4 Ways to Improve Your Open Rates

By: Mark Athitakis

Quick tips for getting more eyeballs on your emails.

The term "open rates" tends to make marketing staffers anxious. If one associations email gets a 25 percent open rate and yours gets only 15 percent, are you doing something wrong?

Not necessarily, says Brett Meyer, communications director of NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network. Instead of worrying about somebody else's open rate, he says, pay attention to how yours fluctuates over time. "You may not know exactly how many people are opening your message, but you will know if the trend is going up or down," he says.

Here are four tips from Meyer for getting open rates to brag about:

1. Segment your messages. Email blasts to the entire membership are depersonalizing, if not downright annoying, when the message doesn't speak to a member's interests. If your next event or product covers a particular region or specialty, focus the email on groups in those areas. "When you give people information thats more applicable to what they're trying to do, they're much more likely to open up your emails," says Meyer.

2. Look for new segments. Member behavior changes over time, and your database can give you valuable information about those changes. If certain members are only opening emails relating to a particular topic, Meyer says, thats a sign you may have a new segment that merits attention.

3. Test different subject lines. Sending out the same email with two different subject lines can tell you which messages connect best with members. "Even if you're writing good content and your supporters like you, you still have to have a good subject line, or they're going to tend to ignore it," Meyer says. Don't get too clever, though: All caps and exclamation points tend to trigger spam filters, and short subject lines are always better.

4. Clean your lists. It's not cheating to remove somebody from your list who hasn't opened an email from you in the past five years. "It sounds like an artificial boost to your open rate, but there's no point in sending email to people who aren't going to listen to you and haven't over a long period of time," Meyer says.

Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis is a contributing editor to Associations Now.