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How to Improve Email Marketing Open Rates

By: Olivia Petrac | November 8th, 2012

Email Marketing is an essential piece of a company’s overall marketing strategy.  In fact, according to eMarketer reports, 97% of all small businesses use email marketing.  Even with the massive social media growth of the past several years, email marketing with 3.3 billion users has nearly three times the users as Facebook and Twitter combined.  But, all those users also mean increasingly crowded inboxes filled with marketing messages.  So, getting people to open your email may be a difficult obstacle to overcome. How to improve email marketing open rates?

To begin the process of improving your open rates, put yourself in the recipient’s place.  What kind of email marketing message would you open?

#1 – First Impressions Matter

You have two opportunities to make a good impression right away, starting with the ‘From’ address.  People want to see who the Sender is before they go any further.  Refrain from using generic email addresses such as: info@ or sales@.  Instead, include the name of your company or organization (i.e. WidgetWorkshop@widgets.com).  Marketers who send email campaigns to prospects not familiar with them personally should avoid using their first/last name in the address unless their name is the company name (ex. JennyCraig).
Once a recipient recognizes the Sender the next item is the all-important Subject Line.  Here are 5 things to keep in mind:

a)  Spam filters analyze a large list of criteria in determining a Spam score.  If your email score exceeds a determined threshold, it is sent to the Spam folder. For a comprehensive list of Spam triggers click here.

b)  Avoid using CAPS and exclamation marks.  If they aren’t automatically relegated to Spam, many people associate this style with unwanted emails. Subject lines framed as questions often elicit a better response.

c)  If your newsletter is delivered with the same subject line over and over, you are likely to see opens drop off.  Keep the company or newsletter name consistent, but reflect the changing content of each campaign.

d)  Keep your subject line short and sweet, under 50 characters – if possible.  An exception would be an email going to a highly targeted, and well-established audience.

e)  Excessive reminders have diminishing returns.  Over-promoting a sale or event with too many reminders can land your emails in the trash bin.

 

#2 – Timing

Everyone struggles with the timing of marketing emails.  Discovering the best email delivery times for your marketing messages will ultimately take research and testing.  Think about your audience.  If you are a  retail grocery store your customers likely shop on Saturday or Sunday.  Emailing a marketing message on Thursday or Friday will garner more opens than a Monday delivery.  More generally, B2C businesses may want to target lunch or after work hours when customers typically check emails.  B2B businesses might try early morning when emails are checked or mid-afternoon when inboxes are less congested.

 

#3 – Clean Up Contact Lists

One of the most immediate methods of improving open rates is to pull addresses that never open your emails.  Covideo provides a report of recipients who view your video, how many times they view it and how much of the video is viewed.  Users with CRM systems may be able to see information such as: Bounces, Non-Existent Emails, Blocks, etc.  Contacts who seldom open your emails should be segmented into a separate list to receive targeted communications specifically designed to re-engage them.

 

#4 – Refine Your Message

Once you identify target markets, refine messaging to appeal to those groups.  Create separate nurture campaigns based on the relationship: customer, prospect, old lead, etc.

 

#5 – Develop Trust 

Put recipient needs first by providing useful, free content.  When you earn their trust as a valuable resource they’ll be more receptive to promotional content included in follow up emails.

 

#6 – Let Them Tell You What They Really, Really Want

Offer email content choices.  Some people may want a monthly newsletter, others might like weekly sales ads, new product updates or special event notifications.  When you give subscribers the ability to choose mailings that appeal to them, they’re much more likely to view what you send.

 

#7 – Identify Topics That Get Results 

If you write an amazing subject line and get low open rates, that could be a signal the topic doesn’t interest your contacts.  Take a look at topics that generated high open rates and craft similar or correlating messages having greater appeal to your audience.

 

#8 – Become a Trusted Sender 

Many email programs block images as protection against viruses, using default anti-Spam settings.  The blocked images give the email a blank, unfinished appearance and many recipients hesitant to follow image download directions, send the email to the trash bin.  The best way to overcome these settings is to become a Trusted Sender.  As a Trusted Sender, your graphic images will instantly load helping to reinforce your message and engage the viewer.   Encourage your contacts (beginning at the time you collect their email address) to put your ‘From’ address in their Address Book, Trusted Sender or Approved Sender list.  Continue the appeal in subsequent touches as subscribers often overlook this step without reminders.

 

All this being said, it is natural for individual open rates to decline a bit once the novelty factor of receiving your communications wears off. Even if you see a consistent overall open rate, it’s possible different people may be opening your emails from one campaign to the next based on your content, and their needs and interests.

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Jamie Bidwell is a team member at www.covideo.com. Covideo provides video email software that helps companies build relationships quickly and reinforce their brands more effectively with easy-to-make video emails that truly communicate. jamie@covideo.com.