10 Ways to Improve the Open Rates of Your Marketing Emails

Far from being "dead," email marketing still has one of the highest engagement rates and returns on investment of any marketing strategy.

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By Sujan Patel

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Did you know that there's a form of marketing that returns $44.25 for every $1 spent? I'd ask you to guess what it is, but if you've read the title of this article, it's probably pretty clear that the answer is email marketing.

Far from being "dead," email marketing still has one of the highest engagement rates and returns on investment of any marketing strategy. The key, for any company, is standing out from the crowd.

One way to determine whether your email marketing efforts are effective is to track your email open rates. There are plenty of mistakes companies make when sending out digital messages that can drop these rates substantially, making this metric a great barometer of your campaign's overall health.

Related: The Elements of a Good Headline (Infographic)

Here are 10 ways to keep your customers clicking:

1. Create an engaging subject line

The subject line is the first thing a customer sees on any email. If you haven't tested and optimized yours, you're leaving money on the table. A/B testing isn't just for websites and landing pages -- it's essential for email marketing as well. Aim for a casual and personal opening line, and test, test, test.

2. Write to one person

As you might expect, an email is much more likely to be opened and engaged with if it sounds like it's been written directly to the recipient. Use the recipient's first name in your opening, and then write your message's body text as if you were writing to one person alone. This level of focus and familiarity will engage your readers and keep them opening your messages in the future.

3. Write quality content

If customers come to expect that your business sends them interesting, engaging and informative emails, your open rates will skyrocket. If, on the other hand, you're only sending information they could easily find elsewhere -- or worse, all promotions, all the time -- your messages will end up in the trash bin. Sending high-quality email less frequently is one of the best ways to keep open rates high.

4. Send from a person, not a company

When deciding to open email, recipients first check to see if they know the person sending the message. An email from a company gets marked as advertising immediately, which can get your email deleted. An email that appears to be coming from an actual individual at your firm is more personal and much more likely to get opened.

5. Send at the right time

Timing is everything in marketing -- especially email marketing. Be sure that you're sending your emails at the best times given their message, audience and intent. You can find this out through testing, or do research on your industry to see what results tend to be.

For example, consider a study by Experian, which demonstrated that messages sent on Saturday and Sunday had the highest unique open rates, compared with the lowest rates on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Related: Email Is a Relationship and a Conversation

6. Avoid spam filters

Email filters are becoming more and more sophisticated, and if your message ends up in the spam folder, your open rates will plummet. To stay out of spam filters, obviously avoid sending emails that look like spam. For example, those that include a subject line in all caps or the words "sale," "free," "rich" or "deal." Make sure your email doesn't read like a brochure, and limit the number of links you include to keep your messages safe.

7. Segment your list carefully

One key to keeping content relevant to the recipient is to segment your email list. There are many ways to do this, including by industry, purchase or time since your last interaction. By breaking your list down into groups of similar recipients, you'll be better able to send highly relevant, highly focused email blasts, improving your open rates in the process.

8. Don't buy leads

Companies that try to buy large quantities of leads to jump-start their marketing programs will find their open rates very low. Unsurprisingly, unless you have email leads from people who are actually interested in your business and have some reason to listen to you, email marketing won't be very effective for your brand. Offering a freebie or running a contest in exchange for an email address are far better ways to build your list organically.

9. Keep your list fresh

In addition to collecting high quality leads, it's important to keep your list fresh and clean. Review it periodically and remove inactive subscribers or emails with a hard bounce. Also look over your list from time to time and correct any obvious misspellings, such as "@yhoo.com." Not only will this improve your open rates, it'll cut your costs by ensuring you aren't paying for subscribers you can't mail to.

10. Format your messages for mobile devices

If your company's email messages don't read well on mobile, you're in trouble. Roughly 74 percent of smartphone owners use their phone to check email, and mobile now represents 51 percent of all email opens. When your emails display well on mobile, you'll improve your open rates, in addition to enjoying higher engagement and more clicks on included links.

Have another tip that belongs on this list? Share your best strategies for increasing open rates in the comments section below!

Related: 6 Email Personalization Techniques That Go Beyond a Name

Sujan Patel

Entrepreneur and Marketer, Co-founder of Web Profits

In his 14-plus years as a marketer and entrepreneur, Sujan Patel has helped hundreds of companies boost online traffic and sales and strengthen their online brand reputation. Patel is the co-founder of Web Profits and Mailshake.

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