Email marketing may well be one of the most effective marketing channels in terms of starting a conversation with your audience, but if no one opens your emails, you may as well be talking to yourself! And that’s not going to get you anywhere in a hurry…
That’s right. We’re talking open rates in this article. Just about every email marketing service nowadays lets you track the open rates of the campaigns you send out, which is pretty cool. What’s not so cool is when that magical number won’t seem to budge, or worse still, when it plunges lower and lower, campaign after campaign, and you can’t help but think “what did I do?!” But fear not. You’re not alone and it’s nothing personal, but you probably do need to start doing things a little differently.
So what do you need to change? I talked to a few people who know a thing or two about email marketing, and asked them each to run me through one thing you can do to get more opens. The result…40 tips to help you increase your email open rates from some of the most respected email marketing pros in the world.
Don’t waste another second. Scroll down the page and take advantage of the expert advice. Don’t try everything at once, but do take action and implement some of these ideas before you hit “send” on your next mailout. You’ve worked hard to build your list, now you need to take care of it.
We’d love to hear about your results and whether these tips helped you better your open rate in the comments section at the end of this article!
Improve Your Email Open Rate: 40 Brilliant Tips
“How to increase your open rate”…that’s a search you’ll never have to do again! Here’s a quickfire overview of all of the tips that were shared with us in the making of this article. There’s no magic email open rate formula unfortunately, so try a few of these tips and see what works for your list.
- Incorporate video into your emails (Melanie Diehl)
- Surprise your subscribers by pulling them out of their comfort zone (Ruben Zantingh)
- Make sure you’re using fresh subject lines – overuse will be your downfall (Ian Deshays)
- A/B test to find what your list reacts best to (Lindsey Roberts)
- Have a list hygiene strategy (John Scott)
- Have a coherent plan, set simple goals + measure (Saul Gowens)
- Make sure you’re using the right benchmarks (Dela Quist)
- Set up BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification) (Irina Akelyeva)
- Use song, book + film titles in your subject lines (Vanessa Lanham-Day)
- Make sure your previous email was awesome (Jordie Van Rijn)
- Keep subject lines short (Diana Conner)
- Personalize the first sentence of your email (Matthew Hunt)
- Really understand your audience (Kelly Dedman)
- Make sure your emails are mobile friendly (Cheryl Russell)
- Re-humanize your email communications through video (record rather than write) (Javed S. Khan)
- Keep your email lists dynamic (Simon Washbrook)
- Use geolocation to target your audience (Ben Harrington)
- Be relevant (Ryan Phelan)
- Get the timing right (+ we’re not referring to time of day) (Rasmus Houlind)
- Properly segment your email list (Gina Ramsey)
- Use personalization within the subject line (Joshua Zelman)
- Explain “what’s in it for the reader?” (Daniel Miller)
- Add emojis (Linda Lovero-Waterhouse)
- Write engaging content (Jason Jacobs)
- Sort out email authentication before anything else (Jenny Lassi)
- Get their attention with emotional triggers (Kath Pay)
- Develop a strong welcome series (Komal Helyer)
- Find the perfect sending frequency (Pieterjan Decoster)
- Avoid “spammy” words in the subject line (Paul Larsen)
- Use the subject line and preheader combination (Mike Welthy)
- Write outrageous subject lines (Pat Marcello)
- Focus on building positive engagement (Dave Littlechild)
- Figure out where the reader is in their customer journey (Simon O’Day)
- Pique interest with a touch of curiosity + a question mark in the subject line (Tim Watson)
- Test short text-only emails (Vincent Tobiaz)
- Harness schadenfreude in your subject line (Ian Brodie)
- Give each subscriber what they want, when they want it (Kate Barrett)
- Develop a brand persona (Jerome Benanti)
- Write your subject line to one person, and answer their needs (Rachel Baines)
- Try alternating friendly from (Bennett Lafferty)
What the Experts Said: Open Rate Tips Explained
Below you’ll find each of the open rate tips explained in more detail, by the email marketing pros that were kind enough to share them with us. There’s tons of actionable advice, and plenty of “outside the box” thinking and ideas that should get you on the right track to an ever improving open rate.
Use the filters below to skip to the tips you’re most interested in!
- “Spammy” Words
- A Touch of Curiosity
- A/B Testing
- Add Emojis
- Alternating Friendly From
- Be Relevant
- Brand Persona
- Email Authentication
- Emotional Triggers
- Engaging Content
- Focus on Positive Engagement
- Get the Timing Right
- Harness Schadenfreude
- Have a Coherent Plan
- Incorporate Video
- Keep Your Lists Dynamic
- Know Your Audience
- List Hygiene
- Make Sure Your Previous Email was Awesome
- Mobile Friendly
- Outrageous Subject Lines
- Personalization within the Subject Line
- Personalize & Answer Their Needs
- Personalize First Sentence of Your Email
- Re-Humanize Your Email Through Video
- Segment Your Email List
- Sending Frequency
- Set up BIMI
- Short Subject Lines
- Short Text-Only Emails
- Song - Film - Book Titles in Subject Lines
- Strong Welcome Series
- Subject Line & Preheader Combination
- Subject Line Freshness
- Surprise Your Subscribers
- Two Benchmarks You NEED to Use
- Use Geolocation
- What They Want - When They Want It
- What’s in it for the Customer?
- Where are They in Their Customer Journey?
Focus on Positive Engagement – “I’m sure that everyone will agree if I say that if you’re not in the inbox, it’s incredibly difficult to get your emails opened, so all the good tips on copy, layout etc are wasted if your email doesn’t get seen in the first place!
Or are they…?
As we now know, once you’ve gone through the right authentication and technical setup to ensure reputation on your sending IPs, the major driver for inbox placement across ISPs is continuous positive engagement with emails (opens/ adding to address books/ moving across tabs etc).
So, whilst we can debate the value of measuring clicks vs opens as a better metric, the fact that Opens plays a significant part in influencing inbox placement via positive engagement, it shows that taking steps to improve it will have an overall uplift on your programs.
If you’re not currently getting a high level of inbox placement, whilst positive engagement is not necessarily something you can fix in a single email, you need to focus on it across your entire email strategy.
And with that in mind, every tip that you’ve seen here from the experts in this article should help to move the needle! The more positive engagement you get, the more likely that a larger percentage of future emails will go to inbox (gmail, outlook.com, yahoo! etc).
Consider it like building momentum…it takes effort to cycle to the top of the hill…but once you’re there, you can coast down much faster than you cycled up there.
And if you’ve taken on board all the great tips here, then naturally your email opens (and more importantly, engagement, clicks and conversions) will increase…and as your inbox placement increases, so the momentum we’ve just spoken about also increases!”
Have a List Hygiene Strategy – “The open rate of an email campaign is undoubtedly the most common benchmark with reference to email marketing success.
However, if you find your open rates are on a downward trend, the first step is to take an in-depth look at your list hygiene practices.
All email lists will degrade over time with regards to the contact’s interest, so it’s important to monitor who is actively engaging in your campaigns and have a process to re-engage or remove them from your list.
This practice is known as ‘list hygiene’ or ‘list cleansing’ and contributes to better deliverability and higher open rates. Removing inactive or non-interested contacts from your list means that your reports more accurately reflect the success of your campaigns, as they are only based on contacts who still want to hear from you (not those who are no longer interested).Here’s a couple of tips to keep your list in great shape and maintain your (or improve!) open rates.
- Review email engagement rates and segment anyone who has not opened, clicked, or purchased from you within the last 12-24 months (this is dependent on factors such as your buying cycle and email frequency).
- Create an automated re-engagement email series that can be triggered after 12 months of inactivity to find out if there is a possibility to keep those contacts on your regular send list.
- In your re-engagement campaign give your contacts the option to hear from you less frequently, update their email, provide you with feedback or unsubscribe instantly.
- If your business is engaging with contacts via other channels such as over the phone or instore, have these in-actives flagged in your CRM so that your team can find out if they have the best email address for that contact and get them to provide the best one. It’s possible they have subscribed via an account that they no longer access to.
- Upon exiting the re-engagement series make an informed business decision about what to do with those contacts. While a simple ‘remove all’ approach can lead to an immediate improvement in open rates – it may not always be the right move. It is possible that there are some dormant ‘customers’ among the in-actives. Think about segmenting all contacts who are inactive for 12 months and only send them less frequent emails over the next 12 months. If at any stage they open an email they will automatically move into the main active segment again. After a further 12 months of no activity then you can determine that there have been 24 months of no-engagement and safely consider removing them from your email list.
- Just because your contacts are not reading your emails, it doesn’t mean that this email is no longer useful. You can set up retargeting campaigns on advertising platforms using your opt-in email addresses to try and re-engage them via other channels. Think about running a lead generation campaign to this ‘non-active’ email audience so they can update your list with their most recent contact details.
So if your open rates are looking a little flat – take the focus off list size and place it on list quality. Having a highly engaged audience is the key to successful email marketing, so taking the time to implement general housekeeping rules around list hygiene can boost your open rates and deliver you a highly profitable channel.”
Know Your Audience – “Understand the various cohorts, or naturally-occurring segments, that comprise your audience. Perform regular testing of subject lines and content themes in order to understand what resonates with each group of your customers. Transform this testing methodology into a list of keywords and messaging tactics that perform well with each group. At the time of deployment, customize a subject line that will appeal to each cohort rather than sending the same subject line to your entire entire list.
Make it personal. The more you can personalize the subject line – including the customer’s first name or city name, for example (if appropriate to the email content) – the more success you may have at competing for the customer’s attention.
