Conversion challenges #1: Improving email open rates

Conversion challenges #1: Improving email open rates

October 8, 2018


Have you ever gotten stuck explaining your job as a B2B marketer to a relative? Next time, try this:

"B2B marketing is all about convincing people to do what you want."

After all, that's what's really meant when your marketing director tells you to focus on "driving conversions"—and chances are you’ve definitely heard that one before; only about 22% of businesses are satisfied with their conversion rates.

Our Conversion Challenges series is about just that: helping you improve your conversion rates. We'll be covering a wide range of campaign tactics but before we start, there's one potential wrinkle that needs some preemptive ironing. Consider this:

“All sales are conversions, but not all conversions are sales.”

Or, heard another way,

"Each conversion is another step towards a sale. Keeping your focus on those individual actions is how you drive marketing performance overall.”

A subject line has only one goal: get someone to open your email. An email has only one goal: get someone to click a link. A landing page has only one goal: get a download, form submission, etc. But every compelling email must ultimately have something compelling to offer.

That’s why a prospect converting from a lead to a sale isn’t the most important conversion in your demand generation campaign. It’s just the last one. The journey is just as important as the destination.

You need to generate not only successful conversions, but also successive conversions. And if your content isn't connecting with your B2B audience, even the most click-worthy emails won’t save your campaign.

Now, let's get started!

Part 1: Simple strategies for improving email open rates

Some quick Googling shows that suggestions on improving email open rates usually fall into one of two categories: advice on “writing the perfect subject line” or tips and tricks on perfecting the small, seemingly innocuous background items that secretly have great impact.

  • "No more than 6 to 8 words, or 35 characters in a subject line."
  • "Don't send emails during lunch."
  • "Make sure your emails read well on desktop and mobile."

Do your best to follow through on the “truisms” of B2B email marketing. Data suggests that certain times of day do correlate to higher email open rates than others, even in B2B (HubSpot suggests weekdays at 11:00 a.m. but even that can vary by industry). Just remember: truisms will only get you so far. Even perfect adherence to these standards will not necessarily lead to those successful conversions we mentioned earlier.

Here are three rules that we use every day to create emails that get opened and read.

  1. Create momentum. The perfect subject line is an appeal to the viewer’s own self-interest. It is equal parts curiosity and urgency. How will your email benefit that person? Consider using tools like to explore new angles—especially if you’ve spent a few hours rearranging the same eight words.
  2. Leave room for experiments. A/B testing is not difficult. Send an email with "subject line A" to half of your audience, then send the same email with "subject line B" to the rest. Use the winner in your re-sends and keep it in mind when it comes time to write new ones.
  3. Ask, “Would you read this?” Think of this one as a quick “pass/fail” test. Send your email to a colleague with a fresh set of eyes. Does your email stand out from everything else in that person's inbox? A few seconds' hesitation should tell you everything you need to know.

With a blend of best practices and our three rules, you’ll be ready for our next B2B Conversion Challenges entry: improving email click-through rates.

Still have questions? Feel free to reach out. We’re always more than happy to chat.

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