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The Simple Technique to Creating an Email People Will Actually Open

Combine a tried-and-true approach with something unexpected

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BY Alison Davis - 06 Jun 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Breaking through the clutter is a challenge for anyone who sends email to any audience. In my case, I'm constantly working to create emails that employees will open and read.

If you also think a lot about email, you're probably aware that two key elements determine whether recipients will cruelly trash your next email (sob!) or be intrigued enough to take a look. Those elements, of course, are: 1. Sender address and 2. Subject line.

Let's start with the sender address. The most common mistake emailers make is to send an address that's meaningless and even off-putting. For internal communication, addresses like "HR" and "Corporate Communication" and "Safety" signal that an email is likely to be boringly generic.

What about subject lines? At least one-third of recipients decide whether to open an email based solely on what's in the subject line. That's why smart emailers spend so much time crafting a subject line that promises a benefit--a reward to the recipient for spending time with the message.

That brings me to this clever, super-simple technique for improving BOTH sender address and subject lines, courtesy of the recipe e-newsletter from Bon Appetit.

Bon Appetit, whose slogan is "where food and culture meet," is a Condé Nast magazine/website which covers food "through the lens of cooking, fashion, travel, technology, design and home." Subscribers receive several emails a week offering culinary inspiration and recipes.

And here's where the fresh new approach comes in. Recently, the Bon Appetit crew has been creating sender addresses and subject lines that go together in a clever way.

For example, the sender "Rhubarbara at Bon Appetit" offers an email with this subject line: "Rhubarb Recipes That Go Beyond Pie."

And here's Pea-wee Herman at Bon Aepptit with the subject line, "Peas Try These 6 Springy Recipes."

Get the picture? Bon Appetit is using a well-known best practice of creating a sender address that's a person, not a mailbox. But the twist is to create personas that make the recipient pause. "What's that?" you wonder, as you put together the first impression (sender address) with your second look, the benefit-oriented subject line.

Of course, the content has to meet recipients' expectations. But once they see the payoff, recipients will eagerly wait for the next installment. For example, here are 3 recent emails:

• Barb E. Cue at Bon Appetit writes, "These Grilled Pork Recipes Are Memorial Day Hits"

• Mr. Mix-a-Lot at Bon Appetit offers, "6 Reasons to Break Out Your Stand Mixer"

• Or my absolute favorite from Darth: "Embrace the Dark Side of Chicken"

The best part? You can borrow and adapt this technique for your emails: You simply have to come with up with friendly, memorable addresses and combine them with subject lines that promise the recipient something useful.

Like this. Sender address: Simple Simon. Subject line: "Make emails as easy as pie."

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