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Improve Email Open Rates In 4 Steps

You've been following email trends to send better B2B emails* (segmenting your list, having a focused message and CTA, using responsive design so it's accessible on all devices), but your email open rates are still lagging. What are you doing wrong?

*If not, you should check out Really Good Email's How To Send Better B2B Emails in 2017.

It may be what you're NOT doing that is the problem. Here are four areas you may be overlooking that affect your open rate.

1. Add/Fix Preview Text

Remember that many people, including tech pros, check their email throughout the day on their phones. In Outlook, I have a preview pane that allows me to see most of an email without opening it, but on my phone I have to rely on preview text to get a glimpse of the content and determine if it's worth reading. If it’s gobbledygook, I’ll delete it. If I see something in those two lines that interest me, I hold onto it until I’m in front of my computer or give it a quick read.

I wasn't too surprised to find most examples of good preview text were B2C emails. Many B2B emails have the standard "If you can't view this email, please click..." or (worse) the ALT text for their header image and the URL it's linked to.

Gobbledygook vs Helpful Preview Text


2. Include Content Above The Fold

Not only do you want clickable elements above the fold, you also want to make sure there’s content - not just an ambiguous image. Below are two emails in a "right" reading pane (preview in the far right column in Outlook). Notice how one gives you enough information to understand what they are offering and whether it's relevant to you, while the other one has a header with the event dates/location and a big photo of a person thinking (who ARE their all-star keynotes?).

Missing vs Good Content Above the Fold


3. Add ALT Text For Images

One small bit of code that always seems to get overlooked is the ALT text—the copy that would show in place of a blocked image. This is particularly important if you're sending emails to IT security pros who have higher security and privacy settings. Also, if you're using a large header or hero image at the top of your email, you risk the recipient missing your content if the image is blocked.

Small caveat: one desktop client (Outlook ... grrrr) and one mobile client (Windows Phone ... Microsoft strikes again!) do not display ALT text. However, the rest do AND they allow you to stylize your ALT text.

I'll let Litmus explain in more detail: ALT Text in HTML Email.


4. Test Subject Lines

Subject lines are like pop songs. One minute everyone is excited about auto-tune or marble-mouth "singing" and the next they can't stand it. Before you know it, every artist is trying out dubstep and sampling 70's rock. It's hard to keep up and there doesn't seems to be rhyme or reason for where it's going.

Remember when personalizing subject lines was mind-blowing? Or when marketers swore that including a number was a surefire way to get opens? Don't forget the power of asking a question with your subject line. And now it's all about emojis and Unicode characters. Well, guess what—those could all work for your audience ... or none of them could. What's most important is that you address a need and/or catch their attention without making your subject line too much like click-bait. (Don't be that guy!)

Oh yea ... and TEST, TEST, TEST. What may work for one segment, may not work for another. And just like pop music, what may grab your audience's attention one month may not be interesting the next. Try testing two subject lines with 20% of your list on Monday/Tuesday, then check the results on Wednesday to see which one performed the best (the champion) and send the email using that subject line to the remaining 80% of your list on Thursday. Make sure you document what you tested and the results—you may see a trend that will help you figure out what your audience responds to best.


What other email marketing challenges are you facing?

We've probably encountered them, too. Let us know what frustrates you and we'll share insights on how our email experts have dealt with them in order to reach your target audience.

Email Marketing, Tech Marketing Smarts Blog