Right now, in the time it takes to read this article, you will probably receive email. It’s that ubiquitous; however, just because our inboxes are overflowing with correspondence doesn’t mean we are opening all of it...or some of it…or any of it, actually. With email open rates hovering under 30% and click-through rates in low-single-digit percentages, it’s obvious that recipients are passing on most of the messages they receive.

But that doesn’t mean it’s slowing down any time soon. Billions of emails are sent every month, so if you’re trying to reach your customers, your message is going to have to cut through a lot of clutter. While attending INBOUND 2015, HubSpot's annual marketing conference, I sat in on HubSpot Senior Engineering Manager Tom Monaghan's session that discussed this very topic and took away a few very interesting tips on how to improve email success. The data behind these tips is significant—more than 100,000 campaigns, more than 100,000 contacts and more than one billion emails were analyzed. Here’s what was found:

Email That is Sent at the Wrong Time Doesn’t Get Opened.

For a long time now, the standard day that most people believe email should be sent has been Tuesday. However, this rule has been far too effective, and now everyone sends email on this day, thus overflowing inboxes and driving open rates down as readers sift through their mail at breakneck speed.

These days, the best day to send mail is Monday, and the second best time is—believe it or not—Saturday. That’s right, email gets opened on the weekend! People are not as busy and they are looking at their phones. Seems like a good situation, right?

Additionally, forget about the old mantra of trying to be the first email in the inbox. The way modern mail is structured means that there is no “first” anymore—email is a steady stream. Try a time where your email will likely stand out—such as late afternoon. The end of the work day actually works very well, with 5:00 pm being a great target send time. However, don’t go beyond 7:00 pm, or open rates will fall.

Related: Actionable Sales & Marketing Insights from INBOUND 2015 that All MSPs Can Implement 

Don’t Buy or Import Email Lists.

It sounds great to say your email went out to two million people, but if 98% of them either block, bounce, or don’t open it, what is the point? Email contacts are not all equal—the source of the email contact matters a great deal. It’s important to invest in sources that engage with your content, because a large, imported email list that doesn’t work is worthless. Email contacts obtained from forms generate three times more engagement than those of imported lists, so ditch the imports and build an active, thriving email base that will read (and click) what you send them!

Related: Generate New Business with These 6 Results-Driven Email Marketing Techniques

Always Be Segmenting.

Are you sending graymail? We all get it, and it is a rather nebulous term. For the recipient, gray mail is any bulk message that isn’t spam (because they signed up for it), something they aren’t going to read, and haven’t unsubscribed from—yet.

Long story short: you don’t want your email to be considered graymail by your contacts. There’s a very simple way to correct this—don’t continue to send email to people who don’t open it! Segment your contacts based on engagement to target only the people who you know will open your email. On average, first email sends to new contacts generally have a 67% open rate. However, if the contact doesn’t open the first email, there is only a 23% chance they will open the second. If a contact doesn’t open the first five emails, never send them any more—there’s a statistically insignificant chance they will ever open email from you again. To compound the importance of open rates, be aware that inbox providers and antispam companies are aware of and evaluating the open rates of your email sends. If your bulk email continually fails, they will mark it as spam, drastically reducing your chances of reaching your contacts at all.

Don’t Get Too Personal.

Importing the first name of your contacts into an email is OK, but the more personal information you’re feeding back to your contacts, the more they are likely to get creeped out. Use the first name, but never use the company name of your contacts. People don’t like it, it feels too invasive, and they delete email because of it.

Never Use the Word “Free.”

Here’s some free advice: never use the word “free” in subject lines—it kills open rates. There are many words that cause people to pass by your email when they are used in subject lines. Some of the most notorious are incentive, breach, enterprise, 365, urgent, win, free, sleep, sweepstakes and giveaway. Additionally, tread lightly on financial and healthcare terms. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if your subject line sounds like a tabloid headline, get rid of it. Instead, focus your subject lines on the impact to the recipient. Just never say the word “free.”

Related: Don't Hit Send Yet: 12 Words You've Been Getting Wrong

Your Email was Too Difficult.

Really? Yeah. Sometimes emails can be too intensive and involve too much work to understand the call to action (CTA). Make it simple, keep it easy for your readers to engage. Use multiple clear links to make sure that CTA (the link or button you want them to click) doesn’t get lost. In the end, readers are likely to only spend a handful of seconds reading your email—write it accordingly.


That’s right—it pays to pick up the phone. Email that’s sent from a “real person” has more engagement than a large faceless brand. Speaking with your email contacts creates a surefire way to increase engagement and prove the authenticity of your statements and brand.

Do you have any other proven tips for successful email sends? Leave them in the comments.


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