Maximizing the Open Rate of Your Marketing Emails

Image courtesy of Maria Elena's photostream

Image courtesy of Maria Elena’s photostream

When you’re sending out an email of any type, be it a communication to a large group of contacts, or a personalized message to one individual, you will inevitably have the same thought cross your mind at some point before you hit “SEND.” Will [insert name(s) here] open/read this email?

It’s a good question to ask and, at the end of the day, it will usually come down to an understanding of your audience. Here are a few good tips for crafting a subject line that will help maximize your open rates for emails.

Avoid using salesy words
Outside of seeming somewhat tacky, using words like “free,” “percent off,” “limited time,” “act now,” or “deal” can be very off-putting for your would-be readers. Beyond that, in a world of over-saturation, people are essentially trained to tune those words out once they see them. If the person you’re messaging isn’t on the prowl for those keywords, his/her spam filter likely is and if it’s the first time you’re reaching out to this individual, it will hide your message from their inbox without prejudice. Another good word to root out of your subject line vernacular is “Help” as it’s a subject line killer.

Don’t use the same subject line repeatedly
While branding yourself or your messages is important, the subject line isn’t the place for this necessarily. Think of subject lines as having a half-life of sorts. They’ll get a high initial open rate but will steadily fall-off over time. Changing your verbiage up in your subject line will help you get around this pitfall of email marketing.

The Email Marketing Golden Rule
For years, this has been a standard for good, successful email marketing. Keep your subject line under 50 characters (not 50 words!). Brevity is your best friend when it comes to the subject line with one exception. Campaigns whose subscribers were highly targeted seemed to appreciate additional information in the subject line.

Keep the flashy fluff out of your subject line
Sure, multiple exclamation marks might make your message more exciting in your mind, so too might writing everything with the caps-lock button on but think of the subject line as your introduction to someone for the first time in real life. You wouldn’t walk up to a potential customer and yell, “BOY DO I HAVE A GREAT DEAL FOR YOU!!!” So don’t do it in your subject line either.

Questions, questions, questions
Perhaps one of the most successful types of subject lines is a question of some sort. If you’re messaging a contact for the first time, make your subject line a question (that avoids salesy words). Something to the effect of, “Are you Prepared for: XYZ?” (fill in with whatever you’re looking to address; Winter, The Big Game, Tax Season, Your Retirement, etc.).

Again, the key to all this is knowing who’s going to be deciding between clicking “Read,” “Delete” and “Mark as Spam.” You only better your chances of increasing your open rate by knowing who’s on the other end of your messages.

Feel free to take a look at some examples of subject lines that have worked and have absolutely failed here:

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