How I Doubled My Email Open Rate Overnight

Towards the end of 2018, and as is true for many things in life, I felt like it was time for a refresh … of my email marketing strategy.

Although I have a solid, growing list of subscribers, it’s inevitable that over time you’ll need to take a deep dive through your contacts. As people leave companies and their emails become inactive, as inboxes get flooded and your emails get overshadowed by holiday shopping discounts, or as people simply lose interest, your bounce rate may start to rise and your open and click through rates may come down with it.

So as any marketing professional should evaluate their different content strategies and optimize as needed, I decided to freshen up my email marketing strategy with a goal of growing a more engaged list over time.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Dig through your subscriber list periodically to clean it up.
  • Attempt to re-engage your subscribers just as you would to retain your customers.
  • Always add value with every one of your emails.

Here’s how I did it.

Email by the Numbers

First things first, I have multiple email lists as most businesses and companies do. Clients get different emails than those who want marketing tips. My largest list is one that goes out every morning to subscribers sharing my daily blog updates. This is the one I wanted to freshen up. Since this list is pretty large, it can be segmented out for different purposes.

For reference, before I went through and cleaned out this list, I had a solid open rate of about 10-13% which is about right on target for industry average. Not bad, but I could see that there was a number of subscribers who hadn’t engaged with any of my emails in months – not my daily emails, nor my monthly newsletters, or any other campaign I had sent out.

Although having a large list of subscribers is great, as marketers, we know it’s really about engagement. My plan was to go in and clear out all subscribers who hadn’t engaged in 3 months or more, but before doing so, I wanted to make sure I was keeping as many people as possible.

Creating a Re-Engagement Campaign

Before parting with a chunk of my subscribers, I wanted to first see if I could get them to re-engage and choose to stay on board. Again, as marketers, we all know it’s better (and easier) to retain the customers you do have than to try and win over new ones.

Since it was around the holidays and towards the end of the year, we decided the theme of the email should be seasonal. A bit of holiday cheer paired with new year goals.

We know that everyone’s inboxes get flooded in December, so it was important to offer both value – and a sense of timeliness to the campaign. As you can see above, we got straight to the point. Since this campaign was going to a low-engaging crowd, we didn’t want to waste time up front with tons of text.

Below, you’ll see we also kept the body of the email nice and tidy while adding value – my book at a discounted rate, which could be instantly downloaded. Again, since we know this is a group of subscribers with low engagement, we wanted to make sure their experience was seamless – no need to make anyone jump through hoops to get what they’re looking for.

As is always important, the copy of the email needed to stay on-brand. I really feel like my subscribers are friends and close acquaintances and I only want to add value with the content I put out, not a hassle to your inbox, so the goal was to make sure the copy reflected this sentiment. And lastly, we made the call to action very clear.

Get More People to Open Your Email

Having an email with great content is one thing, but you need to make sure people actually open it. This is where a strong subject line comes in.

We kept it simple with a line that read “Will You Stay With Us in 2019?”

This felt personal, direct, and again, it was timely. For a group of people who had 0% engagement for months, we actually did get engagement with this email. We also followed up a week later to those who hadn’t engaged with the first email with a “LAST CHANCE” reminder.

Final Results

After running this campaign in December, we kept those subscribed who clicked our call to action button, and segmented those out who did not open it or engage.

Although once we segmented this group out our email list shrunk a bit, our open rate jumped up to 25% overnight.

Now that Q1 is over and it’s been 3 solid months since we freshened things up, our email list has continued to grow at a strong pace while our open rate is still 5%-10% higher than it was before on any given day.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

2 thoughts on “How I Doubled My Email Open Rate Overnight

  1. Hey Michael, great post! Certainly given me some ideas to explore!

    It would be great to know what your From Label was (eg Marketing Insider Group or Michael Brenner) and Preview Text were as they are also key to opening emails.

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