Adams & Knight Marketing Blog
POSTED BY: Alan Maislen

Thirteen open rate-boosting tips for email marketing


With more than 265 billion emails now sent every day, the pressure is on for anyone developing email marketing campaigns as part of their digital strategy to cut through the clutter and make sure their message is heard, or rather, seen.   

Here are just a few best practices gathered from email gurus that you’ll want to use to make sure your emails are as successful as possible.

Be responsive.
Fifty-six percent of emails opened on mobile phones. And twenty-three percent of readers who open an email on a mobile device open it again later.

So if your emails aren’t responsive, don’t expect responses. To make sure they look good on all devices, Email on Acid recommends single-column designs with a 600 pixel width.

Be relevant and personal.
Personalized subject lines deliver 26 percent higher unique open rates overall and personalized content improves click-through rates by an average of 14 percent.

So right from the subject line, your message has to be: a) relevant and b) personal. Remember, your email is not about your product or service. It’s about your customer. And you’re not just sending a message. You’re building a relationship.

Test your subject lines.
To make sure you’re getting the most bang from your 40 characters, A/B test them. There are many email marketing tools out there that you can use to do this, but the important takeaway is to find out which subject lines generate better open rates.  

Spell out who’s sending the email. 
Sixty-four percent of readers open email based on sender name. The thinking is that if the recipient trusts you as a source for valuable content, he/she will open the email.  

Put key messages in preview pane.
Why? Because more than half your readers won’t scroll. Thirty percent of readers open emails based on pre-header text, fifty-five percent open based on what it says in the preview pane, and content above the fold gets 84 percent more attention.

As a general rule, experts at Email Monks recommend designing for your ESP’s email preview pane at 500 x 500 pixels or 320 x 480 for mobile. Use buttons and colors to make your most important features pop.  And don’t be shy about making push buttons look like push buttons.

Be brief. 
As a guideline, keep total word count in promotional emails to less than 750 words. Actually, that’s being generous. Email has conditioned us to tolerate messages of about the length of—wait for it—an email. Twitter has slashed our attention span even more.  If you have four-to-six seconds to absorb a highway billboard, consider how much less time you have on the information highway. (Note: Don’t read email on the highway. Our lawyers made us say that.) 

Look at it this way. If a preponderance of readers open promotional emails because of the subject line and preview pane, how much more copy do you really need? 

Break up copy with subheads.
With so many emails hitting inboxes today, people tend to simply scan everything. So why not make it easy for them? WhatCounts recommends designing for the Z-curve: The eye reads left to right to left (in the Anglo-European world, anyway). So try using visual markers, like boldface, color, buttons, etc., to follow the reader’s natural eye movement.

Use email data to shape future messages.
And make them more pertinent . . .so your emails are more likely to get opened. Forbes reports that email has become the top source of analytics data for marketing professionals, with 41 percent relying on performance data to, say, for example, segment recipients by open frequency. Then send emails to each group at different times of the day or days of the week when they’re most likely to open them. 

How successful is this practice? WhatCounts says online travel agency Hotwire reports that their remarketing emails are up to 16 times as effective in generating conversions as their mass distribution mailings.

Leverage dynamic or adaptive content.
Like online remarketing, using previous browsing or buying behavior and data to attract your target’s attention just makes sense. Yet, nearly 63 percent of marketers rarely or never use dynamic or adaptive content in their emails!

Remember, email marketing is all about relationships: engaging them, cultivating them, inviting them to keep returning. The more you know about your target’s segment, interests and buying behaviors, the more effective each email in your campaign will be.

Use social media.
In all your email campaigns, include “share” buttons so it’s easy for your targets to share your content on their social channels—with their social audiences.

Use email for gaining new customers.
McKinsey reports that email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter. Could be because social is viewed as awareness-generating whereas email is more hard-selling and creates call-to-action. In fact, 72 percent of people prefer to receive promotional content through email, according to MarketingSherpa 

Put your head into your footer. 
Think beyond a catch-all for social media icons and disclaimers. Like the PS in a snail mail letter, use it as a last-chance opportunity to drill home a call-to-action.

Maximize the unsubscribe link. 
In fact, WhatCounts recommends putting it at both the top and bottom of your email. Reminding viewers they can opt-out takes sales pressure off them. 

While many unsubscribe links give you the chance to adjust your frequency settings before saying a definitive adios, consider giving your readers the option to set their message frequency from the get-go. If they’ve found gold in your first email of your campaign, chances are they’ll be willing to hear from you more often. It may just keep you out of the spam filter.

I’d offer more email best practices, but I have to delete my email now . . . which takes more time than reading my email.

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Alan Maislen
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