sending and receiving email on mobile device
March 9, 2017
Email Marketing  |  5 min read

Don't Be a Robot, and Other Tips for Slaying Your Email Open Rates

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Kathryn Hawkins

We’re texting. We’re Snapchatting. We’re Instagramming. But surprisingly, the old-fashioned inbox, much like vintage vinyl or Malia’s Mom jeans, is back in fashion (or maybe it never really left).

Turns out millennials are still using email, and with a vengeance: Adobe found the average millennial spends six hours a day sending and reading emails.

For small businesses trying to drive new business or build engagement with existing customers, it’s essential to ramp up your email marketing game. Sophisticated email marketing tools, including marketing automation platforms, are now affordable to even microbusinesses, giving you rich insights into how prospects and customers are engaging with your email content.

One of the key problems? Getting your list members to even open your emails. Average open rates vary by industry, but Econsultancy found that email open rates for small businesses typically range around 24 percent, with click-thru rates around 3.4 percent. Chances are, less than one in four subscribers will open your carefully-crafted email, much less click on one of your links.

So how can you make sure your missives don’t get deleted unseen? Try these proven tactics:

1. Humans > Robots 

Millennials love to see the faces behind the products and services they support—so that means identifying as a real-life human, not just a brand. In a MarketingSherpa case study, one company found that special promos that used an employee's name in the sender field got an open rate 40 to 100 percent higher than its corporate-branded emails, and a click-thru rate between 10 percent and 20 percent higher. We use this strategy here at Infusionsoft ourselves: Getting an email from "Jake from Infusionsoft" just seems a lot more neighborly than a bland corporate drone, doncha think? (And maybe readers will think twice about hitting "unsubscribe" when they know they're rejecting a real human.) P.S., if you want emails from Jake from Infusionsoft, now's a good time to subscribe to our newsletter by clicking on the subscribe button up in the right-hand corner on a desktop or in the navigation menu on mobile.

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2. Keep it short and sweet

More than 40 percent of emails are now opened on mobile devices—making it more important than ever to keep your subject line copy short enough to appear on a smartphone screen. Use action-oriented wording, show how you’ll demonstrate value, and try to limit the copy to 50 characters or less. If you’ve got a gourmet food shop, promote your goods with a newsletter called something like “Get Sizzling: 5 Recipes to Revolutionize Brunch” instead of a generic headline like, "This month's new products." Send it on a Friday afternoon, to give readers time to plan their menus and stock up on ingredients. 

3. Slice and dice your audience

You can't stick millennials in a box! Some are parents, some are college kids, some would rather read books than check in on Facebook—as this Boston Consulting Group study finds, you won’t find any consensus about what millennials are looking for as a general rule. But you can get to know your unique audience members by following their online habits. For example, if you own an apparel store and one group of users has clicked on your accessories pages, send them more content about this season’s beanies. Does another set of users spend more time on your shoe section? Send them a collection of this season’s trendiest boots, with a special promo code included. Cater to their interests, and they’ll pay attention.

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4. Data is your friend—pay attention

Most email marketing software gives you reams of data to sort through: You can see how many people opened, who clicked, what they clicked on, who unsubscribed, who marked spam (sob). Used wisely, this data is priceless. For instance, did you get a higher open rate for the email you sent on a Thursday afternoon than a Monday morning? Then scrap Mondays from your schedule.

5. Easy as A/B testing

In addition to optimizing your mailing times, play around with split testing within your list: Let’s say you have 10,000 people on your list. Before sending out a mass mail, send a message with Headline A to an initial group of 500, and Headline B to another group of 500. Then use the winning headline to amp up your open rates with the remaining 9,000 people.

Bottom line? Email marketing isn’t going anywhere, even among millennials. Use your data to understand your customers and play to their unique interests, and you’ll be able to avoid the dreaded “unread” curse.


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