Pitfalls to Getting Your Email Opened

Whether you’re a channel manager or marketer, it’s important that your email messages get opened and read. Running your channel effectively and filling your lead pipeline often depends on it. Yet I think there are many cases where companies shoot themselves in the foot. Getting people to open your email isn’t so much an art as it is avoiding common pitfalls. Below are some of the common pitfalls you should avoid. Knowing them will help you increase open rates and get people to engage with your company in the way you desire. Note that this post doesn’t deal with infrastructure required to get email delivered and opened. That is a topic for another day.

Pitfall #1: Oversaturating Your Database

Sending too much email is an easy thing to do. Between newsletters, alerts, and promotions, you can “burn” your list very easily. If you don’t already have a single person or committee overseeing email priorities and frequencies, it’s time you do. With most email service or demand generation providers, you’ll be able to see how many people are opting out of future communication and who they are. Anything approaching the 5% range on a single email campaign should send up red flags. You’re sending email too often. On the flipside, a .1 to .5% opt-out rate may indicate you’re not sending enough email. Check the type of people that are opting out as well. Are they your ideal target or important contacts you shouldn’t be losing? If your open rates are plummeting, it’s likely another sign that you’re sending too much.

Pitfall #2: Using Lame Subject Lines

Subject lines are your primary hook for getting partners, prospects and customers to open your email. Put some time and effort into them. They should be succinct and stand out without being cheesy (i.e. looking like spam). 35 characters or less is a good target for length. You want immediate understanding of what the benefit is of opening your email. If someone can’t see the whole subject line because it’s cut off in their email client, you can’t accomplish this. Focus on your relationship with them, on something they would want to know or on an emotions-based need. If you haven’t done the research to know what these things are, it’s time to start.

Pitfall #3: Betraying Trust

When someone gives you their email address, there is generally a certain amount of trust that goes along with it. The unwritten expectation is that you will deliver content that is of interest. News Flash!—no one cares you opened a new office location, so stop sending this kind of content.

Pitfall #4: Failing to Target

Many channel managers and marketers fail because they don’t segment their database and produce targeted communication. Marketing and IT buyers are very different, as are C-Suite and middle manager audiences. You can’t send the same message to all of them and expect it to resonate. Many companies also send the same message multiple times. Both of these mistakes contribute to lower open rates and more unsubscribes. 

Pitfall #5: Failing to Educate 

You need to train people how to interact with your email and let them know it’s coming. Asking people to add you to their safe sender list or address book is the single best thing you can do for deliverability. In turn, it will also help you get in front of more people and give you the chance to have your message opened. You should also be using live events to help increase email open rates. Whether these events are webinars or things like user and partner conferences, make people aware of the email they will receive and what the value is. These little education and awareness opportunities go a long way in getting more people engaged with your email.

Pitfall #6: Delivering the Same Old Thing

If you consistently try to squeeze dollars out of your database through promotional email campaigns, your open rates will inevitably end up in the toilet. This applies specifically to B2B marketers and channel managers. The same is true if you don’t switch things up like your newsletter content or don’t have professional looking communication. The idea is you want to provide consistent and readily apparent value in your communication. That value might start with an educational webinar, industry quick guide or white paper, or industry news and events. What I’m really talking about here is content marketing. By becoming a trusted source for information, not promotional spam, you encourage higher open rates and recognition of both your expertise and point of view.

Pitfall #7: Not Leveraging the Power of Social Media

Most demand generation systems now offer at least rudimentary social media integration. If not, program the integration with social media sites manually. If your message is of value to your market, teaches them something or shows them how they can improve their business, many of them will post your message to social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn. My daughter recently got a promotional email from a major clothing chain that she and a friend frequent. The first thing my daughter did was share it on her Facebook page. Enabling the sharing of your email is a great way to expand campaign reach and opens. (Download our “Using Social Media in Demand Generation” webinar for more information on this point.)

What pitfalls have you fallen into with your email? What have you experienced by avoiding them?

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