Think about all the time you spend crafting great content, writing irresistible CTAs and compelling, engaging copy.
You want people to read your emails, right? And ideally, you want them to take an action off the back of them – whether that’s clicking through to your latest blog post or signing up for a product demo.
So imagine how you’d feel if fewer than one in five people who received your emails bothered to open them, let alone read them.
Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to push that figure higher – a lot higher. Here’s how.
When you think about it, it’s a wonder anyone ever clicks on sales emails.
We don’t have much to play with when it comes to persuading people to click – just the sender name, subject line, and maybe a few words of body text.
The greatest piece of content ever written could be hiding inside an email, but if the subject line doesn’t compel the recipient, they’ll never know about it.
Just how important is the subject line? Extremely. In fact, almost half of emails are opened or discarded based solely on their subject line, so you’ll really want to take the time to make them good.
But what does “good” actually look like?
First off, personalization is key. After all, how often do you open letters addressed to “The Resident at ...”? I know I don’t. But recipients are much less likely to ignore an email if they think it’s for them and them alone. In fact, personalizing subject lines can increase open rates by 50%.
In terms of length, brevity is your friend. Research suggests you should be using no more than 24 characters and three to five words. That might not sound like much, but it’s unsurprising when you consider that half of all emails are opened on mobile devices. At a minimum, you want those users to be able to read the full subject line without having to hold their phone sideways.
Given that you’ve got very limited real estate to work with here, it’s also vital you choose the right type of words. Assertive, active language – words like “account,” “campaign,” and “next” – have been proven to boost open rates, while more passive terms like “invite,” “join” and “confirm” have the opposite effect.
Keep Your Email List Fresh
Maintaining a quality email list is like painting the Golden Gate Bridge – it’s never finished.
You might be signing up dozens of people a day, but your list could still be shrinking. That’s because marketing databases naturally degrade by 22.5% a year due to contacts’ email addresses changing as they move jobs, recipients abandoning old email addresses, and subscribers opting out of email communications.
Some accounts will be shut down completely. Others will still be technically active, but never checked.
Either way, these old accounts are hurting your open rates by diluting the quality of your email list.
Let’s say you send an email to 1,000 accounts. Only half of those accounts turn out to be active. Of those 500 active accounts, 100 people open your message, for an open rate of 20% – slightly above average. Good job! But when you factor in the 500 inactive accounts, your open rate slumps to a measly 10%. In other words, you could be generating great results without even realizing it.
You’ve got two options here. Either you can manually trawl through your email list, painstakingly deleting inactive accounts, or you can use an email verification tool to quickly and efficiently weed out bad email addresses.
Optimize the Timing of Your Emails
Got a landline? Ever had your dinner interrupted by a telemarketing call? Me too. That’s because B2C cold callers know that potential customers are most likely to be home in the evening.
It’s no different with email marketing. There’s no point sending an email at a time when people aren’t going to read it. Unless they already love your brand, it’s pretty unlikely they’ll bother scrolling back through their inbox to look for it later.
So when should you be sending your emails?
Common sense has to play a part. For example, let’s say you’re targeting lightbulb manufacturers. Every year, the lightbulb community flocks to LightBulbCon, the industry’s must-attend networking event. While they’re at the conference, they’re not allowed to have their phones with them, in case they leak any industry secrets to the press. So there’d be little point in sending any emails for the duration of the event.
Beyond these types of situations, research suggests some days and times are better than others for generating good open rates.
According to HubSpot, Tuesday is the best day to send sales emails, followed by Monday and Wednesday, while the best time to send an email is between 8am and 10am, and 3pm and 4pm. Sending during these times can increase average open rates and click-through rates by 6%.
Segment Your Email Lists
Personalization is key in today’s super-tailored content landscape.
Show me a sales professional who has time to craft individual emails for every single contact on their list, and I’ll show you someone who is not being straightforward.
Segmentation allows personalization of emails without the severe time drain of individual personalization. Sure, it’s more time-consuming to create five different emails than it is just one – but the rewards of personalization are worth it. And at least you’re not tasked with writing 5000 hyper-personalized messages.
Segment your lists into smaller lists. There are infinite ways to segment email lists, but some popular examples include:
- By job title
- By seniority level
- By business size
- By sector
- By sales funnel placement
- By potential value
- By relationship with contact
Create a different email for each segmented list. These emails should contain different content topics, as content relevant to a CTO probably won’t be appropriate for a CPO, for instance.
You may also want to adjust your tone of voice from email to email: a marketing manager you know well should be addressed differently than a CEO you’ve never met.
Through segmentation, you can hook in everyone using tactics tailored to them without risking alienation.
This gap is only likely to grow as people become more used to tailored content services like Amazon and Netflix.
Other personalization techniques include using automated tools to insert personal details such as names into subject lines and emails, and – where appropriate – using more casual language, as you would with a friend.
Avoid Spam Filters
Globally, some 14.5 billion emails are marked as spam every day, equating to 45% of all emails sent.
For salespeople, being caught by spam filters is bad news all around – and when your deliverability is negatively affected, open rates dive – not to mention your other KPIs.
According to analysis from sales and lead gen expert Alex Berman, Google launched a stealth update at the beginning of 2019, leading to more emails being marked as spam. And as Google gets stricter, it’s becoming harder to stay out of spam filters – especially for salespeople using cold outreach. Yet it’s certainly not impossible.
It’s essential to warm up your email account before sending from it. This technique includes methods such as personalizing and living in the account before using it for campaigns, ramping up campaign emails slowly, and ensuring automated campaigns come across as human.
You can also improve deliverability by using your sending calendar to space out sends and limit how many emails you send per day, in line with Google’s sending limit regulations.
Track Email Open Rates and Adapt Based on Results
Open rates are calculated by taking the number of unique opens, dividing that figure by the number of emails sent, and taking away the number of bounced emails.
Many email tools will calculate this figure for you: open rates are a vital KPI when it comes to tracking campaign performance.
Track your overall open rates for each campaign, comparing the results to find out which performed best, and then analyzing why this was the case.
Maybe a shorter subject line increased open rates, or emails you sent on Wednesdays won the most opens. Or perhaps a campaign run with a casual tone of voice garnered significantly more opens than a more corporate effort.
Whatever the case, these are invaluable insights into what engages the recipients on your email list – and it’s essential to ensure your next campaign takes them into account.
You can also improve open rates by using A/B testing. Track open rates as you A/B test different subject lines, and different times and dates to send. When it comes to launching the full campaign, use the subject lines and times and dates that performed best in the testing stage.
Then, sit back and watch your open rates skyrocket.