Email is one of the highest converting marketing channels today, and few activities drive a higher ROI than building an email list.
But having 50,000 email subscribers doesn’t really matter if you can’t get any of them to open your emails.
Today, I’m going to show you five relatively simple (yet criminally underused) strategies that are GUARANTEED to increase your email open rate.
I’ve used these strategies with great success across numerous niches, and my open rates are consistently double the industry average.
By the end of this post, you will have an actionable plan for significantly boosting the ROI of every email you send.

1. Match Your Lead Magnet To Your Content To Your Product

There’s a lot of content out there about how to build an email list.
I know because I’ve written a lot of it.
But one of the biggest mistakes I see businesses and bloggers make is thinking too short-term with their lead magnets and other lead acquisition strategies.
Email marketing is a scalable form of relationship marketing. It’s meant to be a long term pursuit, and accordingly, it’s important that what you are talking about remains consistent throughout that process.
If you attract someone to your list via an ebook on increasing web traffic, then start emailing them about how to run an ecommerce store, and then try to sell them a product on increasing productivity, you won’t have much success.
Every part of your funnel should be designed to appeal to the same customer profile.
When someone signs up to your list to hear about a given topic, the emails they receive should also be on that topic. By aligning your lead magnets, emails, and products, you can significantly improve your conversion rates across the board.

2. Split Test Until You Find The Optimal Send Time

One of the easiest ways to increase your open rate is to send your emails at the right time.
How do you find the right time? Two words: AB testing
This requires a little bit of intentionality upfront, but it’s so easy to do, and it can have a MASSIVE impact on the reach of your content.
Here’s one way to do it.
Schedule your next 7 emails to go out on different days of the week. For each email, break your subscribers into 4 identical groups and send to each group at a different time of the day.
This will give you a total of 28 different send times to compare against each other. If you have a smaller list, you might need to run this experiment several times in order to get statistically significant results, but what you should start to see is that certain days and times will consistently perform better than others.
By sending at these optimal times, you can significantly boost your open rates.

3. Put Some Effort Into Your Subject Lines

Listen, you and I both have an email inbox. We understand how cluttered they can be. We understand how many emails we get every day.
We are not unique.
Pretty much everyone these days is dealing with a crowded inbox.
Your job is to differentiate yourself within that inbox, and the only way to do that is with your email subject line. But it’s not just about standing out. What is most important is that your subject line is relevant to the people you want to open your email.
Let’s take a look at some examples from my inbox:

email open rate

Be honest. You’d open these too.

  1. Sujan’s email uses a pretty standard article headline. This will really only appeal to me if I want to get more out of my video, and that’s actually a good thing. Using a good blog headline is usually a fine strategy for email subject lines.
  2. Brian’s email will appeal to me if I feel confused or have been searching for some specific answers. That said, this subject line won’t really be enough unless I already have built some trust with the sender. In this case, Brian has already done a great job of establishing himself as my go-to SEO expert, so it works.
  3. Mary’s subject line makes use of an eye-catching emoji, which is good for differentiation. At the same time, the promise is a bit too broad for someone like me to be interested. In all likelihood, however, Mary is targeting a less experienced audience, which might be intrigued by this subject line.
  4. Drew’s subject line is a bit confusing, but it also provokes my curiosity. He is hooking me in with this idea of “9/10 experts DISAGREE”. That’s interesting, and now I’m curious to see what they disagree about.

Remember that the goal of a subject line is not to get just anyone to open the email. You have a specific audience you’ve built, and it’s important to use the types of headlines that will resonate with that audience.

4. Resend To Unopens

This is the easiest strategy we’ll discuss today. Even when you do everything right, a lot of your emails will never even be seen.
This is primarily thanks to Gmail’s inbox categorization. A lot of emails now fall under the promos tab. There are some things you can do to try and get in the primary inbox, but that’s a bit too complicated for today’s post, so instead, I’m sharing a simple trick that anyone can use to instantly increase opens, often by an additional 25%.
Simply resend the email to anyone who didn’t open it up the first time. I like to wait around 3 days to resend, but you can experiment for yourself and see what happens.

email open rate

One email is nice, but two gets the job done.

In the example above, my original email performed pretty well, so the resend was a bit less powerful than usual.
But even if your list is as small as 5,000 subscribers, that additional 7% in total opens means nearly 400 more people are seeing your message.

5. Make It Personal

One of the first things people notice when signing up to a new email list is tone.
A lot of marketers and business owners nowadays are just running email marketing because they’ve been told to. They are following a template and trying to sell products.
And while there is nothing wrong with that, it’s very, VERY obvious to your readers.
The most successful email marketing campaigns often come from the biggest personalities. When you sign up for their list, you aren’t introduced to a sales pitch. You are introduced to a personality.
You read personal stories about their background and experiences. You read about their fears and failures and ultimately, their successes.
Pretty soon, you feel like you know this person sending you these emails.
That’s the power of being personal.
And while I can’t teach you to have a personality, I can give you some pointers:

  • Start your emails with brief, relevant anecdotes
  • Use a conversational tone in your writing
  • Talk about real failures and successes that you and your customers have experienced
  • Always be relevant to your audience

Being personal is not hard, but it does require you to get out of “marketer mode” from time to time.

Conclusion: Increase Your Email Open Rate

Let’s review:

  1. Keep customer targeting consistent from lead to sale
  2. Split test until you find optimal send times
  3. Be intentional with your subject lines
  4. Resend emails to subscribers who didn’t open the original
  5. Include personal elements (particular stories) in your emails

By implementing these strategies, you can immediately increase the open rates of your email campaigns.
Before you go, I’d love to hear from you. Have you tried any of these strategies or do you have any tips of your own to add?
Let me know in the comments!

4 replies
  1. Jessica Best says:

    Great stuff! Question: If the ask is download or purchase, have you tried re-sending not just to non-openers but to ALL recipients? Those that opened but didn’t click or opened and clicked but didn’t download (yet) maybe among your best prospects in the 2nd email! Everyone can usually use a reminder :)

    • Jacob McMillen says:

      Hey Jessica, great question. The main strategy behind re-sending to un-opens is to get the email back in front of people who may have lost it in their inbox or promo folders, or even people who glanced at the headline and weren’t in a place to click. Some ESPs allow you to change the headline on resends, which I always do.
      For what you are talking about – people who opened the email but didn’t click – a better strategy would be to send a follow-up email as opposed to simply re-sending the original email. If they read the email but failed to click, there is a reason for that, so adding new information in a follow-up email will give you a better chance to nudge them over the decision hump as opposed to simply sending them the exact same email.


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