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How to Improve Your Email Marketing Open Rates

One of the greatest challenges facing marketers today is effective email marketing. The availability of good email software packages means that it’s now possible to send one email to thousands of people simultaneously. Whilst technology has made the process of email marketing easier, an even greater challenge faces the sender…getting the recipient to open the…

One of the greatest challenges facing marketers today is effective email marketing. The availability of good email software packages means that it’s now possible to send one email to thousands of people simultaneously.

Whilst technology has made the process of email marketing easier, an even greater challenge faces the sender…getting the recipient to open the message. Email software now provides us with the luxury of tagging emails so that it’s possible to know whether the email was opened, if the receiver clicked on links within the email itself and send a follow up email accordingly. It’s very clever and provides superb statistics for the sender/marketer. The equivalent to this is sending a letter by post and finding out whether the receiver read the letter and what they did with it next. Priceless information.

Software also allows us the luxury of writing the email in a way that beats spam filters. There are many words that are considered potential spam. These are weighted and entered into a scoring system. When you’ve written your email the software analyses the words and provides a total score. If your score is high then chances are your email will visit the receiver’s junk folder rather than their inbox. Of course, this isn’t good news as it means it’s unlikely your email will be noticed let alone read.

What can you do to improve your open rate?

The chances of scoring a 100% open rate are very slim. According to the Silverpop 2013 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study conducted during 2012, the average (mean) email open rate across EMEA was just under 20% at 19.7%.

People are busy and have less time to wade through the numerous emails received on a daily basis. Therefore, some emails are labeled important and opened immediately, whilst others may remain unopened for a while, or are deleted as they simply do not meet a receivers criteria. We don’t know what that criteria will be and every receiver will have different criteria.

How do you currently vet your emails? Chances are you vet emails differently depending on whether you’re in a hurry, you’re looking for one email in particular, you’re in a bad mood etc.

Human nature plays a huge part in creating this criteria. If you subscribe to a business to receive emails then you are more likely to open the email to read the next message. If the content remains good and retains your interest, then you are more likely to continue opening emails from this particular sender.

However, if you find the content to be a rehash of the last email, or the information becomes irrelevant, then the natural response is to mentally re-label emails from this sender. You then re-label, changing from your must open criteria over to a maybe pile or worse still, don’t bother pile. Eventually this will lead to you unsubscribing. The sender has then lost a potential sale.

Improve Email Open Rate
What can you do to improve your open rate?

Think about it…if you have a criteria when deciding to open an email or delete it, so does your receiver or customer.

1)      One of my key tips for email marketers is to ensure that you read previous emails as a sequence. This alerts you to the possibility that your emails are becoming almost predictable. What worked six months ago is most likely getting tired and isn’t working the same. Your statistics may confirm this if open rates are falling.

2)      Using graphics or plain text. You may find there is a difference in open rates which depends on the format of the email. Some emails rely on graphics to break up the text and provide an element of colour and interest. This is fine but only if your receiver has the technical capability and desire to open the email and download the graphics. Note you need both here for this to be successful. If the receiver is unable to download the graphics then presenting your email in a formula where there are blank boxes is going to become irritating. The chances of the email being quickly deleted are high. As computers evolve, the chances of the correct software being loaded on the machine grows, which then provides a nice option for the receiver.

3)      If your emails are boring, or offer no value, then it won’t take long before you lose the reader. Your copy needs to be entertaining, inspiring, eye-catching, informative, educational and most of all speaks to the reader, telling them something they want to know. It needs to be written in conversational language rather than formal, grammatically correct starchy language that is difficult to understand. If you’re unsure whether your email flows, read it out aloud. If you trip up when reading it, then you know you have an editing job on your hands.

The greatest secret to increasing email open rates

What is the most important part of an email?

So far we have shared many tips on the content of your email. However whilst important, content is not THE most important element but still ranks high.

The most critical part of your email is the subject line. Whenever you are writing a marketing email I suggest you spend as much time on this as you can. The subject line has one job, one mission only, and that is to get the receiver to open the email. What you say here determines whether your email will be opened or abandoned. An email can be written but a subject line must be crafted. It is the equivalent of a door-to-door salesman ringing your doorbell. The salesman has approximately thirty seconds to grab your attention otherwise they’re gone. If you’re in a hurry, what they say has to be so good that you invite them back. Your subject line has to perform the same function.

Most business owners and a number of marketers do not consider the importance of the subject line. Doesn’t it make sense? Did you ever consider the subject line has just one critical role to play? If you hadn’t, then this may be the biggest revelation for you that will make a huge difference when you send your next email.

How you craft fantastic, must-open subject lines is a more complex discussion and one that I cannot share in detail in this article. Every business will be different because it depends on the relationship you have with the receiver, how they became a customer, what you sell and the ongoing messages you need to write.

As you can imagine, if you are the promoter of a superstar performer and you are writing to a fan-base, then they will tend to open your emails no matter what you say. Open rates soar when major announcements are being made about concerts or tours. At times like this, open rates are extremely high. The highest open rates naturally occur in the countries the performer will appear.

Hopefully, your business creates raving fans who are willing to return and buy more from you. If not, then what can you do to move a customer closer to becoming a raving fan? Interesting question isn’t it. Have you thought about your customers this way before?

What do your customers buy?

Notice I didn’t ask what you sold. People aren’t really interested in what you sell. They buy for their reasons only and these are many and varied. They buy hope, a feel-good factor, success, prosperity, more recognition, gain knowledge. These are feelings which move a person towards a goal. Alternatively they may buy to move away from a feeling or situation such as to avoid debt, bad relationships, business failure etc.

Sometimes a person has to move away from a situation and they need to move towards a better place. This means you have to speak to them regarding both places. Tony Robbins says it better. “People make decisions to avoid pain or gain pleasure”. Generally they will do more to avoid pain rather than gain pleasure.

Imagine I am stood next to a wall of ice. I’m so cold but don’t know where to move. You come along and build a wall of fire. I now have something to avoid the pain and move towards the pleasure of feeling warm. Of course, if I travel too far in this example then I will have the pain of too much heat. In life the pleasure element is usually so much better. What’s your business’ version of this example?

To close this article let’s consider why your prospects and/or customers buy from you. What are the pain and pleasure factors? When you know them, use your words carefully when crafting your subject lines.

At its simplest, people buy for emotional reasons and justify with logic. Understanding and appreciating these emotions and using empathy are the keys to really grasping what your customers buy. Use these to help them get re-acquainted with the reasons they bought from you in your email subject lines. It’s very powerful and will help you increase the open rate on your emails.

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