Finally, never lose sight of what your customers expected to receive when they originally signed up and stay true to your brand promise.”
Avoid “Spammy” Words in the Subject Line – “An easy way to improve your email open rate is to avoid Spammy words in your subject line. Of course if you are sending an email about everyone’s favorite canned meat, by all means use all the spammy words… 😉
What is a Spammy word? – A spammy word is a word or phrase that at worst can trigger the email provider to block the email and at best it makes the email recipient skip over or delete the email message entirely. It is best to avoid these words in your subject line all together.
- Free (especially FREE in all caps)
- Click Here
- Full Refund
- Limited Time Offer
- No Obligation
- You Are A Winner!
- Double Your
- Money Back
- Once in a Lifetime
The above list is not exhaustive, but it is a good start. Happy Emailing!”
Subject Line Freshness is the Key – “Subject lines… the easiest thing to write, the hardest thing to get right. There is just no single best practice, rule or tactic that works every time.
Emojis and symbols might produce killer open rates one week, but that doesn’t mean every subsequent send should be jam-packed with ☀☀☀ and ☺☺☺. You have to keep your subscribers on their toes.
The key is freshness in moderation. But how fresh and how much moderation?
“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”
Email Marketers are Not Using Fresh Subject Lines
Team Alchemy Worx analyzed data within subject line testing tool, Touchstone.
Touchstone contains open, click and delivery rate data on subject lines from over 1 million subject lines sent over 1 trillion times across various sectors and industries. It uses this data to predict how other subject lines will perform, so marketers can find simulate tests and find the best subject line for their campaign. In this case, the team used the wealth of data contained within Touchstone to identify how many subject lines could be classed as fresh, and how many were stale – fresh being a subject line that contained at least one word the sender had never used before.
You might think that with such a conservative definition for freshness, most marketing emails would be classified as ‘fresh’. But as the pie chart shows, less than a third were classified as fresh.
Fresh Subject Lines Boost Click Rates
So what effect does freshness have on open and click rates? The results are below:
While we only see a modest increase in open rates when using fresh words, we see a significant lift – 34% – in the unique click rate. So what’s happening?
Using fresh subject lines triggers an entirely different subset of subscribers to open your emails – “Oh, this doesn’t look like the weekly newsletter I usually ignore”. And since first-time openers and long term inactives are more likely to click than regular openers, the click rate goes up.
This also explains why the open rate does not increase as much as the click rate. Fewer regulars opened the email, but more irregulars did. And since irregular subscribers are more likely to convert following an open, the click rate is improved.
Freshness is About More Than Vocabulary
But it’s not just the words themselves that contribute to freshness and variety. The way the message is presented is just as important. These are called tactics. Look at these two subject lines about a re-brand:
- Celebrate our new look with a 10% saving on Apple, Sony & Coke
- We’ve changed – take a look!
They are different because they use different tactics. The first is a long, specific, multi proposition with a discount and brands. The second is short and intriguing.
It’s a common goal of A/B split testing to identify the tactic that works best. We have found this often only tells you which tactic worked best for that campaign and that attempts to repeat it offer diminishing gains.
Here are the last two years’ of Alchemy Worx emails broken down by 15 common tactics.
With one or two exceptions there aren’t significant differences between the tactics. That’s because there is no single tactic that works all the time. It’s the change in approach that yields results and naturally these even out over time. And when you do find big differences, think of them as opportunities – so we should probably use symbols a little more and not worry about personalization!
Use Tactics to Write More Varied Subject Lines
So, even though there is no golden tactic that works every time, the tactics themselves provide a structured framework for writing varied and fresh subject lines. Take the 4 subject lines below for the same re-brand e-shot and 10% discount:
- Enjoy a 10% discount and check out our new look
- Get a 10% saving and see our new website
- Save 10% and take a peek at our new brand
- Here’s a 10% off code to celebrate our latest refresh
The only changes here are to the vocabulary. Here are 15 different ways to write this same message using some of the most common subject line tactics:
Short – Under 60 characters including spaces (keep it concise)
- Celebrate our new look with a 10% saving
Long – Over 80 characters including spaces (you can add more personality and detail)
- Help us celebrate our brand new look and enjoy 10% off as a thank you for your support
Single Proposition – Mention only one part of the content of the email
- Check out our new look!
Multi Proposition – See our new look, have 10% off and check out our hilarious new blog post and video
- Check out our new look!
Brands – Use brand names in your subject line (if appropriate to you)
- See our new look and enjoy 10% off Apple, Sony, Coke and more
Symbols – Use symbols (if appropriate)
- Celebrate our new look with a 10% saving ☺
Promotional – Get the promotion in, preferably up front
- Enjoy a 10% discount and check out our new look
Personalization – Use personalization (name, product, location, etc)
- ##name## see our new look and have 10% off
Question – Use a question, preferably open (i.e. the answer can’t be yes or no)
- We’ve got a new look so what will your celebratory gift be?
Urgency – Add urgency with a specific time or limited time message
- See our new look now and enjoy 10% off today
CTA – Add prompts and imperatives to do something
- Open up, check out our new look and claim your 10% discount
Benefit – Say how your customer will benefit from the content of the email
- See our new look, get 10% off and get your new look for less
Negative – Phrase in a negative way or use a negative emotion (loss v gain)
- We’ve changed but hurry or you’ll lose your 10% discount
Intrigue – Don’t give away the content of the email, make them open to find out
- Look – we’ve changed!
Specific (no reflection) – Say what’s in the email or be clear about the content
- We’ve got a new look and you’ve got a 10% discount
For each tactic, there will be many different ways to convey the message and still remain within the style of the tactic. You can play with the word order, change the tense or use a thesaurus to find different ways to say the same thing. You can also combine tactics. Here, small tweaks and additions to multi-tactic subject lines make subtle but noticeable differences:
Short + Single + Brands + Question + Urgency + Benefit
- Do you want to look sharp in Armani today?
Short + Single + Brands + Question + Urgency + Benefit + Negative
- Don’t you want to look sharp in Armani today?
Long + Single + Promotional + Personalization + Negative + Intrigue
- Dan, bet you never thought you’d see these five huge brands with a 10% discount
Long + Promotional + Personalization + Negative + Intrigue + Brands + Multi
- Dan, bet you never thought you’d see Armani, D&G and Channel with a 10% discount
Again, it’s important to remember that the tactics are being used as a framework to write varied and interesting subject lines, not to find which tactic works best for you. All of these tactics will work for you at some point, just as all of them will fail at some point. Once you are comfortable with the tactics, then writing 10, 20 even 30 fresh subject lines on the same topic should become 2nd nature. And it’s that variety that is the key to a subject line strategy that embraces constant, strategic change.
Finally, once you settle on a particular tactic for the next mailing, make sure to test your options using Touchstone. It will instantly identify the best performing subject line, saving you valuable time and resource in your quest to boost engagement and maximize revenue.”
Add Emojis – “One of the best ways to get your subject line noticed in a crowded inbox is to use emojis. While once they might have been thought of as “unprofessional”, they are getting more acceptance as people realize that a picture attracts people’s attention and conveys a lot of meaning. Emojis can illustrate your topic, catch attention to email subject line and increase your open rates. However, you have to look at your own specific audience to make the final decision about whether to use emojis or not.
Two of my favorite places to find emojis are emojipedia.org and getemoji.com. There are also apps like HipMoji (for pop culture) and Big Emoji Keyboard. Big Emoji Keyboard actually lets you create your own emojis!
Research has shown that emojis in email subjects can increase open rates by up to 60%. But remember they are not the end all be all. Emojis can either make a good subject line better, or make a bad subject line worse. Do some testing to see how your audience responds to emojis.
Emojis look different on different email clients and on different operating systems, so try them out to make sure the emojis you pick look the way you expect. I’ve been surprised a few times!
Searching for emojis can be fun, but distracting. Remember to not spend so much time searching for the perfect emoji that you don’t have time to spend writing your actual message.”
What They Want, When They Want It – “There are lots of tweaks and changes you can make to adjust and optimise your subject lines and make them more relevant, enticing and encourage the reader to actually open the email and see all the great content you have inside.
Doing so will improve your open rates by learning what techniques, formats, wording and styles resonate with your audience, and what doesn’t.
But, in the long term, the most important and effective way to improve your open rates overall is to make sure that your subscribers…
- Understand and trust that it is you who is sending emails to them
- Expect to receive the content you’re sending and when you’re sending it
- Want to receive emails from you because they’re relevant, interesting, helpful and/or inspiring
To meet these needs, you need to start right at the beginning…
At eFocus Marketing, whenever we have a client who is seeing poor open rates or increasing negative engagement such as complaint rates, outside of running tests on individual subject lines such as the elements mentioned above, as well as message timing, cadence, frequency, and of course the offers contained therein (we have a great split test planner to download here to help you create tests that actually get results!), the first place we start is to analyse the sign-up process.
It’s the entry point to your programme and the first impression the subscriber gets, so it has to be good if you want to lay the groundwork for an engaged email audience who WANT to open your emails.
Here are the main 5 areas we focus on to do exactly that…
1) Ensure You Properly Set Expectations on Sign Up
Be as explicit as you can and tell the subscriber how often they’ll receive emails from you (and for GDPR compliance of course, how they can unsubscribe), make it clear they are actually signing up for your emails* and specify what kinds of messages they’ll receive from you.
Again for GDPR, you need positive consent and it needs to be unbundled; meaning they can sign up to different marketing channels separately, consent is not combined with accepting T&C’s for example and individual company opt ins are separate etc.
2) Make Your Sign Up Compelling!
