E-Mail is often taken for granted these days, with the result being that many of us fail to realize its true potential. Everybody knows that e-mail is essentially free and immediate, as opposed to a letter which currently costs 49 cents to mail and may take days to deliver. E-mail always arrives at the right time because it is the recipient’s prerogative to determine when it will be opened or read. Unlike a phone call, the timing of which may be inopportune at the other end, the recipient alone determines when – and if – it is going to be read.
With a phone call, you know when you have reached the person you are calling, even though Caller ID may allow them to avoid your call, and – in extreme instances – call blocking may prevent a call from your number from even getting through. Then, of course, we have all experienced the unpleasantly rude experience of having somebody hang up on us.
With conventional mail, nobody discards an unopened birthday card, bank statement, or tax bill. These are immediately identified as either friendly or important communications. The decision whether or not to open a conventional piece of mail is typically made within 3-5 seconds. For e-mail to be opened with any reasonable frequency, it is necessary for it to convey that same type of urgency. The rates with which conventional e-mail is opened and read are difficult to measure, but it is safe to assume that they are remarkably low. The longer we have been online and the more e-mail that we receive, the more selective we become about what we will take the time to read. In my own instance, with excellent filters removing spam from the equation, I would estimate that I delete 90-95% of my incoming e-mail before it is read.
There are third-party services which will allow a degree of tracking of conventional e-mail messages. Some of these services are free, others paid, and they can tell you when somebody has opened your message, how long they spent reading the message, where they were located, whether or not they forwarded the message, and much more. These services generally work by embedding an invisible graphic file into your message, monitoring when that graphic has been downloaded. Unfortunately, if the recipient’s e-mail client or mobile device is not set to display graphics, that invisible graphic will not be downloaded and tracked. If you would like to look into this type of tracking, some of the services that you will find online include WhoReadMe, GetNotify, ContactMonkey, and BananaTag.
Conventional E-Mail Tips
Whether or not you use an e-mail tacking service, to increase your open and read rates, follow a few basic tips:
- Clearly identify yourself. In your e-mail settings, be sure that either your full personal name or business name is entered. I am amazed at how many e-mails I receive from senders named “office” or “info”. If you enter nothing in this setting, most e-mail clients will by default simply show your e-mail address. Having your recipients clearly recognize you will increase the likelihood of your e-mail getting read, and it will also tremendously help them to search for one of your messages to reference in the future.
- Write a subject line that asks to be opened. Ideally, it will start with your company name, both for name recognition and ease of sorting. Make it compelling and specific. I have an amazing number of e-mails in my inbox with the subject lines reading “hi”, “hello”, and “question”. Worse yet are the e-mails that are send with NO subject line whatsoever. Some people use special characters (also known as glyphs) to draw attention to their subject lined, converted to more graphical emoji on some devices. These might include symbols such as arrows ►, musical notes ♫, and hearts ♥ – not all of which are appropriate for most businesses. I believe that, in most instances, symbols such as these get an e-mail subject line noticed but have no impact whatsoever on read and open rates. In addition, they might flag a message as spam. Use a subject line that the recipient will identify as something of interest.
- Do not request read receipts. Except in specific instances, read receipts are perceived as an annoyance by recipients, and a recipient can choose whether or not to confirm receipt of your message. This last factor renders read receipts pretty pointless. I find that some people have their e-mail client configured to request a read receipt for every message sent. They are often the same people who send messages without a subject line!
When and Why to Use E-Mail Marketing
If you are thinking about sending a message to multiple recipients using an e-mail client’s ‘cc’ (carbon copy) or ‘bcc’ (blind carbon copy) features, do not do it! This practice is impersonal, can flag you as a spammer, and (using the ‘cc’ feature) discloses the e-mail addresses and violates the privacy of every recipient. To avoid these issues, use an e-mail marketing service such as Constant Contact, iContact, Vertical Response, MailChimp, or Campaigner. These services are all reasonably priced, have higher deliverability rates than conventional e-mail, and provide templates that make it easy for your messages to stand out. More importantly, they provide a wealth of tracking data which goes far beyond simply who has opened your e-mail.
When mailing using an e-mail marketing service, you know exactly which recipients open your e-mail, when they open it, what links they click, if they forward it, if they unsubscribe, if their address is undeliverable, and if anybody reports your e-mail as spam. Let’s say that you run a campground and your newsletter includes articles on seasonal site availabilities, a special event that you have scheduled, and a limited-time discount – each including a link for more information. By checking the click-thrus for any of these article links, you have identified key prospects that are likely to be more than receptive to a follow-up phone call … if they have not contacted your first!
The most ineffective e-mail is the one that is not read. Make your e-mail work smarter, and your business will truly benefit!
This post was written by Peter Pelland