by Jenna Kutcher
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It doesn’t matter what kind of business you’re operating, it doesn’t matter if you’re a solopreneur or have a team of 20, it doesn’t matter what kind of social media presence you have… The true power to harness your audience lies in email lists. Your email list offers you these opportunities for sweet and direct conversations with the people who are most interested in your brand and what you have to offer. And I don’t care if you have 100 subscribers or 10,000, those people opted into YOUR list for a reason, and they’re who you want to nurture and serve and pay attention to the MOST earnestly.
But… what if you’re still finding your stride with your email list? Or, you’ve taken an *accidental* hiatus and your list has gone a little stale? Or, maybe you’re addicted to checking the numbers after sending out an email and, womp womp, the love letters you’re crafting just aren’t converting or you’re getting hung up anytime someone unsubscribes from your list.
We’re going to talk about the one of the most integral parts, which is getting your emails read! I am going to equip you with the tools to make sure every time someone hears that “you’ve got mail” voice in their head and sees an email from ya land in their inbox, they are stoked to open it up and read it.
Know Where You’re At… But Don’t Take it Personally
The first thing to note is that pretty much every email provider out there provides your open rate information, meaning the amount of your list that opened the email you sent, and so you want to poke around into the analytics to see where you’re at.
One thing you can’t-can’t-can’t do is take them personally. Let the equations and numerical evidence provide insight without pulling your emotions in too deeply. The numbers are just hints as you adjust and experiment with your email list.
While those numbers give you concrete evidence in how your email marketing is doing, I want for you to look at them as moreso indicators that can help you can shift something in a way that will yield greater results. Let the numbers guide you but not dictate you and if you’re refreshing your analytics and not liking what you see, know that those numbers don’t mean it’s time to up and quit your email list and try something else.
What’s a Good Range?
If you HAVE an email list to begin with, that’s half the battle and you’re doing something right! The next thing to focus on is your open rate. Again, this is the percentage of your list that opens and reads your emails. Email is a powerful tool but it’s way more powerful when you get people who eagerly open what you’ve sent. If you can get to a good range with your open rate, then you should feel pretty confident about your efforts!
But what IS a good range? Experts say that we should aim to have between a 15 to 25% open rate to indicate healthy email performance. So if you have 100 people on your list… you’re doing pretty dang well if 15 to 25 of them open your emails. That’s just up to a quarter of your email list that needs to open on up! Occasionally that number might spike or dip, but the goal is to aim for an average of 15 to 25%.
So… what do you do if you’re pretty consistently below that marker? Like I said, don’t stress out! This is totally fixable, and figure-out-able, as my friend Marie Forleo would say. Everything in business can shift by playing with new strategies and techniques, and today I want to walk through a few methods for improving your open rate… aka, getting those love letters seen by the people who need to see them!
And while we’ll talk about the importance of subject lines, that’s not the end all be all when it comes to open rates. Let’s get into allll the nitty-gritty tips and tricks you need to know about getting those emails opened, and consistently!
The expert marketing platform and education service Hubspot shared in an article that 35% of email recipients open emails based on the subject lines ALONE. What’s more? Emails that use the first name of the recipient in the subject line have higher open rates than those that don’t AND 56% of brands that use subject lines with emojis also have higher open rates.
As for the actual verbiage of the subject line, I’ve found that intrigue always works best. We as humans are curious by nature… Don’t give away everything in this little preview of what’s inside the email, but use the subject line as a hook that will make your subscribers want to click open to see what’s coming. Some good ways to do this compellingly is to ask specific questions like “Hey [first name], did you know THIS about your enneagram?”, or to tease what’s inside the email with a subject line like, “You’ll never believe what happened to me last Friday…” or “My husband ACTUALLY asked me this question…”
Leave a little mystery, have fun with them, and don’t overthink it! And when I’m super stumped, I’ll write the full email itself and leave the subject line for last and then ask myself what I’d want to see in my own inbox that would make me want to open up and read it based on what I am delivering in the actual email copy. You don’t need some crazy formula… you just need to know your people well enough to know what their likes and interests and intrigues are and then work on using those as the hint to build up the intrigue.
A Strong Intro Line
The first line of the email is what shows up as the preview of the email… you know, that line that appears right after the subject line when you’re looking at your inbox. So while a lot of weight is carried in the subject line, that very first sentence is equally as important and acts almost as a secondary subject line, if you think about it. So many people forget that we all get this little preview here and this is word real estate heaven.
Just like you want to create some mystery and fun in the subject line, keep it going in the intro. Ask an interesting question, lay the groundwork for a crazy story, or call out something important that the readers need to know. These first 20-24 words will show up as a preview if someone checks their email on desktop and so you want to make sure this precious real estate makes someone want to open up and see what else is inside.
While we’re talking about what’s inside, a pro tip that many people forget is that you want these to feel personal. Just as someone loves to see their name in a subject line, we want this connection point, this interaction to feel one-to-one, not one-to-many. Practice writing to one person, not just in this part of your email but in ALL of your email copy, and make it as personal as possible. Make it feel like it’s handwritten to ONE person and that you couldn’t help but share this story or details with them in mind.
