how to improve your email open rates

Email marketing is great…in theory.

You own and control exposure to your content (as opposed to a social media platform that could take it down or algorithm you out of the feed).

You get as much (or as little) space as you need to get your message across.

Your content goes directly to people who are interested in your business.

But none of this matters if people don’t open your emails.

Why Your Emails Aren’t Being Opened

We all get hundreds of promotional emails every day. Gmail and Outlook filter them straight into a separate inbox tab so you don’t even have to see them.

Email fatigue is a real thing. You have it yourself – how many times have you bulk-deleted marketing emails without opening them? If it’s not from a company you actively shop, or is clearly offering a discount, it likely goes right in the trash.

There’s one easy and effective way to increase the number of people who want to open your emails. It’s a strategy that many businesses, especially small ones, overlook.

How to Increase Your Email List’s Value

The trick to ensuring people want to open your emails more often than not is through segmentation.

To start segmentation, go back through your existing email list and think about how you can group people together. Some common groupings include:

  • Where you acquired the contact (trade show, website landing page, customer purchase, etc).

  • The industry your contact works in

  • The primary type of products your contact buys

Your email provider will let you group these contacts into labeled groups, otherwise known as segments.

Easily Implement Email Segmentation

Identify the segments (groups) you’d like to create based off of your existing list. You’ll need to manually add all current contacts into the correct segments. This takes some manpower to start, however, the return is well worth this time investment.

While working on an email project for an e-commerce business, I was given an under-performing email list to improve. The list had never been segmented, and each email contained a variety of related and non-related products.

I started by segmented the existing email list based on business type and point of acquisition. Then, I created several empty segments based around product types.

Lastly, I scheduled a series of weekly emails that contained a mix of products that could interest each customer segment. Each product’s button was assigned to one of the empty product type segments previously created.

These email blasts went to the entire contact list — all segments. When a user clicked on any of the products in the email, they were added to the relevant product type segments. This enabled me to get a closer look at what products interested each customer, irrespective of their business type, and create more groups of people to whom I could send highly targeted messaging.

Within the first two months of implementing this process, the average email open rate jumped from 17% to 37%.

Benefits of Email Segmentation in Action

When you start segmenting, there’s a strong chance you’ll be left with some contacts who don’t quite seem to fit anywhere. This is perfectly fine. Simply create a catch-all segment to put contacts who you can’t categorize. Over time, these contacts will show their interests by the way they engage with emails. Or, they’ll remain inactive and you can remove them from your email list.

From today onward, every time you place an email signup link on your website, checkout page, in an article, or share it on social media, assign a segment to it. This way, you’ll be able to see exactly which forms are generating the most signups. Segmentation becomes easy and effortless after you pass the original hurdle of sorting existing contacts.

Now, instead of sending every email to your entire contact list, you can choose to create hyper-targeted emails and send it to only one or two segments. Because your segmented contacts share something in common, be it purchase history, industry, or social media usage, you increase the likelihood they’ll open an email and click or engage with the contents inside.

Depending on the size of your list and the frequency with which your business sends emails, it may take a little time to see an increase in opens and clicks. However, as you grow and begin sending more emails, you’ll see opens and conversions positively reflected in your segmentation strategy.

After you segment, you need content to send to your followers! Get weekly tips and resources to help you make the most of your content marketing by joining my (free, and yes, segmented) newsletter here.