Email Marketing: Two Steps to Boosting Open and Click‑Through Rates

You’re sending emails, but your subscribers aren’t opening them. Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

According to MailChimp, the baseline open and click-through rates for “professional services” (home services companies) are 21.94% and 2.55%, respectively.

Want those numbers to go up?

We can show you the way.

The emails we create for clients often have open rates of 23–27% and click-through rates of 3–5%. Some CTRs get as high as 12%!

In this article, we’ll show you how to:

  1. Improve click-through rates by creating relevant, goal-driven content that educates (not sells).
  2. Improve open rates by writing subject lines using 3 key psychological principles.

Learn more about the email marketing services we offer on our content services page.

Step #1: Create relevant, goal-driven content that educates (not sells)

Your click-through rate depends on the value of your email content. The more valuable your audience finds your content, the higher your click-through rate will be.

When we do email marketing for clients, we follow this process:

  1. Determine a business goal. What you want your email marketing to achieve? Pick a clear goal that will be easy to measure. For example, most of our HVAC clients have goals like “increase AC tune-ups” or “get more heat pump installs”.
  2. Educate customers with content that ties to the goal (without being too salesy). How can you educate people about a topic to help you reach your goal?

Let’s take our example goal “increase AC tune-ups this summer”. The benefit of an AC tune-up is a healthy AC unit. You might write content to educate people on ways you can accidentally kill your AC or how regular maintenance prevents costly repairs. Once you explain the topic, you can create a call-to-action (CTA) to schedule a tune-up.

Note: If you are already following these steps and you're still struggling with your CTR, it may help to run A/B tests on your content to gauge what kind of information your audience finds most valuable.

Step #2: Write subject lines using 3 key psychological principles

Your email open rate depends heavily on your subject line, since that’s the first thing your audience sees. An eye-catching subject line can make the difference between your reader opening an email and skimming right passed it.

The best way to boost email open rates is to write subject lines using these three psychological principles:

  • Make the reader curious
  • Keep it short
  • Use loss aversion

Let’s go into how each principle plays off the way our minds work.

Tip #1: Make the reader curious

Curiosity stems from the information gap theory: A gap between what we know and what we want to know. This lack of knowledge creates a mental “itch” that causes us to seek out how we can scratch it.

If you can create mystery, or create this “itch”, with your subject lines, bingo! You’re on the road better open rates.

That being said, don’t get overly creative with subject lines. That will just confuse your audience and bring you back to low open rates. Pique curiosity, but make sure the benefit is clear.

When we create emails for clients, we often do an A/B test (a test comparing two variations of one element) on subject lines to see which tactics perform better.

Here are A/B test results on a newsletter we created for George Brazil:

See how the more curious subject line got a higher CTR?

Tip #2: Keep it short

We feel better about shorter subject lines and are therefore more likely to open them. Here’s why.

Our brains process information in one of two thinking modes:

  • System 1: Operates quickly and automatically with little or no effort, which creates cognitive ease. We associate positive feelings with this mode because we don’t have to put effort into processing information.
  • System 2: Operates consciously and pays attention to detail, which leads to cognitive strain. We associate negative feelings with this mode because we have a harder time processing complex information. We enter this mode when information is too complex to process system 1.

When there’s little information to process—like there is with short subject lines—we process it easier. And feel better about doing so.

Although, you can still get a good open rate with longer subject lines by frontloading the topic in 1–2 relevant words.

Another reason to keep subject lines short is to improve readability. Anything longer than 30–40 characters will get cut off on a mobile device, which is where 50% of people read their email.

Tip #3: Use loss aversion

In short, the loss aversion theory holds that losses loom larger than gains—almost twice as much! So losing $10 feels as bad as gaining $20 feels good.

So, we’re more likely to act when we perceive we will lose something.

Urgency is a type of loss aversion. That’s why you see all of those “Hurry! Offer ends tonight” and “Last chance to save!” subject lines. The sender is playing on your need to not miss out/lose something.

Does your email marketing need a boost?

We’ve been helping home services companies with their marketing for more than 17 years. Check out our content services for more information or contact us by calling (800) 339-7305
 or submitting a form online.

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