Tara Hall

design. write.

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Jun 01, 2016

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What keeps you from opening an email?

At the start of every work day, I go through my inbox, deleting read, unread, and unopened emails. Most of those that I delete are commercial emails from retail stores. But occasionally, I delete an email solely because I don’t think I’m the intended audience.

There are thousands of articles on the web about email marketing and best practices for improving email open rates. But despite the advice, there are instances in which recipients don’t want to read your email.

Here are three issues that I’ve found with recent emails and some ideas how to address those issues to possibly improve your open rates.

Issue #1: There’s a location in the subject line, but its no where near me

Any time I receive an email that contains a specific location in the subject line—and if that location isn’t within a reasonable distance of me—I delete the email.

Just recently, I received an email about a conference in Barcelona. Although I am a newsletter subscriber of the site that sent the email, I’m about a seven hour flight from Barcelona. Unfortunately for me, a conference in Spain isn’t in my freelancer budget.

Right away, I deleted the email even though there may have been other content—not conference-related—relevant to me. It was a Tuesday, and this business always sends its weekly newsletter on Tuesday. What I deleted was likely their weekly newsletter.

Maybe for this business, there are enough international subscribers willing to travel to Barcelona to attend their conference. In which case, the subject line containing the conference location makes sense.

However, for many of us who subscribe to numerous newsletters and other email lists, we have to have some criteria to help us weed through the dozens and dozens of emails received each day. For me, location is one of those criteria.

If I am representative of other readers of the newsletter, then there are a few things that the business could do differently. For starters, they could send a separate email about their conference so that readers like myself don’t delete their weekly newsletter.

Another option is to omit the location in the subject line. If the location of the conference is left unknown, then anyone interested in learning more will probably open the email to find out.

A third option is for the business to segment its email list. Because this business hosts the same conference in the US as it does in Europe, they could create at least two email segments:

While there’s no harm in mentioning each conference to both email segments, targeting each email to a geo-specific audience may produce better results.

Issue #2: Recycling the same subject line with nothing new added

Have you noticed that event emails often reuse the same subject line or some variation of the same subject line? What’s confusing about this practice is that it doesn’t always indicate to the recipient if new content is included in the email.

This happened recently with a webinar that I registered for. I received no fewer than six emails about the webinar, five of which arrived in my inbox on the day of the webinar. The email subject lines went something along these lines:

On the day of the webinar, I opened only the last email sent. Because the first four emails shared a similar subject line to an email that I had received the previous day, I deleted each of them. If the subject lines were basically the same, then I expected the same content was also being sent to me.

Maybe each of the emails contained new information, but there was no indication of that in the subject lines—except for the last email which told me where to find a replay and bonus material.

If you reuse the same subject line over and over with no new information added, then your emails may appear at best repetitive and at worst as spam to your audience.

While not every subject line has to be unique, varying your subject lines gives your recipients reason to open your emails. Here are subject lines from recent emails that I received for an online workshop:

If I skim my inbox, then I can quickly find emails related to the online workshop, but I also know that each of the emails contains different, important information.

Issue #3: Changing sender names

For a while, I subscribed to a newsletter that used the company name as the sender—a common practice that makes it easy to identify emails.

But earlier this year, the company rebranded, changing its name to something that they felt better suited their creative audience that had grown beyond the original niche audience that they served.

The first newsletter sent after the rebranding didn’t use the new company name as the sender. Instead, it used the first and last name of the company founder. Unfortunately, I wasn’t familiar with the founder’s name, so when it first appeared in my inbox, I deleted it.

When I continued receiving regular emails from this sender, I realized that it was a newsletter that I subscribed to.

Rebranding can create tough transitions especially when the prior company name is well established. When it comes to changing the email sender name, a company can risk:

To prevent this from happening, the company could have made clear the change that was coming to its subscribers with plenty of advanced notice. In this company’s case, I recall receiving one or two emails that a name change was going to happen, though the new name wasn’t revealed.

Then, when the rebranding occurred, I received another email that the name had changed. It seems after that, the previous name was no longer used.

While it’s understandable that a company that rebrands may want to stop using the previous name as soon as possible, companies need to remember that their audience needs time to adjust to the new name.

If your business is rebranding and you want to use a different sender name on your emails, here are a couple of ideas to make the transition easier for you and your audience:

Open rates: a reality

It may surprise you to know that the average open rates for B2B emails and B2C emails is less than 40% in most industries.

While there are plenty of best practices to adopt if your business uses email marketing, you can also become more aware of how you manage your inbox. Your behavior may be representative of others, including your own target audience.

The next time you delete an email without opening it consider why you’re doing. If the reason is “it’s not for me,” there may be a lesson about what could be done differently.