Sell to Win

5 ways to boost your email response rate

Jacob Thomas
Contributor, Sell to Win
Jacob Thomas
Contributor, Sell to Win

If you want to succeed with email—and let's be real, who doesn't want that?—you need to track important metrics like your open, click-through, and conversion rate.

But there's one metric that doesn't get the love it deserves: the email response rate.

In this article, we'll discuss what email response rate is, the average rate across multiple industries, why it's a valuable metric, and five ways you can boost your response rate.

What is email response rate?

It's pretty straightforward: email response rate measures the number of responses a brand receives from message recipients during an email marketing campaign.

To find your company's response rate, simply divide the number of responses you receive by the number of emails that reach their intended targets; then multiply the result by 100. (Note: don't include bounced emails in your response rate equation.)

For example, if you successfully delivered 100 emails and received 8 responses, you would divide 8 by 100 to get .08; then multiply it by 100 to get an 8% email response rate.

The only other thing you need to do is decide what you'll classify as a response... Direct replies count, of course. But what about when a subscriber clicks on a link and fills out a survey? Or accepts your request and leaves a review of your product. Do these actions count as responses? You'll need to decide this for yourself.

What is a good email response rate?

The answer ultimately depends on your industry and the kinds of emails you send.

For example, if you're a B2B company that sends one newsletter a month, you'll probably receive fewer responses than an up-and-coming influencer who asks their audience questions about the products they represent via weekly email blasts.

But as a general figure, a solid email response rate should be in the 10% range for standard email campaigns. If you're sending cold emails, the figure jumps to 30%.

Why should you track your email response rate?

Email response rate isn't an attractive metric like click-through rate and conversion rate. But it's still worth tracking. Here are three reasons why:

  • Audience engagement: It doesn't matter how many subscribers you have if none of them interact with your brand. By tracking your email response rate, you can learn how many of your subscribers are engaged and what content engages them most.
  • Subscriber knowledge: Subscribers who reply to your emails will be much more receptive to sales messages. Track your email response rate to learn which audience members are most likely to purchase your company's products and services.
  • Email marketing success: Email has incredible ROI potential—are you tapping into it? Track your response rate to help evaluate the success (or not) of your email marketing efforts so that you can adjust or double down on winning tactics.

How to boost your email response rate

We've covered what email response rate is and why it's important. Now let's talk about how to encourage your subscribers to respond to your messages on a regular basis:

1. Segment your audience

Have you segmented your audience into like-minded groups? If not, this is the perfect place to start as it will help you send your subscribers more relevant content that they'll actually want to engage with and reply to, boosting your response rate in the process.

There's no shortage of ways to divvy up an email list. Fashion brands, for example, often segment their subscribers based on gender so that they can send their audiences offers that fit their needs. It doesn't make much sense to message men about a lingerie sale...

You can also segment your list based on subscriber age, physical location, income level, position in your sales funnel, specific challenges to overcome, etc.

One of the keys to boosting your email response rate—and finding success with email marketing, in general—is sending subscribers the right content at the right time. List segmentation will make this tricky task much easier for you.

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2. Personalize your emails

When it comes to email marketing, personalization is your secret weapon. In fact, just personalizing your subject line (more on subject lines below) can boost your open rate by as much as 26%. The more opens you get, the more replies you're likely to receive.

This tip is especially important for cold email campaigns. To generate responses from strangers, you MUST make your emails feel personal, which requires research.

Investigate your contact before you message them. Visit their LinkedIn profile to see what they've been up to lately. Read the last few blog posts they've written or watch their latest video on YouTube. Then include some of this information in your email to build rapport.

Branded emails should be personalized as well by including specific highlights unique to each subscriber. For instance, you could mention a product they purchased and ask how they like it. Or give them stats on their performance with your company's software.

Whenever you can make your brand's emails feel like the ones they receive from their family and friends, do it. This level of familiarity will produce more responses.

3. Write killer subject lines

As mentioned above, subscribers have to open your emails before they can respond to them. And one of the best ways to boost open rates is to write killer subject lines. Here's how:

  • Personalization: The simple act of including a recipient's name in your subject line can boost open rates, opening the door for a higher response rate.
  • Urgency: Why should subscribers open your message now rather than later? State this reason in your subject line and your email opens will rise.
  • Emojis: As silly as it may sound, emojis can actually boost open rates, too. Just don't overdo it! One or two emojis per subject line is plenty.
  • Length: The best subject lines are short. Most email clients only display the first 33-43 characters on mobile devices. Make sure subscribers can read what you've written.
  • Content: Ensure your subject line reflects the content in your email. Click-bait subject lines might work once, but you'll lose trust with your subscribers and you won't generate responses with this tactic—except for a few angry WTF messages.

This is really important: experiment with different kinds of subject lines and A/B test them to see which perform best. This is the only way to consistently garner opens and responses.

4. Send must-read content

Want to improve your email response rate? Then send your subscribers and/or cold contacts must-read content that delivers them unparalleled value.

Why would anyone respond to a message they didn't enjoy reading? Poorly-crafted content (or amazing content that's sent to the wrong audience) will only serve to cause confusion, lower your company's reputation, and generate unsubscribes—none of these are good things.

Instead, work hard to send your audience the kind of content they want to consume. This could come in the form of informational resources, a sale your company is having on relevant products, a discount coupon, a request for feedback, and more.

The only way you can create must-read (and reply!) content is to understand your audience. Learn their likes and dislikes, then use this information to encourage more responses.

5. Ask for responses

Finally, remember to ask your audience to respond to your messages!

One of the best ways to do this is to use the "1, 2, 3" technique. Basically, you ask your subscribers a question and give them three possible options. The result is more replies because responders don't have to think that hard about their answers.

Here's a quick example of the "1, 2, 3" technique in action:

Hi Bob,

Many of our customers struggle to market their businesses effectively. In fact, we've identified three areas that seem to be the most troublesome for the people we serve:

  1. Content Marketing
  2. Email Marketing
  3. Facebook Ads

Can you spare a couple of minutes to respond and tell me which of these challenges you struggle with most? To make it easy, just respond with the number that correlates with your most pressing challenge.

Thanks!

Here are a few other things you can try to encourage your audience to respond:

  • Ask open-ended questions: Asking open-ended questions like "Is there anything I can do to help you at this stage?" can increase responses because it puts subscribers in charge of the conversation and allows them to address anything they want.
  • Tell your subscribers why: Everyone wants to feel like their input is valuable. By telling recipients why you need their feedback when you ask for it, you give them a reason to respond. We also suggest responding back to every direct response.
  • Use clear calls-to-action: If you want to boost your email response rate, clarity is your best friend. Make sure your email's call-to-action (CTA) is abundantly clear so that your subscribers know exactly how you want them to respond to you.

Bonus tip: Make it mobile-friendly

Wait, we're not quite done!

Studies suggest that as many as 67% of email users check email on their phones. So, to boost your email response rate, make sure your messages are optimized for mobile.

This means formatting your messages for mobile devices, writing short, easy-to-digest sentences and paragraphs, using concise subject lines, etc. These things will give your readers a better email experience on mobile and encourage more responses.

Improve your email marketing as a whole

Email response rate is an important metric. By tracking it, you'll be able to identify your audience engagement levels, gain a deeper understanding of your subscribers, and determine the success of your overall email marketing efforts.

Fortunately, improving your response rate isn't that difficult. Just implement the five tips we covered in this article and you'll be able to generate more replies from your audience.

But here's the thing, email marketing doesn't work very well without email marketing software. If you haven't invested in a reliable tool—or aren't happy with the tool you're currently using—we encourage you to give Nutshell a try. 😏

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