How to Improve Open Rates for Email Marketing Campaigns

Even among digital marketing staples like social media and Google, email marketing holds its own as a reliable way to stay at the top of customers’ minds. Getting information straight from a business, right to your inbox, means there’s a personal feel that is hard to duplicate anywhere else.

The delivery method may not have changed much over the past few years, but increasing the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns requires staying up on the latest best practices. Whether you’re looking to gain new sales, develop brand loyalty, or simply keep up awareness, it’s important to avoid falling into a routine that doesn’t keep the people on your list engaged.

If you’ve experienced declining open rates and want to reverse the trend, these tips can help:

1.      Update and Add Often

Maybe you’ve established a sizeable list of email subscribers – that’s great news! Although it is crucial to build up your base, it’s even more important to keep new additions top of mind.

Customers who have been receiving your company’s emails for months (or years) are valuable, but attrition will set in when it comes to reading your blasts. Think about how this happens in your own experience. Chances are, you’ve subscribed to an email list, read the first dozen or so emails you received, and then stopped opening them.

Make it a priority to gather as many email addresses as possible from your relevant audience. The people who are most likely to pay attention to your updates and offers are those who have most recently subscribed.


2.      Provide Something Valuable

Many businesses send out email blasts on a schedule. Whether it’s weekly, monthly, quarterly, or anywhere in between, in most cases, they’re planned out in advance.

Regularly making contact with your customer base feels like a smart move, but if you’re filling up inboxes with useless information, people are going to start to hit the dreaded unsubscribe button. How do you determine what qualifies as useful? A good place to start is by asking yourself, “Would I want to receive this email myself?” and proceeding accordingly.

Perhaps you have a new product or service rolling out, or seasonal favorites have returned – whatever it is, avoid messaging that sounds like you’re just checking in. When in doubt, attaching some sort of coupon or discount offer, even if it’s small, can go a long way in keeping your audience engaged.


3.      Create Different Lists

Creating a one-size-fits-all email is fine, but creating a more tailored experience will yield much better results. A proven way to increase the overall readership for your email marketing campaign is to break down email lists into segments.

Even just three categories like “new customer, long-time customer, and prospective customer,” can allow you to make minor tweaks to your copy that creates a more personal experience. For example, providing a somewhat significant discount might be a great way to get first-time customers in the door, but wouldn’t be the best offer for someone who has been loyal for years. Instead, that person may respond better to a customer appreciation message.

Regardless of how you choose to break things up, as long as you’re taking a more customized approach, you can expect to see your open-rate climb.


4.      Be Personable

Email copy that sounds like it’s straight out of a corporate script feels impersonal, intrusive, and annoying. Your goal should be to write as if you were recommending something to a friend or colleague with whom you communicate regularly.

There are a few areas in particular that you should be focusing on to create the best user experience. Here are the most important:

Catch Eyes in the Subject Line

The subject line of your email is your best asset when it comes to getting a higher open rate. In fact, one witty phrase might be the biggest single contributor to new users opening and reading your email. Don’t just throw up the first thing that comes to mind – think creatively and ask for feedback from your staff.

Think Visual

Readability is equal parts copy and layout. Even if you’re writing Shakespearean level stuff, if it’s inconvenient to read, your audience will eventually stop opening your emails.

Keep paragraphs short, or use bullet points when possible. Make sure the most important information is in the first few lines, and remember that imagery should add to the message, not confuse it. Simplicity is your friend – especially when you consider most of your email content will be consumed on a mobile device.

Sound like a Person, Not a Company

If there was ever a time for informal writing in a marketing strategy, it’s when putting together an email blast. Because the method of delivery is inherently personal, talk to your audience like a friend. Utilizing humor, referencing recent events, or simply adding some personality can all be effective techniques.


5.      When in Doubt, Test it Out

Testing and revising different strategies should always be part of your digital marketing plan. A/B, or split-tests, paint an easy-to-read picture in terms of evaluating what’s working, and what should be scrapped.

When it comes to improving your email open rate, one of the easiest ways to A/B test is by simply changing the subject line. As I mentioned above, your subject line is hugely important in getting readers to open your email. It’s so important that it’s worth testing and refining constantly.

The next time you’re ready to send out your next email blast, try sending the same email with two different subject lines. After repeating this process a few different times, you’ll develop a better feel for the type of messaging that gets people excited to read your content.



Email marketing is a tried and true method of getting your brand in front of the right people. If you’re able to refine the art (copy and layout) and learn the science (evaluate the data), it’ll be difficult to find a more cost-efficient way to market your company.

If you think you could benefit from expert help with design considerations, or simply need direction with getting started, get in touch today to schedule a consultation.