8 reasons why you have a low email open rate

8 reasons why you have a low email open rate

In order to succeed in any kind of online marketing strategy, you’re going to have to be pretty good at one thing.. Emails. 

With that in mind, if you find yourself having a low email open rate, it's fair to say you've run into a problem.

Read along and find out why your emails might be falling short. And, what you can do to get that open rate flying.

Emails are one of the best ways that you are able to get information to your customers, while also establishing a relationship with them at the same time. 

They get used to seeing your emails pop up in their inbox and each time they become more comfortable with you.

Almost like an online friend that you’ve never met in person before. But, every now and then, you update them on your life (and maybe throw a cheeky discount code their way). 

59% of B2B marketers say that email marketing is the most effective channel for generating revenue. In fact, email generates $42 for every $1 spent, which is an astounding 4,200% ROI, making it one of the most effective options available. (While this is a statistic from across the sea, you can still see the major impact that email marketing can have). 

So far we know that email marketing can help you to inform your customers, build a relationship with them and increase their customer lifetime value and it has the potential to generate a bloody good bit of ROI.

With all of that in mind, it’s a bit of a problem if your emails have low open rates, eh?

Well, never fear! Today, we’re going to be talking about the reasons why your emails might be flat. And, what you can do about it.

Your subject lines aren’t intriguing enough

Think of subject lines like the first impression that you make when you walk into a room full of people. If people were to take one look at you and think that you dressed yourself in the dark and couldn’t find your hairbrush before you rushed out of the door, that would be a problem.

Reasons why you have a low open rate

The aim of the game is that your first impression will create just enough intrigue that those around you want to know who you are and what you have to say. Your subject lines should be created in such a way that they do exactly that.

Humans are emotionally driven. This we know to be true. So, you want to write subject lines that trigger an emotional response. You want them to be curious enough to open your email. 

To write a strong subject line you have to be able to answer two questions;

  • Why open?
  • Why now?

Subject lines are created in answer to these questions. You could have the best email in the world on your hands. However, if your subject line is boring, the likelihood is that it will never see the light of day.

Keep away from official sounding subject lines, if it sounds like work, people will skip it. Keep it light and friendly, involve your readers in a conversation.

The best place to mine for subject lines is your audience. The crowning method of nailing subject lines? Test, test and test again.

When writing your subject lines, it is important to keep your audience in mind. Research your customers and find out what it is that they’re interested in. Knowing what makes them tick is a sure fire way of writing a subject line that will get your email open rate on the up.

Your emails are all about you

The people who are signed up to your list are obviously interested in you and your brand. But, the likelihood is that they didn’t sign up to receive emails that are all about you. Of course some information here and there is great. It helps you build that all important relationship with your consumer. 

Ultimately though, your emails should be filled with information that is useful to your customer and adds some kind of value to their lives. So, a soft copy of your diary isn’t the way to go.

reasons why you have a low email open rate

Introducing your company in a welcome series or highlighting some core practices or beliefs threaded through copy is subtle and relevant. Anything more can be overpowering and boring.

Instead of talking about your company, (which I am sure is really kickass) get in touch with your customer’s experience and create content that you know they will find relatable.

Your emails don't add value to your customers lives

Life is busy but people find the time to consume content that is valuable. If the people who are on your list consistently receive valuable content from you, when they see your name pop up in their inbox, they’re going to open it.

Sending emails that have no value to your consumers is a sure fire way to keep that open rate low. And, that is the opposite of what you want. 

Ideally you want to write emails that are intentional and interesting. Remember, adding value doesn’t mean pushing sales. You can send emails that don’t push sales at all but still add value to your customer.

If you’re not adding value then you are just adding sludge to people’s inboxes. People don’t give sludge a second glance, they shovel it out with the rest.

Your emails make people feel like they’re back in the office

The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime.

