In the first of a serious of articles on improving results from email marketing, Azam Marketing’s Director of eCRM Operations, who has been in the email marketing industry for a decade, offers advice on improving open rates.

One of the core measures to identify the success of an email marketing campaign is the open rate.

If your email is unopened then results will not be achieved and targets will remain unfulfilled, whether they are to create brand awareness, stimulate a conversation or simply sell a product.

The open rate is generally calculated by taking the total number of emails opened divided by the number of emails sent. The industry standard open rate is less than 20%, however B2B open rates tend to be close to 30% or higher.

There are many dynamics which may influence your open rate.

List Source
Rental lists tend to have lower open rates than house lists, however, inactive/old house lists may well yield a lower open rate.

Email format
Email Service Providers can only track open rates on html based email content. If an email is sent as plain text based or only a text version is requested, these will not be counted within your open rate calculation, regardless of whether the email was opened or not.

Email client
When an email is viewed in a preview pane such as Outlook Express 2007 this is actually counted as an open. The user does not actually need to click to enlarge the email. B2B email campaigns tend to have higher open rates as recipients are likely to use Outlook and similar email clients. Web-based email readers such as Google Mail and Hotmail required users to effectively click on the email from a list of messages within the inbox before the email can be opened.

Sender Alias
This is the recognition factor, motivating the user to open the email based on their familiarity of the sender. The ‘from’ field is of crucial importance as users are more likely to open an email if they recognise the sender. A useful tip is to customise your from field such as using an established brand name. Be careful when using female names in the from field, especially first names, as these can trigger spam filters, people often delete emails from unknown women quicker than any other email.

Subject Line
You should put a lot of thought into deciding your final subject line. It is usually the first thing a recipient reads when the email is delivered into the inbox, so its content is crucial. Spend time doing thorough subject line testing to determine which yields the greatest response. Avoid using ‘promotional’ words or phrases, such as “Special offer” or “Free”. These are likely to trigger spam filters. Ensure your subject line is not too long, thirty characters at most. Short and precise content is both easier to read and straight to the point.

The time an email campaign is broadcast live is an important consideration. If a campaign is deployed late at night it is likely that most recipients will not read the message until the following morning. The problem arises here where the user’s inbox will most probably be flooded with multiple emails sent over night, mainly spam, so there is much competition for hierarchy within the individual’s inbox. There is no ideal time set in stone to deliver an email; it depends on the customer base, the content and the offer. Some like to read emails on the weekend, others may prefer the early evening. Experimentation is the key here.

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All the aforementioned components together make a successful email campaign and can lead to significant increases in open rates.

Monitoring the open rate is necessary to ensure your activity is on track. Remember the open rate is an effective measure to the success of any email marketing campaign. The more time spent analysing, testing and configuring your email campaign down to the very minor details, the more significant chance you have of enhancing your open rate.

Our email marketing series will continue with advice on minimising unsubscribes, dealing with soft bounces, optimising email creative for mobile handsets and more. Subscribe to so you are informed when the next article in the series is published.

Looking to generate more revenues from your email marketing activities? Don’t hesitate to contact our friendly team on +44 (0) 870 870 2222 or results [at] to find out about our database management, eCRM and email marketing services.