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Sunday, November 28, 2010

How to Get a 40% Open Rate on Your Email Marketing

I just did an email blast to 500 people who never received a marketing message from me...And I got 230 of them to open the email! I'm usually happy with somewhere between 4% and 10% so 40% blew me away. I wanted to let you know how I did it, because maybe you can do even better, who knows?

Anyway here's how I did it. I tested my email subject lines. I divided a large list of 1,500 people into three smaller lists of 500 people each. Then I crafted an email to send to each group of 500. The email itself was the same for everyone, but each group also got a different subject line so I could test which one worked best.

The subject-line variables I tested were:

1. Personalization;
2. Camp name; and
3. Urgency (with a deadline)

For Personalization, I put the recipient's name in the subject line like this:

"Eric, save 10% off Aloha Beach Camp wetsuits today"

For the camp name, I used this subject line:

"Save 10% off Aloha Beach Camp wetsuits"

And I created urgency by putting a deadline in the subject line this way:

"Today only: Save 10% off Aloha Beach Camp wetsuits"

Now remember, the email content and offer (save 10% on wetsuits) were the same for all three groups. But while the first two lists of 500 people only got 2.2% and 3.1% open-rates, the third one -- where I told people they had to buy the wetsuits today or they couldn't save 10% -- got a whopping 40% open rate!

Now keep this in mind: What we're testing here is email OPEN RATES, not response or click-through rates. Open-rates means how many people actually opened the email. Response or click through rates, in this case, means how many people actually clicked through to view the wetsuits, requested more information and/or actually bought a wetsuit. The email with the highest open rate isn't always the one that will get you the most sales... but that's a post for another day.

Lesson learned: If you don't test, you're just guessing. If I'd been content just personalizing the subject line, or putting our camp name in it without testing, I'd never know an unbelievable 40% open-rate was available to me. So, for next time, here's what I'll do.

I'll email the entire list of 1,500 people the "Today Only" email, knowing if I get less than a 40% open-rate I did something wrong. Or maybe I'll test that "Today Only" subject line against a new one, just to see if I can do better.

The reason why testing is so important is because you can find out what works for your group of prospects and get the most bang for your marketing buck. Then once you've refined your system, you can expect fantastic email open-rates all the time.

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