That’s a lot of emails, a lot of cups of coffee, and far too many early starts. If your email so much as gives a whiff of work, people will avoid it. They already have hundreds of work emails to wade through, they’re seeking out a bit of relief. Your emails need to be that little bit of relief, delivered with a neat little bow.

You want to get them interacting with what you’re putting out there. A smile, a suppressed laugh, a silent nod of agreement...these are all cues that your email topped their priority list and made an impression. 

When you’re writing your emails, try to keep them light hearted and add a little bit of humour in there. Maybe add a little funny meme in there for good measure. Whatever you have to do to keep it light and fun, do it! Your open rate will thank you for it.

Let's talk about money, honey! Or not..

Funnily enough, when people sign up to your list, the thoughts that pass through their mind don't resemble anything like this:

‘’I am going to sign up to this list in the hope that they bombard me with sales emails and I can give them allllll of my money.’’

Let's talk about money, honey!

They signed up because they’re interested in your brand or the products / services that you have to offer. This is your perfect opportunity to engage with them, add value to their lives and begin a relationship that is built on trust.

If all of the emails you send them are filled with sales content, they will take note of that and never open them. Or, they might even take it a step further and unsubscribe. Undoing all of the graft you had done previously to get them signed up.

Keep in mind that slow and steady wins the raise. Nurture the relationship. Give them intentional content. Invest in the customer experience. Give them downloads, trials and discounts. Then when they are ready, and only when they’re ready can you send them a sales pitch.

You need to ease your customers in

The people on your list will not open your emails if they don’t know who you are.There has to be a clever sign up followed by a well constructed welcome series that introduces you and positions you as the one to trust. 

By doing this you begin to establish a relationship where they see your name and they remember you from your brilliant welcome series. They open your email, because you have a wicked subject line and receive the valuable content that you have to offer.

(If you need a helping hand getting started on that all important welcome series, we have a great blog here about what every welcome series should contain, here).

You need to stand out of course but you also need to get to know your customers and not jump from point A to point D as soon as you’ve received their sign up. When it comes to nurture (and email open rates) , slow and steady wins the race!

You’re sending too many emails

I know that this point seems a little bit contradictory. But let me explain.

We all know the feeling of signing up to a list, only to receive a hoard of emails over the next couple of days. When you do open your inbox, you don’t want to wade through all of that information. So, your finger slides right to that unsubscribe button. 

Yes, you want to update them and help them move along their customer journey. Bombarding them with emails however, will do the opposite. Sometimes, less is more.

If you’re going to be sending an email a day for 7 days, then note that when they sign up. Ask if it’s okay with them. Don’t assume they want you sliding into their emails everyday for a week.

Setting expectations is really important. It could be the difference between someone opting out or sticking around. Most people unsubscribe because the sender didn’t match their expectations, don’t fall into this trap! 

You’re not clear about your goal

If you have content that is hitting the mark and your consumers are enjoying it but there isn’t a clear path to follow, this could end up feeling like a waste of time for your customers. 

Calls to action that align with the content and guide the customer to the next step, whatever that may be, are much more effective in keeping people interested. This could be a download or access to a free coaching video. Maybe it’s a useful template or a mini course. Know your customers and give them incentives to keep coming back.

It’s crucial that you take time to ask your customers what they want, figure out what they are looking for, what they like to consume and listen to what they say.

In summary, you will get more people opening your emails if you:


  • Make sure your subject line is intentional, unique and emotionally triggering

  • Focus on your customer not your company

  • Add value - make their day a little better

  • Make your light hearted and fun to read

  • Don’t just pitch. You’re not a baseball player

  • Introduce yourself like you would face to face

  • Set expectations

  • Give them valuable content and guide them gently

If you manage to hit the nail on the head with these points, I have no doubt that your open rate will begin to soar. If in doubt, remember: Focus on your customer. Be intentional. Add value to their lives. Be strategic. And, make it fun!

If you’d like some help with creating your emails, improving your email open rate (or maybe a welcome series) click the button below and book in a call with one of the Ninjas. We’re more than happy to help!

Happy emailing!