5 proven tips for higher email open rates

Libby Margo in Email marketing on 13th of Aug 2019

5 proven tips for higher email open rates

You’ve finally crafted your first email newsletter — and it’s incredible. The email is full of engaging and interesting content that you know your audience will actually want to read; it’s also beautifully designed, with even spacing and the right amount of striking images to keep it all balanced. Once your email has reached your customers’ inbox, however, your work is not yet done. In fact, your next challenge is to get them to actually read your email.

What’s an open rate, anyway?

Once you’ve delved into the world of email marketing, there’ll be some important metrics that you should regularly measure to improve the ROI of your email campaigns. One of the metrics that you pay attention to is your open rate. The open rate is the percentage of your email recipients who opened your email. The open rate is an important metric because your email campaigns won’t do a thing unless your subscribers are actually opening them in the first place.

In this article, we discuss 5 tips that our customers have used to improve their email open rates across various industries including SaaS, eCommerce, real estate, and more.

1. Your customer should gain something from reading your emails

There are two main reasons why people subscribe to email newsletters: 1) to learn more about a topic that interests them and 2) to stay up-to-date on the latest content from a particular website. In other words, your newsletter shouldn’t just be a compilation of unstructured ramblings — it should provide a benefit to your customer. If your customer believes they will gain something from reading your email, they will open it. Here are a few examples of our customers and the main benefits a reader will get for subscribing to their email newsletters:

  • SaaS start-up: sign up to receive thought leadership pieces, special promotions, and product updates
  • E-commerce retailer: sign up to find out about special promotions and sales, new product releases, and news about offline events
  • Real estate agency: sign up to get tips on how to approach the buying process, market trends, and new property listings in your area
  • Autopilot: sign up to keep up to date with our take (and real-life applications) on marketing trends, product updates, and practical customer journey templates

If you’re currently trying to build your email subscriber list, we suggest placing your benefits-driven sentence along with a lead capture form on your website to start building your email list. With the foundation of your email newsletter value proposition in mind, crafting future email content will be an easier task.

2. Don’t treat your subject line as an afterthought

According to Neil Patel, writing effective subject lines can increase open rates by a staggering 203% AND keep you flying under the dreaded spam radar. Here are some more tips for creating subject lines that are more likely to make people open your email instead of sending them straight to the trash:

  • Keep your subject lines short; subject lines with 6-10 words tend to generate the highest open rates
  • Use a tone and style that appeals to your target audience
  • Personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates than generic emails; follow email personalization best practices by using the reader’s first name in the subject line and 2-3 times in the body text
  • Avoid spam trigger words in the subject line like credit, discount, gimmick, obligation, or click here
  • A/B test your subject lines to see what garners your audiences’ attention

3. Be smart with your email content strategy

A solid principle in how to approach your email newsletter content is to out-teach your competition. While your competitors are busy selling via email (explicitly or implicitly), focus your attention on providing value. Awareness and conversion will follow. A good rule of thumb is to shoot for 95% teaching and 5% selling in your emails.

One approach is to write all-new content for each newsletter, tailored specifically to your readers. But in reality, who has time to do that on a regular basis? An easier and more exciting approach is to use your newsletter as a digest of fresh blog and online content, as we do with our weekly newsletter “In the Loop.”

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The beauty of this newsletter format is that you can repurpose hard-created content like industry best practices, customer stories, or thought leadership pieces — or use an interesting piece of news item to link it to a recent blog article you’ve just written. When it’s time to buy, your audience will come to you because you’ve been staying in touch and providing value through teaching, not selling.

To write compelling content, keep the following 3 types of email newsletter readers in mind:

  • Skimmers: People who will read the headlines, look at the pictures (and occasionally click), and do nothing else. Focus on writing headlines that give this group the main messages, even if that’s all they read.
  • Sponges: People who read every word of your email. They’re after the details in addition to the main messages, and because they invest time, are more likely to love or hate particular blogs.
  • Socialites: They’re hardcore because they click through all of your links and frequently share your content with their networks.

4. Make sure you send newsletters regularly

Maintaining a regular email newsletter sending schedule is right for you and your readers. They’ll know what to expect from your end and you’ll be able to give yourself a deadline to meet.

We send our weekly “In the Loop” newsletter once a week but for time-poor business owners, sending a newsletter at least once per month should suffice. Based on our own 2015 study involving 327 companies from over 10 industries, we found that businesses who send marketing communications to customers at least every 2-4 weeks generate twice as many leads as those who contact customers every 1-3 months.

5. Test, iterate, and keep driving up your metrics

Most email marketing platforms provide metrics and results. While rough industry benchmarks exist, newsletter performance varies by industry, customer demographics, geography, or business model - so make sure you carefully track the following:

  • Total number of contacts: Every member of your team should know your customer database size. Make sure you set quarterly/annual goals to grow these!
  • Click-through rate: What percentage of subscribers who opened the email clicked a link or call-to-action in the email? Typically, 3-8% of general newsletter opens will click. But highly targeted messaging backed by a compelling offer can drive this up to 50%.
  • Unsubscribe rate: Once you have a groomed reader base, which means you’ve sent 4 or more monthly newsletters to the same list, then if you’re seeing unsubscribe rates that are more than 0.3% after each newsletter, you will need to revisit your targeting, content, or send frequency
  • Leads attributed: How many leads or conversions are your emails producing? Add UTM tags to your email URLs to track conversions produced from emails
  • Customer and feedback: How are people responding to and engaging with your newsletters? A good way to find out is by asking your subscribers what they think via an NPS survey or by asking a series of questions using a data enrichment email journey (see below).

Watch your open rates skyrocket

While we don’t suggest you attempt to quickly mash all 5 of the above tips into one giant experiment, we do suggest that you start testing what you’ve just learned — bit by bit. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll soon start seeing your open rates increase.

Do you have another tip that belongs on this list? Share your best strategies for increasing open rates in the comments section below!

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