How to get your emails opened, part 1

In the last few days I’ve read several articles with hints on how to get business emails opened. These articles share headlines which get above average open rates of 7-9%. Now if I only got a 9% open rate for my emails I’d probably give up! My list average is 30.5% and one client for whom I produce email marketing campaigns gets around a 60% open rate. I’d like to say that I’m a genius but that would be over stating my skill, so why do we do so much better than the apparent average?

Why are our open rates so high?

A recent email which got a 38.3% open rate.

A recent email which got a 38.3% open rate.

I believe the answer is in the list. My list contains names of clients and people I have met, there are a few names of people who have opted in via my website but the vast majority are people with whom I have a relationship. My client has compiled her list largely from her customers, other names are added when she or her team meet people. We both have something of a personal relationship with the people on our list and that is the key to our success. Our open rates are high and our unsubscribe rates negligible.

How does this help to build a business?

I know that we are constantly told that if we want to grow our businesses we need to grow our lists and I don’t disagree with that advice but the quickest way to grow a business is to sell more to existing clients. Our existing clients already know, like and trust us. We already have a relationship with them so they are more receptive to hearing from us than a new prospect is. We need to keep communicating with them to maintain the relationship and to ensure they fully understand everything we have to offer and sometimes we need to ask them to recommend us to their friends and colleagues.

Understand your subscribers

If you want to keep your open rates high you need to understand what your subscribers are interested in and how often they are prepared to hear from you. We are all inundated with emails. I have spent two hours today deleting over 600 emails, I am constantly unsubscribing from people who overdo their communication, I’m sure you are the same.

I think it’s important only to email when you have something interesting and relevant to say. Once a week maybe appropriate for some businesses especially if you are sharing dates and invitations. Once a month or every couple of weeks might be right for some businesses and it should never be less than once a quarter. I think that there are few businesses that can really justify daily emails to their entire list! (If you want to communicate with your audience more often use social media. Post on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linked In etc. That way your targets can read what they have time to read without having to manage their inbox.)

Segment your list

To make sure that your emails hit the spot and get opened consider segmenting your list. That means subdividing your list by subscriber characteristics. Here are some ideas for how to segment:

  • age
  • gender
  • marital status
  • number and/or age of children
  • where they live
  • nature of business
  • how they joined your list
  • interests/hobbies
  • size of business

You get the idea. As you can see it’s quite possible that one person may appear in more than one segment of your list. That’s fine so long as that doesn’t mean that they are bombarded with too many emails from you. If you have a number of people in a range of segments you might want to put them into a ‘multi’ segment of their own and send them an all encompassing email from time to time.

The key thing is to monitor the behaviour of the people on your list and use that to determine the headlines, content and frequency of your emails. In that way you will increase your open rates and keep people subscribed into the future.

And, in case you are saying, ‘but my list is full of strangers’ we’ll be returning to that topic in the near future.

Glenda Shawley of The Training Pack helps small businesses to grow by finding ways to sell more to new and existing customers. To find out how we can help you email 


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