It was frustrating.

And I’m wondering if you felt the same way.

You sit down to write your email, laboring over each word making sure it’s just right. You make sure the pictures look pretty and the layout fits on multiple platforms and devices. You click “send.”

And very little happens.

People on your list aren’t even opening your email.

You’re not alone

That’s where I was not too long ago.

Frustrated that I would spend hours writing an email that at best, wasn’t getting opened. And at worst, was being marked as spam.

I tried every hack, trick, and test that I could find. Nothing seemed to work.

When I complained to my mentor, the very first question he asked me was, “are you actually creating content that your list wants to consume?”

In an act of desperation, I decided to “ask” my audience what they wanted me to write about. And within a few weeks, my email open rate more than doubled from 10% to over 23%.

Since then, I’ve also figured out a few other ways to figure out what kind of content an audience wants to read.

Bonus: I’ve put together bonus resource that will give you three additional strategies to help you double your open rates.

How to use your autoresponder to listen to your prospects

Even if you have low open rates, your welcome email will still have high engagement.

But most marketers simply ignore the welcome email.

It’s the afterthought email that we create in order to tell people they’ve signed up for our list. Or we throw a link in there to direct them to the offer they just received.

But, when we decided to listen to our audience, one of the first things we realized was that our welcome email was a wasted opportunity.

You see, email marketing is a two-way communication medium. It’s meant to have conversations. How many email conversations do you currently have throughout the course of the day?

So we asked ourselves: Why don’t we use the welcome email to start conversations with the people on our list?

In most instances, the welcome email is the first opportunity to “meet” your audience. And it’s their first opportunity to meet you.

As you can see, from the image below, the welcome email gets a 71% open rate.

welcome-email-open-rates

This is by far the highest open rate of any email we send.

These readers are very engaged. This is a great time to start a conversation with them.

Once we started getting our audience to reply to our welcome email, we started to get a much deeper understanding about the type of content that they were looking to consume.

For more email marketing tips, download our free ebook.

How to create an engaging welcome email

The thing is, most people have absolutely no idea what they want to read.

My guess is that if you asked them the question “what would you like us to send you emails about?” most people would respond “I really don’t need any more emails.”

So, you have to approach this question through a side door.

Instead of asking them directly what they want to see in their emails, ask them what they’re struggling with right now.

People love to open up about their problems.

Here’s the exact email use to entice people on my list to reply to me, and it’s a script you can pretty much copy word for word.

welcome-email-sample

 

The “magic” is in the first section. Here’s how you can adapt it to your own welcome email:

“Hit reply to this email and tell me one thing you’re struggling with right now regarding your (insert topic here – i.e. email marketing)

In the past, folks have told me they can’t (list three challenges that your subscribers typically face when with regards to your topic/industry). (Note: By listing three example challenges, you get your audience to think very specifically about their own challenges.)

Whatever it is, I want to hear about it.

And I always respond to every email… no matter how large or small your challenge is right now. Even if you’re not struggling, hit reply and say ‘Hey!’ I love meeting new subscribers.”

Using this script, I’m able to get about 35% of the people on my list to email me.

What a great opportunity to tune in to my audience.

(Note: To be perfectly honest, I should have followed up with the question: “Why is it important that you solve this problem?” I might have received a lower response rate, but the deeper insight would have been well worth it.)

What kind of challenges do people actually share?

The responses we got varied.

Sometimes we received very general struggles:

welcome-email-reply-1

You can almost sense this person’s frustration. And as a marketer, I see this response a lot. As a marketer, I watch people spend a lot of time and money learning about different marketing approaches.

The good news is, that since I see this same reply multiple times, I don’t have to rewrite the response over and over. I just tweak the one that I currently have.

Other responses were much more specific, and much more interesting…

welcome-email-reply-2

As you can see, John has a couple of very specific problems. First, he lost money trying to get a website built. Check this out, as a savvy sales guy selling website and online marketing services, John has indicated to me his budget for a website build.