It’s really important to clearly explain what’s in it for them to join your programme – why should they give you their email address, but also, why should they be interested in reading your emails going forward?
You need to really understand your audience to create a content and contact strategy that works for them – what is it that they want from you? Offers? Inspiration? Exclusive content or access to content other people don’t get?
Know what they desire and tell them that’s what they’re going to receive! No one wants to sign up for a newsletter – what they want is the tips, tricks and exclusive content you’re going to send them, or the discounts and access to online sales 24 hours before everyone else (for example).
Also consider incentivising the opt in to give an extra reason to sign up now – will they also get a bonus such as an extra discount or a free download for signing up? This can be particularly useful for retailers to not only gain an opt in, but give an extra push towards making a purchase straight away too.
3) Offer Them a Choice
Subscribers want to be in control of what they receive and when, and by letting them do this they are more likely to interact with the messages you send. This could be based on their current interests, needs, life situation or other factors; something that brings your content into their real world to create a better connection to their day-to-day lives.
For example, if you have a child who is a boy, you are more likely to interact with content aimed at boys than girls; yes on some occasions you may be looking for a gift for a girl and of course there is always a place in your strategy for inspiration outside of specified interests. But on the whole, delivering relevant content based on their personal situation (interests, needs and wants) is going to see higher engagement and conversion rates.
Take a look at the two examples below – the first simply asks the subscriber to choose whether they are male or female. The second goes into a bit more detail, asking their areas of interest and what they’re next project will be. Both of these are examples of these businesses collecting what I would consider to be business critical information to allow them to start personalising and targeting their messaging from the very first message. They don’t collect too much, but just enough to achieve this.
Then through tracking and progressive profiling, they can collect more information to continue to improve this targeting capability as the relationship progresses, further increasing the relevancy of their communications.
4) Go Beyond the Sign-Up Form
The first impressions aren’t solely created on the sign-up form – don’t forget to consider your confirmation thank you page and subsequent welcome and on-boarding process emails to further set expectations, build a relationship and engender trust in your brand and products/services.
Your thank you page should confirm the action they’ve just taken and prompt them to look out for your first email in their inbox, as well as lead them to the next step you want them to take in their journey with you. This will be different depending on your business type; for example, a content provider may want to direct them to additional resources, popular or new blog posts to read or videos to watch, whereas a retailer may want to encourage them to explore key product categories, suggested products or continue on to turn their email subscription into a full account sign up.
All of these onward actions will also start to give you behavioural data that you can use to target and personalise the subsequent emails and content they will receive in the on-boarding process.
The on-boarding process will involve an email or series of emails that are sent within the first 30 days after sign-up, after the welcome email and can be used to further build the relationship with the subscriber, highlight key features, products or services and encourage them to take actions over this period of time without overwhelming them all in one email.
Making sure you actually deliver based on what they signed up to is critical to ensure you keep your open rates high.
You need to truly understand your audience’s needs and expectations and send the right message, to the right person, at the right time based on what they’ve asked you for, their behaviour and their purchase history.
Whenever you can, try to go above and beyond to delight and surprise them – use the information you gather wisely and you can even use the technology available to predict what they may want in the future before they even know themselves!
Follow these tips to get you started and work to create a strategy that adapts with and meets the needs of your subscribers – that’s how you create increases in your open rate that last!”
Keep Your Lists Dynamic – “When it comes to improving your open rates, you can spend all the time in the world perfecting your subject lines, finding the optimal broadcast time and improving your server reputation, but if you’re not sending it to contacts that are in a buying cycle, then you’re wasting your time!
Now, most good Email Marketers will invest a good chunk of time at the start of a campaign to get the right contacts and segment them into carefully targeted lists. But what happens to these contacts after you have started emailing them and their preferences change, so they no longer fit into the original group? Are you writing them off and just waiting for them to unsubscribe?
Of course not. Your data is one of the most valuable assets in your company. Which is why you should always look at your contact lists as being dynamic rather than static.
Let’s imagine one of your contacts, has been identified as a ‘hot prospect’ in your initial segmenting exercise. But ‘stuff’ has happened in their business since then, and although they are technically still a ’hot prospect’, what you are marketing to them is no longer a priority until they have sorted the ‘stuff’ out, which in reality may take some months to happen. So, if you continue to bombard them with ‘hot prospects’ messaging, your emails are eventually going to become just another piece of SPAM in their inbox. Which is the last thing you want as they are still a valuable prospect and you have spent a lot of time and effort carefully positioning your brand ready for the sale.
Whereas, if you had been continually scoring your contacts’ engagement across both email and your website, you would have identified the fact that they were achieving low scores and that you should move them down a gear into a nurturing campaign, where you would maintain low levels of communication. Then setup a trigger that moves them back into the original sales funnel when they start to re-engage with either your emails or start visiting your website again.
If you wanted to get really smart, you could combine a series of triggers. So that if a contact went on to visit your website, they would set off a series of specific sales emails related to the page they had visited, ‘Tag’ them as being interested in the topic, send yourself a notification that it had happened, so that you could give them a call. Then automatically move them back into the original ‘Hot Prospects’ campaign to continue the targeted messaging.
By doing this, not only do you protect your brand from being perceived as a SPAMMER, but you prolong the life of a contact and increase the number of sales that come out of your campaigns. Which is a win for you and for your contacts, as they will value your brand even more for sharing relevant information with them, when they need it.”
Jordie van Rijn
Make Sure Your Previous Email was Awesome – “The open rate of your email is heavily dependent on what the recipient is expecting to find in there.
Think about the emails you open each and every time. What do they have in common?
Even better, don’t think, do it literally. Go through your inbox and find the emails that you open every time. What do they have in common?
Most likely the content is pretty darn interesting (to you) or even indispensable. That makes those emails valuable. That makes it worth your time.
So shake off all the subject line anxiety and go for value…because you’re worth it.
PS: Feel free to forget about individual open rates as a measure of success as well. You aren’t running a engagement popularity contest. A more nuanced way is to look at the email open reach, which defines the part of your audience that has been active over a period of time.”
Using Subject Line and Preheader Combination – “Every company has a story to tell. There are a multitude of aspects to consider when designing and building your email campaigns — Sender Name, Subject Lines, image to copy ratio, dynamic content, and many more. Each of these can have a major impact on the success or failure of your strategy, and not all have the same impact. To create a more engaging message that will increase conversions and generate greater ROI, you will need to go beyond these basics and incorporate additional tactics and a sound strategy to stand out in a crowded inbox.
One of these tactics is to start customizing the Preheader in your email campaigns. The Preheader, simply put, is used to control the preview text just below the Subject Line, which appears in the inbox. The original purpose was to provide a summary of the content within the email, so the reader could quickly determine its relevance. With the rapid growth of mobile device usage, now the primary method for checking email, the form and function of the Preheader is more prominent. As more and more people began to use the Preheader as a creative marketing tactic, its utilization began to take on many forms.
Most Email Service Providers (ESP) have now integrated the Preheader as part of a normal email campaign setup, which can also be customized much like the Sender Name and Subject Line. This makes the configuration process simple and straightforward. Alternatively, the Preheader can be constructed using HTML and CSS within the actual body of the email, and can be formatted to be “visible” or “hidden.” However, Preheaders work very, very differently, since they always display content, whether you create it or omit it.
First, here are some general rules and guidelines about Preheaders:
- They can be configured in the email message as a combination of HTML, CSS and text
- They can be configured as an email campaign setting or field in many ESP’s
- If not configured, email clients will automatically show and autoformat the first text that appears (alt text, URLs, unsubscribe copy, etc)
- The total number of characters displayed varies, depending on the email client
- The total number of characters displayed can be for the Subject Line and Preheader combined, depending on the email client
- They can be hidden entirely in the inbox or preview pane, depending on the email client
Second, here are some common mistakes and things to avoid:
- Omitting the Preheader completely, leaving what shows completely up to chance
- Duplicating the Subject Line, in part or exactly
- Displaying unsubscribe text or URLs
- Displaying “View in browser”, image alt text, or default text
- Lengthy text that will be arbitrarily truncated depending on the email client
- No clear purpose or context related to the Subject Line or email
When asked “What’s the first thing you look at when deciding whether to open an email?”, a Litmus-Fluent survey discovered that the Preheader accounted for 24% of responses (Sender Name accounting for 42% and Subject Line accounting for the remaining 34%). That means when combined with the Subject Line, this block of text accounts for close to 60% of the reason someone decides to open your email, delete it, or mark it as SPAM.
The utilization of a Preheader, as a marketing tactic in you email campaigns, can single-handedly increase open rates by up to 7%. But, when combined with the Subject Line, it goes beyond just increasing your open rates, influencing overall engagement and conversions.
Crafting an effective Subject Line and Preheader strategy requires identifying the role and responsibility of each, individually and collectively. There are several ways Preheaders work in conjunction with Subject Lines, complementing each other to communicate your story:
- Build on your Subject Line: Let the Subject Line focus on grabbing the reader’s attention, allowing the Preheader to provide additional context, clarity, and reinforcement.
Subject Line: Beach, please.
Preheader: Meet the JT Beach Jogger. Crisp, lightweight, and built for lazy days and epic adventures.
- Create Urgency with Offers & Promotions: Use discounts and promo codes as a teaser, or add time-sensitive offers too good to pass up.
Subject Line: 3 great brands—and savings all around!
Preheader: 35% off at Banana Republic & Gap; 30% off at Old Navy.
- Personalize: Treat it as you would the Subject Line, including profile or demographic data specific to the reader’s past interactions.