Writing in vague or very little detail to the masses and even using plural phrases like “you guys” or “hi friends” can make emails seem so much less personal and in turn, they carry less impact. But when you can infuse the person’s first name and speak directly to them, singularly, you’re dialing into a conversation more than making them just feel like they’re one in a crowd and it will drive greater results for you.
Consistency is Key
You don’t need to send emails 3x a week at the same exact time each day you do it, but aim for once a week or even every other week on the same-ish day so that your audience begins to know and trust you and they can expect when they’ll hear from you and with what sort of information.
If we want to get into more of the nitty gritty consistency piece, did you know according to 10 email marketing studies, Tuesday is the best day of the week to send emails? Plus, well over half of adults check their email immediately after waking up… I know, kinda sad, but true! And, I’m sooo guilty of this too. So if you’re not sure how to build a consistent schedule for emailing, start there. Schedule emails to go out Tuesday mornings first thing, and see what that does to your analytics!
Or you can screw that advice altogether and maybe you *know* your audience is way more active on their email in the evenings, or on the weekends, or on Monday afternoons. If you have this insight or you know your user habits with confidence, then great! Use that valuable information to your advantage, but the point is to pick a time and day and just stick to it.
If you’ve never tried it, I double dare you to sit down and just map out and write out one months worth of emails and see how it feels. It’ll help you create consistency and cohesiveness in your messaging while giving you the confidence of knowing that your strategy is being executed throughout the communications for that month.
Segmenting Your List
f every single email you write goes to every single person on your list, your open rates will likely suffer. We open and engage with content that’s most relevant to us, right? Think about your own user habits… you don’t open every single generic email that’s clearly intended for everyone and their dog in your inbox. And you certainly don’t open the ones that have zero relevance to you. In fact, these are the emails you *likely*, ultimately unsubscribe from or hit the spam button on. Yeesh, we don’t want that for our own emails we’re sending out, do we?
So segmenting your list into smart categories can be so, so beneficial. In fact, my company’s pop-up provider Optin Monster shared in an article that 39% of marketers with segmented lists experience higher open rates… AND 28% experience lower unsubscribe rates. That’s a big reason to split up your list, if you ask me, and a simple way to do it is by looking at subscriber behaviors.
For example, if someone bought a product for you, you would send them different emails than those who haven’t purchased anything yet. Another way to do it is based on demographics… things like where people live, interests, subjects they care about or what they do for a living. It also allows you to not over promote to people who might not be interested or try to sell the same offer to someone who has already been a customer of yours.
Segmenting your list allows you to further tailor the content to match what your subscribers need, which again, builds more trust with them! They’ll be more likely to open emails that make sense for their needs and interests.
Scrub Your List
It’s important to look at the health of your email list and that means making sure that your subscribers are engaging with your content. To keep your email list active and healthy, it’s a good idea to look through your subscribers 1 or 2x a year to see who hasn’t engaged with your emails for the last 6 months or longer. Since many email providers charge you per your list size, it’s also a wise way to save money, because you don’t want to be paying to send out emails to people who don’t care!
You can either remove them from your list or even send a short re-engagement email to check in before letting them know you’ll remove them assuming they don’t want to get your emails any longer. A re-engagement email looks just like what you think it would: tell them you’ve noticed they haven’t opened or engaged with your emails lately, ask them if they need something specific from you and let them know if you don’t hear back soon, you’ll kindly remove them from your list and free up space in their inbox!
You can also send a survey out to these cold subscribers to see if there’s something you’re missing, or if you’d rather, just delete them straight from your list. It’s totally personal preference, but the point is to only keep active, interested subscribers on your list which will definitely boost your open rates and the overall health of your email list.
Get Creative or Keep it Simple
Look, there are truly no hard and fast, one-size-fits-all rules for sending successful email campaigns. There are suggestions, like using emojis in subject lines or sending out your emails on Tuesdays, but at the end of the day, YOU know your audience best. You know what they like, what annoys them, and what they need.
So, sometimes that might mean a plain text email with no graphics or visuals… just a personalized love note to drop a word of encouragement or ask a question or other days you might want to throw in the hilarious Friends GIF or a video of your latest project.
I know someone is going to ask this so I’ll beat ya to it. Yes spam filters are real and yes sometimes our well thought-out content can land us in spam land. It’s something that we try to avoid at all costs, so I thought I’d share that we use a program called Glock Apps that tests our emails for deliverability to help us not land in spam filters, and it offers recommendations on swaps to make in order to get your emails opened.
The last thing I want to encourage you to do is to just PLAY and have fun with your emails! Try new things, experiment! That’s one of my favorite things about email communication… because it’s you showing up directly inside someone’s inbox, you don’t have to worry about everyone in the world seeing your experiments like they would on social media, just people who already know, trust, and engage with you regularly.
Try things out, be willing to make mistakes, let the results speak to you and allow you to pivot, tweak, or get creative. You can gauge the response and figure it out as you go!
The Big Picture
If your emails take forever to prep because they’re so graphically complicated, then send out something silly simple and see how it does! Most importantly, keep in mind that people want to feel heard, and want to feel like they matter. If you can consistently create that feeling with your subject lines and content matter inside of the emails, you’ll gain that trust from your subscribers and they’ll want to open your emails again and again.