That’s how long you have to grab your email subscribers’ attention when they open their inboxes.
And actually, that’s the maximum amount of time. Given our shrinking attention spans and the sheer amount of data flying at us in our digital world, the real number is probably even less.
When combined with the fact that email offers a huge return on investment and helps companies generate as much as 50% more leads, this type of marketing creates a high stakes situation.
Clearly, email marketing is a strategy that you can’t ignore…
…but the real question is, “Are your subscribers ignoring you?”
There are a lot of reasons why people delete emails from their inbox. Maybe the content isn’t optimized for mobile devices.
Maybe they see the company as a scam that just wants to sell them stuff.
Maybe they just don’t see any value to taking the time to read the messages at all.
But the biggest reason why people don’t read emails?
They just get too many emails.
Not just from your company or even your competitors…but too many emails in general.
Each day, the average person receives over 100 emails (121, to be exact), and it doesn’t take a lot of analysis to realize that with our fast-paced lifestyles, there’s no way they can read all of them.
People will naturally open the emails that are the most personal to them and present the most value…and your job is to make sure yours stands out from among the rest.
And it all starts with knowing how to improve email open rates.
So…What Are Open Rates, Anyway?
An email open rate is the percentage of your total number of subscribers who opened a given email. It is calculated by dividing the number of emails opened by the total number of emails sent.
For example, if your open rate was 20%, that would mean that out of every 10 emails delivered, 2 were actually opened.
The ideal percentage of open rates varies across different industries. For example, research shows that niche industries like manufacturing, as well as email campaigns built for fans of a particular celebrity or team and non-profits, churches, and charities, tend to have higher open rates.
In general, though, 20-40% is a solid number to aim for. That may not seem like a very high percentage in theory…but once again, when you consider that the average person gets over 100 emails competing for their attention in a single day, that number makes a lot more sense.
In addition, it’s important to remember that very few lists see email rates of higher than 50%. So don’t expect to get open rates in the 80s or 90s.
Of course, if you do, congratulations. But know that if you are achieving open rates of 20-40%, you really are right where you should be.
So…now that we know what open rates are and how they are calculated, what are the best methods for how to improve email open rates? Let’s check out a few of the tried and true tips for making sure your emails get clicked.
Personalize Your Content
Who doesn’t like getting mail from someone they know, addressed directly to them? Unless we’re talking about bills, pretty much everybody loves getting a special piece of mail just for them.
So, if you aren’t finding ways to personalize the emails you send your list, the real question is “why aren’t you?”
At this point, you’re probably wondering how you’re supposed to personalize an email that’s going to be sent to hundreds of subscribers. It’s easier than you might think.
The secret is to write every email as though you are addressing one person.
First, you actually should address the reader by using a plugin in your email campaign management software for their first name. This will ensure that instead of “Hey there,” “Dear subscriber,” or worse, “Dear subscribers,” each person will see their own name in the greeting.
Simply using your subscriber’s first name in the introduction has been shown to increase open rates by as much as 23%.
But just using the subscriber’s first name alone isn’t enough to personalize your message. You need to carefully compose every message to ensure that it addresses the pain points that led your prospects to want to subscribe to your list to begin with.
And to do that, you’ll need a customer persona.
A customer persona is a sketch of your ideal customer, including their struggles, needs, wants, and desires, that helps you structure your content in a way that speaks directly to their situation.
It shows that you aren’t just trying to sell them a product—you empathize with their concerns and genuinely believe that you have a workable solution.
It’s why good content builds relationships with customers that not only lead to more sales, but ultimately, lasting loyalty to your brand.
To get started, sketch out your customer persona. What does this person’s life look like? What problem are they trying to solve? What are their pain points, challenges, values, and goals?
Then, write every email as if you are talking directly to this person. The more the text speaks to these aspects of your ideal customer, the more the content will resonate.
Relatable email content breeds trust…which ultimately breeds more opens.
Also, make sure your emails are coming from an actual person. Yes, you can have them delivered from your company…but if someone’s name shows up as the email sender, it creates an even more personal experience, which will improve email open rates.
Sure, your subscribers will probably know they are reading content that 100s of others just like them are receiving. But the difference is that they see their own names on it. They see an actual person’s name as the sender. And the content speaks right to where they live.
It’s a perfect recipe for not only getting them to open just one email, but making them regular readers of your broadcasts. And it’s one of the most important tools for how to improve email open rates.
Write Good Subject Lines
In a previous post, we talked about why good email subject lines are important and offered some tips for making them even more irresistible.
We’ll say it again—inspiring curiosity, asking thought-provoking questions, and presenting just a taste of the value you offer are all critical ways to get your subscribers’ attention.
A good subject line is like a headline for your email—the more compelling it is, the more likely people are to want to read more.
Good email subject lines improve email open rates because they open a loop that can only be closed by reading the rest of the email. This is a characteristic of good storytelling—within the first 10 minutes of any movie, the story opens a loop by presenting what the main character wants. But in order to see whether they get it and how they reach that point, we have to watch the rest of the story.
Like all content, your emails should tell a story of their own. And you do that by creating a clickable, irresistible subject line.
Segment Your List
Personalizing your emails with your subscribers’ names and unique paian points aren’t the only way to zero in on the exact places where they hang out. You can also break your list into segments that address what stages your subscribers are at in your business’s sales funnel.
