Ashley Zeckman

Email marketing has become an essential part of engaging and targeting prospects and clients online. In fact, eMarketer reports that 97% of small businesses use email marketing to connect with customers.   There are many aspects that make up an effective email marketing program, but today I’ll focus on how marketers can increase their campaign open rates.

Email content is essential, but getting people to actually open your email is a hurdle many marketers find hard to overcome.  A deep understanding of your customer base as well as their needs and habits for proper segmentation can be key in creating an effective email marketing strategy that produces high open rates.

As marketers we must ask ourselves: If I received this email from another company, would I open it?

#1 – Make a Good First Impression

What are the two things that email recipients see before actually opening an email?  Who the email is from, and what the subject line is.  These two items are your prime real estate for enticing your audience to view your email as opposed to simply trashing it and moving on.

The Sender: Recent studies have shown that adding a personalized feel to the email can be key in increasing open rates.  Instead of sending the email from instead utilize the first and last name of a company employee.  Setting up an email to send out messages on behalf of a company CEO or President can have a large impact on open rates.  I would also like to note that many spammers are sending out emails with female first names (without a last name) so be aware of this spamming trend and try to avoid it.

The Subject Line:  If ever there were an opportunity to convince your audience to read this is it.  Email marketing service MailChip has provided some best practice approaches to creating subject lines which include:

  • 4 Words or Phrases to Avoid: free, help, percent off, reminder
  • Localization Helps: providing a city name can increase open rates
  • Newsletter Half Life: using the exact same subject line for each newsletter can decrease open rates
  • Subject Line Strength: keep your subject to 50 characters or less with the exception of highly targeted audiences

To see some additional tips as well as some subject line examples that have been tested as well as the open rate see the study here.

#2 – Timing Isn’t Everything, But It is Important

This is a tactic that requires some common sense as well as some experimentation.  If your emails are sent too early in the morning they can get lost in the shuffle of other emails either sent late at night or early in the morning.  If your emails are sent too late in the afternoon your customer may see it as one more thing to review before quitting time and put off reading it until the morning (which will pile it under even more emails).  It is also important to keep in mind your audience.

If you are running a B2C campaign your audience may have time to check their emails either during lunch or after work.  Try experimenting with time frames that match up with that notion.  If your campaign has a B2B focus I would recommend sending emails in the afternoon or around 7 or 8 in the morning when you know they’ll be reading.  If your email marketing system allows you can always try doing some A and B testing utilizing different time frames to test open rates.

#3 – Avoid Spam Filter Traps

Spam filters analyze a large list of criteria when determining an email’s “spam score”.  If your email campaigns total spam score is over a certain threshold then it is sent to the dreaded Spam inbox.  There are some common mistakes that are easily avoidable if you know what to look for.

  • Spammy phrases such as “Once in a lifetime opportunity!”
  • Too many !!!!!!!!!
  • Sloppy HTML

For additional tips to avoid being sent to the spam filter be sure to visit Spam Assassin.

#4 – Get Rid of Dead Weight

Depending on which email service you use there should be a report that allows you to determine which emails are either bouncing or which subscribers are not opening your emails on a consistent basis.  Your open rate can be dramatically increased by pulling people from your list who never open your emails.  I wouldn’t recommend deleting their emails completely.  Instead, do some digging to find where the email subscriber originally came from so that you can create a more targeted campaign to get them re-engaged.

#5 – Refine the Sign Up Process & Email Targeting

Make it easy for people to sign up to receive email correspondence from your company.  Having potential customers jump through hoops to receive your marketed material is a poor strategy.  In order to make this process effective and engaging perhaps you could provide a fulfillment piece or whitepaper during the initial sign up as a take away and then continue to market based upon their needs.

The more refined your targets within your campaigns are the more likely you are to achieve success with your email marketing campaign.  Creating separate nurture campaigns for prospects and influencers within different industries and job roles is a great way to begin tracking and improving success rates.

What is a Good Open Rate?

Now that we’ve covered 5 important tips for improving the open rate of your email marketing campaigns, I thought that providing some sort of standardization for open rates by industry might also be useful. Open rate is one of the most commonly asked questions with email marketing clients. While you make the decision to implement each of the tips above, it’s important to understand that the open rate of your email marketing campaigns can differ based upon your industry and target market.

Image Credit: Constant Contact



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