June 12, 2019

How to Improve Your Association’s Email Open Rate

How to Improve Your Association’s Email Open Rate

Email is everything these days—the only practical way to communicate with your members. You can’t call them every time you have something important to share. Mail is too slow and expensive. You could text them but not everyone wants that. However, everyone has an email inbox.

In our last post, we shared advice for improving email engagement by developing an organization-wide email strategy that takes a members-first approach to email relevancy and frequency. If you’re sending members relevant emails at a frequency they prefer, then you’d think they’d open and read every single one, right? If only!

When everyone’s inbox is overflowing, what can you do to increase the likelihood that members will open your emails? You can start by implementing the advice below for improving your association’s email open rate.

Ensure Deliverability

First, you have get your email into the member’s inbox, and you can’t take that for granted. Mysterious algorithms are in charge here, just as they are on Google and Facebook. Email platforms, like Outlook and Gmail, use algorithms to decide whether your email gets into someone’s inbox. These algorithms track behavioral data related to your emails, for example, how often an email recipient deletes your emails without reading them and how often they reply to your emails.

Algorithms take these factors into account when determining where your emails end up:

  • How many of your emails are identified as spam.
  • How many are marked as “not spam” after ending up in a spam folder.
  • How many are marked as “read.”
  • How many are deleted before reading.
  • How many are replied to.
  • How many are forwarded.

Email engagement matters. The less your recipients engaged with your past emails, the less likely your future emails will make it into their inboxes. That’s why you don’t want to keep disengaged non-members on your email lists—advice we shared in our last post.

Avoid the Spam Folder

The sender reputation of your IP addresses and domains affects your deliverability rate too. Your sender reputation score is based on your email engagement rate—including email opens and clicks—along with your bounce rate and spam complaints. The lower your score, the more likely you’ll end up in the spam folder.

Unengaged recipients. Recipients who don’t open your emails have a negative impact on your sender reputation—and deliverability. Identify members in this group and contact them to find out what’s going on. It’s worth your time to try to re-engage them.

Reach out to the non-members in the “inactive” group with a targeted re-engagement campaign. If they don’t respond, delete them from your list. They’re not worth the damage they’re doing to your sender reputation and deliverability rate.

Unsubscribe. Busy people don’t always spend the extra few seconds it takes to figure out how to do the right thing. Instead of searching for the unsubscribe instructions in your email, many people just click “Spam.”

Don’t bury the instructions for unsubscribing in a paragraph of footer text. Make the unsubscribe link extremely obvious so they can see it at a glance. They should be able to unsubscribe in one or two clicks. Don’t make them log-in to do it.

Subscription options. Some people like daily emails, and some like weekly, biweekly, or monthly. People want a choice. On your unsubscribe page, give people the option of changing their email frequency. Maybe they rather receive a monthly email, that’s better than having them unsubscribe completely.

Let them see what other email options they have. They may want to unsubscribe from that particular type of communication and instead subscribe to a special interest newsletter or a monthly events listing.

Opt-ins. Send a confirmation email to ensure that the person who supposedly subscribed to one of your newsletters really wants it. Use a CAPTCHA to verify that the person subscribing is a real human and not a bot.

Email attachments. Just don’t. In the past, attachments have been associated with viruses and malware. Instead of sending a PDF attachment, include a link to a webpage where the reader can find the same information.

Rethink the Sender Name and “Reply to” Address

The name and email address in the From field is more important than you might think. According to Campaign Monitor, 68% of people base their decision to open an email on the sender’s name.

Use known and trustworthy sender names. Only use the name of a staff person or volunteer leader in the Sender field if you are positive that every recipient will recognize the name. Otherwise, they may delete your email without casting it another glance or, even worse, send it to the spam folder.

If you use the name of a department in the Sender field, make sure it’s a name everyone associates with your organization, even a new member who knows nothing about the association. Be careful with abbreviations. Would a new member know what the abbreviation stands for?

Don’t use a “do not reply” sender email address, for example, noreply@association.org. That’s like saying, “Talk to the hand.” Give members the one-step, easy option of clicking “Reply” if they want to ask or tell you something. Remember, replies are good for your sender reputation score so you don’t want to discourage them.

Improve Email Subject Lines

Email subject lines are an art and a science. Even professional email copywriters struggle with this craft, but here’s some advice from the experts.

Promise value. How will the recipient benefit from opening your email? What value does your email deliver? What will they learn or find out? Make sure your subject line answers the WIIFM question: What’s in it for me? You get bonus points for promising some type of exclusive value.

Don’t get too cute. Clever and witty subject lines are fun to write, but they don’t always translate into opens. They’re usually not specific enough to hint at what’s inside. State your value promise in plain yet compelling language.

Convey urgency. Will the recipient feel the need to read your email now? Emails that aren’t opened right away are often never opened.

Pique curiosity. Copywriters talk about the curiosity gap you want the recipient to cross. What don’t they know that they want to know? Use language that entices them to open your email right now. Sometimes a question will do the trick if it triggers an emotional reaction.

Keep it brief. On mobile devices, long subject lines can get truncated—and 53% of emails are opened on mobile devices.

If you put these tactics to work, the open rate for your emails is bound to improve. But opening emails is only part of the equation, you still want recipients to read and engage with your email—the topic of our next post. In the meantime, take a moment (one minute and 52 seconds, to be exact) to watch this video about how MemberSuite’s E-Marketing solution improves email deliverability and engagement.