Email marketing is not dead. 

In fact, if you do it right then it’s still one of the MOST effective ways to boost your conversions and increase your sales. 

But inboxes are busy. People are overwhelmed. 

So how do you write emails that get opened? 

If you’re looking for a quick, step by step “How To” then I’m afraid you’re in the wrong place. 

There’s no shortage of blog posts out there giving you the bare basics. But the bare basics will only get you so far…

What I want to do in this blog post is to dig a little deeper and help you to understand exactly what makes the difference between emails that get opened and emails that get ignored…

So let’s start at the beginning… 

What Kind Of Open Rate Should You Expect? 

If you’re expecting every single person on your list to open your emails then you’re going to be disappointed. 

100% open rate is never going to happen. 

In fact, when I speak to people who are new to email marketing, they’re usually miles off the mark when it comes to what to expect. 

So what do you think a good open rate is? 




And the answer is…drumroll, please…

It depends. 

Now, I know I answer a LOT of questions in my blog posts with “it depends” but that’s because it’s the truth. 

There are SO many variables in marketing that it is impossible to give a “one size fits all” answer. 

But we can look at averages to get some general guidelines. 

The first thing to consider is your industry. The open rates on email campaigns can vary tremendously depending on the industry in which you’re operating. 

Take food and beverages as an example; in this industry 13% is the average open rate. However, for non-profit organisations, the average open rate is 25% – that’s a pretty big difference. 

So first of all, you need to know YOUR industry average. 

For me, in the marketing industry, the average open rate is around 17% – which makes my personal average of 36.8% pretty damned awesome if I say so myself! 

Excuse my humble brag… or not so humble I suppose… 

If you don’t know your industry average then I’ve included the most common below – or if you can’t see yours here then check out this blog post by Mailchimp here – It has them all there in a super-easy-to-read table…

The Quality Of Your List Matters 

The next factor that will influence your open rate is the quality of your list. 

Where did your list come from? How did they sign up? When did they sign up? How often do you keep in touch with them? 

A warm, nurtured list of people who chose to be added to your list because they want to hear from you, will be far more engaged than a cold, neglected list of email addresses that you bought from a broker. 

Look at it like this, if you gave your phone number to a guy in a bar then you’d be much more likely to reply to his messages than if he randomly found you on Facebook. 

I’m not saying cold data doesn’t have a place in email marketing – sometimes it does. 

But a list of prospects that you built from scratch and gently nurtured every week will have a much higher open rate. 

So in order of engagedness, here’s what you should expect – from most likely to open to least likely to open…

  1. Your Own Hot List – Built through opt-ins and subscription forms. 
  2. Your Own Warm List – People who have interacted with you but not asked to be added to your list (think previous purchasers or enquiries). 
  3. Your Own Neglected List – Built in one of the ways above, but then left to go cold. 
  4. A Warm Purchased List – That’s been cleaned, nurtured and regularly communicated with. 
  5. Your Own Cold List – Built through scraping your Facebook contacts or LinkedIn farming. 
  6. A Cold Purchased List – That is totally cold and has never heard from you before. 

It’s likely that your mailing list is a bit of a mix. That’s ok. Just remember that the quality of your list will affect your open rate, and to adjust your expectations accordingly.

The Quality & Integrity of Your Content 

The final piece in this puzzle is your content. If you’ve been sending out boring, salesy or misleading emails – or even just bland, monthly “corporate newsletter” style emails – then you’re going to have to do a little damage control. 

Your prospects are busy. 

I don’t care if they’re top-level CEOs, stay at home mums or gamers, they all value their time and if they’re going to give some of it to you and your emails, then you’d better make it worth it! 

If you’ve sent out poor quality emails in the past – and they feel like they’ve wasted their time opening – then you’re going to see a reduction in your open rates

There are several ways you can ruin the integrity of your content: 

  • Overselling – If your emails are nothing more than a sales pitch then people will soon lose interest in what you have to say. 
  • Misleading Subject Lines – If your subject line promises something, be sure you deliver on that promise in your email. If they feel cheated, lied to or like you underdelivered then they’ll be much less likely to open again. 
  • Yawn! Boring… – If your content is dry, dull or lacks value then they won’t deem you worth their precious time. 

So How DO You Write Emails That Get Opened? 

As you can see, there’s a bit more to it than just “writing an email” but when you know what you’re doing you can get some pretty awesome results. 

So what can you do to increase your open rate and encourage your list to keep opening? 

Write Really Good Subject Lines 

Keep them short, snappy and intriguing. They need to capture your prospect’s  attention, stand out in their busy inbox and make them want to know more. 

Be Consistent 

Email lists can go cold fast. If you don’t keep in touch with them regularly then they’ll soon forget who you are and your open rate will dip. Frequency will depend on your industry, but as a general rule fortnightly is good – weekly is better. 

Give Massive Value 

Make it worth their while. If they DO open your email and read what you have to say then it needs to give them something in return for their time. This could be valuable information, ideas or inspiration. Or it could be stories, lessons and entertainment. 

Have Integrity 

Don’t use spammy subject lines that don’t tie in with your email content. They don’t have to be super specific, but they do have to have some bearing on what’s inside. 

Be Interesting

Boring content doesn’t help anyone. Now, I know some industries are just dull – believe me, I’ve written for some of them! However, even the most boring topic can be made interesting if you take the right angle on it. 

If you want to learn more about being NOT boring then check out my blog post on it here – it’s aimed at blogging but the same rules apply to emails too. 

Clean Your List 

If your open rate sucks then it could be time to give your list a little spring clean. The higher your open rate, the higher your email deliverability will be (if you don’t know what that means take a read here). Sometimes, if you’ve got a really unresponsive list it can be better to delete the dead weight and rebuild the list with engaged contacts to boost your deliverability. 

Want Some Examples? 

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