June 22, 2018

Nine Secrets To Maximizing Email Open Rates


Recently a subscriber, Charles H. (name shortened to protect his privacy) emailed me. Charles asked me I would consider writing an article about improving email open rates. It took me about a nanosecond to agree.

As I was writing this article, I realized there was a lot of information I could share.


Rather than writing a whole series on email marketing or create a full-blown info-product, I’ve focused on giving you nine key points — secrets if you will — to maximizing email open rates.

Without further ado, let’s get to them…

Secret #1: Open rates are deceiving.

There’s only way measure email open rates and that’s using HTML email. That’s because HTML emails use a piece of code that alerts the mail server when it’s been opened and text emails do not.

But there are a few problems with that.

First, not everyone accepts HTML emails. They could be fearful of malware or other nasty things imbedded in an HTML email.  They prefer text emails instead. If they could read your email in text format then your mail server is never alerted even though they actually opened and read your email. (Are you seeing the big statistical reporting flaw yet?)

Second, just because someone opens your HTML email doesn’t mean they read it. They may have opened it long enough to find the delete button and wipe out your email.

So while open rates are nice, but getting your emails read and acted on the way you’re looking for is even better.

2. Subjects matter

At risk of sounding like I’m bragging, I’d like to think I’m pretty knowledgeable about a lot of subjects. (Bear with me; I do have a good point here.)

The thing is, a good number of those subjects would be of zero interest to you and the rest of my readers.

Sure, I can talk for hours on the nuances of the 3-4 defense and its impact on the NFL but the vast majority of you couldn’t care less and wouldn’t want to read it.  The remaining few would probably feel their eyes start glazing over in the matter of minutes.

The same is true for your readers.

When someone signs up at your website, it’s for a specific topic or niche. They’re not looking for non-relevant content being sent their way.

If you have other great non-relevant content, then set up one email in your autoresponder series. That’s it. Alert your subscribers as a one-time courtesy that you have a different series available for a different subject matter and give them a link to sign up for it if they want.

After that, stick to the subject matter your subscribers signed up for. The same subject matter that they’ll gladly open your emails to get more of.

3. Subject lines matter (even more)

Your subject line for your emails is important. REALLY important. To use a comparison, they’re as important as the headline on your salesletter.

So treat them as such and write them separately from your email.

Take a few minutes and brainstorm subject lines for your emails. That’s what I do as a separate writing session from email writing. I want to approach writing a great subject line for my email with a fresh mind and a lot of energy.

Split-test your subject lines. Run at least two subject lines with each email you send out. It’s easy to do with any of the major autoresponder services and you’ll have a much better idea what your list responds best to.

I’ve gotten really good results using curiosity-driven subject lines (“This is simply amazing…”) and question-driven (“Have you seen this?”) ones too.

Even so, sometimes I deliberately use a straight-forward vanilla subject line.


It may be trying to reactive an old list. It may be offering up 100% free content that I want to make sure my subscribers see and read.

Ironically, I typically get the same number of unsubscribe requests from a vanilla subject line as something more powerfully crafted. It’s just a subtle reminder that you’ll never make every subscriber happy.

4. Segment your list

If you’re not already familiar with the idea of segmenting your list that it’s time to step up your game. Quite simply you need to treat people who are paying you money better than the people who are not. It always surprises me when I get a marketers list and get the same emails they send to their non-paying prospects.

Someone who joins your list for free may have the potential of paying you money for a product or service at some point in the future but there’s no guarantee that they ever will.

Someone who has joined your list as a paid customer has already proven that they’re willing to pay you money for a product or service and there’s a good likelihood they’ll do it again if you treat them right.

Here’s a good example of treating them right.

Customers can get frustrated very quickly when they continue to get emails pitching a product that they already bought from you.

If you segment your list correctly, especially with any of the major autoresponder services like Aweber or Get Response, then it should automatically move your buyers off the non-buyers list so that they don’t get these types of emails. You can even set your email campaigns so that anyone who is on a customer list doesn’t get a promotional email for that product.

Make no mistake there is a bit of work for you to do this right. But that work can pay big dividends down the road.

Remember when I mentioned keeping your different subjects separate from each other? Well that’s easy to do if you segment your lists.

5. Tell them what’s coming

Okay here’s little trick of the trade that I sometimes use to help with subscriber attention.

Periodically I will mention in a subscriber email what the subject will be for the next upcoming email. If you tip off your subscribers that you have a great new article coming their way in the near future, then a good number of them will be on the lookout for your email.

