How to Increase Your Email Open Rate With 5 Simple Words

By Chris Shaffer •  Updated: 05/12/21 •  6 min read

Having an email list is one of the highest return on investment marketing activities for just about every type of business, but if no one opens your emails………having one doesn't do you much good.

The key to getting great open rights on your emails is crafting a great subject line and while I could sit here and talk about all of the different psychological ways that you can increase your open rates (we'll save that for later!), I'd rather give you five simple phrases you can use to start improving your open rates right now.

After all, we're all about TAKING ACTION 🙂

Your [ Download]

The first phrase we’re going to take a look at today is “Your [download].”

This phrase can be used to skyrocket open rates any time you are sending an email follow-up in delivering a lead magnet.

The main reason this works is that the person receiving the email has just signed up for something (in this case a download, but feel free to swap out the word download for whatever your lead magnet is e.g. video or book) and they're expecting to receive it in their email.

By using the word your, we make it a little bit more personal, and when they see the name of the thing that they're expecting it's virtually guaranteed that they will open the email.

Thank You 

Now, let's talk about two of the nicest words in the English language “thank you”.

Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to use this in your subject line only immediately after somebody has made a purchase or side of your lead magnet.

In reality, this type of the subject line can be extremely effective at any point because it creates curiosity and it helps to reduce the “corporate image” that a lot of people have in their subject lines because it's something you would hear from a friend.

We tend to use the subject line every few months with our different email lists and always get amazing open rates.

This is best when you combine it with a reason why you're thanking them as the first line of your email.

For example, if you are using this as a subject line the first line of your email may say something as simple as “I just want to take a quick second to thank you for being a subscriber, you have no idea how much it means to me”.

In addition to giving them the reason why you are thanking them, the subject line can be extremely powerful and combined with an open question. 

For example, if we were using the subject line after giving them the reason why we use the subject line, we may ask the reader if there's anything we can do for them or any particular sticking points that they have with a product or something they like us to teach in the future.


Similar to the “thank you” subject line, another great way to create curiosity and get some feedback from your audience is by using a subject line that simply says “question?” or something like “quick question”.

In addition to creating the obvious curiosity (leaves people thinking what's the question?), It gets people into a responsive mindset meaning you're much more likely to be or get a response to your email.

Obviously, the very first line of this email should be the question you are asking for help with. 

For example, if we were in the best fish market we may use the subject line and parent with a question like “what's the biggest thing you're struggling with in your bass fishing journey” or “what's your favorite casting technique”.

It's hands down one of the best ways we found to get information from our list about the things they're struggling with and even potentially generate some product ideas.


The last two phrases we are talking about today are better when combined and are best used during a promotional email campaign.

The first phrase we are going to take a look at is the use of the word “deadline” or “deadline: ends tonight”.

These phrases are effective for two reasons.

The first is because they generate curiosity if the reader does not already know exactly what the deadline is for and when the deadline is.

It will leave them wondering deadline? What deadline. Thankfully, the only way for them to resolve their internal dilemma about what the deadline is is to open our email.

The second reason these phrases are effective is for pushing people off the fence.

Unlike the first type of reader who may not know what the deadline is or when the deadline is, the second type of reader is a fencer. They know that the deadline is coming up and they need to make a decision.

Using this subject line creates urgency and forces them to make a decision either way.

Last Call

Just like with the use of the word deadline that we talked about above, using a phrase like open quotation last call close quotation is an excellent way of pushing people over the edge to making a decision.

While this doesn't create quite as much curiosity as some of the other phrases that we talked about, it serves as an extremely effective warning for people that they are about to miss out on something.

If you've ever shopped at the store Kohl's and received Kohl's cash, you probably know the sensation of dread about losing out on all of your free money that Kohl's has given you and rushed to the store on the final day that you're able to redeem your Kohl's cash (maybe that's just me).

In reality, the fear of missing out is an extremely real sensation for people, and using the phrase last call is an excellent way of triggering that sensation.

We will typically use this subject line as our last email and our promotional sequence and we typically will pair it with the phrase in the email to soften the aggressive nature of the subject line.

Something to the effect of “I know we've been sending a lot of emails this week and I promise this is the last one for now.”

In addition to being the truth, this has the effect of creating even more urgency with the audience, because they know it's the last email they're going to be receiving about the offer, and creating a little bit of a sensation of reciprocity by acknowledging the fact that we've been emailing more than normal.

That’s A Wrap

If you've been struggling with low open rates on your emails or you just want to give something different to try to see how it works with your list, give one of these five phrases a try.

We put together a whole bunch of material on how to optimize your email lists and increase open rates inside of the email marketing FastTrack workshop and if you struggled with getting better open rates or simply adding more emails to your list, you may want to give that a look here.

Chris Shaffer

Chris lives at the intersection of business strategy and growth tactics. Having consulted with dozens of different businesses (as well as building several of his own), he brings a unique perspective on what's working across the eCommerce world in businesses of all shapes and sizes.