illustration of laptop with a pop up of an open envelope to symbolise an open email, as header for article titled "How do you optimise email open rates?"

75% of B2B marketers use email campaigns to engage their audiences, making email the third most used promotional channel in this space. We already shared actionable steps towards a lead generation email strategy. But even with the best content and strategy in place, one challenge remains: your open rates barely surpass 15%. And before you take us for psychics: we simply looked at the data – the average open rate for B2B marketing emails is 15.14%.

To put this into perspective, consider this:

This simply shows that even though your current open rate might be lower than you’d prefer, increasing it certainly is possible.

In this article, we’ll share with you 5 best practices to boost your open rates so that more of your email subscribers engage with your products or services. But first, let’s examine why your open rates might be low.

What affects email open rates?

Your open rate is one of the most important email marketing metrics. All the hard work that goes into segmenting your list and curating relevant content for them might as well have been for nothing if they don’t open your emails.

Here are a few factors that might affect your email open rates:

  • Your subject line
  • Your sender name
  • Timing
  • List quality
  • Pre-header text

Although these might seem like minute details in the grand scheme of your campaigns, tweaking them can give you the much-needed boost. However, it’s worth mentioning that, for these to work, you must already have a long-term strategy that forms a solid foundation for all your marketing efforts. If you’re unsure where to get started, we recommend our guide for B2B email marketing strategy.

Next up, let’s dive into how you can improve these aspects.

How to boost your B2B email open rates: best practices

Like everything in your arsenal, the following tactics need to be A/B tested to assess if they resonate with your target audiences. They are a good starting point. Once deployed, let your email analytics be the decisive factor in whether they are conducive to long-term growth or not. As we’ve said before, always monitor, analyse and iterate.

Write short and catchy subject lines

The average office worker receives 121 emails every day. So, especially when targeting busy B2B audiences, you need to keep it short and to the point. MailChimp recommends a maximum length of 60 characters or roughly 9 words. This also ensures that your email subject lines don’t get truncated.

Here are some copywriting hacks you can try to entice your recipients:

  • Personalise the subject line using first name tags. This has been shown to increase the average open rate by 29%
  • Include numbers. They stand out from the rest of the text and can lead to a whopping 57% increase in open rates.
  • Create urgency through a “must-know” tone, but make sure your claims are honest and can be backed up by the content in your email. While sensational clickbait might cause an uptick in your open rates, your contacts will remember not to fall for the same gimmick a second time.
  • Use the “you” rule. This is a fundamental conversion copywriting technique that shifts the focus onto your reader (see, we did it right here!), making them more likely to engage. The rule is simple: rephrase the wording of your sentences to contain the word “you” or its possessive counterpart “your”. For example, instead of saying “Elevate will help maximise growth”, opt for “Maximise your growth with Elevate”
  • Consider emojis. We know. They don’t necessarily scream “professional.” However, data shows that emojis in subject line copy can result in higher click-through rates. This is because they create a visual break from text and, if the same emoji is used in all your subject lines, it can establish your unique identity and make you stand out in your recipients’ email inboxes. Marketing expert and owner of the widely successful newsletter Marketing Examined Alex Garcia, swears by this tactic and has implemented it himself in his email strategy.

Create recognisable sender names

42% of people look at the sender’s name when deciding whether to open an email. So, who you present yourself as matters. If you’ve only ever sent emails under your company name, here are some things to consider:

  • Be trustworthy. With 94% of malware delivered via email, people are rightly weary of what they open. You are more likely to inspire trust if you use a proper name or company name instead of your email address as your sender ID. Equally, make sure you use a legitimate email delivery platform that ensures email deliverability and doesn’t send your messages straight into the spam folder.
  • Establish a first-name basis relationship. Using a first name is a popular tactic in B2B. It not only adds a personal touch, but it also introduces your prospective customers to and familiarises them with the different members of your team. Just make sure to also add your company name to create some form of recognition. So, instead of just being “Alex”, which comes off as vague and confusing, you can be “Alex at Dusted.”
  • Create brand recognition. You can either do this by simply using your company name, the name of your service or product or, if breaking all rules is part of your brand identity, do something completely outlandish like Shinesty.

