How to get better open rates for email marketing campaigns

Written by Sarah Miles

17 January 2023

direct marketing | email campaigns | Email Marketing | email marketing tips | email open rates | marketing | marketing tips

10 ways to get more people opening your newsletters

Email marketing can be a very powerful tool (it’s one of my personal favourites), but like any form of marketing, there is quite the art to getting it right. While you could have any number of goals for your email campaigns (selling products, increasing awareness, sharing content, establishing your expertise and profile), the number one objective has to be to get your recipients to open your emails. It is as simple as that because if people don’t even open it, you can never achieve any of the objectives already mentioned.

What open rate should you expect?

There is no definitive answer to this as it depends on factors such as the industry and the nature of your subscriber list. If your database is entirely opted in and you offer something that people have a regular requirement for, your open rates are likely to be quite high. If your database is more prospective and you have to convince people of a need for your offering, or it’s something that people only have an occasional need for, opens will be fewer.

While open rates will vary due to factors such as these, a good open rate for an email campaign (according to Campaign Monitor) is between 15-25%. If you are fairly new to email marketing, these figures can seem very low but rates such as this are actually great so it’s important to look at yours in this context (I’m old enough to remember the days when direct mail was king and that used to yield around a 2% response rate!).

Improving open rates

While content will need to be strong to achieve good click through rates (CTR – the percentage of those who open the email and click on a link), your first priority is getting them to open it in the first place. So, how do you stand out in your subscribers’ inboxes and get yours opened?

There are many ways of improving your chances and I would strongly advise you to consider them all. Not doing so is wasting the opportunity and your time and marketing is always about striving to monitor and improve things.

Here are 10 ways to do that:

  1. Make your subject engaging
    The content of the email could be your greatest work but if you don’t make the subject enticing, it will get lost in the white noise of your recipients’ inboxes. Therefore, ‘March Newsletter, issue 27’ or similar isn’t going to cut it.

  2. But avoid clickbait
    In an effort to make your subjects super irresistible, it can be tempting to resort to clickbait tactics. Bold claims, over-promises, or sheer shock headlines will be dismissed as junk and may even bypass inboxes completely and end up in spam filters. You need to find the sweet spot between uninspiring and overwhelming.  

  3. Keep it snappy
    Be engaging but don’t wang on. You have to get the message across quickly as many inboxes will only show the first few words. Stats show that 6-10 words deliver the highest open rates.

  4. Make it relevant
    This may seem too obvious, but it is amazing how many don’t truly consider why their subscribers should open their emails. Give them a reason by making it relevant and of specific interest to them as possible!

  5. Write your subject after you’ve written the content
    I would recommend this for blog posts too. Craft your content first and then write the subject. This way, you can perfectly encapsulate the essence of the piece, knowing exactly what it contains (even when you plan the content, it will develop as you write it, and you may only appreciate the most relevant element when you read the finished piece back).

  6. Include preview text
    Email senders vary but most will provide a field for a short preview description. This is your opportunity to embellish on your short and punchy subject and provide some clarification why people definitely need to read your newsletter. This usually displays in inboxes under the main subject. Write this after you have written both the content and the subject.

  7. Send from a person, not a company
    People are more likely to open an email that appears to come from a person rather than a business. In fact, you can increase open rates by up to 35% by sending from a person’s name rather than a company name or general email address. However, if your emails are something that they have signed up for (and they should be for the purposes of GDPR compliance), it’s good to remind them that it’s a mailing list they have opted into. ‘Your name’ @ ‘company name’ (eg Sarah @ Smiles Marketing) is a good way of humanising it but showing it’s from a source of interest.

  8. Segment your audience
    The easiest way to make it relevant is to divide your subscriber list up based on some kind of meaningful criteria and then making content specific to that group. You could do this based on demographics such as age, gender, or location (if you know it), or on the basis of products or services that they have bought from you before. Creating a number of targeted messages to relevant smaller subscriber lists will be more work than one message that tries to tell a massive mailing list about everything, but it will be so much more successful.

  9. Try A/B split testing
    A lot of marketing is about trial and error and getting to understand what works and what doesn’t by just doing it. A/B split testing (sending slightly different emails to two groups of recipients) allows you to test which subject is the most successful.

  10. It’s about when you send as much as what
    Getting opened or not getting opened can be determined by something as simple as when it lands. If people are busy at that moment, it just might get lost. You may think that sending it overnight, so it’s waiting there when they check their emails in the morning, might work but this risks yours being just one of many. The best time for your audience will depend on several factors but you can do some research on industry norms, estimate based on your knowledge of the audience, or simply test it by sending at different times and days and seeing what works best.

This may seem like a lot to think about, and we haven’t even started talking about the content of the email yet, but these things are really just common sense and you will soon start to incorporate them naturally into your campaigns. Increasing the number of people who open your emails makes the time spent on the content of them much more cost efficient too so if you are going to work on any one area of your email marketing strategy, it really needs to be this.

Need help?

If it all seems a bit too overwhelming, or you just need some professional input, get in touch with me and let’s give your emails a boost together!

You May Also Like…