For subscribers to click through your email, they need to open your email first. I’ll be the first to admit that my inbox currently has over 1,700 unopened emails. Some of those are automated emails from services I signed up for and some of them are emails from well-meaning people who didn’t catch my interest. Whatever the case, each one represents someone who tried and failed to get in contact with me.
Now, maybe you’re not like me. Maybe you open all of your emails regardless of if you’re interested, simply so you can lower that “unread emails” number.
Surely, some of your email subscribers do this. But what I want to discuss is how to get people to open your email because they’re interested in what you have to say, not because they are checking something off their list.
Here are 11 ways to catch your reader’s interest before they open your email.
Related: Guide to Email Marketing Basics
1. Spend more time on the subject line.
You’ve probably heard this one before. But it’s still the single most important part of any email marketing message that you write.
The second thing that your subscribers are going to look at is the subject line (right after the “from” name). The subject line is the heart of determining if someone is going to open your email.
Sadly, most of us don’t spend nearly enough time on the subject line.
To improve the quality of your subject lines, create a list of 20 different options. Read through them and pick your top 10. Read through them again and pick your top 5. Read through them one more time and pick your top 3. Then, show the top 3 to a few other people and get their opinion before choosing a winner.
For your reference, here are some amazing subject lines that you should totally steal:
- [Exclusive Content] Here are all your eBooks!
- David, did you know that…?
- We have finally done it, David!
- [Free Tools] Download the tools we promised you.
Your subject line needs to trigger one of two things in the receiver.
- Curiosity. Ex: David, did you know that…?
- Self-interest. Ex: [Free Tools] Download the tools we promised you.
Spend some time thinking through your subject line and you’ll get a better open rate.
2. Create a compelling preheader.
Sadly, the preheader of an email is often neglected. But the reality is that before opening an email and after reading your subject line, there’s a good chance that people are going to read your preheader.
It’s the final barrier between an email sent and an email opened.
Think of your preheader the way you think about the tagline title of a book. The title (subject line) intrigues you, but it’s the tagline (preheader) that gets even more specific and compelling.
Here are some book titles that would make great subject line/preheader combos:
- Contagious: Why Things Catch On.
- Grit: The Power Of Passion And Perseverance.
Write a preheader that goes into more detail than your subject line, drawing subscribers to open your email. It’s not just where they look, it’s why they click.
Note: Keep in mind that if you have an image at the top of your email, the alt text is what will show first. Luckily, you can just strategically craft alt text for the top image that makes for an awesome and compelling preheader.
To learn more about using preheaders effectively, read the following two articles:
- Why the preheader remains the most neglected part of an email
- 9 preheader text mistakes that nosedive your email open rates
3. Create a swipe file.
This is the best piece of advice you’ll get out of this article.
And it’s dead simple.
Create an email folder to collect all the emails you receive that had exceptional subject lines and preheaders. This is called a swipe file. It’s a personal library of amazing emails so that when you’re crafting your own, you have an idea bank to reference.
Remember, the best copywriters steal from other great writers. You should steal too.
4. Segment your list.
You’ve probably heard of list segmentation.
Segmentation is putting your list of email subscribers into categories based upon their behaviors. If, for example, a pool of people on your email list haven’t opened the past 10 emails, you might put them into a segmentation meant to save them from inactivity. If another pool of people are opening and clicking through nearly every email, they might go into a segmentation meant to upsell.
In other words, the emails that people on your list receive are behaviorally specific to each person.
Depending upon the tool you’re using for email marketing, segmenting your list will or will not be an option.
But if you’re serious about increasing your average email open rate, it’s a necessary step.
5. Don’t get caught in spam.
Obviously, it’s practically impossible for people to open your email if it’s going into spam.
Spam filters are intended to help people avoid inboxes filled with shoddy emails. But sometimes, email campaigns with the best intentions get caught.
I’ll tell you what. Here’s a quick list of the things you need to do to avoid that garbage chute.
- Don’t use any cute tricks, trying to cover up the unsubscribe button or putting “Re:” or “Fwd:” in the subject line. These mischievous actions are practically guaranteed to land you in the spam folder.
- Always include appropriate alt text on your images.
- Include an address and from name in your email.
And here’s the big one:
- Test everything.
Want to know if your email is going to go to spam? Simply send a test email to yourself and a few friends and ask them where it went. If it does go to spam, adjust what you think might have caused it and try again. There’s nothing better than knowing for sure.
And if you’re not sure where to start, this article lists the key reasons why emails go to spam folder and what you can do to get back into the inbox.
6. Choose the best email marketing tool.
There are pros and cons to every email marketing tool. Some get caught in spam easier than others. Some allow for segmentation and a/b testing. Others don’t.
