Email marketing can be a very effective strategy to build loyal customers and attract new ones. But if no one is reading your emails, it doesn’t matter how great your product or service is – you won’t get the business.

Do you ever wonder why your open and click-through rates are so low? (You are measuring those, right?) Let’s start by making sure your expectations are appropriate.

  • According to a recent survey by Silverpop, the average open rate for 2011 and early 2012 was about 20% - that’s in line with other studies I’ve seen and my own experiences, too. So if you’re trending around there, you’re right at the average, even though it seems awfully low.
  • Click-through rates are even lower – the average cited in the study is 5.4% - so don’t despair if you’re in the single digits as well.

But just because those are the average rates doesn’t mean you can’t do better with some pro tips – or improve on wherever you are now.

Hook ‘em with the subject line

The average email user gets nearly 150 emails a day – and about half are deleted. If your subject line doesn’t grab the recipient’s attention, you’ll end up in the recycling bin with the other rejects. How do you capture readers’ attention short of writing “READ ME!”? (Don’t do that.)

  • Lead with a benefit for the user – a key tenet for any marketing writing. Why should the reader open?
  • Ask a provoking question that whatever you’re offering in your email can answer. Poke at a pain point of your prospect to get their attention.
  • Be specific. Vague subject lines annoy people and are more likely to be ignored or deleted. If you’re asking the reader to take action, tell them. If you’re launching a new product, don’t write “Product launch,” write “New [product] enhances [benefit for user].” See the difference?

Keep their attention with good content

When someone opens your email, you want them to actually read it. This may sound like a foregone conclusion to you, but it’s not. People are busy. They skim. If nothing catches their eye, they move on.

  • Use formatting to your advantage. There’s nothing like a solid block of text to make someone’s eyes glaze over. Break it up with bullets, short paragraphs and spacing.
  • Keep it short and to-the-point. Just like your subject line needs to be a hook, so does your header/first sentence. Emails are no time for drawn-out prose – get to the point.
  • If you have more you want to say, hyperlink to another document or webpage with the additional information.

Have a clear call to action

What do you want your reader to DO? Subscribe to your newsletter, follow you on Twitter, visit your website, sign up for a product demo? Whatever the goal of that email is, have a clear call to action.

In fact, consider having more than one. If you’re trying to get someone to sign up for a demo, for instance, include a hyperlink in the body of your text, and also a SIGN UP NOW button at the bottom. Different people will pick up on different cues, so give them options.

Readers – what are your favorite tips for ensuring your emails get read?

© 2014 Alicia Olsen