Whatever type or form of email campaigns you’re doing you are at the mercy of your email open rates if you want to have this effort worth your while, that is if you want to achieve positive ROI. That’s because your email open rate will ultimately decide how many opportunities you’ll have to get your message read by your target audience.

This article lists killer tips you can use to improve your email open rates and overall engagement starting immediately.

How to know if there’s room for improvement?

Well, there is always room for improvement (unless you reach 100%), if you keep testing your email subject lines and make corrections accordingly you will improve incrementally over time.

But let’s not get carried away, in the end achieving the very maximum may not be worth the extra effort. So, before you get started on a new campaign, check the open rates for your industry or business type. That way you can keep your expectations in sync with what is realistic.

For example, as we reported in our presentation on email marketing “the events industry averages an email open rate of 20.9% and a click-through rate (CTR) of 2.51%.” Now that you know the open rates average, it’s time to exceed them!

Okay, now let’s see how you can make emails your recipients will open.

1. Provide clear and immediate value in your subject sines

Without giving people some value they will not be motivated to view an email from an unknown person. Your subject line value proposition should answer these 3 questions unconsciously asked by the reader:

  1. What do you offer?
  2. Who is it for? (is it for people like me? is it just for people like me?)
  3. What do I get out of it?

Now try saying all this in under 50 characters… no one will read more than that.

2. personalize your subject line and provide context

Context and personalization are the 2 most powerful factors in getting people’s attention. The first questions we have in our mind when approached by someone are “Do I know this person?”, “where do I know them from?”, and “What do they want with me?”

If you managed to get them to wonder about these questions without confidently saying “I don’t know them”, then you put yourself in a good position for that person to ask the next 2 questions. In order to achieve this little self-doubt, you’ll need to personalize your subject line and provide context for why you are approaching them in the first place.

How to add personalization and context:

  • Use local references such as the name of a city
  • Use the name of the title of a page you’re referring to
  • Mention the recipients name
  • Specify a time and place where you encountered that person or company

Do NOT use cliche lines like:

  • I recently your article post of yours and…
  • I recently encountered your amazing blog and…

I’ve had people write me these lines over 100 times who never read my posts in-depth and unknowingly complemented some of the worst content on the internet (we cleaned up a since then). Needless to say, these emails did not feel personal or in context. They felt like manipulation.

Only refer to posts and work that you actually consumed and liked, and refer to specific things about it in the context of your message.

3. Huminize your subject lines

“Who” is sending the message is oftentimes more important than the message itself. Readers are more likely to open an email that seems to come from a person rather than a company. In the case of an event, enlist the help of a keynote speaker if possible. If that is out of the question, at least send the email so that it appears it is from you, or a member of your event staff.

For a real-world example, consider the emails that Barack Obama’s campaign sends to his subscribers. Like him or hate him, his organization sends very compelling emails. Part of the email’s success is that each one appears to come from a real person. In some cases, it looks like President Obama is sending recipients the email himself.

While recipients likely understand that they are not receiving a message directly from the President, it nonetheless provides recipients with a personal touch that motivates them to open the email.

4. Avoid using Spam or Sales words in your subject line

Spam and Sales words subliminally activate us to avoid an email. A person hardly even thinks about it and will likely delete it without giving it a thought. We learn to recognize these trigger words during our entire lifetime because they are used in attempts to grab our attention and take our money all the time. We learn, on a subconscious level, to associate these words with click-bait content and dubious actors.

Words and phrases to avoid in your subject lines:

  • one time offer
  • free
  • just for you
  • sale
  • buy
  • grow your business
  • make more money
  • create more income

5. Create Mobile Optimized Emails

According to one report, 45% of emails are opened on mobile devices. Other analytics companies rate email opens on mobile even higher – 49% says Litmus (”Email Analytics” June 2015), 67.2% says BlueHornet (“Customer Views of email marketing 2015”). So make sure your emails and all of their content, including images and graphics, are optimized for mobile devices.

6. Optimize the time you send your emails

Deciding what time of day to deliver your message requires common sense and a bit of research about the individuals on your email list. Test and track event email open rates for highly targeted audiences, instead of sending one email to your general audiences.

6:00 A.M. may be too early for most, but 7:30 A.M. might be just the right time for professionals getting an early start to their day. The only way to know what time is best to email your event contacts is by testing it via a split test, or A/B test.

Send the same message to two segmented groups on your email list, and track the open rates. Moving forward, you can create an additional split test to see if the time the one previously sent is still better than a new time. Gradually, you’ll be able to build a better picture of how your event contacts consume email. You can use this reality to send better event marketing emails.

7. Avoid spam filters

No one wants his or her invite or message to end up in the spam folder. To avoid sending a marketing email that gets collected by spam filters, avoid using things like exclamation marks, all caps, spammy phrasing such as “deal of a lifetime!” or “event of the century”.

Also, be sure to maintain your email list. Remove people who have unsubscribed from your email, and refrain from sending emails to address that are incorrect or do not work. Note that email accounts that are considered “spammy” will find it increasingly difficult to actually reach intended recipients.


Event organizers who create personalized emails, with short, mobile-optimized subject lines will be ahead of the pack when it comes to sending promotional emails.

Those who split test emails to see what the best time is to communicate with recipients, and who create killer subject lines, while following the rules to avoid spam filters will find out perform the vast majority of organizers. For even more event emailing tips, download a free email marketing presentation, created specifically for event professionals.