Subject Line: Get rewarded for your time
Preheader: Mike – based on your e-rewards, you’re invited to take our survey
- Increase Awareness: Increase brand awareness, share your tagline, or communicate your value proposition.
Subject Line: How to tap into the hidden job market
Preheader: The Ladders – Career advice to speed up your job hunt”
What’s in it for the Customer? – “When writing a subject line we need to ask ourselves,”What’s in it for the subscriber?” Leading the subject line with the answer to this question will increase your open rate immediately. Here are some examples:
Instead of, “Signup to our Webinar and Learn to Code”
Try, “Learn to Code. Signup to our Webinar”
Instead of, “Spend over $100 to get 50% Off”
Try, “Get 50% Off When you Spend Over $100”
Instead of, “Donate to our Charity to Save Lives”
Try, “Save Lives by Donating to Our Charity”
There are two main reasons why this strategy works.
- No one wants to do work, period. In the examples above, the first subject lines focus on the work the subscriber has to do to achieve what’s in it for them. Since we don’t care to do work, when reading these subject lines, we are likely to just gloss over them as we already have enough work on our plates. So placing the benefit first gives more of a chance for the subscriber to stop and think about the cost/benefit of the offer at hand.
- As humans, we don’t like it when things are taken away from us. When you set the benefit first, we get a sense of being closer to getting it, all we have to do is… Click/Signup/Donate/etc. Because we see and clearly understand the benefit at hand, we are more likely to do the work, as we don’t want this offer to slip out of our hands.
At Benchmark Email we have conducted A/B tests with this strategy and have seen open rates increased by over 20%!”
Pique Interest with a Touch of Curiosity – and a Question Mark – “Great subject lines are very much like great headlines, whether that’s a headline for a webpage or print publication. Magazine front covers and newspapers can be a good source of inspiration for headlines.
Where headlines and subject lines differ is that with subject lines, a little more curiosity can work wonders.
The easiest way to achieve this is by posing a question in the subject line. Here’s some examples of real campaign subject lines with high performance:
- We Have a Winner! Is It You?
- Want to coin it this year? Copy this man
- £5 off your next order, [first name]? We’ve just added something special to our sale
- How Good Is Your Gut Instinct?
It’s not just about asking any question though. It must be the right question.
As Bob Bly, author of The Copywriter’s handbook, nicely said “a good question is one the reader can empathise with or would like to see answered”.
Subject line questions work because they hold the promise of an answer. Pose a question in the subject line that the reader has a burning desire to have answered and the email open will follow.
A perfect example is the line above “We Have a Winner! Is It You?”. That subject line could have been a simple statement “We Have a Winner!”. With the risk the readers thinks ‘so what?’ and passes it over.
Adding “Is it You?”, means it’s talking about the most important person, the reader, and makes the reader consider if it is indeed them.
The question is like an itch, it’s human nature to need to scratch it. They are hard to ignore.
People love quizzes for a good reason. The question mark is a challenge to the reader – do you know the answer?
Be open not closed.
It’s best to avoid asking closed questions. You know, those questions that have a yes or no answer. Such as “Are you hungry?”. Whereas an open question requires a thoughtful answer, contrast “What for you makes a meal tasty?”
If you do use a closed question, make it one that the reader is going to read with an affirmative nod. A question that your reader will want to say yes to.
In the earlier example “Want to coin it this year? Copy this man” has a closed question that is likely to be answered with yes. It sets up the second part, “Copy this man”, as the promise and curiosity driver.
What about this?
If you’re struggling to find a good question that is open and can’t be answered easily without opening the email, then the word “this” is your solution.
MarketingExperiments ran a split test of these lines:
- Quarterbacks aren’t the only changes being tested in Denver
- A scientific way to increase your conversions
- Do your landing pages pass this test?
- [Optimization Summit] 3 Days to a Better Website ($300 Off Coupon Inside!)
- Learn 3 tips that made that made 10,000 landing pages extremely successful
The winner had a 126% click uplift against the weakest performer. Which one was it?
The one with the question of course, “Do your landing pages pass this test?”
The word ‘this’ sets up the tease. ‘This’ refers to what’s in the email body, you must open to find out the answer.
Let’s see how else it’s used with further examples from high performing real subject lines:
- Do you agree with this?
- What’s wrong with this picture?
- Could this crazy estate agent improve your copy?
Follow Through and Deliver
Once the question is setup, make sure your email answers the question! If the question is not answered and the subject line was an empty promise, you’ll damage the relationship. A cheated reader is one less likely to open your next email.
In Cialdini’ bestseller “Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion”, one of his six principles is that of consistency.
With a good answer, not only does the reader continue nodding in agreement, but due to our natural tendency to be consistent with earlier actions, they are compelled into clicking through. Anything else would be inconsistent with their thought pattern.
Now, there is only one question left.
What question will pique your audience’s interest?”
Be Relevant – “HECK NO! THAT’S NOT GOING TO DRIVE ANYTHING LONG TERM!
Simply put….be relevant.
Yes, I know that this has been discussed, written, debated and demonstrated for years, but there’s a reason. Because it WORKS!
As an example, let’s take Woot.com. Now, if you don’t know woot.com, they are an Amazon company that sells reconditioned stuff, and by stuff, I mean cool stuff. They have it all, but it changes all the time. Heck, many of the things inside and outside my home came from woot.
Every morning, after grabbing my coffee, I sit down and look at their emails. Why you may ask? They’re consistent, relevant and of course FOMO, but the FOMO thing is driven from their relevancy.
Now think about what you open all the time. You open it because you either like the brand, products, services or company. You must provide that to your subscribers. This one thing should consume your efforts. People open emails either because you have a strong brand and it’s your job to deliver on that. Otherwise, all you’re doing is chasing the vanishing revenue cause you’ve blasted your subscribers with things that don’t matter.
Start small. Introduce relevancy slow so you can get used to it and test into what works. Try one thing..ONE THING that you can do to increase relevancy. Is it based on past-click, purchase, browse or something else. Work on that one thing. Then move on to the next. It becomes muscle memory.
It becomes easier over time, but you just have to start…today…NOW!
Listen, you can play all you want with subject lines, but what really moves the needle? Relevancy. Work on that and you will be a Rockstar.”
Develop a Strong Welcome Series – “What is your email strategy if not a way to build a relationship with your customer? Your emails are conversations with the people that are interested in hearing from your brand, and an email open is the proof that the customer is listening and paying attention. You wouldn’t start a relationship with someone without introducing yourself, making that connection from the beginning, and the person you were talking to certainly wouldn’t be paying you attention if you forgot to do this at beginning. So why should your email strategy be any different? The best, and really only in my opinion, way to start building a strong relationship between you and your customer is through a welcome email. By not sending this most important email in your whole email strategy you are missing out on ensuring your email open rates/engagement remain high.
Welcome emails drive over 4x higher open rates than your BAU campaigns and they deliver over 5x Click Rate. This is the time your audience are the most engaged with you. It is your opportunity to take advantage of this early period of high engagement to find out more about your audience and help them learn more about your brand.
If you are already implementing a welcome email, how about a welcome series that seeks to support a business challenge – be it to reinforce your why, reduce churn or to educate the consumer on how to work with your company. Many eCommerce brands use the welcome series to nudge consumers into repeat customers, knowing that if you buy a certain number of times at the beginning of the relationship you are more likely to remain loyal to the brand.
Done well, the lifetime value of the customer will far outweigh the upfront effort. As it is in person, you never get a second chance to make a first impression!”
Get the Timing Right – “Look it’s really simple – it’s a matter of getting the timing right. The timing for each individual recipient that is – not in terms of “time of day” or most optimal send out time for a campaign. Instead of focusing on the email (which can also lead to many great ideas by the way) then focus on the occasion for doing so. If you can determine the timing for this occasion per customer by either a simple set of rules based on data, then setup an automated communication flow that times the send out according to this.
Let me give an example. A Nordic sporting goods retailer sends out a lot of campaigns – as retailers normally do. Some of their products however, require replenishment after having been used a certain amount of times. Running shoes are one such example. If running shoes get much more than one year old (or have run approximately 1000 km), they need to be replaced in order to prevent knee injuries.
The sporting goods retailer set up one such flow with the purpose of helping their customers replace running shoes in due time. A simple rule was set up that every day it sent out an email for customers that had purchased running shoes exactly one year ago. Opening rates were 3x and conversion rates were 3x when compared to normal campaigns. And it works every day… Oh… And running shoes are not the only product that wears out by the way.”
Surprise Your Subscribers – “Surprise your readers by pulling them out of their comfort zone. One of the best subject lines I’ve ever seen was “Do not read this message before 5 PM”. It was in the inbox before 1 PM… Who can control him/herself when reading this?
For a campaign to structurally reduce traffic jams around the city of Rotterdam I sent out emails on the busiest days of the week, just before the first real problems would occur on the road. The subject line was: “Are you going to join the traffic jam within a few moments?”. By focusing on one specific moment, instead of “How to change your day to day behaviour”, and by mentioning a well known and upcoming frustration, we surprised people. With an average open rate of over 60% you could definitely say it was a success!
Be careful though: do not use this tip for every email you send out, since the effect is likely to wear off if you do.”
Get Their Attention with Emotional Triggers – “Human Beings are emotional creatures and although we like to think that we make decisions mindfully, more often than not, we make decisions emotionally. Therefore, use emotions to gain your subscriber’s attention. These are innately customer-centric and can generate a lovely uplift in response. Emotional themes such as fascination, curiosity, anxiety, intimacy, guilt, safety, encouragement, exclusivity, urgency, gratification, gratitude, achievement and challenge can be used to speak to their needs.
