Let’s cut to the chase: email works.
If you’re not using it in your marketing, you should be. And if you are, you should probably be using it more.
Why? As an early-stage founder, being able to build a paying customer base quickly is critical, whether you’re bootstrapping or working with limited runway from funders.
And email marketing is one of the best ways to do this. Consider:
- For every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $38. – Constant Contact
- When it comes to purchases made as a result of receiving a marketing message, email has the highest conversion rate (66%), when compared to social, direct mail and more. – DMA
- Organic reach on Facebook is only about 6%, whereas the average open rate for an email is in the 20-30% range. That means your message is 4-5x more likely to be seen via email. – Radicati
That’s the very good news.
The bad news is, people get a lot of email. How many? An anticipated 293.6 billion will be sent in 2019, and 333.2 billion by 2022. Meanwhile, both consumers and B2B decision makers are increasingly savvy about dodging marketing emails. That means it’s increasingly hard to stand out and get noticed.
In short, it’s harder to get an email through and opened than it was in the past. No matter how great your product, no matter how carefully crafted and compelling your email message, it doesn’t mean a thing if it doesn’t get opened.
So how do we get through to our audience?
As with all good marketing, the key is getting the right message to the right person at the right time. We’ll show you how to do just that.
In this video, email marketing expert, co-founder of Sendlane and instructor of our Advanced Email Marketing course discusses how to instantly increase your email open rates.
Instantly Increase Your Email Open Rates
What Makes a Good Email Open Rate?
First things first. What’s considered a good email open rate? It depends on your industry. According to MailChimp, the average open rate for ecommerce is 15.66%, and 20.47% for business and finance. The highest average belongs to emails related to hobbies, at 27.35%.
So, a “good” open rate for you is somewhere around your industry average. But no one aims for average, right? Learning how to increase email open rates above the average is perhaps the best and most cost-effective thing you can do to dramatically improve your marketing efforts.
Here are five surefire ways to do just that.
1. Send to the Right People
As the saying goes, marketing is about getting the right message to the right people at the right time. So ensuring you’re sending to the right people is a step in the right direction. But as with everything, there’s a right way to do it, and a wrong way.
Quality Over Quantity
A “spray and pray” campaign where you send the same message out to hundreds or thousands of recipients and hope that a few of them take the bait? Wrong way.
A deliberately personalized and segmented campaign sent to high-quality leads? Right way.
You might be tempted to purchase an email list—fork over a few bucks, instantly receive a collection of names and addresses.
But here’s the thing: you mean nothing to anyone on that list. Less than nothing. Beyond that, you’ll probably end up angering or irritating many of them for sending what amounts to little more than spam.
Additionally, inundating a bunch of strangers with no interest in you or your brand could result in complaints and bounces, both of which can negatively impact your email deliverability and sender score.
Just don’t do it. A purchased list guarantees quantity, not quality.
The best way to ensure you’re sending to the right people is to methodically build your email lists. And yes, that’s lists, plural. Having several small lists that share some common trait is infinitely better than one big one. You need to segment (more on that in a bit).
Ask yourself: Who are my ideal customers? What do I know about them? Where can I find them online?
If you haven’t already, you need to create a few customer personas to help with this step. A persona is a fictionalized version of your customer based on real research and concrete data.
When you know exactly who your ideal customer is, you can then begin to create emails specifically for them. You want to address their concerns, pain points, obstacles, wants, and needs.
If you’re sending out even just a few highly relevant emails (quality), you’re going to produce better results than if you send out hundreds or thousands of emails that may or may not resonate with your recipients (quantity).
Better relevance means better open rates. Better open rates mean better click-through rates. And better click-through rates can generate more conversions.
And that’s the whole point, right? Your personas can guide your marketing on every level: content, channels, calls-to-action, and more. Create personas to know who you’re looking for and what they want.
Next, do a little research to find out more data on people who would identify as your persona and what they may look like in real life. What do they do for a living? What blogs do they like to read? What are their interests? This will help you solidify who your persona is and get more granular with your personas’ characteristics and attributes.
Find them using relevant keywords like job titles, industry, or location using a search engine or the search bar on social platforms.
Click the “Search” field in the top left on LinkedIn, for example, and you can select “People,” then filter your search with a variety of terms and categories.
Or, use a third-party tool like Dux-Soup to make finding qualified leads based on your data-backed personas even faster and more convenient.
The key here is just to get a better understanding of how to resonate with these prospects through email. The more you know them, the better you can connect with them, which will help you improve email open rates and conversions.
Scrub Your Lists
Regardless of how you go about building a high-quality list, you’ll next want to scrub it. Regularly examining your list and removing old and dead addresses will reduce bounces and improve your deliverability, which ensures your messages are reaching the right eyes. That alone can help you increase email open rates.
You could manually go through each list and each address, but to maximize your time and effort, use a dedicated verification tool like Voila Norbert. Upload your “dirty” list, and Norbert automatically scrubs out duplicates, incorrect formats, and inactive or invalid domains.
A typical email list degrades by about 22% each year. Keep yours sparkling clean and up to date with at least one annual scrubbing, if not more.
Finally, to eliminate those not really or only partially interested in hearing from you, consider using a double opt-in for your gated content and lead magnets.
Visitors fill out a form, typically requiring them to submit their names and email addresses. That’s the first opt-in. Then, they receive an email asking them to click a confirmation link. That’s the second opt-in.
