Open rates secrets and lies

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Open rates aren’t changing very much these days, or so the research says. Indeed, according to last month’s “Epsilon Q3 2008 U.S. E-mail Trends and Benchmarks Results,” open rates remained constant in 2008, staying in the 19% to 21% range. But just because the industry averages are staying constant, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to improve your own open rates. Eric S. Groves, senior VP-global market development at e-mail service provider Constant Contact provides one secret and one lie that can help you get your customers to open your messages more frequently.

Secret: Speed of online confirmations can boost your long-term open rates.

When someone joins your e-mail list, your company should immediately respond to that action with your own triggered reaction: a welcome message. If you wait a week, or even a day, your prospect may forget signing up and look at your messages as spam. Since the welcome message is often created once and forgotten, Groves also said that it’s worth putting a refresh on your to-do list at least once a quarter.

“Use this opportunity to further introduce yourself to your new subscriber by letting them know the type of content you are going to be sending, the frequency you will be communicating, and provide a link through which the subscriber can easily remove themselves if they no longer want to be on your list,” he said. “You can also provide a link to an archive of your past campaigns so that the individual can jump right into your content without having to wait for your next communication.”

Also, Groves said, think carefully about whether to include marketing materials in that initial e-mail. Your first e-mail is a little like a first date. You want to make a good impression, and focus on the customer’s needs rather than your needs.

“You don’t want to go out there saying, ‘Buy, buy, buy.’ It says that you’re not willing to build on and invest in a long-term relationship.”

Lie: More frequent e-mails will make people comfortable with your brand or newsletter and therefore more likely to open any new messages.

It’s a common mistake, Groves said. Marketers think once someone opts in, they can send e-mails whenever they want—and the more messages sent, the better. However, the opposite is actually true. E-mail someone too often, or when your recipient isn’t expecting something from you, and it can lead to unsubscribes or spam complaints, he said.

“When people sign up you’re typically setting up expectations about what they will receive. You’re saying, ‘Join our monthly mailing list,’ or giving them some idea of how often they will hear from you,” he said. If you go back on this promise—and it is a promise—you’re blowing away all trust, which can take years to re-build. This is compounded if the messages you’re sending don’t have strong relevant messages. When customers get too many messages that look like junk, they start treating everything you send them like junk, sending them right to the spam folder. Groves said to stick to your original frequency promises, and if you are going to switch it up and add or subtract messages, let recipients know and give them a way to set their own limits.

“Let recipients tell you how often they want to hear from you,” he said. “Not the other way around.”

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