Here are some examples of subject lines that call upon emotions to get attention:
Using Persado’s AI-powered emotional themes, eDataSource’s (https://edatasource.com) Subject Line Advisor has combined emotional themes with read rates, allowing you to see the success or impact of the emotions used. Note, the below is just an example, and will be different according to brands, products and subscribers. The larger the circle, the more frequently the emotional theme is used. The higher the circle is placed, the higher the read rate/open rate.
(Click Image to Enlarge)
So next time you’re writing a subject line – try adding a bit of emotion to it!”
Have a Coherent Plan, Set Some Simple Goals + Measure Them – “Your plan should be data driven, by that I mean segmented by the behaviour of your audience. Separating your current customers, previous customers, and prospects. (see screenshot below)
Break things up to be more relevant. Separate your prospect conversion programme, your customer engagement programme, and retention programme from your ‘normal traditional email campaigns’. If are in ecommerce and you don’t have these in programmes in place, you are missing a massive opportunity, so make that step one of your plan.
Email marketing should be a constantly evolving and improving process. If you keep repeating the same boring stuff to the same boring people it should not be a surprise when your open rates drop and unsubscribes increase.
Keep it relevant and please, please don’t over send. Email marketing is one of the few direct channels you have with your audience – remember you are sending messages to people not inboxes. So don’t abuse your email channel, be respectful, honour your plan, and you’ll do great.”
Properly Segment Your Email List – “Why should someone open your email? If you are not segmenting your email lists they may not. Properly segmented lists result in a higher open rate, lower unsubscribe rate and higher conversion rates.
Don’t just send a blast out to everyone on your list. Make sure you segment your lists by interest area and send interesting and relevant content to them. Did you meet them at a networking event? Did they fill out a contact form on your website? Did you capture them through a piece of premium content they downloaded? Did they subscribe to your newsletter? Do you give them the option on your lead capture form to select the lists they would like to be a part of? Does their location make a difference? Have they attended an event that you sponsored? Did they purchase something online? Or did they abandon a product? Make sure you are properly segmenting into their interest areas, not the ones you wish to promote.
Curated and segmented lists will result in higher success rates for all of your email marketing campaigns.”
Two Benchmarks You NEED to Use – “I have been involved in email marketing for almost 20 years and one of the most common questions I get from clients and conference attendees is what is the average open rate, or what open rate should I be aiming for. Google the phrase “open rate benchmarks” and you get 21,400,000 results so there is clearly a lot of demand for and plenty written about open rate benchmarks.
Benchmarks however can be problematic and need to be used with caution. The first and biggest problem is that they represent an average, so even if your open rates reach the benchmark, there will be many brands out there who are doing significantly better than you. Then there is the question of whether the benchmark relates to your industry or sector. How valuable can a benchmark largely consisting of B2B of senders if your company is B2C and vice versa.
We decided to see if we could find benchmarks that could be applied to any brand by analysing the data within Touchstone, a Subject Line testing tool, that holds the results of over 1 million Subject Lines (SL’s) received by over 1 Trillion recipients. Touchstone contains open, click and delivery rate data on subject lines that have been sent across many sectors and industries and uses this data to predict how other subject lines will perform. So you find the best SL for your campaign without having to set up or send the test email.
When we crunched the data, two variables that met the requirement of being true of all industries and business types, but more importantly were directly actionable, really stood out. Segment size and Send frequency!
Both might seem obvious, after all everyone knows that the more email you send, the lower your open rate will be and that highly targeted emails generate a higher open rate. But what we found in the data was truly surprising. The numbers were consistent across all business types.
The chart above shows you the impact of send frequency on open rates. The orange line sloping downwards from left to right is the average open rate you can expect based on how many emails you send a month. On average you can expect an open rate of just under 18% if you send 1 email a month, just over 16% if you send one email a week and just over 12% if you send email out daily.
The grey bars show the total number of senders that fall into each category, with the majority of senders operating at a send frequency of between 2 and 3 emails a week.
Why these numbers are different from other benchmarks is simple, the trend is consistent whatever your open rate. If you ignore the actual numbers and focus on the relative difference between the open rates you will see that the open rate for a monthly email is 10% greater than the open rate for a weekly email and 40% greater than a daily email. One email a week will get you a 10% higher open rate than 2 emails a week. We found this benchmark to be true across the board, so if you currently send 1 email a week and your average open rate is 11% and you want to up your frequency to 2 a week, you can expect your open rate to drop to 9.9%
How to Use this Benchmark
One of the challenges facing email marketers is managing the often-conflicting demands of the business. On the one hand stakeholders want you to make the numbers, particularly at the end of the quarter or year end, but at the same time your bonus or performance is measured often based on open rates. Armed with this benchmark you can not only argue for your open rate targets to be adjusted according to business-driven frequency increases; you also have the ammunition to push back if performance in terms of open rates fall below the benchmark.
This chart shows the impact of segment size on open rates.
Once again, the line sloping downwards from left to right is the average open rate you can expect based on what percentage of the total list was mailed. On average you can expect an open rate of just under 18% if your segment is highly targeted – the email is sent to less than 1% of the list. At the other end of the scale, when emails are sent more than 50% of the list, that is pretty much everyone getting the same email, the average open rate you can expect falls to 11%. So, a highly targeted email will achieve an average open rate that is 60% higher than an email you send to the entire list. More interestingly, what this data also shows is there is very little to gain if your segment is greater than 10% of your list.
That is right, any segment that is greater than 10% of your list in size will not perform much better than an email sent to everyone!
How to Use this Benchmark
Like the send frequency data, the segment size data is consistent whatever your average open rate. If your average open rate for emails sent to your entire list is 10% you should expect an average open rate of close to 17% for your highly targeted emails and vice versa. Your targets should reflect that.
More importantly if you look at the coloured bars, blue for the total number of campaign orange for the send volume and yellow for total opens, something else becomes clear. While the vast majority (85%) of the email campaigns are targeted to 25% of the list, these campaigns were responsible for 48% of all opens.
What this means for resource constrained marketers is this. When it comes to prioritizing your subject line tests a 10% improvement in your batch email open rates will deliver far more opens than a 50% improvement in targeted emails. No matter how tempting it is to use triggered and automated emails to improve your average open rate, do not lose site of that fact.
Keep Testing and Optimizing
Finally, no matter what benchmark you use, the only way to stop your open rate performance from dipping over time is to keep your subject lines FRESH! “Once and done” testing does not work. Our subject line tool Touchstone lets you test and optimize hundreds of iterations of your subject line in minutes. So, you can continue to edit and improve every single email you send before goes out.”
Where are They in Their Customer Journey? – “After 20 years of working with clients across the email channel I struggle to keep this to just one answer!
But, if pressed I think you have to change your entire mindset of email. Talk to your customers about their primary need and where they are in their customer journey and not in a promotional or impersonal way. It is fact that emails related to customer actions destroy the open, click and engagement of any other type of email. When you build this into even a simple matrix of engagement and against activity you win every time.
- Dormant: Reactivate with an offer
- Active: Focus on loyalty
- Purchase: Focus on post purchase value
- One Time Purchaser: Incentive for repeat”
Test Short Text-Only Emails – “When my full-time Email Developing came to an end, the Gmail Inbox Category Tabs started rolling out. As we were emailing lists of 2-5 million people in massive B2C markets, open rates dropped double-digit percentages as the new tabs were implemented as the default setting for Gmail. Some of the craftier, and also personable marketing emails I’ve seen recently is only a few short sentences text emails with a link to a site or calendar. These pass by that Promotional category tab and right to the inbox, vastly increasing open rates in the Gmail website & App.
Another thing this does is makes the email quickly digestible, and not a drain on one’s time, which I feel in a world of web content and social content bloat, is of value.”
Write Your Subject Line to One Person and Answer Their Needs – “Ensuring you really understand your audience when you first segment your list by dynamically segmenting them based on their wants and needs, skills, pain points and demographics will allow you to identify exactly what your email communication can answer for them. Utilising dynamic content in your subject lines alongside personalisation will really ensure the email speaks to that specific person and help with the ambition to market to an audience of one.
This is only really possible with good quality data, so a secondary tip is to ensure that you really understand how to capture the data you need to make your email marketing efforts really stand out, by providing tangible and genuinely useful content to each person on your list.”
Email Authentication Before Anything Else – “All of your efforts for sender awareness, awesome subject line, eye-catching creative, responsive design, and amazing copy are for nothing if your email bounces or gets routed to a spam folder and no one knows it’s there to open it. The good news is that you DO have control over a lot of why an email gets bounced (rejected), quarantined (allowed in but not routed to inbox/spam folder) or routed to a spam or junk folder.
Authentication between your Sender Email address domain and the email service provider (ESP) sending an email on behalf of your domain is the #1 step before you ever send an email. You will need all 3 forms of authentication: DKIM, SPF, and DMARC.
A quick way to check is to send yourself an email from your ESP and when you receive it, view the source and read the header. To view the source, you can right click on the email (if using Outlook):
What you’re looking for is that each form of authentication shows it passing like:
If you don’t get a pass for each form of authentication, you can use an inspector tool to help you diagnose what needs to change:
DKIM Inspector: https://dmarcian.com/dkim-inspector/
SPF Inspector: https://dmarcian.com/spf-survey/
DMARC Inspector: https://dmarcian.com/dmarc-inspector/
Whenever there is an issue with bounces, low open rates or emails routing to spam, authentication is always the first thing to address. Most of the time, if you passed all at one point, but over time you see a decline in open rates or hearing reports of people not receiving your email, something changed. Most likely the SPF record, as IT teams will edit this record the most to add/remove include statements or IP addresses as your MarTech stack changes company-wide.”
