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Ten ways to improve your email open rates

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If you use email marketing to contact customers, it is essential to monitor how effective it is. By using the right subject lines, an attractive design and sending messages at the right time, you can increase the number of recipients opening your emails. Follow our tips to improve your open rates

  1. Segment your database. Collect customers' email addresses and monitor their buying habits. Divide your database into groups based on their needs and interests. Target groups with specific characteristics with different content. 
  2. Build a list of email addresses for your target group. Collate a list from existing customers and those that have expressed an interest in your business and products. Remember, you must have their permission to contact them in this way. You can rent or buy data from a third party. However, it is not considered best practice. Most individuals do not want their data shared, resent receiving unsolicited mail and you risk damaging your reputation. The Direct Marketing Association website contains details of best practice email marketing methods.
  3. Send emails from a known person. If the customer is in contact with a particular employee, the email should be from them. Otherwise, use your business name. If the sender is unfamiliar, recipients will probably delete the email.
  4. Choose your subject line carefully. Summarise the value the email offers. Use the customer’s name. Test out the most effective subject lines by randomly dividing your mailing list into two groups, sending each the same email with a different subject line and comparing open rates.
  5. Include your branding and key message above the "fold" in the page. The preview will often display the first part of your email, so draw customers’ attention by making your logo or main message visible. Use attractive images, layout, colour and fonts. Remember that you cannot monitor open rates for plain text emails — it is the graphics loading that counts.
  6. Ensure your email offers value. If customers like what they have read in previous emails, they will open more in the future. Make sure the information is useful, and is not just a sales pitch.
  7. Use technology to engage customers. Use alternative media in your emails — for example, links to videos or your social networking profiles. However, avoid embedding the video as many Internet Service Providers will block it — use a graphic of the first frame instead and link that to the video.
  8. Send regular emails, but don’t spam. It is essential to contact customers regularly. However, do not bombard customers with spam emails. Send carefully timed emails weekly, fortnightly or monthly. Bear in mind that under the Data Protection Act, you are obliged to provide customers with a simple way to opt out from receiving emails.
  9. Perfect your timing. Analysts generally agree that the best days to send emails are Tuesday to Thursday, either first thing in the morning or immediately after lunch. However, research from e-marketing firm Pure360 found that 48% of emails are opened outside traditional office hours. Try out different times and see what works for you.
  10. Monitor your open rates. The cheapest option is a hosted e-marketing service which tracks email open rates, costing £3 upwards. Choose one with inbox delivery confirmation, and delete addresses where emails bounce back. According to consultancy Email Marketing Reports, average open rates vary from 20 to 40%, depending on the industry.

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