8 Tips To Improve Your Email Marketing Open Rate

Get Your Email openedOpt-In email marketing remains one of the most valuable tactics to drive conversions on your web site.  Monetate recently reported that for the 4th quarter of 2011, conversion rate for traffic coming from email was 4.21% vs. 2.96% from search.  That’s a 42% advantage.  But to convert these customers, you must first get them to your site, and that is unlikely if they are not opening your email to begin with.  Here are eight things you can do now to increase that open rate for your next email marketing campaign.

  1. Use content valuable to your readers, not just to you.  Jon Ball, over at Page One Power, talks a lot about a term they call “FTBOM”, or “For The Betterment Of Mankind” in link building, but I think it’s even more important for Email Marketing.  Deliver content that will benefit your readers.  Doing so will keep them opening your messages, and bring them back to your site at the same time.A good example of this is Scotts Turf Builder.  They send me an email reminder when it’s time for me to apply a new dose of fertilizer or weed & feed.  Do those emails include promotional messages about other products?  Sure.  But they deliver the content I require to keep my lawn green and I open the email each time it is sent.
  2. Plan your schedule carefully.  How often do you send out a new campaign?  If it’s too frequent, people will start to ignore all of your messages, or even opt out.  How often you send certainly depends on your business and your readers.  If you are Groupon, or Daily Candy, of course you’ll be sending every day.  Most organizations will find better results by dialing back their frequency somewhat.  A couple years ago, after placing an order with Harry & David, they sent me 12 promotional emails in the next eight days.  How many do you think I opened?
  3. Continue to work on growing your list.  It makes sense:  new subscribers are going to be more engaged and more likely to open your emails.  Don’t just stand pat with a link or a box on your site to ask people to sign up.  Proactively solicit for their email address & permission.  Offer incentives such as an eBook or a discount coupon.  Promote your newsletter via the social networks.  Continue to grow your list and your open rates will improve.
  4. Segment your list.  Whether the size of your total list of email addresses is 300 or 300,000, if your messages are always going to the entire list, you’re probably limiting your open rate from the start.  Even for smaller sized lists, you can segment the users out based on a number of things that you do know (or can know) about them.  Have they purchased before?  Did they sign up by checking a box while performing a different task, or was signing up the specific task they were accomplishing?  Are they male or female?  If they are a customer, are they a one-time customer or a heavy user?  By sending different messages tailored to a specific group, each message will enjoy a higher open rate.
  5. Get your messages through the spam filter.  This is probably a topic for its own future post, but obviously, if the message gets flagged as spam, it won’t be seen, let alone opened.  Be sure you are using a reliable and reputable email service provider to handle your campaigns.  They take great care to ensure their servers stay off black lists.  Be sure that your html is clean.  Run it through a validator to be certain.  Messages with a lot of non-standard html are more likely to get flagged as spam, and may not display properly in many email clients if they do get through.  Messages that are composed almost entirely of graphics will often get flagged as well.  And of course, avoid any spammy-sounding language such as Money Back Guarantee, Once in a Lifetime Opportunity, or using ALL CAPS or a lot of exclamation points.
  6. Review your “From” name.  Above all, make sure that both the name and the email address are clearly identifiable, even if the email client truncates part of them.  Some say that using an actual person’s name will get your message opened more.  This can be good in some situations, such as if you are a small company and it makes sense to your recipients to have an actual person as the “voice” of the message.  If you’re AT&T, it pretty much only makes sense if that person is the CEO or a high-ranking executive that would be tied to the subject of the email.  If you use an actual person’s name, it should be someone the recipient can relate to.
  7. Work on your subject lines.  I really wanted to write this post without getting into subject lines, because that’s the first thing most people turn to, and it’s also where some of the most spammy advice comes from.  But it’s true that the subject line is what people see first, along with the sender name.  Try to give your subject lines a sense of urgency, and communicate the benefit to the user in them.  But above all, make sure they are relevant to the content and don’t sound too much like they’re designed only to get the user to open them.
  8. Test, test, test!  This is by far the best tip in this message, and it is especially relevant to numbers 6 and 7 above.  Take 10% or 20% of your list and use them as two or three test lists.  Write a couple different subject lines and send one to one test list and the other to another test list.  See if one performs significantly better than the other.  Do the same for things like the sender name.  When you have a combination that seems optimal, use that for the rest of your list.  Many email service providers have built-in functionality to allow you to do A/B Testing such as this.

With the holidays fast approaching, the importance of a good solid email marketing campaign gets even higher.  Review your strategies today and implement them as soon as possible to improve the success of those mailings.

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