Find the Perfect Sending Frequency – “Like in every relationship, there needs to be a balance between together-time and me-time. If you are sending too many emails to your subscribers, they get annoyed, stop opening them and eventually, break up.
Try some A/B testing to find your sweet spot. Split your database in 2 segments and increase or decrease the sending frequency in one of them. Don’t change the sending frequency of the other segment. After a while, look at the open rates and click rates. Is there a difference?”
Use Geolocation to Target Your Audience – “When it comes to open rates, there isn’t a one size fits all approach, it all depends on the message you’re trying to get across and of course your relationship with your audience.
My bit of advice is aimed at businesses who run events, in the hospitality sector or just those who need subscribers to visit a certain location.
And here it is, a drum roll please…
Use Geolocation to target those subscribers. Of course, this will depend on the data you hold, but if you have an event in London, why would you target subscribers in Scotland? I have worked for plenty of events, shops, restaurants, etc that had been targeting anyone and everyone. They generally saw a decline in open rates soon after because subscribers were just not interested, and as we all know, personalisation is key.
Instead, target those in the surrounding areas. It’s easy to do, segment your data, personalise your subject line with the location added and away you go.
For example, I worked with a restaurant chain that had locations throughout Europe and in the Middle East. When it came to marketing to their Dubai based restaurant, they targeted the whole of the Middle East and because of this they had relatively low open rates that were slowly decreasing each time. Having looked at the data they held, I instantly saw a quick win and brought in geolocation targeting. As you would expect, the open rate increased from 8% to 30% over a three month period sending one email per month, using the tactic I shared above.
Not only will you not be annoying those who can’t attend, but you will increase engagement for those you have targeted.”
Try Alternating Friendly From – “The Friendly From is such a cornerstone of brand identity that people often overlook it as something that can be optimized. This is an easy mistake to make, but don’t do it – there is a great opportunity here!
Think about this: when a new email hits your inbox, where are you looking first? For most people, it’s the Friendly From.
Like so many other things email marketing and consumer behavior related, this involves human psychology: differing from the norm, in this case a standard FF, often creates significant changes in behavior.
Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes for a moment. Say your favorite brand always uses their company name as the Friendly From. You’ve grown accustomed to seeing this in your inbox. Now think about what would happen if they changed it.
Old: Casamigos Tequila
New: George Clooney, Co-Founder
This example might be a bit exaggerated, but you get the point. There’s a good chance this new FF would pique your interest enough to generate an open that otherwise might not have happened.
Alternate Friendly From Examples:
- Name @ Company
- Name & Title
- Company Department
- Brand Persona
- Email Content Description, i.e. Deals @ Company
These can range from playful, to informative to serious – however they should generally align with your email content. Keep in mind, just like other tricks of the trade, frequency of use will be a large determining factor in its success. And above all, always make sure to test before rolling out changes to your full list. As stated above, differing from the norm can produce some significant changes, but not always for the best!”
Improve Your Open Rate with A/B Testing – “Open rate is probably one of the first metrics that comes to mind when looking at the success of an email campaign. Open rate can be a key indicator of how engaged your mailing list is. There’s no doubt it’s important – if subscribers don’t open your email, they won’t see your content and won’t take the action you want them to/convert. If your open rates are decreasing, however, your concerns should be bigger than low conversion rates – ISPs monitor how recipients engage with your emails. Frequently sending to high volumes who delete without open could lead to you being placed in the spam folder. Doing this over a long period of time might eventually lead to high soft bounce rates, which might lead to you being blacklisted. I know that sounds scary and it is worst case scenario, but I have seen it happen in extreme cases over the years! This could be a whole article on it’s own, so for now, let’s focus just on improving open rates.
Even if you think your open rate is good, you don’t just want to maintain it – especially not as your list grows. You want to optimise it and get more people opening. More openers leads to more clickers/converters. It’s a no brainer! One tactic which can help improve your open rates is to carry out A/B testing. A/B testing is setting up 2 versions of an email and sending version A to half of your list, and version B to the other half. Whichever has the best result – in this case, the email with the highest open rate – is deemed the winner. It’s a great way to get insight into what your subscribers respond well to.
Carrying Out A/B Testing
A/B testing should be easy enough to do in almost any Email Service Provider – most have specific functionality to allow you to carry it out. However, doing the odd A/B test on an email every now and then won’t help you out in the long run. You need a plan in place to get real results. Think about the different subject lines you’ve sent out in your emails historically. Which ones have seen better open rates? What types of subject lines have you been sending? Have you ever done anything different that’s had any kind of impact on your open rate? Do you have any ideas of what does / doesn’t work for your subscribers that you can test? It’s surprising how often Marketers have an idea of what they think works, but when it’s tested, they’re proven wrong! Some things you can carry out subject line testing on could include:
- action focused language
- using key words
- using words with different connotations i.e. clearance / sale / outlet
- instilling urgency
- using brand names
- using emojis
- using personalisation
- intriguing language
- using discounts
- using numbers
Once you’ve decided on which tests are your priority, it’s time to create your testing plan.
Creating a Testing Plan
Having a plan is important, and will help you when it comes to analysing results. I’d recommend carrying out repeat tests on each variable in order to verify results – the result of one test alone won’t be significant as a number of other things could have impacted the results, such as the specific offer of that email, as well as the time of day and when in the month it was sent. This could mean that in one month, all of your A/B tests are on the same variable. Then, you have more data to see if your results have been significant.
Create your plan in a spreadsheet format with a sending schedule and detail on the test variable. It might look something like this:
(Click to Enlarge)
You can use this to ensure that you’re keeping your plan on track, as well as recording your results. Any learnings can be carried forward into the next month. For example, if you find that using personalisation significantly improves your open rate, when you move onto your next test, you can use personalisation if appropriate.
You might find that some tests don’t have any statistically significant results. For example, using emojis might not have any real impact on your open rates. That’s good insight too – all of the results help you build up a picture of what your subscribers do and don’t engage with. You may decide to repeat the test, to see if the results are still not verifiable, or move onto another metric to test.
Other Variants to Test
You can test variants other than the subject line in order to help improve open rates, too.
- from name, for example using Sophie @ BrandName vs Brandname
- day of the week
- send time
You can move on to testing elements of the content of your email if you want to optimise other metrics, such as your click rates and conversion rates. There are so many things you can test, here are just a few examples for inspiration:
- Calls to Action: colour, wording, placement, number of
- Imagery: size, layout, image types (i.e. model shots vs product-only shots)
- Products: placement, showing the price, size of image
- Length: Long emails with lots of content vs shorter emails with fewer calls to action
It’s important to only test one thing at a time, though, otherwise, you won’t be able to determine which variant has actually made the difference to your results. Another key thing to remember is that every mailing list is different, so what works for Brand A won’t necessarily work for you. I carried out some testing for a leading financial services provider in the UK and found that Monday mornings at 9am were the best time for them to send their campaigns; their open rates went from 17% to 25% after a three month testing plan. This wouldn’t be the same for brands even in the same sector. Only testing can prove it!
Your Action Plan:
- Review previous campaigns, to get an idea of what you think does/doesn’t work
- Create your testing plan
- Monitor your results
- Repeat tests to verify your results, especially if you send regularly and at different times/days. Just because you think something works, doesn’t mean it does – test everything!
- Never stop testing – continually optimise your results as your mailing list will always be changing”
Develop a Brand Persona – “Developing your brand’s persona is the first and foremost action that one should take before even thinking about writing your first subject line. The brand’s persona lays the foundation work for how you will talk to your subscribers, segment your lists, develop your creative and plan your subject line tests.
A few companies that have created best in class personas are: Starbucks, Samsung and T-Mobile. If you think about it, each one does something really well. Take Starbucks for example, their brand persona is, coffee, fun and customer service and they remain at the epicenter of everything they put out. All of the Starbucks’ subject lines follow suit, making the email STANDOUT and creating an urge for the reader to want to open. Not to mention they also do a really good job of defining what you are about to get into when opening the email.
In my 10 years of email marketing experience, when starting to work on a brand, I develop personas by partnering with my clients to answer the following three questions:
- What tone of voice do you want to use in emails (fun, exciting, sad, serious?)
- How many streams of emails do you want to develop? Will we be creating a newsletter, a promotional stream? If different streams will exist, subject line plans for each stream need to be mapped out
- How often will we be communicating? Daily, Weekly, Bi-Weekly? These details also need to be carved out in the brand persona planning stage
Once the above questions are answered, everything gets laid out on an email marketing calendar and the process of creating the subject lines can begin. Still taking Starbucks for example, they would have answered the above three brand persona questions as:
- The tone of voice for the Starbucks brand is Coffee Lovers, Customer Service and Fun
- Different streams of emails will be created around promotions, a rewards program and company news
- Multiple communications to different segments delivered daily
And then they would have taken all of this and put together a marketing calendar. So take July 12th for example, Starbucks wants to announce to the entire customer base that a new brand of coffee is coming out. Taking the above three foundational brand persona traits, Starbucks can then create the following subject line test:
A) COFFEE ADDICTS: Boy have we got news for you!
B) Today’s news for you!”
Incorporate Video – “Across all industries, average email open rates hover around 18%. And while that’s better than average organic reach on social media marketing, you want to see that number rise! After all, if your emails aren’t getting opened, they’re not getting read and your CTA’s aren’t delivering the results you need.
There are a number of tactics that can increase your open rates. One of those is VIDEO, the reigning king of digital content. Studies show that using the word “video” in your subject line can increase open rates by as much as 18% and your CTR (click through rate) by as much as 65%! That’s significant. It can also build loyalty and reduce unsubscribes.
