networks.  Remember how you were required to have an email address when signing up to Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Pinterest and Snapchat?

Before I start sharing with you some ideas on how you can get people to pay attention and open your marketing emails, we need to answer a common question that’s probably on everyone’s mind including yours:


Is Email Dead?

Back in 2012, I was invited to speak about email marketing at the largest eCommerce event in the world, Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.  During this conference I remember saying this:

Email is not dead.  It has evolved.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many new alternatives to email communication such as: Snapchat, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Text messaging or Instagram.


Email is still a favourite among consumers.

Do you know of any online retailer who has built and successfully scaled their online business without the use of email?

I bet you’ll have a hard time finding one.

People still prefer email for commercial communication. Emails are sent when creating new accounts, for promotions, order confirmations, shipping notifications, upcoming events, reminders and so much more.

I love what was said in an article on Techcrunch called “You Can’t Kill Email“:

While email is a reliable protocol, it isn’t owned by any one company, and its existence isn’t tied to a single provider. Email is inexpensive, only requiring an internet connection. There is a real risk associated with embracing proprietary communication tools: If Slack or Dropbox went out of business tomorrow, what would happen to the records residing in that system?

Not only is email a great tool for communication but also an amazing marketing channel for digital marketers.

email marketing roi

Visit the website “Email Is Not Dead“, to learn more about this topic.  Also, if you’re passionate about email marketing, consider reading The Future of Email Marketing in 2017.

So if email is not dead,


…why is it so hard for online retailers to get their email messages noticed?

Possible reasons:

  • People get a lot of emails – it’s hard to stand out in a cluttered inbox.
  • People consume emails more on mobile devices – mobile email design is a must.
  • Emails get categorized as spam/junk/promotional.

Now if you search on Google “How to increase email open rates?”, here’s what you will notice.

The #1 tip to get people to open your email is to have a good subject line. 

I even asked the same question in my Private Facebook Group and I got the same response.

subject line importance

Many marketing experts agree that the most efficient way to get people to open your email is by optimizing the email subject lines and to continuously test different variations.

If you want a 100% open rate, send 1 email to your mother. – Dela Quist

Personally, if you want people to notice and open your emails, you need to improve other areas of your email marketing strategy rather than simply focusing on your subject line.  Subject lines will certainly help get noticed and have people open your email but what matters most is how they engage with your message.


Yes, the Subject Line Is Important, But…

..improving the way you get permission from subscribers is the BEST WAY of getting your emails noticed and opened.

Successful permission marketing is about building long-term relationships with customers once the initial permission has been granted.

Let me be clear on something.

The purpose of the subject line is to give a preview of what to expect in the rest of the email.

Permission Marketing is a crucial part of email marketing.  eCommerce businesses that properly grow permission-based marketing lists end up seeing improved overall engagement from their mailing lists.

What is Permission Marketing?

Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. – Seth Godin

If you’re still confused about what permission marketing is, this should help:
If you stop communicating by email, subscribers will complain and ask where you went.

Seth Godin, the marketing God & author of more than 16+ books, is the one who came up with the Permission Marketing term.


Be Obsessed with Engagement (not just open rates)

Email marketing drives more conversions than any other marketing channel – including social and search – Monetate reports.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve worked on many email marketing strategies and successful campaigns, but I’ve also seen failures.

One thing I’ve learned is, if you want to get people to notice and open your emails, you shouldn’t focus solely on the subject line.  The subject line is one piece of the puzzle.

Instead, take a step back and evaluate how you initially got the permission to email those subscribers in first place and what was promised to them upon signup.

A research from Kingston University about Email Marketing Success Factors suggests that “the specificity and intensity of permission will also affect response rate.”

By focusing on your permission-based acquisition strategies, your email messages will get noticed and opened but more importantly, subscribers will actually engage since they’re expecting them.


How to Get Subscribers to Engage with Emails (and

not just open them)

One thing you need to remember is, not all email campaigns are created equally.  Each one has a unique goal, targets a particular audience and includes a specific message.

Getting your email opened isn’t the goal. Getting your reader to take action is. – Lance Cummins

In this example, I’m going to focus on the typical newsletter that eCommerce businesses should be sending at least once a month.

If you want subscribers to open your newsletter, follow these 3 steps:


Step 1 – Define a Purpose: Why Sign Up?

