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How to Increase Email Response Rates

Updated on October 16, 2012

Is Email marketing as a whole declining? Or are you doing something horribly wrong? In this article I will endeavor to answer both questions as concisely as possible, with the aid of current marketing trends, hard facts and a sprinkling of personal experience. I will also cover what I consider to be the most important, and often undervalued tips for succeeding where others have failed.

First impressions count!
First impressions count! | Source

First Impressions

Many modern email campaigns try desperately to make up for a dip in responses by relying on an increase in the volume of emails sent, not by re-evaluating their strategy. The fact that you are reading this article implies you are probably not part of this group, and yet sadly, still pay the price incurred by mass marketers.

The rise in low-quality, poorly structured emails have ushered in a new area of mail blindness, which has resulted in a 30% two-year decline in opened emails (2010-2012)! According to a study by Pitney Bowes only 24% of emails are actually opened, and the vast majority of those are emails from personal acquaintances. In short, a successful email campaign will need to look, smell and taste entirely differently than the usual spam users deal with on a daily basis.

1. Dress For Success

Before we even begin to look at the content itself, it is imperative to make your campaign reader-worthy. In short, you must stand out in order to gain long-term customer loyalty. Here are a few deal-breakers to make sure to adhere to:

  • Provide a catchy subject line - You generally only have one shot at getting a response. No matter how good, or bad, your product or service is, if you don't get a reader's attention first, it's all for nothing. Good subject lines are interactive, short and transparent. Writing compelling subject lines is an art, for the curious, Bloomberg has an excellent pictorial article on improving your subject-line effectiveness.
  • Provide an informative authority signature - People like to know that communication is potentially two-way, and that they are dealing with someone trust-worthy. Do provide contact details, do concisely explain who you are or represent and do make it sound good (without misrepresentation).
  • Provide a clearly achievable opt-out - According to the same aforementioned study, the most infuriating feature in mass email marketing is the conspicuous absence of an opt-out. While it may be an innocent mistake by those who are not well versed in the finer points of the CAN-SPAM act, it can lead to your entire business being blacklisted.
  • Less is more - Most people will briefly scan an email and not read it over thoroughly. Ideally then, your message should be direct, succinct and easy on the eyes. A potential client confronted with an endless wall of text is likely to spam-can it without hesitation.

Personalize your email messages around what you know about your audience.
Personalize your email messages around what you know about your audience. | Source

2. Provide Value

Bonding in online marketing is no different from traditional offline relationship-building. While being masterful in the above section can get you initial interest, it will not land you clients. To increase your email response rates you will have to be proficient in both.

  • Keep it simple - Keep your message brief, concise and positive. Two or three paragraphs is usually enough to entice and inform.
  • Know your audience - If someone opens your second email a second time, it means that they found the first to be of value. The task of catering to someone's specific needs becomes immensely easier once you know -- in the main -- who you audience is. Use popular traffic tools such as Google Analytics and analyze your email driven visitors. The same goes with sales. You may be surprised!
  • Don't cloak your links - This is debatable but I happen to feeling strongly about keeping your links, including affiliate links transparent. Many people like to think that they are camouflaging their affiliate links by using URL shorteners. Guess what? You're not fooling anyone. The same people who web savvy enough to avoid affiliate links are unlikely to click on a URL that has no clear landing page. Focus instead in making your intentions clear and transparent, thereby creating trust.
  • Use simple text emails - While an image and html intensive email can look pretty and professional bear in mind that many providers will automatically censor incoming emails to pure text. Ask around, most people will tell you that text based emails are easier to digest and are known to improve response rates.
  • Don't always try and sell - If you are running a newsletter or mailing list, it is advisable to not abuse your access by treating your customers like livestock. Instead, make them feel special by providing them with something back gratuitously. Intersperse your offers wisely and unevenly for the best results.

3. Trim Your List And Adapt Your Message

Increasing your response rates is not a static affair. Most articles and practices involve blindly expanding your recipient list and relying on volume. While it is nice to have access to a plethora of potential clients, it is far more valuable to have a trimmed, up-to-date list of targeted visitors. The key to very high response rates is knowing who you are marketing too. The more you know, the more you'll sell.

Experimentation is also important. Once you begin to see a trend in the type of visitors you entice (a particular age group, sex or nationality, for instance) try adapting your message specifically to that demographic. If you are seeing improvements in response rates, continue to divide and conquer by making the message ever more targeted and personalized. I have often been surprised by who my audience ends up being, had I relied on broad, open-ended messages I would never have been able to appeal to those who were truly interested in my email due to how quickly volume marketing is able to drown out the competition. If your message is generic, you will look like spam -- and be promptly discarded.


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    • Mynde profile image

      Mynde 5 years ago from Lithuania

      Very interesting article. Also, I would like to add one very important thing. You should always keep a sensible time interval between sending emails because if you send emails every day the recipient will get bored and will never read your letters again. You should send no more than once a week, or even better once in two weeks.

    • thooghun profile image

      James D. Preston 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Thank you for your feedback KB!

    • KBEvolve profile image

      Kenneth Brown 5 years ago from United States

      I'm really glad that I stumbled onto this article because I'm just starting to build a email list for my blog. These tips will definitely help.