What Can You do to Improve Your Email Open Rates?

6 min read(Last Updated On: November 23, 2017)

Ever received an email from a guru gloating about their latest open rates? They’re usually impressive. And yet, if I asked you what can you do to improve your email open rates and you’ve been in this game for a while, you may be tempted to think that just copying the guru ain’t going to cut it.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of receiving one of those emails, then you may have heard similar statements thrown out there during webinars. Or perhaps you’ve come across lead magnets offering secret email swipes with magical words that make people not only open your emails but rip their trouser pockets right off their seams as they yank their wallets out to throw everything they have at you.

There’s a caveat here, and it’s all about the context.

In most cases you should give the guru a chunk of your time, of course, to digest and understand and figure out whether there’s anything there that you can use for your own hustle.

Lab scientists use good methodologies to test something to hell and back. Or at least, they should be doing. As many key variables as one can muster must be tested. Testing for every variable in itself is an impossibility of course, since there may be an infinite number of variables, but at least the key variables must be tested.

Drugs take years to enter the market for precisely that reason: because key variables have to be tested to make sure they don’t end up wiping us all off the planet (whether they’re doing a good job or not is debatable…).

The question 'what can you do to improve your email open rates' is going to involve testing rather than a magic sentence.Click To Tweet

Improving E-mail Conversion With Testing

So, if we were to take one of these magical subject lines that get a cool 97% open rate, as proven by the guru online marketer known as (in this example) Mr Big Pants Online Marketing Guru, and we were to apply the lab scientist mindset of testing to see whether this result can be replicated, we could set up an A/B split test using My Big Pant’s email + result as the CONTROL, and our email as the TEST. And no, I didn’t capitalise those words to be an arse – I know that you would have read them all the same if they had been lowercase. I’m capitalising those words because I imagine that’s what they do in laboratories and because it will make it more readable as I set out the example experiment below:

Mr Big Pants Online Marketing Guru
Email Subject: Don’t Open This! It Could Make You a Fortune!
Open rate: 97%

You and I
Email Subject: Don’t Open This! It Could Make You a Fortune!
Open rate: 1. Followed by an email telling us to f*** off.

Hmm. Did you see what just happened there? Of course you did. It’s obvious, once we do a split test. And that brings me back to where we started: context.

Here’s the context: Mr Big Pants Online Marketing Guru has built a reputation and a following. That following has a certain responsiveness directly proportional to how much value Mr Big Pants Online Marketing Guru offers that list and how much respect he commands from that list, although not necessarily in that order. So when Mr Big Pants Online Marketing Guru sends an email out to his list, he’s not emailing a cold list, and he has authority to leverage.

And we, in our experiment, didn’t have those things. So we tanked.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the email subject. But that’s the point: the email subject by itself is not magical. There have to be other variables in place for that email to work, regardless of the subject. One is authority and the other is a list who knows about your authority and have a degree of responsiveness.

So when an email from Mr Big Pants Online Marketing Guru lands in your inbox claiming that he’s getting 97% open rates and he’s going to teach you how to do the same thing in his new training course, which is going to be mostly about copywriting, don’t impulse buy. Instead, put your thinking cap on and look at the positioning carefully. For example, if the authority of the course is based on the stellar open rates and it’s clearly not a cold list, run.

That’s not to say a course presented under this pretext is necessarily bad. The course itself could have some good stuff in there, but the way it’s positioned is basically bollocks.

If you’re a celebrity, then taking the course and sending out your first email may get you a stellar open rate, but that would down to your own authority more than anything else. If your favourite actor sent you an email but screwed up the subject, would you not open it despite the shite copywriting skills? I would. Because in my mind they have authority and they are important to me, and I want to know what it is they are saying – especially if it’s to me personally.

So there it is. The gurus that flaunt their open rates in this way are leaving some very big key variables out of the picture. Namely, the fact that it’s THEM sending out the email to THEIR list. And yes, I did capitalise those two words to be an arse this time.

Ironically, when Mr Big Pants Online Marketing Guru sends you an email with a subject that alludes to a tremendous open rate, you’re going to open it of course, and that’s going to contribute to that metric. He really can’t lose.

On the other hand, if Mr Big Pants Online Marketing Guru built a new list under a random name with zero authority and then got a stellar open rate with an email subject, then I’d be impressed.

We could then ask: what can you do to improve your email open rates, guru?

You get the idea: context is everything. The relationship with the list + the offer + the actual words + the mood of the recipient are largely going to determine whether that email gets opened or not, but that relationship and how ‘well’ it’s going is a biggie.

So let’s look at this realistically:

What Can You do to Improve Your Email Open Rates?

The formula is short, and really, once you understand the context it becomes as simple as mimicking Mr Big Pants.

1 – build your list
2 – offer your list awesome value

That 2 step approach will get you decent open rates.

If you then invest in expanding your copywriting skills, your open rates can only improve, as long as you test carefully and you create your killer headlines to be congruent with whom your list believe you are. In other words, if you ‘speak’ to your list in a very down-to-Earth, matter-of-fact manner, don’t start churning out Hollywood-style headlines all of a sudden.

That’s the real magic.

To build your list, offer awesome value. To keep your list, keep offering awesome content.Click To Tweet

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