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More than words: five easy ways to boost email open rates

By Winn Maddrey on June 11, 2019

Let’s say your email marketing strategy is spot-on. Your data—after significant effort and maintenance—is top-notch. Your offer? Brilliant. Your message? Perfected. Your call-to-action? Compelling.


You know exactly the best time to hit "send." But then, you watch. It's agonizing. You can see the “opens,” but they’re trickling in slowly and nowhere near the rate you’d hoped. Here are five quick ways to use your subject line to boost results and maximize your marketing efforts.


1. Treat Your Subject Line With Respect:

The subject line is the single most important line of your email. It has one mission — to get your email opened — but if that mission isn’t accomplished, your considerable marketing efforts go by the wayside. You may be offering gold bullion or free trips to the moon. But if your email isn’t opened, no one will ever know. Don’t dash off “something” or tell your reader what you want them to understand, as opposed to what they are interested in understanding. Let your subject line do its job.


2. Name Drop:

Got data? Use it. A recent study found that 98% of emails do not use personalized subject lines. However, the same study found that a personalized subject line can increase open rates by 50%, leading to 58% higher click-to-open rates. Practically all email marketing software (including the one provided by HubSpot*) allows for this simple task, which, according to The Financial Brand is being incorporated by Fortune 500 companies like Bank of America. Still not convinced? That brings us to Point 3.


3. ABT — Always Be Testing:

At TKXS, for our clients as well as our own marketing efforts, we routinely write and test subject lines—sometimes even to our own employees. We test between personalized and traditional. We test different approaches or hooks. Provided the list size allows (and is sufficient for testing validation), we’ll “test” the subject lines to the first 10% of the email. The “winning” subject line is then applied to the remaining 90%.


4. A Picture’s Worth ...:

Speaking of things to test, how about emojis? The Financial Brand reports that Capital One is just one of the major corporations that’s been trying out this technique for bringing subject lines to life. The key, of course, is making thoughtful choices. For example, when TKXS helps promote the Texas Hold’em fundraisers hosted by All-In to Fight Cancer, we help their subject lines stand out a card suite emoji: For an ag client, a seedling (🌱) might be an attention-getter. 


5. Never Say “Never”:

So your email didn’t garner the opens you wanted? Don’t give up. Do it again — changing nothing but the subject line—to your non-opens. Maybe the first time, your recipient was traveling, or on vacation, or just having a bad, busy day. Maybe that first subject line didn’t resonate. With minimal cost or effort, you can schedule an automatic “resend” — say 24 hours or even a week later. You might only pick up another 4% or 5%, but that’s another 4% or 5% you didn’t have before, and maybe the one hot lead that you were pursuing all along.


6. Bonus Tip:

Although not technically a “subject line,” your email’s preview text serves a similar function. Unless you specify otherwise, it is a snippet of copy pulled directly from your email. However, your email marketing software likely allows you to customize it, giving you yet another great opportunity to maximize your open rate.


Opportunity is in the details. By giving your email subject line as much attention as other campaign elements, you’re setting your brand and your business up for success.


* TKXS is a HubSpot Certified Agency Partner at the Gold level.


Read more: Email Marketing: The Good, The Bad, and The Effective.
Read more: All Hail The List

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