We’re all swimming in a sea of email overload. Because of this, we’ve learned to filter. I, for example, like to go through all my emails right when I get into the office and immediately delete ones I don’t care to read, then go back in and read the ones that are more important to me. But how does a person perceive the value of an email? This is a question you should consistently be asking yourself as you create email content. Here are five things to keep in mind for improving your email open rates.

1. Q is for…

A few months ago, I was looking for some pants. I hadn’t had much luck finding what I wanted, but I saw a Kohl’s and decided to go in.

Alas, pants!

As I swiped my credit card the cashier asked for my email to send coupons and special offers. I figured maybe I’d need more pants down the road, so why not? Big mistake. Since then, Kohl’s has sent me at least one email a day — if not two — about everything from sports bras to men’s cologne. The problem with this approach is that I, as the consumer, am now disinterested because I don’t feel the emails are bringing me anything of value – that’s why quality, not quantity, should always be your number one goal. Too many emails over-saturates your market to the point where, even if you’re delivering valuable content, they may dismiss it out of annoyance.

It may take a while to establish trust with your email recipients, but your consistency will be well worth it. Email them only when you have something important to say or something valuable to deliver. If you’re ever in doubt, put yourself in your target’s shoes. Would you find this email worthwhile if you were them? If not, it’s time to rethink your email topic or audience.

2. More of these? LESS OF THESE!!!

Don’t use all caps in your subject lines. Just don’t. Ever. It makes your email look like spam, it’s harder to read, and it seems like you’re yelling. The same goes for exclamation points and special characters. Good writers know that exclamation points should always be used sparingly. If you throw them in willy-nilly your words will have less of an impact. Also, special characters can often be misinterpreted as spam, so why risk it?

Question marks, on the other hand, are a great asset for improving your open rate. A question naturally intrigues our human curiosity, and studies have shown that subject lines phrased as questions perform better than those phrased as statements.* Shoot for a 5-7 word subject line and make sure the content inside your email reflects it. *Mailchimp research

3. Keep Mobile in Mind

These days, 50% of emails are read on mobile devices*, and emails that display well on those devices have higher open rates. So, as you might imagine, making sure your email is optimized for mobile viewing is key. Be sensitive to how many graphics you use. Mobile devices require image downloading, and that may deter your audience from opening the email. You should also take into consideration that the view of a subject line on a mobile phone is shorter. To make the most of that limited space you need to use compelling language and keep your subject lines relatively short – 30 characters or less is ideal.** ** Adestra

4. Write it Right

Let’s say your valuable content and strong, succinct subject line got readers to open the email. Is the content inside interesting to them? Is it personalized? It’s not just about what you write but how you write it. Even if you have the best content, you still need to make it engaging for your audience to read. If you can include the recipient’s name in the email content, do it. Write the email with a tone that implies you’re speaking directly to them. Be clear, get to the point, and use images in place of text when appropriate. Don’t overdo it – if you have a lot of information to share, break it up into multiple emails or include a button with a link to more details. This will do two things: 1. your email will look cleaner and read better, and 2. your recipient won’t feel bombarded.

5. Time and Time Again

While WHAT you send is important, WHEN you send it is equally as influential. There’s a lot of research out there about the ideal time to send an email. Some say you should send your emails at night because people will have less clutter in their inboxes and it will stand out if they’re checking emails before bed. Others say to send your emails very early in the morning to get to your target before the influx of emails during work hours.

You can start by looking at general trends to test out some options, but the real proof is in your specific data. Take note of the time of day and day of the week that you’re seeing the greatest response. Play with these factors by breaking your email list in half and sending the same email message to each group at different times.

No matter which techniques you prefer, your perceived value is your most important tool for successful open rates. We’re a nation of filterers. We prioritize our time and attention with very specific intentions. No one wants to take time out of their day to read all 5,000 emails in their inbox, so as a marketer, you must prove why your email is worth the time, every time.

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