When running a direct email marketing campaign, increasing open rates is directly tied to the effectiveness of the campaign and the number of leads it generates.

As such, you need to understand how to make yours stand out among a crowded inbox. But first, recognise that using email effectively is more of an art than a science, something that is continuously developed and improved as emails are crafted, tested for effectiveness and then tweaked accordingly.

Make it relevant

That being said, there are a few key points that you as a marketer can use to increase the likelihood of your email being seen.

The first is to ensure that you have a compelling subject line from the outset, whether read on a PC or, more likely, a mobile phone.

One way to attract viewers’ attention is by asking a good question, which could be either rhetorical or answered in the email content. This needs to be relevant to the needs of your target audience.  

For example, during times of extreme weather, the question could be: “How protected are you during a storm?” Another example of a powerful question during an economic downturn would be: “How good is your broker?” It should not, however, be along the lines of: “Is your insurance premium enough?”

Secondly, we have recently learnt the value of optimising an email to the variety of email viewing software available. The key is to ensure that the first few lines of the email are punchy and relevant as these show up along with the subject line. Some email systems also display graphics, so sometimes it is valuable to display a call-to-action on the top right.

Thirdly, personalisation is imperative. This goes beyond just knowing the person’s name and addressing it to them, but understanding a little bit more about them. For instance knowing that your target audience is a particular gender e.g. male, and sending an email for a campaign that would be of interest to men.

We see a number of companies making the mistake of sending out mass mailers for products that appeal to women, for e.g. make-up, and then also sending them on to men. These are simply a waste of effort and marketing budget. Understanding something unique about a person and being able target that will always win the day.

It may sound obvious, but still merits saying – any email marketing campaign must avoid looking like spam at all costs, which is a definite way of ensuring it will never be looked at, never mind opened.  

What are the gains?

As for the improvement that using these techniques can produce, it ranges anywhere from between 20% to 50% increase in open rates. If you are sending 100 000 emails, of which 50% are typically opened, even 10% improvement in open rates equates to an additional 5000 emails being opened. If your conversion rate is 10% (not a very good rate), producing 500 leads, that is still an additional 50 leads for your efforts.   

On the top end of the scale, using the same example of sending 100 000 emails, with half being opened, a 50% improvement in open rates translates into 25 000 emails being opened. Factoring by the same 10% conversion rate still delivers a healthy 250 additional leads for your efforts.

That in itself should be enough to justify taking the extra time and making the effort to craft emails that are more likely to be opened, rather than firing blindly.