In this real-life example, you can see Diane’s campaign results. Diane is an esthetician who always has a great open rate averaging at 25%. In her industry the average open rate is 12%. She had been experimenting with some Facebook livestreaming on her business page and decided to include it in her general monthly email. This campaign performed even better than usual with an open rate of 45%, almost double her average. And we didn’t even use video in the main subject line, but in the pre-header text. And it still worked like a charm. Take a look at the click report: 73% of the clicks were to the video.
What video should you include in your email campaign? Anything on your YouTube channel is great. Or maybe it’s simply content from someone else that your readers will find valuable. As long as the video content is true to your company’s message and brand, and relevant to your readers, you should be golden.”
Subject Line and Length – “The best way to increase open rates of your reader’s emails is to focus on the subject line. An open rate hinges on having a spectacular subject line. Be clever but not sneaky. Grab attention but don’t shout. Remember: people need to open your emails for them to have an impact. Without an opened email, customers cannot see the content or offer, let alone engage or convert. Yes, targeting and other factors matter, like getting into the inbox in the first place. However, none are as fundamentally important as the subject line. We’ll assume you are targeting a subset of your audience, with an appropriate frequency, that is engaging so your deliverability rates should be high and the next hurdle is to get them to open among all the other emails in their inbox.
Keep your subject line short: between 6-10 words should do it. Over 50% of all emails are opened on mobile devices. iPhones show about 35-38 characters in portrait mode, and Galaxy phones show roughly 33 characters in portrait mode. Make sure your subscribers who will open your email on their mobile device can read the entire subject line. Using 3-5 words is also ideal.
The average office worker gets 121 emails a day. That doesn’t even account for their personal mailbox. So how else can you stand out in the crowd? What helps or hinders an open line? Turns out, there are special keywords that can help increase or decrease opens. Words that decrease tend to be spam triggers. It turns out that numbers help lift open rates as well. Including just one number can give your open rates a boost. Emojis are giving over 50% boost to open rates for most brands using them. Just make sure to test rendering across multiple devices to ensure they convert correctly. Also, writing in title case can help set your email apart from others in the inbox. Sense of urgency? Exclusivity? All great strategies to help position your email as one they simply must open for more details.
Testing is the best way to see what engages best with your audience. Doing A/B tests to see what converts or how your users interact. Perhaps posing a question instead of a “last chance” message resonates more. Maybe putting a 24 hour only message sparks a lift in open rates. Most ESPs have the capability to identify a test winner and then send that message to the rest of the audience. Once you’ve tested a few times, you may have an idea of how to better “speak” to the customers. Always remember to keep testing because as new users filter in and old ones fade out, your list is continually changing and therefore what resonates with them will also. Happy mailing!”
Write Engaging Content – “Most experts will recommend strong, engaging subject lines to increase open rates. They will likely also suggest emphasizing a sense of urgency, testing days & times, and personalization. These are all fantastic ideas that are crucial to generating more “opens”.
While the ideas I mentioned are important, the content of the email itself cannot be overlooked. You may wonder how improving the content will impact Open Rates considering that those who don’t open the email will never see the content.
I personally believe that a strong product will sell itself. Meaning, readers will continue to open your emails and share them with others if the content is worthwhile. I make it a habit to “flag” or mark important emails as “unread” in order to return to them later on at a more convenient time. I do this regardless of when the email arrived or what the subject line is. I know which emails I find important and that I want to read them because the content is valuable.
Many marketers can suggest the best time to send an email, or create catchy subject lines. Creating valuable content, however, requires a lot more work. Ask yourself what information you find valuable and survey others in your network as well. Map out your next 4-6 emails and plan articles, videos, case studies and other content to guarantee your readers are receiving quality emails each time you press “send.””
Write Outrageous Subject Lines – “The best way to get your emails read is by writing something great. I’m not talking about good writing. I’m talking about LOL funny or outrageous. I once got an email with the subject line: “Baboon Ass for Breakfast.” Would you open that one? Oh, heck yeah. The email went on to describe a hot sauce that the writer had eaten on his eggs that day — called “Baboon Ass” — along with a connected sales pitch that was clever and fun to read.
The whole deal is being able to write funny. If you can’t… Don’t. You’ll just come off looking stupid. If you can, you’ll get the highest open rates in history. People love funny cat videos and will not only open, but also read emails attached to funny subject lines.
With that bit of advice, comes a caveat. If you want to write a crazy subject line, be sure it complies with CAN-SPAM act of 2003, your subject line has to reflect what your message is about. So, if you’re going to write something wild, you’d better be able to back it up with a story. Don’t just write something for effect and let it lay. After all, who needs an $11K fine for EACH email you sent? Not me, brothers and sisters. Whole lotta nope.
But a good story sells, anyway, right? If you can tell a good story, with humor, you’ll not only get better open rates, you’ll also make more sales.”
Use Song, Film & Book Titles in Your Email Subject Lines – “It’s all very well being told that your subject line needs to be ‘interesting’ – what if your bones are telling you that you couldn’t recognise an interesting headline, even if it assaulted you on a dark night…then you’ve got a problem. The ‘film, book and song title’ trick is a great get-out-of-jail-free card, and you can use and expand on it super creatively in your email copy. It almost gives you permission to add personality to your message.
For example …
- ‘It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to!!’ – a great intro to any subject you feel strongly about.
- ‘Great Expectations!’, or ‘When Dickens wrote Great Expectations’ he wasn’t kidding … could be the lead into anything awesome you want to announce
- ‘It’s been a hard day’s night round here’ – could be the intro to the launch of something new
- Why being ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’is important to us … an email about customer service
- Don’t be ‘Gone with the wind’ – could the the precusror to something with limited availability
- Talk about ‘Top Gun’ – Tom Cruise would be up for this! – Could launch your exclusive VIP deal
Best advice – just have fun with it!!”
Personalize the First Sentence of Your Email – “One of the most important things to do when sending cold emails is to personalize the first line. That is the snippet that shows up as a preview in most email clients. Everyone always talks about the subject line, but that first line is uber important too. People are going to judge whether they want to open your email based on the subject line and snippet of the first sentence.
Usually, the best thing to do in that first line is to genuinely compliment the prospect. DO NOT tell them what they are doing wrong. No one wants to hear that and that can be really off-putting on an initial outreach email. Find something specific you can compliment them on by looking at their site, bio and LinkedIn profile.
An example could be:
6 years in the biz. Good stuff! I see you are a soccer athlete and attribute some of your successes from sports. Totally think that is true too.
5 years in the biz. Amazing stuff! I like how you grouped all your webinars on one page so people can binge watch all your content. Super smart!
This way your 1:Many emails feel like it’s a 1:1 email.
It’s not hard to do this and any great SDR or VA can handle this.
Taking the 60 seconds to write a personalized line is important and it will dramatically give you much larger open rates. Right now our average open rate is 70% on cold emails.
Most tools like Lemlist and Mailshake will allow you to upload a personalized line via a CSV file so it’s easy to do.
Like all automation, if you feed the tool garbage you’ll get garbage.
If you feed the automation tools good data and information, you’ll get great results.”
Set up BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification) – “BIMI or Brand Indicators for Message Identification is a standard to verify information about your brand. The senders that use BIMI will appear in the inbox with the logo next to their messages.
Why BIMI Helps You to Improve Your Email Open Rate?
- It increases brand recognition
- It ensures brand authentication for your emails
- It makes your emails stand out in a crowded inbox
It’s important to know that BIMI includes two parts: a record and a file (with your logo).
The TXT record that is placed in the DNS of the sending domain (for example default._bimi), this should contain the link to the image with the logo. Example of the record: v=BIMI1; l=https://www.example.com/images/logo.svg; For more information about BIMI record, please visit https://authindicators.github.io/rfc-brand-indicators-for-message-identification/#rfc.section.5
Your file with the logo should have an SVG format and be an exact square.
Before you start, you should keep in mind that you should:
- Have access to your sender domain name servers (DNS)
- Set up other authentication records (SPF, DKIM, and DMARC) before BIMI
- You should have a good sender reputation
Please note that if you use several sending domains or subdomains, then you should set up BIMI for each of them.
At the moment this feature is only supported by Yahoo and AOL, however, GMAIL has recently joined the working group (according to postmaster.com). Microsoft will use their standard instead of BIMI; you can check beta testing here https://business.microsoft.com/.
I would recommend this feature to all companies that have a significant part of their subscribers with Yahoo and AOL emails.”
Javed S. Khan
Re-Humanize Your Email Communications Through Video – “Although emails & email subject lines can be made personalized and persuasive, there’s nothing like a real-time conversation leveraging a medium which covers all the critical non-verbal elements of communication, is the next best thing to being there in person, and helps you stand out, ultimately making you more memorable and relevant.
The bottom line is people who use video as part of their email communications receive stronger results.
- 81 per cent get more replies and responses
- 87 per cent get more clicks in emails
- 68 per cent get higher lead conversions
- 90 per cent stay in touch more effectively
- Adding video into email marketing campaigns has been shown to increase click-through rates by more than 96 per cent. Merely mentioning video in the subject line can boost open rates by 19 per cent.
Sources: bombbomb.com & Syndacast
3 Ways to Use Video Communication in Your Email Messages
1. Meeting Confirmations
Sending a video email reminder about your meeting approximately an hour before the meeting time is a great way to create a starting point for a conversation and strong first impression. This is something you can even schedule ahead of time once you confirm the time and date of your meeting.