And second, like the email above, he’s trying to learn the most effective way to generate leads for his business using online marketing.

5 ways to use audiences responses to double email rates

1. Create content to solve their problem

One of the most effective ways to get people to open your emails is to actually solve their problems.

Let’s look at the two examples I shared above to show you how to do that:

welcome-email-reply-1

This is just one of a number of emails we received about traffic and sales. We knew that a headline like “How we got 5,327 visitors to our last blog post” would have been devoured by the people who struggled with traffic.

We could provide specific, clear, actionable steps that they could put to work immediately.

For the second response:

welcome-email-reply-2

For these types of responses, we would have to generalize the content to fit a mass audience.

For example, John has two challenges in his email. His first challenge is that he got stiffed working with a freelancer. His second challenge is that he’s extremely unfocused. He’s trying to create a marketing plan, but can’t seem to get a firm grasp on what to do first.

This immediately gave us the idea to launch an email series titled “The Beginner’s Guide to Creating Your First Online Marketing Plan in a Week.”

For five straight days, we delivered an actionable task that would help our audience drive traffic, generate leads, and build a relationship with their target market. For example, one day we showed them how to pitch a guest post opportunity. A second day we showed them how to set up a high-converting landing page.

Once again, we were able to create content that our audience couldn’t wait to consume.

2. Use their words in your subject

In the second email, there is a phrase that hit me right between the eyes.

Re-read the email again.

I’ll wait…

Did the phrase “scatter gun effect” hit you, too?

He’s using it to describe a course that he bought that is taking him in a lot of different directions. It lacks focus and he feels lost. (Note: In the United States, I’d translate this to shotgun effect, but it means the same thing.)

John can’t be the only person who feels like his marketing efforts are pulling him into a hundred different directions.

So, you can be sure that I’m going to use his words in my next email subject line.

For example, I might say something like “why your shotgun approach to marketing is doomed to fail.” Or, “how to turn your shotgun marketing approach into a precision strike.”

3. Respond to them directly

Warning: This strategy does not scale. At all.

But here’s the simple truth:

When you respond to someone in a thoughtful manner, they are more likely to open your emails, attend your webinars, share your blog posts, and yes, become customers.

After having a small conversation to find out more info about the first person’s business, here is the advice that I gave her:

Getting to this point took four or five emails.

Like I said, this strategy is NOT for the faint of heart. But it works!

4. Answer their questions in a weekly Q & A email

Want the easiest content idea ever?

Turn your best questions into a weekly Q & A email.

Here’s what you do:

  • First, take three to five most intriguing questions that you received that week
  • Then, answer the questions as best you can in about 200 words each. It’s not a lot, but I find that emails that are too long don’t get read all the way through.

I found that doing this once a week made for great “Sunday Morning Reading” for my audience.

5. Turn your audience into superheroes

I’ll admit it.  It doesn’t happen often.

But every now and then someone takes your advice and implements it.

And even sees results!

You want content that gets opened? Boom!

Think about it. When someone asks for your help, they’re struggling. There’s an obstacle in the way of them achieving their goal.

We’ve all stared at the brick wall in the way of our hopes and dreams.

So when a member of your audience implements your advice and achieves their goals, they will look like a superhero to the rest of your list.

It’s your job to spread the word of their success.

Need more help boosting open rates?

If you’re like me, then email is the backbone to your online marketing efforts. And these are the exact strategies I’ve used to create content that doubled my open rates.

And I want you to see the same benefits. So, I’ve created a some bonus resources that includes 3 additional strategies to help you increase your email open rates.

This includes:

  • 10 proven headline formulas that you can “plug n’ play” in your next email blast or autoresponder. Using these formulas, I have received as high as a 30% open rate.
  • Multiple split tests that we’ve run to improve the performance of our email marketing efforts even further.
  • A swipe file of our best converting emails… just in case you’re not sure what to write about.

To get all of this, just click here and enter your email address.

Greg Digneo is the founder of Birchfield, a software company that helps content marketers build their email list through referrals. Click here to get early access.

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