Improve your open rates

Open envelope suggesting an opened email
The other day I was chatting to a friend about her recent email campaign. She was complaining about very poor open rates.

“The last email I sent only had a 4% open rate, normally I get 11%-12%.”


When I send out emails to my list I tend to get a 35% – 40% open rate.

So what’s the difference? And how can you improve your open rates?

I think there are five factors at play here (at least five, there are probably a lot more!).

1. The quality of your list

Are the people on your list people who want to hear from you? How have you built the list?
I know I’ve been added to email lists by people I’ve met networking. I didn’t ask for more information, I have no interest in their business offerings for myself and I haven’t given them permission to contact me.

And I seldom open their emails. When they have the courtesy to include an unsubscribe link then I unsubscribe.

If you create your list in that manner then you are breaking the CAN-SPAM act (or your country’s equivalent – there’s an article on Wikipedia that gives the legislation for different countries at then you don’t deserve to have people opening your emails and connecting with you.

Don’t do it!

Create your list by giving something of value. Then ask them to confirm they really want to receive information from you. That way you have their permission to keep in touch and they have indicated an interest in your business and what you offer.

2. What do you send?

If every email you send is an in-your-face promotion you will very quickly train your list to ignore you.

When you give them valuable tips, interesting and useful information, and allow them to get to know the real you, then you’ll be developing a relationship and your recipients will want to open your emails.

I’m on one copywriter’s list where he emails every working day. I love getting his emails. He’s edgy and confrontational at times (which keeps me interested) and he often has useful nuggets of copywriting wisdom I can use. And virtually every single email is also a promotion but it’s low key, it’s relevant and the useful content makes the email worth reading.

So make sure you’re giving value to your list and not just promoting to them.

3. How often do you send emails?

If you only contact your list once a month or even less often they’re likely to have forgotten who you are when you do email them and then they’ll report you as Spam.

I admit to being a bit lax in this area myself, not emailing as often as I should. So I’ll be taking my own advice!

My suggestion is that you email at least once a week with useful information, relationship building disclosures and lowkey promotions.

Schedule time in your diary to write these emails – or hire a copywriter to write them for you. Make it a priority. Make it happen.

No more excuses!

And when you have a particular product or service you want to promote – maybe a seasonal special or a course coming up – then send out extra emails between your regular weekly missives.

4. Are your subject lines turning people away?

With emails your subject line is the doorway to your information. People read the subject line and make an instant decision:

Delete… or not!

I get 200-300 emails a day and I delete the vast majority of them unread. I just don’t have time to look at them all.

If you want your emails to be opened and read you must have a good subject line. This is the equivalent of a headline on a letter – it’s sole purpose is to get the email opened.

You must grab people’s attention and one of the best ways to do that is to pique their curiosity. “Do you make these mistakes in English?” was a headline written by Sherwin Cody that ran for years and years – because it worked! The readers just had to know “what mistakes?”; “do I make them?”; “What does that say about me as a person?”

They had to read on to find the answers.

5. Are you in an industry where people have become promotion blind?

The friend I mentioned at the start is in the weight loss industry which is very competitive and very over promoted to. Maybe 11% is a good open rate for that industry.

I have a niche business where I regularly get 40%+ open rates because the people on that list are not burnt out by too many promotions in that industry. They probably only ever hear from one or two marketers about that topic.

I can’t tell you what is a “good” open rate or response rate because there are so many different variables. As you send out emails and measure your responses you will have a starting point for you, your list and your industry.

Then you can look at ways to improve your open and response rates.

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