Email marketing is still as relevant today as it was 10 year ago, but, like most things, approaches have had to be evolved in order to remain effective. No place is this more true that with opening rates, in which marketers evaluate how often their email communications are opened and read.
Every email you send that doesn’t get read is a missed opportunity, and subject line tricks and formulas that may have worked a few years ago might not carry the same weight today. Much of this is due to the problem of volume inundation. The average email account today is spammed with anywhere between tens and hundreds of junk communications per day, on top of a varying volume of legitimate/wanted ones.
Along with this inundation, comes the fact that people have become desensitized to sensational headlines. Things that may have piqued interest in 2010 now just scream “scam!” or “yeah right, I don’t believe THAT!” to the average consumer.
What all of this means, in a nutshell, is that you’ve got to get creative in order to get opens these days. At the very least, you’ll need to invest in some longterm strategic thinking.
In fact, your plan for improving open rates should be occurring long before an actual email is sent or a subject line is read. The largest factor in any open is going to be the sender, so you need to make sure you have established trust with whoever you are mailing.
One of the first steps to this, and something I cannot stress enough, is using confirmed – also called “double” opt in. It forces people to see your name twice, and gets the recognition process started. The people you lose because they couldn’t be bothered to confirm their subscription were probably not great prospects to begin with.
Next, make your opt-in incentive excellent. I mean award-winning. Make it actually useful and give them something they’re not finding somewhere else. Most marketers in any given niche are giving away half-solutions or useless “5 steps” PDF’s – be the one person in your area who isn’t.
Next, and this is probably a step where the most dropoff in open rates occurs despite not getting much attention, is that you ensure that the quality of your email followups can compete with that of your first email/incentive. Especially your second and third email, really overdeliver and give people information they can’t live without. Really prove you’ve done your homework and have the answers they’re looking for.
I cannot stress this enough. People get hung up on writing the perfect subject line when the reality is that you could have the worst headlines in the game and still pull off stellar open rates if you’re a trusted sender whose advice is valued. By the same token, you could find your traditionally excellent subject line methods scoring low on open percentage because no one remembers who you are or thought that it became too obvious early on that you were more interested in selling to them than helping them.
Once you have this trust established, feel free to go crazy with your subject line split testing, but know that this step – the one email marketers spend probably the most time on – is insignificant in the grand scheme of things.