In an article in the April 2003 issue of EmailLabs Newsletter, Loren McDonald lists 16 factors in achieving better email open rates.
McDonald points out that higher email open rates for email newsletters or campaigns mean more people will potentially take the action you desire for your company.
She identifies the following factors that influence email open rates:
1. The most important factor is the subject line. Recipients are more compelled to open email with creative subject lines using motivational words that resonate with individuals based on their interests, purchase history and other factors.
2. Recipients are more inclined to open email with immediately recognizable “From” lines personalized to be more relevant to each segment of the mailing list.
3. Recipients are more compelled to open email if they feel that they will be missing out on something if they do not open it, if they expect or even anticipate it, and if your company’s brand, products, services and message are relevant to their current interests and needs.
4. Recipients are more inclined to open email newsletters with original, compelling and one-of-a-kind content. If your content comes from other sources, it should at least be valuable in terms of aggregating and synthesizing.
5. Recipients are more inclined to open email campaigns or newsletters useful to them. A campaign should offer a discount, free white paper or free trial. A newsletter should give news and tips that readers can apply to their business or personal life.
6. Recipients are more inclined to open email from companies with which they have an ongoing and personal relationship.
7. Recipients are highly likely to open email that they have subscribed to by deliberately seeking out information and then opting in.
8. Recipients are more likely to open email newsletters that they have developed a strong affinity for because it has a strong personality and actual person behind it, e.g., your company’s CEO or marketing director.
9. Your email could be blocked by spam filters and junk filters of ISPs and corporations. They could also be be trapped by the recipients’ own spam filters or junk filters although reported as “delivered.” To avoid this, check http://office.microsoft.com/Assistance/9798/newfilters.aspx to determine words and symbols that Microsoft’s Outlook Junk filter disallows, and use other spam and junk filter checkers.
10. Recipients from a quality and well-maintained mailing list are more likely to open your email. Avoid list fatigue by segmenting your list by “list age” and offering inactive customers an incentive to purchase or reconnect.
11. Recipients may stop reading email that they receive too frequently or too infrequently. Test the best frequency favored by your target audience.
12. Recipients may be more likely to open email at different times of day or days of the week for work and personal email addresses. Test different times and days to find what is favored by your target audience.
13. Consider the time of year and season. Recipients are less likely to open email in summer because of vacation schedules. During holidays they are more likely to open email from ecommerce retailers but less likely to open email newsletters and other information-oriented emails.
14. Consider the composition of your recipients. Recipients using free email accounts access their email less often than those using corporate email or paid email services. Managers may find your content helpful to their jobs and may more likely open it, while executives may read it only if they have time.
15. Recipients are more likely to open email that is timely, based on current events, the weather, developments at your company, or a time-specific offer with a deadline.
16. Text-based email clients that cannot read HTML emails will affect your email open rate negatively because email will not be registered as “open” even if they are read.
McDonald promises that “if you do everything exceedingly well and have a good and clean list” your email newsletter might achieve an open rate of 60 percent while your ecommerce campaign could achieve a maximum of 40 percent and a minimum of 20 percent.
Three years from the writing of this article, these factors could still be effective. They could be worth a try.