2. Post-Meeting Thank-You
Be sure to also send a video email message after the meeting to thank your client, prospect, lead or referral source for their time. Ideally, you should send the video about an hour after the meeting. There is no need to repeat what you spoke about since it will still be fresh in the individual’s mind, but touching upon next step actions is good idea to show the individual you were attentive and are on top of things!
3. Meeting Follow-Ups
About a week or so later, send a video email message along with some valuable content that may help your contact out.
With these sure tactics, video communication is bound to help your business!
What do you need to do to being using video as part of your email communications?
What do you need to do to being using video as part of your email communications.
First, consider investing in an email service provider that allows you to record personalized videos and include them as part of your email communications for both one-to-one and one-to-many. The software I would recommend is BombBomb.
See the software in action by watching this brief video:
It’s all truly about adding video as part of your email communication experience. Once you start, you won’t look back!”
Personalization within the Subject Line – “Simple can sometimes be most effective. Calling a customer by name may seem very basic, however in recent testing, we have seen over a 5% lift in unique open rates when simply calling a customer by first name within the subject line. Now, like most things, this should not be over used. Companies have a tendency to find something that works and use it till it doesn’t. One of the keys to keep a tactic effective is to use it wisely. So for example – if you as a business coupon 3 times a week and one of those coupons is your big kahuna, use it then. Maximize it’s effectiveness by combining it with other proven tactics. Remember the old adage “That’s my name, don’t wear it out”.
Piggy backing on this simple concept, personalization, when done smartly can be hugely effective in subject lines. Find the data points that make sense for your customers and your business. “You have 73 points till your next reward!”; “15 days till your anniversary”; “We held on to your size 32 jeans”. Customers like to hear about themselves, it sparks interest, it shows a known connection. So whether simple like calling them by name or complex like telling them it is time to buy their 11th product; show your customers you know them.”
Harness Schadenfreude in Your Subject Line – “Decades ago, legendary copywriter Gary Bencivenga highlighted perhaps the most important and overlooked factor in getting people to pay attention to what you say: curiosity.
You can promise all the value in the world in your email subject line, but if your subscribers think they’ve heard it before they won’t bother opening. You’ve got to add a touch of curiosity. A bit of intrigue as to what’s actually going to be in the email.
That’s why buzzfeed-like headlines lines like “The top 10 holiday destinations in the world (you won’t believe #3)” are so effective. You can’t resist finding out what those top 10 destinations are, especially number 3. And that’s even if you never plan to leave your bedroom.
And there’s a type of subject line I’ve found that builds every bit as much curiosity as the buzzfeed ones, but without being used anywhere near as much, nor coming across as quite so clickbaity.
It’s invoking “schadenfreude” in your subject lines.
For those of us who didn’t major in either psychology or German, schadenfreude is the strange pleasure you get from learning about or witnessing the troubles and frustrations of others.
We all have it (though most of us hate to admit it). We’re fascinated by other people’s problems or challenges.
Can you imagine how popular The Avengers film series would have been had they coasted through all 4 films, defeating the villains without breaking a sweat?
We like to see our heroes put through the wringer. To genuinely face defeat.
We’re 99.9% sure they’ll win through in the end. But unless bad things happen to them on the way there’s no drama. No interest.
And yet if you read most people’s emails what you tend to get is a catalogue of success after success.
They did this, it was great. They did that, they crushed it. You too can learn from all their super successes.
Bleugh. Not interesting at all.
What we’re far more interested in is the mistakes they made. The problems they faced.
And I don’t mean the fake mistakes that people tend to use when answering interview questions about their greatest weaknesses (or gurus use when trying to sound more human). “I worked too hard and burned myself out”. “I cared too much about my clients”.
I mean real mistakes where you genuinely screwed up.
Like the sales meeting I had where I was supposed to emerge with a $5m contract, but instead the client didn’t say a word all meeting. Or the email I sent out with a fantastic and creative subject line I was so proud of, that had the worst open rate I’d had in years.
Tease those mistakes and problems in your subject lines.
“My WORST sales meeting ever”. “My worst performing email EVER”.
Both of those email subject lines were huge successes for me. Simple but irresistible.
“Don’t make these 3 sales mistakes which nearly cost me my job”.
I just made that one up on the spot right now, but even I want to know what those 3 mistakes were. That’s how compelling these types of subject line are.
Of course, don’t overuse them.
You can’t have every email be about a disaster that befell you or pretty soon people will either think you’re some kind of accident-prone idiot or that you’re making it up.
And you have to show how you recovered from the mistake or what you learned from it (that your reader can learn too).
And, of course, you have to have established your credibility before you talk about the mistakes you made, otherwise you’ll come across as a bit of a loser.
But if you use them right, schadenfreude based subject lines can be hugely powerful. They invoke curiosity, they propel the reader into devouring your email content, and they show you’re human too, that you’re just like your reader.
And since they involve honest disclosure of real mistakes you made or problems you had, most of your competitors won’t be brave enough to use them – and your emails will stand out a mile.
So they’re not just a great way of increasing open rates, they’re a great way of standing out, getting people to bond with you and take action on your recommendations.
Make Sure Your Emails are Mobile Friendly – “We are all spending as much time on our mobile devices as we are sitting at a desk computer. When it comes to email, this is even more true. Make sure your emails are mobile friendly!
A few tips on achieving a mobile friendly email:
- Know Your Email Service – if you are using a service, make sure they are mobile friendly. (Also make sure they can get past spam filters)
- Not All Images Will Show – Quite often viewers have images turned off on their mobile devices, so ensure all images have alt text.
- Watch Your Width – Mobile widths are about 320 px while desktops are 500 or more.
- Keep Them – Include relevant links for mobile users, especially phone numbers!
- Don’t Be Too Lengthy – Especially on a mobile device, many people just won’t read a lot. We have very short attention spans so don’t write a novel. If you do, make sure you get your point, and those links, across early!”
Is Open Rate the Best Metric to Measure Success?
We’ve talked A LOT in this article about improving your open rates (that was kind of the point after all…), but is it a metric you should pay much attention to? I know that many people do get very hung up on it. A couple of the experts we spoke to talked about how open rate has its shortcomings, and that there are other stats that are a better indicator of success in many cases. Read more about these thoughts here…
Should You Be Focusing on Clicks vs. Opens? – “I realize that this article is about improving your open rates, and there’s tons of great advice from really smart people. But I like to play the contrarian, and instead I would ask you if you should really focus on open rates at all? What do open rates represent to you? Are they a proxy for engagement with your brand? If you answered “yes” to that question, then you need to ask your self if opens are truly the best measure of engagement with your email campaigns. Let’s start with understanding the limitations of email marketing statistics as they relate to open rate:
- Not Every Open is Captured
Email marketing systems rely on the images in a campaign being downloaded to trigger the email being recorded as ‘opened’. Outlook has images turned off as a default setting and if a recipient reads the email without downloading the images, or just absorbs it in the viewing pane, the system will record it as unopened. Users of other clients may turn off images, also suppressing recorded open rates.
- Not Every Open is a Good Thing
a) Mobile and tablet browsers have the images turned on by default, and an email that is only selected with the intention of deleting it is likely to be recorded as ‘opened’. In other words, a false positive.
b) Other people may open an email with the only intent being to unsubscribe.
So where does that leave you? If your attention is fully focused on increasing your open rates, you have to be satisfied with the knowledge that you will always be using incomplete or flawed data. If you really want to accurately measure engagement, I propose that a click through to the website is the type of subscriber engagement that leads to what you really want from that person–a transaction.
The Engagement Path
Real engagement tends to happen in sequence:
- Brand Impression – I see the email in my inbox and note the sender. Can’t be measured other than as a total of emails delivered followed by guesswork.
- Brand Awareness – I open an email and scan its content. Can be measured, but not accurately (see above).
- Action – I open AND click through from an email to the brand web site or landing page. This can be measured with precise accuracy and is a strong indicator of my near-term intent to engage/transact.
In short, clicks provide the most accuracy and value, which is why you might want to optimize to clicks rather than opens.”
- Not Every Open is Captured
The Pitfalls of Open Rates – “Open rate is always the wrong metric because open rate is always wrong. Don’t misunderstand, the open rate on any given campaign can be useful for indicating if something significant has gone wrong. Think of it as the check engine light of your email marketing. When a client team tells me that they get measured on their program’s open rate and that their bonus depends on it, I cannot decide if I should feel bad for them because their bosses don’t get it or if I should envy the way they were able to ensure they all get a good bonus. The simple answer to getting a better open rate is to only send emails to people who open You want to get a great open rate, just send to your mother.
Sorry, rant over. Let’s break down a little more logically. David Ogilvy famously said, “We sell or else.” This brings up the first problem with looking at open rates; they do not generate revenue. In twenty years in email marketing, I have only ever had one client that made money from opens (a publisher that sold ad space in the email). For that client we would work very hard and spare no expense to maximize open rates. I have seen some brilliantly targeted campaigns with an absolutely perfect subject line that generated very low open rates. How do I know the segmentation and subject line was so good? Because the open to click and the click to conversion rates were both in the high 90’s. In other words, people self-identified if the offer was for them based on the subject line; those that were interested opened, clicked and bought straight away. Those that were not interested, did not waste time “checking out the offer.”
The second problem is looking at rates. Percentages are very useful for comparing the results of different campaigns, especially if they went to different sized audiences. Using them as a measure however, can lead to very bad decision making. Which would you rather have: a 50% open rate on a campaign that went to 100 people or a 10% open rate on a campaign that went to a 1,000? If your bonus depended on it you would lean towards the 50%. The stakeholders in your organization however would go for the 10% almost every time.”