Maximizing Open Rates for Email Marketing

Nov 26, 2013

Email marketing is on everyone's mind these days. But when it comes to open rates, it isn't so much of a content discussion as it is a context discussion.

From corporate marketers to internet gurus, the term "email marketing" appears in articles and podcasts about as often as the term "content marketing."

There are, of course, multiple reasons for that.

  1. Email is inexpensive - Compared to other advertising and marketing mediums, email is the cheapest.
  2. Email is a pre-qualified audience - Most email marketing lists are people who have told you, "I want to hear from you."
  3. Email is a one-to-one medium - Much like event marketing is face-to-face, email is a one-to-one medium where you are can have a conversation or make an offer directly to someone.

There are many more reasons...too many to name. The simple fact is email is extremely efficient and effective. Recent research shows that for every $1 spent on email, marketers can expect a $44 return. Not even Google Adwords/PPC can touch those numbers.

Now to the topic of the hour: How my company achieved a 126% open rate on a recent email.

Was the content topical? Yes. Was the email well written? Sure. But when it comes to getting your email opened. what matters most was the timing and subject matter.

We recently announced that a large, highly anticipated event would be coming to our property in three years. With that announcement came the launch of a very simple, yet effective (and responsive) microsite. The microsite contained a very detailed data capture form. Through this data, we were able to segment our audience and cater messages to a very specific audience.

We then crafted our first "insider" welcome email carrying a nice note from our president, and -- here is the key -- extremely contextual and relevant information for our audience.

"Information" is the operative word here. Too many marketers, myself included, get caught up in the game of trying to use every single email to sell something. Bad idea.

For example, in a 10-day stretch in August of this year, we were sending emails, which were "salesly" in nature. What did that get us? An average open rate of 22% and an average click through rate of 3%.


But since September we have been focusing on smaller lists (more targeted), more copy driven emails (instead of graphical), and more information based emails. No sales pitch. Just relevant, sincere content.

Combine those three elements over a similar 10-day span in November, and we achieved an open rate of 27% and a click through rate of 6%. Much better results. Before you say "well, that's not dramatic," keep in mind we have a list of over 200,000 people. A 5% increase equates to thousands of additional emails.

With that said, the email I'm referring to was sent to roughly 11,000 people and was opened a record (for us for sure) 13,000 times. The exact number, percentage wise, was 126%.

Staggering. And it was because we accomplished these four goals within the email:

  1. It was topical and relevant.
  2. It was targeted and audience specific.
  3. It carried with it very important and resourceful information.
  4. It did not hard sell. It simply informed.

It goes back to the age old principle of adding value to your audience's life and that will come back to you tenfold in loyalty and purchases.

Another big factor in the success of these emails was the use of copy versus graphics.

While graphic based emails can be prettier -- and are certainly the current trend -- they are not always more effective. In fact, we have upped the amount of copy-based emails we create and open rates and clicks are higher.

Those "letters" open up a new opportunity for my team. Copywriting is the fundamental marketing principle of writing to create a desired outcome or effect. It is a fine art where many have made their fortunes. Legends like Dan Kennedy, Dan Sullivan, and Gary Halbert made (or still make) their living on crafting expertly worded sales letters (as they like to call them).

The study of this art form has helped us to craft more compelling and more effective emails to the people that matter most: Our customers. And at the end of the day, all that matters is crafting messaging that resonates with your audience and compels them to act.

Our email was an example of good copy combined with simple principles. Enrich your customers' lives -- both with sincerity and relevant information -- and that will come back exponentially in affinity and sales.