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Social Media Marketing for Business

Gray MacKenzie


May 5, 2014

Top 10 Tips to Increase Email Marketing Open Rates and Click Through Rates

If you send an email to your list, but nobody ever opens it, does it make it a sound?

Just like the old conundrum of the tree falling in the forest, sinking money into email marketing that your audience will never engage with is a huge waste of resources.

Good email marketing should be a great investment, both for B2C and B2B (see this B2B Marketing Checklist) organizations, but it requires consistently executing a well-developed strategy that revolves around an intense focus on your audience.

Email Marketing, Open Rates

If you’ve decided to invest in email marketing, you need to be measuring the results to understand the ROI and make improvements. Two of the most common metrics in email marketing are open rates and click-through rates.

Your open rate (OR) is simply the number of unique opens divided by the total number of email sent. So if 500 recipients opened my email to a 2,000 member segment of our list, that would be a 25% open rate.

Click-through rate (CTR) goes one step farther and measures the number of unique clicks relevant to total emails sent.

Some folks measure this in relationship to the number of unique opens, but it’s more common to see click-through rate determined by dividing the total number of unique clicks divided by the total number of emails sent. So if I had 100 clicks from the 2,000 emails I sent, that would be a 5% click-through rate.

Okay, so we understand why email marketing matters, why measuring is critical to improvement, and how to get key metrics, but let’s dive into the top 10 tips to increase your email marketing open rates and click-through rates.

  1. Always start with a hyper-focus on your audience.
    • It’s not that complicated – think about who is on your list (developing and targeting your buyer personas would be a great first step), what they’re experiencing, what pain they have, and how you can help them solve their pain.
    • Everyone is tired of pushy salespeople only talking about how great their product or service is. Set yourself apart by genuinely being helpful and solving problems.
    • I’m a big believer in Seth Godin’s philosophy that you should, “find products for your customers, not customers for your products.
  2. Treat everyone with respect. Always.
    • Should be common sense, but respect is rare. Respect your audience by the frequency, tone, and style of email that you choose to send.
    • For some audiences, sending an awesome daily email is appropriate, but some audiences don’t want to hear from you more than once a week, period. These are your friends, understand them, help them, and respect them.
  3. Use personalization and send from an individual.
    • Without overdoing it, use personalization based on properties you’ve collected from your list members. Common personalization includes using somebody’s first name, company name, position, location, or industry within the context of your email.
    • For example, would you rather receive an email that says “Hi Gray” or one that says “Dear Sir or Madam?”
    • People like to hear their name. Remember that everyone on your list is human and use personalization appropriately in subject lines and your email body.
  4. Keep your subject line short and brand it where appropriate.
    • You’ll hear different advice on how many characters to use in your subject line. My philosophy is to keep it short, present the benefit, and personalize and brand it where that’s appropriate.
    • We’ve already covered personalization, but “branding” your subject line simply means including your company name.
    • For example, the very first time someone downloads a content offer from the online marketing resources library at GuavaBox, the “thank-you” email we’ll send them right away (which includes the direct download link and relevant information) will typically include our company name in the subject line.
    • We do that because most of the folks who download our resources right away won’t recognize who that email is from at first glance. We want to help them make the connection and easily access the resource they need.
  5. Always provide killer value.
    • This shouldn’t have to be a tip on a list, but I’m including it because there’s nothing worse than getting an email full of fluff. Nothing helpful, just a dumb attempt by some company to try to keep your attention.
    • Look, if you want my attention, make my life easier or help me solve a problem I’m facing – is that too much to ask?
  6. Lead with the biggest, most relevant benefits.
    • Remember that you perceive value differently than your recipients do, so clearly present the benefits (not the features) right off the bat in a way that appeals to your audience.
    • It’s self-centered to focus on your the features of your solution rather than the benefits your audience will receive from letting you help them ease their pain.
  7. Avoid spam filters.
    • Making mistakes with spam filters won’t just hurt your short-term open rates and click-through rate. This could stain your long-term reputation and ability to do effective email marketing.
    • Keep your sender score clean by:
      • Following the law – never email someone who hasn’t volunteered their information specifically to receive your email. Steer clear of buying or renting lists, scraping websites for email addresses, other shady email acquisition practices, and repeatedly emailing addresses that have bounced previously.
      • Staying away from spam filter trigger words like “free,” “guarantee,” and “ no obligation.”
      • Avoid using all caps, excessive exclamation points, and hidden text. Alway check your spelling, use images selectively and include alt text, and don’t include attachments in emails to multiple recipients.
  8. Repeat your one, clear call-to-action.
    • In general, each email should point people to one clear action step. It might be downloading a content offer, watching a video, reading a blog post, signing up for an event, or taking a survey.
    • Whatever it is, choose a single action and understand that people like to scan and will rarely read an entire email. Present your call-to-action (CTA) clearly and then repeat it in the email body and as a PS.
  9. Measure consistently.
    • Open rate and click-through rate are important, but also look at the big picture conversion metrics: downloads, sales, etc.
    • Measure performance consistently to get a baseline and enhance your ability to predict results – which is absolutely essential if you ever want to scale your business.
  10. Test and improve constantly.
    • Doing all the “right things” and measuring frequently is important, but constantly question the status quo, tinker, and find ways to improve your email marketing performance.
    • There’s no single, step-by-step “right way” to do email marketing. Find what works for your audience and your business, then run with it!

Take these ten basic tips and start improving your email marketing today. If you have any questions or need help improving your own email marketing, leave a comment below, chat with me on Clarity, or contact my team at GuavaBox for help!

About the Author

Gray (@sgraymackenzie) is a Co-Founder of GuavaBox, a certified inbound marketing agency. GuavaBox helps businesses reach, convert, and close new customers through content and inbound marketing.

Gray is also a Co-Founder of DoInbound, a software system helping inbound marketing agencies manage, track, and scale their business.



As a Co-Founder of GuavaBox and DoInbound, I’m privileged to help people and solve new problems everyday. My passion for strategic development and organizational consulting falls just short of my love for competition.

Find me on Twitter, and let's connect on LinkedIn.