Why Your Email Open Rates May Be Slacking

email open rates

Getting someone to care about your website or service is really hard. It is one thing to talk to someone in the moment and get them to care. It is another to do it when hours have passed before a response is needed. [twittee tweet=”Running a successful #emailcampaign means creating a message that people will care about! #marketing @mikejamesbird” content=”Running a successful email campaign means creating a message that people will care about” balloon=”Click this link to tweet!” position=”topMiddle” theme=”light” id=”tw01″ ] even when it is buried within 20+ other messages (if you are lucky).

There are a few reasons why your current email open rates may be lower than you want. First, are the emails you are sending worth sticking around for? In the world of email advertising, you have mere moments to make an impression. I am talking about attention spans that make Twitter guffaw in surprise. People are beaten over the heads with at least 50+ emails a day. People are not going to care very much for some strange email they do not recognize. If your email loads slowly or often loads improperly, that is more than enough reason to trash it without a second thought.

You might also be sending too many emails. Sending emails often is a core part of the email ad strategy, but you may be annoying your clients rather than intriguing them. Certainly, you can think of that one that one company you can expect an email from at an obnoxiously regular rate. If your email patterns are beginning to resemble theirs, it may be time to review your strategy.

Lastly, you may be ignoring the most important part of an email: the subject line. The first thing, and probably only thing, that your mailing list will see of your email are the words that appear in their inbox. If the subject of the email does not have the means to draw in their attention then they will discard it.

Making a Better Email Campaign

brainstorming a new campaign

Brainstorming a new marketing campaign. Photo: CC BY 2006 Marco Arment

[twittee tweet=”The first place to start bettering your #emailcampaign is the subject line. #digitalmarketing @mikejamesbird” content=”The first place to start bettering your email campaign is the subject line.” balloon=”Click this link to tweet!” position=”topMiddle” theme=”light” id=”tw02″ ] This is arguably more important than whatever the email actually says. An email that is opened means that the reader is taking in more of your message, becoming familiar with your brand and will be less likely to delete the message for the present moment. They may delete it later, but not after considering what you email has to say. We have collected a few powerful and simple methods to put some snap into your email subjects and increase your email open rates.

Beautiful Simplicity

Sometimes leaving things unsaid can say more than a crowded subject line. A single, provocative message that lacks detail can begin raising questions in a reader’s mind. The lack of long persuasive language can leave the impression that this was sent from someone they know or who is professional and does not have time for long worded messages. Indeed, look at the emails in your inbox. Of those sent from friends, how many of them have long wordy subject lines? A short and sweet subject line can throw off the impression that it is a spam email.

Make ‘em Laugh

making them laugh

Photo: CC BY 2009 Jacob Bøtter

Witty or clever subject titles can stop the reader mid inbox to have a chuckle. Whether this humour is high-brow or not is irrelevant as long as it slows them down while they browse their inbox. After a funny title, the subtitle or following text should be straight to the point. You have their attention for but a moment and you need to make sure they have all the reason to open your email. Spend some time to craft a brief sentence that encapsulates what you have to offer in 30 characters or less. This will require some dedication.

Absolutely Jaw-Dropping Tactics

Similar to a funny title, the point here is to break the “delete all of my new emails” mind-set that many people approach their inboxes with. This route requires more caution though. Many subject lines like this sound like “Your Business Plan Sucks: How to Build a Better Business”. Though effective, some people can be completely turned off by insults, no matter how distant or unfamiliar the voice is. If they characterise your email with an abrasive platform you can actually hurt your email open rates.

At the same time, shocking titles like these can expose inward concerns that may be stressing them out. If they also think their business is not doing well and want to turn it around, they will likely read your email merely because you have given them a possible cure to their anxieties.

People Love Numbers (Even if They Say They Don’t)

playing by numbers

Photo: CC BY 2006 Pink Sherbet Photography

The rise of numbers lists and countdowns is only helped by the desire to know what is best and who is worst. In the same way people love the big win and seeing the despairing loss, people love judgemental number lists. This principle can be applied to your subject lines. Seeing a title like “6 Reasons Why Your Car is Not Performing Its Best” can grab attention very quickly. Combining this technique with something that is important to the reader will stop them. They will begin thinking of that thing that means so much to them and will give your email an open to see what you have to help them.

Pose a Question

Engagement is always a reliable way to get someone’s attention. Holding up a stuffed animal in the middle of the sidewalk is not as effective as talking to passers-by about the stuffed animal. Questions passively engage with your readers. The modern human being is a reading machine. We read every day of our lives automatically, especially in our digital age. Try not to read, I dare you. Reading over a question prompts an answer from within the reader. In addition, the tall question mark tends to stand out from the usual fare of email punctuation. So many emails focused upon sending a statement will not use a question mark. This reluctance to use it only makes your question oriented email stand out more.

Deals Ending Soon

The modern shopper is always on the lookout for a good deal. Managing your own finances makes you very sensitive to overspending and observant of saving opportunities. An email that reads along the lines of “75% Off Sale Ending Soon” will prompt attention. There is the potential for a good deal and for most modern shoppers that is enough to at least give it a look. Not capitalizing every word here can be useful. In particular, it will make words like ‘Save’, ‘Miss Out’ and ‘Warning’ be prioritized even higher.


All of these various strategies can work if done with the right product and the right platform, but the deeper point is to appeal to human emotion and desire. Whether it is the fear of missing something great, the desire to see judgements or the desire to be considered important your email must tap into that emotion. A successful email shakes the reader. It gets them off of their game and forces them to dwell upon the subject line. A second or two is all you need for them to open your message and take a look. Take these ideas in hand and start boosting up your email open rates.

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