7 Ways to Improve Email Open Rates

Posted on Jun 18, 2013 by Kerry O'Malley

Email-marketing-shockley

Email marketing still remains one of the best routes for industrial B2B companies to reach prospective customers; and it happens to be one of the most cost effective, as well.  There are various aspects of an email campaign that determine results, but I will focus on how to improve your email open rates. (After all, if it’s not opened, it won’t get read, shared, or acted upon.)

1.  Send your email to people who WANT to receive information from you.

This seems like a no-brainer; email recipients who know nothing about your company and don’t care about what you do will not open your emails.

There are still plenty of “list rental” opportunities, particularly through trade publications, as well as “list sale” companies if you haven’t developed your own email list. This approach rarely delivers satisfactory results. A custom email broadcast through a respected trade publication won’t be inexpensive, either. Depending on your search criteria, it could end up costing as much as a full page ad in the magazine.

If you “buy” an email list, this will probably drastically reduce your open rate, and you will undoubtedly have a high number of bounces and unsubscribes.

The best way to improve your open rate is to build an email list comprised of people who have either registered on your website to receive information from your company, or of individuals that your sales staff has already engaged with at some level. If someone gives you their business card, it’s generally accepted that this gives you permission to add them to your email list. Likewise, if you have engaged with someone through social media; at a trade show; or on the phone, (actually had a positive discussion with the person) you can add them to your email list.

You’ll build your list more slowly this way, but if you want to improve your open rate, QUALITY trumps quantity.

2.  Write a great subject line unique to each email.

I recently read the results of a study that revealed that emails that have the same subject line every time they reach an Inbox get much fewer opens; not only that, the opens often decrease over time. This is sometimes the case when a company is sending out a monthly “report,” or a newsletter that they wish to brand. If the person receiving the email doesn’t understand early on that they will be receiving ongoing emails from you with the same subject line each time, you’ll probably lose them. Even if it’s at a subconscious level, they think they’ve already seen this content and hit delete.

The subject line really IS the most important written part of your email.  If it’s not catchy or interesting, the email won’t get opened. Here are some tips to consider when writing subject lines:

  • If there’s a way you can insert the person’s name into the subject line, DO IT. Some email service providers have this feature; and it has shown to be highly effective in increasing open rates.
  • This won’t apply to many industrial B2B emails, but creating a sense of urgency can also increase open rates.  For instance, if you are hosting a special event at a trade show and sending out email reminders, a subject line like “(NAME), Last Day to Register for (Event)!” If you are offering some special promotion, or discount, you could say, “(NAME), Only One More Week to Receive (Discount, promotion)!
  • Do some A/B testing. Send half of your list one subject line and the other half another completely different one, then measure the results. This can help guide you in writing future subject lines.

 

3.  Experiment with the day and time you send your emails.

A lot of this is common sense, but it still doesn’t hurt to test different days and times.  You actually may find a day and time that generates more opens from your target audience.

If your primary target audience does shift work, time your emails to arrive either early in their shift; close to their lunch hour; or an hour or so before the day ends. These tend to be times when people are checking email more often. If your target audience is in sales or production, Monday is probably NOT a good day.  Manufacturing businesses that are always scrambling to increase production near the end of the month so their numbers look good are probably not reading a lot of emails that aren’t “mission critical” the last few days of the month.

4.  Personalize the “from” field.

Certain studies indicate that making the “from” field an actual person’s name (as opposed to your company name only) can increase opens. For instance, you could segment your email list according to the sales person who services each of your product lines, or if sales are apportioned by territory,  segment the list that way and use the name of the sales person responsible for that region. If the email is more of a “corporate” nature, you could use the name of your CEO.

5.  Ditch subscribers who never open your emails.

Don’t be too hasty with this; but if you get a bounce or “unopened” from the same email address 8 months in a row, that’s a pretty good indication they really aren’t interested (and probably just too lazy to unsubscribe.) Deleting those email addresses can significantly improve your open rates. If the idea of deleting altogether makes you cringe, you can keep the email addresses as a separate list and continue to send to them. It could be that the timing just hasn’t been right, and after they get the 10th email from you, they suddenly open and respond.

6.  Do what you can to avoid spam filters.

Some email services have a feature that grades your email for spam flags. There are some things that definitely make a difference, especially in the subject line:

  • Don’t ever use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.
  • Don’t use excessive exclamation points!!!!!
  • Most industrial companies wouldn’t use typical spammy phrases, but just as a reminder, don’t use wording like “Free to the first 10 callers!”
  • Don’t use spammy words like: “free;” “sale;” “guaranteed.”

 

7.  Don’t fill the email area “above the fold” with an image.

Above the fold is the area that shows in the window when a person clicks on the email in their Inbox.

What a person sees when they are scrolling through the emails in their Inbox will often determine whether or not they open the email, regardless of subject line.  If all they see is an image, there is not a way for them to determine whether or not the content is something they want to read. Make sure that there is enough text showing above the fold that they get a little more insight into what the email contains than the subject line alone tells them.

You can find endless suggestions for improving your email open rates on the Internet. Do some research and learn; develop a strategy; and don’t be afraid to experiment. There is no cookie cutter process for email marketing.  While there are best practices and things to definitely avoid, there are many other options that are as individual as the many types of businesses that use this marketing tactic.

Have you found an email “formula” that has brought you above average open rates? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section!

Author: Kerry O'Malley

omalley@marketectsinc.com

Marketects was founded in 1999 by Kerry O’Malley, a proven marketing communications professional in international, manufacturing companies. Working on the “other side of the desk,” she hired ad agencies to manage her employers’ advertising and P/R programs. Frustrated over the lack of attention and level of enthusiasm she was looking for in the marketing agencies she worked with, Kerry realized that there was a definite need for a full-service marketing firm that specialized in working with industrial companies. She resolved that her clients would always receive the highest level of service possible and never feel like the last kid chosen for the team.

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