100% of businesses want to improve their email response rates. Increasingly strict spam filters are blocking even permission based emails, and it is getting harder and harder to break through the background noise level in your recipient’s inbox. Here are top techniques to make sure your missive gets the attention it deserves.

Strong Subject Line

It starts with the subject. If this doesn’t entice the reader the email won’t even be opened. Here are two things you can do:

  1. Use one of the following subject templates:

Help: ‘How to [topic]’ eg. ‘How to [write a blog]’

Empathy: ‘[X number] [topic] mistakes we all make’ eg. ‘7 blogging mistakes we all make’

Threat: ‘[X number] warning signs about [topic]’ eg. ‘5 warning signs [your blog sucks]’

Reference: ‘What [reference] tells us about [topic]’ eg. ‘What [Neil Patel] tells us about [blogging]’

Simplicity: ‘[X number] minute [guide / shortcut / how-to] to improve [object]’ eg. ‘2 minute [guide] to improve [your blog]’

‘Listicles’ are another approach to delivering succinct information in a bullet point format.


  1. Personalize the subject line:

Using someone’s name can sometimes be too personal in a B2B scenario. A company name might be more natural. Instead of sending an email titled “Email Response Rate Guidelines”. Try, “5 tips to increase Acme’s email response”.


Structured and Short Body

Use a simpler writing style by following these easy steps.

Structure your cold emails in three paragraphs:

  1. Who are you? This section should succinctly explain what you do, but without repetition – don’t say “My name is Bob…”, they can get that from the signature. It’s an email, not a speech. Instead explain the company. A key element here is to build credibility, so customer references and any other validation points are good to add.
  2. Your value proposition. How are you going to help this person? What exactly does your product or service do for them? How will they benefit?
  3. Call-to-action (CTA). What do you want the reader to do? Download a white paper? Visit a website? Arrange a meeting? There should only be one CTA.

Personalize your message body, not just with an introductory “Hi Arnold”, but also be referring to your prospect’s company name in the body of the email. Few people bother to do this, which is what makes it so effective. At the same time, don’t pretend like you’re their friend, it can be very stand-offish, but speak to them like you could be. Balance is important.

Finally, keep it light with a conversational tone and some humor never goes amiss.


Make it Visual

Everyone uses images in email, whether you’re sending a rich HTML email or just a plain text email with a picture of yourself at the bottom. Yet many people’s email clients automatically have images disabled. How does your email look in that case?

Alternative text, or alt text as it’s known, is text that is associated with an image that serves the same purpose and conveys the same essential information as the image. It also allows you to use appropriate text content to ensure an email is still effective even without images.


We’ve all seen these before.

Remember to style your alt text. By adding a style attribute to your <img> tag, you can dramatically improve the visual presentation even without images by styling common font attributes such as family, weight, size, color, as well as justification.

Styled alt text is supported on the following clients:

Native: Apple, Thunderbird (Lotus and Outlook do not support)

Web mail: Gmail, outlook.com, Yahoo!, AOL (note: these require non-IE browser, such as Chrome or Firefox)

Mobile: Android, iOS, Blackberry (Windows Phone does not support)

In simple terms: Most consumer email clients will support alt text (Apple, Gmail, Yahoo!, etc). Most enterprise clients do not support alt text (Outlook, Lotus, etc). Still, it does no harm to add it.


Don’t Forget Mobile

It was widely reported that 53% of all emails opened in 2015 were on a mobile device. Therefore when creating an email campaign it is imperative that the email displays correctly and beautifully on a mobile device.

If you are sending a simple plain text email then you’ve not got much to worry about. However if your sending a rich HTML email that is all singing and dancing, BEWARE – your email will not appear the same on every email client or device. Email clients are surprisingly underdeveloped when it comes to displaying HTML and there is no set standard to get it right. What works in one version of the client may not work in a newer version of the same application – it’s that much of a minefield.

In honesty we could write an entire article about mobile email (perhaps we might), therefore the best piece of advice is to keep your HTML emails very simple, remember to host your images externally and test test test.


Plan the Email Campaign

Everyone has ideas about the best time to send an email campaign. Everyone says avoid Monday and Friday. But then given that, maybe you should target those days. Fundamentally this is something you will need to measure for your own clients in terms of optimum timings.

One thing to do if you are a global company is to add timezone to your contact records. This should enable you to partition your email list and send at the relevant local time, so folks in New York and San Francisco, both receive your mail at close to 9:30am local time.



As you are looking at your contacts, it’s worth spending time on list hygiene. Too many bad bounces and you could find yourself banned from your vendors’ bulk email system. Needless to say, bought in lists are especially suspect, and you should test out on a small (<100) sample.

Before you press the send button make sure at least one other person and preferably two have proof-read the content.

While there are different regulatory regimes, the US CAN-SPAM is probably the most extensive. It makes sense to follow their key recommendations:

  •   Don’t mislead with false headers, subject lines or sender information.
  •   Add a formal postal address and company registration number.
  •   If the email is not opt-in, make it clear this is a cold-call email.
  •   Make sure there is a “clear and conspicuous” unsubscribe mechanism. There should always be a global unsubscribe from your company too, as well as individual email lists.


If you found this useful and know someone who might also find it useful please share. From this point on, we expect to receive emails that follow the above guidelines 😉 

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