How To Get Better Email Open Rates

Brian Curee

Is Email Marketing Dead?

This is the question I began to linger on over the last year. Is it a waste of time and money? I’ve been working on an email campaign with 10k+ subscribers. The open rate frequently fell between 10-18%. That’s only 1,000 – 1,800 people opening the messages. “Was this an acceptable percentage?”, I wondered. I started researching what the norm was for an open email rate and spoke with other people in the same industry. Our open rates weren’t that bad, compared to others, but I still wasn’t happy with that number. I believed we could do better. But how?

A New Fancy Email Design

Our first attempt was to create a more visual email, using Constant Contact. Maybe a fancier email would grab peoples attention. We were wrong. The open rates stayed the same and adding more graphics put the message at risk of landing in the spam folder. YIKES! The new email was gorgeous, but it did not increase the open rate. 😩

The next day, as I sorted through all my emails, I noticed when I came across emails that had a lot of images, I deleted them. Why? Because they didn’t seem genuine. Those emails felt like marketing, and that’s not what I signed up for. I signed up to receive free tips, but I felt all they wanted me to do was buy, buy, buy. Clicking the unsubscribe link was my next step.

As I continued to scroll through all my emails, there were a few I did read and enjoyed! The designs were not crazy fancy. They felt more like a personal letter wrote to me. Usually, they included one image (rarely two) and one call to action. They utilized the recipients first name (FNAME), to give it a more personal feel. Plus, the email focused on one topic, and they delivered what they promised. Good quality content and tips. I loved it! But what caused me to open the email? The subject line was the answer!

A Creative Subject Line Can Increase Your Email Open Rate

Let me first clarify that a creative subject is NOT a misleading subject. DO NOT use this technique as click bait. If you do, you will lose the trust of your audience. Being creative with our email subject line has increased our open email rate from 10-18% to 25-38%! 😱 A lot of us are bombarded with daily emails. Being a little more creative with your subject line helps your message stand out. And, it’s not as hard as you may think.

Here are a few samples of past email subject lines:

  • Here are this month’s hot deals!
  • Here’s what’s happening this week.
  • Our Fundraiser is happening now!

You can add a little more creativity to your subject line by using emojis, ellipses, and even blank spaces. Instead of being straight to the point, use a creative subject line that’s open-ended. This approach is delivering a much higher open rate on our email campaigns, and it may do the same for you!

Here are a few samples of the new email subject lines:

  • …these deals are not going to last, FNAME 
  • Hey FNAME, have you ever wanted to visit… 
  •  Please read this FNAME, it’s important… seriously!

The body of your email should always correspond to the subject line you created. Remember, if you are misleading you will lose credibility with your audience.

How the samples above connected with our email content:

  • This email contained 3 discounted items that were only available for a limited time. The revised subject lined gave a little more urgency to act now or miss out on the deal.
  • You may have noticed we used the  emoji in this subject line. The email was about a FREE event created to help people experience what the main event would be like. Then the sender’s sales team would try to sell tickets for the main event at the free event. We felt the FREE emjoi was acceptable in this case.
  • The last email was for the fundraiser. Instead of saying “Fundraiser is Happening Now,” we created an email that shared a video sharing how someone’s life was changed. At the end of the video, they were encouragedto be part of changing lives. FYI: You cannot embed a video in an email. We created an animated gif and linked it to the video online.

These are only a few examples of what we have done so far. We’re excited to see what these open rates will average later this year.

Past Email Open Rate For Fundraiser
New Email Open Rate For Fundraiser

If you think your email open rates could be higher, try a more creative approach in the subject line.

Wait, before you go… 

Share your creative email subject ideas in the comments below!
We love sharing, and we LOVE learning from others.

“Never stop dreaming, never stop believing, never give up, never stop trying, and never stop learning.” ― Roy Bennett


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