All of these factors play into the potential open rate you can achieve. Using an email marketing tool that fits your brand personality and has the features you need is vital to increasing your open rate.
GetResponse has an email marketing tool that is absolutely phenomenal. For a more extensive list of your options, check out this in-depth piece by Robert Mening where he reviews the pros and cons of a plethora of email marketing services (he even reviews GetResponse).
Ultimately, choose the tool that works for you.
7. Resend campaigns to inactive subscribers.
By way of a reminder to subscribers who didn’t open your email, resend the campaign the following day.
We all lead busy lives and sometimes increasing the open rate of an email is simply a matter of reminding people that they received it in the first place.
Obviously, you have to walk a fine line with this.
Resend too many campaigns and you risk increasing your unsubscribe count. Never resend and you’re missing out on a portion of your audience that simply keeps forgetting to open your email.
Generally speaking, follow these rules:
- Only resend email campaigns a full day after the original was delivered. No sooner. No later.
- Only resend each campaign a max of one time.
- Consider only re-sending campaigns that you consider vital for your audience to see — meaning you don’t resend just your everyday newsletter.
- When you do resend, change the subject line to something more compelling. Something like, “You just missed this…” or “I really don’t want you to miss out on this.”
Resend your campaigns, but don’t overdo it.
8. Find the ideal frequency.
Data says it all. Email your list too much and your open-rate will plummet. Email them too little and they’ll forget you exist.
Unfortunately, finding the perfect email frequency is easier said than done.
Because that “perfect” frequency varies from list to list. It varies based on what your subscribers expect from you, how they think about you, and the quality of your emails.
That isn’t to say it’s impossible to find the right mailing frequency. Recently, Tim Watson wrote an easy to follow guide on this topic on the GetResponse blog – What is the right newsletter frequency?
There, he analyzed some of the latest research on this topic along with the best practices, that’ll help you identify the optimal mailing frequency for your business.
Additionally, here are a few ways to use the appropriate frequency based on your list segmentation:
- Decrease email frequency for people who rarely open your emails.
- Increase email frequency for people who open most of your emails.
- Create a survey and ask your list how often they wish to receive your emails. Then place each subscriber in an appropriate segmentation.
Find the sweet spot for your list and your open-rate will automatically increase.
9. Find the best time of day.
Much of email marketing comes down to timing.
The best time of day to email, depending on your audience is mostly the same across the board.
If you have an audience of Nurses who work night shifts, then the optimal email time might change. But according to GetResponse study, generally, the best time to send email to your list is around 11 AM and 2 PM. As for the day, it changes every now and then. In general, it’s either Friday or Tuesday.
Here are two charts from the Email Marketing Benchmarks report (data from Q2, 2018) that show it in more detail:
Send when people are most likely to open your emails or you’re doing yourself and your subscribers a disservice.
Editor’s note: We recently published a new study on the Best Time to Send Email by Location. Check it out if you’d like to see fresher data divided by key regions.
10. Optimize for mobile.
Most email marketing services and templates come with built in responsivity.
But if yours doesn’t, you’re making a huge mistake. More than 50% of all emails are opened on smartphones or tablets, meaning that if your email campaigns aren’t mobile responsive, your poor list of subscribers is receiving stuff that looks like this.
Nothing turns off subscribers like lazy email campaigns. And sadly, that’s exactly how an email like the above example feels.
A few points to keep in mind:
- Use small file sizes. Everything runs slower on mobile and a slow load time is sure to get an immediate bounce.
- Resize images to make sure everything fits in the mobile screen.
- Make CTA’s a little bigger than they used to be. Small CTA’s are harder to click on phones.
- Make sure to use mobile responsive email templates.
Mobile responsive emails are a must for anyone who’s serious about their email campaigns. The good news is that you can build them with ease thanks to tools like the GetResponse Email Creator.
11. Use a real person’s name in the “from” field.
I thought I’d finish with an easy one.
Instead of using your business name in the “from” field, use the name of an actual person. Maybe it’s you. Maybe it’s your customer support person. Whatever the case, use a real person’s name.
67% of subscribers open an email simply because of who the email is from.
Using a real person’s name creates the sense that you’re not a robot, but you’re a human being with wants, desires, and personality. Often times, it’s that personality that people connect with. And once they do, they’ll keep opening your emails simply because they like you.
Tell them who you are in the “from” field and they’re more likely to open your emails.
I could give you hundreds of tips and best practices that promise to increase your email open rate. And while many of them are good, you know your list better than anyone.
The best thing you can do is test everything. Play around with different subject lines and preheaders and see what gets the best results.
At the end of the day, people aren’t opening an email. They’re opening a conversation. A conversation that starts with you and ends with them.
And no one knows better how to start that conversation than you.
So get started.