A double opt-in helps keep you in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), as well as making sure the people you email want to receive, open, and click your messages (which keeps your deliverability, open, and click rates healthy and high).
2. Segment Your List
You can do this while building your lists, or after you’ve already compiled a large number of names and addresses. Either way, segmentation allows you to provide a better targeted message for your recipients. And that’s one of the most effective ways to improve your email open rates.
As the name implies, list segmentation means breaking it down into smaller segments that share one or two common characteristics, like job title, industry, or location.
If your product is perfect for restaurant owners and financial advisors, for example, you wouldn’t want to send the same message to both groups.
That’s the benefit of segmentation. It allows for more relevant and personalized messaging at scale. And that means more opens, more clicks, fewer complaints, and a lower unsubscribe rate.
The DMA noticed a 760% increase in email revenue from segmented campaigns. And Optimove found that the smaller the segment (i.e. the more targeted), the greater the average customer value uplift.
You can choose to segment in a wide variety of ways, including by past activity, demographics, preferences, values, and more.
Once you have your segments created, you can make separate email templates and drip campaigns for each one, via an email marketing provider like Mailshake, Mailchimp, or AWeber.
Each customer avatar and persona should have its own campaign, with additional segments within each one. That way, you can speak directly to their pain points and the benefit to them in using your product. You can automatically personalize your emails at scale.
And that’s a huge marketing win.
Remember, good marketing is nothing but getting the right message to the right person at the right time.
Bryan Harris of Videofruit segmented his email list based on subscribers who downloaded content upgrades related to his online course. This allowed him to send the highly-targeted message below:
The campaign had an astounding 72% response rate. That’s segmentation in action.
3. Choose the Right ‘From’ Name
This one may not seem like much, but the wrong name can leave you dead on arrival.
Think about it: when you receive an email—any email, let alone one from a stranger—you glance at the from field when deciding whether to open it or not. In fact, 42% base their decision on the name alone.
Which would you be more likely to click on, an email from Corporation XYZ, or one from John?
Your emails should always come from a person, not a company or brand name.
The only exception to that rule might be if your brand name is very recognizable and well-known, but even then, including an actual name, John at Coca-Cola, is typically the best bet.
Hubspot increased their open rate by 8.07% and click-through rate by 31.51% simply by switching the sender from “Hubspot” to “Maggie Georgieva, Hubspot.” That’s it. No other change.
Want to improve your email open rate? Be real, genuine, and human. Use your real name.
4. Optimize Your Subject Line
Along with who the email is from, no other part of your email has as big an impact on your open rate as your subject line. It’s your calling card to get your digital foot in their digital door.
Just how important is it? Forty-seven percent of us decide whether to open an email and 69% report it as spam based solely on the subject line.
The best way to find the perfect subject line for your audience and various segments is through frequent A/B testing. Never stop testing, and you’ll never stop getting closer to perfection.
Once again, the major email marketing providers all have built-in testing capabilities, but it’s up to you to decide what to test.
Conventional wisdom tells us to avoid things like emojis and certain spam trigger words like “free.” The only way to know for sure? Test. You might be surprised by your results, and if it works for your people, who cares about conventional wisdom?
That being said, generally speaking, clear beats clever every time.
Also, a personalized subject line can increase email open rates by up to 50%, and personalization can be as simple as using “you.” Subject line personalization can include using the recipient’s first name, referencing their location or transaction history, or their interests.
The ideal length? Short enough to be seen on a mobile phone, but long enough to convey something.
The highest click-to-open rate occurred for subject lines with roughly 41 characters or seven words, whereas the highest straight open rate was four words.
Good subject lines also provide context. Why are you contacting them now? What’s in it for them? Why should they open?
To that end, refer back to a previous message or interaction you’ve had with them (“Following Up on Our Call Last Week”).
Pique their curiosity and create a little intrigue (“Successful Brands Have This in Common”).
Add a little urgency and appeal to their fear of missing out (“Only Four Spots Left,” or “Last Chance for Free Shipping”).
Questions work well, as does a little intrigue or urgency.
Your experience may vary. Test, test, and test again.
5. Test Your Sending Times
You want to be consistent about when you send your emails. A regular schedule gets people in the habit of hearing from you. They’ll be expecting and waiting for your email. If you normally send something every Tuesday and you suddenly switch to Thursday, you’ll probably see your open rate take a tumble.
“One way to build up your email reputation and improve your email delivery, is by sending your emails at a consistent frequency. If you send emails at erratic times of the day, week or month, you may cause your readers to stop reading or interacting with your email. And since ISPs monitor engagement, your email delivery could drop, so stick to a regular schedule.” ~VerticalResponse
Essentially, you want to show the gatekeepers—the internet service providers—that you’re no fly-by-night operation.
That said, the only way to know the best time to send is to test it. It’s rare that two studies on this subject produce the same result.
Mailchimp, for example, found that Thursday is the best day of the week. Hubspot? Their research reveals Tuesday in the top spot. The best time of day? Mailchimp says 10 a.m., while Hubspot suggests 11 a.m. Venngage says between 2 and 3 p.m.
The bottom line: The best time to send emails depends on your industry, your list, and your company. Test for yourself to find the best day(s), then test different times during that day. Zero in on the best time for your segments. That’s the only way to know for sure.