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How To Improve Email Open Rates

by Kate Perrin

Tried and tested subject line solutions

Do your email open rates leave a lot to be desired? Can’t work out why your brilliantly written emails aren’t getting the results they deserve? The benchmark for the construction sector is a 21.7% open rate. If you’re not hitting or smashing this average, we can help.

Before we tackle that, let me just ask…

Is your database clean and up-to-date?

Are you targeting your email campaigns at the right audience (through segmentation)?

Finally, can I check you’re not bombarding your subscribers with too many emails (or the opposite, and your lead has gone cold)?

Yes, yes, yes? Great.

In that case, low open rates generally indicate that your subject line is not relevant or piquing the interest of your audience. And that’s why I’ve picked the perfect subject for my next Marketing Mentors blog. Subject lines.

What makes a good subject line?

A good subject line clearly or compellingly describes the campaign or contents of an email in a way that people respond to. By opening the email.

What works for one audience won’t work for another. You’ll want to test a few variations to see the difference this can make for your email open rates.

When you learn what does work, don’t stop. Keep testing. Keep exploring new avenues. You can always drive your response rates up. More on this later.

How to write a great subject line – 8 top tips

  • Personalise subject lines using merge tags to include a recipient’s name or location; especially if it’s a post-purchase follow-up or a promotional email.
  • Avoid cliches like the plague! Showcase the strengths of your product or service in a direct, descriptive way that can’t be confused with competitor offerings.
  • Be single-minded – try highlighting specific deals or a themed product range.
  • Be topical, tap into industry talking points – if it’s right to namedrop Rishi’s Budget Day predictions or ECO Scheme deadlines into your subject line (rather than Squid Game), try it.
  • Use emojis but with caution – more than one emoji can feel more B2C than B2B. Also, avoid replacing words with emojis, it can confuse the reader and make your subject lines unclear.
  • Keep your subject lines short and mobile-friendly: 9 words and 60 characters (max) is about right.
  • Limit punctuation to no more than 3 punctuation marks or special characters per subject line, as it makes emails feel ‘spammy’.
  • Use audience segmentation to influence your subject lines (e.g. by role, activity or other relevant data). Segmenting your audience is also proven to increase conversation rates and deliver better results than generic emails.
  • If your email contains multiple pieces of content, test which one gets the best response when featured in the subject line – Mashable are masters at this with their newsletters. And you can learn A LOT about what resonates best with your audience (by segment).

Finally, know that what works best for one business, product, service, subject or time of year may not work so well for others. Sadly, Covid and Brexit will continue to move the goalposts and keep us on our marketing toes.

Whilst we’re on the subject of subject lines, are you building A/B testing into your email marketing strategy?

A/B testing – data with the human touch

A/B testing should be a part of every email marketing strategy, to improve your email marketing stats AND to help you deliver the content your prospects want in the most relevant or appealing way.

When it comes to A/B testing, never underestimate the big differences small changes can have on open rates. You can use these to your advantage.

Here’s my starters for 10…

  1. 1. Name vs. No name
  2. 2. First person vs. Second person
  3. 3. Urgency vs. No urgency
  4. 4. Ambiguous benefits vs. Specific benefits
  5. 5. Sentence case vs. Title case
  6. 6. Capitalisation vs. No capitalisation
  7. 7. Hyphens vs. Colons
  8. 8. Ambiguous copy vs. Specific copy
  9. 9. Gratitude vs. No gratitude
  10. 10. Emoji vs. No emoji

If you want to get a little more complex, play with your word order; for example, these subject lines would make a great A/B test for the same email:

  • Use this discount code to get 15% off your next order
  • Get 15% off your next order using this discount code

If you have any fail-safe tips or techniques that are proven to work or indeed you have great success as a result of trialling any of the tips above, do let us know by dropping me an email.

About the author

Picture of Kate Perrin

Kate Perrin

Group Marketing Director at Barbour ABI

Kate Perrin is the Group Marketing Director at Barbour ABI. She has enjoyed a 15+ year career in various B2B marketing leadership positions. Passionate about striving to achieve personalised experiences for every customer who engages with Barbour ABI group companies, Kate loves how advancements in martech are making this easier and better.

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