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

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

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
  • Urgent: Does the recipient get the need to
    read immediately?
  • Ultra–specific: Does the recipient understand
    what is being promised?

Subject Line

  • 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%.
READ ALSO  3 Ways Social Media and Email Can Work Together to Build Brand Loyalty

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

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

  • 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

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
  • 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.
READ ALSO  2019 Email Marketing Statistics: We Analyzed 1,000 Emails from Today’s Top Experts

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

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

  • 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

  • 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

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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