How the Marketing Pros Improve Email Open Rates

Rob Quincy

By Rob Quincy on August 15, 2012

As a full service marketing firm in the crowded NJ / NY area, we get a lot of questions about how to ensure email marketing effectiveness. While there are a lot of factors that can determine success or failure, the following rules for improving email open rates are a great place to start when creating your next campaign.

Make Sure They Opted In
Don’t just send to every email address you get. Make sure that each person has specifically requested to be included on the list. If you get leads at a tradeshow, don’t automatically add them to every email campaign. Instead, email them and ask them to sign up for your list. Don’t worry if your list starts out small - it’s important to consider quality over quantity. A small list of people that are excited about your brand and content is much better than a big list of people who don’t care.

Segment Better
When a message is specific to the needs of the consumer, they are much more likely to pay attention. When you segment customers and leads into different categories, you can make the messages more specific to each group. For instance, you can segment by demographic factors or by the recipient’s place in the buying cycle.

Pay Attention to New Users
Research shows that new subscribers are the most interested and engaged, so make sure you communicate with them early and often. In other words, don’t add someone to your list only to wait a couple months before contacting them. It would be worthwhile to create a special campaign for new subscribers and send emails more frequently at first and then taper the frequency over time.

Improve Your Subject Lines
The subject line should clearly state what the email is about and what the recipient will get by opening it. Try to be specific. For example, “Email Marketing Ideas” would not be an effective headline. “5 Easy Way to Improve Email Open Rates Today” would be a great headline. Teasing the prospect with a question or a punch line setup is another good way to pique their interest and get them to look inside.

DON’T DO THIS!!!!!!!!!
Subject lines that are all caps or contain multiple exclamation points are a big red flag, and often get flagged as spam. It’s ok to use one exclamation point if it fits with the subject line, though well-written copy often doesn’t need contrived enthusiasm.

Avoid Red Flag Words
Specific words or phrases like Click here, Winner, or Free can also be red flags for spam filters, as can special characters like the $ sign. The word free can be a powerful tool if you are actually giving something away, but it’s important to use it correctly. Don’t make it the first word of your subject line, don’t put it in all caps and don’t add an abundance of exclamation points after it. If you follow those rules, you should avoid most spam filters.

Perfect the First 50 Characters
Most email clients will display at least the first 50 characters of a subject line. You should be sure the most important words or offers are located in those first 50 characters. In the age of 140 character tweets and short attention spans, you should aim to keep subject lines short regardless. Few people want to open an email that appears to require a substantial investment of time to read – but short, digestible information or compelling offers are often welcomed.

Offer Something of Value
As touched on above, email topics should be timely and of interest to your audience. When you consistently offer helpful content or great offers, your audience will look forward to opening your emails.

Time is of the Essence
It’s obviously best to avoid sending emails around holidays or on a Friday afternoon, though the proliferation of mobile access has forever blurred the lines on communication timing. Get to know your particular audience by testing your responses at different times and days. Split your users into groups based on their open rates. Does this group seem to have time to open emails at lunch? Does that group prefer to get them as they regroup on Sunday night for Monday morning?

As a general rule of thumb, however, we’ve found that Tuesdays and Wednesdays still tend to be ideal for sending emails. According to research from MailChimp, which sends out about 50 million emails each day, subscribers are more likely to open an email after 12pm, and the most active hours are between 2-5pm.

Design Matters
Design comes into play once someone has already opened an email, though preview panes in email programs often reveal the look and feel before a user has opened the email. So it’s worth noting that an email that is well designed, tightly formatted and visually appealing stands a much better chance of creating a positive impression than a drab and stuffy one.

If you’d like help creating your next email campaign or advice on improving your open rates, please contact our full service marketing team and we’d be delighted to speak with you.


About Ridge Marketing

Ridge Marketing is an agency that specializes in crafting creative digital assets and using websites, search, advertising and email to ensure that the right prospects interact with your brand and become loyal customers.