The key is to keep your promise. If you tell them on Friday that they should look for your next email on Monday then you really need to follow through to deliver it on Monday or else you take a hit to your credibility with your subscribers.

6. Frequency matters

This is the one area where I’ll admit I sometimes fall down. Because I own multiple businesses, sometimes there is a lapse in how often I email a specific list of mine. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that there have been time lapses as long as a year between emails for some lists.

Obviously if you want to keep an email list responsive you need to keep in consistent contact with them and that’s more often than once a year.

Every niche is different on what subscribers want and expect for frequency. There are some niches where once a week is the most popular option. There are other niches where daily emails are the expectation.

So how do you know what’s the best option for your niche?

Simple. Ask your subscribers. The let you know by majority vote what they most want.

7. Friends don’t let friends pummel their list

One of the problems I’ve witnessed among online marketers is that they frequently engage in what I call copycat marketing. If they see one marketer doing something then they figure they should do the same thing too.

Of course, the vast majority of marketers don’t test and track the results to see what works best. One area where it’s blatantly obvious is email frequency.

Here’s a great example: I have gotten to the point where I almost never buy something from the Warrior Forum’s Special Offer section.

It’s not really a case of the product quality being bad. It’s often a case of these WSO product owners sending me a constant stream of product pitches — I’m talking 2-3 offers — every day!

All product pitches and zero content is a sure fire way to burn out a list and burn it out fast. Whatever short-term profits that could be gained by doing so are really a drop in the bucket, especially when you compared to what could be gained by taking a longer view of things.

8. The lifetime value of a prospect is iffy. The lifetime value of a customer is infinite.

At the end of the day, much of your marketing efforts will be controlled by the lifetime value of a customer. That’s how much money a client is going to spend with you during the entire time they are one of your valued customers.

A prospect could stay a prospect forever and never buy a single thing from you. A customer can buy from you and with the right amount of care and treatment from you… well, they can wind up buying everything you ever offer for many years to come.

In fact, the lifetime value of the customer can be practically infinite if you nurture and care for that customer properly. Their responsiveness to your marketing also climbs because you are a trusted and valued ally. Or as Dan Kennedy says so perfectly “A welcome guest, not an annoying pest.”

How much of a difference can it make?

When I was just starting out in 1993 as a massage therapist, I was pretty green in the industry in terms of hands-on skills. I had never taken a business class before at that point so it was probably accurate to say that I lacked business sense too.

In the early years, my clients would have one, maybe two appointments with me and then they were gone forever. The average value of a client for me in 1993 was $50. To give you an idea, I was charging $36 an hour at that time because the facility where I started my practice had a price control on what we could charge.

As I learned more about business and marketing and really started to focus on client retention, the lifetime value of a client started climbing for me.  By 1999, it had increased to about $3,000 per client on the average and continued to increase from there.  My email open rates for my massage therapy center averaged around 80% or about double what the “typical” open rates were at the time.

9. (Over) deliver content

Give people a reason to get excited.  Deliver great content for free. Create a consistent impression that if your free content is great then imagine how much better your paid content may be. And the cool thing is, they will buy your products to get access to your paid content too.

So what do you think? Post your comments below.

Until next time,




  1. It’s actually a great and useful piece of information. I’m
    glad that you just shared this helpful info with us.
    Please stay us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi Mike,

    This article is a keeper! Thanks for sharing your tips. Sure, some of the info I knew already, but it’s something I have to keep remembering and sticking on a regular basis. And some of the info was new and very interesting, for example that “exciting” and vanilla subject lines get about the same number of unsubscribes.

    I am also grappling with the WSO issue of getting swamped wtih emails from everyone I buy from, but haven’t taken the drastic action you have. And I hesitate to unsubscribe because I might miss important updates. Sigh. I’ll have to do something though. My main email address has become all but unusable for me, and worthless for anyone trying to sell me something through it.

    Love your 8th point, and would really like it if you would share some more specifics of what you did to grow your customer lifetime value this much!


    • One option is to set-up an email account just for your product purchases. I have a few friends who have gone that route and used a Gmail or Yahoo free account to do that.

      To date, most of the WSOs I’ve bought ($1-250 price range) haven’t had an update. The exceptions have been software-related and usually it’s because of some WordPress or code-related security issue that pops up.

      I can do an article on customer lifetime value… I’ve done full-blown info-products on the topic (non-IM niche that is) so I’m sure I can come up with something to share here.

      Thanks again,


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