You’ve been sending great marketing emails to your contact list, but no one is opening them. What gives? 

Email marketing isn’t a good use of your resources if your recipients aren’t actually opening them; the best email content in the world isn’t going to help your business if it goes directly into the trash. That’s why you need to put as much consideration into ensuring people want to open your email as you do crafting the body of it.

If you’re struggling to increase your open rates, chances are at least one of the following issues is plaguing your emails:

Your subject lines aren’t piquing your readers’ interest

There’s a good chance that people aren’t opening your emails because they don’t think the content in it will be of interest to them. You can thank your subject line for that. 

I sometimes see subject lines that describe the contents of an email in the driest terms possible. If you’ve ever gotten an email with the subject line “Monthly Newsletter,” you know what it’s like. As a reader, I don’t care about the fact that you’re sharing your monthly newsletter – I want to know what you talk about in it! (Fun fact: one study found that emails using “Newsletter” in the subject line saw an 11.4% decrease in open rates compared to average. Ouch.) 

Take some time to consider what the most interesting information in your email body will be to your readers and use it as a starting point for your subject line.

Here’s a few examples: 

Instead of: Use this:
August 2017 Newsletter Find out why you should revamp your email subject lines
Attend our webinar on August 15! Learn how to triple your open rates
Free marketing guide See our best advice for writing better subject lines

What if you’re already writing subject lines based on what you think will excite your readers, and still aren’t getting a solid open rate?

To get the most bang-for-your-subject-line, try adhering to our favorite subject line tips and strategies: 

  • Keep it short. The last thing you want is for your carefully-crafted subject line to be cut off because it’s too long. The sweet spot for subject line length is 50 characters or fewer.
  • Use verbs. Action-oriented language can help propel people to take, well, action. Use verbs in your subject line to indicate what your reader will do when they open your email.
  • Ask a question. “Are you writing bad subject lines?” “Do you know why no one is reading your emails?” “Can you spot a weak subject line?” Posing questions can challenge a reader to consider what they know – and open your email as they attempt to get confirmation.
  • Personalize it. If you’re able to use personalization tokens with your email marketing software, try inserting them into your subject line. For example: “Brittney, learn how to triple your open rates” may be more attention-grabbing than the same subject line without the personalization. As a word of caution, don’t overdo it with the personalized subject lines: it could look lazy and become annoying to a recipient who gets sick of seeing their name in marketing email after marketing email. 

The “from” sender isn’t clearly identifiable to your readers 

Over the past few years, a popular trend in email marketing has been to use a person’s name as the sender of the email; for example, an email might list “Brittney Lane” as the sender instead of “Simple Machines Marketing.” 

While using a first name makes sense in cases where recipients have actually interacted with the person selected as the sender, you should be wary of using this approach in other instances. If someone agreed to receive emails from your organization, they are expecting to see your company’s name attached to the emails you send. You don’t want to risk alienating your opt-ins by surprising them with a different sender.

I’ll be fully honest: it really grinds my gears when I receive an email from a person who I don’t know, especially when the subject line doesn’t help me identify them. I will delete that email. How am I to know they aren’t sending me spam or are including malicious links in their email? It’s 2017 – people are wising up to the fact that they can’t just open every email willy-nilly without expecting to eventually run into some trouble. 

If you really want to use an employee’s name as the sender, I recommend coupling it with your company name; i.e., “Brittney @ Simple Machines.” This allows you to present a more personal approach to your marketing without leaving recipients scratching their heads, trying to remember when they met someone named Brittney Lane.

You’re sending your emails to a low-quality list

This is a big one – and it has nothing to do with the content or copy of the emails you send.

Consider your email list: who is on it, how did they end up there and are they engaging with your emails? 

It’s critical that you are only sending emails to people who have opted-in to receiving emails from you. When I say critical, I mean sound-the-alarms-and-call-your-lawyer critical. The CAN SPAM Act prohibits, among other things, the sale or purchase of email address. If any of the emails in your list came from a purchased list (often times described as a “rental” list in an attempt to sidestep this law), get rid of them. Now.

Not only can a single email violating the act rack up penalties upwards of $40,654, but purchased lists are almost always really, really low quality. Why? Because people don’t open emails from people or organizations that they don’t know.

This is a problem not just because these people aren’t reading your emails; in fact, that’s the least of your problems. If few of your recipients are opening your emails, email providers will take it as a sign that you aren’t sending quality emails, and you’ll be more likely to be funneled into someone’s spam folder. And if your emails are ending up there, it’s going to be a long, slow road to get back into people’s inboxes. 

In addition to avoiding purchased lists, you should also make sure that your list only contains individuals who still show interest in your emails. If you use an email marketing tool like HubSpot or MailChimp, you’ll be able to see if each contact is opening your emails. If they haven’t opened an email in a few months, you should either run a re-engagement campaign (where you pull out all of the stops to try to get them to either interact with one of your emails or unsubscribe if they are no longer interested in hearing from you) or simply remove them from your list.

People frequently believe that having a really large email list is important, and will do whatever it takes to avoid removing people from it. However, updating your list so that it only includes high quality email addresses is ideal; I mentioned before, sending email to lots of people who don’t open them will do more harm than good.

You’re sending too many emails

Sending too many emails is the number one reason why people mark email as spam. Interestingly, respondents of that same survey overwhelming agreed that reducing the frequency of emails was the best thing a business could do to improve their email efforts.

If you’re sending emails on a daily basis and are seeing low opens, you should consider scaling back on the frequency in which you communicate via this channel. The “right” number of emails to send will vary from business to business, but there are some ways to get closer to your perfect number. 

You should start by researching your market’s preferences on how frequently they want to receive emails by running a few searches for industry research and surveys on the topic. You should also consider the type of emails you’re sending: are you sharing informational newsletters, encouraging people to shop your sale, or asking for them to reach out to a sales associate? In addition to the preferences of your industry’s market, you’ll need to consider what you are asking of your recipients when you email them. 

Another way to get closer to your perfect number is to run A/B tests. In your test, one group will continue to receive the same emails at the same frequency that they are used to, while the other group will receive emails on a less frequent basis. After you’ve conducted these tests, you’ll want to compare the open rates (and click rates!) to see if the people receiving fewer emails are opening them at a higher rate.

If you want to learn more about why sending too many marketing emails is problematic, check out our post on the topic here.

While the body of an email often gets the most attention from the people creating it, it’s crucial that time be put into developing an engaging subject line, ensuring that the sender will be identifiable to recipients, that emails are only sent to people who actually want them and that you aren’t sending too many. Giving more attention to these items will significantly improve your odds of having your emails opened.