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The Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Emails for Scavengers

The Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Emails for Scavengers

Home Blog Digital Marketing Email Marketing The Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Emails for Scavengers

How many emails are your inbox right now?

And how many of those emails do you plan on reading?

I’m guessing there’s a significant gap between those two figures.

With estimates placing the volume of emails sent each day at roughly 293.6 billion, email saturation is very real.

If you’re running any sort of email marketing campaign, that means your success relies on getting people to open your email in a crowded inbox. But that’s still only half the battle.

An opened email is useless if the content doesn’t capture attention, pique interest, and demand the reader to take the next step.

It is your challenge to write an engaging email that people actually want to read. All you need to do is nail your subject line. Then nail your email copy too. But that’s easier said than done…

All the technical tips and best practices in the world won’t save you if you don’t recognize this one key trait – consumers are scavengers.

They’re digging for information, taking what they need, and discarding the rest. No one has time to read content from start to finish, even content as (relatively) short as an email. So you need to write for information scavengers if you want your emails to be read.

Scavengers want answers, quickly. They want to tear into the value before someone else does. And with the emails that keep flooding their inbox, they’ll look elsewhere if you don’t give them what they need.

So if you’ve already built a winning email list, it’s time to take the following steps to write emails scavengers will read.

Guide to Using Monitoring for Crisis Management

Step #1 – Nail Your Subject Line

You could master every email writing trick in the book, but if no one is actually opening your email, you’re still failing.

Before you sit down and type out a single subject line, picture your recipients’ inbox right now. It’s more congested than peak hour traffic. And it’s like that all the time. Every subject line you create should be written with the express goal of scything through the pack.

With a glut of emails competing for attention in every inbox, creating compelling and engaging subject lines is the first step in catching the attention of scavengers.

The right subject line can be the difference between increasing your open rate and being ignored completely, so don’t skip this step to rush towards your email copy.

Think of your subject line as your headline. It should be written to grab maximum attention in the shortest time possible. Remember, your audience wants to find the information that’s relevant to their problems quickly. Then they’ll leave everything else behind.

Ask yourself, ‘what can I put in the subject line that provides quick, clear answers?

Need some help? Try CoSchedule’s subject line tester


Michael May, email marketing team leader at Search It Local, recommends taking the ‘U-approach’ when crafting a clickable subject line. He explains “you should ask yourself whether your email is unique, useful, urgent or ultra-specific. While the content may seem valuable to you, you have to really step into the shoes of your recipient. If your email doesn’t tick at least one of these ‘U-approach’ boxes, you’ll put them to sleep.”

Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether you’re taking the U-approach:

  • Unique: Does your message compel, and is it remarkable?
  • Useful: Does your message offer value to the reader?
  • Urgent: Does the recipient get the need to read immediately?
  • Ultra–specific: Does the recipient understand what is being promised?

Subject Line Tips

  • Keep subject lines short: With the majority of emails opened on mobile devices, you’ll be working with fewer characters than you think.
  • Utilize preview text: With so little space in your subject line, use your preview text to provide additional information.
  • Create a sense of urgency: The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a powerful trigger. Use time-sensitive language in relation to discounts, promotion,  and benefits.
  • Be specific: Cute, clever and creative subject lines aren’t as powerful as clear and direct subject lines.
  • Add a name: Including your contact’s name in the subject line can increase open rates by 29%.

Step #2 – Skip the small talk

Small talk and emails go together like peanut butter and jelly. But they shouldn’t!

It makes sense in theory. If you’re expecting your recipient to take the next step – whether that’s to sign up, to book a meeting, or to make a purchase – you want to start soft and reel them in with pleasantries.

In theory, hard sells kill sales. But there’s a fine line for you to tread. Filling your email with small talk can remove the effectiveness of a strongly worded and direct email.

You might feel as if prefacing all your emails with a friendly question or pleasantry helps create rapport. But look at it this way, how often do people ever actually reply to your small talk questions?

  • How was your weekend?
  • What’s new in your world?
  • How have things been traveling?

While you can keep the short pleasantries in your emails, consider cutting them to make your emails more engaging.

Step #3 – Leave filler words out

Scavengers scan content.

They want to pick through your copy and find the juiciest, most valuable information to consume. Everything else gets left behind.

This means every extra word you add that isn’t providing value, is making it harder for people to find what they’re looking for.

