Email marketing boasts an incredible return on investment—with $38 in ROI for every dollar spent—making it much more cost effective than nearly any other marketing tactic.
There’s only one flaw in most email campaign plans: If people don’t open your newsletter, none of the good stuff inside—your well-written blog posts, your discounts and coupons, your links to social media feeds—will go anywhere but into the trash.
Improving newsletter open rates requires paying diligent attention to every aspect of your newsletter experience. Building a quick newsletter and expecting the leads to start pouring in is a recipe for disaster.
MailChimp’s analysis shows that the average newsletter open rate is nearly 21% (though rates vary a bit by specific industry).
If your numbers are lower than you’d like, review these tips on how to increase your newsletter open rate:
1. Craft a compelling subject line
The subject line of an email is crucially important. While different subject line tactics might work better for your specific audience (more on that in a moment), there are some good rules-of-thumb you should follow when writing these openers:
- Put the most important words first: You only have a few dozen characters—and even fewer characters when on mobile—to pitch your newsletter to readers. Front load your subject line with the most important information in case it gets cut off.
- Use unique, eye-catching language: Your newsletter is going to be just one of potentially hundreds of emails a subscriber receives each day. Help yours stand out by using unique words, punchy sentences, and urgent messaging.
- Research top performing keywords: Not every word is equally good at catching a reader’s attention. Research shows that words like “upgrade” and “weekend” performed well, while “groovy” and “deals” did not.
Other tips that might work well for your audience include framing the subject line as a question, turning it into a listicle, capitalizing the most important word in the sentence, and/or including a deadline. Mix and match some of these ideas to see what works best for your brand.
2. Find your optimal send time
You already know that the middle of the night on Sunday is not the best time to send out an email you want people to read. But then—when is a good time?
Once again, we turn to MailChimp’s data, which finds that Monday-Thursday have pretty much the same open rates, with a slight drop off on Friday and a larger drop off over the weekend. There is, of course, variation: Emails about hobbies performed best over the weekend, as opposed to business and finance.
The optimal time of day appears to peak at around 10 a.m. in respective time zones, with a gradual decrease that occurs throughout the day.
Once you find a time and day that works best for you, stick with it. People will appreciate your regularity and learn to expect your newsletter at a certain time.
3. Segment your list to drill down
Not everyone that signs up for your newsletter has the same reasons for doing so, and many of them have different backgrounds or stories. Some of your readers might live in your city, while others can’t visit your physical location or order online.
You can, and should, segment your newsletter lists to deliver more relevant newsletters to each population or demographic. You can divvy up your email groups by time since last purchase, geographic location, industry, and many other factors.
4. Make it personal
This small detail can go a long way: Adding a reader’s name or other personal information (like their city or industry) to the email copy.
When readers see their name in the subject line or the beginning of the message, they may feel less like one email address in a database and more like an individual that you want to have a conversation with. Personalization is a quick way to make a message seem overall more human and less sales-y.
5. Avoid spam-like practices
Your email won’t get to the inbox of your followers if it gets caught in the spam filter first. People don’t check their spam folder regularly, so if your email heads there, it’s likely gone for good.
How do you avoid looking like a spammer?
Avoid spam words like “sale,” “rich,” “deal,” or “free.” Don’t put too many links in the body of your email—a good newsletter should only have a few links anyway, apart from those to social channels. And consider getting your emails certified by a third party reviewer like Return Path to help deliverability
6. Format for mobile devices
Nothing will send your newsletter into the trash faster than an email that isn’t optimized for mobile. Considering that a majority of emails are now read on mobile, a web page or email that doesn’t look good on a mobile device isn’t worth a reader’s time—and they’ll remember your outdated tactics next week, too.
When creating an email in Hubspot, Mailchimp, or any other marketing automation platform, be sure to preview the message on multiple devices. It’s a quick and easy step to make sure it looks good on all platforms.
7. Create a recognizable sender name
A generic or anonymous sender name (think “firstname.lastname@example.org”) is likely to scare off people entirely—they might mark your email as spam solely based on your sender name, without even opening the message. Use your own name, combined with the company name, to present a face that is both professional, personal, and more human.
8. Write excellent email copy
Let’s say you write the perfect subject line and send your email at the right time, incentivizing someone to open the message.
Now what? Don’t forget that the email itself is the most important part—it’s what will demonstrate value for the reader and make them want to stay on your email list.
A bad email, rife with typos, and lacking a focused call-to-action or value proposition, won’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
9. Review your signup process
When you first ask for a reader’s email address, what do you tell them you’re going to send them?
Fundera’s email sign up module
For instance, Fundera’s email sign up field clearly identifies the content visitor will receive — expert insights and tailored financial solutions — as well as the frequency of the email.
When a visitor opts in and they receive a message the next week, they should know how they ended up on the list.
Does your newsletter follow up on a promise, or do you deliver something different? Make sure to keep the promises of your sign-up page or people will start deleting your emails immediately.
10. Keep your database updated
Your open rate might be artificially low because you don’t update it frequently. Some of the email addresses you send to may be inactive, or you may be getting a hard bounce. Spellcheck obvious errors in your email database (like misspellings of “Gmail” or “Yahoo”). And make sure every email address on your list is receiving your newsletter—it can increase your newsletter open rate and lower your platform costs as well.
11. Test everything
Good email marketing platforms allow you to A/B test, or A/B/C/D test, or otherwise “split test” your emails so you can see what works and what doesn’t. Split test your subject lines, and then split test them among your segments.
Split test the time of day you send emails to see if your industry differs from overall trends. If there’s something new you’d like to try out in an email, split test for it first. Data is your friend—use it to your advantage.
Increasing your newsletter open rate is about following best practices in order to not lose people for no good reason—and then crafting the best email possible. The above tips should be a huge help with the former, but only you can handle the latter.