Some Thoughts On How to Get Better Email Open Rates | Travel Research Online


Some Thoughts On How to Get Better Email Open Rates

Do you sometimes get frustrated when you spend hours crafting the perfect email broadcast and after it is sent you see a dismal open rate, and an even more dismal click-through rate?  I am subscribed to a gazillion (no exaggeration there) email lists and I decided to look and find out what it was that made me open and click.  Here are some of my thoughts.


The first thing I noticed was that I open more emails if they say “John, here’s a special report for you!” Absent my name, there’s a good chance I will hit delete unless the subject line is compelling enough (more on that later). All the major email broadcast companies have a personalization tool. Use it.  Of course, you need a first or last name and often it is identifiable in the email address itself. It may take some time to clean up your list, but it will be worth it! You should be able to segment your list into those with names and those without.


I get bored.  I used to be a consultant for TRAMS way back when, and Lee Rosen was famous for not reading an email much beyond the subject line and first sentence or two. We needed to get to the point quickly. The same goes for your emails. If you want your reader to do something, give them ample opportunity. I may be in the market for a cruise; don’t make me scroll to the bottom to find the “check out our group cruises” button. Duplicate that button and make sure it is up at the top.


Again, all providers can do A/B testing. This is the only way you are going to find out what resonates with your audience. Are they inclined to open an email with the subject “John, here’s my weekly email on travel.” Or are they more inclined to open “OMG John, you are not going to believe what my clients did on their last cruise!” With A/B testing you will see that. It is included at no extra cost. Use it.


I am not here to define “crappy”…I guess it is in the eye of the beholder. But, let me tell you that the highest-paid non-management employees at tabloids are the headline writers. Why? Because they compel people to buy the magazine. Really focus on subject lines because they are that important. They are the first peek into what is inside and if it is boring or not relevant, then it is likely deleted. I like to develop the theme (for lack of a better word) for the subject and then develop two or three subject lines and do A/B testing with them. And yes, you can do A/B/C testing. Beyond that, it gets a bit diluted. Also, keep in mind that many email clients (the programs that you use to read the email) will display the first bit of your email. Remember Lee Rosen? Get to the point here and make the recipient want to open it and read the rest. Leave the idle chit-chat for a PS.


For years people ask when the best day and time is to send an email. The simple answer is when it will be opened and read.  But that is not helpful. If I am busy, I don’t have time for your drivel. According to my email provider, the best open rates come between 10 am and 11 am, 1 pm and 2 pm, and 5 pm and 6 pm.  I asked some friends, and we all concur on the first two. In the morning, we have already handled any overnight emergency issues, planned out the day, started in on the second cup of coffee, and now are ready to tackle the inbox.  After lunch is similar. Hopefully, the day is under control, you are satisfied from lunch, and looking for a fresh re-start for the afternoon.  We all agreed that 5 pm to 6 pm was horrible. But hey,  it may work for you. Again, this is a perfect opportunity to do an A/B test on your list to see if your clients are more apt to open at a specific hour.  As to specific days of the week—there was no consensus among my friends!

Email marketing isn’t as hard as you think. The tools are there to enable you to learn your clients’ behavior. Use them and adapt your processes to fine-tune your broadcasts. My first suggestion is to spend time cleaning up the database so you can do more personalization. Secondly, I’d delve into the A/B testing feature of the program to understand it. And finally, work on the headlines. Currently, the top tips are to keep it under 50 characters, use some alliteration if possible (Select Sailings anyone?), and for crying out loud avoid ALL CAPS at all costs.

Thoughts?  Leave a comment!

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