This post is written by Rich Mauser, Sr. Email Marketing Manager for Business.com. In this two-part article series, Rich shares his tips for more optimized email campaigns. Email marketing is great way for businesses to generate leads, nurture leads and turn those with an interest into long-term and loyal customers. In part one, he shares two quick and easy email tips to get your prospect's attention, build rapport and convert more of your prospects to customers. 1. Get Your Prospect's Attention with a Great Subject Line There's an old adage in email marketing that says you have 3 seconds to capture someone's attention in your email. All it takes is 3 seconds (or less) for a prospect to decide if they're going read your email, save it to read later, or delete it. So it's absolutely crucial in your first email to a prospect that you get their attention quickly. And the best way to get their attention is through the subject line of your email. The subject line is the most important aspect of your email. It's your headline. It's the first thing your prospect will see when they receive your email, so spend some time thinking about your subject line. We spend nearly twice as much time writing and testing subject lines for our emails than we do on the rest of the email. It's that important. So what makes a great subject line? The best subject lines speak to the reader's selfish benefit, so focus your subject lines on your prospects and how they will benefit. Do NOT make it about you. A quick way to improve a subject line is to look for the words "me", we" or "I". If any of those words appear in your subject line, it may be time to re-write. Quick Tip: put your prospect's first name in the subject line and you'll get a much higher percentage of them reading your email. If you're using an automated email system, you should have the ability to merge the first name into the subject line automatically. If it doesn't you may want to consider getting another one. I've been using this tip for years, and I've seen it boost response by as much as 75%. Keep your subject lines short. Most subject lines get cut off in the email preview window, so any words after the first 30 characters aren't likely to make an impact. And most likely will not get read by your prospect, so keep them short. President Obama's 2012 fundraising campaign set a new benchmark for political fundraising via email. They tested hundreds of subject lines and the one that got the best open rate was "Hey." That's it. Three simple letters. Here's what Toby Fallsgraff, the campaign's email director had to say about it in a Bloomberg Businessweek article: "The subject lines that worked best were things you might see in your in-box from other people," Fallsgraff says. " 'Hey' was probably the best one we had over the duration." Another blockbuster in June simply read, "I will be outspent." According to testing data shared with Bloomberg Businessweek, that outperformed 17 other variants and raised more than $2.6 million. The second subject line mentioned in the quote above, "I will be outspent" uses another concept I've seen work well in my own testing -- using cryptic or vague subjects. This arouses the reader's curiosity and keeps them moving forward from your subject line to the rest of your email, which is the sole responsibility of the subject line - get them to keep reading! 2. Keep It Conversational Once you've got your reader's attention with a short subject line that arouses curiosity, you want to keep their attention by making the "body" of your email short and personal. One of the biggest mistakes I see businesses make in their emails is they write with a "business appropriate" tone. This typically comes off as stiff, uncomfortable and unreadable. Frankly, I don't know anyone who enjoys reading dry business writing. Yaaawn. Quick Tip: If you're having a hard time finding a casual voice for your emails, go to one of my favorite websites all time: Unsuck It. They've got a great tool that helps you turn dry, over-complicated and ambiguous phrasing into short, concise language that's simple, direct and easy to understand. When making your first contact with a prospect via email, act like you're welcoming them into your home. What do you do first when you let someone into your home? Greet them, thank them, welcome them and ask if there's anything they need? Maybe you offer them something to eat or drink? A seat? That's a pretty good formula for a first email contact: greet them, thank them, and ask if there's anything they need. This will go a long way to building a relationship that will ultimately end in a sale. Be authentic. Use a casual, conversational tone. And remember, people buy from people, not from companies. Stay tuned for Part 2 for more tips on how your business can use email to convert prospects into customers. What type of success has your business seen with email marketing?