Segmentation is the number one strategy for demonstrating to your subscribers why your emails are relevant to their lives.
Relevance is a major factor in why people choose to open some emails and not others. Categorizing your leads and customers according to what actions they’ve already taken is a great way to increase your emails’ ability to speak more directly to their unique situations.
In fact, segmentation has been proven to not only increase companies’ overall open rates, but even decrease unsubscribes.
Segmentation works by creating different “buckets” of subscribers depending on what actions they have already taken, such as downloading lead magnet, clicking on a Facebook ad, or placing an order.
This will ensure that someone who hasn’t decided to make a purchase yet isn’t getting the same email as someone who is already a dedicated customer.
You can also segment your list based on demographic factors such as location, gender, and interests, and even particular products they’ve bought in the past.
The takeaway? Segmentation is a crucial tool for how to improve email open rates because the more you can pinpoint with laser precision the exact buying situations of individual subscribers, the more likely they’ll be to not only open your emails, but eventually take your desired action.
Be Strategic About Timing
A huge variable in your ability to increase email open rates is the time of day you send them. There are a variety of studies out there that attempt to pinpoint the optimal time frame for sending emails, and they come to multiple conclusions.
But the one thing they universally agree on is that weekdays beat weekends. It’s not even close.
From there, the question becomes what week day and what time is best for sending messages. Several studies concur that midweek (Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays) gets the best results.
This is likely because at the beginning and end of the week, people are generally less willing to take the time to read anything that doesn’t appear to have value or relevance to their lives.
Several studies also indicate that there are 3 peak times to send emails—between 9:00 AM-11:00 AM, 2:00-3:00 PM in the afternoon, and 8:00 PM-10:00 PM. These are time frames when people are most likely to look at their email.
And since your emails are most likely to be opened within an hour of delivery, this data is especially important to consider.
Remember—these are general figures, and results will most definitely vary according to what type of business you run. Therefore, it’s a good idea to split test time frames within a segment of your list to see which is more effective.
If you do want to run split tests on time frames, 1,000 subscribers is a solid number to test with, routing 500 to one time frame and 500 to the other. You can then email the remaining subscribers once you determine which time frame is most successful.
Either way…if you want to find the best method of how to improve email open rates, having a strategy for the times you send out messages is essential.
Trade Spammy Words for Power Words
“YOU’RE A WINNER!”
“DON’T MISS OUT!!!”
Do those phrases feel fake to you? It’s because they are. And if you recognize them as fake, your subscribers definitely will.
It’s true that everyone likes free stuff. Everyone loves sales and being winners. Everyone hates and even fears missing out.
But using these words in your emails and especially in your subject lines isn’t going to improve email open rates. In fact, they’ll get you more unsubscribes.
And worse…it’s practically guaranteed that you’ll either be reported as spam or just automatically have those emails routed straight to your subscribers’ spam folders.
This means that even if they signed up to receive your content and even if they have a high level of intent to hear from you, they may not even get a chance to open it.
Free offers are great…but there have simply been too many scams of people using them as bait to get contact information to sell to other businesses. And you don’t want your company to be associated with that.
Spammy language is a quick and easy strategy that never, ever wins.
So what do you do instead? Replace those dirty spammy words with power words.
Power words are active, persuasive and have the ability to get someone to make a decision. This is because they promise a reason or benefit to taking action. They include words like:
It’s pretty easy to see why these words would be persuasive—after all, who doesn’t like things to be easy or instant? Who wants something old when they can have something new? Who wants to wait when they can have it now?
And there’s more where that came from. Check Buffer.com’s list of Words That Convert offers even more ways to use powerful language to impact and persuade your readers.
The bottom line? If it sounds spammy to you, there’s usually a better word to use. The punchiest, shortst, most active words are the ones that win…and are key to how to improve email open rates.
Refresh Your List
Not all email subscribers are created equal.
Some are fresh off your website’s opt-in page and are totally psyched to hear from you.
Some have been with you for awhile, and while they don’t always read everything you send out, there’s enough activity to prove that there’s still intent on their part to hear from you.
And then there are those people who haven’t opened your emails in months…and the sad truth is that they may never open them again.
Here’s the thing about your subscribers: quality is always better than quantity.
Keeping subscribers who haven’t shown signs of life in months doesn’t help you—it actually hurts you.
For one thing, you’re spending time and money contacting people who just aren’t that into you. For another, you’re playing with fire—every time you send these people emails they don’t open, you run the risk of being labeled as spam.
It may be painful…but sometimes you have to say goodbye. Ultimately, having higher-quality subscribers who actually are interested in hearing from you will lead to higher open rates and more interactions.
But that doesn’t mean you should just drop these inactive subscribers like hot potatoes. First, give them a chance to reengage with your emails by running a win-back campaign—a type of email campaign that pulls out all the bells and whistles to make them stay around.
This typically involves giving them a special discount or free resource—some of real value—to get them to respond and renew their interest. And if after this there is still no sign of activity, then it really is time to cut the cord.
Bottom line: don’t stay attached to subscribers who aren’t serious about your relationship. If you really want to learn how to improve email open rates, focus on the ones who actually are reading and interacting.
Want more expert tools to increase email open rates? Cirius Marketing is ready to help with our tools for Serious Email Marketing. We’ll help you create persuasive email series with powerful words your subscribers won’t be able to resist.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 855-607-7766 to discover more.