All of us who run email campaigns look at the numbers of people that actually open our hard work and wonder if that’s a good number, or should we just give up?  What about the people that didn’t open it? Why don’t they love us anymore?

We’re all in the same boat.  The open rate depends on a number of factors.  There is no magic number which is classed as good, but there are a number of things you can do to get it as good as you can.

More than half of subscribers don’t open emails

Mailchimp, which I use all the time, analysed millions of emails sent through their system and found that the open rate varies by industry – but none of them achieved even 50% opens. The top five were:

  • Religion 49%
  • Photo and video 48%
  • Manufacturing 48%
  • Non profit 47%
  • Government 46%

The lowest open rate was 2%, experienced by Daily Deals/eCoupon emails, with Marketing and Advertising only just topping that.

(N.B. This article refers to Mailchimp’s results at the time of writing. The link goes to the latest version of their analysis, so the figures are not the same.)

How to make your email campaigns more successful.

Don’t put them off at the start.

An informative subject line is more effective than a sales-y one.  The Word Hen November Newsletter is likely to be opened more than ONE DAY ONLY!!! FREE guide to great email campaigns –  earn £££s!!! (That one is wrong in so many ways!)

Take care of your subscriber lists.

A well maintained subscriber list will have a higher open rate than one that is left to get dusty. People change their email addresses, so continually sending out to dead inboxes is a waste of time and only increases the proportion of no-opens.

A regularly pruned subscriber list will mean the list is high quality – containing only people who have recently engaged with your email campaigns, and are more motivated to open the next one.

Divide lists into segments – e.g. don’t send emails about London events to everyone, but target people who are located near enough to attend. You can mention the London event as an aside to the others, just in case they are interested, they don’t need to get the full thing.

Do everything you can to avoid being classed as spam.

If an email server thinks you are spam, or if your recipients mark your emails as spam, you are going to have a struggle to prove your innocence.  Stick to these simple techniques to avoid appearing spammy:

  • Don’t write in ALL CAPITALS.
  • Don’t promise anything FREE!!! Or say it is URGENT!!! Don’t use more than one exclamation mark (ever).
  • Don’t promise fantastic savings or earnings.
  • Don’t try to deceive the readers with false offers or subjects, nor by hiding the sender’s name.
  • Don’t send more images than text – spam filters can’t read images, so they just presume it’s spam.
  • Do include a plain text version.
  • Do include a link to unsubscribe.
  • Do make sure the unsubscribe link works for at least 30 days and act upon these requests within 10 days.
  • Do include your postal address.
  • Do make your email top quality – great copy, well coded, with no silly fonts or colours.
  • Do use a double-opt-in subscription method.

Play around with other factors too.

It’s always worth trying different approaches:

  • Segment your list and send the same email with different subject lines, which one got the best results?
  • Alter the calls to action – which worked best on getting a click-through?
  • Change the design now and again. A different look email wakes people up and makes them pay attention. Does the new design work better than the old one?
  • Try sending at different times of the day – some types of email may be more interesting to read on the morning commute, others at home in the evening.

Opening (and hopefully reading) an email isn’t always enough. Unless you are just awareness-raising, you usually want the readers to do something, most usually to click through to your website, and ultimately use your services. Click rates are much lower than open rates. Photo and video gets just 6% clicking, followed by Architecture and also Hobbies at 5%.

If the copy inside the email isn’t compelling, then your readers are going to move on very quickly.  Stopping them from deleting you unread is a start, but they will delete you next time if the packaging is better than the contents.

About the author: Joanna Brown

Joanna - profile picJoanna is a business copywriter, and the driving force behind Word Hen Ltd., a UK company specialising in compelling communication for financial and legal firms.

This article was first published by Joanna Brown