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How to Stop Writing Boring Email Hooks and Craft Something Read-Worthy Instead

How to Write the Perfect Email Hook

Ah, email. Simultaneously the highlight of our day or the inbox-eating nemesis we simply. can’t. kill.

No matter how hard we try.

Given that every single human with an address feels this way, it’s important to find ways around the dreaded “Mark as Read” that gets your work sent straight to the trash before people even open it up.

We discuss subject lines elsewhere, and true, they’re important. But many times, people will open an email just to see what it’s about … and quickly dismiss what you’ve got going because your hook sucks.

So what makes your recipient actually want to read your writing and not just send it directly to the eternal nonbeing that’s represented by that tinny little trash can button?

Good question, and I get it all the time.

The Problem with Email Hooks

The hook is the very first thing people see in an email, and often the last thing they see, right before they send it to G-blivion. (Like Gmail? Too much of a stretch?)

In this market, people are inundated with email after email, selling them everything from padded bras to organic cheese.

This cheese came from a friendly cow named Phillip! She loves grass, long walks at sunset and nontraditional gender names!

Well actually, I want to learn more about Phillip’s cheese now. It seems unique and delicious. Dammit. Bad example.

No, I’m talking about the cliché lines you see all the time. The ones that mislead the recipient about what’s actually in the email, use rampant exclamation points right upfront to indicate YOU MUST ACT NOW or emails that begin with “[Name], I’m writing because … ”

No to the no.

This is not a cover letter or a plea for someone to sponsor your charity race. It needs to be about THEM.

That doesn’t mean it’s not fair to pitch your product or service. And yes, people want information about how you and your offerings can better their life in some way. But they also want to feel like the information came from a real, relatable person who knows them and what they are looking for, and not just a robot in foreign country.

It’s a delicate dance.

Here are a few ways to do it: 

Open Your Email in an Unusual Way

“Hi” is so boring. “Hello” is worse. And if you use “Dear,” you should just be shot. I mean, really.

So quit boring people and mix it up. A few ideas:

  • Ahoy, sailor!
  • Holla!
  • ‘Ello, mate,
  • What’s shakin’?
  • Yo!

This is EASY to do. It takes you like .7 extra seconds to come up with a clever way to greet someone, but it’s so much less likely to turn them off than “Dear.”

If you really don’t feel up to creating your own list, that’s fine. In my Free Resource Library, I give you a full 50 (as well as 50 ways to say goodbye), so go check that out why dontcha.
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If your email list includes first names (and it should), make sure there’s room to include them. When writing drafts, I always write “Holla, [Name]!” Then I can go put the right tag in when I load it into my email provider.

Start the Email with a Question

I know what you’re thinking: Oh em gee, Sarah, this is sooooo overdone.

… and you’re right. But most people do it wrong.

You need to make sure you’re asking the question in a new way, or that the question you’re asking really needs answering.

Let’s say you’re selling artichoke supplements. It’s not enough to just ask “Do you love the health benefits of artichokes?” Because the answer is yes, artichokes are awesome for you. But where does that leave you? In Agreement Land about artichokes? It’s just not going anywhere.

They move on.

You’re left with a presumably brilliant email body allll about artichokes, but no one to read it because they were like pffffft artichokes, whatever, bored, next.

It’s just too generic. You need something more, such as “Do you love artichokes but hate how much they make you fart?”

Because the answer is not only “yes,” but “yes AND I can’t wait for this email to give me a solution to my problem.”

There you go. You have made the humble fartichoke both more interesting and solution-oriented. You’ve got ‘em. It’s only once you niche down what you’re writing about that you set yourself apart from all the useless emails the recipient usually gets.

Chillax, My Friendz

Most emails I receive are way too serious.

YOUR DOMAIN IS EXPIRING! THIS SALE ONLY LASTS ONE MORE DAY! LAST YEAR AT THIS TIME YOU BOUGHT XYZ PRODUCT AND WE REALLY THINK YOU SHOULD DO IT AGAIN BECAUSE WE! LOVE! MONEY!

Blerg. It’s enough to give anyone a stress headache.

Instead? Humor. It really is the best medicine. I mean, yes, we live in the age of information but we also live in the age of hilarious cat videos, and it would be a shame not to make use of them.

A laugh is a great way to start an email … but only if your email is going to employ humor throughout. Consider:

You love artichokes. You know you do. So creamy! So delicious dipped in mayo!

Not so delicious? The flatulence that inevitably follows. And if you’re like me, you’re pretty sick of it ruining your dating life.

But what about all the awesome vitamins and minerals you’re leaving on the table? Why should THEY have to suffer??

Is it random? Obviously. But it pulls the reader in with relevance, some fun punctuation, and – let’s not lie –always-popular references like dating and farts. Because, in the end, we’re just human. Sex and bathroom stuff are just funny.

Make the Email About You … and Them

Sound counterintuitive? Probably a bit. It’s supposed to be about them, after all.

But look, not all subjects are super comfortable to discuss, especially when it comes to failure: failing at business, failing at relationships, failing at education. Equally uncomfortable topics include a negative aspect of physical appearance, or financial troubles.

So instead of being all “You have acne/no money/no social media followers/an extra 30 pounds on you!” try saying, “I have [insert negative thing here].” Not only does this put people at ease – you’re a friend! You’ve been there! – but it sets you up to explain how you solved the problem.

Boom: connection AND a natural route to selling your solution.

And at the end of the day, we all love to read other people’s stories. Even if they’re about farts.

Okay, especially if they’re about farts.

Just sayin’.

So quit boring people. Quit losing them on line one. Quit walking away from good relationships and good opportunities. Instead, start working on those email hooks and watch the benefits flow in.

Still need a little help? Totes McGoats. Just sign up for access to the Free Resource Library, where you’ll get oodles of help on this exact subject as well as a dozen other copywriting resources – and growing all the time. Can’t wait to see you there!
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