Are You Looking For Higher Open Rates When You Send Out Emails?

Are you looking to increase sales but seem to lack that ultra-creative subject line that catches everyone’s attention? Do you want to attract more customers and turn your website visitors, newsletter signup data and leads into real, measurable consumer impressions? I’m thinking that if you’re still reading this and have stopped multi-tasking, the answer is yes – so read on my friends.

If you send out email after email individually and you aren’t utilizing technology to understand the metrics behind your emails, you might be missing the big picture. Also, most of your emails might go straight to spam and then get deleted. You also might have a sore wrist from doing this kind of thing hour after hour rather than pushing one button once, which would be the case if you had a true email marketing system in place. Technology can be the answer, but only if you get to be a bit more tech-savvy than the average email marketer.

Sent, bounce, out-in and out-outs, opens and clicks are some of the metrics you’ll receive when you send an email out to your address list using either a marketing service or email marketing software. This information is a critical part of your understanding of whether or not your email marketing is being absorbed or you are just spinning your wheels. A metrics report can be worth its weight in moon dust if you decode the numbers right; it’ll allow you to make continued tweaks to future emails that you send to ensure maximum effectiveness.

So, what is a good open rate and how do you improve it? These questions are elementary really. If a family member or best mate sends you an email, you are likely to open it because, one, you know their name; and two, you can easily decipher who sent you the email even if the subject line wasn’t as descriptive as it could have been. Now on the other hand, recipients who signed up for your newsletter may have done it two years ago, let’s just say; and you are finally getting around to sending out your maiden email marketing message. Are they likely to remember your name or even your company name, much less why they signed up for it at all? Doubtful at best; this is where a bit of simple deduction comes into play.

THE 411
Make sure that your email message informs the recipient of your name and company name, as well as the fact that they are getting an “E-Newsletter”…all in the “from” area, so that it displays prominently in their in-box. In other words, they don’t have to read the email to know what they’re getting, and it maximizes the chance that your name or company name or even the term “E-Newsletter” will set off the old light bulb. You can experiment with other words too or ones that most compliment the nature of your email marketing message.

I read many blogs and see all sorts of newsletters, skim feeds and various other sources of media information every day. Many of these blog writers and other media outlet reporters tell their readers that email letters should be short and sweet. I believe that they should be any length you need them to be, within reason…as long as the content is compelling and will inform the reader. You need to keep them interested; and you need to understand that the more interesting your email marketing messages are, the more likely the people that you send said messages are to open them again and again. Nobody likes to miss out on the next best thing, a sale that will fly them to Hawaii for free or a sales tip that will close the big fish they’ve been courting for a while now. Giving the reader a “reason to read” and to keep reading is the key, no matter the length of your email message.

Next, try to stay away from trying to figure out what an “average” or “good” open rate is for your email marketing messages. “Why?” you ask. You can’t really compare your email marketing to, say, the local coffee shop’s email marketing efforts or even a similar kind of company. There are no true “public” numbers that you can benchmark your numbers off of with complete certainty. It is also important to note that marketers calculate open rates in different ways. Yours may be lower or higher due to how you calculate your data. Your open rate for your address list may be quite different for another type of email marketing list. If you are going to do a general email marketing comparison, then first try and discover the published open rate source that best matches your email marketing efforts. These basic industry metrics give you a window through which you can see if you’re truly way off with your numbers. Say an average open rate in your market sector or industry is 52.2% and you’re getting less 10%, then you know you have a potentially large problem. Conversely, if you’re receiving an open rate of over 72.8%, then you know you have hit the mark square-on.

Here are a few web sites that can aid you in benchmarking your market sector or industry email marketing numbers:

1. Email Stat Center – Their latest report, is a must-read for anyone in the email marketing industry. With findings that include average email marketing budgets and the average compensation for professionals in the email space, this could be your ticket for a big raise or to a successful plea for the added support and resources you need to conduct a successful email marketing program.

2. Marketing Sherpa – The ‘2010 Email Marketing Benchmark Guide’ is a must-have for email marketers. It is a veritable “stat fest”, with 255 pages and over 197 charts and tables.

3. Mail Chimp – They’ve scanned over 570 million emails delivered by their system (where campaign tracking was activated and where users actually reported their industry) and calculated average unique open rates, average unique click rates, average unique soft bounces, average unique hard bounces and average unique abuse complaint rate by industry.

4. Mailer Mailer – They’ve examined data from over 300 million messages across 21 industries from the second half of 2008 to bring you a report filled with charts and relevant tips.

5. Bronto – They compile a rolling three-month overview of open rates and deliver rates, and it’s all broken down by industry.

6. GetResponse by Implix – Their metric analysis looked at opens, clicks, bounces, unsubscribe and complaints for each major continent in 2009 and can be a truly valuable tool.

So, here is my bottom line on this “open rate” jazz. While it is important to know how many email users opened your messages, as well as any number of other metrics, it’s more important to understand that the “open rate concept” on the whole is what is most critical in all of this. Ask yourself if you would open the email if it were sent blindly to you. If not, why not? Did you enjoy the content; did it inform you? If not, why not? And lastly, did it draw you in such that you’ll be looking forward to the next email message? If not, you’ve got some work to do.

Give the reader a reason to read, and they will come back time and time again!