They say you should never judge a book by its cover.

And even if you don’t, most certainly you do judge it by its title and by the name of its author.

I know I do.

But I’m not the most adventurous reader. I have a handful of topics that I like to read about and a few favorite authors that I enjoy.

And I’m willing to bet that in a lot of ways, I’m a lot like your customers … at least when it comes to email marketing.

The two questions that get me to open a book are the same two that will get email subscribers to open your emails. Answer those questions, and your email newsletter may become a best seller.

1. Do I know you?

The first question that readers ask when they see your newsletter in their inbox is, “Do I know you?”

In fact, the main reason a person opens a business or organization’s email is the relationship that they have with the sender.

But just because they know you when they shop in your store or when they signed up to receive your newsletter, doesn’t mean they are going to know you when you make it to their inbox.

Make sure they recognize your name in the From Line in 5 easy steps.

1. Keep your name short: Depending on how your subscribers are checking their emails, only part of your Address is going to show up. Keeping your address under 20 characters will improve your chances of being noticed.

2. Use a From Name and Address the recipient will recognize: Even if you’re on a first name basis with some of your regulars, you want to make sure to use a From Name and Address that everyone is going to recognize.  Avoid using generic “info@” or “sales@” addresses.

3. Be consistent: Decide which address you’re going to use to send your newsletter before you send your first email. People need to get used to seeing your name in their inbox and changing email addresses can ruin that familiarity and can get your emails flagged as spam.

4. Use your brand: Think about what your customers associate most with your business. Are you a restaurant? A bike shop? A bakery? Sometimes just your name isn’t enough and you will want to incorporate things that define your business into your emailing address. (If I own a restaurant called Ryan’s, I may want my email address to be RyansRestaurant@…)

5. Become a trusted sender: Ask your readers to add you to their address book. That way, they can associate your email address with your business name and will be more likely to recognize you.

2. Do I care?

It’s not about whether or not they care about you, it’s about whether or not they care about what you have to say.

This is the second biggest factor when it comes to whether or not people open your emails and it all starts with your Subject Line.

Like a title on a book, your subject line has to catch their attention and give them a reason to open. Here are 10 tips to help you do that.

1. Keep it short and sweet: The key here is to keep it short, but not too short. The 40-50 characters range typically drive the best results. subject lines with fewer than forty nine characters have 75% higher open rates than those with more than fifty

2. Be specific: A subject line like “June 2012 Newsletter” doesn’t give your reader any indication of what your newsletter is about. Focus on something specific from your email and present in a way that catches their attention.

3. Write it last: Don’t write your newsletter based on your subject line, write your subject line based on your newsletter. Create your newsletter first and then come up with a subject line.

4. Take some time: You’re taking all that time to put your newsletter together, don’t let that go to waste by rushing your subject line. Think about your subject line while you’re creating your newsletter and get feedback from your employees.

5. Test it: Split your contact list and send two different subject lines. Make sure each subject line is unique and keep track of how your open-rates differ between the two groups. Try it for a couple weeks and then decide what type of subject line is getting you more opens.

6. Ask a question: Think about what’s on your customers’ minds. If your newsletter addresses a concern that they might have, then a question can be a get them to open. What’s even better is that phrasing it as a question, shows that you are the one who has the answer.

7. Be a tease: Don’t underestimate the power of your readers’ curiosity. If you’re using your newsletter to introduce a new product or service, a teaser can be a great way to get people excited about what you have to offer.

8. Tell it like it is: You don’t always have to worry about being creative, especially when you have something that you know your customers will like. If you have a key piece of advice (10 tips for a more healthy diet) or some big news (We’re opening a new location), just tell it like it is.

9. Remember WIIFM: What’s in it for me? Even your most unselfish customer is going to look to see what your email has to offer them. The top reason people subscribe to an organization’s newsletter is to receive discounts and special offers, keep that in mind when creating your subject line. But it’s not just about deals; it’s about providing content that’s relevant to your customers’ interests or needs. Think about what you’re customers are looking for and try to capture that in your subject line.

10. Get personal: Make your readers feel like every newsletter you send is meant for them. Including “you” in your subject line (You’re going to love our spring collection or 4 tips to making you a better cook).

Make your newsletter a best seller

As a small business, you’re never going to have all the answers (I don’t care how many books, or in this case blog posts, you read). But sometimes, answering the easiest questions can mean big results for your email marketing. Answering these two questions will mean more opens for your emails and more opportunities for you to reach your customers.