Focus on Anticipation.

Creating a newsletter signup form is the easy part.  What’s hard is actually being able to convince people to take action and sign up.  How should you go about it?

Well, you need to ask yourself, why would people want to sign up in the first place? How is your newsletter going to benefit them? What value does it bring to their daily busy lives?

Obviously, it’s going to be hard to put all that information on the sign up form.  What you need to do instead is create a landing page that includes your newsletter sign up form.

On that landing page, your goal is to persuade people to signup to your monthly newsletter.

A small list that wants exactly what you’re offering is better than a bigger list that isn’t committed.” – Ramsay Leimenstoll

On the landing page, make sure to highlight some of the benefits of signing up such as:

  • Save Money – Get EMAIL exclusive coupons not available anywhere else
  • Be First – Get notified ahead of everyone when a promotion is launched
  • Get Inspired – We share lots of ideas on how you can improve your life with our product
  • Attend Local Events – Get notified when an event is being hosted near you
  • Stay informed – Get updates on latest Trends, New Arrivals & Best Sellers

Remind people that it’s easy to unsubscribe if they don’t want to hear from you any longer.

You can use tools such as or Unbounce to create landing pages.


Step 2 – Get Personal

Focus on Personalization.

One way to get people engaged with your newsletter is by personalizing the message.  I am not talking about simply adding their first name in the subject line.  You need to do more.

The more you know about your subscribers, the better.  The challenge is asking for more information during signup.  If you ask for too much, they might feel uncomfortable.

The best way to become more personal is to ask for this information over a period of time through other campaigns such as giveaways, contests or surveys.

Don’t request information from subscribers without a defined purpose.  Ask for details that will help improve your marketing message.

For example, if you sell dog supplies, it makes sense asking for the size of the dog or breed as well as gender.

Things You Can Ask For:

  • Birthday
  • Location (city/country/zipcode)
  • Status (single/married/divorced)
  • Number of Children
  • Occupation

You can ask for this information when people sign up to your mailing list, signup to a contest or simply when they update their personal profiles on your website.

Keep in mind that if the customer purchases something from you, you will have access to more personal information.

Another way of personalizing emails is by using advanced recommendations where you showcase specific products in the email based on purchasing or browsing behaviour.

A great tool to use is by Klaviyo.


Step 3 – Be Relevant

Focus on Relevancy.

If you’re into yoga and you receive an email about hockey, chances are you will either ignore it, unsubscribe or delete it.

But if you’re into yoga and you receive an email about back pain exercises, I’m sure that will be of interest to you and you will potentially open the email.

Sending out relevant content to subscribers is key for long term engagement.  Keep in mind that you still need to ensure that they’re expecting it from you.

The more you know about who your email subscriber is, the better (as mentioned in the previous step) – this is referred to as demographics.

And the more you know about what matters to them (and why they buy), is even better – this is referred to as psychographics.

Personalization – it is not about first/last name. It’s about relevant content. Dan Jak

Learn more about your subscribers.  Ask about:

  • Interests
  • Hobbies
  • Brands they love
  • Celebrities they follow
  • Life challenges
  • Their Dreams
  • Career challenges
  • Their values

The goal is to understand your customer’s lifestyle.

My favorite ways of getting to know your customers is by engaging with them on social media, surveys and web polls.

Social Media – post content on Facebook/Instagram where you ask a question.  Have followers comment their answers. Tools for creative graphics: Canva or Pikmonkey

Surveys – it’s a great way to have customers answer 7-10 open-ended questions about their lifestyle – remember to add an incentive such as a gift card or a discount for future purchase to help increase the number of respondents. Tools you can use: SurveyMonkey or Google Surveys

Web polls – quick and easy questions that appear across the website while shoppers are browsing pages. You can ask a yes/no question or an open-ended question. Tools you can use: Hotjar or Webengage




Anticipated, personal and relevant advertising always

does better than unsolicited junk. – Seth Godin

I’m going to summarize everything in one sentence because I’ve said enough about the misconception of getting people to notice and open your emails.

Improving your permission-based email acquisition strategies and delivering anticipated, personal and relevant content is what will help you improve your email marketing campaigns.  The subject line is not the only thing you should be focusing on.

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