Consider timing

Inboxes can be crowded places. People receive a multitude of emails every day, and if your email arrives when their inbox is flooded with other messages, it’s more likely to be overlooked or deleted. Sending your email at the right time can help you avoid this. Here are some things to consider:

  • Recipient’s schedule. People tend to check their email at specific times of the day. In this context, many B2B subscribers are likely to check their email first thing in the morning or right before or after lunch.
  • Seasonal and event-based timing. Depending on your business and your email content, certain seasons or events (e.g., holidays, special promotions) might be more appropriate for sending emails. Timing your emails to align with relevant events can boost open rates.
  • Time zones. If your email list includes recipients from different time zones, it’s essential to consider when your target audience is awake and active.

Of course, some platforms like MailChimp use data science to estimate the optimal send time based on your segment’s behaviour. In this case, you should let your data guide your campaign.

Refine your list

We know high numbers look good in your subscriber list, but a disinterested audience does more harm than good. Your inactive contacts might be the reason why your open rates are low, as they are simply not interested in your email content. A first step towards refining your list is going through it and removing or archiving inactive subscribers. But maintaining quality contacts is an ongoing process that requires:

  • Targeting and email list segmentation. Sending emails to a relevant audience increases the likelihood of recipients opening and engaging with your content because it aligns with their interests and needs.
  • Setting clear expectations. When subscribers sign up, clearly communicate what they can expect from your emails in terms of content, frequency, and promotions.
  • Making unsubscribing easy. A clear and easily accessible unsubscribe link is not only a legal requirement in many jurisdictions but also helps maintain a clean list by removing disinterested subscribers.
  • Using email verification tools. These check the validity of email addresses on your list, helping you identify and remove invalid or fake email addresses that can spike your bounce rate.

Don’t forget about your pre-header text

This is the short snippet that appears below the subject line in your subscribers’ inboxes. While not as prominent, it can complement it by offering more details or expanding on the topic. Like the subject line, you also need to keep this short and snappy – ideally up to 100 characters in length. It allows you to provide a brief teaser of the email’s content, enticing recipients to open for more information.

Here’s how to make this blurb more engaging:

  • Include a call-to-action (CTA). This could be anything, from encouraging people to read your email to teasing the email content by asking them to download your resources.
  • Highlight benefits. Emphasise the value recipients will get by opening your email, whether it’s a special offer, valuable information, or exclusive content.
  • Create a sense of urgency. If applicable, phrases like “Limited Time Offer” or “Today Only” can encourage recipients to open the email promptly.
  • Personalisation. Include the recipient’s name or reference their previous interactions with your brand to make the email feel more tailored to their interests.
  • Ask a question. Pique your subscribers’ curiosity or address a pain point to encourage them to open the email for an answer.

Key takeaways

The B2B email marketing landscape is both challenging and promising, with marketing efforts resulting in an average open rate of 15.14%. However, it’s crucial to remember that even though you might find this number below the desired threshold, the potential for improvement is not only possible but also within your grasp.

When every open signifies a potential partnership or sale, the practices we shared in this article are ultimately tools for success. Remember, in this journey, the data you gather and the insights you glean will be your best guidance. Embrace these strategies, test them rigorously, and adapt them as needed to ensure that your campaigns stand out amidst the hundreds of emails your potential customers sift through every day.

Other resources

As a specialist digital marketing and brand activation consultancy, we offer a plethora of resources to help you hone your strategies wherever you are on the adoption curve, helping diverse teams implement change that delivers actual results. If you want to dive deeper into digital marketing, make sure to also check out these articles:

If you require expert help and guidance tailored to your business’s specific needs, don’t hesitate to reach out. Get in touch now to book a call, free of charge.