Think this doesn’t apply to you? You might be surprised. No matter what industry you’re in, or how long you’ve been writing emails, there’s a good chance you’re using too many filler words and pointless phrases.

Don’t believe me?

Find a random email that you’ve sent recently. Assess how much of the email is clear and concise and how much could be cut. Be brutal in your assessment. Watch out for terms like:

  • “I think”
  • “Basically”
  • “Very”
  • “Really”
  • “Needless to say”
  • “Probably”
  • “Sorry”

These filler words weaken your content and make you sound unsure of your own message. By removing these filler words you’ll have the dual effect of making your message clearer and sounding more confident.

Research has shown that people scan in an ‘F’ pattern. So, writing an email that reads like a book may not have the effects that you think it will. With people skipping multiple words and looking for the information they’re after, you need to trim the fat.

Don’t waste what minimal time you have by forcing people to skim through words that add zero value. Consider the following two sentences as an example…

  1. “I think jumping on a call would be the next step, needless to say, I think this could help you double your monthly leads.”
  • “Jumping on a call would be the next step. This could help you double your monthly leads.”

Which one is a more powerful message to you?

The second version retains the message of the first. But the trimmed line has cut all the filler that weakens your premise and strips you of your confidence.

Check out the email from Google below; an example of a clear, filler-free email copy.


Kill the Filler Tips

  • Put your most important message at the top: People remember the first information in a series with more accuracy than everything that follows. Put your most valuable takeaway at the top to make sure it sticks.
  • Use a P.S line: Recall is also high at the end of a series. So bookend your email with the most important content at the start and finish. A P.S line makes for a natural visual break that will draw a scavenger’s eye.
  • Send more than one: Got multiple messages to convey? Consider sending multiple emails to make sure each message is clear.

Step #4 – Get to the point

Attention spans are fleeting. In fact, if you’re still reading this article by now you’re in the minority, with estimates suggesting the average read time for blogs in 2019 is just 37 seconds.

This short attention span applies to emails too. Your content should be short, sharp and to the point. Which means avoiding vague waffling and cutting out convoluted sentences.

If you are prone to over-writing, try writing draft copies of your emails and editing them before you hit send. You can also create a checklist to complete before sending anything off. Add questions like:

  • Are my points clear and easy to understand?
  • Can I remove any information to make my point clearer?
  • Am I using words for the sake of it or to sound clever?

Think of your words as currency. You don’t want to spend more than you have to. Brian Dean of Backlinko is an expert at getting to the point and showing the value scavengers can find.


Step #5 – Use Bullet Points

It’s tempting to overload your emails with content.

After all, your recipient should be armed with as much information as possible to help convince them to reply, sign up, or learn more. But if you’re providing too much content, you’re stuffing your email full and making it a chore for scavengers to read.

Let them skim through bullet points to find what they need instead. This strategy lets you say everything you wanted without creating walls of text that send people to sleep.

  • Your information is valuable so you don’t want to cut it out entirely
  • Just modify your presentation to make it easier to digest
  • You can use bullet points instead of writing long paragraphs
  • Which will help you communicate everything concisely

Bullet points also force you to be direct with your writing.

To get started, identify a paragraph in your email that could be converted into a list. Keep in mind, you don’t want to turn your entire email into a list. From there, use bullet points to break down chunky paragraphs into shorter lists that are easier to scan and digest.

The following example shows how bullet points make information clear and simple.


Bullet Point Tips

  • Create mini-headlines: Your bullet points are like tiny headlines that attract attention. Each one should convince people to read on.
  • Stay on track: Bullet points should be contextually related. So don’t stray from your original theme as you move down the page.
  • Stay symmetrical: Notice how each point here starts bold and ends with a sentence of complementary information? That’s no accident.

Is today the day your emails improve?

Writing emails that don’t end up in the trash can feel like an impossible task at times.

However, by following these steps you can tap into the minds of information scavengers and increase your open rate and click-through rate.

Ultimately, remember there is a human on the other end of the screen – not a potential sale.

Put yourself in their shoes and imagine the type of email you would stop and read. That should always frame your choices going forward.

Do you have any tips to write emails that actually get read? Let us know in the comments!

Guide to Using Monitoring for Crisis Management
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Alexander Porter

Guest Blogger @Mention