Open Rate Enemies

Susan Su Presentation Notes
● Email is the highest ROI marketing channel there is, and you don’t have to pay to
● Once you have subscribers, they’re yours. Not Facebook or Twitter’s users.
● But email marketing doesn’t work if people don’t open your emails.
Enemy #1: Images
● Images might seem like they’re your friend, but they’re actually your enemy. (If
you’re in ecommerce and need to show your product, they’re your frenemy.)
● This is an email from Susan’s company. The image takes up the entire
above-the-fold real estate of the email.
○ When is it? Don’t know.
○ Does it cost money? Don’t know.
○ Do I need to sign up? Don’t know.
○ Don’t know how, where, why, or what it is.
● The image has obliterated all other elements that could be doing the real selling.
● What stands out in this email? The links.
● The main CTA appears not once but twice above the fold, and all of the
information is plainly visible.
The best marketing starts with explaining. If you’re not explaining, go back to the
drawing board.
● Next time you’re about to send an email, send a test to yourself as a plaintext
email. See if it looks and reads more or less similar to your HTML email.
● If it looks a world apart, you’ve got some work to do. It means the critical
information you need to convey is missing from your email.
Enemy #2: Email Size
● If your email is full of “blah blah blah”, and ends with “[Message Clipped] View
Entire Message” as your call to action, your email is too long.
● This can trigger the Promotions folder, or worse – spam.
● It’s also clipping your message, truncating your content including your call to
action. You don’t want to hide content that is doing selling for you.
● It’s also potentially impacting your open rate stats, since the tracking pixel can
be stripped from the email.
● If you must send a long email, include one instance of your CTA near the top of
the email.
Enemy #3: Unverified sender identity
● You need to verify your sender identity. In this example, the email is from
WakaWaka, but it’s signed by someone else. This signals to email providers that
this email might not be from who they say it is – or indicate that they’re a
● This email shows that the email is signed by the same person it’s from, so it
won’t be flagged as suspicious.
● Check your domain key status:
○ And your sender score:
● If you’ve been blacklisted, you can get yourself removed from the blacklist so
your email is more likely to make it through to its recipient without getting junked.
Susan’s seen companies reach up to 30% lift in open rates by getting removed from
email blacklists.
Enemy #4: Bad subject lines
● What is a bad subject line?
● Your June Hot Picks
● Something big is on the horizon
● Verify your subscription! Don’t miss out on the latest from CrunchBase
● Recap
● Bad subject lines:
1. Don’t say something meaningful
2. Trigger the promotions filter by using spammy language
3. Make you think “I don’t care about this”
● Everyone wants to know trick subject lines. While certain words can trigger
people to open your emails time and time again, the #1 thing to getting more
opens is not a single word.
● Good subject lines…
○ Disrupt patterns ; standing out from other emails in inbox. Once a trend in
subject line writing catches on, its efficacy is reduced over time.
○ Create curiousity, use humor, and leverage big brand names.
○ Are highly personal. They look like emails from our friends or our
co-workers. They can contain “Re:” or “Fwd:”, personalization flags that
make your emails stand out.
■ The preview text is your curtain.
Enemy #4: Stinky content
● The subject line isn’t your only tool nor only enemy. The #1 thing affecting your
future open rates is your content.
● The worst thing you can do in your email marketing is spam people. The
second-worst thing is sending emails that say nothing.
● This email is personal, text only, and it works. And it doesn’t have a single CTA,
because the CTA comes in the next email:
● Segmentation, a.k.a. sending good emails to the right people makes GREAT
● Segmentation happens at acquisition: know where they came from, their
demographic information, and what they’re interested in.
● There isn’t one single definition of a good email, but segmentation is the start.
● How to segment:
1. By acquisition channel,
2. By acquisition campaign, like a guest post or a paid campaign
3. By demographic or geography (check your analytics)
4. By the offer that brought them in
5. By the type of device (mobile vs desktop)
6. By time and other “laterals”
7. Ask them
Enemy #6: Dormant subscribers
● If your open rate is below 20%, delivery is below 99%, or your unsubscribe rate is
greater than 3%, you either have dormant subscribers or you’re about to
● 60% of your subscribers are dormant. Wake them up.
● Activation Formula:
● Day 0: Welcome (and activate now)
● Day 1: Fear-based activate now (what happens if you DON’T)
● Day 2: Benefits-based activate now (the promise)
● Day 4: Incentivized activate now
● Day 7: Get ready for the back burner
● Day 8+: Backburner
● Activation merely unlocks further activation. If they opened your email and
clicked through to interact with your product, it’s time to encourage the next level
of interaction, or a purchase.
● If they bought something, it’s time to encourage a repeat purchase or a
subscription. Activation never stops.
● The most important thing: open rate is a vanity metric. It’s merely a proxy for
getting conversions, which are what really matters.
● Get conversions:
1. Multiple links, same destination
2. No leaks (no links that lead anywhere but the conversion point)
3. Retarget unopened emails (try using fwd: or re: in the subject line)


I am a technologist with a strong background in software engineering. I have many interests. My current distractions are 70s-80s-90s music [it's a very eclectic collection], ontology, information architecture, mobile device technology, medical bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, and nanorobotics.

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